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Outdoor Access right to roam

Outdoor Access right to roam


Postby Woodencat » Wed Jan 20, 2021 1:30 pm

Hello, I’m new to Scotland and am still trying to understand ‘right to roam’ laws. Can anyone help me understand if I can access privately owned estate grounds? Mount Stuart on the Isle of Bute is short walk from me, but I am still unsure if I am allowed to actually wonder legally within the woodlands. There are separate ornamental gardens by the main country house, but I just want to walk through the woods to access the coast. Normally when the estate is open (not during currently COVID restrictions) the land, gardens and house is open to the public with paid access only, during the winters it is all closed and many people have said they access the land for dog walking etc. But I want to know legally if I am allowed. Any help? Many thanks
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Re: Outdoor Access right to roam

Postby Skyelines » Wed Jan 20, 2021 6:00 pm

Here's a link to all you might want to know about the access code https://www.outdooraccess-scotland.scot/

My understanding is that if access to an area has been by a charge then when closed access would normally not be allowed.

However it depends to some extent on what the property owner is charging for.

For example if the charge is for car-parking and access to specified parts of the area but access is possible on foot to the rest of the area without a charge it would seem reasonable to presume the uncharged areas are free to access at all times on foot.
The counter to this view would be that free access on foot is a concession only during times that the property is open to charged access.

So it is not as straightforward as one might hope.
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Re: Outdoor Access right to roam

Postby FraserHughes » Wed Jan 20, 2021 6:39 pm

Here is the full guidance.

https://www.outdooraccess-scotland.scot/sites/default/files/2018-05/Publication%202005%20-%20Scottish%20Outdoor%20Access%20Code.pdf

It is all worth a read if you're not familier but pages 24 and 25 are the most relevant section.

My understanding is you can legally access the woodland providing your are responsible and respect their privacy.

In fact I'm not really sure they should be charging for access to the woodland or extended estate in summer.....
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Re: Outdoor Access right to roam

Postby FraserHughes » Wed Jan 20, 2021 7:02 pm

I should probably have added you shouldn't go through the formal gardens, past the house, or within the curtilage on any building to gain access to the woodland.
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Re: Outdoor Access right to roam

Postby davekeiller » Wed Jan 20, 2021 8:26 pm

A useful rule of thumb is that if there's a public right of way crossing the land, then you're definitely allowed to use that, and you should be able to wander freely from the path. If you have to cross a fence or pass through a locked gate, then you're somewhere that you probably shouldn't be.
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Re: Outdoor Access right to roam

Postby Marty_JG » Wed Jan 20, 2021 10:28 pm

davekeiller wrote:If you have to cross a fence or pass through a locked gate, then you're somewhere that you probably shouldn't be.


The exclusions from Right To Roam are much more limited than that.

  • Houses and other residences, and sufficient space around them to give residents reasonable privacy and lack of disturbance this will often be the garden area.
  • Places, such as visitor attractions, which charge for entry.
  • Other buildings, works and structures, and the areas around them (curtilages).
  • Land where crops are growing. Grass is not treated as a crop, except hay and silage in the late stages of growth. You can exercise access rights on field margins.
  • Land next to and used by a school.
  • Land on which building or engineering works are being carried out, or which is being used for mineral working or quarrying.
  • Land developed and in use for a particular recreational purpose, where the exercise of access rights would interfere with this use.
  • Land set out for a particular recreational purpose or as a sports or playing field, when it is being used for that purpose and exercise of the rights would interfere with the use. But rights never apply to specially prepared sports surfaces golf greens, tennis courts or bowling greens.


The courts have found for-and-against land-owners. Fife Council successful prosecuted landowners from trying to prevent access to walkers via the erection of a fence. They got a £500 fine but, much more significantly, were held liable for the council's entire legal fees. The Highland Council lost a case against landowners for preventing access to horses on a trail, their argument was horses would damage the fragile trail but they otherwise did not prevent, indeed they encouraged, other forms of access. It was found, on appeal, to be a reasonable balance: the intent was not to deny access, the genuine intent was to restrict damage.

