Active Outdoor Pursuits

Active Outdoor Pursuits was founded in 1999 by it’s owners Roy & Sophia Gibson. They 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 others.

For 20 years Active Outdoor Pursuits has had the pleasure of witnessing the fun, exhilaration, personal growth and challenge that so many people from every background experience when pursuing outdoor adventures. Many have used Active to simply experience the thrill the outdoors can provide or to gain a deeper appreciation of our environment. Some have come to learn and develop new skills or start a new career on an Outdoor Instructor Training Course, some come for an outdoor learning experience with their School or College, an experience every young person should have, some come to explore new places while others come to find themselves! This is the vision we set out to achieve…helping people to experience their own unique adventures in a fun, healthy and educational environment.

From The Cairngorms Adventure Centre in Newtonmore and our satellite Centres in Ayrshire and The Great Glen, we provide a wide range of adventure activities, training courses and holidays within the Cairngorms National Park and throughout the Highlands of Scotland. Active Outdoor Pursuits offer activities on the hills and mountains, on snow and ice, in the water and on the water. We cater for all age ranges and abilities and listen to everyone’s aims and aspirations with the aim of delivering individualised and inspiring outdoor experiences.

People are important to us, we always strive to do the best we can and to be the best in our clients and our staff team. At Active Outdoor Pursuits, we are proud of our staff training programmes. Each year we take in students to our Instructor Training courses then offer as many as possible the chance to complete our Instructor Development programme (Apprenticeship). Today, every instructor and manager began their career on an Active Instructor Training course as a client.

Our core values of People, Purpose, Probity and Planet underpin the above approaches and reflect our ongoing commitment to our team, our clients, our services, our community and our planet.

At Active Outdoor Pursuits, we are extremely proud of our hardworking talented team and their dedication to the company, its clients, services and values. As well as their ongoing personal development.

As an AALA licenced provider of Adventure Activities we have extensive Health & Safety Policies and Procedures relating to: risk assessment, staff qualifications, operational systems/protocols, booking systems, equipment, venues, accident and emergency procedures, first aid etc These ensure all services and activities adhere to  national health and safety standards in our industry sector. Our internal systems also enhance this to a qualitative level ensuring that the instructors dedicated to a client or a group are fully aware of the client objectives, fitness/skill level, health concerns, special physical or psychological needs, previous experience etc Thus ensuring best practice and the best possible outcome for participants.

Our staff all have National Governing Body qualifications in a wide variety of land based, water sports, snow sports. We have a comprehensive matrix of all staff qualifications, first aid renewal dates, in house training, planned training, record of inductions, monitored practice etc which we can make available on request. (All have up to date first aid)

Our team at Active Outdoor Pursuits have diverse personal backgrounds, hobbies and interests. Here is a flavour of who we are:

Get Active…Be Inspired!

Meet the team

Active Outdoor Pursuits Roy
Roy - Director

Trained and worked as an engineer after leaving school. From his early years he felt drawn to walking in the Ayrshire and Galloway hills- his family could not understand where this interest came from! This passion for the mountains grew into “all things outdoors”. 

His life quickly became centred around anything adventurous and close to nature whether it was in the mountains or on the water and regardless of the season. In his late teen’s Roy realised that a career in the outdoors was calling. He got involved in volunteering with outdoor centres, DofE groups and helping with local youth groups. Over the years he built up his outdoor qualifications before he made the leap to fulltime employment in community based outdoor projects. A valuable time in his development was delivering outdoor experiences that grew the confidence and self-esteem of people from challenging backgrounds and showing them alternative futures was truly inspiring.

In 1999 he and Sophia set up Active Outdoor Pursuits. He continues leading and coaching in the outdoors but most time is spent growing services as well as mentoring trainee instructors and supporting staff development. Roy says “The skills I built up throughout my outdoor career and the past 15 years of developing training courses and career focused programs, that have delivered over 100 outdoor instructors to the outdoor industry, finds us able to deliver community based interventions for alternative futures based around outdoor adventure.

Active Outdoor Pursuits Sophia
Sophia - Director

After leaving School Sophia trained to become a Mental Health Nurse.  Sophia says “The 16 years I spent in psychiatry was the most dramatic period of change in mental health services the world has ever seen! This gave me the opportunity to be involved in developing new, community based, person centred services that made a radical and positive change to people’s lives. During this time, I also worked on a project for the Scottish Office in compiling service reviews and as an Area Manager for a mental health charity. 

