Scotland’s ‘natural health service’

The Lomond Hills are a popular outdoor destination.
The Lomond Hills are a popular outdoor destination.

The number of people enjoying the great outdoors for recreation has reached an all-time high, according to a new survey.

Scotland’s first People and Nature Survey, carried out by Scottish Natural Heritage, revealed that around 82 per cent of people in Scotland had visited the outdoors for recreation in the previous 12 months.

The estimated number of visits to the outdoors was 395.8 million, the highest annual figure recorded since 2006.

The most frequently cited 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.

The SNH findings showed that the most popular places to visit are local parks or open spaces, and just under a quarter of visits included a forest or woodland.

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

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: “The results of this survey are fascinating and will help steer our work. It’s great to see that more people are getting out and about more and taking advantage of Scotland’s natural health 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 Scotland’s People and Nature Survey (SPANS) will be repeated in 2016 and every third year after until 2022.