A look Overseas

Peering under the covers of another country is always a fascinating experience, especially when it is a subject close to your heart such as outdoor Education.

So when the opportunity to spend a week in Slovenia looking at the Outdoor education system was organised by Landon Carver arose I was quick to jump at the opportunity.

We departed on Sunday 6th October an flew to Ljubljana via Stanstead. Arriving in Ljubljana in the evening. A small capital city, but very beautiful. Monday morning we made our way to the Outdoor Education dept, CSOD, for talks with the head of service and her deputy. The opportunity for some presentations on Ireland and in our case Outdoor Education Ireland, was given, so hopefully we had a fair exchange of information. Very interesting that all children in the primary sector get at least 2 visits to outdoor education centres and that the state maintain a healthy subsidy.

After lunch in a local café we split up and headed out to 6 different centres. I would like to say a big thanks to the Bohinj Centre and the Trilobit Centre who welcomed us and fed us very well. We were very impressed with the dedication of the staff and Centres and in particular their ability to operate with limited resources.

Our return to Ljubljana was marked with a fantastic meal and a lot of rain!

Now that I am back in Ireland it is time to reflect on the experience and see how we can ensure that the service we provide is of interational quality.

Once again thanks to all at Landon Carver esp Mark and David, and to all those we met in Slovenia, many of whom we hope to see in Ireland soon.


Ireland’s First Artificial Cave System

Looking for new and exciting educational adventure we have developed an Artificial Cave System. The answer as to why might run as follows;

Artificial caving systems provide a fun and exciting replication of real caving but in a safe and controlled environment. Similar to indoor climbing walls artificial caving systems aim to educate, inspire and excite a new generation of subterranean explorers as well as make caving more available to those who other wise would not get a chance to participate.

It is more expansive than you might expect, about 75m of passageway numerous junctions and various challenges along the way, that’s plenty of space to get lost in.

All this adds to Shielbaggan‘s impressive array of facilities, ranging from Ropes Courses to Mobile climbing walls, white Water Kayaking to being Ireland’s premier provider of Coasteering.

Come and have a look… It will make your day!


What is ‘outdoor education’?

Simply put: ‘outdoor education’ involves activities and experiences that:

  • Normally take place in the outdoors
  • Frequently have an adventurous component
  • Involves physical activity
  • Always respects the natural environment

The activities include adventurous sports such as Kayaking, Coasteering, Orienteering or Surfing, & outdoor leisure pursuits such as camping or hill walking, & outdoor activities purposely designed for their educational impact such as ropes courses & team development challenges.

Outdoor education is primarily an approach to teaching and learning through these activities and experiences. The common thread is to focus on positive outcomes in personal and social education.

While outdoor education has a distinct identity and a distinctive educational contribution, there are significant overlaps between outdoor education and PE, and outdoor education and environmental education, with each re-enforcing the other.


How do young people participate?

 Young people become involved in outdoor education through a variety of areas.

Schools: Have a key role to play in delivering outdoor education. They provide regular outdoor and adventurous activities within their PE curriculum. They can also offer out-of-school learning through the ‘Gaisce Award’. Many schools also organise day visits to outdoor education centres.

Youth Services: Provide significant outdoor education opportunities as part of their courses, which commonly has personal and social development as a primary focus.

Outdoor clubs: Canoe and Climbing clubs offer valuable opportunities to access adventure activities.

Outdoor education centres: VEC centres have the potential to make a substantial impact on the personal and the social development of the young people they engage with. OEC centres are well placed to bring their specialist expertise to the delivery of high quality outdoor education, best realised when they work closely with schools and youth groups.


What are the outcomes of high-quality outdoor education?

Enjoyment: Young people enjoy participating in outdoor activities and adopt a positive attitude to challenge and adventure.

Confidence: Young people are gaining personal confidence and self esteem through taking on challenges and achieving success.

Social awareness: Young people are developing their self-awareness and social skills, and their appreciation of the contributions and achievements of themselves and of others.

Environmental awareness: Young people are becoming more aware of the natural environment and understand the importance of conservation and sustainable development.

Activity skills: Young people are acquiring and developing a range of skills in outdoor activities, expeditions and exploration.