The diversity of my career from people and resource management to policy and service development was extremely worthwhile and challenging.” Sophia was also a youth worker and Duke of Edinburgh Award Leader in Dalmellington and New Cumnock. “When  I decided to leave my nursing career to set up Active my colleagues were shocked as I had always been so passionate about services and people but that has never left me … outdoor education has always been about developing people too it’s just in a different environment! I have used all the skills in developing personal development and team building programs for people of all ages and back grounds to support personal and community growth”

James Miller Outdoor Instructor
Jim - Activities Manager

After leaving school, Jim went to university to study in Archaeology where he graduated. During his time at university, Jim found a true passion for climbing. He had spent much of his life in the mountains prior and dabbled in many other sports as well. But it was with climbing he found his calling. You will often see him out and about on days off right across Scotland climbing any piece of rock, snow or ice that is about. He works on our RCI & ML trainings & assessments.

Jim also regularly engages in all paddlesports and has the privileged of sitting on the British Canoeing technical board as well as being a provider in different SCA/BC awards which he delivers for Active.

Jim truly loves all elements of the outdoors and nothing is more enjoyable than seeing others excel in their development within the industry. He has climbed and paddled some crazy things over the years but now enjoys simply partaking in the activities regardless of difficulty.

Gethin - Operations Manager

Lifetime ambition > Simply to have a career doing something I love.

Favourite activity > Skiing in the winter season and mountain biking in the summer season. Please don’t make me pick one!

Why I became an instructor and chose to work in Scotland > After 15 years working in the corporate world and living for my weekends / holidays, I realised that it was time for a dramatic change. I spent a winter season out in Val D’isere and decided that a career in the outdoors was definitely the way to go. I’ve always loved mountain biking, skiing and hill walking so a job as an Outdoor Instructor sounded perfect, it gives me the opportunity to share my love of the outdoors with others. I naturally gravitated towards the Scottish Highlands, where else in the UK would you go?!

Nickname > As a Welshman living in England my friends rather predictably called me Taff.

Lianne Trendell- Senior Instructor

Growing up in Somerset, my love of exploring and seeking out adventures in the outdoors started from a young age, riding horses from the age of 5. After completing a degree in Photography, I packed my backpack and set off on a very long adventure, living abroad for over 6 years in New Zealand, Australia and even a stint at sea. My love for the outdoors only grew along my journey and I found myself with many interesting jobs, working as a horse trek guide and a show jumping groom in New Zealand and teaching scuba diving in Croatia. After enjoying the Croatian lifestyle for 4 years, my feet have brought me to Scotland, where I am now living out my dream as an Outdoor Instructor. Teaching and guiding in the outdoors is my passion; I love to make people’s trips and experiences memorable and fun, inspiring them to get out and enjoy the outdoors more. Since joining Active, I have discovered a love for climbing and scrambling as I love the remote places it can take you.

Jack Nicholson- Senior Instructor

Before finding my career in the Outdoor Industry, I was involved in the music festival scene, supplying the water installation for various festivals. After many great experiences and meeting some interesting characters, I decided to pursue a career in the Outdoor Industry. My passion lies in the outdoors, and I love having the opportunity to share my passion with other people. It is so rewarding to see the expression on people’s faces when they have managed to achieve something they didn’t think was possible. Being involved in the Instructor Training Program also gives me the chance to pass my passion on to our new trainee instructors. I really enjoy the broad range of activities that Active offer, in particular the canyoning trips and canoe expeditions.

Alex Doger de Speville- Senior Instructor

I have always loved the outdoors have always been very active. Before I came to Scotland, I worked as a rowing coach for 4 years whilst also studying Art at University. I found myself more on the beach than I did at University and decided that I wanted a lifestyle that allowed me to be outside permanently. That’s when I made the move to the Cairngorms and carried out the Instructor Training Course at Active. Working here has taught me so many new skills and shown me what I am capable of. I love the lifestyle that allows me to be surrounded by nature every day, with every day bringing a new and exciting adventure. I love Paddlesports, in particular canoeing and white water rafting, and love paddling down rivers such as the Findhorn.

Cameron Reynolds-Beer- Senior Instructor

Growing up, I have always been surrounded by walking, surfing, mountain biking, paddling and climbing. My passion to develop my skills and experience started at the end of secondary school, when I went to Namibia for a month long expedition, and my eyes were opened to how far you could go working in the outdoors. Previously I have worked in a number of roles in the Outdoor Industry, ranging from coaching U18 climbing clubs and squads, assisting coaching the local canoe club and working in a secondary school providing outdoor education to disadvantaged kids and individuals with additional educational needs and behavioural support problems. The thing I love most about the outdoor industry is being able to assist people develop and grow in activities I love, and watching the grow and flourish into more confident individuals. Whilst I love all outdoor activities, the one that has stuck with me the longest has been climbing, which I started in school. I enjoy the range of physical, psychological and technical challenges that it provides, as well as the different facets of the sport- from indoor to multipitch all the way to ice climbing.

