Littlehouse Media

Unique Mountain Culture Award goes to novice search and rescue dog teams

Two Search & Rescue Dog Association Scotland dog teams from Braemar are the recipients of the Fort William Mountain Festival’s special Scottish Award for Excellence in Mountain Culture that celebrates the Festival’s 20th Anniversary.

The Fort William Mountain Festival is proud to announce the recognition of two special novice search and rescue dog teams from Search & Rescue Dog Association (SARDA) Scotland with the Scottish Award for Excellence in Mountain Culture – Special 20th Anniversary Award, sponsored by Burns Pet Nutrition. This unique one-off award in celebration of the 20th Fort William Mountain Festival programme acknowledges the outstanding contributions of search and rescue dog teams to mountain culture throughout Scotland.

In a remarkable achievement, Rogue, a Belgian Malinois bitch, and Bowie, a Border Collie, along with their husband-and-wife Handlers, Paul and Sam Noble, from Braemar in Aberdeenshire, have earned this esteemed award after both teams passed an extremely challenging external assessment in just one year of intensive training. Typically, it takes two years to fully train search dogs and their handlers before their first official rescue call out.

In March 2023, the duo of Sam and Bowie clinched the Madras Trophy, an accolade bestowed upon the best Novice Search Dog Team deemed outstanding.  In April 2023, shortly after passing their external assessment Paul and Rogue undertook their first call-out, making history as only the second SARDA Scotland dog team to find a missing hillwalker on their first official search call-out. This was even more impressive as Rogue had to retrain using a muzzle, something that normally takes a year, and Paul underwent brain surgery a few months before the final assessment.

SARDA Scotland, a Scottish charity dedicated to training dogs and their volunteer handlers to search for missing persons, supporting Mountain Rescue Teams and the Police in their search and rescue efforts, commended the Novice Search Dog Teams for their remarkable achievements.

Stu McIntyre, Training Officer, SARDA Scotland, said: “SARDA Scotland is delighted to congratulate Sam and Paul Noble and their dogs Bowie and Rogue on receiving the prestigious Fort William Mountain Festival 20th Anniversary Award. This is fantastic recognition for their outstanding contributions to Mountain Culture.

“As an organisation with deep roots in the Lochaber area and having two presidents who have received Scottish Awards for Excellence in Mountain Culture, most recently with our current president Dave “Heavy” Whalley in 2023, this award for Paul and Sam seems even more fitting.

“On behalf of the entire SARDA Scotland team, we extend our heartfelt congratulations to Sam and Paul. Their unwavering dedication and service to SARDA, Mountain Rescue and the Scottish Avalanche Information Service is an inspiration to us all. We are proud to have them as part of our SARDA family, and we look forward to their continued contributions for many years to come.”

Sam and Paul Noble, who joined SARDA as novice dog handlers after the Covid pandemic lockdowns, surpassed all expectations. Both seasoned mountaineers and members of Braemar Mountain Rescue Team, as well as Scottish Avalanche Information Service (SAIS) observers, they bring a wealth of experience to SARDA. Paul, having summited Everest twice, demonstrates their commitment to mountain culture.

Sam and Paul Noble said: “We are honoured to be awarded the special 20th Anniversary Scottish Award for Excellence in Mountain Culture by the Fort William Mountain Festival.

“Mountains are our life and we’ve been fortunate to complete many routes and summits that have been difficult. Becoming a search dog team has been, in some ways, a similar challenge. Ultimately it requires absolute commitment, with major highs and lows during the journey. Getting back up again when you’ve been knocked down is perhaps the hardest part.

“SARDA Scotland is a tight group, very much a family and we are proud to be part of it and call ourselves Search Dogs and Handlers. We thank our committee, trainers, and colleagues for nominating us for this award and recognise that we follow in the shadow of previous recipients, Hamish Machines, our founder and David Whalley, our president.

“And of course, most important of all, without our Bowie and Rogue’s trust and love, our lives would feel a lot emptier.”

The Fort William Mountain Festival initiated the Scottish Award for Excellence in Mountain Culture in 2008, and in 2015, introduced the Youth category. The 27 exceptional human recipients and two talented canine recipients, including the two SARDA Scotland rescue teams, will be celebrated at a special Festival event at the Nevis Centre, Fort William, on Thursday, February 15, 2024 – (, as part of the festival’s 20th Anniversary programme.

