Donâ€™t let the darker evenings of winter get you down. Enjoy a night-time adventure instead.
Winterâ€™s darker evenings and mornings can be depressing. Instead, try getting out in the darkness â€“ 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 havenâ€™t tried mountain biking at night with a good torch or front light then you really havenâ€™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 mtbâ€™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 â€œre-inventâ€ 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.
Bill Ross, of Simply Epic Adventures, agrees and sums it up by saying: â€œMountain biking at night offers so much more for less.â€
He adds: â€œNight riding is far more exciting than many people imagine â€“ and itâ€™s the perfect way to stay fit and improve your skills through winter.â€
Many mountain biking clubs and centres have regular night rides, or go out with a friend and give it a goÂ yourself.
Simply Epic Adventures organise tailormade night rides to suit a group and location. See www.simplyepicadventures.co.uk
You could also tryÂ Scotland’s ultimate mountain biking at night challenge,Â the 24-hour Strathpuffer.
The mid-January night-time event has already sold out Â â€“ and in record-breaking time â€“ 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.
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: â€œYou need a good lightweight headtorch. I like the Silva head torches.
â€œAnd itâ€™s best to start on trails that you already know or run with a friend for safety.
â€œRunning at night changes the look of the landscape. I like seeing a spotlight on the trail ahead or highlighting trees or wildlife.
â€œIt also feels more challenging because you have to focus on where you step.â€
You could step up your running to a night-time adventure race. Already a growing trend, organisers are now adding a new â€œdarknessâ€ 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 â€œ10k or soâ€ 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 thereâ€™s the Zombie Night Run, which takes place each in â€œafter twilightâ€ countryside near Helensburgh.
The 8k trail run challenges â€œZombiesâ€ or â€œSurvivorsâ€ to race up hills, over obstacles and through mud and water.
First there was pool swimming, then came wild swimming and now itâ€™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: â€œThere’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.
â€œSwimming at night is just part of our sport and I do still find it a bit scary but Iâ€™m planning an English Channel relay next year so being able toÂ swim in the dark is a must as we will probably start at night.â€
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 â€œsomething you get used to and is part of the challengeâ€.
She adds: â€œI don’t wear a wetsuit but some people do. Like all kind of winter activities, wild swimming becomes easier the more you do it.â€
Audrey Thompson is another swimmer who is happy to swim in darkness.
She says: â€œI’ve enjoyed some early morning swims in September and October where we head into the water in the dark.
â€œIt’s quieter, feels more still and it’s magical to watch the sunrise from the water.
â€œRisk 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.
â€œI find the colder water is great, too. Itâ€™s invigorating and you feel like you are doing something you shouldn’t be doing which is always a thrill!â€
You can find the Wild West Swimmers on Facebook.
Orkney surfer Dave Flanagan describes surfing by moonlight as â€œutterly incredible and completely terrifyingâ€. 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: â€œGiven 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 youâ€™re riding a wave in darkness itâ€™s akin to floating through space accompanied by a white noise soundtrack.â€
David does warn that it’s less fun wiping out in the dark and â€œprobably more dangerousâ€.
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: â€œAt night, paddling a SUP feels surreal. I love the tranquillity and the views, especially of sunsets.â€
Try a SUPs tours at Wilderness SUP see wildernesssup.co
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 cityâ€™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, itâ€™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.