Night-time is perfect for adventure

Night swimming. Potograph: Wild West Swimmers.

Night swimming. Photograph: Wild West Swimmers.

Don’t let the darker evenings of winter get you down. Enjoy a night-time adventure instead.

Winter’s darker evenings and mornings can be depressing. Instead, try getting out in the darkness – it may surprise you how fun it can be.

We reveal seven ways to have some after-dark excitement.

Night-time mountain biking

If you haven’t tried mountain biking at night with a good torch or front light then you really haven’t tried winter riding.

The basic equipment is the same as day-time riding except you add an extra layer of clothing because it is usually colder after sunset and bright LED lights.

I have taken up night-time mtb’ing this year and I am enjoying the new-found challenge.

At night, and with the aid of a head torch attached to my helmet, I have discovered that I can “re-invent” daytime routes.

The trails and surroundings look different in the dark and lit by a beam of light.

It feels as though you are going faster, too, while obstacles can seem a little trickier.

night-time mountain biker

Bill Ross, of Simply Epic Adventures, agrees and sums it up by saying: “Mountain biking at night offers so much more for less.”

He adds: “Night riding is far more exciting than many people imagine – and it’s the perfect way to stay fit and improve your skills through winter.”

Many mountain biking clubs and centres have regular night rides, or go out with a friend and give it a go yourself.

Simply Epic Adventures organise tailormade night rides to suit a group and location. See www.simplyepicadventures.co.uk

You could also try Scotland’s ultimate mountain biking at night challenge, the 24-hour Strathpuffer.

The mid-January night-time event has already sold out ­ – and in record-breaking time – so you need to keep an eye on the registration dates for 2016.

The aim of the Puffer is to cycle as many laps of an 11k off-road course near Contin, Ross-shire, and through 17 hours of darkness.

A similar format but on a course in Leanachan Forest, Fort William, is Relentless 24, which takes place each October.

Night running

Another great winter activity is running after dark. Like mountain biking, night-time running can change the feel and perspective of a day-time route.

Graham Laing is a keen night-time runner. He says: “You need a good lightweight headtorch. I like the Silva head torches.

“And it’s best to start on trails that you already know or run with a friend for safety.

“Running at night changes the look of the landscape. I like seeing a spotlight on the trail ahead or highlighting trees or wildlife.

“It also feels more challenging because you have to focus on where you step.”

Adventure races

You could step up your running to a night-time adventure race. Already a growing trend, organisers are now adding a new “darkness” element to some events.

A new series of winter running races called FoxTrail includes a 10k night run in East Lothian on February 20, 2015.

Runners must negotiate muddy Hedderwick Hill Woodland in the pitch black and with the aid of headtorches.

When spring begins to think about arriving, the annual evening-time Mighty Deerstalker “10k or so” race takes place. In 2015, the event is on March 14 at Traquair, near Peebles.

The race includes tough hill climbs and descents, river crossings and man-made obstacles.

Then there’s the Zombie Night Run, which takes place each in “after twilight” countryside near Helensburgh.

The 8k trail run challenges “Zombies” or “Survivors” to race up hills, over obstacles and through mud and water.

Night swimmers wear lights and swim with a float for safety. Photograph: Wild West Swimmers.

Night swimmers wear lights and swim with a float for safety. Photograph: Wild West Swimmers.

Night swimming

First there was pool swimming, then came wild swimming and now it’s night-time wild swimming that is growing in popularity.

In lochs and at the coast, increasing numbers of Scots are swimming in wetsuits on autumn and winter evenings.

Emma Cummings, of Helensburgh, swims with the hardy Wild West Swimmers group. She said: “There’s a few of us that swim all winter and enter winter events. It does seem to be getting more popular. For example, the BLDSA bi annual Lomond swim starts at night.

“Swimming at night is just part of our sport and I do still find it a bit scary but I’m planning an English Channel relay next year so being able to swim in the dark is a must as we will probably start at night.”

The group use light sticks, head torches and floats with lights attached for night-time visibility. Most do not swim too far from the shore on night swims.

Emma says that the cold temperature is “something you get used to and is part of the challenge”.

She adds: “I don’t wear a wetsuit but some people do. Like all kind of winter activities, wild swimming becomes easier the more you do it.”



Audrey Thompson is another swimmer who is happy to swim in darkness.

She says: “I’ve enjoyed some early morning swims in September and October where we head into the water in the dark.

“It’s quieter, feels more still and it’s magical to watch the sunrise from the water.

“Risk assessment is required, of course, so we use tow floats with lights inside so we can see each other and stay closer than in daylight.

“I find the colder water is great, too. It’s invigorating and you feel like you are doing something you shouldn’t be doing which is always a thrill!”

You can find the Wild West Swimmers on Facebook.

Night surfing

Orkney surfer Dave Flanagan describes surfing by moonlight as “utterly incredible and completely terrifying”. The freelance has surfed at night in the Bay of Skaill and Bu Sands, both on his home island.

Autumn and winter are also acclaimed to offer some of the best conditions for surfing in Scotland.

Dave says: “Given that I’m only an average surfer even in broad daylight, tackling waves in the moonlight is challenging. But when all the elements fall into place and you’re riding a wave in darkness it’s akin to floating through space accompanied by a white noise soundtrack.”

David does warn that it’s less fun wiping out in the dark and “probably more dangerous”.

Evening paddle with the Wilderness Sup Co.

Evening paddle with the Wilderness Sup Co.

Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUPs)

For a gentler night riding on water experience try (SUPs). Barry Wallace, of the Wilderness Sup Co, believes SUPs are fantastic whatever the time of day or year. Well, he would!

He explains: “At night, paddling a SUP feels surreal. I love the tranquillity and the views, especially of sunsets.”

Try a SUPs tours at Wilderness SUP see wildernesssup.co

Night kayaking

I have written about the wonders of night-time canoeing on the River Clyde in Glasgow. See Paddling and the City.

The new Pinkston Watersports centre also has night-time kayaking on their open water pool and the white water flume. See the Pinkston article.

The atmosphere while kayaking at night is electric. At Pinkston, overhead lights provide a concentrated brightness amid the city’s darkness.

On the river, the moon and lights of nearby buildings and bridges create an after-dark world that feels magical and secretive.

Night-time also brings a quiet that is hard to imagine when the day-time buzz of the city is so much more familiar.

With the days becoming ever shorter at this time of year, it’s the perfect time to get out and enjoy the darkness.

Take care: Taking part in outdoor activities at night can obviously be dangerous. Always go out with a friend and take care to make sure other people can see you when enjoying sporting activities.



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