Sunday Mail Seven Days - Cat Harvey's Boot Camp

Cat Harvey's Boot Camp Diary; "I needed an emergency fix. I needed the professionals..." It was a final act of desperation that prompted me to book my most unlikely holiday to date.


Yes folks, I Cat Harvey, lover of grub and cheap Prosecco signed up and completed a week long fitness boot camp and lived to tell this tale. I'm walking the Great Wall of China for CHAS in September and promised to be super-fit by now. I needed an emergency fix. I needed the professionals. I turned to google and found THE CAMP, a women only fitness /weight loss camp in Galloway run by ex-special forces physical training instructors and promising to drop a dress size and tone up in seven days.

After persuading my friend Lorraine to join me we headed to Penninghame House, a stunning mansion set in a lush country estate near Newton Stewart. Addressing weight issues is an emotional journey for many and I was nervous on arrival. What size would I be in comparison to the others? Would I be able to keep up? Was I really not allowed chocolate or bevy for a whole week? The answers: I was bigger than some smaller than others, yes I kept up, no treats allowed. Thankfully the staff are fully aware of the psychological issues involved and are there to motivate and encourage not shout, that's why it's just called THE CAMP not bootcamp.

My room was in the main building and the height of antique luxury with a sumptuous bed, shiny mahogany furniture and modern bathroom. The group of women on my course were from all over the world. Ladies had come from Dubai, Croatia and London, although the majority were Scottish and most came alone.

Everyone had a different reason for being here, six of the twelve were returnees singing the praises of previous visits. For most weight loss and fitness were the primary objectives. I kept a diary of our adventures.



Arrive at 3.30pm and shown to rooms. Tour of stunning estate. Weigh-in and measuring. I've been dreading this but they did it privately and in Kilograms and centimetres . I only speak fluent stones and inches so chose to remain blissfully unaware of how porky I've become. I'll do the conversions once I'm an athlete at the end of the week. Lovely bunch of girls and the instructors Craig and Archie seem friendly, knowledgeable and approachable.Dinner is soup and salmon and cooked to perfection.

We have a short evening fitness session to learn how to correctly do the exercises they will torture us with throughout the week. We end the day round a fire-pit discussing our goals. I go to bed relaxed and excited. I might not hate this after all.


I'm in shock.7am circuits before breakfast, a 1k time trial, a trim trail ( a run incorporating push-ups, triceps dips and other horrendous things) a two hour power-walk and a boxing class. Seven hours of exercise, 5,000 calories burned.New body required. EVERYTHING hurts.


3k loch run before breakfast. I'm pushed to my limit. I ran it all- then nearly barfed. 'Your body's saying no, your mind can say yes' I was told. My body currently hates my mind. Orienteering treasure hunt followed by a survival class where we made a fire and boiled an egg. Bear Grylls would approve. An hour of circuits on the lawn later and we were off to the hills for a 10k hike round the stunning Loch Trool in the Galloway forest park. On our return to base we wade through the river Cree to ease sore joints. We all decided to go for it and swam. Psychologically I'm feeling invincible even if I do have a limp with an old knee injury playing up. Thankfully The Camp sports masseur Jane has the best healing hands ever.An exhausting but brilliant day.


Yoga before breakfast. I'm as bendy as a marble statue. This is followed by a gruelling session of outdoor circuits. I'm told many people hit the 'Tuesday wall'. When tiny tubs of raisins are delivered as our snack I'm genuinely teary. I NEED PAKORA. We have a kettlebells class before lunch (soup) before more circuits and a hilarious game of rounders. We swim in the river again to ease joints. Post dinner hike. Bed.


My knee is playing up. I'm strapped and hurting but desperate to continue.The boys are fantastic at modifying exercises for me. We flip tractor tires in a race, more boxing ( with the Rocky theme blaring) a fascinating nutrition lesson, a 10 mile hike and evening circuits. Bodies are aching, spirits are curiously high.


We start with an 820m zip wire at Laggan outdoor activity centre.Two of the girls are scared of heights but they're determined to conquer. The duel lines are 30m off the ground and go at 45mph.Both girls take the plunge and are elated. This week is all about building confidence and pushing barriers. It's working. A gruelling day exercising on the beach is next. Running in deep sand dragging a tyre I'm miserable but thinking of the final outcome. We swim in the sea and head back to base for a Thai cooking lesson an abs class and then some rifle shooting. There are not enough hours in the day.


After a 1k run we climb the Merrick, at 843m it's the highest mountain in Southern Scotland. The weather is horrific but we're determined to succeed. It took six hours to go up and down and I cried with pain on the descent. I did it despite my dodgy knee. Relief and euphoria are kicking in, we've made it to the end.

Dinner is piped in and served in the posh dining room by Craig and Archie in Tartan. There's a sense of occasion, of accomplishment and of positivity for the future. All of these woman are and should be proud of themselves. The Camp has helped woman through depression, the menopause, bereavement and lack of self-esteem. I now appreciate why.


Despite my initial fears my sense of achievement at the end was incredible. The Camp offers flexi-breaks of 3,4 or 5 days for those who can't manage a full week. I loved the camaraderie between the girls and can't praise the staff highly enough for continuing to push yet support us. I've often felt Dumfries and Galloway is one of Scotland's hidden gems. The countryside we trained on was spectacular. Hiking through Glentrool a particular highlight.

The Camp proved to deliver exactly what they promised. Drum roll please. At the final weigh-in I lost 9.4lb and 3.5 inches from my waist, at least one full dress size down.

If only I was allowed a pepperoni pizza to celebrate...


The Camp takes place at Penninghame Estate, Newton Stewart, Dumfries and Galloway.DG8 3LY.

The Camp offers Flexi-breaks from £320-£860.

Rooms for the week (all inclusive) from £850-£1750.

Call: 0800 3357672 or 07879 555041 to book.

Check out Galloway Forest Park for information on hiking, cycling and Dark Sky star gazing.

Zip wire: Laggan Outdoor.

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