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Indestructible, always believing - you are Gold!

DoE Leader and our resident laureate Stuart Scott reflects on a momentous achievement by five fine young men:


“It would be quite an understatement to say a lot has happened since Aidan, Caelan, Levi, Lorcan and Matthew first signed up for their Bronze DofE/ Gaicse Presidents Award in October 2019. Over the following five years they have shown great perseverance to reach one final challenge, the Gold Award expedition. An epic 4-day,  3-night expedition in the wilds of Donegal, covering approx. 70 km, self-sufficient, on foot, in an area unknown.


Thankfully, so we thought, it takes place in June so the weather should be lovely...


Spare a thought for Lorcan McAnulty who had no time to celebrate completing his final exam last Monday morning as he joined his four teammates in throwing their rucksacks into Mr Mayers trailer and setting off on the long journey from Newcastle to Dunfanaghy. When one of the boys declared on arrival in Dunfanaghy that they were looking forward to 'cracking open a good book', the scene was set for a relaxing early night.


The group set off bright and early from the entrance to Ards Forest on Tuesday morning. Day 1 and 2 were largely spent walking in sunshine. They quickly demonstrated impressive levels of fitness, navigation and teamwork as they worked their way through Ards Forest, around Muckish to Lough Altan at the foot of Errigal. (That said, the time management was not quite so impressive, particularly in the morning!) Overall, however, between them they clearly possessed the attributes of a strong Gold group - and had personalised Shimna flags to prove it! 


Day 3 is traditionally the most difficult day, both psychologically and physically. This yea,  it did not disappoint as we experienced the wettest Donegal day in the 5 years we’ve been visiting this part of the world. Following a route change, the team showed resilience in abundance as they covered over 18km in brutal conditions. When they reached camp, utterly soaked through, the picturesque stream that traditionally trickles its way around the campsite had been replaced by a raging torrent! A swift change of plan was needed.  


Following a quick call,  the group made the short journey along the road to Gartan Outdoor Centre who kindly agreed to provide a place of refuge for the night.  Camping close to the centre, the group had some shelter from the heavy rain and 72 kmph gusts. They made the most of the opportunity to dry out and regroup for one final push on Friday, no doubt fuelled by the prospect of a post-expedition sauna, shower and dinner out in Letterkenny. The team didn't hang around on Day 4, although they did take time to enjoy the sites at Glenveagh Castle, before reaching the end of their epic journey.


Fair play to the boys, they were still smiling at the end, with their flags still intact.


They enjoyed an evening of relative luxury in Letterkenny, including a well earned meal in the Yellow Pepper followed by their expedition debrief back in the hotel. It became apparent during the debrief just how close knit this group of guys have become over the years,  which really built the foundations for such a successful expedition.

And boy, can they talk? From North American black bears to the political ideologies of ancient civilisations and everything in between, they had it covered! 


Aidan, Caelan, Levi, Lorcan and Matthew, we salute you. We wish you well in the remainder of your Gold Award journey.


A huge thanks to Marty and all the staff at Gartan Outdoor Centre for providing a place to camp on our third night! Memories made!”


The Principal writes: “Thank you to our staff for making this expedition possible: Stuart Scott (assessor), Campbell Mayers, Daniel Allen and the newest member of the Shimna Award team, Catriona O'Neill. There's no turning back now, Catriona!”



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