Matthew Blevins

Last September I took the opportunity to participate in a British Cycling Level 2 Mountain Bike Leadership Training course at Glenmore Lodge Outdoor Training Centre. This course allowed me to further develop my skills and understanding of group management and route planning when out riding on trails. I am currently a Dundee University student riding with the Mountain Bike club – with the skills and abilities gained from completing this course I intend to assist in the planning and delivery of future group rides in my final years.

Upon signing up to the course I was required to register with British Cycling, which supplied me with lots of valuable training materials including a sizeable instructional book and handout resources all specific to the level 2 course.

I travelled to Glenmore lodge on the 25th September 2020, to prepare for the course to commence early the next morning. Fortunately, I had booked the course at a time when Coronavirus restrictions allowed me to participate in the course. I spent my first evening in the upper social space, the Lochain Bar, where I was warmly welcomed by another course participant along with a handful of very friendly Lodge trainees working to support courses at the lodge.

The first day was well-balanced. It began in the workshops, with an overview of the course whilst getting to know everyone. We had four people on our course, half the standard amount due to COVID, and were instructed by Emma Holgate. We moved onto basic bike maintenance and trailside repairs, which I really enjoyed as I love getting hands on with bikes. Their workshop is well organized and fully equipped with professional tool benches and bike stands which helped us practice our skills. We then evaluated the contents of our bikepacks and discussed what personal gear would be worth carrying when mountain biking and what would be necessary for a leader to carry when out riding with others. We studied our own bikes afterwards, learning how to make checks to ensure they were up to par for trail riding.

After our workshop morning, we moved onto skills development. We took our bikes around the Lodge on some purpose-built circuits and trails to perfect our riding techniques and to understand how we can use practices as a group leader to evaluate another rider’s capabilities. We then made our way out of the Lodge onto some trails to enjoy some riding while practicing what we had learnt, along with other group management techniques. We spent the last part of the day back in the workshop prepping for the second day. Provided with maps, we were presented with a 30km route through and around the Inshriach Forest from which we were each given a segment to practice leading using the skills we had learned. We used mapwork skills to calculate and evaluate various factors of the journey including time, distance, ascent and descent, and spent the night memorizing our allocated segment.

The second day began with a short drive to the start of the loop at Feshiebridge. Because we had studied the route the night before, the loop was fairly straight forward to find and follow, and provided good practice for the use of cycle computers – an essential tool for efficient route management when leading. Unfortunately, one of our group members was unable to complete the last segment of the loop due to a pre-existing injury. This meant we had to adapt our route. This was good practice as things don’t always go to plan when leading groups. Once we finished the ride and returned to the Lodge, we completed a final review of the course and received our individual feedback from Emma.

The experience provided by the Lodge was excellent. Because of Covid restrictions, we were each allocated a twin room each. Food was brilliant, with a good choice for breakfast and dinner along with a variety goodies for lunch. Hot drinks were also complimentary at all times when on site. Needless to say, the hot chocolate machine took a big hit!

Even though I have been riding mountain bikes for years and have experience with mountaineering, I have learned more essential skills in the areas of bike maintenance and group management that will be put to good use. I would really like to thank the Neil Mackenzie Trust for helping me fund my course with their grant scheme and providing me with the opportunity to participate in this course – I really look forward to applying my new knowledge and putting these skills into practice. Once I’ve gained enough experience and completed the required hours for my log book, I intend to complete my Level 2 assessment, which the Trust has kindly offered to contribute towards.

Anna Cornelia Frederiksen

Thanks to The Neil Mackenzie Trust, In February 2020,I had the opportunity to attend a winter skills course. The five-day course was organised by Glenmore Lodge and focused on improving skills in winter navigation and route planning in the Scottish mountains. As a confident walker with extensive experience hiking abroad, I had a foundational understanding of navigation and leadership skills. However, I am incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to further develop my skills. There is always more to learn to improve your own, and others safety. On the first day of the course, I met the other participants and we were introduced to our instructor with whom we discussed our aspirations and ambitions. After going through the equipment and route for the day we set off. Walking into the mountains this first day, as the snow-coated landscape stretched out before us, I was reminded of true wilderness. Over the course of the week, numerous aspects of winter hill walking were covered, such as preparation, planning, navigation and emergency procedures. The dynamic environment, and the volatile weather conditions, meant we were able toput our knowledge and newly-learned techniques into practice. I was particularly impressed by how my instructor navigated the various elements of planning, showing an excellent example of how to tackle adverse situations whilst maintaining calm and rational thinking. A pertinent example of her successful leadership skills was when we encountered issues as one of the group members expressed difficulties with ascending. Consequently, as a group, we made a sensible decision to select a different route that was better suited for the overall competence-level of the group, as opposed to the route we initially intended to take. Adapting my approach as conditions change and unanticipated situations arise, is an important lesson I will take forward. As part of the course, Glenmore Lodge provided evening lectures which were thoroughly tailored for outdoor enthusiasts. The lectures included route planning with limited visibility, avalanche awareness and gave an insight into how other guides would solve situations presented to them in the mountains without sacrificing safety. Aside from providing critical information and encouraging us to develop our knowledge of the outdoors, these evening sessions were a wonderful opportunity to meet like-minded people and walking away with new contacts and friends was certainly an added bonus of the course!