Personal qualities: Young people are demonstrating increased initiative, self reliance, responsibility, perseverance and commitment.

Key skills: Young people are developing and extending their key skills of communication, problem solving, leadership and teamwork.

Health and fitness: Young people are learning to appreciate the benefits of physical fitness and the lifelong value of participation in healthy leisure activities.

Increased motivation and appetite for learning: Young people are displaying an increased motivation and appetite for learning that is contributing to raised levels of attainment in other aspects of their education.

Broadened horizons: Young people are broadening their horizons and becoming open to a wider range of employment opportunities and life chances.


What do schools, youth organisations, outdoor centres and clubs need to do to provide high-quality outdoor education for young people?

High quality leadership and management:

  • Creating the vision
  • Making the vision a reality

High quality teaching, youth work and coaching:

  • Inspiring young people to learn and achieve
  • Helping young people learn and achieve

Why is it important to have effective partnerships?


Effective links between schools and OEC’s enable young people to:


  • Make the most of their experiences and learning in both settings
  • Feel comfortable away from their school site and arrive ready to learn in a new setting
  • Build on activities started at school and try new activities, in new and challenging outdoor environments
  • Relate their experiences at the centre back to their work at school.

Young people progress and achieve most from courses at OEC’s if schools and centres work closely together and there is a clear link between the teaching and learning at the centre and at the school. The same is true for visits to OEC’s organised by youth groups.


More information can be found at:





Happy Christmas

I am starting this post with the intention of wishing everyone a fantastic Christmas and hoping that you all get the opportunity to get out and do something exciting over the festive period. I am hoping to get out and do some sea paddling and hopefully go mountain biking with my kids.  There is also a Christmas swim to wake up for the big dinner. I can really recommend this as although that moment of hitting the water is a bit of a shock (to say the least) to does make you feel fantastic for the rest of the day.

Outdoor Education Wexford


I am also going to take this opportunity to wax a little about our exciting year. I suppose the best place to start is by thanking all the instructors who have dug deep in what was an entertaining wet summer. They have proved time after time that fantastic experiences are created by the interaction of people and that the environment although beautiful is a secondary consideration. They have also made the best use of our new facilities this year, our ropes course and climbing tower proving to be winners.

We have two new activities coming on line next year, one a first in Ireland and the other a first for an Outdoor Centre. Both of these we are very excited about and will provide both great opportunities for education and a lot of excitment. If the mulled wine loosens my tounge the I might let slip a few clues in the next few week… Building has started though both at the centre and in a factory in the UK… oops no more wine, for now!

Coasteering as always has proved to be a great experience, with all types of groups taking the plunge at the end of Hook. We are also working very hard to keep our safety record, with 7 years experience, over 12,000 customers and 1  minor incident (a fingernail through the nose, ouch). In the course of the year we have spent 7 days on staff coasteering training and or one of the founder members of the Irish Coasteering Federation and are in the process of developing formal qualifications in Coasteering.

So we look forward to a fantastic new year with great adventures and giving participants an understanding of what a “rounded Education” is. But most of all I look forward to seeing lots of you again, or for the first time and making memories that will make us smile both at the time and in our old age!

Best wishes to all,



European Instructor Training

Just to put it out there that at Shielbaggan we are truely looking to ensure that we are at the forefront of Outdoor Education in Europe, once again 2 of our instructors, Paul & Roisin are going to France for 2 weeks working with top French providers With the Carve programme. Thanks to them for their hard work in ensuring Irish Outdoor Education gets the training it deserves. It is rumoured that they may enjoy themselves at the same time….. But then the best learning is not beaten into you! Below is the programme info;


The CARVE Programme 2013 (Leonardo Da Vinci Work Placement Programme). Sending 23 Irish Outdoor Activity instructors on what could be the work placement of a lifetime.


Irish Outdoor Activity instructors will spend two weeks in the Alps, working and living alongside their French counterparts and gaining a valuable insight into the way adventure centres are run in France.


The successful applicants competed in a selection process that began in September. The candidates are from 13 VEC Outdoor Education Centres in Ireland, representing Killary, Delphi, Dunmore East, Kilfinane, Shielbaggan, Achill, Gartan, Kinsale, the Burren, Cappanalea, Coláiste Uisce, ULAC and Oysterhaven.


