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Orienteering And navigation

The beautiful and diverse Scottish Highlands are the perfect place for people of all ages to take part in the exciting sport of orienteering.  All you need is a sense of adventure and a good pair of athletic shoes!  If you want to enjoy an outdoor activity which challenges both your body and your mind, give orienteering and navigation a try.  Suitable for all kinds of terrain, which the Highlands of Scotland have, you can be of any age and any fitness level to participate.  The sport of orienteering and navigation is a great way to enjoy the exhilarating Highland wilderness, keep fit, admire the scenery, and meet a challenge all in one.

Orienteering and navigation basically entails a person going from one point to another in a sequence.  Control points are marked on a map that is unique to orienteering and the participant’s goal is to determine the best course in the quickest time.  At the same time, you can enjoy just the challenge of completing the course, in which case, you can run, jog, or walk—whatever is the right pace for you.  Orienteering and navigation can take place virtually anywhere, from urban environments to the mountain landscape.  The more varied and rugged the terrain, the better and more challenging the course, so that is one reason why the Scottish Highlands are the perfect locale for this fun and exciting outdoor sport. 

There are four main types of orienteering:  foot orienteering, trail orienteering, mountain bike orienteering, and ski orienteering.  All four types are practiced here in the Scottish Highlands.  The most universally popular form of orienteering is foot orienteering.  Once you have learned how to orienteer and navigate, you can participate in events all over the country.  Foot orienteering courses are graded according to length and difficulty.  Orienteering is offered as a sport with specific training classes available, or come-and-try-it activities.  If you want to get started in foot orienteering and navigation, check out a come-and-try day or book an adventure with one of the many outdoor centres in the Scottish Highlands that offer this sport.  Orienteering is a very “user friendly” kind of sport, and you don’t need very much equipment to get started.  At the most, you need good trainers or hiking boots; comfortable clothes for walking or running, with full leg cover; a lightweight waterproof jacket (this is the Highlands, after all—remember the unpredictability of the weather); a safety whistle; a compass; and a red pen to mark your route on your map.

Trail orienteering and navigation, or Trail-O, is a form of the sport which is highly suitable to all ages and skill levels, as well as for people with disabilities.  Rugged terrain is not an issue, but the terrain could be complex, and map-reading skills are crucial in this form of the sport.  Speed is not the object of this type of orienteering, but instead, the skills of the map reader and ability to follow an intricate course. 

Mountain bike orienteering and navigation generally takes place in a location which has a lot of interconnecting mountain bike trails, providing for a variety of course options.  Usually a forest provides the best site for this form of the sport.  The only special equipment needed is a compass.  Both orienteering enthusiasts and cyclists enjoy participating in this sport.  Good bicycle handling skills, endurance, and map memory, as well as the ability to handle steep slopes on a bicycle are musts for this type of orienteering and navigation.

Ski orienteering is a cross country winter sport that requires endurance.  Physical and mental fitness combine to make this a very demanding sport.  Not only do you have to possess good orienteering and navigation skills, but you must also be an excellent skier.  Standard cross country ski equipment is used, along with a map holder which is attached to the chest by harness.  Skiers must be adept at turning quickly and skiing downhill, as well.

In the Highlands of Scotland, foot orienteering is taken to a different level as outdoors centres will teach you map and navigation skills which include how to work with maps and compasses, how to use linear features for navigation, how to judge distances on maps and the ground, how to read contour maps, how to plan your journey, and what to do if you find yourself lost.  These skills are very valuable up here in the Scottish Highlands where the territory is often very remote and isolated, and where so many people pursue hillwalking, hiking, climbing, and other types of mountaineering.  Kushi Adventures Orienteering, based in Inverness, runs courses in this type of mountain orienteering.  Lagganlia Centre Orienteering in Kingussie sets a challenging orienteering course for youth and adults alike, similar to basic foot orienteering but with the added edge provided by the rugged Scottish Highland environment.  Loch Insh Orienteering in Kincraig devises foot orienteering courses and emphasizes skill as much as speed in completing their challenging programs.  Boots-n-Paddles runs orienteering and navigation programs which they will tailor-make to suit the needs of your group.  As part of a multi-activity program, or on its own, their orienteering courses will help you develop essential mountaineering and hiking skills.

Orienteering and navigation refer to both a sport and a set of skills.  As skills, they are essential to anyone wanting to spend a lot of time in the remoter parts of the Scottish Highlands.  Go hiking, climbing, and hillwalking knowing you have a good foundational knowledge of compass and map skills.  You can brush up through any number of courses offered throughout the Highlands.  Engage in the sport of orienteering to give yourself a physical and mental challenge while enjoying the awesome beauty of the majestic Scottish Highlands.  You may surprise yourself at how skilled you really are.  Whatever your purpose for pursuing orienteering and navigation, there are courses, programs, and routes all throughout the Scottish Highlands for you to take advantage of.  Book an orienteering and navigation adventure today!