A Weekend in Argyll Forest Park
One of the reasons I’m glad to be studying away with IFSA-Butler is the trips they sponsor. Last month, me and many of the other students studying with them in Scotland took a trip to Argyll Forest Park, a few hours west of Edinburgh. We stayed at the Benmore Centre for Outdoor Learning, which is at a beautiful old manor amidst botanic gardens.
The first morning, we split into our activity groups. I should start by mentioning that most of the groups at the Benmore Centre are schoolchildren, so everything we did was pretty tame but tons of fun. I spent the morning caving with a group of seven others. We started by getting suited up with waterproofs, helmets, headlamps, and harnesses. Then, we drove to the trail in a minibus and hiked up to the caves. We entered the first cave by sliding through a small opening, then rappelling down a ways. From there, it was a pretty straight shot over a lot of rocks to the end, where there was a ladder so that we could easily get out.
The second cave began at a tiny opening, which we did all manage to fit through. From there, we got boosted up into a larger space, then slid between two rocks that were so close together we had to have our heads turned sideways. We ended up coming out very close to where we entered, but since we got super turned around inside we didn’t realize it until we were all the way out!
We went back to the house for lunch, then embarked on our second activity, which was a ropes course nearby. We started on the low ropes to try and get the hang of balancing. Fain impressed us all on the rings, but Ruth, our program director, didn’t do so well. After trying our best and only sort of failing on the low ropes, we moved on to the high ropes — don’t worry, we had harnesses! There were a couple of different small courses and we all gave them a try. The last thing we tried was a jump to a trapeze from the top of a tall post. My partner and I failed to catch the trapeze, but the next group got it!
Our final morning, I got up early to wander around the house and the grounds. The Benmore Centre is the former estate of James Duncan, and includes his manor house and the surrounding botanic gardens. I particularly enjoyed the avenue of Giant Sequoias, which reminded me of home. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to escape the city for a little while, and I’m looking forward to our next trip to the Isle of Skye!