Fiona Outdoors logo My independent guide to the best of Scotland outdoors

More people enjoying Scotland’s great outdoors

Written by Fiona December 19 2014

Of course, I already suspected this because I witness it when I spend time outdoors or listen to people enthusing about Scotland’s outdoors playground. And, it’s very good news for my business of writing about Scotland’s outdoors.

But it’s great to see the facts that back up my suspicions. A new report has found that the number of people visiting the outdoors for recreation has gone up, with the estimated number of visits at its highest in recent years,

photo (81)

Scotland’s People and Nature Survey, carried out by Scottish Natural Heritage between March 2013 and February 2014, asked 12,000 adults about how they use and enjoy the natural environment.

Results show that around four-fifths (82%) of people in Scotland had visited the outdoors for recreation in the 12 months before they were interviewed, up from 79% in a comparable survey in 2012. The estimated number of visits was 395.8 million, the highest annual figure recorded since 2006.

The most frequently voiced reasons for spending time outdoors were health or exercise and walking the dog.

Around a quarter of visits were taken to relax and unwind or enjoy fresh air or pleasant weather.

Walking continues to be the most popular outdoor activity, followed by family outings.

Half of all outdoor visits were spent in the countryside, with a third being enjoyed in a town or city and the rest by the seaside.

Around three-quarters of people living in towns and cities (2.4 million people) made at least one visit to a local green space in the previous 12 months, with almost half visiting weekly.

Top of the list of places to visit are local parks or open spaces and just under a quarter of visits included a forest or woodland.

Around half of those surveyed believed that they had visited one or both of Scotland’s national parks in the last 12 months.

Aside from visiting the outdoors for recreation, the vast majority of people (91%) take part in other nature activities on at least an occasional basis.

Walking through local parks and green spaces, watching or listening to nature programmes on TV or radio and gardening were the most popular.

Some 64% of those surveyed agreed strongly with the statement: “Spending time outdoors is an important part of my life”, increasing to 81% among those who visited the outdoors on a weekly basis and to 91% among those who visited daily.

Overall, 70% of adults strongly agreed that their most recent outdoor visit helped them to relax and unwind while 64% strongly agreed that it improved their physical health and 62% that it made them feel “energised and revitalised”.

Other findings showed that the vast majority of people in Scotland believe the country’s areas of wild land should be protected (94%).

Linked to this is a widely held belief that Scotland’s landscapes make an important contribution to the economy.

Pete Rawcliffe, SNH’s people and places unit manager, said: “It’s great to see that more people are getting out and about more and taking advantage of Scotland’s natural heath service.

“Being active outdoors is not only enjoyable, but it also can help you feel better.

“Overall there’s a continuing trend for people to make shorter visits closer to home but it was interesting to see that lack of time and poor health were the most frequently cited reasons for not visiting the outdoors.

“This shows how important it is for us and other organisations to provide more opportunities for people to enjoy nature on their doorsteps.

“The results of this survey are fascinating and will help steer our work in the future.”

The Scotland’s People and Nature Survey (SPANS) was commissioned in 2013 by SNH with support from Forestry Commission Scotland, Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority, Cairngorms National Park Authority and greenspace scotland. It will be repeated in 2016 and every third year after until 2022.

Ah, happy days!

More Like This


Six exciting outdoor activities to experience while teaching abroad


5 fantastic reasons to vIsit Guatemala – and 4 things to do there 


How cold water swimming can help with managing depression


Corbett bagging: Morven, near Ballater


Free beginner’s guide to navigation by Ramblers Scotland


Corbett bagging: Meall Dubh, Glen Moriston