Matthew Gault- Instructor

Since the age of 17, I have spent my summers working in the Outdoor Industry in Ireland, alongside my studies. Having graduated from University with a degree in Languages, I now have the time to pursue my career as an Outdoor Instructor. My passion is working with people and being able to give them experiences they have never had before. I love witnessing how these experiences impact people’s lives. I absolutely love climbing and have found many amazing venues in Scotland to explore this passion.

Eloise Cassels- Instructor

I grew up in Edinburgh, with great access to Scotland’s mountains, and have found great happiness in the outdoors all my life. I studied Fashion Communication at University, but after 3 years I had not found the feeling of fulfilment that I had in the outdoors. I left this all behind to pursue a new career with Active, where every day is interesting and there is something new to discover. I also appreciate how therapeutic it is to be outdoors when you are surrounded by nature, and love to share this with people. Since starting my career with Active, I have fallen for canoeing and how it can be both a tranquil activity and a challenging one.

Lee Jones- Instructor

My background is in the military, with 11 years in the armed forces where I served in the Infantry specialising in reconnaissance. Most of my career involved providing Operational training and support to allied and foreign forces. I discharged from service at the rank of Sergeant this year and am now pursuing a new career in the Outdoor Industry. This new pathway still gives me the opportunity to follow my passion in helping to train, coach and mentor others towards their goals and see them succeeded. Mountaineering is the activity I am most drawn to, with the Scottish Highlands providing a wealth of adventures, though this is followed closely by my new found love of canoeing.

Oliver Conrad- Instructor

Being from Switzerland, I grew up surrounded by mountains and this is the place I really love to be. Before coming to the UK, I was working as a Restaurant Manager, but always feeling the pull to the outdoors. During the pandemic, the feeling of being isolated was even bigger and so the decision to change my life was made easy. I decided it is more fun to work outside instead of being stuck in an office, and being an Outdoor Instructor carries the sense of freedom to explore and enjoy. I really love walking in the mountains- “Only where you were walking, you have really been.”- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Daniel Smith- Instructor

Before joining Active and starting my career in the Outdoor Industry, I worked a lot in landscaping, which allowed me to spend my time outside. In my spare time, you could always find me walking in the hills of Ireland (where I am from) or white water kayaking. I love being an Outdoor Instructor as it allows me to work in exciting and beautiful environments and meet like minded people from all walks of life. My passion lies in white water kayaking, and I have explored many great rivers, including the Soča in Slovenia.

Megan Butler- Instructor

Hi! I’m Megan, but you can call me Meg. Before coming to Active, I had always loved spending as much time outdoors as possible, whether it be walking, swimming in Lochs or the sea, or anything else that involved interacting with the landscape. Formally a Barista and Fine Artist, a move to the Outdoor Industry and getting stuck in properly was more than welcomed when the time came. Working in the industry, I love to see how my passion can inspire and bring so many good times to individuals who may not always have access to the activities and landscape that I do. My work has become play, and as an Outdoor Instructor, I get to challenge myself and have fun day in, day out. There is always more to see and do and I love that wiggle room for personal progression. I have recently fallen in love with trad climbing, and I love finding my way round the hills. I also love being in with the action in rivers, whether that be kayaking or gorge walking.

Aowyn Sanderson- Operations Assistant

I returned to Scotland and moved to the Cairngorms 11 years ago having worked for 15 years in the Music Industry in Manchester. I love the wide open spaces and secret places you can find up here and working at Active has enabled me to discover more of what this are has to offer.  I work in Operations at Active HQ which means I am quite often the first point of contact for enquiries and I help organise the information which is required by our instructors – which helps them develop their skills and deliver the best experience for all our clients.

jim gibson
Jim Gibson - Associate Trainer

Jim Gibson is the National trainer for stand up paddle-boarding and you will always find him out and about somewhere on a loch, river or the sea promoting the sport and enthusing others with the same Joy he has for paddling. 

Jim delivers a lot of our watersport NGB qualifications for our outdoor instructor training course and also for the development of our staff in everything water related.

Kirsten Petrie
Kirsten Petrie - Associate Trainer

Kirsten loves everything water and bike related and you will often see her on the rivers or on the bike trails right across Scotland. She is a provider for many different SCA courses and works on our rafting as well as other paddlesport instructor qualifications on our Outdoor Instructor Training course and often aids with staff development as well. 

Richard Bentley
Richard Bentley - Associate Trainer

Richard is a provider for mountain training delivery the RCI and ML courses for our staff and outdoor instructor trainees, he is widely regarded as one of the most knowledgeable individuals when it comes to anything related to the Scottish mountains and in particular Ben Nevis in winter where you will often see him out climbing for both work and fun. He has been delivering climbing instruction for more than 20 years in the area and is hugely knowledgeable on all aspects of the sport.

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