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?
I’ve been spending more time in Fort William recently, having not visited it since I was a little girl. Each time I arrive I'm just in awe at the dramatic surroundings and the changing light, and of course the imposing Ben Nevis which commands the landscape.
The last weekend in February was the mountain festival there, albeit with unseasonably warm weather and a lack of snow on the hills. My main festival activities were going to talks and film screenings, but there were practical workshops running over the weekend too. My top three highlights included:
The start of this year has been a busy one. I began 2019 in Dumfries and Galloway, and have since been to Fort William, the Peak District (the picture above was taken at Stanage Edge) and the Linlithgow, Queensferry and Falkirk areas. I've also spent some time in Inverness, Dundee and had my first bothy experience
… and its only mid-February.
A museum without walls. No roof – just the sky above it.
I love the concept of an ‘Ecomuseum’ and was lucky enough to have the opportunity to learn more about Skye’s Ecomuseum sites around Staffin in the North East of the island earlier in October.
Not to sound too much like I’m writing an essay, but I wasn’t entirely clear on what an Ecomuseum was before the trip, so here is a definition (by Oxford dictionary):
“A type of interdisciplinary museum presenting the history and heritage of a particular community or region in the context of its society, culture, and natural environment.”
Some of you may know I did a masters course a few years ago in Heritage and Interpretation. Although the course was run through a school of Museum Studies, I always preferred the idea of experiencing heritage in its natural environment. With the Ecomuseum, all the exhibits are located in the environment, with various types of interpretation telling their stories.
You can probably tell from this picture already why I fell in love with the island of Fair Isle after being lucky enough to spend two whole weeks there in August 2017. Ever since then, all I've wanted to do is go back. I tried to write a post about last year's trip several times, but could never quite find the words to describe the experience I had (and I'm not sure I still can) but I finally made it back there a couple of weeks ago, and wanted to share some of my love for Fair Isle with you.
It is a truly magical place. Only 3 miles long by one and a half miles wide, it's located between Orkney and the Shetland mainland, and is home to around 60 people. Since 1954 it has been owned by the National Trust for Scotland, and it was through the organisation's working holidays that I ended up on the island in 2017. I'll do a separate post about them, and the fact I have been going on these holidays for the past decade, as there is so much to say.
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!
I'm Kelly. A thirty-something year old adventurer from Aberdeenshire. Read more about me in the ABOUT ME section.