Monday 3rd June
And they’re off! 6am start from school for our bleary eyed staff and bug eyed pupils! (I am so in need of a cup of coffee.)
With the school minibus packed the night before, thanks to the help of Mr Scobie and Mr Ellis, our chariot for the week set off for the Port of Belfast, with Year 7 ready for an action packed week in the Highlands.
Kitted out in our bright green hoodies and navy baseball caps we certainly looked the part. First stop breakfast on board the Stena Sea Cat VIII and then the shop (of course);where the children discovered jumbo sized Galaxy and Toblerone bars! Could it be they were planning a midnight feast?
Onward from Cairnryan to our first stop The Burrell Collection in Glasgow. Well that was the plan but our SatNav was having none of it! Two hours later on the far side of Glasgow it was decided to abandon the schedule and to head on up the road.
After tea and unpacking our first activity was dry slope skiing, a first for most of our pupils. Booted and helmeted up the children crab-walked up the slope and amidst hoots and hollers slowly mastered the skills of falling over, bumping into other skiers, tumbling over, falling down, tripping up, losing skis, getting up and generally having a brilliant time….. and so to sleep, perchance to dream!
Tuesday 4th of June
The girls rose at 5am, energised after a couple of hours sleep, ready for the day’s activity. (Thankfully they went back over!)
Back on track we scoffed our cooked Breakfast at 8.30am and the children made their packed lunches. (Was this activity a first for some children? Their sarnies ranged from sophisticated triangles to workmen’s doorsteps, with an amazing array of novel filling combos!)
Our first activity of the day was canoeing with George and Kim. The staff looked around in bewilderment; the Loch was a mirror, the sun beating down, the sky azure and the wind breathless. Was this Scotland they asked?
Now this was an action packed activity and a favourite with most pupils. Having mastered some basic skills such as paddling, steering, turning and stooping; what could be better than messing about, jumping in, standing up, chasing, playing dodgeball whilst ignoring the majestic Osprey soaring above.
Lunch was wolfed down at the Highland Wildlife Park before a brisk walk up to see the Polar Bear feed. It’s official … Polar bears eat carrots (Although only after they have devoured a few venison steaks!)
Back on board the minibus for a drive-through safari looking for the elusive lesser-spotted ‘SPROGGIT’ amidst the lapwing, plover, oystercatcher, ducks, geese, elks and baby elk (moose if you’re from Swede), bison, mufflon, red deer, Przewalksi’s Wild Horses, camels and mules. In addition, we spotted swimming polar bears, tigers, Bukhara Deer, Yak, Vicuna, Red Panda, snow monkeys, wolverines, amazing eagle owls, a burrowing arctic fox and an acrobatic flying display by the HWP aerobatic crows and seagulls (trained by the Royal Navy Flying Squad). Oh, did I forget to mention the children discovered another shop, where they could offload burning notes and coins from their scorched pockets to purchase luminous coloured trinkets?
After tea we headed out on manoeuvres to the Alvie Stables, where our troops enjoyed a placid pony trek through the beautiful Scottish countryside.
Discovery of the night … horses pooh a lot and horse pooh smells!
Wednesday 5th June
Cooked breakfast again..... Bang goes another diet!
First up …. sailing with George and Kim. Paired up, the children manned the dinghies, learning about wind direction, tacking and nautical terms such as bow, stern, mast, boom, rudder and keel..... Wow! Amazing stuff ... Within 5 minutes of entering the water the dinghies crewed by our intrepid Year 7s were speeding across the still waters of Loch Insh …. in all directions! Kim buzzing around in the rescue boat getting everyone back on tack! (Pun intended!)
After a quick lunch in the Birch Wood at Aviemore we headed over to Bothy Bikes. The children were given some brief instruction (mostly what not to do!) Then in single file we meandered our way through the forest and on up through the heather clad foothills of the Cairngorms. Stopping along route to observe the beautiful scenery (NOT!) and to rescue jammed chains and out of breath children. Onwards we hurtled, under bridges and along woodland trails before engaging in a little ‘off track’ improvised navigating ... 'Of course we're not lost Ross!' Two hours later and several calories lighter we arrived back at Aviemore ... 'Thank The Lord!'
Back to Loch Insh for a quick change then tea in ‘The Happy Haggis’, before another quick change into their wet gear for the annual raft building challenge. Amazing to say, both the Lions and Tigers successfully mastered the skill of knot tying to strap together the plastic barrels and cabers before launching two rapid rafts across the bay! Did they get wet? Of course …. and they had a ball!
After showers and jammies the lights were dimmed before the traditional birthday cake was paraded in for birthday girl Katie E .... a happy end to a fun packed day in the Scottish sunshine!
Thursday 6th June
I had forgotten that children prising themselves into wetsuits is an event in itself! After several stress filled minutes they were finally suited up with buoyancy aids and looking cool. Partnered up with windsurf buddies and surfboards, the children entered the water and there was no looking back. Splashing, diving, jumping, bumping and occasionally windsurfing! Best of all, of course, were the back flips off the jetty.
In the afternoon we were joined by Fiona on a hike up the side of a mountain to feed the reindeer herd. Armed with handfuls of meal and oats the children enjoyed a unique opportunity to hand feed their favourite deer. The highlight was seeing a 5-day old calf, close up and personal. Adorable!
Then back down the mountain and onwards to see the working sheepdog demo! Awesome, man and beast in perfect harmony, but of course it was the puppies that stole the show!
BBQ time with the other schools and friendships emerged before the pulsing beat of the disco and the distribution of certificates and first viewing of the Loch Insh video diary of the week.
As if that was not enough, the children ‘entertained’ us with their own impromptu ‘talent’ show. The mind was truly boggled!
Friday 7th June
A more relaxed start to the day. Friday was an off site visit at the Landmark Centre in Carrbridge. Where do children get their energy from? Maybe I should start bingeing on sweets and coke? (Come to think of it – I already do that!)
Landmark was a smash hit with the children including three water slides, a treetop trail (trial), sky dive, high ropes course, climbing wall, adventure play area, roller coaster, optical illusion exhibition and of course a shop!
In the evening we dined at the All You Can Eat Buffet in El Taverna in Aviemore, before heading out for a swim in the MacDonalds Resort swimming pool. Exhausted from the day’s exertions we finally crashed out in front of the big screen to watch ‘Wreck-It Ralph’. I can’t wait for the sequelle!
Saturday 8th June
A final tidying of rooms before packing and heading back down the road to Cairnryan, stopping off for a picnic lunch and shopping at Pitlochry and for footie, cricket and rugby at Girvan.
We finally arrived back at school at 10.15pm, 136 hours and 15 minutes later, having covered 575 miles – shattered but full of amazing tales of daring do and jolly japes!