SWE’s February North Coast 500 trek!

There is no denying that there is a link between exercise and better mental health. You also can’t deny that winter and lower mood tend to coincide – especially this time around after the incredibly turbulent year or so we have all been subjected to.

It was those reasons that lead our Social Committee to set a little challenge for the staff:

 The Challenge: Walk the length of the North Coast 500 in February!

Our special little route took us from our home on Edinburgh’s Castlehill up to the beginning of the NC500, around what has been dubbed Scotland’s Route 66 and then back home – a total of 776 miles!

Invigorated, our staff walked us 5% of our route, all the way to Perth on just our first day! And they didn’t slow down, not even in the face of what felt like all 4 seasons in one short month. They didn’t even rest to catch their breath after finishing their first lap, instead they powered on and walked a whopping 2056.93miles in total!

Now this is all well and good, but the real aim of this wasn’t to walk an insane distance. It was to motivate them to get outside and go for a walk to hopefully help them with their mental health. And help them it did!! We received phenomenal posts and photos from our lovely bunch from their journeys! I mean just look at all those happy, smiley faces! And really how better to find out the effect this challenge had than to hear it from the staff themselves:

“The North Coast 500 Challenge has been a welcome distraction during lockdown, giving me goals to reach and an incentive to go out and explore. It was a great way to check in with the rest of the team too!” Paula Arthur – Visitor Assistant

“I loved The NC500 Challenge as one of the positives I have found about lockdown is the freedom and flexibility to go walking. I have always enjoyed going a walk but sometimes it has been more about necessity than enjoyment. I’m not going to lie, sometimes I have had to force myself to go outside – especially as Scottish weather quite often lives up to its reputation of being baltic! But it has always been worthwhile and boosts my mood. Another boost is I feel less guilty treating myself to a lockdown food treat when I get home! ”Elizabeth McGrath – Bookings Coordinator

“Doing The NC500 walking challenge throughout February really helped me cope a bit better with lockdown. Finding the motivation isn’t always easy but having something to aim for really got me out and walking longer distances than I normally would. It gave me an opportunity to discover new places in Edinburgh and really get to know this amazing city, as well as getting fitter in the process. All in all, I really enjoyed taking part and will definitely continue to keep walking more, especially as lockdown continues.” Gregor Macdonald – Visitor Assistant

 “I have walked every day throughout both lockdowns to have some ‘me time’ and to keep my fitness up. I miss football training and matches so much I knew I needed to do something to not only keep me fit but to keep my mental health in a good place. It is easy to get bogged down in the day to day and I needed my escape. The NC500 Challenge helped give me focus to my walking and as my colleagues will tell you – I’m always up for a challenge.” Billy Somerville – Restaurant Manager

“Taking part in The NC500 Challenge was more than just for fun. In these tough times it was a real motivator, gave me a much needed push to get up and out of the house for some fresh air and meet a friend for a catch up. Taking part in the challenge made me feel closer to my colleagues, even though we can’t all meet together, knowing they were taking part too gave me a sense of solidarity. If we can walk The North Coast 500 together, we can get through the rest of lockdown together and be reunited soon!” Nicola Dolan – Visitor Assistant

The team did an amazing job and it felt only right to reward them with a little whisky tasting inspired by our route, hosted by Susan Morrison our very own master of the Quaich! Highlighting three fabulous distilleries from along our journey, felt like the perfect way to conclude our little challenge.

The only question left – where to next?!

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