We know it is good for our mental health to go for a walk in nature, but have you ever considered going on holiday in the great outdoors? Events and ministry coordinator at the Abernethy in Scotland, Ruth Hutchison, spoke with Jemimah Wright about its fascinating history


Jemimah Wright (JW): First of all, can you tell us why time outdoors is good for us all?

Ruth Hutchinson (RH): Being outdoors has so many benefits for mental, physical and spiritual health. When we are surrounded by creation it connects our souls to beauty and the one who began it all. Shared adventures are some of the best experiences in life. Facing challenges, being in wild places, trying new things, enjoying fun and a bit of adrenaline, being really in and amongst creation in ways that open our eyes to more of who God is and who we are to him…there’s really nothing like it for making memories and helping people come alive.

JW: How is your faith journey connected to outdoor pursuits?

RH: I grew up in a Christian family and can’t remember a time when I didn’t know God. My faith grew stronger partly thanks to time away at summer camps each year, which were hugely helpful to me in my teenage years. My family has a week every year in a timeshare lodge at Abernethy’s Nethybridge location and spending time there was always special for me. I ended up doing a gap year at Nethybridge and it was one of the best years of my life. It helped me discover more of who I was, my faith grew deeper and I made some wonderful friends who are still a big part of my life. I stayed connected to Abernethy and the friends I made and years later God very clearly called me back. My role was made redundant at the end of 2019 but late in 2021 I returned to Abernethy in a different role. It has been a huge blessing and privilege to be part of what God is doing here in this new season.

JW: What is the history of Abernethy and the vision behind it?

RH: For over 50 years, Abernethy Trust has been transforming lives through outdoor adventure, hospitality and training future Christian leaders. Abernethy began with the vision of sharing Jesus through outdoor adventure in order to see lives transformed. It was Norman Walker who brought that vision to life in 1971, donating our Nethybridge centre in the Cairngorm National Park in the Highlands of Scotland to be our first home. Through community we create belonging and see growth. Through hospitality we nurture wellbeing. Through witness we provoke curiosity. In all things, we live the life to which Jesus has called us.


JW: How do you help people enjoy their leisure time, and how is that connected to faith?

RH: Leisure time and rest are vital for our wellbeing and tend to produce significant benefits for personal growth, relationships, faith building and living freely in who God has made us to be. Holidays can be transformational, bringing more wholeness and deeper connection into our everyday lives. At Abernethy we provide space, opportunity and community so that those who come here can have these experiences. Primarily our aim is to provide a place to connect with God and we do this in many ways. There is something special about time away in a different place, out of our usual rhythms and contexts, that allows God to meet with us in a fresh way. We find as people come to these beautiful parts of the world they experience a close connection with creation and with our creator.

When we actively engage in outdoor adventures, Bible teaching, worship, conversations, shared meals, prayer and fun together, God is so often refreshing our faith and connection with him. Abernethy provides an intentional space and community away from the norms of everyday life to prioritise faith, connected relationships, fun, adventure and rest. Holidays should be fun, and we definitely have a lot of that here!

JW: At Abernethy leisure time is also connected to community – can you explain more?

RH: Core to Abernethy is that we are a community gathered around Jesus. This means that as people come here, they are joining in with the momentum of what God is doing and with the culture he is cultivating. We don’t have things perfected by any means, but we are a community seeking to grow towards God together. It is a great joy and humbling privilege to see God at work here and to witness people encountering him. This quote from a parent this year resonates with what we do, and the impact Abernethy can have on the whole family: “It really is a wonderful place to be in when your children are growing in their faith and inspiring your own.”

Abernethy’s vision is to see lives transformed and its mission is that through the outdoors we provide challenge and adventure

So often life is busy and pressured. It can be hard to plan holidays, to find something that works for everyone or to find access to outdoor adventures. With our holiday packages everything is organised and provided so everyone gets to rest and have fun doing things they may not have opportunities to do at home. Whether booking onto a family week, an adventure holiday or a retreat, our guests can rely on Abernethy for quality of experience and a team who genuinely care.


JW: How does taking time for leisure impact relationships?

RH: Holiday time away improves relationships and support networks for life back at home. While the relationships we come to Abernethy with are deepened, there are additionally many new friendships that begin here. Shared experiences form strong connections. This could take the form of a teenager at one of our summer camps finding Christian friends they can grow up with, families finding other families to connect with, or individuals finding support networks or like-minded adventurers to enjoy the outdoors with. Abernethy is a family where people can find a home.

There is something special about time away in a different place, out of our usual rhythms and contexts, that allows God to meet with us in a different way 

Our programmes provide a great deal of choice and a beautiful blend of time making memories with both new and old friends. Everyone can engage with the activities; young and old, whether new to the outdoors or more experienced. This can be particularly helpful for families with kids at different stages who can vary their week with family activities together, with the added opportunity for individuals to find their own adventure with other kids or teens. Our prayer is that everyone who comes to Abernethy finds a space to flourish.

For more information go to abernethy.org.uk