£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!


July Update

The last six weeks or so have flown by and a lot has happened.  More challenges, more beach cleans, cycle training and visitors from Canada to name but a few.

After just over six months the total raised for by the Challenge is £2,575 – just over half the target. Thanks to everyone who has contributed so far.

Early in June we joined Alice and her friends at Camasunary as they continued her bothy Challenge, and joined Andrew for a few miles of his 2017 Challenge. IMG_1595.JPG

In mid June Daniel & Alexander – two of Neil’s friends from Vancouver – were over from Canada and Holland, respectively for their challenge.  They returned from Skye via Brin, and experienced the BBQ and bonfire of our Highland Gathering of motorhomes, at which Emma Wright (another of Neil’s friends) gave a magical performance on her clarsach.


We returned to Camasunary for our Canada Day (1st July) beach clean & BBQ.

IMG_1692.JPGIt was not without its own challenges:

The Canada Day BBQ had to be postponed for a day because some kind bothiers had carried out our instant BBQs and food (packed in black bin bags) to the bins  at the road end, thinking they were rubbish.  Carly and Kelsey, over from Canada on the Neil Mackenzie Adventure Grant joined us, and loved Skye, despite the typical summer weather!

The saga of the removal of rubbish from Camasunary Bay continued.  Misty Isle Boat Trips in Elgol have removed some of the rubbish and over the weekend we persuaded someone from the “big house” to take out some 20 bags in a 4×4 to the Kilmarie road end, which have since been removed from there.  But there is still a LOT left.  We are in communication with various people, but it is not an easy task.  Any help would be much appreciated.  In the mean time it is well secured under netting.

Since then we have been concentrating on our training for our own Challenge.  We are cycling on Vancouver Island in the MS Bike event, in August – in aid of MS in Canada to thank everyone in BC for their help and support at the time of, and since Neil’s accident.  For every $100 we raise for MS we will be donating (ourselves) £10 to The Neil Mackenzie Trust. So far we have reached nearly £100 – our original target.  Now we are hoping for at least $1,250 for MS Canada, maybe even $1,500.

Your Challenge

Several other people  have said that they will do a challenge in aid of the Trust.  If you are one of them please let me know, join the blog to report on your challenge and donate to the Trust.  If you have no plans, make some now!  Or at the very least support us in our Challenge and donate to MS Canada – or

Thank you!





The main event!


Thanks to everyone who participated in the main Bell’s Bothy Challenge event at Camasunary earlier this month.  We had lots of support and I would particularly like to thank Misty Isle Boat Trips in Elgol and Matt’s brother in law for their assistance getting the rubbish we collected from Camasunary to the appropriate dump!


The first weekend was cold and the “big house” had been empty for a while, so even when the sun was shining it was cold!  As we had to carry in all the stuff we needed for a long weekend luxuries like a pair of shoes were left behind.  As a result of this, coupled with damp socks and only one spare pair, I really thought I was going to get chillblanes in May!

Staying in the house was odd.  Although we have never stayed in the bothy, preferring the luxury of our campervan usually parked on Loch Slapin, the facilities in the house which included plumbing, a wood burning stove and a full and well equipped  kitchen seemed a bit out of place.  We almost felt as if we were cheating, however they were much appreciated, particularly the piping hot baths!

Once the sun started shining it was amazing – Skye as most of us have never seen it before – cloudless skies and no midges – for over a week!


The number of challenge participants were less than we had hoped, although we are looking forward to blogs from those who did complete a challenge (email me for an invitation to blog at but we had plenty of help when it came to the beach clean.  We made a real difference over the two weekends, with the help of friends and bothiers.  All the rubbish that had been collected in March by helpful overnighters was removed from its secure storage behind the bothy (a bone of contention with MBA) and a collection point was set up on the west side of the burn.  We left rubble bags in the bothy with a note for people to fill them, and they did, and we also started a collection on the other side of the burn. Thanks again to everyone who helped.


We organised for the rubbish to be collected by boat by Misty Isle Boat Trips.  Thanks to Anne and the team for your generosity and support.  If anyone is planning to go from Elgol to Loch Coruisk or to visit Rum or Canna – please support Misty Isle.  Once out of Camasunary the rubbish has been/will be transported to an appropriate place by Matt’s brother in law (sorry! I don’t know your name!). Thank you for your help!  Unfortunately there is more to do, and we hope some of you will be able to join us for the next clean on 1st July – Canada Day.


It may not look much but it was heavy!

Our particular challenge was one of organisation and co-ordination, especially when it came to the food! Firstly, we had to carry everything in, including sheets, towels, clothes (and changes of clothes in case of wet weather) and, of course, food.  This may not seem a lot for hardened hikers, but for us it made a one and a quarter hour walk into a walk that took close on two hours.  We were in Camasunarie House for 4 nights and numbers varied from just the two of us to 8 of us on the Saturday night.  I issued strict instructions that everyone should bring enough food and drink for themselves but be prepared to share.  Simple, I thought, but easily misinterpreted, as it turned out.  We must have had enough food, wine, beer and whisky for a week!  The challenge, then was to encourage people to take it away again, without hurting any feelings, and without having so much left that we were left to take out more than we had brought in!

Following the first weekend we set about a bit of a holiday on Skye.  We stayed well south in the island but visited places we hadn’t been to (or been to together) – Glen Brittle, Fairy pools, Port na long, Eynort, Loch Coruisk, and some known places – Camas Malag, Sligachan, Sleat and of course Elgol and Broadford.  The weather was clear, warm and sunny although there was a cool wind most of the time, and we managed to see a wide range of wildlife and wildflowers including seals, an eagle, an adder, a slow worm but no trout!  The eagle was high above the ridge between Loch Coruisk and Camasunary and we think it was a sea eagle, but can’t be sure!  We managed a few more beach cleans – Glen Brittle (not a lot to do), Camas Malag (better for having had a go at it in early April), Loch Coruisk (Thanks again to Misty Isle for allowing us to take rubbish, and for stowing it, on a busy return boat from Loch Coruisk).  IMG_1294IMG_1174IMG_1159IMG_1523

The next beach clean at Camasunary is on 1st July, and we are hoping for lots more help, then.  There is a family friendly sponsored walk on 24th June at Dunmaglass Estate, near Inverness, and our next, and biggest, challenge is MS Bike on Vancouver Island on 19th -20th August.  We are raising money for MS research in Canada to thank everyone in BC for all they did for us after Neil’s accident – and for ever $100 dollars raised we will be donating £10 to The Neil Mackenzie Trust (plus Gift Aid, of course)!  We hope that you will help us support MS and the Trust.