Active Outdoor Pursuits was founded in Scotland in April 1999 by Roy Gibson and myself, Sophia Gibson (yes we are married). We share a love of the outdoors, a passion for Scotland’s landscapes, history, culture and wild places but most of all we love sharing this with other people - people of all ages, walks of life and outdoor ambitions.
Over the past 12 years we have had the pleasure of witnessing the fun, exhilaration, personal growth and challenge that people experience when pursuing outdoor adventures. Some people have used Active to learn how to find their way safely to the top of a mountain, some have come to experience the thrills of white water, some to start a new career, some to learn how to work better as part of a team, some come for one of the biggest adventures we all must experience – a school trip away from parents!, some to explore new places and others come to find themselves! This is the vision we set out achieve ......helping people to experience their own unique adventures.
Initially Active's main activities were day adventures for schools & community groups in South & Central Scotland but very quickly these repeat clients were asking us to provide residential work. This led to ever increasing journeys to the Highlands and in 2002 we realised we needed a Highland base. We scraped together the funds to purchase Craigower Lodge in Newtonmore in the heart of the Scottish Highlands and in The Cairngorm National Park. We love this place and its people. When you get up in the morning it is always a dilemma – what will we do today – walk? Ski? Canoe? Go to the sea?
Shortly after moving to Craigower Lodge we were awarded “Residential Excellence UK” by Prince Charles at the prestigious Prince's Trust Awards in recognition of the quality of Active’s services to young people on the Prince’s Teams’ programme. This meant a lot to the whole team as we valued greatly the opportunity to work with the young people on the teams programme and we are always truly inspired by how they grow and develop during their time on residential and beyond.
In 2009 we further developed our service by opening Active Aviemore – an activities booking centre, outdoor shop, hire (ski/board, bikes, canoes) and a cafaidh – the best atmosphere, coffee, food and cake in town – I can’t drive past!
A key to "who we are" is evident in our mission statement.
You can tell that people are important to us and the people who have chosen to work with us over the years have always given us a great sense of pride. We currently have 25 full time staff as well as seasonal & freelance staff. Many of our current team have a long history with Active having been clients, volunteers or have graduated from our apprenticeship. Collectively & individually they hold an impressive resume of experience and qualifications at the top end of their sports.
Roy's professional background started in mechanical engineering but his passion was always for Scotland’s mountains. From the age of 14 he would be off solo adventuring on his local hills - Glen Afton, the Galloway hills & Arran were early haunts and as soon as he could drive and afford a car he was off to Skye to learn to climb! Roy soon realised that this is what he wanted to do for a living so he used every spare hour & the money from his engineering job to get out playing in the great outdoors. His passion for the mountains grew into "all things outdoors" and he was soon kayaking, canoeing, snowboarding, skiing, biking, winter mountaineering, ski mountaineering as well as undertaking expeditions by foot, canoe, bike & ski in Scotland, Scandinavia, Europe, the Alps, USA & Africa. He built up outdoor qualifications in each of these areas as well as volunteering and working part time as an instructor with Duke of Edinburgh Award groups and local Authority Outdoor Centres across Scotland. In the early 90s he left engineering and took up a full time instructor’s post with a Community Outdoor Project in Lanarkshire. When the project lost its funding Roy saw an opportunity to develop his own outdoor company – enter Active Outdoor Pursuits.
My professional background is in mental health nursing, mostly working for Ayrshire & Arran Health Board – a career I adored, meeting many amazing and unique people. The 80s/90s were a very exciting time in mental health service developments in Scotland and it afforded me so many opportunities for professional & personal growth – in inter-personal skills, group work, organisational & management skills, individual therapies, psychology of teams and being actively involved in staff training and setting up new projects and services. My family and faith have always been very important to me.
Meeting Roy (when I was 18) was the start of a life of outdoor adventures and I soon was equally passionate about wild places ... mountains, rivers, glens... For me these were always less of the thrill and more of the journey... being with people while we share the beauty, tranquillity and inevitable challenges of the environment offers an amazing opportunity to learn about each other and ourselves.