Rights and responsibilities

The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 came into effect in February 2005. The Act gives the public a right of responsible access to most land and inland water in Scotland. This extends from parks and open spaces in towns to more remote areas of the countryside. The right is for crossing land or for going onto land for recreational purposes.

This is a right of non-motorised access, so it extends to walking, cycling, horse riding, canoeing and other recreational pursuits.

It does not cover motorised vehicles, unless it is a vehicle or vessel specifically adapted for and being used by a person with a disability. This right of access to the outdoors comes with responsibilities. Your access rights and responsibilities are fully explained in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. The three main principles of the Code are to:

  • take responsibility for your own actions
  • respect the interests of other people
  • care for the environment.

Further information on the Land Reform Act and the Scottish Outdoor Access Code can be found on the Scottish Outdoor Access Code website.

Wild camping

Access rights extend to wild camping. This type of camping is lightweight, done in small numbers, in remote country and only for a couple of nights in one place. The basic rule is,

Leave no trace of your visit, take everything out with you:

  • avoid causing problems by not camping in enclosed fields of crops or animals and by keeping well away from buildings, roads and historic structures 
  • take extra care during the deer stalking/grouse shooting seasons
  • if you wish to camp close to a building, seek the owner's permission
  • ensure you do not disturb others whilst camping. A good guide to best practice is available at the Mountaineering Council of Scotland