Outdoor Access Code

gate

Whether strolling through a forest, kayaking down roaring rapids, or wild camping in the middle of nowhere, you have a right to explore much of the Scottish countryside.

In return, you should learn and follow some rules to make sure you are safe and don't disturb wildlife or local people.

Know the Code

Hand closing gate

The Scottish Outdoor Access Code outlines your rights to access. As long as you act responsibly you may access almost all land and rivers in Scotland.

This doesn't count if you are in a motorised vehicle, are shooting, hunting or fishing, or if you have a dog that you can't control.

What to avoid

Don't go too close to houses or schools - respect people's privacy and peace of mind.

Avoid places like building sites or recreational areas.

Woman walking along path beside crops

Stay away from crops that have been sown or are growing. (You can skirt around the edges if you're careful.)

Don't cross sports fields that are in use.

You can be asked to leave for not respecting people's privacy and peace or not being considerate of land management operations. Use common sense and respect those who earn their living from the land you're on.

Your responsibilities

Take responsibility for your own actions.

Respect people's privacy and peace of mind.

Help land managers and others to work safely and effectively.

Care for your environment.

Keep your dog under proper control.

If you are organising an event or running a business, check the Code for any extra responsibilities and ask the land owner's advice.

Horsewoman at gate

The Outdoor Access Scotland website explains the Code in detail, including specific information for hillwalking and many outdoor pursuits: swimming, kayaking, skiing, horse riding.

Wild camping and the Outdoor Access Code

If you really want to live and breathe the Scottish outdoors, wild camping can't be beaten. Wake up to the sound of waves, screeching oyster catchers, leaves in the breeze, or perhaps howling wind and rain.

Tents pitched on the machair, Skipness

Everyone has the right to wild camp in most places, but you must camp responsibly. Campers can have a devastating effect on fragile natural environments, especially if the same spot gets used repeatedly. Bear in mind the combined impact of you and all the campers before and after you.

The basics

Keep groups small. Camp as unobtrusively as possible.

Keep quiet. Remember that noise travels from tents, disturbing wildlife as well as humans.

Leave no trace behind you. Remove all litter, including food scraps (which attract scavenging birds and animals, some of which prey on more vulnerable nesting birds).

Don't stay longer than three nights in the same place. Camping on the same spot harms vegetation.

Vegetation is more sensitive at higher altitudes. Try to camp lower down in glens, where it recovers more easily.

Dead wood is an important habitat for insects and many small animals, so avoid building fires with it.

Be very careful when lighting fires, especially on peaty soils and close to tinder dry grass. A high risk of fire can exist at any time of year, not just during droughts.

Avoid camping immediately beside rivers and loch sides, as you may disturb important sites for birds and animals. Be prepared to move if you realise you're close to a nest site.

Always find a spot at least 30 metres from fresh or running water when going to the toilet. Bury excrement in a small hole rather than under rocks. In sensitive upland environments (eg the Cairngorms plateau) vegetation takes a long time to recover - never dig holes in those kind of areas.

For more detailed advice on responsible wild camping go to the Mountaineering Council of Scotland website.

Page first published on Tuesday 19th June 2007
Page last updated on Thursday 4th December 2008

Your Views

anon.
I watched your program last Friday and have read the content of the few comments left here. Considering this highly emotive piece of legislation I would of expected more comments. As for the ramblers Association rep. on the program she was very vague in here comments. I thought the sign that mentioned that shooting was in progress that was shown was in my opinion the correct the landowner did. This informs walkers that there is actually a potentially dangerous sport going on, to not do would of been highly irresponsible of the onwer. Nothing was mentioned either on the program about how this code works in residential areas. I know of one such case in Fife which Scotways and the local authority are keeping under wraps at this moment because they do not want the media involved. There is also going to be a case bigger than Ms Gloag's in Burntisland, Fife where the landowner has bent over backwards to accommodate walkers but to no joy.

John McDonald
As a hillwalker for many years, I have never had any problem with any of the landowners/farmers, etc, whom I have always found very friendly and helpful. The problem is caused by a minority (both sexes) who have really no interest in hill-walking but who escape to the mountain bothies and use them as drinking dens, dumping their rubbish everywhere, leaving gates open and damaging fences for firewood. On a recent walk in the Lomond Hills, I found broken glass on the paths and empty beer cans floating in a reservoir. Why should the landowners have to tolerate such anti-social conduct on their doorstep. I appreciate this is a MINORITY, but sadly, it is the "minorities" who cause most of our problems, mainly due to two factors - greed and lack of respect for others!Yours sincerely,John McDonaldKirkcaldy.

Paul Robinson
A while ago I had a confrontation with a landowner in Ward Wood,Stirlingshire.Subsequently I wrote to the Access Officer of Stirling Council.The action taken was prompt and efficient in examining the wood and declaring it access land.