Anna Danby, the Fort William Mountain Festival Coordinator, said: “The Fort William Mountain Festival are very proud to honour SARDA, their dog handlers and, of course, our K9 friends for all the outstanding work they do throughout the year. We wished to recognise the contribution that SARDA make to Mountain Rescue with this special one-off award as part of the celebrations for the 20th anniversary Scottish Award for Excellence in Mountain Culture. Both Sam and Bowie and Paul and are wholly deserving recipients of this award, and their unique story was a huge factor in them winning. We thank both SARDA for all their help in choosing these amazing recipients and Burns Pet Nutrition for their sponsorship.”

Rebecca Wilkinson, Sponsorship Officer, Burns Pet Nutrition, said: “We are so proud to be a part of the Fort William Mountain Festival on its 20th Anniversary and celebrating with a special award to two SARDA Dog and Handler Teams. As a company that is a supporter and sponsor of SARDA Scotland, we always strive to make a difference to the lives of pets and humans whenever possible, which is why choosing to support the festival was such an easy choice. This event is a great way to recognise the contribution to the community and the incredible work of the search and rescue handlers and their dogs.’



Hi-res images of Sam and Bowie and Paul and Rogue can be downloaded from Dropbox –  Please credit Dave MacLeod for all images.

Notes to Editors:

Paul and Rogue – search and rescue dog team’s triumph over adversity story

An inspiring story of perseverance and dedication involving the SARDA Scotland team of Paul and Rogue.

For context, SARDA’s search dog and handler training programme spans from May to February annually, with rigorous evaluations and assessments leading up to external assessments in March. Volunteers known as Bodies, integral to the training process, play a crucial role as live targets during training sessions, also offering insights into dog behaviour and aiding SARDA’s Training Teams.

Bowie and Rogue joined SARDA as pups in May 2022, progressing rapidly through the training programme. As the SARDA Training Team considered candidates for assessment in March 2023, disaster struck when Rogue bit one of the volunteer Bodies during a training session. This incident posed a significant challenge for Paul and Rogue, as SARDA emphasized its duty of care to its volunteers.

To address the situation, SARDA required Rogue to be muzzled and learn the advanced technique of shuttling, whereby the dog returns to the handler for a reward after approaching a target. Despite the setback, Paul and Rogue dedicated themselves to mastering this skill within a tight two-month timeframe, demonstrating remarkable progress. The invitation to attend the Annual Assessments in March was extended, marking a testament to their resilience.

However, in February 2023, Paul faced personal health issues, including headaches and leg problems, stemming from a previous fall. A diagnosis revealed a brain bleed, leading to immediate surgery and the revocation of Paul’s driving license due to the risk of seizures. Paul’s wife, Sam, steps up to shoulder the responsibilities of driving while managing her own business, and continuing the training of Bowie.

The story encapsulates the essence of overcoming adversity, showcasing the indomitable spirit of mountaineers like Sam and Paul, drawing on their decades of experience in the mountains to navigate challenges.

The Fort William Mountain Festival 2024

The Fort William Mountain Festival 2024 runs from Thursday 15 to Sunday 18 February 2024. Most events take place at The Nevis Centre, An Aird, Fort William PH33 6AN, as well as some satellite venues in and around the bustling Highland town of Fort William, at the heart of the ‘Outdoor Capital of the UK’.

Satellite venues include The Highland Cinema and Three Wise Monkeys indoor climbing centre. 

The Fort William Mountain Festival 2024 – Useful links:

Scottish Mountain Culture Awards –

Website for up-to-date festival programme information and tickets –

Instagram – @mountainfestival –

Facebook – @mountainfestival –

YouTube – @fortwilliammountainfestival704 ––Q

The prestigious Scottish Awards for Excellence in Mountain Culture recognise the achievements and accomplishments of inspiring individuals and their outstanding contributions to Scotland’s outdoor culture, encompassing sport, theatre, art, photography, film and literature.

