What are your access rights?

In Scotland we can access most beaches, forests, hills, moors and lots of other places. Here we'll explain all the places you can go and how to be responsible and take care when you're there!

Children on a path doing star jumps

Scottish access rights

In Scotland, people have traditionally been able to freely access and enjoy the outdoors, but up until 2003 it wasn’t actually part of Scotland’s laws.  Now, people in Scotland have the right of responsible access to almost anywhere in Scotland provided they follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.

You are allowed to access land like the hills, moors, forest and beaches; and waters like the coast rivers and lochs. There are some places that you’re not allowed to access under these rights like houses, gardens, other buildings, and places that charge for entry. The types of things you are allowed to do include things like walking, swimming, cycling and horse riding.  There are certain types of activity you aren’t allowed to do, like using motor vehicles.

Take responsibility for your own actions

Make sure you are familiar with the Outdoor Access Code and what your responsibilities are. Know the basics like: leaving gates as you find them; not walking through fields of crops; not cutting down or damaging trees; keeping dogs under control; cleaning up after yourself and you’ll be well on your way to becoming an expert in the Code. Take care of yourself and others. Scotland’s outdoors is a great place to enjoy but it can also be hazardous - do what you can to keep yourself and others safe.  

Respect the interests of others

As well as being a wonderful place to you to enjoy, Scotland’s outdoors is also a place for others to enjoy and also to live and work in.  You should respect the privacy of people’s houses and gardens and follow reasonable advice from land managers, like farmers and foresters.  Other people have the right to enjoy the outdoors as well – simple actions like letting people know you are approaching them, or stopping and stepping out of the way are all things you can do that respect others.
Land managers should also respect your interests too.  If you find that your access to the outdoors has been stopped or made more difficult (such as by a path being blocked) you can report this to your local access officer.

Care for the environment

The simplest thing you can do to care for the environment while you are enjoying the outdoors is to take your rubbish home with you.  You could also consider picking up and taking home other people’s litter as well.  You should take care not to disturb or damage wildlife: for example don’t pick wildflowers - take a photo instead.  You should also take care not to damage historic sites and buildings.

Other resources

NatureScot have created some great resources to help you learn about the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. There’s loads of detailed information, including this short leaflet called Enjoy Scotland’s Outdoors with all the info to get you started. There's also some new guidance for accessing the outdoors during the coronavirus pandemic.

Take your litter with you - Scottish Outdoor Access Code

Activities to try

  • Have a chat with your family about these 2 posters aimed at 8-12 year olds and 12-14 year olds.  See if you can tell if the people in the pictures are following the Scottish Outdoor Access Code or not.
  • These activity guides for 8-12 year olds and for 12-14 year olds have games, quizzes and challenges. They've been designed to be used in a school environment but you can use the activities in them at home as well.
  • Know the Code Before you Go with this “Crack the Code Dial” you can print off and cut out at home.
  • Try our Be Wise Outside Quiz below!


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