LOOKING through the scope of the rifle, I can see two figures silhouetted against the hillside who are holding a briefcase between them.

The case contains a deadly chemical that, if in the wrong hands, could form the base of a powerful explosive and risk thousands of innocent lives.

As a special agent on a mission, it is my job to take a single shot and destroy the case’s contents.

Pressing my body into the hill, I breathe slowly and pull the trigger.

I am in the middle of Operation Loch ’n’ Load — an adrenaline-packed, 007-inspired mission run by Special Operations Agency (SOA) offering civilians a snapshot of the thrilling world of espionage.

Masterminded by Sean Crawford, and run by a fantastic team of former SAS and SIS members, SOA draws on expertise from the world’s most secret agencies to create bespoke Bond-themed adventures.

With a portfolio of operations in exclusive locations across the globe, the safe but exhilarating missions range from hostage scenarios to learning how to dismount vehicles and shoot live weapons.

As the long wait for the new James Bond film No Time To Die is finally over, I got the tantalising chance to join SOA’s top-secret mission in the Scottish Highlands.

Our assignment begins at the Novar Estate, a luxury lodge tucked away in the hills.

Seven strangers gather in the grand hall as we wait to discover our mission.

Suddenly, tyres screech outside and a man in a tuxedo dashes into the room to deliver our brief.

SOA co-founder Sean tells us how his background in security and passion for James Bond inspired the experience.

He says: “The idea was to create an adrenaline-packed weekend where we’d give people a snapshot of what people in security or special forces take for granted.”

The next morning, as light creeps over the hills, our group heads in a convoy of Land Rovers deep into the country.

The first task is to make a ghillie suit — the sniper’s choice of camouflage — from a fishnet hoodie, leaves and moss.

Our guide, an ex-Marine sniper, says: “Make sure your ghillie suit blends into the ground behind you.”

Next, it’s on to shooting practice and a crash lesson in leopard­-crawling and ghost-walking (key to moving across a landscape unseen), before it is time to put our new skills to the test.

Loaded with bolt-action rifles, we head to the brow of the hill. It was up to me to reach the crest and creep over to the sniper’s point unseen.

I shuffle on all fours until we reach the hilltop then walk silently across the path until we stop at a hollowed-out gorse bush. “You go in there,” my handler points. I hesitate, then stick out a boot.

The thick gorse thorns looked less than inviting, but with a few shuffles I burrow through and emerge to see the butt of a sniper.

Rifle expert Kurt points to our cut-out target in the distance — the two silhouetted figures.

Looking down a thin black scope, I fix my gaze and pull the trigger.

The air cracks and my bullet tears out to 1,000 yards where it lodges directly into the wooden post below the suitcase. Miss.

Still, heart pumping, I could never have imagined the complexity of the sniper’s task, and how even the smallest factors, from the wind to your own breathing, can alter your shot’s chances.

Thankfully, my fellow agents had better luck with their targets, and I’m told on returning to base that the mission is complete.

Whisked back to our lodge, it’s time to scrub off the camo cream and prepare for our Bond-inspired dinner.

Bagpipes herald our return and a glass of Bollinger champagne slips quietly into our hands.

And while I bet no Bond girls had to tease gorse leaves from their hair before emerging in a ball gown, the day’s activities were easily worth it.

The sun falls and evening begins with cocktails on the estate lawn — the perfect antidote to our day.

By the time our group heads home the following morning, a bunch of strangers with no clue about the world of secret agents have been brought together by the thrill of adventure.

GO: Operation Loch N’ Load

STAYING/GETTING THERE: A three-day Operation Loch ’n’ Load experience costs £3,500pp, including flights, two nights’ full-board in the Scottish Highlands and a Bond-themed dinner.

For further details on the adventure, see specialops.agency.



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