Life as an army family in Scotland can be hugely contrasting depending on which part you’re posted to. Whether it’s the vibrancy of busy cities, or the remoteness of the Highlands, there are lots of reasons why a stint north of the border can be a great experience. We head to Kinloss and Edinburgh to explore the differences…
A SMALL village in Moray, Kinloss is dominated by the barracks and has a primary school, shop and a pub.
Whilst you’re not exactly cut off, it does help if you can drive – Elgin is around twenty minutes to the east, then it’s 45 minutes in the other direction to busier Inverness.
According to families, the sense of togetherness is one of the biggest attractions. “It feels like a posting abroad as the community is so strong,” said army spouse Laura Goatham.
“Many people stay here at weekends rather than visiting family, which means lots of get-togethers with friends. Everyone looks out for each other and I feel lucky that we’ve been able to live in such a beautiful part of the country.”
The houses at Kinloss are spread out over three sites, all good sizes with decent gardens and good access to the local school. Some of the quarters have been sold off, so you’ll find both civilian and service families.
Off camp, there’s much to see and do. From white water rafting and dolphin watching, to scouts and craft clubs.
“We’ve skied, wild camped, zip-lined through forest, seen seals and walked Ben Nevis. My children are so free and it’s safe to play out,” added Laura.
“There are plenty of coffee mornings in the HIVE, which has soft play and a games room too.”
Finding meaningful employment can be a challenge, although if you can face a long commute there are opportunities in Inverness. Laura doesn’t currently work because of limited childcare options, with few childminders in the area and oversubscribed wraparound school clubs.
Laura admitted that her children’s experience of the Scottish education system has been very different to previous postings.
“My children are both in primary and there’s no formal testing or Ofsted ratings, which gives the school a more relaxed feel.
“They’ve been happy here, but I’ve heard we may have some catching up to do when we return to the English system.”
Army spouse Debbie felt it suited her children better. “It caters more to the needs of the individual child and is less prescriptive,” she said. “Our summer-born daughter is the oldest in the class rather than the youngest.”
In fact, Debbie likes Kinloss so much that she’s bought in the area, explaining: “It’s not for those looking to party or go clubbing, but if you’re looking for a peaceful, outdoor life then it’s an ideal posting.”
Bright lights: Edinburgh
SCOTLAND’S capital is a small city with a population of around half-a-million, which is boosted in the summer when tourists flock there for the festival fringe and military tattoo. Its culture and proximity to the Pentland Hills and stunning beaches, are part of its appeal.
Army spouse Claudia Jones explained: “Edinburgh has incredibly beautiful scenery, something that we all love. We are forever finding new places to go on dog walks. There are a huge number of things to do with a young child; loads of activity centres, parks and attractions.”
Things to do
Edinburgh has an excellent public transport system; the bus and tram are cheap and reliable. On the patches, the welfare team and Community Support Development Worker make sure there’s plenty to do.
“They’re fabulous at organising days out and events,” said Claudia.
“Patch life is such a different experience to what I’ve had before; we’re all one big family.”
The main concern that families ask AFF about is the difference in education, as Scotland co-ordinator Jenny Goodacre explained: “We work closely with the Royal Caledonian Education Trust to work through any issues, such as when a family has problems accessing additional needs support. We find that most issues are quickly resolved, and families are happy once they’re here.
“It can be a worry when moving back from Scotland – do speak to your child’s teacher or new school if you have any concerns.”
Jenny also runs a monthly additional needs group in the area which has been hugely beneficial to families.
Housing can be a bit hit and miss, with some estates more run down than others, but you should find a good support network wherever you’re living.
“Everyone helps each other out, especially when the soldiers are away,” explained Claudia.
The Redford and Dreghorn estates are older houses, with Redhall being a PFI patch. All are a mix of civilian and military families. Some people worry that a Scotland posting will make them feel isolated, but army spouse Daniela, who previously lived in London, has found this isn’t the case.
“There’s easy access to the rest of the UK and Europe via train or plane,” she said. “The airport is just 20 minutes from the patch and Waverley Station is a short bus ride away.
“I’m a physiotherapist and I’ve found it relatively easy to find a job.”