£1m investment for Edinburgh outdoor centres

A £1 million investment is being ploughed into the Capital’s flagship outdoor education centres to make them fit for the 21st century.

The cash will be injected into Benmore and Lagganlia residential centres to modernise them and boost their appeal to schoolchildren and families across the city.

Education bosses said recent figures showed the council-owned centres were being used more than ever and that the investment would be critical to their long-term future.

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Parents have hailed the announcement and said the new money would boost interest in outdoor activities among the Capital’s schoolchildren and young people.

Alison Haines, 40, whose seven-year-old son, Robbie, attends Oxgangs Primary, said: “It’s great news. Those places offer a bit of freedom to kids at a time when they’re not getting out that often unsupervised.”

The funds will be invested in upgrading facilities at Benmore, near Dunoon in Argyll, and Lagganlia, near Aviemore, to revamp residential and leisure areas. Both centres have been offering activities such as rafting, kayaking and bouldering to schoolchildren in the Capital for more than 40 years.

“I certainly know that when I was at school, going away was brilliant,” said Ms Haines.

“We got to go away for a weekend without our parents. It was character building.

“Any new money for sport and outdoor activities is welcome. It means giving kids in the city the opportunity to experience sports like gorge walking, abseiling and river rapids, which they wouldn’t get to do here, and it lets them see what’s available.”

Council chiefs said the new funds would protect the two centres from “crumbling” and ensure they continue to be used for years to come.

Education leader Paul Godzik said: “Both Benmore and Lagganlia are very well used – they offer kids a fantastic experience and we are keen to ensure they are fit for the future.

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“This new money will be critical to making sure that they continue to deliver outdoor education for young ­children.

“There are a whole range of positives that come from this sort of facility and we want children across the city to have the opportunity to visit both centres.”

Councillor Catherine Fullerton, SNP member for Sighthill/Gorgie and deputy education leader, said: “This money is so important. If you don’t invest in facilities like Benmore and Lagganlia, you lose them in the end.”

Gifted to the nation

THE Benmore outdoor education centre is based in a baronial-style Victorian mansion which was originally the home of Edinburgh’s Younger brewing family.

Henry Younger bought Benmore Estate in 1889, after its previous owner went bankrupt.

The estate was gifted to the nation in 1924 and has provided outdoor activities to school groups, families and other organisations for more than 40 years.

Lagganlia Centre was opened by the Duke of Edinburgh in 1970 after it was gifted by the philanthropist George Boyd Anderson to give the Capital’s young people a chance to ski.