People in Scotland are venturing outside into nature more than ever before, according to the latest official statistics.
A survey carried out by government agency Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) reveals an estimated 547 million outdoors visits have been made in the past year.
The figure is the highest ever recorded, up from 396 million four years ago.
The research shows people are also getting out and about more regularly and experiencing nature closer to home than in previous years.
More than half of those questioned said they get outside every week, a rise of 7 per cent since 2013/14.
Two out of five visits now take place in urban areas, an increase of 6 per cent since the last survey.
Local parks came out as the most popular destination, with walking named as the most frequently used mode of transport.
The most common reason for visiting the outdoors was to exercise a dog followed by health and exercise and to relax and unwind. Two-thirds of those who visited the outdoors strongly agreed it had helped them de-stress, while a similar number claimed benefits for physical health.
More than half of those surveyed said outdoor activities made them feel closer to nature.
However, the results also show more must be done to help some of the most disadvantaged Scots to access and enjoy nature.
While 82 per cent of the total population had visited the outdoors for recreation over the 12-month period, this dropped to just 47 per cent of those who reported having poor health, 73 per cent of older people and those in the most deprived parts of Scotland and 63 per cent of those with a long-term illness or disability.
Studies have shown engaging in outdoor activities and connecting with nature have a range of positive effects.
“We know the many benefits of getting outside for physical and mental health and wellbeing, so it’s great to see that people in Scotland are enjoying the outdoors more than ever before,” SNH chair Mike Cantlay said.
“We want everyone across Scotland to benefit from nature, but it’s clear from these findings that some groups still face barriers.
“That’s why SNH is investing in projects across Scotland to improve green spaces in our towns and cities, particularly in the most disadvantaged areas, to create better places for people to connect with nature closer to home and reduce these inequalities.
“The outdoors is our ‘Natural Health Service’.”