Golden Years For Rambling

These days it can sometimes seem like there’s a new report highlighting the benefits of going for a walk which is published almost on a weekly basis!  We now have a growing body of scientific evidence demonstrating that walking isn’t just good for keeping you physically fit, it’s also hugely beneficial for mental health as well. 

A brisk 30-minute walk every day can decrease your risk factors for illnesses such as type-2 diabetes, heart disease, some cancers and depression.  And it seems that walking in a group is particularly beneficial, perhaps because making the commitment to walk with a group of people works well as an incentive to get you out of bed on a dark morning!

None of this is news to members of Ramblers Scotland, of course, but it’s good to get scientific research backing up what we have always known to be true.  As we celebrate our 50th anniversary in Scotland, it’s worth looking back to the origins of the organisation to see how relevant we still are to today’s world.

Linlithgow (Copy)Back in the nineteenth century, for many factory workers in grimy industrial areas in Scotland’s Central Belt and the north of England, the opportunity to get out for a walk on their day off was a lifesaver.  As more people got outdoors more regularly, concern began to grow across Great Britain over the lack of rights of public access to land, which meant walkers could effectively be barred from huge tracts of land as there was no legal recourse if obstructed.  Following the Kinder Trespass in 1932, rambling federations from Glasgow and Edinburgh joined forces with others in Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield and London in 1935 to form what soon became the Ramblers’ Association, a membership organisation with a remit to campaign for public rights of access to land.

Balerno path maintenance July 12 (Copy)Ramblers Scotland was set up in 1965 and gradually became established as a constituted part of the the Ramblers’ Association, along with Ramblers Cymru.  Ramblers walking groups were set up over the following decades in Scotland and this was followed by the recruitment of staff in the 1980s who were able to focus on the different access situation in Scotland.  The arrival of the Scottish Parliament in 1999 led to the passing of landmark legislation for lovers of the outdoors, such as the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, establishing a statutory right of access to most land and inland water in Scotland, and the National Parks (Scotland) Act 2000.  Ramblers members and staff were heavily involved in the campaigns leading up to these significant developments, and ensuring that these laws are effectively implemented continues to be a large part of our work today.

As well as campaigning on behalf of walkers we have 56 local walking groups across Scotland, including eight based within Lothians.  Our groups are run and led by volunteers, and all have wide-ranging walks programmes.  You can choose a stroll around Holyrood Park with Edinburgh Stravaigers or a weekend Munro-bagging in the Highlands with Linlithgow Ramblers, with plenty of other options in-between.  Non-members are welcome to join up to 3 walks before they decide to become members, so anyone can go out with their local group to see if it suits first.  As a member you’re assigned to your nearest group but also welcome to walk with any Ramblers group in Great Britain, very useful if you’re going to Wales for a holiday and want to learn about some good walks from the locals!

Benvane, Niccy Angus, Linlithgow Rambles (Copy)While the image of the Ramblers may still be one of a group of older walkers heading up the hill, one of our most thriving groups is Edinburgh Young Walkers which provides something of a social circle for its members, aged in their 20s-30s.  As member Andy Malby says, “I moved to Edinburgh for work 3 years ago and joined the Ramblers to get to know people who shared my love of the outdoors.  Our group is really active and as well as weekend walks we have monthly pub nights and weekend trips away.  It’s a ready-made social life”.

As we go forward into the next 50 years there’s no doubt that there’s still a place for an organisation like the Ramblers, standing up for walkers’ interests and helping more people, especially those who are less active, to find out for themselves why walking is such a great activity.  We continue to press for more investment in paths so that it’s easier for everyone to walk for short journeys to school or the shops, or to enjoy their local area on foot.  We also work to protect the countryside from damaging developments or unsustainable land management practices, and our Medal Routes project is mapping short, circular routes across every local authority area in Scotland to make walking the easy choice.

Ramblers (Copy)If you’d like to find out what’s happening near you, why not take a look at what our groups in the Lothians are up to?

And you can learn more about our campaigning work at

Helen Todd is Campaigns & Policy Manager, for Ramblers Scotland


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