Kate and William to visit kids’ outdoor centre

Stephen Kay, head of education and training at Dumfries House, can't wait to children enjoying the new facilities
Stephen Kay, head of education and training at Dumfries House, can't wait to children enjoying the new facilities

YOUNGSTERS from Scotland’s inner cities are being given the chance to experience the countryside and tackle a wide range of activities.

As these exclusive images show, the Tamar Manoukian Outdoor Centre, at Dumfries House, aims to test youngsters to the limit.

The outdoor centre will provide accommodation and team activities for up to 52 young people and six adults at any one time.

They will be drawn from schools and uniformed youth services across Scotland.

The new building has East and West wings for male and female accommodation. Each has six bedrooms, one of which is wheelchair- accessible.

The centre also has a communal area for dining and relaxation, an office and a catering kitchen.

Youngsters staying at the centre will be able to tackle an obstacle course, which is interspersed with 10 ‘leadership and confidence zones’ to encourage critical thinking, problem-solving and team-building.

The outdoor centre is the latest attraction at the 18th Century Dumfries House, a stately home situated near Cumnock in East Ayrshire.

In 2007, it became known worldwide as an architectural ‘Sleeping Beauty’ reawakened from its slumber by the interest – and finance – of the Prince of Wales, who saved the property, its contents and surrounding 2000 acre estate for the nation.

And this modern-day fairy tale will be officially opened by Kate and William on Friday.

The couple, who are known in Scotland as the Earl and Countess of Strathearn, will join Prince Charles to formally open the outdoor education centre on the estate.

Stephen Kay, head of education and training at Dumfries House, said: “It is hoped that a slightly younger and fitter male member of the Royal party may take the opportunity to demonstrate the ‘rope swing’, one of the more challenging obstacles on the course.”

Around 400 youngsters and 100 volunteers from the Scouts, Boys’ Brigade, Guides, Girls’ Brigade, Police Service, Fire Service, RNLI, Sea Cadets, Air Cadets and Army Cadets across Ayrshire are expected to turn out to showcase their skills for the Royal visitors.

They are representatives of Youth United, an umbrella organisation for youth organisations set up by Prince Charles in 2009.

The visit will conclude with a fly-past by three Typhoons from RAF Leuchars.

Mr Kay, who previously taught in the RAF and in Jordan and Colombia, took up his new post in October 2011, just 11 months before construction work on the outdoor centre began.

The centre received funding, believed to be close to £1 million, from The Manoukian Foundation, a grant-giving body set up by millionaire property tycoon Bob Manoukian and his wife, Tamar.

It is part of a wider programme of education and outreach work at Dumfries House.

The Belling Hospitality Training Centre, which is being opened today, caters to participants in the Prince’s Trust in Scotland’s Get Into Hospitality programme, who learn food preparation, knife skills, food hygiene and front-of-house duties in five-week training blocks.

Similarly, apprentices in the Get Into Sustainable Building programme learn traditional skills and crafts such as stonemasonry, woodworking and forestry at the Kuanyshev Sawmill complex on the estate.

Work is ongoing to create an education centre in the house’s five-acre walled garden, which is currently undergoing a £3m restoration.

It is hoped that the regeneration of the estate – in tandem with these additional training and learning opportunities – will help kick-start the local economy.

Interested schools or youth groups can contact the outdoor co-ordinator from Saturday onwards to book a stay at the centre.

LATER this week it will be given a royal seal of approval but before the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge carry out that opening ceremony, our own MAUREEN ELLIS was given an exclusive preview tour of the Tamar Manoukian Outdoor Centre.

n Don’t miss the Evening Times’ full coverage, in words and pictures, of Kate and William’s visits to Glasgow and Ayrshire. Tomorrow, the royal couple will visit the Emirates Arena, Quarriers Centre and the Donald Dewar Centre, all in Glasgow.

On Friday they will perform the opening ceremony of the Tamar Manoukian Outdoor Centre at Dumfries House.

Dumfries House was built between 1754 and 1759 for William Crichton Dalrymple, the fifth Earl of Dumfries.

Its lavish furnishings – including at least 50 pieces of Chippendale furniture – were thought to be a ‘honey trap’ to attract a new bride following the death of his wife.

In 1867, John Patrick Crichton-Stuart, the third Marquess of Bute, oversaw the installation of Britain’s first Turkish bath.

The estate was requisitioned by the army in 1942 when it became the Pennyland Barracks, briefly becoming a prisoner of war camp in 1943.

It was last lived in by Lady Eileen Bute, the dowager of the fifth Marquess, who lived there until her death in 1993.

Her grandson, the racing driver Johnny Dumfries, the Seventh Marquess of Bute, then made unsuccessful approaches to the National Trust for Scotland and Historic Scotland for financial help before trying to sell the house.

In 2007, a consortium led by Prince Charles stepped in at the eleventh hour with a successful bid.

The Great Steward of Scotland’s Dumfries House Trust now manages the estate.

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