Outdoor Activities

Outdoor Activities

Outdoor pursuits have a strong tradition at Marlborough.  The Outdoor Activities (OA) Department has its own dedicated building; the Kempson Centre named after Mr G Kempson, a former school Master at the College and a member of two early expeditions to Mount Everest (1935 and 1936).

Within the building we have our own newly refurbished indoor climbing wall.  A more recent pupil was the youngest British Male to climb the seven highest summits on each of the seven continents.

The department offers a broad range of activities.  These are designed to be fun, challenging, varied and adventurous but offering something for everyone.

Shell (Year 9)

In their first year at the College, pupils have the opportunity to try a wide range of outdoor activities including climbing, canoeing and kayaking, mountain biking and sub aqua diving.

Towards the end of their summer term, the whole ‘Shell’ year group participate in a week of outdoor activities largely based in the Brecon Beacons national park. Pupils are accommodated as ‘house’ groups in bunkhouse accommodation where the emphasis is not only on the activities but also on domestic skills and social awareness.

During the week most will undertake a two day overnight expedition which can be registered as training towards the Bronze award of the Duke of Edinburgh’s award scheme.

Overseas Expeditions

The OA department plan and lead an overseas expedition every summer. The present format is to alternate between planning a shorter, 7-10 day European expedition and a three week-long haul expedition.

These are generally open to all those in the Hundred/Year 11 and above, which reflects the sometimes physical and demanding nature of these expeditions.

Our expeditions are planned with meticulous detail and safety offering our pupils an expedition of a lifetime. We favour this approach as opposed to employing the services of an adventure travel agency believing we can offer better value for money and a truly bespoke service.

Previous European expeditions have included Iceland, The Italian Dolomites and the Swiss Alps. Further afield we have travelled to Ladakh in the Indian Himalaya summiting a 6,000 metre peak and the Cordillera Blanca, Peru summiting a 5000 metre peak.

The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award

The College is a firm advocate of the Duke of Edinburgh’s award. We currently offer the Gold Award (in Lower and Upper Sixth years).

The expedition training for the Bronze award forms part of our Wednesday afternoon ‘Outreach’ programme whilst the Gold award expedition training is undertaken largely at weekends and during holidays.

Qualifying or assessed expeditions have taken place in the Brecon Beacons, Snowdonia and Dartmoor.

Devizes to Westminster

125 miles of kayaking, or canoeing, from Devizes to Westminster Bridge is a formidable challenge for senior and junior teams alike. All junior teams undertake the challenge over the four days of the Easter weekend.

From fairly humble beginnings the popularity of this event for the Lower and Upper Sixth has grown year on year so that Marlborough has now become one of, if not, the largest school team entries. In 2014 the College were runners up in the Schools competition.

Training starts in the Michaelmas Term three afternoons a week. Endurance and the necessary skills are developed including portaging techniques (exiting the water with your kayak to run around one of the 77 obstacles that have to be negotiated between Devizes and Westminster) so that our crews have the best chance of completing the challenge.


Shell OA Week

From leaping off sheer rock faces to scaling the peaks of the Brecon Beacons, no challenge was too great for pupils on Marlborough College OA Week. All of the 180+ pupils in the Shell had the opportunity to round off their first year at the school by participating in the Outdoors Activities trip. The week […]

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OA Expedition to Langtang Valley, Nepal

Having only just returned from our exciting expedition in Nepal, memories are still fresh.  The chanting of ‘Om mani padme hum, the Buddhism mantra, heard as we walked around both Swayambhu Stupa, or monkey temple as it is often referred to and again at Boudhanath stupa, one of the largest stupa’s in the world made […]

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Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race 2018

125 miles of kayaking, or canoeing, from Devizes to Westminster Bridge is a formidable challenge for senior and junior teams alike. All junior teams undertake the challenge over the four days of the Easter weekend. From fairly humble beginnings the popularity of this event for the Lower and Upper 6th has grown year on year […]

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Slovenia is a small alpine country nestled between Austria to the north, Italy to the West, Croatia to the South and Hungary to the East. With a population of around only 2 million and a cultural interest in the outdoors, pre-trip research suggested that the Triglav National Park, one of the largest national reserves in […]

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Review: Climbing Kilimanjaro

‘Pole, pole’ we soon learnt is Swahili for ‘slowly, slowly’, it was all to be about timing. This was soon to become our Mantra for the joint Marlborough College and Dauntsey’s school expedition to Tanzania. Our aim was firstly to summit Mt Meru at 4,566m in preparation and acclimatisation for our main objective, Kilimanjaro. Kilimanjaro […]

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After a four hour flight, eight Upper and Lower Sixth students and three teachers touched down in the Land of Ice and Fire. On the journey to our hostel in Rekyjavik we glimpsed for the first time the spectacular Icelancic scenery – hot vents billowing out vapour with volcanic rock and ash stretching for miles […]

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Peru Trip

During the 2014 summer break the Outdoor Activities Department undertook an Expedition to the Cordillera Blanca, Peru, completing the 4 day Santa Cruz trek and then a planned ascent of Maparaju (5,326m). ACCLIMATIMATION Arriving in Lima after a 12 hour flight we stayed overnight before travelling via coach for 9 hours to Huaraz (3000m). After […]

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Swiss Alps

A mountain is never conquered, it is only when you are lucky enough to stand on top of one as the sun is rising that you realise this. During the early part of the Summer break the Outdoor Activities Department and 9 young adventures made their way to Arolla, a picturesque Swiss village high up […]

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The 2012 Outdoor Activity Department College expedition was to Ladakh, in the Indian Himalayas. Thirteen Marlburians committed themselves to the 18 day expedition setting off a day after the Leavers Ball with a 24 hour stop off in Delhi. Arriving at Leh airport the following day was a huge culture shock. Leh is approximately 3,500m […]

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The expedition to the Dolomite range of mountains in Northern Italy was a huge success. The combination of physical and mental challenges was a first time experience for many of the group. This provided an opportunity of discovery; not just of the stunning scenery, but also of the individuals themselves. Happily, every member of the […]

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