Ziplining is one of the biggest new crazes and where better in the UK to experience it than beautiful North Wales?

North Wales is fast becoming something of a Mecca for outdoor activities and there’s a dizzying array on offer, suitable for all ages. You might not know but 2016 has been named the ‘Year of Adventure’ for Wales and, here in the north, we’ve flung ourselves into it head first! We’ve got mountains and moors, beaches and bays so expect all your favourite pastimes to be catered for. From biking to hiking, through to horseriding and climbing, North Wales has excellent sporting facilities for novices and pros alike. However, for those of you who prefer your sports a bit more… extreme we’re also home to some thrilling attractions not found anywhere else in the UK, and in some cases, the world.

One exciting activity we’re proud to call our own is ziplining. As far as experiences go it’s unique and extreme but it’s brilliant because it’s suitable for everyone. To try ziplining you don’t need to be super fit or a seasoned professional, all you need is a taste for adventure and guts! North Wales is home to not one but four amazing zipline centres: Zip World Velocity, Bethesda; Zip World Titan and Zip World Caverns, Blaenau Ffestiniog; and Zip World Fforest, near Betws Y Coed.

What is ziplining?

Zipling, also called ‘Flying Fox’ or ‘Tyrolean Traverse’, is exactly what it says it is: a rope or zipline (usually a wire rope or cable) stretched horizontally between two points. The zipline is suspended between points at an angle which generates momentum for riders (who are attached to the wire by a harness) propelled from start to finish by only the power of gravity.

While modern ziplining has established itself as a thrilling recreational activity, historically it served a very important purpose. Used as a means of accessing remote areas, such as rainforest canopy or high mountain passes, ziplines transported people and supplies from place to place.

History of ziplining

No one can be sure when the first ziplines were constructed, but we do have evidence that people have been zipping on ropes for thrills for a long time! Robert Cadman was an eighteenth century British stuntman, known as ‘Icarus of the Rope’. In 1739, he famously zipped down a rope attached to the top of St Paul’s Cathedral while blowing a trumpet. Later attempts, including one from the towering spire of St Mary’s Church in Shrewsbury, were not successful.

Record breakers

As of March 2016, El Monstruo holds the Guinness World Record for being the longest zipline in the world. This leviathan stands 360 metres above ground and extends over 2,200 metres, zooming at speeds of up to 65 mph over the Toro Verde Adventure Park in Puerto Rico.

If you prefer speed to distance the zipline at Letalnica Bratov Gorišek, in Slovenia, is the record-holder for the world’s steepest zipline. Located on a ski-jumping hill, the maximum incline here is 58.6 percent making for an adrenaline-fuelled ride of 40 seconds at top speeds of 50 mph!

If you crave the best of both, ZipFlyer Nepal is one of the world’s steepest and longest ziplines. With a dizzying gradient of 56 percent at its steepest point and covering a vertical drop of over 600 metres, riders regularly hit speeds of 100 mph.

What about Wales?

We’ve charted the longest and steepest ziplines but, did you know, Wales is home to both the world’s fastest and Europe’s longest ziplines?

Velocity, Bethesda

Velocity, in Bethesda near Bangor, is the fastest zipline in the world, as well as the longest in Europe. Located in the historic Penrhyn Slate Quarry, the twin ziplines of the Big Zipper extend to a mile long and reach speeds of up to 118 mph! If you can bear to open your eyes on the way down you’ll be treated to some amazing views across the Snowdonia Mountain Range and towards the isle of Anglesey too. Zip World Velocity claims to be the ‘nearest thing to flying’ and it could just be true!

To warm you up, a visit to Zip World Velocity starts with a bracing whizz across Penrhyn Quarry on the Little Zipper; you can expect to reach speeds of up to 45 mph in preparation for the main event. The entire Zip World Velocity experience is breathtaking, even the journey up to the site. Ascending to the jump point in an off-road truck, you’ll enjoy views over the site and learn about the history of the quarry.

Titan, Blaenau Ffestiniog

Zip World Titan is Europe’s largest zip zone, boasting almost five miles of lines! Located in Blaenau Ffestiniog, at the heart of the Snowdonia National Park, not only is it the largest, it’s also the only zipline in Europe that can accommodate four riders on all three lines at the same time. If you and your friends brave Titan you’ll zoom above stunning Welsh scenery including mountains, reaching speeds of up to 70 mph!

Caverns, Blaenau Ffestiniog

Also based at Blaenau Ffestiniog, Zip World Caverns takes ziplining to another level; to be exact, below ground level! Located in an enormous subterranean cavern, a 200 year old slate mine, riders zip through a series of interconnected caves on no less than ten ziplines. It’s a surreal experience, riding 30 metres ‘above ground’ hundreds of metres below ground but the spectacle doesn’t stop there. The caverns are beautifully illuminated, highlighting the haunting and rugged beauty of your underground playground – it’s a unique and unforgettable experience.

Fforest, Betws Y Coed

The newest member of the Zip World franchise, this is a super family-friendly attraction located in a sheltered woodland setting just outside the pretty town of Betws Y Coed in the Conwy Valley. You won’t find the fastest or the longest ziplines here but an exciting trip into the forest canopy with Zip Safari, navigating your way via ziplines, rope bridges, swings, tyres and more – think adventure playground on a massive scale. The Junior Tree Trail and Treetop Nets will keep little ones busy for hours (minimum age 3 years).

Thrillseekers are well catered for too. The stomach-churning Plummet from the Summit is a thrilling free-fall of 30 metres with the gentlest of landings (thanks to the innovative Power Fan) and Skyride is Europe’s highest five-seater swing, swooping 25 metres above the ground.

You don’t need to be an adrenaline junkie to enjoy the range of ziplining adventures on offer in North Wales, with something to suit all tastes and ages, you just need a sense of adventure!

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