WITH its rugged mountains, beautiful coastlines and gigantic forests, Scotland is a country overflowing with examples of the Great Outdoors.
While generations past found the best way to enjoy these idyllic places of natural wonder was a brisk walk, today’s adventure seekers tend to go at them more full-throttle.
Whether it’s hurtling down a rocky mountainside on a BMX, navigating a series of fast-flowing rapids in a tiny kayak, soaring above it all strapped to a glider or even bouncing down it in a giant reinforced inflatable plastic ball, it seems that, as more and more people become aware of the incredible natural resource that sits right outside their front door, so the number of ways to enjoy it has exploded.
The weekends are the natural time to strap on the boots, dig out the thermos and get out exploring – but this weekend enthusiasts of everything from mountain biking to skiing will be abandoning the great outdoors for the great indoors as they head along to this year’s Outdoor Pursuits Scotland exhibition at the Royal Highland Centre, Ingliston.
The biggest exhibition devoted to outdoor activities in Scotland has returned to the Capital, bigger and better than ever, with something for everyone crammed into the huge hall of the exhibition centre.
That outdoor pursuits are becoming more popular is evident. Last year, more than 3000 people attended the inaugural Outdoor Pursuits event, and this year it looks set to be closer to 5000, a sure sign that interest in adventure sports is growing.
It is estimated that, across Scotland, almost a third of people own a bike, while there are around 10,000 members of sailing clubs and more than half a million Scots who class themselves as regular walkers, hikers or ramblers. The country has been voted the number-one mountain biking destination, while the wild waters of the north east coast have even hosted world championship surfing events. New events, such as the Great Glen Canoe Trail opened this year, are always being started up to Scotland.
Next weekend, visitors will not only be able to find out about every possible outdoor pursuit and speak to some of the leading experts for hints and tips on the best places to go and the right sort of equipment to use. This year’s event will also give novices and professionals alike the chance to try out some new skills.
Edinburgh Leisure has organised for the Ratho Climbing Tower to be brought to the centre from the Edinburgh Indoor Climbing Arena, giving visitors a chance to perfect their climbing skills or even just give it a try for the first time.
The Edinburgh City Boot Camp will also be on hand to advise people on how to get in shape. It combines military fitness with traditional body weight workouts, and will be running mini boot camps throughout both days.
There will even be a unique indoor ski-slope from EasySki, with qualified instructors on hand.
The event will also include presentations from some of the most extraordinary and inspiring people to champion outdoor events in Scotland.
Among them will be Mark Cooper, who took up running in 2007 to stop smoking and has since completed dozens of events, including running the length of Hadrian’s Wall in one push, completing his first Scottish ultra marathon season and rowing across the Irish Sea in 2011.
There will also be a chance to hear from Dean Dunbar, a veteran of extreme sports, such as white water rafting, quad biking, cliff diving, bungee jumping – including from a helicopter – Zorbing, mountain boarding, scuba diving, sky diving and even being launched via a catapult. And he has done all of this despite being blind.
As well as hearing from the experts there will be a chance to see some of them in action.
Chainsaw artist Iain Chalmers will be setting up stall at the event, carving all kinds of “creations”.
And back for a second year are Savage Skills, with their Ultimate Air Show giving visitors a chance to see three of the world’s top mountain bike trials stunt riders and jumpers performing spectacular jumps, tricks and back flips.
They will also be running an interactive area where children can have a go themselves.
For mountain biking fanatics, the Edinburgh Bicycle Co-operative will be on hand to help get people prepared to hit some of the local trails, such as the excellent routes that criss-cross the Pentland Hills.
Organiser Andrew Richardson said: “Following on from the success of the first year of the Outdoor Pursuits show, we are delighted that our plans to make Outdoor Pursuits Scotland bigger and better in 2012 are coming to fruition.
“Scotland has a wealth of outdoor activities for enthusiasts to enjoy – from hiking and camping to skiing and mountain biking.
“Interest in these activities is growing at an incredible rate, and the aim of the Outdoor Pursuits show is to capture the experience under one roof – bringing the outdoors indoors. With nearly 100 stands and a fantastic selection of interactivities, presentations and retail opportunities, this truly is an unmissable event for the whole family to enjoy.”
• Outdoor Pursuits Scotland 2012, Royal Highland Centre, Ingliston, runs from Saturday, April 21 (10am-5pm) to Sunday, April 22 (10am-4pm). Adults £10 (£8 online), children 5-15 years £2 (£1), concessions £6 (£5), family ticket £21 (£17 online). To buy tickets, visit www.scottishoutdoorpursuits.co.uk. Online tickets are only available until 4pm on Friday, April 20.