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walking stories  | europe | scotland | countryside access in scotland
Access to the Countryside and Mountains in Scotland

New legislation for countryside access was approved by the Scottish Parliament in 2003, as part of the Land Reform Scotland Act

"Access rights can be exercised over most of Scotland, from urban parks and path networks to our hills and forests, and from farmland and field margins to our beaches, lochs and rivers. However, access rights don’t apply everywhere, such as in buildings or their immediate surroundings, or in houses or their gardens, or most land in which crops are growing."

The arrangements are set out in detail in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code which came into force in early 2005.  It recognises the rights and responsibilities of all those who live in and use the countryside. 

The text quoted above and to the right is taken from the publicity leaflet explaining the code, produced by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).

Scottish Natural Heritage is the Government agency responsible for overseeing these arrangements, for conserving the natural heritage and promoting public access and education

There is a national Access Forum bringing together a broad range of people such as land managers, recreational interest groups, public bodies and conservationists, to advise on access issues.

National Parks have also recently been established in Scotland by the Scottish Executive, following legislation in 2000.  The first of these covers Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, in the Central Highlands, and the second covers the Cairngorms, in the Eastern Highlands.  SNH has a key role in managing and further developing the national parks, as explained on the SNH website.


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Jock's Road, Glendoll, Angus, Scotland

Jock's Road, Glendoll, Angus, Scotland


The Scottish Outdoor Access Code

When you’re in the outdoors, you need to:

Take responsibility for you own actions - The outdoors is a great place to enjoy but it’s also a working environment and has many natural hazards. Make sure you are aware of these and act safely, follow any reasonable advice and respect the needs of other people enjoying or working in the outdoors.
Respect people’s privacy and peace of mind - Privacy is important for everyone. Avoid causing alarm to people, especially at night, by keeping a reasonable distance from houses and private gardens, or by using paths or tracks.
Help farmers, landowners and others to work safely and effectively - Keep a safe distance from any work and watch for signs that tell you dangerous activities are being carried out, such as tree felling or crop spraying. You can also help by:
- leaving gates as you find them;
- not blocking or obstructing an entrance or track;
- looking for alternative routes before entering a field with animals;
- not feeding animals;
- using local advice so that you can take account of shooting and stalking;
- not damaging fences or walls; and by
- avoiding damage to crops by using paths and tracks,
by using the margins of the field, or by going over ground that hasn’t been planted.
Care for the environment –
Our environment contributes greatly to everyone’s quality of life and health. It’s important that you:
- follow any reasonable advice and information;
- take your litter home;
- treat places with care, leaving them as you find them;
- don’t recklessly disturb or intentionally damage wildlife or historic places.
Keep your dog under proper control – If you have a dog with you, it’s
very important that it doesn't worry livestock or alarm others. Don’t let it
into fields with calves or lambs, and keep it on a short lead or under close control when you’re in a field with other animals. If cattle react aggressively to your dog, let go of it immediately and take the safest route out of the field. Take care to ensure that you or your dog don’t disturb breeding birds.
Pick up your dog’s faeces if it defecates in any place where it is likely to cause concern to other people.
Take extra care if you are organising a group, an event
or running a business –
Consult the full Code or our
website for information about your responsibilities.

Extracted from the Scottish Outdoor Access Code Leaflet endorsed by the National Access Forum.