Scottish Outdoor Access Code

Everyone has legal rights of access to almost all of the land in the Cairngorms National Park for recreation or for educational activities.  This applies to land and water, 365 days a  year and 24 hours a day. It covers a wide variety of activities including, for example, walking, horse-riding, cycling, canoeing. It therefore underpins all forms of recreational management in the National Park.

The legal access rights only apply if people behave responsibly. And the duty to behave responsibly also applies to the people who own and manage the land. The definition of what is and is not “responsible” is set out in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code which has been approved by the Scottish Parliament. This Code is a tremendously useful tool for managing any issues that arise.

The Code is based on three fundamental principles that apply to everyone. Whether you are in the outdoors or managing the land you should:

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

More specific guidance is given about what to do in particular situations such as when a forester is felling trees or how to behave with dogs in the wildlife breeding season.

If anyone has a problem about how the outdoor access system is operating then they can raise the issue with National Park Authority which has a duty to uphold access rights. The Park Authority has number of ways of dealing with problems including:

  • Making contact with the relevant land manager.
  • Using ranger services to assist in finding practical solutions on the ground.
  • Taking advice from the Local Outdoor Access Forum which is made up of recreational users, land managers, community representatives and public bodies (eg Scottish Natural Heritage)
  • Using formal powers to uphold peoples’ access rights (e.g. by serving a legal notice to remove an obstruction to a path). For obvious reasons this is normally used as a last resort.

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