Advanced Care Research Centre

Blog – Firbush Weekend 2023

Academy students and staff recently spent a weekend at Firbush, the university’s outdoor activity centre for team-building and leadership.

loch tay

On Friday 9 June, the ACRC Academy travelled two hours from Edinburgh to Firbush, the much-beloved university retreat situated just outside Killin, Perthshire.

The weekend kicked off with tea, group work, and Smarties. Prof Ian Underwood, the Academy Director, ran a reflective exercise for the students to examine the highs and lows of their PhDs so far, and discuss it with peers. We discussed the simultaneous freedom and uncertainty that can come with a PhD, creating connections in academic environments, and thinking about research impact.

Sweets were then distributed for the polypharmacy exercise organised by Dr Susan Shenkin, Academy Deputy Director, who wanted the students to experience the reality of many with multiple long-term conditions. The brightly coloured chocolates symbolised various medications with complex (sometimes contradictory) timings and rules. Students were challenged to follow the regime for the whole weekend, and many were surprised by just how difficult it was.


The students were divided into two teams on Saturday morning to participate in a group challenge organised by Firbush – tyres, planks, and rope were all utilised! One team emerged victorious, though we have it on good authority that there may have been a height advantage involved. We ate our packed lunches in the gorgeous June sunshine, and decided on our afternoon sport choices.

Despite the wind being quite directionally-confused, the windsurfers and kayakers made the most of it out on Loch Tay, as did the sailors. There was also orienteering and cycling on dry land, and we all were extra appreciative of the hearty spaghetti bolognese served that night.

After dinner, Ian led the ‘NASA Challenge’ – a challenge focussed on team decision-making. Students were given a celestial scenario to work on together. It certainly provoked interesting discussion – and I think we all felt a little relieved at our earth-bound career choices.


Sunday morning brought more of the outdoors – a group canoed to the gorgeous wee village of Killin, bravely contending with the strong wind on the way back, while others chose to kayak, windsurf, or go for a walk around the area.

In the afternoon, students gathered in small groups to design their own outreach activities that have the potential to be actioned. We saw amazing creativity and teamwork, and were once again reminded of the exceptional students we have in our cohorts. The fresh air and warm afternoon sun were a dream to work in, but all too soon we were packing up and getting on the bus back to Edinburgh.

It was a wonderful weekend – a chance to remember how important self-care and connection is for all of us. We’re already planning next year.