The Scottish Highlands is home to the world’s finest orienteering course, according to the international orienteering community.
The Long Distance course for the men’s World Orienteering Championships, which took place within Glen Affric, was named by World of O website as the ‘Orienteering Course of the Year 2015’ after consultation with more than 1,000 individuals involved in the sport.
Designed by the course setter team of Steve Nicholson and Brian Bullen, the course embraced the remote beauty of the glen, encompassing a forest of pine, birch and oak with steep slopes, complex contour details and few paths.
Also used as the stage for the ‘Long’ when the World Championships were previously in Scotland in 1999, the Glen Affric stage was overwhelmingly chosen for top honours, receiving almost three times as many votes as the second-placed World Cup Long Distance course in Tasmania.
It provided the final challenge of the World Orienteering Championships which took between 31 July and 8 August in various locations across Highland and Moray, and coincided with the 20th edition of the biennial Scottish 6 Days race.
Paul McGreal, WOC2015 Race Director, said: “This award caps off a really successful WOC for the organising team, and hopefully reflects our concentration on keeping it athlete-focussed.
“It’s well justified recognition for the amazing skills, dedication, enthusiasm and expertise of the orienteering community in Scotland and beyond. We proved that Scotland is capable of delivering a huge event on a world stage using largely volunteer efforts.”
The accolade is the icing on the cake for an event which proved to be one of the most successful in Scotland in 2015, drawing almost 7,000 overseas spectators and participants, and generating an impressive £9.4m for the Scottish economy.
Paul Bush OBE, VisitScotland’s Director of Events, said: “The World Orienteering Championships and Scottish 6 Days were a huge success in 2015 and the ‘Orienteering Course of the Year 2015’ prize is a fitting reward for our partners who worked tirelessly to deliver such a tremendous event.
“Congratulations to the course planning team, who have positioned Scotland at the forefront of the sport and demonstrated why our stunning landscapes and natural assets make Scotland the perfect stage for orienteering events.”
Mike Hamilton, Chief Executive, British Orienteering, said: “The award is a fitting tribute to the fantastic terrain within Glen Affric and the way in which it was used by the very talented planning team. The world-class courses provided physical and mental challenges for the athletes and those that achieved top places knew they had been tested.
“We hope to be back in the Scottish Highlands for further international competition soon!”