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Aside from being a veritable golfing paradise, if you wish to indulge in some other favourite pastimes, whether it's walking, cycling, riding or fishing, Scotland's beautiful scenery will add that extra dimension. An unspoilt countryside is there to be enjoyed in almost any way you choose.

The opportunity is also there to experience Scotland in a completely new way. There is a wealth of active and leisurely pursuits from which to choose - canoeing, white-water rafting, mountaineering and mountain biking to name but a few.

For those interested in combining some activities into one's holiday in Scotland, the following information should help.

 
  WALKING|CYCLING|RIDING|FISHING|WATERSPORTS  
 

 

WALKING

One of the most popular pastimes in Britain is walking and arguably the best walks catering for all levels of ability and interest are to be found in Scotland. From gentle ambles along forest trails and dramatic coastal walks, to the more strenuous but rewarding heights of mountain climbing, Scotland is second to none.

Trails for Strolling

Fans of gentler walks will appreciate the good choice of well-prepared, sign posted forest walks and nature trails. The Queen Elizabeth Forest Park for example, encompasses a wide area east of Loch Lomond, taking walkers along loch-side and woodland trails. Further to the north is the Abernethy Forest, where at Loch Garten, you can view the famous nesting ospreys.

In the South of Scotland, the Galloway Forest Park is Scotland's second largest forest and presents as wide a range of terrain, forest and wildlife as you will find anywhere, from rolling deciduous woodland, often at its most spectacular in spring and autumn, to rugged conifer-clad slopes. The Forestry Commission makes it easy to get the most from a walk through the woods here, with well signed trails on all aspects of the forest's life.

Long Distance Trails

If you prefer a walk lasting several days, consider one of the long distance trails. The ever-popular West Highland Way stretches 95 miles from the northern outskirts of Glasgow to Fort William, in the shadow of Ben Nevis, Britain's highest mountain at 4,406 feet.

The Speyside Way in the Grampian Highlands and Aberdeen is a more straightforward 42-mile trail, tracing the route of the River Spey from Tomintoul on the fringe of the Cairngorm Mountains to the sea. At 212 miles, the Southern Upland Way is Scotland's longest path and Britain's first coast-to-coast route, running from Portpatrick on the south west coast to Cockburnspath on the east coast.

For those of us less inclined to spend several days on our feet, sections of the paths can be followed for a few hours or a whole day. You will also find accommodation (camping, bed & breakfast and guesthouses) all within easy distance of the Ways where you can rest your feet, exchange tales with other walkers and pick up a few tips on what to look out for.

Hill-walking

The Highlands are one of the last wilderness areas of Europe and without doubt the most spectacular walking country for everything from half-day walks to strenuous long hikes. There is a relaxed attitude to walkers who wish to experience wild, off-trail walking, although you need to check locally for information during the grouse and deer-shooting season. It's worth taking time to find out about the Country Code but if you take nothing but photographs and leave nothing but footprints, you won't go too far wrong.

Scottish mountains may seem like hills but the rapidly changing weather demands respect from even the most seasoned mountaineers and a high level walk is a serious proposition at any time of year. A day walk requires proper supportive walking boots, a full set of waterproofs and most importantly, if you are without a guide, a map and compass with the knowledge of how to use them properly. Scottish mountain-weather can change both quickly and dramatically. What starts as balmy sunshine can often end as horizontal rain so hikers are advised to check the forecast (for walkers and mountaineers) before setting off and of course to leave word of your impending route.

CYCLING

Next to walking, cycling is probably the best way to get to know the countryside and many visitors to Scotland bring their own bicycles. Mountain bikes are useful, as they are ideal for covering rough terrain. You can hire bicycles very reasonably from about 10.00 to 20.00 per day, while the price comes down significantly if you wish to hire for several days. Visitors can quite simply take a map and plot their own routes along small country roads but with a little planning; one can sample the finest of routes, which are ideal for the cyclist. One should check with local Scottish tourist offices to plan the optimum route.

RIDING

Riding or pony trekking is another ideal way to enjoy the countryside and to get a completely different perspective on it. It is truly amazing just how different life looks from the saddle. Indeed, pony trekking actually originated in Scotland so you can rest assured that the Scots know how to do it properly.

Prices range from approximately 30.00 to 35.00 for a full day in the saddle. Beginners will find tuition and supervision readily available in most areas, as riding stables are commonplace both in the country and the towns. Centres, which are approved by the Trekking and Riding Society of Scotland, ensure a safe and memorable experience. Again, visitors are advised to check with Tourist Information Centres for local riding facilities.

FISHING

At a glance, you will notice that Scotland is almost surrounded by water, criss-crossed by rivers and its coast ragged with sea lochs. It is certainly little wonder then that organising a day's ideal fishing is easy.

Salmon fishing on certain prime Scottish rivers may be expensive but there is no problem finding salmon and brown trout fishing at affordable prices on peaceful lochs and rivers. Visitors should take note that fishing permits are required in Scotland and these can be obtained from hotels, tackle shops, local grocers and post offices for as little as 5.00 per day.

With over 4,000 miles of coastline, the catch of every avid fisherman's dreams lie waiting in the waters of Scotland. Whether from the shore or from a boat, you'll find the seascape as equally satisfying as the daily catch.

WATERSPORTS

Apart from the traditional sailing and canoeing activities, one can also enjoy windsurfing, water-skiing, white-water rafting and sub-aqua diving to name but a few. There are sailing schools, diving schools and activity centres all around the country, where you can learn the various arts, take part and most importantly enjoy the numerous activities on offer.

 
 
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