This week will see the start of the annual ABF The Soldiers' Charity Cateran Yomp in the Perthshire Highlands. The Yomp (a military term for a long-distance march) takes place over 10 - 11 June and is an epic adventure challenge across some of Scotland's most impressive and rugged terrain.
The event is run by ABF The Soldiers' Charity, the national charity of the British Army. This organisation exists to bring much needed support to soldiers, veterans and their immediate families when they are in need. The hike is one of the signature events of the ABF calendar and always proves to be a huge hit with everyone involved.
ABF The Soldiers' Charity was founded in 1944, while a massive three million British soldiers were still at war around the world. Aware of the need to support these troops as they returned home to civilian life, the charity was established with the sole purpose of helping these soldiers and their families. Since then it has helped millions of people and has a remarkable record of responding to the needs of soldiers and their families involved in all the campaigns and wars of the last century.
The event has three different lengths which entrants can complete over a 24 hour period, meaning there are routes to suit different abilities. Whether it is the 22 mile bronze option, 36.5 mile silver option, or the daunting 54 mile gold option, the route is sure to offer a fun and exciting challenge for everyone involved in the event. Last year's Cateran Yomp attracted over 1000 participants, who all blazed a trail across the Perthshire countryside towards their own chosen finish line.
The hike is guaranteed to test the limits of everyone who takes part, both physically and mentally. However, this challenging trail will also provide the backdrop of an unforgettable weekend finding new friends, sharing the exhilarating experience and making memories to last a lifetime. That this experience comes while raising money for soldiers, veterans and their families, is just an excellent bonus.
The route begins in Blairgowrie, and for those taking part in the gold distance, will finish there also. What follows in between is a tour of some of Scotland's most scenic landscapes, including Spittal of Glenshee, Kirkmichael and Glenisla. Highlights along the way also include the craggy peaks of Glenshee, as well as Loch Beanie and Loch Auchintaple, meaning you are never far away from yet another memorable view to inspire you on to the finish line.
As well as the hike itself, the participants will also get the opportunity to take part in a range of fun activities. Both clay pigeon shooting and archery stations will be situated throughout the course, and the event will also finish with a breath-taking fireworks display.
Taking part in the event again this year will be a special team put together by the Allied Forces Foundation (AFF). AFF is a British-American foundation established to raise awareness and funding for allied wounded soldiers and veterans and their families. One of the main focuses of AFF is to reinvigorate the spirit of comradeship and teamwork that so many wounded, ill and injured (WII) serving and veterans miss when forced to return to a desk job or civilian life. The injuries of the individuals taking part in the event this year range from amputees to partial paralysis to shrapnel injuries to PTSD, highlighting the strength and bravery of our Armed Forces.
Helping bring people to the Yomp and looking after them during their time in Scotland is just one of the amazing aspects of AFF's work. They believe that sporting events like the Yomp can help with physical and mental rehabilitation. They also facilitate educational scholarships in the US and UK for the children of severely wounded soldiers, raise awareness for veterans with PTSD and other non-visible wounds, and raise funds and opportunities for family vacations for those who are unable to afford them.
AFF are taking a team of more than 50 individuals to this year's event. 25 US wounded, ill and injured soldiers will meet with fellow WII British soldiers currently based at the Personnel Recovery Unit in Edinburgh. This team will also be joined by 15 Danish soldiers and a member of the Ukrainian military, to complete the arduous hike together.
Participants compete in the endurance event in order to renew self-confidence, re-establish self-esteem and provide a focus for recovery and rehabilitation. These challenges deliver an opportunity for people to come together with other military and former military who are facing similar experiences. Yomping also provides the chance to share stories and advice as they fight together for recovery.
The Scottish Affairs Office in Washington is welcoming the US contingent of the team and their carers for a send-off reception tonight. The reception is a great opportunity for us to wish them all the very best of luck as they embark on their journey across the highlands.
You can keep up to date with this year's Cateran Yomp by checking out their Facebook page, where they will be posting updates and interviews with the hikers and support staff. You can also get more information on both ABF The Soldiers' Charity and The Allied Forces Foundation on their websites. There you will be able to see more of the great work that they are doing all year round for wounded, ill and injured soldiers, veterans and their families.