Interview: How the Duke of Edinburgh Award inspires at Glenmore Lodge

For the last five years, Shaun Roberts has been the Principal of Glenmore Lodge – Scotland’s National Outdoor Training Centre based in the Cairngorms. He worked his way up from Instructor and has more than 20 years’ experience guiding and training people in the outdoors including working for Scottish Mountain Rescue as their Training Officer and chair of their Avalanche Group. He was appointed to the role of Principal back in 2014 and is a qualified Mountaineering Instructor to Level 5.  

We spoke to him about how The Duke of Edinburgh Award helped to grow his love of the outdoors early on.

What did you get out of your Duke of Edinburgh experience?
“Duke of Edinburgh connected me with like-minded people and I was fortunate to have a group that was led by some inspirational people. They believed in adventure and always sought the most inspirational venues for our expeditions. I discovered the mountains and climbing through these years and DofE played a large role in that. I proudly finished my Silver but the mountains and climbing pulled me away from my Gold Award focus. My two boys are too young at the moment but when The Duke of Edinburgh opportunity comes up I will be the enthusiastic parent.”

What development and growth does Glenmore Lodge see in the youngsters who use Glenmore Lodge for their DofE residential?
“DofE, through their programs, asks young people to pause and consider some of the wider values of themselves, the world and the people around them. It is introduced at a time when quality adult role models outside of the family unit are important to a young person’s development. It’s a vehicle for development and opportunity. Outdoor and adventure sports need a mature approach to planning adventures within some amazing landscapes and environments. DofE supports this holistic and mature development.”

Why should you choose Glenmore Lodge for the residential element of your child’s Duke of Edinburgh?
“We offer a unique youth training program with a more sport-specific approach. If you have found either hillwalking, climbing, mountain biking, paddling through your DofE, school or family experience and wonder who will help you get better, go further, get more fun out these sports; then that’s us.” 

We all stereotypically think of the expedition element as a walk and camp. But what else can youngsters do at Glenmore Lodge and why should they try something ‘different’?
“The style of your expedition is only limited to your imagination. Many groups have achieved great journeys on foot, on bike, in boats. If you want help building your skills for this then please get in touch. We have white water kayaking, rock climbing weeks and scrambling, amongst more traditional offerings.”

What are Glenmore Lodge’s top tips for getting the most out of the experience?
“Get on the same page with all those who you are going to share the expedition. Talk about what it means to you and understand why the experience is important – develop some shared values that connect to the adventure. Getting expedition ready is as much a mindset as it is filling the front room floor with gear and wondering what to pack. Everyone has pre-expedition nerves, regardless of who they are and where they are going. Your confidence should come from your planning sessions with your group and the practice you put into the required skills.”

How does Glenmore Lodge ensure youngsters are challenged but also looked after and cared for safely?
“We develop people and help them achieve their ambitions in outdoor and adventure sports. These activities, like many sports, have inherent risk. We do not remove these inherent risks, as to do so would diminish the experience, but we manage them. And an intrinsic part of our training is helping others manage the risk. Our sports are about ‘risk aware’ participation and supporting the development of young people’s decision making is critical part of our ethos. The benefits of our sports are simply life changing.”

Lastly – of course – why is waterproofing such an important part of any DofE expedition?
“Expeditions are about fun and adventure. They are about the joy of experiencing new environments. Staying dry is part of managing your comfort to benefit from the joys of the experience.”