Taking part in this winter skills course was a very formative experience for me. Throughout the course, I felt that I was both doing and developing my passion; spending time outdoors in the mountains and challenging myself both mentally and physically. This course allowed me to develop the in-depth and holistic understanding required to confidently navigate Scottish mountains during the winter. The emphasis put on avalanche risk and how to mitigate potential risks was a part of the course that I found particularly interesting as these skills are transferrable and, I feel, have equipped me to go far beyond the mountains surrounding Glenmore Lodge. I am confident that I will use the knowledge and practical experience I gained from this training course trekking in the UK and in other regions with similar landscapes. With the support of The Neil Mackenzie Trust,I have improved my planning skills and feel much more confident in my decision making. I am now eager to explore the country’s unique landscape by myself while applying the essential skills I have learnt! I also look forward to applying these skills further afield and to continuing to develop them in the future through more advanced levels of training.


£20 offered – who’ll give us £50?

“Free” weekend paddle hire for 2 people

Thanks to a generous donation, from a supporter, we are holding an auction in aid of the Trust.

Tiso voucher blank

Place your bid in contact us, on Facebook, #NeilMacTrust on Twitter or to  We will post the latest bids on the website, facebook and Twitter.

Start planning your trip!

Who’s going to start the bidding – maybe £25?

Magalie Castelin

Snow and Ice Climbing – Improvers course

Magalie2Very Scottish protection technique

In March 2019, thanks to The Neil Mackenzie Skills Grant 2018, I attended a 5-day Snow and Ice Climbing Improvers course, organized by Adventure Peaks. The course took place in the Western Highlands in Onich, which is situated midway between Fort William and Glencoe. The course was aimed at improving winter climbing skills in the Scottish landscape which requires specific techniques to protect oneself on unbolted walls.  This winter was very mild with unstable conditions, ice was not well formed and a lot of snow had fallen. This reduced the number of climbable routes and made the accesses challenging.

On the first day, we headed up to the Stob Coire Nan Lochan on Glencoe to climb the Ordinary Route (IV, 4). This was tough, with a 2.5 hours approach under rain and winds, and a 3.5 hours climb in deep powder snow. Arriving on the Summit Buttress at dusk, we needed to leave the summit quickly to descend before dark. In the foggy landscape hidden by deep snow, we then learned how to retreat using only charts, compass and short visibility landscape reading. The guides did an amazing job providing walking techniques and cheering us on.


On the second day, we climbed the South-West Ridge (180 m, IV, 5) of the Douglas Boulder North-West Face on Ben Nevis……………….The third day, we headed to the West Face of Aonach Mor, the UKs eighth highest mountain, and climbed Western Rib (500 m, III+). Despite its proximity to the ski area, the climb offered true wilderness, solitude, and adventurous or spectacular moves, such as walking on very narrow snow shelves and ridges……………………………………..

Magalie3 magalie4 Magalie5

Besides improving climbing skills, I wanted to attend this course, in Scotland, to honor and remember my friendship with Neil. Neil introduced me to Ice Climbing in 2013 in Canada, when nobody would take a complete beginner, female, and with poor English skills, on vertical ice walls. He took me to very challenging routes in British Columbia, near Pemberton and Squamish, on the Boston falls of Vancouver Island, and in Colorado near Snowmass. Neil showed me that, with a good teaching and thorough gear and landscape checking, one can take almost anyone on these amazing ice walls. Since then, I have been practicing every winters and encouraging other climbers. Neil always laughed about “those rubbish ice walls of Scotland, where one have to deal more with mud and rocks than with ice and snow”. I know now what he meant and I am very grateful and proud for having had the opportunity of climbing in the Highlands thanks to The Neil Mackenzie Skills Grant 2018!


For full report: Magalie CASTELIN report-1

Grand Raffle

GRAND RAFFLE in aid of  The Neil Mackenzie Trust (SC046080) to be drawn at the Ceilidh at Glenmore Lodge on 28th September, 2019

Buy your tickets online – NOW!  £1.00 per ticket. £5.00 per book of 5 tickets.

Amazing prizes including:

2 Day Glenmore Lodge Course (your choice), £250 Grant from The Neil Mackenzie Trust, 1:1 Climbing Session with Robbie Phillips, Cuillin Photography with Adrian Trendall, £100 accommodation voucher for the Lake district, meal vouchers, whisky and many more – for full list, and donors see below.

