FOR tens of thousands of Glaswegians, it has been a much-loved place of adventure and fun.

Blairvadach Sailing and Outdoor Centre was officially opened on September 5, 1974, by the Lord Provost at the time, Sir William Gray.

As it approaches its 50th anniversary, the centre, near Helensburgh, wants to hear from Glasgow Times readers who have sailed, climbed, played and explored there over the decades.

The facility has welcomed more than 150,000 of Glasgow’s young people since 1974 and it has become a leading provider of curriculum-based outdoor education.

Glasgow Times:

This year, the centre is planning a series of celebrations and competitions to mark the milestone birthday.

The team is looking for interesting stories from across the ages, from people who have experienced a course at Blairvadach, and for whom it was something special, or memorable, or even life-changing.

A team of Blairvadach instructors will judge the stories, and the authors of the winning tales will receive an adventure weekend for up to 10 of their friends and family. 

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The submission deadline for stories is June 15 and details of how to enter are on the Blairvadach website.

Interestingly, there is more to the history of Blairvadach than meets the eye.

The centre was built on the site of a Second World War prisoner of war camp.

(Image: Karin Grant)

Camp number 582 housed 40 Nissen huts, where the POWs lived. When they were eventually repatriated to Germany, the camp was then home to Italian POWs until the end of the war in the Far East.

The 40 Blairvadach Nissen huts then became temporary accommodation while new housing was built in Rhu, Garelochhead and Cardross.

The remains of some Nissen huts can still be seen near the centre.

Pictures in the Blairvadach archive show the camp commandant Major Cox and his wife.

(Image: Karin Grant)

These pictures were suppled by Karin Grant, whose father, Ulrich Behrendt, was a prisoner at the Blairvadach Camp and stayed in Scotland after the war.

In the early 1970s, Glasgow Corporation undertook a project to improve its sailing base at Blairvadach on the shores of the Gare Loch.

The existing huts were replaced by a purpose-built facility from which the people of Glasgow, through the city’s community education service, could escape to the countryside to enjoy a raft of exciting and healthy outdoor activities.

Glasgow Times:

With considerable foresight, given the emphasis placed on the benefits of outdoor learning to mental and physical health today, the Corporation invested almost £250,000 in the project.

The centre has fantastic pictures in its archives, including a shot of a 1999 school group wearing the same windproof cotton jackets the centre uses today.

King Charles, when he was the young Prince of Wales, also visited the centre.

(Image: Blairvadach)

In a local newspaper article marking the 25th anniversary, pupils from Glasgow schools praised the centre while demonstrating some of the activities on offer, including abseiling, canoeing, orienteering, mountain-biking and sailing.

Louise Colquhoun, a sixth year pupil from All Saints Secondary, who achieved her RYA Level 2 sailing certificate, said: “You get a real buzz. The instructors are friendly, the atmosphere is great, and the activities are really good.”

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“This place is excellent,” said Emma Gillespie, a fourth year student of St Thomas Aquinas in Jordanhill, who was having fun abseiling at the time.

“You do things you just can’t do in Glasgow – I mean, you can’t go and abseil down the St Enoch Centre.

“These activities teach you to trust other people – we’re trying to talk our teachers into bringing us back.”

Do you have happy memories of times spent at Blairvadach? Get in touch with the Glasgow Times by emailing or write to Ann Fotheringham, Glasgow Times, 125 Fullarton Drive, Glasgow G32 8FG.