This paper reports the findings of the first interdisciplinary study of Scotland's adventure tourism sector which is now promoted as one of the new drawcards for domestic and overseas visitors by the National Tourism Organisation - VisitScotland. An analysis of a national survey of adventure activity operators highlights the development of this sector, the characteristics of operators, the way their businesses have been developed and the significance of independently owned and managed small firms in this sector. The survey also examined the characteristics of visitors and markets using adventure tourism products provided by these businesses and the safety issues which these operators faced in managing these types of activities. Based on data collected and application of research techniques from safety management, the injury rates among participants in these activities are reviewed. The growth potential and possible obstacles to this nascent industry sector in Scotland are also examined. © 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.