The award was set up in 2008 by the Highland Mountain Culture Association Ltd, organisers of the Fort William Mountain Festival.  The 2024 Award is sponsored by JAHAMA Highland Estates. The Youth Award, established in 2015, is sponsored by UHI North, West and Hebrides (School of Adventure Studies).

Previous Recipients of The Scottish Award for Excellence in Mountain Culture are:

2024 – Lee Craigie

2023 – David ‘Heavy’ Whalley MBE BEM

2022 – Karen Darke

2021 – Dave Morris

2020 – Colin Prior

2019 – Noel Williams

2018 – Cameron McNeish

2017 – Dr Hamish Brown MBE

2016 – Mick Tighe

2015 – Robin Campbell

2014 – Andy Nisbet

2013 – Myrtle Simpson DL

2012 – Dr Adam Watson

2011 – Ian ‘Spike’ Sykes MBE

2010 – Jimmy Marshall

2009 – Richard Else

2008 – Dr Hamish MacInnes OBE BEM

Previous Recipients of The Scottish Youth Award for Excellence in Mountain Culture are:

2024 – Caitlin Connor

2023 – Stephanie McKenna

2022 – Kirsty Muir

2021 – Mikayla Parton

2020 – Tim Miller

2019 – Rob Cochrane

2018 – Shauna Coxsey

2017 – Robert Mackenzie

2016 – Natalie Berry

2015 – Zeki Basan

You Might Also Like

Nevis Range, Scotland’s highest snowsports destination, open for business

Run Scotland in two days with the new Ultra Tour of Arran

The Ultra Tour of Arran, a big draw for international adventure tourists

Do we hear Muckwedding Belles in Fife?

Summer Youth Hostel Returns to Glasgow

Young people invited to collaborate in Muckin’ good summer festivals

Media Advisory – Images – The Ultra Tour of Edinburgh

Inspirational athlete and adventurer, Karen Darke, wins top mountain award

Cream o’ the Croft: three Muckin’ good family festivals rolled into one!

Figurehead environmental campaigner, Dave Morris, wins top mountain award

Nevis Range and Trek renew commercial partnership for 2019/20

IRONKIDS Scotland – 3,000 kids to take part in global running series

Gravelfoyle – Gravel Cycling at the heart of Aberfoyle’s new tourism brand

New Beinn a’ Ghlo trailhead car park gives back to the mountains

Sustainable active travel and food tourism at the heart of new adventure film

Noel Williams wins 2019 Scottish Award for Excellence in Mountain Culture

Go Swim Loch Lomond – a new open water event for Scotland

Young event assistants invited to join the IRONKIDS Scotland event team

Elite Freestyle Skier, Kirsty Muir (17), wins Youth Mountain Award

It’s all about head to head bike racing at Fife’s Eliminator

Run Scotland on The Ultra Tour of Arran

Glen Nevis Youth Hostel re-opens after major redevelopment project

Nevis Range team up with Endura

Young ‘Fifers’ invited to collaborate in Eliminator Bike Festival

Frazer Coupland appointed Chair of The Highland Tourism Partnership

People are at the heart of SYHA Hostelling Scotland!

‘Connect To Your Adventure!’ – big success in just 7 weeks

Entries open for SKI-AN-DURO, Scotland’s new ski and mountain bike Enduro

Loch Ossian and Torridon Youth Hostels shortlisted in TGO Reader Awards

Paul Merton Visits SYHA’s Loch Ossian Hostel – Paul Merton’s Secret Stations

Huge demand for ultrarunner Jasmin Paris at Fort William Mountain Festival

Media Advisory – 500 runners to tame Edinburgh with the inaugural Ultra Tour

Ain’t no mountain high enough (unless you’re a BASE-jumper…)

Cameron McNeish wins 2018 Scottish Award for Excellence in Mountain Culture

Keith Legge, CEO of SYHA Hostelling Scotland, steps down after 13 years

Nevis Range and Trek announce a partnership for 2018/19

‘Moving Mountains’ – Mountain Festival art competition carries £3000 prize fund

Hostelling Scotland begins phased opening of Youth Hostel network

The Fort William Mountain Festival 2019 programme announced

Inverness Youth Hostel gets a fresh new look

SYHA collaborates with Glasgow Caledonian University

Route announcement confirmed for HSBC City Ride in Edinburgh

Call for nominations to join Hostelling Scotland’s Board of Trustees

The Cream of Enduro will rise to the top at Comrie Croft

OCUK unveil their new branded gondola at Nevis Range

Re-Defining the age of adventure as the EMFF returns in February

National Funding Boost for Cream o’ the Croft and The Eliminator

Changing times at Nevis Range Mountain Experience!

