It’s the start of a new year – and a new decade – which means the time is right to try your hand at something new and inspiring.
From blogging to billiards, there are so many ways to spend your spare time… and you could get fitter and even cleverer at the same time!
Here are some interesting hobbies and activities you don’t want to miss out on in 2020:
Clay pigeon shooting
No longer just for toffs and stag dos, shooting clays is an adrenaline-packed experience which tests your control and improves your reflexes – plus it’s incredibly easy for beginners to get into. It’s best to get started shooting clays by having lessons with a qualified instructor so you don’t pick up any bad habits: Scotland is packed with clay grounds and the Scottish Clay Target Association will be able to tell you about instructors near you. It’s also good for learning to be patient; don’t lose heart if you don’t hit those ‘pigeons’ straightaway, you’ll get there.
With the nation's thirst for craft ales knowing no bounds, it could be time to take inspiration from the hipsters and brew your own. Home-brewing requires relatively few bits of kit (you can easily pick up a starter set online) and there’s loads of information out there to help get you started; all you really need is time and some enthusiastic drinking buddies to sample your brews and help you refine your technique with a bit of constructive feedback. Each fermentation takes two weeks, then another two weeks to bottle condition your brew… then it's time to start all over again, meaning there’s definitely a lot of fun to be had with trial and error during the process.
Geocaching is a geeky but brilliant hobby for those who love exploring the great outdoors: participants use a GPS device or smartphone, as well as other navigational techniques, to both hide and seek special containers at specific locations all over the world. The contents of these caches or geocaches, which are marked by coordinates, range in impressiveness but discovering their hidey-holes is the real goal. From the Southern Uplands to the Outer Hebrides, there's a geocache for you to discover – check out Scotland the Quest, a countrywide 32-cache series with a special cache to find in each region of Scotland. It's a great way of getting to discover new places, a real-world, outdoor adventure with just the right amount of competitiveness.
Seeing as many sports games as you can has become a bona fide hobby in recent years: participants call themselves groundhoppers, hoppers or travellers, and basically it involves attending matches at as many different stadiums or grounds as possible. There are plenty of forums online to help you make it competitive if you want to – though you may need to go some way to beat Norwegian Anders Johansen, who revealed in 2017 that he had seen matches at 445 grounds in England as well as 18 grounds in Scotland, three in Wales, and two in Northern Ireland, most of them between 2014 and 2017.
Get those brain cells sparking after the festive excess by learning to play an instrument, generally thought of as being one of the best activities to help increase your IQ. Although for some people, like those hoping to go pro eventually, proper instruction from a teacher is the best option, if you’re looking to learn to play for fun then learning online is a good easy route as, with just one click, you can access tutorials, sheet music, apps and videos on your laptop or mobile. Plus there’s evidence that playing music changes the structure and function of the brain, boosting the bits of your grey matter that control memory, hearing and motor skills.
This heart-racing French invention should come with a disclaimer: you have to be fit and it can be dangerous. But parkour is an exhilarating way to work out and it can test your problem-solving skills and bravery to the limits. Basically, it involves overcoming any obstacle in an urban environment by adapting your movements to run, jump, vault, climb and balance in the slickest and most efficient (read: stylish) form possible. Parkour UK, now part of the Scottish Sports Association, is a good place to look for information and there are loads of videos out there to give you a taste of what’s in store – just be safe and start out slowly.
There’s a reason dentist’s waiting rooms are full of fish tanks: we find watching fish swimming about extremely relaxing, and keeping them at home can be a really cool – and mellow – hobby. Fish make fairly undemanding pets and you can take things as far as your tank and budget allow; in fact, researchers in 2015 found that tanks containing greater biodiversity made people happier and reduced their heart rate and blood pressure. So for a wellbeing boost in 2020, head to your nearest fish shop – just make sure you do your research before introducing different species.
For another great way to pass your free time, which involves skill and strategy, try online betting. Packed with predictions, tips and match previews, you can find out more about all your favourite sports and, if you fancy a flutter, you can bet on everything from darts to basketball. Or consider a trip to the casino without leaving the home – try an online casino.