Scotland’s natural and historic environment provides many opportunities for outdoor activity and attracts millions of visitors a year.
Scotland's natural environment provides a fantastic backdrop for a wide range of outdoor recreation activities, ranging from dog walking and visiting parks to mountain biking, hillwalking, horse riding and water sports.
There are many benefits that can be gained from visiting the outdoors. These include:
Exploring the Heart of Neolithic Orkney © Crown Copyright Historic Environment Scotland
NatureScot conduct regular research measuring participation in outdoor recreation.
Visit Scotland have a range of research resources on outdoor recreation sectors, including:
The Scottish Government National Indicator Performance shows progress against all the Scottish Government’s National Indicators, including ‘Visits to the outdoors’ and ‘Access to green and blue space’.
Source: Scottish Recreation Survey (ScRS), Scottish Household Survey (SHS)
You can use this free interactive digital map to find accessible recreational and leisure greenspace anywhere in Britain – parks, public gardens, playing fields, sports areas, play spaces, allotments and community gardens.
© Copyright Ordnance Survey 2020
Around 21,000km of existing paths have been recorded as core paths across Scotland, these vary from tracks, paths, roadside footways to sections of minor road.
Access Core Paths data on the local path network.
OS data © Crown Copyright and database right 2018
There are approximately 2,371 miles (3,815km) of National Cycle Network routes in Scotland, including 644 miles of traffic-free routes which use a mix of railway path, canal towpath, forest road, shared-use path, segregated cycle lanes and re-determined rural footways. 41% of the Scottish population now lives within a third of a mile of a National Cycle Network route.
Find your route on the Sustrans National Cycle Network
29 different routes provide over 1,900 miles of well managed paths from the Borders to the Highlands.
This page was added on 17 Jul 2023
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Central Scotland Green Network - A national development within the National Planning Framework which aims to make ‘a significant contribution to Scotland's sustainable economic development’. It’s aim is to change the face of Central Scotland by restoring and improving the rural and urban landscape of the area.
Cycling Scotland - Working with others, to help create and deliver opportunities and an environment so anyone anywhere in Scotland can cycle easily and safely.
Green Action Trust - The Green Action Trust is the trusted delivery partner focussed on environmental and regeneration outcomes for Scotland. They work with others across Scotland to turn ideas into tangible change, to build more sustainable communities and a greener country. They plan, collaborate and deliver positive action across the country to achieve Scotland’s climate change ambitions, and are specifically responsible for the delivery of the Central Scotland Green Network Plan.
Greenspace Scotland - A social enterprise, working with a wide range of national and local partners to improve the quality of life of people living and working in urban Scotland through the planning, development and sustainable management of greenspaces as a key part of the green infrastructure of our towns and cities.
Local authorities and National Park Authorities (Cairngorms National Park Authority; Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park) - Have a key role in promoting outdoor recreation opportunities in their areas and are responsible for preparing the core path plan networks in their areas. Core paths enable and encourage members of the public to exercise their rights of access.
NatureScot - Has a responsibility for promoting understanding of the opportunities for outdoor recreation, including promotion of the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.
Outdoor Recreation Network - Exchanging and sharing information to develop best policy and practice in recreation in the outdoors, across the UK and Ireland. They encompass all of the outdoors, from urban greenspace in towns and cities to remote, countryside and wilderness spaces across the British Isles.
Paths for all - A Scottish charity and a partnership of 28 national organisations, championing everyday walking as the way to a happier, healthier Scotland.
Scotland’s National Nature Reserves - A number of organisations manage National Nature Reserves in Scotland. These include NatureScot, Forestry and Land Scotland, National Trust for Scotland, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Scottish Wildlife Trust, Woodland Trust and South Lanarkshire Council.
Scottish Land and Estates - Represents landowners across Scotland, demonstrating good land ownership and management, and promoting better communication and mutual understanding between land managers and those who use the countryside recreationally.
Sustrans - Scotland - Works closely with communities, the Scottish Government, local authorities and other partners to ensure that the people of Scotland have access to a network of safe walking and cycling routes; making Scotland a healthy, happy place to live, work and play, and a sustainable and beautiful tourist destination.
The Scottish Government - The government will seek to increase accessibility, education and awareness.