A survey carried out for Ramblers Scotland has found that younger people in particular lack walking partners, and are the age group least clued up about where they can walk. The poll also revealed the surprising fact that younger walkers are considerably more worried for their safety.
In the poll of nearly 1500 Scots, 41% of under 35s cited ignorance of where they can go as a barrier to walking in Scotland. Among this age group 23% said they were put off by safety fears (and fear of getting lost); 23% had no one else to walk with; and 17% were discouraged from getting out by the cost of travel and gear.
These figures were all significantly higher than any other age group - only 9% of over 65s said they didn't know where they could walk, for instance, while safety and fear of getting lost was only a factor for 12% of respondents in the upper age group.
The poll's findings suggest that a level of basic ignorance among younger people is a major hurdle to more of them going walking.
Jess Dolan, director of Ramblers Scotland, said:
"This major new survey highlights the need to make it much easier for everyone to get outdoors – especially young people, who sadly find it particularly hard to find walking buddies, to know where to walk and to feel safe. We're helping address this through our new Out There campaign, which aims to boost paths and mapping, and break down barriers to Scotland's outdoors."
"While obviously safety is paramount, it's worth remembering that you don't need qualifications, top-spec equipment or years of experience to enjoy our outdoors – especially with so much potential for exciting walks at our lochs, coasts, woods and smaller hills."
"We've also got more than 400 members within four thriving young walkers groups in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Tayside. They offer a warm welcome, and a chance for young people to expand their skills, friendship groups and walking knowledge."
In other results, the ScotPulse survey of 1444 adults across Scotland found that:
- 75% believe more people would enjoy our outdoors if more paths were on the ground, and on maps
- After time pressure and 'Scottish weather', poorly-maintained paths are considered the biggest barrier to getting outdoors
- Only half of people understand where they are legally allowed to walk
Ramblers Scotland said the survey showed the potential for walking to play a bigger role in boosting the country's health and wellbeing. It has launched a campaign called Out There, which aims to get more paths on the ground, and on maps – and to make it easier for everyone to enjoy the outdoors.
Access rights in Scotland may lead the world, but compared to other parts of the UK the country still lags in terms of the number and extent of clearly defined footpaths. Back in 2003, the Scottish Parliament had intended the Land Reform Act to kick-start an expansion of path networks, by creating a duty for all local authorities to draw up 'core paths plans' to show their most important routes. However, this process did not lead to core paths being attributed on Ordnance Survey maps, and very few new paths were created.
Last year, more than 1100 people supported Ramblers Scotland's ongoing call for all 20,000km of core paths to be designated on OS maps.
- Read the full survey results here