In January 2019 Ramblers Scotland first became aware of access issues on the Ardnamurchan Estate when we received several reports of a number of locked deer gates blocking access to various tracks through the estate.
The key issue centred around the area of a woodyard which had been constructed over the route of a historic long distance hill track running from Glenborrodale across the Ardnamurchan peninsular to Acharacle.
Planning consent had been given in 2013 on the basis that an access route through the area of the wood yard was retained, but in 2019 gates at either end of the yard were locked.
Without access through this area, it’s not only the historic right of way which is affected, but local residents and visitors are unable to get to huge swathes of the land above the village, due to the rough terrain and necessity to rely on paths in this area.
The council failed to persuade the landowner to unlock the gates or to provide an alternative route. They then designated a candidate core path through the yard but the landowner objected and the core path plan is now due to come before a planning inquiry next year.
There has been widespread concern from local residents about this issue. In November 2019 two Ramblers members who live in Glenborrodale were reported to the Procurator Fiscal for aggravated trespass for peacefully walking through the woodyard.
This is unprecedented in Scotland in these circumstances and we are aware of no other such use of this legislation, which was aimed at dealing with illegal raves and hunt saboteurs.
The threat of any legal action against them was eventually dropped but in October 2021 the company which owns the woodyard – Woodland Renewables - made a ‘Section 28’ application to the sheriff, asking them to declare that access rights under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 don’t apply through that area.
The Scottish Parliament’s intention was that access rights should be as widely implemented as possible, with a duty on the landowner to respect and facilitate these rights.
Therefore we believe it is important to demonstrate the wider public interest in this case, and make it clear that Ramblers Scotland is prepared to stand up to protect access rights - with the support of the outdoors community.
That is why we’re opposing this application, along with The Highland Council.