The participating instructors are skilled not alone in the technical delivery of outdoor activities such as kayaking, hill walking and rock climbing but also in the delivery of education through the activity. They specialise in developing life skills through adventure activities, and very often work not just with outdoor activity enthusiasts but with youth-at-risk groups, groups with disabilities or addiction, and in some cases elite athletes.


In addition to observing French work practices, participants will also spend some of each day learning to ski or snowboard or improving their existing skills. As well as increasing participants’ levels of spoken French and their technical skills, it is hoped they will return with systems and techniques to improve their work in Ireland, and that the work placement will help develop relationships between the Irish and French centres.


The programme, now in its third year, has been funded through Europe, and participants will receive a FETAC Level 3 two-day language training in preparation for their trip. The Leonardo Programme has also allowed for the funding of all flights, transfers, accommodation, lessons and subsistence, as well as providing equipment for the harsh Alpine environment.


When asked about the programme, Mark Toner, MD of Landon Carver, said: “We are delighted with the interest in the programme and to be able to provide for a group who do exceptional work in their own right in Ireland but get very little praise for it.


“It’s good to finally have a good news story, and we are delighted to be involved. We have an exceptional group of people travelling out on this programme and we would like to pay tribute to them for all their hard work over the years, and for their input on the programme. We would also like to pay tribute to Léargas for all their assistance, and we look forward to hearing all the stories when the group get back.”



Outdoor education instructors deliver life skills through the medium of outdoor activities. The CARVE Programme 2013 takes full-time instructors who are working in outdoor centres on a two-week work placement in France. The group will work in six separate ski centres around the famous Chamonix valley at the foot of Mont Blanc.


Be part of the Mobile Adventure Revolution!

What is Mobile Adventure? And why is it so important to us?

First of all at Shielbaggan Outdoor Education Centre we see the Centre not as the only location for running our programmes but rather as a hub for activities. Often all could be calm at the centre whilst instructors are working on some of the best beginners White water at Graignamanagh, or Rock Climbing at Ballykeefe Quarry, running activities in schools, or indeed putting up and running activities in some of the biggest events in the country such as Toys-4-Big Boys in Citywest Dublin. We also work with the Irish National Heritage Park at Ferrycarrig and St Helens Golf Club in Rosslare. All our key instructors are exceptionally well qualified and experienced at running sessions away from base so moving around is second nature to them.

Mobile Adventure is about two important factors, first the equipment and the infrastructure to make it happen and second its about a mindset and a determination to provide three things for the client; 1. The best possible Outdoor experience, 2. A developmental pathway and 3. A price point that makes repeat visits easily affordable.

At Shielbaggan Outdoor Education Centre we are very pround of our first class equipment which includes;

7m Mobile climbing Wall with 4 x hydraulic belays (best in industury standard)

Irelands only mobile ropes course

45 Perception Scooter Sit on Kayaks in specialist trailer

8 Canadian Canoes in specialist trailer .

32 Swell Surf boards (these are the best boards for beginners at £400 each) housed in a trailer which doubles as a mobile changing room.

15 Sea Kayaks with trailer

32 white Water kayaks in specialist trailer.

Archery equipment, team building equipment and Orienteering equipment with available trailer.

In order to ensure the people and equipment are all on the move we also have 2x 16seater Transit minibuses, 1 x 14 seater Transit minibus, 1x 6 seater Transit Crewcab and 2 x Landrover discoveries.

Just a note here some of our stuff can’t shift like Wexford’s newest High Ropes Course , our 8m outdoor climbing tower with 6 automatic belays (the only one in the country). We also have a 30m Archery Range, Low Ropes Course and purpose built team building area.

However Mobile Adventure is also about a mindset which we provide with some of Irelands’ best qualified and experienced outdoor instructors. These instructors are always looking to create the best exprience for clients wherever the activity. It is our belief at shielbaggan Outdoor Education Centre that our core instructors should be able to develop sessions rather than having to work to a tired formula. What this means in practice is that you will get the very best of these instructors as one session may be kayaking from Grange Beach round the headland, the next off Baginbun rockhopping in the swell, what is important is that each session is dynamic, educational and interesting for the participant.