Get your adventure challenge on with Project: Explore

Monster Meets Mountain – Nevis Range joins forces with the Cobbs Group

300 Dutch adventurers to run, bike and kayak across Scotland

Big Biking October – two International bike events for the Outdoor Capital

Chris O’Brien appointed Destination Manager for the Outdoor Capital of the UK

‘Moving Mountains’ – Mountain Festival art competition winners announced

Muckin’ good festive discounts on Muckmedden 2018 bike events

Gold and Silver gongs for Torridon and Loch Ossian Youth Hostels in TGO Reader Awards

Hostelling Scotland fully open for business after two years

Epic Halloween tale of ‘Ned vs Monster’ in the Outdoor Capital

SYHA appoints Lois Marshall as Youth & Volunteer Engagement Manager

Inspirational volunteer, Steph McKenna, wins Youth Mountain Award

Enduro riders, prepare yourselves for a Highland Clan battle!

Outdoor Capital Activities and Attractions Expo open for tourism business

Chris O’Brien, MD of Nevis Range, shortlisted for Business Leader of The Year

Fort William Mountain Festival 2021 goes Covid-19 safe

Lochaber Tourism Summit 2019, a must-attend event for Highland tourism businesses

Two Scottish youth hostels celebrate landmark anniversaries

IRONKIDS activity programmes promote healthy and active lifestyles – SUN, FUN, RUN!

A new mucky duathlon for the Eliminator Weekender in Fife

Outdoor Access Trust for Scotland wins two rural industry awards

Lochaber’s ‘Connect to Your Adventure’ digital marketing campaign, a huge success

Expert of mountain rescue, ‘Heavy’ Whalley, wins top mountain festival award

A muckin’ great Audax, perfect for Cream o’ the Croft road cyclists

#myoutdoorcapital – OCUK to put visitors firmly in the frame

Youth development key to Edinburgh Central’s 10th Anniversary

Leave your car at home for Edinburgh’s World Car Free Day

Elite mountain bike racer, Mikayla Parton, wins Youth Mountain Award

SYHA partners with Ayrshire College for valuable volunteer experience

New look Edinburgh Central Youth Hostel, new era of hostelling in the Capital

The Fort William Mountain Festival 2018 – Celebrate the great outdoors

Hostelling Scotland, a new brand identity unveiled

An appetite for adventure in the North West Highlands

Scottish climber Natalie Berry named Youth Mountain Culture Ambassador 2016

SKI-AN-DURO, a new ski and mountain bike Enduro for Scotland

Top award for World renowned Scottish landscape photographer, Colin Prior

Hostelling Scotland’s network opens for 2023. Give hostelling a go!

Aberfoyle to host new endurance gravel cycling event and festival

Visit Moray Speyside launches their biggest ever UK marketing campaign

Nevis Range is making it snow all season long!

Lives on the line in the spotlight at The EMFF

Loch Ossian and Glencoe Youth Hostels, big winners in TGO Reader Awards 2024

Nevis Range looks forward to reopening in July

Fife farmland to host the new Eliminator MTB Weekender Festival

Fife farm to be transformed for a family bike and outdoor festival

International partnership benefits Nevis Range snowsports enthusiasts

Lochaber Ideas Week programme revealed

A Mucky Duathlon for the Eliminator Bike Festival in Fife

Lochaber’s Nevis Range becomes an accredited Living Wage employer

Run day and night at the new Tweed Valley Trail Run

SYHA opens new summer youth hostel in Edinburgh

Hostelling Scotland to temporarily close Youth Hostel network

SYHA Hostelling Scotland – building Scottish hostelling for the future

Discover Your Adventure – Fort William Mountain Festival 2023 programme announced

