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Following an injury to her foot which meant she was unable to complete her Gold Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) walking expedition, Amy in UVI (Year 13) shares her fascinating experience of completing her expedition in Scotland by kayak this summer.

'I was not able to complete my Gold DofE walking expedition with school in July as planned. I found out that it is possible to complete DofE expeditions not only on foot, but also on horseback, sailing, canoeing, by bike as well as kayak. Knowing my recovery would be slow and not wanting to postpone the expedition, I decided to sign up to complete it in a sea kayak paddling from the west to east coast of Scotland.

After several sessions at the Cotswold Water Park learning how to capsize and complete different rescue drills, I arrived in the Cairngorms for the 10-day adventure. The first day was a full day of training. This was followed by a three-day practice expedition, wild camping on the shores of Loch before returning to the centre for a rest day. On the sixth day we departed for the qualifying expedition, which involved four days kayaking between 21-27km each day, with three nights wild camping. We set off from Fort William and finished in Inverness, which was a total of 98km. On the journey we took in the spectacular scenery as we kayaked through different lochs and canals, including the full length of Loch Ness along the way.

Whilst it was initially a little nerve wracking to sign up to an open group where I did not know anyone, I soon enjoyed meeting my team, and the Canadian canoe group, who were completing their expedition at the same time. Due to Covid restrictions we were unable to sleep in the activity centre on the nights in-between expeditions and this also meant that we had to use the outdoor kitchen, which consisted of a barbeque and a tap, to cook any food. At the end of ten days and nine nights of camping, a hot shower, freshly cooked meal and comfy bed were very welcome!

One evening after pitching our tents on the shores of a Loch, most unexpectedly we were joined by Imelda Staunton and several Corgis, Spaniels and a Labrador. It turned out that they were filming the fifth season of The Crown in that very spot that evening. We had a fascinating chat with the crew of the very sophisticated drone and saw the action first-hand. The producer came to meet us and reassured us we did not need to move our tents as they would remove us via CGI in post-production.

If anyone reading this is interested in joining an open group to complete an expedition, I would be very happy to talk to them about the experience in a little more detail as it is one which I would definitely recommend and hope to repeat.'