Walking Still Top Choice

Walking is overwhelmingly the most popular outdoor activity in Scotland, accounting for nearly three quarters of all visits. That's according to the latest figures released today by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).

Stac Pollaidh from Cul Beag, 175 kb
Stac Pollaidh from Cul Beag
© Dan Bailey -, May 2009

And the results also show that the economic contribution of outdoor recreation is massive, with an estimated spend of around £2.6 billion last year in Scotland alone.

SNH have been tracking the proportion of Scottish adults visiting the outdoors for leisure or recreation at least once a week. In 2012 that was 42% of all adults. This is a 4% decrease from 2011 (46%), but SNH say there has been no statistically significant change across the longer term (2006 – 2012) in the proportion of adults making weekly visits.

Walking is the most popular outdoor recreational activity among adults living in Scotland, and was the main activity on 73% of visits to the outdoors in 2012; serious hillwalking is likely to be a small proportion of that total of course. Family outings, the main activity on 8% of visits, were next in terms of popularity. This was followed by cycling and mountain biking, the main activity on 4% of visits.

The proportion of visits made close to home - less than 2 miles travelling - is the same in 2012 as in 2011 (44%) and remains higher than in previous survey years (it was 30% in 2004 for instance).

Total expenditure on visits to the outdoors in 2012 was estimated to be around £2.6 billion, down slightly on the previous year.

Alan Macpherson from Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) said:

'It's reassuring to see that the long term trend for weekly visits to the outdoors remains stable, although we have seen some fluctuations year-on-year.'

'Participation in outdoor recreation is subject to a variety of factors and influences, many of which are outside our control. It's difficult to be certain of the reasons why there was a decrease in 2012, but there are a number of things that might have had an impact. The wet spring and summer weather, the fact that there was a lot of sport and other major events on television, including the Olympics and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, and even the recession might have discouraged people from getting out in their usual numbers. However it's encouraging to see that the proportion of people visiting the outdoors close to home has remained stable at 44% (up from 30% in 2004), suggesting that people are enjoying their local outdoor spaces.'

Responsibility for promoting visits to the outdoors is shared with local authorities and a number of agencies such as Forestry Commission Scotland, SNH and the National Parks.

'In 2013, the Year of Natural Scotland, SNH is very actively encouraging people to make the most of Scotland's outdoors' says Macpherson.

'Highlights of the year include the Big 5 campaign to encourage more people to enjoy and experience Scotland's wildlife. We're also working with Young Scot to inspire young people to get out and about. Our 'Simple pleasures, easily found' campaign encourages people to enjoy nature close to where they live, with recommended routes in some of Scotland's towns and cities.'

'Work is well underway on the development of the John Muir Trail, a long distance coast-to-coast route across central Scotland, which will offer recreational opportunities to people living nearby as well as visitors. We're continuing to promote Scotland's Great Trails, the best of our long distance paths. And every year we help provide a wide range of new recreational, volunteering and outdoor learning opportunities to people across the country by giving grants to other organisations. For those who can't get outside, we've got nature apps, a virtual tour of the Isle of May National Nature Reserve, an underwater journey through a west coast sea loch and Scotland's Protected Places website, as well as a wide range of publications on nature, including audio books and our magazine 'The Nature of Scotland'.'

The full detailed stats can be viewed online here.

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