We are also very proud of our prices, they have been the same for the last 5 years and we have no intention of changing.



River Safety Rescue (RSR)

At Shielbaggan Outdoor Education Centre we are delighted to be a provider of River Safety Rescue (RSR)


Coasteering at Shielbaggan Outdoor Education Centre

Over the last number of years we have been staggered by the popularity of Coasteering at Shielbaggan Outdoor Education Centre. We estimate that we have taken out over 12, 000 clients since we started 6 years ago. This popularity is not suprising though, as it is perhaps one sport that has it all, here I suspect, you may be divided into 2 camps, those who have coasteered and are dancing up and down and nodding in agreement and those who are saying ‘what is coasteering?’. I think the best reply to this, is a photo;

Outdoor Education Through Coasteering

Coasteering at Hook head With Shielbaggan

 This is Toine, one of our instructors doing a perfect parachute jump into deep water.
Its not just about the jumps however, there are caves, blowholes, gullies and of course swell. It is the swell running in and out off the coast that makes coasteering, riding the surge through channels in the rock and ducking into caves.
Shielbaggan Outdoor Education Centre has been leading the way in developing Coasteering qualifications within Ireland. We have linked up with Gtown, Achill OEC and  Gartan OEC to bring the British Coasteering Federation Guides award, into Ireland. This means that if you access coasteering from any of these centres, it is properly organised, safe and will have universal operating guidelines. A guaranteed great day out for all.
If you would like to improve your skills, try it for the first time or just explore a new coastline then contact us for more information.

How a Little History can Light up an Outdoor Education Session

Perhaps sometimes when you do something for too long you feel that it is hard to be suprised, however days like today keep the enthusiasm flowing and remind those of us lucky enough to work in the outdoors that great experiences are created by adding just a little extra.

At shielbaggan OEC  we have been working with almost certainly around a hundred thousand clients over the last 33 years creating great Outdoor Education experiences for groups, individuals and now mobile adventure. We also work in partnership with a number of organisations which are also experts at what they do and this includes the National Hertitage Park at Ferrycarrig just outside Wexford. With them we have worked to provide archery and corachs (corracles) with the ambition of creating an interactive approach to the historical experience in the park.

Todays group may have been the first but not the last for sure!


Shielbaggan Outdoor Education at the Irish national Heritage Park

Outdoor Education Through History


Great Outdoor Education

Working as a team on Wexford's newest High Ropes Course

So what makes great Outdoor Education…..

Firstly lets remember that its all about people…….  Great facilities may look well but certainly won’t create memorable interactions so firstly its all about the quality of instructors, and at Shielbaggan OEC at the Hook Wexford we are justifibly proud of the experience, Qualifications and most importantly the passion of our instructors. There are not many centres that can boast of 2 x Level 4 Kayak instructors, an MIA as well as a plethora of other qualifications. But it dosen’t stop there, we have 3 Masters, one PHD in progress as well as lots of other academic qualifications. Not forgeting that we have one qualified teacher and 2 other instructors with Outdoor Education degrees on staff. If you then mix this with the fact that staff have paddled the Zambezi, climbed Kilimanjaro, ascended the vertical mile of El Capitan, Heliskiied, Helipaddled, Sailed the Atlantic, as well as being passionate about the personal development and enjoyment of the outdoors  of each and every person who they meet then we are getting close!

Also facilities and equipment do matter (sorry), not from the fact that you can’t learn well using old equipment, but rather that its demotivating both for clients and instrctors. There is also equipment which can provide great developmental experiences, such as Wexford’s newest High Ropes Course at Shielbaggan OEC.  Also its important to remain innovative, watching new developments, such as the move towards the adventure coming to you, Leading Shielbaggan OEC to create its Mobile Adventure offering.

Finally theres location, oh yes there are lots of great inner city Outdoor Education experiences, but its hard to beat Kayaking under the shadow of the world’s oldest operational lighthouse in Wexford sunshine (hopefully, we are the sunny south east after all) to move the soul.

Don’t forget to contact us for some soul therapy!


Sea Kayak Wexford

Sea Kayaking off the Wexford Coast