WASHINGTON — Nestled between the Grampian Mountains and the edge of the Highlands, the Scottish town of Blair Atholl became a campsite for 1,500 scouts and leaders from around the world for the last two weeks of July. 

During the 2016 Scottish International Patrol Blair Atholl Jamborette, scouts from 18 different countries gathered for a 10 day camping experience. The Jamborette in its 70th year has been attended by scouts from over 50 different countries. Every two years, it gives scouts from around the world a chance to share their experiences and learn about scouting in other countries.

Peoria’s own W.D. Boyce Council was able to send 12 central Illinois scouts this year, along with four chaperones. The scouts not only represented Illinois at the Jamborette, but also their hometowns of Chillicothe, East Peoria, Heyworth, Mackinaw, Morton and Peoria. 

EJ Flores, 15, of East Peoria, and Nolan Herman, 15, of Washington, were two of the scouts who went on the trip.

Both Flores and 

Herman have been involved in Scouts since a young age. Herman is a First Class Scout, three below an Eagle Scout and Flores is a Star Scout, two ranks below Eagle.

Flores said he likes being able to meet new people in scouts and Herman likes the outdoor adventures.

They got both of these things on their trip to Scotland.

The duo said they learned about the trip from a meeting two years ago.

“I thought this would be cool to do,” Flores, who is in Troop 178 in Morton, said.

Departing from central Illinois bright and early, the group left for London, England, on July 14. After arriving, they had three days to explore the city and sightsee before riding a train to Scotland. 

In England they visited Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, Windsor Castle, Millennium Bridge and Big Ben. 

“My favorite thing — visiting around all the castles, getting to see the Crown Jewels,” said Flores.

On July 18, the 35th Blair Atholl Jamborette kicked off with the arrival of over 500 Scottish scouts, their international counterparts joining them the following day. 

“They divided us up into six different sub camps within the whole campsite itself, so we were divided evenly. Scottish kids were all the way around each camp,” Flores said. “We stayed with a Scottish family the whole time during camp in a tent.”

The six different sub-camps are divided into patrols. Each patrol features one Scottish scout for every international scout. The Scottish scout provides camping equipment for their international counterpart. 

The six sub-camps, also known as the MacDonald, Maclean, Murray, Morrison, Robertson, and Stewart sub-camps, are lead by Clan Chiefs and participate in competitions with each other. Central Illinois was represented in the Murray and Robertson sub-camps. 

“Every day in camp there would be different activities you could do. One of them might be hiking, water sports or sports,” Herman said.

During their free time, they did activities such as a toga party and inflatables. They also toured the Blair Castle, the 13th century home to the Duke of Atholl.

A typical day consisted of getting up around 7 a.m., making a fire, cooking breakfast, and then doing an activity, Flores said.

“Lunch was the only meal we didn’t have to cook during the day,” Herman said.

Both boys said the experience taught them responsibility.

“I had to make sure I didn’t lose anything important like my passport,” Herman said.

“We had to learn how to take care of ourselves,” Flores said.

When they were not cooking, doing activities or helping others, the scouts were learning about each other’s differences.

One of the unique things Flores and Herman said they learned is that there is no division between the Boy and Girl Scouts in Scotland.

“They just call it scouts. They were really confused when we said Boy Scouts,” Flores said.

Herman said they also learned about several language differences.

“They say jumper instead of jacket,” he said.

Food was similar to back home, but they tried haggis for the first time.

“Traditionally, that’s sheeps’ intestines cooked together,” Flores said.

“In London, I had fish and chips,” Herman said.

“They call our chips, crisps and our fries, chips,” Flores said.

Meals were only a small part of their day. There were many activities including fishing, hiking and archery. The Jamborette also featured opportunities to learn games scouts from other countries participate in during their free time, such as baking competitions, and even a daily newsletter called the “Kastle Kurrents.” By completing these activities, scouts  were working toward earning the White Cockade Badge, which is given to scouts who have completed 12 daily activities and helped to organize two evening activities. 

The Jamborette concluded on July 29 with its last daily activities and closing campfires. However, the experience for the central Illinois scouts did not end when the tents were cleared from the fields of Blair Atholl. The Jamborette offers a unique extension to the trip for the international scouts: home hospitality. Many friendships are formed during the scouts’ 10 day experience, and they can be furthered by Scottish scouts inviting their international friends to their homes. The central Illinois scouts stayed for five additional days in the homes of Scottish scouts they met throughout the Jamborette.

Flores and Herman said they made many new friends and are keeping in touch through social media.

Both recommend the trip to other scouts.

“It’s one of the best experiences you’ll have ever on a camp out,” Flores said.


— Jeanette Brickner added to this story.