I think the most relevant one I can find is this:
GLOAG V PERTH & KINROSS COUNCIL and THE RAMBLERS ASSOCIATION
PERTH SHERIFF COURT, B111/06

The following is a summary of the decision by Sheriff Michael Fletcher in the Perth Sheriff Court on 12th June 2007.

Mrs Gloag bought Kinfauns Castle, a former hotel, and renovated it for her own residential use. Work had begun on a swimming pool and leisure area to the west of the house. Kinfauns castle is a substantial mansion with a terrace on its south side, which is the side used by the family, with offices and staff accommodation on the North side.

There is cultivated garden ground round the house with large areas of closely mown lawns, flower boarders and specimen trees and bushes, all in the nature of a domestic garden. There are also large bushes and mature trees on the area shaped like a horse shoe where the grass was cut but not as closely as the lawns. All this extends to 11 acres.

There is also a substantial area of woodland on the south and west of the garden ground. Some of this is on steeply sloping ground. The woodland had become overgrown with weeds and bushes as had the paths within them, but both were now being cleared and restored. The woodland was probably designed to provide privacy for the occupants of the house and gardens, the trees being intensive where more members of the public could be expected. [The area involved seems from the map annexed to the judgment to be about 4 acres.]

The north side of the house, and some of the garden can probably be seen by persons on the public road on the top of Kinnoull Hill.

The house, because the occupier would likely be of substantial means, would be likely to attract the interest of the public, and of criminals.

Mrs Gloag, concerned about the safety of herself and her family, and possible attempts to steal the valuable contents in the house, built a security fence surrounding the house and part of her property, so entrance can only be taken through the main gates and pedestrian gates or by climbing over the fence. The fence would not keep out determined criminals, other measures being necessary for that. It might, however, prevent casual intrusion. The fence follows a stob and wire fence or a drystone dyke some way round the property owned by Mrs Gloag, and for some way through the property. The new fence however also runs to the south of the woodlands including them within the perimeter.

The fence required planning permission, and after it had been built this was obtained retrospectively by Mrs Gloag. She then applied to the Court under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, Section 28(1)(a), to have the area within the fence declared to be exempt from access rights. She claimed it was land adjacent to Kinfauns Castle sufficient to enable those living there to have reasonable measures of privacy in the house, and to ensure their enjoyment of it was not unreasonably disturbed. This exemption is contained in Section 6(1)(b)(iv) of the Act, and one of the determining factors is the location and other characteristics of the house (Section 7(5) of the Act).

The Sheriff held that Section 6 referred to a fictitious occupant of Kinfauns and not to Mrs Gloag the actual occupant. He had, therefore, to analyse the characteristics of Kinfauns Castle and the surrounding ground.

Any person who was likely to purchase such a house would only do so if they had a substantial area round the house for their private use. A reasonable person would expect a reasonably substantial area of ground (the Sheriff later referred to quite a large area of ground) would be required to provide reasonable measures of privacy and the enjoyment of the house. As the Act gave little assistance he had to rely to some extent on judicial knowledge, but the evidence in the case also led to the view he had reached.

The area required for the enjoyment of a house like Kinfauns would contain lawns and gardens and immediately surrounding woodlands, especially when the latter were being criss-crossed by paths and used for children to play in. As for security, if one ignored Mrs Gloag's own wealth, and the valuables in the house, it was legitimate to conclude that whoever bought Kinfauns Castle would have to have considerable resources and would be likely to possess valuable objects. The evidence in the case showed both the need for a barrier to indicate where security measures began, and that the most suitable location was its existing location. Concern about security could prevent the occupant from having their enjoyment of the house ensured.

The fact that the fence followed the line of a previous fence showed that it was not placed along a purely arbitrary line, but one which a previous occupant had considered was required to secure their privacy and enjoyment of the property. The restoration of former paths, as against their creation, suggested that they had originally been created for the enjoyment of the amenity of the house.

The fact that much of the house can be viewed from outside should not diminish the amount of ground sufficient for privacy and enjoyment of the house.

