Intergenerational Boat Building


The Ayrshire intergenerational boat building project started as a way of getting young people to gain skills through the Duke of Edinburgh award. Working with wood, getting young people on the water and helping with volunteers ticked all the boxes.

It made sense to make the project an intergenerational one as the young people didn’t have the skills to build a boat alone. Following a public meeting which 20 retired people attended, most in their 60s and 70s, the project began as there were now older people with some experience of boat building (mostly none) but with an interest in working with wood and willing to work with the school pupils. It grew from there!

Over the years the boat building project was rolled out to 4 other locations and 6 boats have been built in total down the Ayrshire coast. Many local people were involved in different towns and villages.

The two boats they are finishing at the moment in Ayr won GWT’s Excellence Award – same idea: older, retired men and women with young people from Ayr Academy coming in on a Tuesday and students on a Thursday morning from the local college.

Excellence Awards winners 2023

The Ayrshire intergenerational boat building project won one of Generations Working Together's Excellence Awards for the cateogry - ‘Encouraging Reciprocal Learning’. Watch the project film here.

Benefits for the Community

It is an opportunity for young and older people to get involved in the project – build, meet new people, and get in the water.

Physical and health benefits. (green health benefits). Green / blue therapy – lots of research done of the benefits of getting on the water or getting into the countryside.

Two boats are now finished with one of them going to South Ayrshire Council – to an outdoor centre at Culzean Castle called the Dolphin House – the main outdoor centre for South Ayrshire schools. One of the boats will be donated to them for the community to be used for outdoor education – for the young people to get rowing. 

New clubs are now in place where clubs that never existed. There’s 60 miles of coast but little affordable, accessible activities to get on the water. There was nothing there so the project is a big bonus for the community.

The other boat is going to the River Ayr for water sports. Access steps have been built in front of the West of Scotland University allowing rowing to take place on the river.

Rowing and competing – there are regular regattas in Ayrshire and all-round Scotland and various parts of UK, Europe, and the world. The sports is now a world activity. Starting from humble beginners at the Scottish Fisheries Museum in Anstruther.

Benefits for the Younger People

  • New skills including boat building
  • Making friends with an older generation (improving communication skills, confidence and building empathy)
  • Achieving sections of a Duke of Edinburgh Award

Learning skills. It was new to them – working with older people (in their 60,70,85’s) Totally different, engaging with people that age and learning from their experiences. Opportunity to learn boat building but also to learn from the older people. Some became friends with clear friendships being formed. They also completed a section of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.

Benefits for the Older People

  • Making new friendships with people from different generations
  • Improving mental health
  • Feeling more connected

The main objective was to involve the whole community which then had an outcome of improving mental health. It was like a men’s shed programme (although women are involved too). Opportunity to build boats and work with young people, passing on skills. Also for them to socialise (going for coffee afterwards – as important as the boat building), getting outdoors and meet new people.


Four grants from:

  • Duke of Edinburgh, Diamond Challenge fund
  • Ayr College Community Fund
  • Ayr Academy Parent Council
  • Ayr Free Masons

A big thank you has to go to the Allanvale Land Investment for donating the boat building shed.


  • Questionnaires (with 5 written questions) were distributed last year (2023) to all the adult participants to find out what they got out of it.
  • Video interviews were undertaken with school pupils and adults.

When the project finishes (Spring 2024) an evaluation questionnaire will be carried out.

Boat launch planned for March 2024. The project video from the Ayr project will be available in Spring/ summer 2024 after editing and the official launch.

Local Priorities

The Outdoor partnership – has 6 key areas of operation.

  • Community Cohesion
  • Pathways to Employment
  • Volunteer programme
  • Equality, Diversity and Inclusion
  • Health and Wellbeing
  • Adventure Learning

You can see how the project touches on all of those.

Scottish Government – National Performance Framework – National Outcomes

This project contributes to the following outcomes:

Communities - We live in communities that are inclusive, empowered, resilient and safe.

Education - We are well educated, skilled and able to contribute to society

Health - We are healthy and active

Environment - We value, enjoy, protect and enhance our environment.