Let’s Go On A Trea­sure Hunt

Geo­caching is just one of the at­trac­tions of el­e­gant Hopetoun House

The Scots Magazine - - West Lothian Focus On… -

GEOCACHES. There could be one near you. You could even be stand­ing be­side one with­out re­al­is­ing it as there are thou­sands across Scotland and mil­lions across the world.

Some are elab­o­rate, need­ing GPS co­or­di­nates to lead you on the search. Oth­ers, like the one at Hopetoun House on the West Loth­ian coast, sim­ply needs com­peti­tors to fol­low ba­sic clues to the cache.

To those un­fa­mil­iar with the con­cept of geo­caching, it’s an out­door recre­ational ac­tiv­ity where nav­i­ga­tion tech­niques are used to find con­tain­ers – geocaches – in spe­cific lo­ca­tions. It could be in wood­land, coun­try­side, up-hill or down-dale. In Hopetoun’s case, it’s the grounds of the stately home.

While many will want to ex­plore the in­side of the house, the geo­cachers on what is called the “Hopetoun Hop” can dis­cover the de­lights of the out­side of this late 17th to early 18th cen­tury cat­e­gory A-listed build­ing. It was set up by Lead­mag­net in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Hopetoun House Ranger Ser­vice, go­ing live on July 2011.

“Vis­i­tors to the grounds in gen­eral tend not to un­der­take geo­caching on spec,” says the Ranger Ser­vice’s Maree Morrison. “The peo­ple that do take on the Hop are keen geo­cachers any­way and have al­ready looked up lo­cal caches be­fore they come to visit. Our cache is logged as ‘found’ on the geo­caching web­site only half a dozen times of year.”

Maree can let the geo­cache more or less look af­ter it­self and con­cen­trate on the es­tate’s other ac­tiv­i­ties.

“It takes a lit­tle main­te­nance ev­ery now and then when mice nib­ble it,” she says, “but gen­er­ally it’s a great way for fel­low geo­cachers to en­joy the grounds and its his­tory. It also means peo­ple pick up ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion about Hopetoun, both the house and the de­signed land­scape, that if they just walked about on their own, they would not know.”

There’s an el­e­ment of trust in­volved as any in­di­vid­ual could in­ter­fere with the cache and spoil it for oth­ers. But there’s an ethos of fair play for those in­volved.

“The geo­caching com­mu­nity are very good,” says

Maree. “If they see an­other geo­cacher look­ing for the same cache, they will hold back and let them find it in peace. The whole point is look­ing and find­ing the caches your­self so peo­ple tend not to spoil oth­ers’ fun.

“It’s a re­ally en­joy­able way to ex­plore the land­scape. I reg­u­larly do the trail as an ac­tiv­ity with visit­ing groups, par­tic­u­larly chil­dren.”

Ac­cess to the geo­cache in­volves an ad­mis­sion fee to the grounds, not the house it­self. As well as the geo­cache, there are other ac­tiv­i­ties to en­joy on the Hopetoun grounds as well as cor­po­rate events and wed­dings.

“We also have an ori­en­teer­ing course,” con­tin­ues Maree, “and we run var­i­ous fam­ily ac­tiv­i­ties through­out the year with spe­cial events ev­ery Fri­day dur­ing the school hol­i­days. How­ever, due to pop­u­lar­ity, all events have to be booked in ad­vance.”

For more de­tails, in­clud­ing open­ing hours and ad­mis­sion prices to the house, go to www.hopetoun. co.uk or phone 0131 319 2451. Ac­cess to the Hopetound es­tate it­self is free.

The grounds of Hopetoun House

The hunt is on!

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