Rob Cochrane wins 2019 Scottish Youth Award for Excellence in Mountain Culture

Sporting legend Gavin Hastings to inspire Lochaber at Ideas Week 2017

New European partnership to upskill adventure tourism in five countries

Inspirational Climber, Caitlin Connor, Receives Prestigious Youth Mountain Culture Award

New hydro scheme powers Scottish mountain resort

Lochaber Ideas Week returns to Fort William after a two-year covid hiatus

Fort William Mountain Festival back to a live, multi-venue event in 2022

Media Advisory – UK’s highest Shinty match to promote tourism in Lochaber

Bikes. Dirt. Downhill. Bike Night at The Fort William Mountain Festival 2016

Immerse yourself in Lochaber Ideas Week 2019

Finance and Economy Secretary, Kate Forbes, opens car park and off-grid toilets at Skye’s Iconic Fairy Pools

‘What would Mary do?’ at the Fort William Mountain Festival

Coast to Coast – run, bike ride and kayak 105 miles across Scotland

Haggis from Scotland’s first free-range Haggis farm goes on sale in Lochaber

Planning on holidaying at home? Give hostelling a go!

SYHA Hostelling Scotland assist in a Recovery Version

Edinburgh Mountain Film Festival 2018 – The Long Road To Adventure

New Lochaber website aiming high

Hostelling Scotland opens four summer youth hostels in 2018

OATS in search of a Fairy Pool of staff

Fort William – the perfect cruise destination

Dr Liz Cameron, Scotland’s voice of business, to headline women’s networking lunch

The UK’s first waymarked gravel cycling trails opened near Aberfoyle

The new Pentland Trail Centre – The future for Edinburgh biking

Competition Climber, Shauna Coxsey, wins Scottish Youth Ambassador Award

Millburn Academy ensures a warm welcome to Inverness Youth Hostel

Three female adventurers to take on epic 1936 cycling trip

Nevis Range to turn back the clock to 1989 to celebrate 30 years of adventure

Nevis Range moving forward with interim CEO Rod Pashley

Discover Scotland’s ‘Braw Buildings’ with Hostelling Scotland

An Teallach wins €60,000 European Outdoor Conservation Association grant

Fort William has all the Mòd cons

The ultimate runners’ sightseeing tour of Edinburgh returns

Fort William Mountain Festival 2024 – Come and discover your adventure

Nevis Range announces Commencal as new global gravity sports partner

Scottish Climbing Instructor, Tim Miller, wins Youth Mountain Culture Award

‘A Meeting of Minds 2’ celebrates innovation in Scotland’s aquaculture sector

Business Community Programme launched for Lochaber Ideas Week 2018

Lochaber community is pulling together to give Nevis Range a lift after lockdown!

Jura, the Border Collie, trains to become the first Ski Patrol rescue dog at Nevis Range

Are you hard enough to take on The Double Stalker?

Top Award For ‘Stalwart’ Of Scottish Mountaineering, Mick Tighe

Margo Paterson appointed as CEO of SYHA Hostelling Scotland

Developing for the future at Nevis Range!

Whatever your adventure: The Fort William Mountain Festival programme is launched

Lee Craigie, outdoor ambassador and adventurer, wins top mountain award

It’s Up to Us…to step up and save our mountain paths

£100,000 awarded to innovative Scottish mountain project

‘Death Zone’ mountaineer, Nirmal Purja, to headline Fort William Mountain Festival 2020

Dukes Weekender, a catalyst for Aberfoyle’s rise in gravel cycle tourism

Celebrating 90 years of Scottish hostelling

Lochaber Tourism Day with Cal Mac – Debate, Engage, Network

SYHA’s Glasgow Metro youth hostel awarded 3 stars by VisitScotland

Danny MacAskill launches video, ‘Danny Daycare’. Best ‘uncle’ ever?

Another Muckin’ great line-up of mountain bike events announced for 2017

No Fuss serve up a vindaloo of an off road bike festival

VisitScotland’s Lord Thurso to deliver The Charles Kennedy Memorial Lecture

Start your Highland biking adventure at the new Nevis Range Bike School

Hot water on tap for Loch Ossian Youth Hostel