To provide adventure activities for all people in the south west of Scotland, no matter what their background or financial situation.
ACE’s activities are divided into three categories: adventure tourism, community development and education work.
Underpinning all of ACE’s work is a wide range of outdoor activities in and around Ayrshire, specifically programmed to encourage personal development, confidence building and educational attainment.
ACE provides adventure sports such as rock climbing, mountain biking and coasteering, through to outdoor learning and developmental programmes which work on team building and bushcraft skills.
The education branch of ACE’s activities uses adventure sports to offer practical training, building towards nationally recognised certificate awards.
Their apprentice scheme helps young people in Ayrshire work towards becoming a fully-trained instructor in a range of outdoor activities, while trainee placements, work experience and volunteering opportunities are also offered.
ACE also works closely with funding partners and schools, so that outdoor activities and tailored packages can be integrated into the curriculum and used to build pupils towards their SQA qualifications.
ACE’s trading subsidiary, Adventure Carrick, runs a wide range of outdoor adventures for individuals, families and corporate groups, and also offers holistic adventure packages which work to develop an individual’s positive mindset, balance and nutrition.
Hillwalking, mountain biking, coasteering, archery, canoeing and bushcraft are just some of the activities on offer, often packaged with mindfulness exercises, yoga sessions and nutrition courses to create unique adventure experiences.
ACE Manager Chris Saunders said: “We look at how you can integrate yoga, mindfulness, meditation, philosophical, esoteric ideas, into the realms of the activities that we provide, like mountain biking and gorge walking.”
Adventure Carrick and ACE are also key partners of the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere, which has been recognised internationally as a world class environment for people and nature.
The UNESCO Biosphere designation recognises the fantastic array of landscapes, wildlife, cultural heritage and learning opportunities that SW Scotland offers for communities, businesses and visitors to experience and celebrate in a sustainable way.
ACE initially had to rely on grant funding to run specific activities, but after building up a reputation locally for the quality of their outdoor programmes, local businesses began approaching ACE for specific pieces of work and they were able to start applying charges to their activities.
Over the last ten years, however, ACE’s main revenue stream has come through the education sector.
“We help schools and youth groups find funding packages that they can tap into to buy our services,” Chris explains.
“The education sector, youth sector, some of the developmental departments of the council such as community safety, skills development – they’ve been our main revenue streams.”
ACE also works with key funding partners to deliver developmental projects which benefit the local community, which has led to them increasing their scope of activities to include the wider tourism market:
“We’ve worked with organisations like the Robertson Trust, the William Grant Foundation – they’ve supported pieces of work around youth employment.
“We’ve had developmental work around young women in the outdoors, so for five years we’ve had funding from numerous bodies, Children in Need for example, where they funded workers to work on those specific pieces of work.
“That, over time, has moved into us tapping into more commercial areas such as the tourism sector, family holiday activities, corporate development pieces of work, supporting local hotels, caravan sites etc, providing activities for them, working with National Trust Scotland – tapping into those markets as well.”
ACE and Adventure Carrick both provide a platform for the personal development of young people in the area through their apprenticeship schemes and trainee placements – moving them towards a career in outdoor physical activities.
The work they carry out with schools and community groups is also integral to developing a local sense of stewardship over the environment in Ayrshire, ensuring that sustainable practice is put into place to protect the area for future generations – an important part of their work with the UNESCO Biosphere.
On an individual basis, the holistic adventure packages that Adventure Carrick offer can better equip people to deal with stressful or challenging situations in their personal life, Chris believes:
“it’s about unwrapping how the brain and the mind works during an adventure activity, we want to understand what’s going on when people are facing a challenge. It’s about unpackaging for them and then relating that back to how does that fit into their everyday life.
“All the activities are about being immersed in nature and the healing benefits that can come around from being immersed in nature.”