All parties had agreed that the 2003 Act was not incompatible with the European Convention of Human Rights. The Sheriff said that the Act required the Court to find what was sufficient land for privacy and enjoyment of the house and if it was wrong that could be put right (presumably on appeal). There was no need to refer to the Convention.

Perth & Kinross Council had proposed a different line for the fence excluding the edge of the horseshoe, a narrow wooded area on the east bordering a track, and the woodland at the south and southwest.

The question arose whether this line had been determined by relying on the wording in the Code at 3.13- 3.16. Although it was argued that the Code had been used to help decide on what land was adjacent to the house, the Sheriff held that the evidence of the Council Officers, and the line they proposed, showed they regarded the Code as extremely important in deciding whether the woodland areas should be included, and whether grass being short or long had a bearing. In a laudable attempt to create consistency, the information in the Code was being used to gauge what was sufficient ground. That, he said, was the wrong approach in deciding what was sufficient ground, although in looking at the characteristics of the house, the topography of the surrounding ground did have to be considered.

The Ramblers Association led evidence that the legislation allowed a flexible approach, leaving much to the discretion of the access taker whether or not to proceed. Provided the Code was followed there would not be difficulty. The practical experience following the Act was that conflict was being avoided, and 95% of access takers did so responsibly, but that where a person was taking access irresponsibly the legislation did not concern itself with criminal activities and that the ordinary criminal law could be relied on to resolve such difficulties.

The Sheriff found this evidence that the high ideals of the Act would be followed by the vast majority of access takers to have been contradicted by the evidence of Dave Morris of the Ramblers Association. He had taken access at Kinfauns over land which he knew to be excluded from the Act, refused the request of the land manager to leave, and claimed to the police that he was operating in terms of the new legislation, and that it was a purely civil matter The Sheriff considered that these actions were not just irresponsible but “probably creating a breach of the peace".

Counsel for the Ramblers suggested that the legislation created generalised mutual rights and obligations relating to access, and departure from these had to have a compelling reason. The Sheriff said that the court had no discretion to take the rights of the access taker into account or to decide whether there should be a right of access or not. The court has to decide the amount of ground required. It is Parliament that has decreed there are no access rights on it.

The Act did not provide that there is an onus on the occupant of the house to justify the exclusion of access rights, failing which they will apply. In fact the occupant is entitled to sufficient land to ensure that their enjoyment in the house is not unreasonably disturbed. It is for the Courts to determine what that is.

The Court decided that the land which was the subject of Mrs Gloag's application fell within the description of sufficient land to enable persons living there to have reasonable measures of privacy in the house known as Kinfauns Castle and to ensure that their enjoyment of that house is not unreasonably disturbed.

Comments by ScotWays

The decision in this case raised a number of interesting points.

1. Section 6(1)(b)(iv) postulates a fictitious occupant of the house and not the particular occupant of the house for the time being.

2. The court is required to consider the characteristics of the house and its location in considering the extent of the area of land which the Act excludes from access rights. As there is little guidance in the Act, judicial knowledge may well have a part to play.

3. Para 3.13 3.16 of the Scottish Outdoor Access Code does not determine what land is included in access rights although the topography of the land will have to be considered.

4. The 2003 Act is not incompatible with the European Convention of Human Rights, and since the Act requires the Court to establish what is sufficient land to enjoy privacy and enjoyment there is no need to refer to the Convention.

5. There is no onus on the occupant to justify the land they wish to be excluded. It is for the Court to determine its extent.


https://www.scotways.com/court-cases/252-gloag-v-perth-a-kinross-council-and-the-ramblers-association

So the short answer is, "it depends". :lol:
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Re: Outdoor Access right to roam

Postby rgf101 » Thu Jan 21, 2021 10:09 am

You might be better off asking on a local Facebook group or similar,people there will know what actually happens. You can also phone the estate and ask what they say. If you think access isn't being allowed where it should be, you can contact the access officer at the local council.
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Re: Outdoor Access right to roam

Postby davekeiller » Thu Jan 21, 2021 11:36 am

@Marty_JG please note my use of the phrase "useful rule of thumb" and the word "probably".

