Celebrating 70 Years and Looking to the Next 70

To help an individual discover their own physical, mental and spiritual potential.

With these words, Glenmore Lodge, Scotland’s National Outdoor Training Centre, was established, starting a 70 year history which has seen thousands of students of all ages and backgrounds either start their outdoor adventures, or turn their passion into a career.


In this post second world war era, society was on the cusp of massive change and educational philosophies were being evaluated amongst concerns of over urbanisation. Lord Malcolm Douglas-Hamilton, credited with the vision and foresight to realise the ‘Glenmore Idea’, writes  – ‘not only to give young people the opportunity of an introduction to the treasures that a true appreciation for the country can provide, but also to inspire young people so much with the idea of healthful outdoor recreation  that they would act in their own localities as advocates’. This  is an abbreviated narrative, but for the interested reader,  Catherine Loader’s book Glenmore Lodge provides far greater detail .  However, with this as the background, the Scottish Sports Council (now known as sportscotland) created Glenmore Lodge.

The aim was to provide boys & girls, men & women, with new skills of moving safely in, living in, understanding and appreciating a completely different environment (quote from Murray Scott, A history of Glenmore Lodge).

For ‘The Lodge’, the outdoors represented more than just a physical challenge. This ethos still runs through the heart of the present day Training Centre.  Any visitor or student who has visited the centre or attended a course will recognise this through the building & approach to life when staying at the Glenmore Lodge campus and in the delivery of training by its Instructors.

A visit to the Archives at Glenmore Lodge will provide the reader with a powerful sense of the belonging that students felt after their time here.  That sense of belonging continues today for both staff and students alike.

The early days of Glenmore Lodge offered, what was referred to until the 1970s, as Holiday Training Courses, in downhill skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, Nordic skiing, snow & ice climbing, winter mountaineering, hill walking, canoeing, field studies and rock climbing. 

A group first aid training

Each decade brought its own change to Glenmore Lodge. The 50s and 60s were firmly in the ‘holiday training’ style, for groups of young people, for clubs and for individual people looking to develop personally against a background of outdoor sports development.  Throughout its history Glenmore Lodge has led and supported the development of outdoor sports and education, it was there at the beginning of skiing, winter climbing, kayaking and canoeing. 

As local authorities acquired and built centres throughout the country, a shift in the Centres’  role took place, away from hosting schools to a focus on training and qualifying adults to lead youngsters safely and competently.  Under Eric Langmuir’s guidance in the 60’s, the Lodge played a major role in mountain leader training and qualification.

According to Murray Scott (Principal 1955-61) the demand for informed and insightful skills training is driven by an ever-increasingly sophisticated client group and Glenmore Lodge begins to be referenced as a ‘Centre of Excellence’ for a number of sports.  From 1970 the charismatic Principal, Fred Harper, continues to develop a culture of insight, high performance and specialisation within the instructors, and the first references to ‘National Centre’ appear.  

The Cairngorm Plateau disaster in November 1971, when five Edinburgh teenagers and an assistant leader perish in winter conditions whilst on a school expedition based out of their local authority centre, further galvanised the need for good governance and qualifications within outdoor education.  This incident no doubt had a profound impact on Glenmore Lodge instructors who were involved in the rescue, and no doubt acted as a collective point of reference for the numerous Lodge instructors who have spent many dark and stormy hours on the Plateau assessing the skills of aspirant mountain leaders.

Whilst incidents in the area are well covered by the resources of the Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team, Glenmore Lodge still contributes to mountain rescue today and remains an independent team.  Its proximity to the mountains and incidents within the Northern Corries in particular, often call on the swift uplift of a few Instructors as an initial response.

Historic Photo Gallery

Glenmore Lodge Today

Today, you can sea kayak in the North West Islands, white water kayak down Scotland’s rapids, canoe or bike pack across our last remaining wildernesses, climb Ben Nevis ice, scramble in the Cuillins, ski the Cairngorm plateau, get the skills for Enduro racing, spend the weekend trail running or develop your Alpine mountaineering and ski touring skills.

Scottish and UK governing bodies have developed a full range of leadership and qualifications, often with Glenmore Lodge as key develop partner.  Today the centre offers the most comprehensive selection of qualification courses in the UK and continues to mentor, support and inspire indivduals as they progress on their chosen profession or pathway.

Glenmore Lodge also acts as a hub for Scotland’s outdoor Industry.

It is also home to offices for Scottish Mountaineering, Scottish Mountain Rescue, Mountain Training Scotland, the Scottish Avalanche Information Service, Scottish Orienteering Association, Disability Snowsports UK, Scottish Cycling and Spòrs Gàidhlig.

Sport Development, Continuous Research & Training

Cairngorms Mountain Bike Leader

Skills Training is one part of the triangle and for many the most visible, but there is a lot of development work going on in the background.  Glenmore Lodge is an early adopter of new awards and qualifications, working with governing bodies to shape these and bring real resilience and capacity into these qualification frameworks.   Our hunger for knowledge and insight is just as strong today as it has ever been, and our culture of continued development is one handed down over many decades.  Whilst we stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before we remain driven by the objective to be a relevant national asset and resource today.  

By example, readers of Scottish Mountaineer will be familiar with our avalanche awareness message.  Not many will know that this has been shaped by years of internal learning and development, deepening our own thinking around avalanche education and undertaking research, which has seen travel to the Swiss Institute for Avalanche Research and  the International Snow Science Workshop.   We take the best information and insight from around the world and aim to put it into a Scottish context.

Glenmore Lodge of Tomorrow?

Sea cliff climbing

As we mark our 70th year, it is easy to reflect over a period that has shaped the world of outdoor adventure skills, safety and leadership development, but life has never stood still for Glenmore Lodge. 

Our language is changing.  We now talk about DISCOVER / LEARN / ADVENTURE / QUALIFY.  We understand the complexities of life get in the way of sporting participation, we understand that participation is about much more than getting to the top of the mountain or down the rapid.  The pathway is unique to you, the reasons to participate are unique to you  and it is our role to have something to support you along a lifetime of participation.

Outdoor adventure and the way we define ‘adventure’ is also continually evolving.  For some of us it is all about fitness in nature, choosing to keep fit in the fresh air, for some of us it is about exploring, being part of nature and the greater world.  For some it is thrill seeking.  Others being part of a ‘tribe’.  One size doesn’t fit all.

It is up to us to make sure everyone can continue to find their sense of belonging in Glenmore Lodge. We’re reminded of those original words in 1948 discover your own physical, mental and spiritual potential.