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The Isobel Award

The Isobel Award is now in its fourth year. Championing the unsung heroes, whether individuals or organisations, who have overcome adversity to make a positive contribution to the environment and/or their community.

Isobel Wylie Hutchison was born at Carlowrie Castle on 30th May 1889. The Castle was Isobel’s family home and she lived there for 93 years.

A pioneering solo Arctic explorer, botanist, writer, documentary maker and artist, Isobel could speak over 8 languages. She befriended people from all over the world and identified thousands of rare and remote plant species for the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh and Kew.

After every expedition Isobel returned home to Carlowrie Castle, tending to the gardens, and planting rare and foreign plant species from her travels.

Carlowrie Castle launched the eponymous Isobel Award in 2018 celebrating those who have faced challenges and not only risen to meet them but who have excelled and brought meaningful positive change in their wake.

To a 21st century audience, it is difficult to convey just how radical Isobel’s actions were and how challenging a path she chose, the shock factor that existed then simply has no social comparison since attitudes have evolved so far in the last 100 years.

It was the early 1920s. Few women could vote and the majority were not given the opportunity to venture beyond the domestic sphere. Isobel had other ideas and travelled to regions of the world that were widely considered unsuitable and indeed unsafe: the frozen expanses of the Arctic, the interior of Iceland, the wilds of Greenland, Alaska. Scandal followed as Isobel travelled unchaperoned and in the company of men who were essentially strangers.

Despite her unconventionality, Isobel managed to earn the respect and endorsement of some key figures within the explorer community. In 1934 Isobel became one of the first recipients, and the first woman, to be awarded the prestigious Mungo Park Medal by the Royal Scottish Geographical Society. The award recognises significant contributions to geographical knowledge, often acquired at grave personal risk. It was presented to her by none other than the future King George VI. National Geographic also expressed a keen interest in her work and published a number of her articles.

While the adversities our Award winners have faced and overcome may or may not be social or climate-related, they have all demonstrated the same grit, determination and passion to accomplish their goals as Isobel did. They have all contributed positively to a wider community through increasing understanding, opportunity, creativity and/or offering inspiration. The Isobel Wylie Hutchison Award recognises their challenges and contributions and provides the award recipient with a financial bursary towards furthering their incredible work.

The 2022 Isobel Award winner will be announced at Carlowrie Castle on the 19th of May 2022.

To join us please register for free tickets below:


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The North Star Explorer

Learn more about Isobel’s passion for the natural world, her experience of travelling to remote places and her encounters expressed through art and creative writing.

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