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The outdoors is best way to de-stress, National Trust for Scotland survey shows

By John Davidson

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Visitors at Corrieshalloch Gorge. Picture: Peter Devlin/NTS
Visitors at Corrieshalloch Gorge. Picture: Peter Devlin/NTS

Coastal walks are the most popular way to spend time outdoors in the Highlands and Islands, according to new research from the National Trust for Scotland.

Scotland’s largest conservation charity found that more than nine in 10 people surveyed believed that access to the outdoors was important for their mental health, a point it says is particularly significant at this time of year when wintery weather and dark nights can deter people from spending time outside.

Ninety-two per cent of people said the outdoors was important to their mental health, while 96 per cent in the region said spending time outdoors was effective at helping to reduce their stress levels, with 93 per cent saying it was important for their overall wellbeing.

Across Scotland’s cities, residents of Inverness were revealed as the strongest advocates for the de-stressing effects of spending time outdoors, with 100 per cent of survey respondents there saying that it helped to reduce their stress levels closely followed by Dundee (98 per cent) and Aberdeen (96 per cent).

The Scottish coast topped the polls as the preferred place to spend time outdoors, with 58 per cent enjoying spending time by the sea, followed by 50 per cent who favoured woodland spaces and 48 per cent favouring country parks or gardens.

Dr Cal Major, an NTS ambassador who is a vet, adventurer and advocate for nature and the oceans, said it was important not only to enjoy nature but to protect it.

NTS ambassador Cal Major.
NTS ambassador Cal Major.

She said: “Beyond the National Trust for Scotland’s survey results, there is scientific research showing that nature, especially blue spaces such as the ocean, is beneficial for our human wellbeing. This seems logical – as humans, historically we would have been hard-pushed to survive without it, so it’s no wonder we’re drawn to it.

“But in our modern society, which is so fast-paced and disconnected from nature, making space for it in our lives has never been more important. And equally, nature has never needed us to stand up for its protection more.”

The NTS looks after a number of places across Scotland, including the spectacular Corrieshalloch Gorge National Nature Reserve in Wester Ross, Kintail and Morvich and Culloden Battlefield near Inverness.

Clea Warner, NTS regional director for the Highlands and Islands, said: “Our charity is privileged to look after some of the country’s most beautiful natural heritage, and every day we see the positive impact that the great outdoors can have on wellbeing and mental health.

“It doesn’t have to be an epic climb of a mountain, or extreme water sports, it can be as simple as a walk around a peaceful garden or the bracing Scottish coastline. Whether you’re looking for a family day out, to make new memories with friends, or share a new experience with a loved one, there’s a place and activity for everyone.”

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