What are the best outdoor activities in Scotland?
Well, for me, I’ve always wanted to learn to surf.
There’s just something about it: clean, silent, natural. An allure that it just seems an inherently good thing to do. A good way to spend some of our precious time on this beautiful planet. And of course, a great Scottish outdoor water activity; Don’t forget, we have over 6000 km of coastline in Scotland!
I’ve always thought it must be a wonderful way to explore far off and inaccessible coastlines, and meet the most curious and lovely people.
And there it was again on my Instagram: Surfing Lessons with Ocean Vertical. You can see booking details here; https://www.oceanvertical.com/adventures/surfing-scotland. The location – beautiful Belhaven Bay in East Lothian. One of the best surfing beaches in Scotland, and just 40 minutes from Edinburgh.
I’m a fairly active and outdoor person, and the name Ocean Vertical had been popping up in my adventure circle of chums for some time now. Time for some research.
First up, their website is outstanding, comprehensive and easy to book through -www.oceanvertical.com. They are based by Dunbar in East Lothian, and specialize in paddle boarding SUP, coasteering and surfing lessons [yes!].
And it doesn’t stop there, in the winter they specialize in hillwalking and winter mountaineering and climbing in the Glen Coe region. You can see details of their winter mountaineering courses in Scotland here; https://www.oceanvertical.com/adventure-category/winter-mountaineering.
I was also taken by their strong ethical and sustainable position. They clearly state their purpose as: “To share a love for adventure in the natural world and ensure the survival of our last remaining wild places”. As someone who cares about the environment and our planet, this was important to me.
A few more clicks and that was me booked in for surfing lessons in East Lothian the following Saturday morning. My surfing journey was about to start!
Saturday morning unfolded with not a cloud in the sky. The Ocean Vertical base at Hedderwick Hill Stables was easy to find and around 40 minutes from Edinburgh.
And what a place! They are only 5 minutes off the A1 close to Dunbar, based in a beautiful converted Victorian stables in secluded woodland. It really was incredibly cool and welcoming, with a huge reception space off a beautiful landscaped courtyard. You can see details here; https://www.oceanvertical.com/groups/our-base.
We got kitted up, and jumped into the Ocean Vertical van and headed round the corner to our surfing destination at Belhaven Bay by Dunbar. Belhaven Bay is one of the most consistent surf beaches on Scotland's east coast, picking up even the smallest of summer swells, creating the perfect learning environment for surfing lessons for beginners like me.
Please scroll and read on Folks.
Belhaven Bay is within the John Muir Country Park, a spectacular wildlife habitat made up of salt marshes, extensive sand dunes, pine woodland and of course the golden stretches and breaking waves of Belhaven Bay. Its huge too, so there's loads of space for everyone.
We carried the surf boards a short walk through the salt marshes and sand dunes until we crested the final dune and the ocean was laid out in front of us, it was beautiful!
Our instructor Kirsty was super experienced, and has spent many years surfing at Belhaven Bay as well as lots of other surfing locations in East Lothian. Our surfing lesson began on the beach with Kirsty talking us through the different parts of the surfboard and the theory of paddling for and catching waves.
It was quickly time to put this theory to practice and we entered the water and had our first go at catching waves on our surfboards. Our group all quickly got the hang of this and were soon catching the broken waves and cruising towards the beach lying on our bellies.
After a little more practice, it was time to head back to the beach for the second part of the theory lesson and one of the most important aspects of learning to surf, the pop up!
Instructor Kirsty demonstrated the perfect pop-up technique, the way to get up onto our feet, and we all copied her, easy enough on the flat sand of the beach, but it was now time to try this on a moving wave!
No surprise that popping up to our feet on a surfboard was much harder on an actual wave! The first attempt I was far too far forward on the board and fell off the nose of the board when I jumped to my feet. Oops.
The second attempt, I played it safe, and managed to get onto my knees and ride the surfboard right into the shore. On my third attempt, I finally managed to stand on my feet, it may have only been for a couple of second, but I was surfing!
We spent the remainder of our surfing lesson working on catching the waves and popping up to our feet, I managed it a few times, got wiped out a few times too, but loved every single wave!
My first surfing lesson in East Lothian was shared with four other excited beginners; we laughed and learned together. This really was a very special experience, and all within a short drive from Edinburgh.
And then back to the Ocean Vertical base for coffee and home made cookies. They didn’t rush us and we sat around in the sunny courtyard chatting to the others on the surf lesson. There was a real buzz about the place, as other guests arrived for their coasteering adventure.
What is coasteering I hear you ask? Well, that’s next on my best outdoor activities in Scotland list! You can read about “what is coasteering?” here; https://www.oceanvertical.com/blog/what-is-coasteering
And if you are like me, and want to take the plunge coasteering in East Lothian, you can book in here; https://www.oceanvertical.com/adventures/coasteering-scotland
Jen was experiencing the best outdoor activities in Scotland.