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Last updated : Nov 2009
Scotland Sports
Scotland Sports -

Scotland has an large network of signposted cycling routes and off-road trails for mountain biking. On country roads there is often little traffic. Bicycle hire and cycling tours are available throughout.


One of the more popular equestrian activities is pony trekking on the native Scottish Highland pony. Beginners can try a 1 or 2 hour trek, while experienced riders may choose for a full day or week-long trek. Further information can be obtained from The British Horse Society (Scotland), Woodburn Farm, Crieff, Perthshire PH7 3RG (telephone: (01764) 656 334; e-mail:


Visiting anglers must usually have permission in the form of a permit, available from the local tackle dealer, fishing club or estate. Local tourist offices can supply more details on fishing in their area, the cost of permits and where to get them. There is no closed season for coarse fishing, though the rule is rod only and it is forbidden to use two or more rods simultaneously. Scotland is one of the world’s best places for salmon fishing. The closed season for salmon varies from river to river, but is generally from 1 November until 10-15 February (visitors should check with the tourist offices).

Fly fishing is the most accepted and traditional form of fishing for salmon. There are also great opportunities for trout fishing. Glacial lochs are home to the elusive Char, found in deep water. Boats and guides can be hired from hotels and angling clubs. The closed season for brown trout is from 7 October until 14 March (both days inclusive). Sea angling can be done along the coast, where boats and bait are supplied by local tourist offices and fishing clubs.


Scotland, where golf was invented, is home to the world’s most famous golf courses, notably the Old Course at St Andrews – the historic ‘home of golf’. Scotland has some 500 courses. Further Open Championship courses can be found in Carnoustie, Muirfield, Royal Troon and Turnberry. There is also an abundance of world-class courses, such as Blairgowrie, Downfield, Murcar, Nairn, North Berwick, Royal Aberdeen, Royal Dornoch, Southerness and Western Gailes. There is also a fine selection of natural links courses in the outlying areas. For details of golfing holidays, membership and golf courses, contact VisitScotland (see Contact Addresses section).

Spectator sports

The most popular spectator sports are rugby and football, while the annual Highland Games (see Special Events in the Social Profile section) also attracts many visitors.

Walking and hiking

The variety of scenery – from rocky peaks, moorland and rolling green hills to glens, lochs and wild coastlines – makes it ideal for walking. The large network of trails is steadily growing. Short-distance walks can be completed in a day. For advice on the best routes, contact VisitScotland. The best-known long-distance walks are the three ‘official’ trails:

 The West Highland Way (the busiest, 150km or 95 miles from Milngavie, north of Glasgow, to Fort William, passing through some spectacular Highland scenery, and strenuous in the second half);

 Less demanding Southern Upland Way (Britain’s first official coast-to-coast footpath, 340km or 212 miles, from Portpatrick to Cockburnspath, passing through moorland, conifer plantations and crossing a few major rivers);

 The Speyside Way (a lowland route, 70km or 45 miles, from Spey Bay to Tomintoul, along one of Scotland’s most famous salmon-fishing rivers, the Spey).

There is free access at all times to the areas owned by the National Trust for Scotland (marked ‘NTS’ and ‘FC’ on Ordnance Survey maps). Most of the rest of the land is owned privately and, though Scotland is known for ‘free’ land access, walkers may be asked to alter their routes during the deer stalking and grouse shooting seasons (from mid-August to 20 October, and from 12 August to 10 December respectively). Visitors camping in the wild are required to ask the consent of the landowner. In addition, respect of the environment and wildlife is essential and visitors may read the Scottish Natural Heritage booklet, Care for the Hills, for advice.


There is 2560km or 1600 miles of coastline and thousands of lochs and rivers. Inland, canoeing can be practised on tranquil lochs or whitewater rafting on wild river. Along the coast, an established sailing and yachting industry with modern marinas features a range of sailing and boating facilities. Canal cruises are also possible, most notably in the Crinan Canal, which links the Clyde and the West Coast of Scotland; and on the 96km or 60 mile long Caledonian Canal, with the option to charter a yacht, motor cruiser or a hotel barge. For more information on watersports, marinas, harbours and moorings, contact Sail Scotland Ltd, PO Box 8363, Largs, Scotland KA30 8YD (telephone: (01309) 676 757; fax: (01309) 673 331; e-mail:


Golden eagles, red deer, peregrine falcons and wildcat are some of the creatures inhabiting the mountainous regions, while the lower slopes of the central Highlands offer a sanctuary for red squirrel, capercaillie, crested tit, Scottish crossbill and pine marten. Wild salmon, trout and otter can be found in the abundant and spectacular lochs, one of which – Loch Ness – is also the mythical home of ‘Nessie’, the famously elusive Loch Ness monster.


Scotland has five ski resorts: Cairngorm, Glensee, Glencoe, The Lecht and the Nevis range. Snowfall varies to the altitude and is most consistent (particularly between November and May) in the Nevis range or Braeriach, in the Cairngorms. Snowboarding is also possible at all five resorts. Mountaineering and climbing expeditions (including guides) are widely available.

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