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, golfing and water sports.
Improving health and well-being: walking is recognised as the most cost-effective means of improving physical health. Enjoying the outdoors and participating in challenging activities can also contribute to good mental health and well-being.
Increasing understanding of the natural world: participation in outdoor recreation and activities like volunteering provides opportunities for people to learn more about the natural world and to care for a resource that is valuable to the whole community. Both Loch Lomond and the Trossachs and Cairngorms National Parks and Forestry and Land Scotland offer a range of volunteering opportunities.
Increasing understanding of our cultural heritage: Visits to can help provide a sense of place and cultural identity, ensuring we can confidently pass these assets to the next generation.
Exploring the Heart of Neolithic Orkney © Crown Copyright Historic Environment Scotland
Contributing to the economy: In 2012 outdoor recreation visits generated around £2.6 billion of expenditure.
Scottish Natural Heritage have a range of on the Scottish population’s participation in outdoor recreation.
Visit Scotland have a range of research resources on outdoor recreation sectors, including:
Social inclusion - well-planned and managed recreation facilities with links to public transport can offer opportunities for everyone.
6,000km of paths offering active travel and recreational opportunities for people of all ages and abilities. By 2035, this extensive network of routes and connections will extend to 8,000km.
National Parks - Scotland’s two National Parks, the Cairngorms (established in 2003) and Loch Lomond and The Trossachs (established in 2002) offer visitors and local communities a wide variety of opportunities to enjoy our natural and cultural heritage. These include visits for sightseeing, walking, cycling, mountain biking, camping, kayaking, horse riding and visits to historic and cultural properties and sites.
National forest estate and other public land - the national forest estate in Scotland is the largest single public land resource held by the Scottish Government, comprising over 660,000 hectares and more than 35% of Scotland’s woodland.
Scotland’s National Nature Reserves (NNRs) cover less than 1.5% of Scotland, and contain some of the very best of the country’s nature and wildlife, including habitats and species of national and international significance.
Increase people’s use of Scotland’s outdoors - View the graph for more information.
Click here to view the map
Contains OS data © Crown Copyright and data rights 2017
Find out more about using Scotland’s greenspace map
To access Core Paths data published by The Improvement Service, on the Scottish Spatial Data Infrastructure metadata portal.
Around 20,000km of existing paths have been recorded as core paths across Scotland, these vary from tracks, paths, roadside footways to sections of minor road, but many paths are no more than isolated fragments and often include minor roads.
View the data on the map.
Map data © 2017 GeoBasis-DE/BKG (© 2009), Google © Carto
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.
29 different routes provide over 1900 miles of well managed paths from the Borders to the Highlands.
This page was last updated on 31 Oct 2017
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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.
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.
Outdoor recreation network - Exchanging and sharing information to develop best policy and practice in recreation in the outdoors, across the UK and Ireland. We encompass all of the outdoors – from urban greenspace in towns and cities to remote, countryside and wilderness spaces across the British Isles.
Scotland’s national nature reserves - A number of organisations manage National Nature Reserves in Scotland. These include Scottish Natural Heritage, 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.
Scottish Natural Heritage - Has a responsibility for promoting understanding of the opportunities for outdoor recreation, including promotion of the Access Code.
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.