Where you can walk in England and Wales
The Ramblers guide to walking in England and Wales. Helping you understand your rights, where you’re allowed to walk, and how to find new places to explore.
This is your guide to walking in England and Wales, helping you understand your rights, where you’re allowed to walk, and how to find new places to explore.
In Scotland we have the freedom to roam in line with the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. Use our Scottish walking guide to learn about your rights as a walker in Scotland.
Where you can walk
In England and Wales, we enjoy a world-renowned network of paths, tracks and trails that connects villages, towns and cities, and reaches into the countryside. Most of this network is made up of public rights of way on which we all have a right to walk.
After years of Ramblers campaigning, the Countryside and Rights of Way Act(2000)expanded our rights of access across large parts of England and Wales. This gave everyone the opportunity to go off the beaten track, to walk freely through open country and explore wild landscapes. These areas are known as open access land.
The England Coast Path, the result of further Ramblers campaigning and years of work by Ramblers volunteers, opens the way to explore even more. Due to be completed soon, the England Coast Path gives us an area of land known as the coastal margin, allowing everyone to explore dunes, cliff slopes and beaches.
The footpath network
Public rights of way
Across England and Wales there are over 140,000 miles of rights of way. These are paths on which we all have the right to walk. Most rights of way run across private land, but they are open to the public at all times.
There are four types of rights of way:
You have the right to walk and take a mobility scooter on these paths. They are marked along the route with a yellow arrow, and on an OS map with a green or a pink short-dashed line.
You have the right to walk, take a mobility scooter, ride a horse or cycle on these paths. They are marked along the route with a blue arrow, and on an OS map with a green or a pink long-dashed line.
You have the right to walk, take a mobility scooter, ride a horse, cycle or travel in a horse-drawn vehicle on these paths. They are marked along the route with a plum-coloured arrow, and on an OS map with a green or a pink dotted and dashed line.
Byways open to all traffic
You have the right to walk, take a mobility scooter, ride a horse, cycle on these paths as well as travel in a horse-drawn vehicle or drive a motor vehicle. They are marked along the route with a red arrow, and on an OS map with a green or pink line made up of crosses.
Other paths you can walk
Rights of way make up the majority of the footpath network, but there are other paths that you can walk:
There are no legal rights to walk these paths, but permission will have been granted by the landowner. There’s no standard way to mark a permissive path, and they will likely not appear on maps. They will be waymarked on the ground as a path, this could be in the style of a right of way as listed above or it could be a non-standard waymark to highlight that it is not a right of way. Either way, there should be a notice at the start of the path to explain that it is permissive and outlining the conditions of use.
There are 15 completed long distance paths known as National Trails. These are made up of rights of way and permissive paths, and you are allowed to walk on them all. They are marked along the route with acorn signs, and on OS maps in green or pink with a line of diamonds and the acorn symbol. The England Coast Path will be the 16th National Trail and is made up of open access land.
Open access land and the coastal margin
Across England and Wales you have the freedom to roam across 3.4 million acres of open access land, as well as the coastal margin, which follows the 3,000 mile English coastline.
This is land where you have the right to leave the path and explore freely. You do not need to enter these areas via a stile or gate and can climb walls or fences as long as you don’t cause damage.
Open access land
Open access land includes mapped areas of mountain, moor, heath, downs and registered common land. As these land types aren’t equally spread across the country, you will find some areas where there is a lot of open access land, for example the Lake District, and others with very little, such as Norfolk.
Open access land may be marked on the ground with a round brown sign of a person on a hill. When leaving open access land you may see the same sign, but with a red line through it. However, as it doesn’t have to be marked, and you can enter and leave it wherever you like, you may not see any signs. On OS maps, the entire area will be marked with an orange or, for coastal margin, magenta (purple) wash.
The coastal margin
The England Coast Path is the latest, and longest National Trail. It is more than a path as the coastal margin, covering the area between the path and the sea, gives the right to leave the path and freely explore beaches, cliffs and foreshores.
The coastal margin is marked on OS maps with a magenta wash. Along the route, the England Coast Path is marked with the acorn symbol of a national trail, and the coastal margin can be found between that path and the sea. In some places, there are also areas of access land on the landward side of the path.
You are free to explore open access land as long as you do not cause any damage. The coastal margin contains lots of different land uses, including buildings and private gardens, which don’t have public access rights. There are also various restrictions for other activities, so do read our guide to open access land to find out more.
Other areas you can walk
There are public rights to walk on other areas of land, such as Town and Village Greens.
Find places to walk near you
Now you’ve learnt about the places you can explore on foot, why not check out our routes library that is jam-packed with tried-and-tested routes? Or find a group walk near you. You’ll get a warm welcome from our experienced walk leaders and like-minded walkers.
If you have found this information useful, you may like to consider becoming a Ramblers member and joining Britain’s biggest and most vibrant community of walkers.
We hope you enjoy exploring on foot, armed with all the knowledge you need to feel free and safe out in our beautiful landscapes.
Unrecorded paths are vulnerable to development and unresolved problems. It is important they are claimed and get the protection they are entitled to.
Serious incidents relating to cattle are rare. But when they do occur they can have profound consequences so farmers should minimise the risks to walkers.