To get your tickets:

  • send your payment to The Neil Mackenzie Trust: Sort Code: 87-39-01. Acc. No: 87597463 with your reference as your name and postcode,
  • and contact us with your name and address, including postcode, and your prize preference: GL course/Activity voucher/other
  • Your payment will be acknowledged by email, and you will be allocated raffle ticket numbers. Winners will be notified, and listed here after the event.
  • If you wish to receive the actual tickets please send a stamped adressed envelope to: The Neil Mackenzie Trust Raffle, The Old School, Flichity, Inverness.  IV2 6XD

Prizes: Donors

Course at Glenmore Lodge (your choice): donated by Glenmore Lodge

Voucher (up to £250) towards The Neil Mackenzie Trust Outdoor Skills training voucher: The Neil Mackenzie Trust

£100 Voucher towards accommodation in the Lake District: Sally’s Cottages

1:1 Performance climbing session with Robbie Phillips: Robbie Phillips

1 day rock, mountain, ice or kayak (river or sea) training with Chris Dickinson: Chris Dickinson

EICA, Ratho, 1 hour climbing taster for 2: Edinburgh Leisure

Lunch for 2 in the Flying Stag, Fife Arms Hotel, Braemar: Fife Arms

£50 voucher towards dinner for 2 at Jury’s Inn, Inverness: Jury’s Inn

£20 voucher towards food or accommodation at Cairngorm Hotel, Aviemore: Cairngorm Hotel

SMC climbers guide – Highland Outcrops South: Rob Anderson

Useful accessories, including Goretex water bottle: Ellis Brigham

Whisky: Anonymous




Challenge raises £4,975

IMG_1423There may yet be more reports from 2017 Bell’s Bothy Challenge – I know some are still promised!  The money the challenge has raised is amazing, and I think it is now all collected in.  Including Gift Aid, still to be collected The Trust will have £4,975 to pass on togrant recipients for skills training and expedition grants.  I would like to thank everyone who contributed, but I would especially like to thank my brother, Andrew, for raising 10% of the total by walking 711 miles in the year.  Particularly creditable at 74 with a (two?) new hip(s)!

We have been asked about continuing the Challenge in 2018 – particularly the beach cleaning.  Firstly, we hope as many people as possible will continue to challange themselves in any way they can.  We are contemplating challenging ourselves to cycle over 2,000 miles over the six months between April and September, some of this (maybe about 500 miles) along the Mosel and Rhine when we are in Germany and France in the Spring. Your challenge is up to you – but if you do one please let us know!

Secondly, to beach cleaning …………….. We will not be organising further beach cleans at Camasunary in the foreseeable future  This is unfortunate, but I mentioned the reasons in December.  However, We can all do our bit, and we, ourselves, will be litterpicking on any beach, riverbank, forest, hill or mountain we are on throughout the year.

Finally, remembering Neil, getting together and making new friends will all be in our thoughts in 2018 – and all of us who were at the ceilidh in Edinburgh last weekend have certainly done some of this already!


Ladies Night!

On Friday 10th November, The Neil Mackenzie Trust hosted a Ladies Night as a social event to raise awareness of the Trust, and maybe a few extra pennies at the same time.

We had a great evening – thank you very much to the lovely ladies of Strathnairn (and those that came out from Inverness to join in the fun) who came along, it was a very successful event!

Thanks also to the businesses that supported us, particularly Cheese & Tomatin for providing their delicious pizzas and Mhairi from Scentsy for joining us for the evening.  We were also lucky enough to receive some great raffle prizes from:

Landmark Adventure Park

Jury’s Inn/ Juvenate Leisure Club

Café 1

Inverness Harbour Trust

The Sleeping Beauty Salon at The Palace Hotel

Infinity Trampoline Park

Majestic Wine

Tales of a Feather

We raised just under £500, which we are very pleased with, and this will go towards grants for 2018.  Thanks again to everyone for your support!

Andrew’s Challenge


Andrew Walking Alfreds Tower1Walking to Alfred’s Tower

It was an email from my sister that prompted me to undertake a challenge in order to boost funds for the Neil Mackenzie Trust (Neil was my nephew). Just at the same time Country Walking Magazine announced a challenge for its readers – inviting them to walk 1000 miles in the year 2017.

I considered this a bit too much of a challenge for me, as at the age of 75 and having recently undergone a hip replacement, walking 19 miles a week didn’t feel achievable. So I decided 10 miles each week was a reasonable alternative. So for each mile I walk this year I will pay 50p up to 500 miles. Any miles above and beyond 500, my wife, daughter and son will donate 50p to encouraging me smash the 500 mile target.

