Student Handbook Adventure Guide

Indoors, outdoors, winter, summer – your student days can be filled with as much adrenaline-pumping adventure action as you choose. Here's a brief guide to what's out there

Feature by Rosamund West and Peter Simpson | 13 Sep 2018

Climbing Up

Alien Rock was Scotland’s first dedicated indoor climbing centre, and it offers training from beginners up and the space to learn skills safely, indoors and away from the harsh realities of the Scottish weather. Alien One (8 Pier Place, Edinburgh) holds a large selection of roped climbing for all levels, while Alien Bloc (23 Dunedin Street, Edinburgh) nearby provides a bouldering centre with low walls and no ropes. Glasgow Climbing Academy (124 Portman St) offers state of the art indoor bouldering facilities on Glasgow’s Southside, equipment, coaching for all ages and abilities, and even a lovely cafe. Membership is only £10 for life, and their Movement and Technique beginners bouldering course promises to be ‘probably the best 180 minutes you will ever invest in your climbing.’ Avertical World is your Dundee equivalent, running regular taster sessions and tutored timeslots as well as letting the more proficient of you loose on the rock.

If you want to do all this but outdoors, Glasgow University Climbing Club have just the thing – Clashgour Hut, half an hour from Glencoe, is available to hire if you and your new climbing pals want to get well wild and don't mind carrying lots of kit with you on the way. The Club meets for climbing on Mondays and pints on Tuesdays. Not to be outdone, the University of Edinburgh have their own climbing walls – two, count 'em – at the Pleasance, and they'll hire you all the kit you'll need from the right shoes to the chalk you'll need to stop your hands from slipping off every five seconds. If you want to take a step up, the Edinburgh University Mountaineering Club will provide you with a steady supply of climbing (and drinking) buddies, and Napier University's Rock Climbing Club meet up for regular sessions to help you get moving in the right direction (up the way). The Dundee University Rucksack Club are your go-to in Dundee, and they'll help you out with safety advice, encouragement and equipment.

Skidding Down

Snowsports and student debauchery go hand-in-hand – there's something about a squad of excitable twenty-somethings dressed entirely in thermal sportswear that strikes fear into those of us who spend our campus days 'writing' and 'listening to music'. Still, Scotland is a prime location to take up snowsports given that there's regularly snow down which to fall, although there are a number of spots that will help you get around even that most fundamental of problems. The Midlothian Snowsports Centre at Hillend stars Europe's longest dry ski slope – if you look down Morningside Road, it's that incongruous pair of white squiggles several miles away – and offers the chance to practice your shredding no matter how much snow's lying around. Naturally, Glasgow has one-upped this with Snow Factor at Braehead, the UK's longest indoor ski slope that, oh, by the way, is covered in real snow all year round. Bad for the environment? Almost certainly. Good for practising your snowboarding when it's unseasonably warm outside? You betcha.

If you're looking for a mode of snowy fun where you're marginally less likely to fall over, the Huntly Nordic and Outdoor Centre offers activities like tubing, cross-country skiing (the one that's a bit like very awkward walking) and mountain biking. When you want to get out onto the real slopes, there are four main spots to pick from – Glenshee in Perthshire, Glencoe in the Highlands, the Nevis Range near Fort William and the Lecht up in the Cairngorms. Each offers their own challenges and opportunities, and this is where your uni's snowsports society will prove to be an invaluable resource – there you'll find excellent people who a) can wrangle enough of you together to make it a feasible trip up north and b) help manage logistics and making sure everyone is getting on alright. Suffice it to say, if you're going to head up for a day out on the slopes, CHECK THE WEATHER BEFORE YOU LEAVE. Contact the centres, check the forecasts and generally do your due diligence lest you waste your Saturday lugging a snowboard halfway across the country.

Foxlake | Image: Tony Marsh 

Getting Out and About

Of course, your university will have many societies catering to all manner of outdoor and adventure interests, but the great thing about Scotland is there are a whole load of locations nearby that you can head to off your own back and put those skills into practice. Essentially, if you're a fan of marauding about the place in a semi-controlled environment, there are places you can do that. Situated in the heart of the Cairngorm National Park, Glenmore Lodge is billed as Scotland’s national outdoor centre and offers a variety of courses and facilities geared towards training across a wide range of outdoor disciplines. Covering kayaking, canoeing, mountaineering, rock climbing, ski touring and mountain biking (and much more besides), this is a good place to head to find out how to explore Scotland’s great outdoors safely and responsibly. Nearer the cities, Foxlake just east of Edinburgh is home to Scotland’s first cable wakeboarding park. It’s also got rope trails, zip lines and Segways for your friends who can't swim or prefer to get aerial.

Playsport Scotland is a purpose built 90-acre park in East Kilbride that offers a wide range of indoor and outdoor sporting pursuits from Zone 54 – Scotland’s newest indoor skate park – to Air Space, a ‘spring-loaded urban playground’ of over 100 interconnected trampolines. They’ve also got a climbing centre, pool and some golf if that floats your boat. Down at Belhaven beach near Dunbar, Coast to Coast Surf School are well respected for their team of experienced instructors offering a range of lessons and courses in the sports of surfing, bodyboarding, stand up paddling and coasteering. They also run tours and trips to the most remote edges of Scotland’s beautiful and varied coastline.

Coast to Coast Surf School

Want to ride a bike very fast down a hill? We've got loads of the fellas! The 7 Stanes are a string of mountain bike spots throughout southern Scotland with bike trails of varying difficulties and intensities, with chances to hire kit, brush up on your skills and find out more about the noble art of riding very fast downhills.