Conor McKinneyEd McCannRoss Millar
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Bear Grylls Island Survival Academy – it may hurt a little…

Posted on May 11, 2017 @ 3:17 PM in Adventure

Just as I was beginning my après lunch coffee in Belle Isle Castle’s Grand Hall a team of menacing uniformed figures marched in.  They were on a mission, their leader Will quickly briefed us on the afternoon ahead. In fact, he told us very little (a theme which would remain for most of the day), only to dress appropriately as we will get wet and dirty and to be in a Land Rover outside at 1400. They left to the sound of a pin dropping in the background...

We piled into the Land Rovers and raced off into the grounds of Belle Isle Estate before arriving on the shores of Upper Lough Erne.  Following more instructions from Will (again suitably brief), we were equipped with buoyancy aids and paddles before venturing out onto the Lough. Just as I was beginning to take delight in the peaceful tranquillity an orange smoke flare set off from an island begin us.

After landing our kayaks on mass at the wooded island, we followed Will and his brigade to a pre-prepared campsite. Heath (another man not to be messed with) further focused our minds as he instructed us on how to safely use a knife during the remainder of the day.  The term ‘triangle of death’ (the area between your two kneecaps and you know where) will remain with me for a while.

The first task was to prepare a warm drink with a spark, a tampon and a Kelly Kettle.  Although no Café Latte, we were able to fashion a nice cup of coffee. Will and Heath then demonstrated their soft side and passed around the Jaffa Cakes. Just one each, they didn’t want to spoil us.

We split up into groups and rotated through several different exercises.  During the first, Will provided detailed instruction on the dark arts of concealment before issuing some camouflage cream and netting.  He then gave us two minutes to hide in the undergrowth within 20 paces before he came to find us.  I am immediately ran over 40 paces away, frantically covering myself in netting, diving into the biggest bush I could find and then closing my eyes in the hope that this would further help prevent my capture – it didn’t!  

With Heath’s guidance, we then became trackers carefully following a trail of footprints through the forest.  We achieved our goal with 20 seconds to spare. My two-year-old doesn’t stand a chance the next time we play hide and seek.

Following a short exercise in shelter building we returned to camp to be greeted by Venison Hot Dogs – a magic combination. After which the competitive spirits were raised with a round of axe-throwing.

As we walked back to the kayaks, this previous group of strangers were laughing and sharing fond stories of an excellent adventure. As it turned out we didn’t quite have one foot into the luxurious Belle Isle Estate just yet. Somebody had stolen half of the kayaks.  Will and Heath looked slightly sheepish although no one dared make any accusations.

The newly bonded group worked together to construct a raft to bring the remaining party ashore. I overheard the instructors trading bets on the raft’s chances of success – our odds weren’t good!

However, the raft optimistically named ‘Titantic II’ defied the odds and we reached the shore successfully.

The Land Rovers whisked us back to the luxurious accommodation afforded throughout Belle Isle Castle and Cottages, before enjoying a delicious dinner in the Castle’s Grand Hall, produced using the finest local ingredients.

Belle Isle Estate is the exclusive destination of the Bear Grylls Island Survival Academy. For more information on tailored incentive and corporate experiences contact:

Belle Isle Estate  

+44 (0) 28 66 387231

Chris Scott was a guest at the official launch of the Bear Grylls Survival Academy at Belle Isle Castle and Private Island

Photos within this blog are kindly provided by Ken McBride Photography


Chris Scott
Chris Scott

When not boring everyone about his little kids’ latest antics, Chris enjoys sailing and cycling, if only to offset his love of eating out and Marlborough Cabernet Sauvignon..

2 comments have been posted in reply to this article

Posted by Wayne on May 11, 2018 @ 11:12 AM

From the very beginning, we plunged into a brave new world. The emphasis of the course was "self-help" - how to stay alive if he was in the desert. Training is based on the theories and practice of the bear, we learned how to fire, hide, filter water, find and catch our food. It was an exciting opportunity to experience our affection, become a relative and return to nature. I can not think of a better activity for teenagers who need to get out of their bedroom more.

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