I’m nearly three quarters of the way through the year and have walked 475 miles. So already just 25 miles short of my target. I’m averaging around 15 miles a week so I’ll fly past 500 in no time. The total was boosted by a holiday to the Isle of Skye and the borders of Scotland where I walked 73 miles in just a fortnight. One of the highlights and quite a strenuous walk was from Kirkbost to Bell’s Bothy. We got the opportunity to admire the refurbishment of the bothy – namely new bunks and tables courtesy of the Trust and Neil’s parents, Angus and Margaret.

Andrew Walking ScotlandThe hill out of Camasunary is a tough one!

A benefit of the challenge is my improved level of fitness. And not only that bonding with my family. My daughter has recently returned home from travelling the world and has regularly accompanied me on my walks. One recently from Stourhead Gardens to King Alfred’s Tower, included 176 steps to climb to the top of the tower. It was a glorious summers day and the 360 views span Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire.

Andrew Walking Alfreds Tower2At the top of Alfred’s Tower

One of the more unusual benefits is that I am a bit of a technophobe so to my wife’s and daughter’s amusement all this walking has encouraged me to take my iPhone out and about with me wherever I go. It records my mileage, even around the garden, where I’ve been known to walk over two miles.

With the autumn approaching and the summer weather taking a turn for the worst I’m determined not to relax let the mileage slip not only for my fitness but so I can raise as much money as possible.

Dunmaglass Adventures!

Back in the Spring, we launched our Sponsored walk at Dunmaglass as part a year-long series of events for the Bell’s Bothy Challenge. This was to be a family-friendly day to encourage people to get out and explore the Strathnairn area and support a good cause at the same time. Generally, support from the community of Strathnairn had been positive, but it was difficult to tell whether anyone would really fancy trekking up a hill with us to raise a little bit of money! Very quickly, we learnt that the support was genuine as families registered for the event and started collecting sponsors. People came out from Inverness to join us, and we even had participants who travelled up from Edinburgh for the weekend!

As the day of the walk approached, everyone involved in organising the event, as well as our budding walkers, were studying the weather closely. The plan was to offer 3 separate routes to allow for walkers and cyclists of differing abilities, and so that everyone could see a different view of our surroundings, looking down on Strathnairn – from the top of a fairly high hill (802m above sea level). By the Friday evening, the day before the walk, it became apparent that walking at the top of the hill with lots of children was going to be a little unsafe – the weather forecast was predicting gusts of 45 miles an hour at low level, nobody wanted to hazard a guess as to what that would translate to higher up! With some help from the guys at Dunmaglass, who knew the land better than any of us, we managed to plan an alternative route at lower level, which meant that the event could still go ahead.

The big day arrived, and as forecast, it was windy. Not the lovely sunny summer’s day we had hoped for, but when you live in Scotland you learn to make the most of the weather conditions that are thrown at you! The day started with an introduction from Tom, one of the Gamekeepers on Dunmaglass Estate and a chat from Jenny from Loch Ness Rural Communities Group.

She kindly donated some wildlife identification cards, tick sheets and some pens and encouraged us to keep a look out for some of the wildlife that can be seen in the area. Once everyone was briefed on the route-change due to the weather conditions, we divided into groups. There were still 3 hardy souls (and a baby!) who were prepared to walk the 10-mile route, up and back down the hill (all agreed that the full 14-mile option was beyond their capabilities in the conditions!), so they were set on their way. Although the decision had been made not to walk at the top of the hill, Dunmaglass Estate and SSE had given us permission to go up to the top to see the wind turbines and admire the view. So, those that fancied it drove up the hill for a look – a number of our party had not seen a turbine from such close proximity before, so this was quite a sight! Before we got blown off the hill, we headed back down to start walking. The new route was just under 3 miles, and took us past the end of Loch Conagleann and past the older Dunmaglass Lodge. There is now a second ‘Dunmaglass Lodge’, which is more modern, and visible through the trees.


In total, we welcomed 45 walkers, including 19 children, ranging in age from 5 months old to 60+! Everyone who came enjoyed a walk, even if perhaps it was shorter than planned, and got to see a part of the world they had not visited before.


Each individual will be able to claim an adventure of their own, but I think the most memorable of those will be Annelise’s, who battled 5 miles up the hill and then 5 miles back down again on her own with a young William in a pushchair against the wind! We also benefitted from kind donations of home-baked cakes from the congregation of St Paul’s Church, Croachy, which were much appreciated after battling the elements. The day was a great success, and now that all sponsorship money has been collected and counted, we are pleased to announce that we raised a grand total of £1053!

Thanks must be said again to Dunmaglass Estate and SSE for allowing us access to the land and the windfarm, Iain, Tom and Hamish from Dunmaglass for all their help in the planning and assistance on the day, Jenny from Loch Ness Rural Communities, and the congregation of St. Pauls for their baking. And finally, thank you to everyone who took part, donated money and sponsored of our walkers, without you we would never have reached such a fantastic sum of money!