For the first time in the Western Isles there is a Bronze Duke of Edinburgh Award expedition on horseback next week.

Six girls from Lewis and Harris will be travelling down to Uist Community Riding School on Monday June 18th and will travel home the following day via the ferry. (They are pictured above practising for the trip)

The girls will leave the riding school in Balivanich at lunchtime on Monday and will ride down on horses that had been matched according to level of riding on the practice expedition to Flodda Island which is a tidal island located near Benbecula.

In 2011 the island had a population of just seven people which makes it a great rural location to go camping on horseback.  Once arrived on Flodda they will set up their tents, care for the horses and plan their route back to the riding school for the following day.

The Duke of Edinburgh Award was set up by Prince Philip in September 1956.  When the award began it was based on four main aspects; rescue public service training; the expedition; pursuits & projects; and fitness.  The idea came about after the Second World War when Prince Philip began to realise that there was a gap between leaving school at the age of 15 and entering National Service at the age of 18 which was leading to a lack of development with young people in certain areas.

When the award was first introduced it was only available for boys aged between 14-18 but there was soon demand for a similar programme for girls which was introduced in 1958.  After the award was available for both males and females they changed the top age limit to 24 which it currently still is.  The four sections of the award were also changed to what they are today; Volunteering; Physical; Skill; and the expedition.

By 1989 the award was operating in 48 different countries and today there are more than 140 countries across the world who operate the award.  Already 10 million young people in 142 different countries have completed the award since it began.  This year alone there has been over 10000 people who have registered for the award and over 4500 who have completed the award this year.

There are three different levels of the award; the Bronze, Silver and Gold. The Bronze usually takes 6-12 months to complete, the Silver 12-18 months and 18-24 months for the Gold.

Completing the award is a great way to improve self discipline, make new friends and even improve you CV.  To future employers this award can demonstrate that you can work well individually or as part of a team and can show that you have good dedication, communication and leadership skills as well as being self-motivated.

(This article was created by Rachel Jefferson, a pupil at The Nicolson Institute who is undergoing work experience for a week in our newsroom)