If you cross a fence or wall somewhere other than a stile or unlocked gate then that indicates that you're crossing a boundary that the landowner doesn't want you to cross. That doesn't automatically mean that you're trespassing on land where you have no right of access, but it is an indication that the landowner doesn't want you going that way.

Given that the OP just wants to go for a quiet afternoon walk I don't think we need to go too deeply into detailed points of law.
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Re: Outdoor Access right to roam

Postby Marty_JG » Thu Jan 21, 2021 3:42 pm

I know, but I'm also keen for landowners not to take away the rights we've been granted under the law, and several have tried and several continue to do so.
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Re: Outdoor Access right to roam

Postby Glengavel » Thu Jan 21, 2021 4:35 pm

Marty_JG wrote:I know, but I'm also keen for landowners not to take away the rights we've been granted under the law, and several have tried and several continue to do so.


Amen to that.
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Re: Outdoor Access right to roam

Postby Scottk » Thu Jan 21, 2021 10:01 pm

You could always take out a membership! On a serious note, the paid ticket is for house and gardens so access to the wood should be ok. I think it may be a working forest so any signs should be obeyed if there is logging activity.
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Re: Outdoor Access right to roam

Postby Woodencat » Fri Jan 22, 2021 2:32 pm

Thank you for all your replies, sorry if this message repeats, I wrote a long answer and it didn’t upload.

After reading all your advice, I think it’s very likely I’m not allowed on the grounds. The entire area is gated and charged entry to when open to the public, so I am assuming this means it’s restricted. The estate has privately rented properties on the grounds, which is why there are a few permanently open areas that are easy to access. I have also been confused why they have built a huge stone wall to block access along the coastal beaches - as I thought all coastal land was open to everyone (?). The main thing I have noticed, is that they have legally termed all the woodlands, forest and coastal area as ‘gardens’, therefore restricting it to access under ‘right to roam’. I’m sure there is a lot of critical opinions about this that I am unaware of as a newer resident, and I don’t use Facebook so am probably unaware of the ‘talk’ about rules and rights and what is fair on the estate. Thanks so much for your advice and help, I will try to ask around more and find out. Thanks
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Re: Outdoor Access right to roam

Postby Woodencat » Fri Jan 22, 2021 2:38 pm

Scottk wrote:You could always take out a membership! On a serious note, the paid ticket is for house and gardens so access to the wood should be ok. I think it may be a working forest so any signs should be obeyed if there is logging activity.


I think all in all you are right. I will purchase a membership and therefore I think it states I can access the grounds during winter. Thank you
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Re: Outdoor Access right to roam

Postby rabthecairnterrier » Fri Jan 22, 2021 8:17 pm

From your description it sounds to me as if the estate are pushing the boundaries a bit here over what they can legally get away with.
I'm not however, local so obviously can't say for sure.
Best thing is to ask the Council's Access Officer who's job it is to ensure everyone is acting in accordance with the legislation. If that doesn't clear things up for you, you can refer it to the Local Access Forum, the statutory body the Council is obliged to consult should there be any dispute.
Details of both available here:
https://www.argyll-bute.gov.uk/planning-and-environment/outdoor-access-argyll-and-bute
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Re: Outdoor Access right to roam

Postby matt_outandabout » Tue Jan 26, 2021 12:42 pm

The main thing I have noticed, is that they have legally termed all the woodlands, forest and coastal area as ‘gardens’, therefore restricting it to access under ‘right to roam’.


This is pushing the legality and spirit of the access laws. They are not unusual in this - I have a few times when apparently rivers or whole mountains are "closed".

I used to run an outdoor centre with three access paths through the middle of our 18 acres. Under Child Protection and Scottish access law we could have created a situation where we restricted access significantly. Instead what we did is redirect one path so that hillwalkers used the main road access more, and cut up the hill 100m after the historic path. We also simply asked our hillwalkers to stick to the path and any staff would engage with them positively ("Hello, how's your day and what hill are you heading up?"), as a way of actually keeping an eye on where they headed (one path disappeared down a wooded gorge side, towards where kids would play). What we couldn't have done is close completely the grounds - 11 of the 18 acres were open hillside!
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