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Veteran soldier's twist on NC500


By Caroline McMorran


Richard McKenzie is training hard in preparation for his kayaking challenge.
Richard McKenzie is training hard in preparation for his kayaking challenge.

Most people think that simply driving or cycling round NC500 is no mean feat.

But one north soldier is going a step further and planning to kayak round the marine equivalent of the popular tourism route.

Fort George based Lieutenant Richard McKenzie, is hoping to raise at least £50,000 for the armed forces charity SSAFA.

The Wick native is being sponsored by Pulteney Distillery and will be accompanied by Ronnie Dunnett of Helmsdale, a long-time friend and former Royal Marine Commando, who will follow in a support vehicle.

Lt McKenzie, an experienced kayaker, is better equipped than most to tackle waters which can be treacherous even in summer.

A career soldier and Arabic speaker, he joined the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) aged 20 and went on to serve with Commando and airborne brigades across the globe. He was seconded to the Army Education Corps before leaving the service in 2004.

Following a spell as a private contractor in Africa and the Middle East, he returned to the UK in 20016 with his wife, who is from Indonesia and daughter, and rejoined the military. He is well known in Sutherland for his work to re-establish Brora Army Cadets.

It was an upcoming milestone 60th birthday in September that prompted him to take on the fundraiser.

He said: “I thought there has to be something more to look forward to than retirement and tending my garden. That is now what I am about.”

His departure date from Wick in early July is weather dependant and he calculates it will take 30 days to cover the route, averaging 20 mile a day. He has been offered the use of facilities at fire stations along the way.

“We’ll be largely following NC500 but, where it swings north west by road at Inverness, we’ll head south west to Fort William before going right, up the west coast and re-joining the route near Ullapool,” he said.

“This extra leg means we will be travelling around 600 miles in total.”

The challenge will shortly have a Justgiving page but to donate now, email: romckenzie@gmail.com

Most people think that simply driving or cycling round NC500 is no mean feat.

But two veteran north soldiers are going a step further and are planning to kayak round the marine equivalent of the popular tourism route.

Serving Black Watch officer Lieutenant Richard McKenzie and former Royal Marine Commando Ronald Dunnett of Helmsdale are hoping their efforts will catch the public imagination and raise at least £50,000 for the armed forces charity SSAFA.

The challenge has attracted sponsorship from Old Pulteney Distillery, Wick, and has the support of local coastguards and north fire officer Jason Gardiner who has offered the use of facilities at north fire stations.

The two men are better equipped than most to tackle waters which can be treacherous, even in better weather.

Wick native Mr McKenzie joined the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) aged 20 and went on to serve across the globe. He left the army in 2004 but rejoined in 2016 and is based at Fort George. He is well known in East Sutherland for his work to re-establish Brora Army Cadets.

A Falklands War veteran Mr Dunnett has had a similarily stellar army career.

Lt McKenzie, who turns 60 in September, came up with the kayak challenge.

He said: “I thought there has to be something more to look forward to than retirement and tending my garden. That is now what I am about - I am still looking for adventure! “

The route mapped out by the two goes from Wick to Wick and their departure in early July will be weather dependant. They expect to take 30 days to cover the route, kayaking around 20 miles a day.

Lt McKenzie said: “We’ll be largely following the NC500 but, where it swings north west by road at Inverness, we’ll head south west to Fort William before swinging right up the west coast and re-joining the route near Ullapool.

This extra leg means we will be travelling around 600 miles in total.

The challenge will shortly have a Justgiving page but anyone wishing to make a donation now can do so by emailing Lt McKenzie on: romckenzie@gmail.com

Most people think that simply driving or cycling round NC500 is no mean feet.

But one north soldier is going a step further and is planning to kayak round the sea equivalent of the popular tourism route.

Fort George based Lieutenant Richard McKenzie is hoping his effort will catch the public imagination and raise at least £50,000 for the armed forces charity SSAFA.

The Wick native is being sponsored by Old Pultney Distillery and has the support of local Coastguards and north fire offic

Lt McKenzie, an experienced kayaker, is better equipped than most to tackle waters which can be treacherous, even in better weather.

A career soldier, he joined the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) as a vehicle mechanic aged 20 and went on to serve with Commando and airborne brigades across the globe. An Arabic speaker, he was seconded to the Army Education Corps before leaving the service in 2004.

But, following a spell as a private contractor in Africa and the Middle East, he returned to the UK in 20016 with his wife, who is from Indonesia and daughter, and rejoined the military as a health, safety and environment protection officer. He is well known in Sutherland for

It was that upcoming milestone birthday an that prompted him to take on the fundraiser.

He said: “It thought there has to be something more to look forward to than retirement and tending my garden. That is now what I am about. I have walked the north pole, climbed mountains and

His departure date from Wick in early July is weather dependant and he calculates he will take 30 days to cover the route. After reaching Inverness, he will go on to Loch Ness and the Caledonian Canal before adding on a “dog leg

He hopes to set off from Wick in early July with the departure date weather dependant and take a



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