Scottish access rights

Everyone in Scotland has statutory rights of access to most land and inland water, as long as these rights are exercised responsibly.  Guidance on responsible access is given in Scottish Outdoor Access Code.

In Scotland we’re fortunate to have world-class rights of public access to most land and inland water through the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003. Rights apply to all types of non-motorised access – walkers, cyclists, canoeists and horse riders – based on the principle that you can be on or cross most land provided that you are doing so in a responsible way. Likewise, the management of the land and water must also be carried out in a way that takes account of access rights. Guidance on responsible access and responsible land management are given in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. 

The Code has three main principles:

  • Respect the interests of other people
  • Care for the environment
  • Take responsibility for your own actions.

Our position
Ramblers Scotland took a leading role in delivering Scottish access rights, which involved many years of campaigning by our members and staff. We believe these rights are among the best in the world, but we need to be vigilant to make sure they are not eroded away over time. This can happen through decisions which don’t fully take account of the legislation, or by lack of action over removing obstructions. Locked gates and ‘private’ signs don’t make the countryside feel like a welcoming place. It is important that Ramblers members - and everyone enjoying outdoor recreation in Scotland - is aware of their rights and responsibilities. We continue to work to promote understanding of the Act and Code. 

Government action
While in general the access legislation is working well, there are a number of minor legislative or other changes which would help to improve its implementation.  We sit on the National Access Forum and continue to make the case to the Scottish government for these changes to be considered as part of its ongoing land reform agenda.

Download Scotland on Foot, our guide to Scottish access rights and responsibilities for walkers.

Download Walking in Scotland, our guide to getting more out of walking in Scotland

Read more on history of Scottish access here. 

Useful links

Page last updated June 2020