My last post, which was longer ago than I intended, featured the trip I made to Fort William back in February for the Mountain Festival. The beauty of knowing people who live there now is that I found myself back there a few weeks later, after following my curiosity and responding to a tweet which intrigued me.
That tweet was from the Centre for Recreation and Tourism Research (CRTR), a research centre at the University of the Highlands and Island's School of Adventure Studies, based in Fort William. I'd been following the account for a while as the centre is involved in a number of projects I'm really interested in, including Sustainable Heritage, Adventure Tourism and Slow Adventure. They were looking for people to get involved in module testing as part of a project called ADVENT (Adventure tourism vocational education and training) focussing on Guiding and Interpretation. I'm always excited at opportunities to learn and was so pleased to get offered a place on the course, especially as I knew that other participants would be coming from Iceland and Finland - countries that are partners in the project.
The three day course was really varied, with some classroom teaching, outdoor learning, site visits and trips - all with opportunities for personal and group reflection. Stef Lauer of Hands on Consulting was our course instructor and guide and really made the week enjoyable and informative by enhancing our understanding and appreciation of the places we visited. I particularly loved standing on the shore of Loch Sheil next to the Glenfinnan Monument listening to Stef tell the story of Bonnie Prince Charlie arriving there to start the Jacobite risings...
We discussed 'sense of place', what that is and why it can enhance the experience of visiting somewhere or doing an adventure activity - a combination of the history, culture and the natural environment. Having studied interpretation previously, it was also great to revisit this topic and think more about how people connect to a place, and how stories can be a part of that.
We also looked at what makes a good guide, including responsibilities and environmental awareness. As part of our learning experience and to find out more about our surroundings, we spent an afternoon native tree planting with the Nevis Landscape Partnership in Glen Nevis. The rain and mist were pretty atmospheric and didn't dampen our spirits at all from this enjoying this beautiful glen, and knowing we'd helped to enhance its natural habitat.
Our course leader Stef is also a 'Leave No Trace' trainer, so we all learned about what that means, and got certified through our training that week. If you haven't heard of it before, there are 7 principles for enjoying the outdoors in a responsible way:
The Nevis Landscape Partnership also shares on its website what they've called 'beyond leave no trace' with some useful guidance on ways to make your time adventuring in the outdoors even more sustainable and responsible. I particularly like 'Educate yourself & others about places you visit' which is something I certainly try to do, and I love it when others share information about places too.
As with most things in life, it was the people I was with that really enhanced the experience. I was made to feel very welcome as most of the others had met before, and hearing about tourism in other countries was really valuable. There was also lots of laughter, sharing of stories, fascinating guides and instructors and even delicious Icelandic chocolate eggs! I attempted to speak the language...badly I'm sure.
Nan Shepherd is one of my favourite nature writers, and she was mentioned on the course, so I thought it would be appropriate to share a quote of hers (you can probably tell by now that I love a quote) She wrote "Knowledge is never finite - a goal to be reached or a state to be achieved" As Stef kept saying, every day is a school day, and for me that is what keeps life interesting. I hope I'll get the chance to put some of my learning into practice soon, and I may even get to take part in other modules later in the year.
I'd love to hear from you what you think makes a good guide or any examples of engaging interpretation you've experienced? What helps bring a place to life for you?
A couple of weekends ago my Saturday featured two things it wouldn't have this time last year - coffee and cycling. Having owned a bike (ashamedly) for around 3 years, I only started going out on it a few months ago. I started seeing cycling everywhere, including posts from the lovely Iona on Instagram who was cycling on her commute to work, and looking happy about it! My mum had also been out on her bike with my nieces and nephews and was encouraging me to go too. Feeling bad for Etienne (the name already given to my bike) sitting gathering dust in my garage, it was time to get out and go for a spin... is that what you even say about cycling?!
After a few outings on my local trail called the Deeside Way, which is mainly an old railway line between Aberdeen and Ballater in Aberdeenshire, I ventured a bit further afield to another old railway line (also in Aberdeenshire) called the Formartine and Buchan Way. After 20 minutes trying to cram my bike into the car without removing any part of it, I drove to Ellon - where my friend lives and we were starting the route - and we cycled part of the Ellon to Udny Station section.
So, I've got to nearly 35 years old and realised I'd never actually climbed a Munro. I'm sure most of you will know what that means, but a Munro is a mountain in Scotland with a height over 3,000 feet (914 m). I've been walking and hillwalking around Scotland for more years than I care to remember, but none of those hills were apparently over 3,000 feet! My dad has been an avid hillwalker and long distance trail walker for over 20 years, and has inspired much of my walking and exploring, so I wanted to summit my first Munro with him. We chose Lochnagar in the Cairngorms National Park which as one of our closest, and a local favourite (I think you will see why from the photos - it's a beauty) and a couple of weeks ago we did a 12-13 mile circular walk up Lochnagar and then down to Loch Muick. Some of the views literally made me say 'wow' over and over. You can follow the route here.
There's something about finishing work early, jumping in the car and making the most of a summer evening outdoors. I recently did this with my friend, and fellow wild swimming enthusiast, Cheryl. We don't live too far from each other, so decided to head further out Deeside and go for a walk and a swim at Loch Kinord, near Dinnet in Aberdeenshire.
The loch was nice and mild so we stayed in for a good 45 minutes to an hour, mainly paddling about and doing a bit of swimming too. It was so calm and relaxing.
The Isle of Arran, often called 'Scotland in miniature', is a place I've visited several times over the past decade or so. I think I fall in love with it a little more each time I go, and my recent trip of approximately 28 hours in the summer sunshine was no exception.
So, the timescale went a bit like this:
08.20 Ferry departed Ardrossan
9.15 Arrived in Arran, and had breakfast outside in the sunshine at Little Rock cafe (highly recommended) then bought snacks at the Co-op for climbing Goatfell
11.00 Set off for Goatfell and began the climb!
SUP. Three letters that until recently I had no idea meant Stand Up Paddleboarding... something I’d seen all over Instagram and knew must be the latest thing. With my feeds full of people doing SUP in beautiful locations, and my newly found desire to push myself to try things, I wanted to find out more about it - and more importantly - how I could try it. Luckily this coincided with someone at work talking about a new business that had started up in Stonehaven, a coastal town in Aberdeenshire not far from where I live. Better still, they wanted to try it too! So, long story short, we had our beginners lesson with Stonehaven Paddleboarding on a sunny Saturday morning in June – along with 4 other intrepid adventurers!
The lesson lasted for just over two hours, and covered tuition on how to check and set up your paddle board, followed by time on the water gaining confidence going from kneeling on the board to standing up, steering, and dealing with windier conditions (it was fairly calm on the morning of the lesson). We paddled around the harbour, navigating the small sailing boats going in and out, and towards the end we got to head out close to the cliffs, which was when I really had a ‘this is amazing’ moment seeing my surroundings from such a different perspective.
By the end of it, 5 out of 6 of us had fallen in. I'm not going to lie, I had a bit of a scary moment when I fell off and it seemed to take forever to get back to the surface, never mind haul myself back on the board! But I did, and I suppose falling off was fairly inevitable. Fingers crossed I can only get better from there…. I do intend to try it again to build up my confidence on the board, so I'll keep you posted on my progress!
Find out more at http://stonehavenpaddleboarding.co.uk/
I'm Kelly. A thirty-something year old adventurer from Aberdeenshire. Read more about me in the ABOUT ME section.