CHRISTOPHER ZAWADSKI
DEAR SIRS,YOUR PROGRAMME TONIGHT (LANDWARD) WAS A PERFECT EXAMPLE OF THE IGNORANCE OF THE BBC WHEN IT COMES TO THOSE OF US WHO LIVE OUT IN THE WILDS. THERE WAS NOTHING BUT ANTAGONISM SHOWN TOWARDS COUNTRY-DWELLERS TRYING TO PROTECT THEIR PRIVACY AND WAY OF LIFE. YOUR REPORTER WAS PARTICULARLY CHILDISH AND COULD WELL BE THE SUBJECT OF COURT PROCEEDINGS WHEN IT CAME TO THE ISSUE OF HIS SCEPTICAL ATTITUDE TOWARDS A SIGN WARNING WALKERS ABOUT "SHOOTING IN PROGRESS".FOR THOSE OF US IN THE COUNTRY WATCHING THIS DISPLAY OF DANGEROUS IGNORANCE IT IS BECOMING A REAL ISSUE AS TO WHETHER WE SHOULD BE PAYING YOUR LICENSE FEE.WORSE STILL IS THE ERONEOUS INFORMATION YOU ARE PEDDLING OUT TO THE PUBLIC.TIME FOR THE BBC TO EMPLOY EDUCATED PEOPLE.YOURS FAITHFULLYCHRISTOPHER ZAWADSKIBORDERS

Kate Reid
Aiden Park Nr Mintlaw, Aberdeenshire has a number of signs suggesting that cycling is prohibited and horse riding is only permitted in certain areas. Interestingly, this park is owned by Aberdeenshire council. A local authority that employs people to educate the public about the outdoor access code yet can not apply the regulations to their own property !?!

Karl
We could do with Mathew visiting Loch Awe very soon! My wife and I took a stroll down to the shore, from a Forestry Commission car park, today. What a mess greeted us! Rubbish all over the place, even table forks and spoons left lying. Large fires had been lit at the foot of FC planted conifers. They were barked, scorched and bleeding resin. Discarded fishing line all along the shore, which we picked up. Impose licences on those who want to wild camp and employ staff to check up on sites through the funds raised by licence fees. Fine wrong-doers and take ASBO's out to ban them from using the countryside. Of course, all that will happen is further impositions will be laid at land-owners doors! Hence the Gloag mention! I'm not a land-owner, just a man who lives in and loves the countryside, I also fish!

Hector
Do I have to take my Jobbies home with me?

Stewart Reed
If these problems persist, it maybe time to call a halt to this wild camping for a while.I am a camper and some of the disgusting behaviour beggers belief. People only wild camp now because the price of equipment is so derissory that it has now also fallen foul of our throw away society. I would rather spend £10 a night at a proper capsite than pay for our local councils to clean up after these imbosiles. At least in the past you looked after our countryside, seems like the standard of breeding, manners and common ssense has dropped well below gutter level. Nip the problem in the bud now and impose heavy (on the spot)fines or legislate to keep the weekend monkies in their cages.

Andrew
Black bin bags are very good at covering up illegal signs used by landowners who are trying to deter responsible public access.

Andrew
The Haddo Estate in Aberdeenshire has a number of illegal signs dotted around the estate similar the ones highlighted in your programme and on your wed site.Earlier this year they placed dozens carefully worded signs around the estate and in the adjoining country park asking people to please keep quit and keep disturbance to a minimum, whilst being careful in their use of words, not to use strong direct language like keep out or stay away, they were certainly not welcoming people onto the estate. Also, they have recently erect large heavy gate posts near the entrance to several secondary roadways by the side of these roads. Why would some go to the expense of erecting large heavy gate posts at the side of a so call private road if they were was not indenting erecting large heavy gates?I find all of the aforementioned activates very intimidating and clearly such practices fly in the face of our countries laws

Ewan
My friend lives up a shared track (along with an absentee farmer who uses the track occasionally ). It's his only access, and the farmer has put up notices banning motor vehicles (except his own tractor) from using the track. Now if i need to visit my friend, i have to park a mile away in a ditch! because its the only place i can park. The farmer saw my vehicle parked at my friends hose recently, and put a notice on it, saying that next time he would tow my car away. Surely this would be criminal damage? If my friend has vehicular access, surely this applies to visitors to him, ie the postman, tv repair man, BT and HIS VISITORS!! You cant claim discrimination, as that's covered by other laws. So who is right? Ewan (north of Scotland).

Matthew Muraska
I was quite upset by one of your callers (on Out of Doors) this week who was complaining about campers who park their car at the side of the road and camp next to it. I am one such camper. I am a keen pike angler and the amount of equipment required for the sport prohibits long marches through the heather, therefore I tend to be camped in close proximity to my vehicle. I did however agree with the same caller about the mess some of these so called campers leave. I have on occasion cleaned up other peoples mess when I have arrived at an area to camp. I have found though the best approach to these people is education. If you approach these people with a friendly attitude asking how they are doing etc, and gently introduce the subject of litter into the conversation, and perhaps even offering a black bin bag should they not have one, I have found one can be pleasantly surprised by the effect when they leave the area. Scotland is a beautiful country to be shared by everyone, and through education in our schools and clubs we should be able to keep it that way, perhaps even introducing a part on litter in the advert on country access currently running on our televisions at the moment

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