Landward episode 16 2023

Landward episode 16 2023

Landward episode 16 2023 – In the picturesque and diverse landscapes of Scotland, our dedicated team takes a profound look at the nation’s celebrated ‘right to roam’ policy, a legacy that has flourished for over two decades since the landmark Land Reform Act of 2003 was introduced. Dougie sets out on an enriching expedition to the rolling hills of Moray. Here, he discovers that the gracious local farmers have not just embraced this policy, but have gone a step further by creating intricate, custom-made pathways specifically designed for outdoor enthusiasts and avid walkers.



Over in the mesmerizing terrain of the Pentlands, Anne laces up her hiking boots to join a renowned walking champion. This individual isn’t only an ambassador for the joys of hiking but is a fervent advocate for fostering greater diversity and representation within the broader outdoor community. As they tread the trails, they share insights on the beauty of Scotland and the significance of inclusive outdoor experiences.



Cammy, diving into the pastoral side of things, brings to the forefront a pressing concern that resonates deeply within the agricultural community. He delves into the challenges posed by untethered and out-of-control dogs, seeking solutions that respect both the freedom of the animals and the safety of the land.

Meanwhile, against the backdrop of Scotland’s rugged coastline, Arlene is a silhouette on her paddleboard, maneuvering gracefully as she spots seals basking in their natural habitat. Throughout her journey, she emphasizes the essence of responsible wildlife watching. She believes in allowing nature enthusiasts to immerse themselves in the wonders of the marine world, while also ensuring that their presence leaves the environment undisturbed and thrumming with life.


Landward episode 16 2023 –  Exploring Scotland’s ‘Right to Roam’ 20 Years After the Land Reform Act


The Passing of the Land Reform Act 2003 and the Right to Roam

In 2003, the Scottish Parliament passed landmark legislation – the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 – that established a statutory right of responsible access to most land and inland water in Scotland. This legislation, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, enshrined in law the centuries-old concept of the “right to roam”.

The right to roam, or “freedom to roam” as it is also known, gives the public the right to access most land and inland water in Scotland for recreation, education and passing through, subject to specific exclusions and restrictions. Prior to the Act, Scotland had a complex patchwork of laws and traditions around public access. The Land Reform Act brought clarity and consistency by codifying this access in statutory law.

At the heart of the right to roam is the principle that people should be able to enjoy Scotland’s majestic landscapes responsibly. This embodies the spirit that the land is an asset that should be open to all for health, wellbeing and enjoyment. As the great Scottish poet Norman MacCaig once wrote: “Let the land that gave you birth take you back”.

The Act requires those exercising access rights to do so responsibly by respecting people’s privacy, following the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, and avoiding damage or interference with land management. Landowners also have responsibilities to facilitate responsible access. Overall, the legislation aimed to balance public access with the rights of landowners and land managers.


Balancing Interests – The Delicate Dance of Access and Land Management

While the right to roam opens up Scotland’s countryside to the public, it also creates challenges in balancing different interests. Farmers and land managers have to facilitate access while ensuring their land use is not adversely impacted.

The rise of tourism and activities like mountain biking place more pressures on the landscape. Often beautiful and remote places become honeypots attracting large numbers of visitors. Such hotspots create environmental and safety issues that need careful management. Therefore, successfully implementing the right to roam involves an intricate dance between access and land management. It relies on cooperation, communication and compromise between landowners, the public and authorities. Responsible behaviour from those exercising their access rights is paramount. Small actions like keeping dogs under control and leaving gates as they are found can go a long way to maintaining goodwill. Most landowners happily welcome responsible access-takers who follow the Outdoor Access Code.

Authorities like Scottish Natural Heritage also have a key role in managing heavily used locations and helping to spread visitors to prevent congestion. Providing good infrastructure like paths and signage can make access easier while reducing impacts. Continued education around the Access Code is vital so people understand how to enjoy the countryside responsibly. Personal responsibility remains at the heart of making access work smoothly.


The Benefits – Health, Wellbeing and the Economy

While balancing interests is an ongoing task, the benefits stemming from the right to roam are immense. Most significantly, it has opened up Scotland’s spectacular landscapes to enable more people to enjoy the mental and physical health benefits of being active outdoors.

This aligns closely with the idea of nature as a free and accessible medicine that can help reduce pressures on healthcare services. A growing body of evidence shows that time outdoors reduces stress, anxiety and depression while boosting energy and concentration. The legislation has also boosted nature tourism, generating income for local businesses and communities. Nature-based tourism is now worth around £1.4 billion per year to the Scottish economy and provides jobs in remote rural areas.

Of course, some hotspot locations do require careful visitor management to prevent overcrowding and environmental damage. However, overall the Land Reform Act has facilitated an outdoor renaissance, where experiencing the restorative magic of Scotland’s wild places has become open to all.


Ongoing Work to Fine-Tune Access

While the Land Reform Act was groundbreaking legislation, managing the competing interests around land access remains an evolving process.

As recreation and tourism patterns change, pressure points emerge requiring collaborative solutions. Mountain biking’s rapid growth has necessitated more waymarked trails to concentrate activity and prevent conflict. Expanding paths and car parks are needed at some beauty spots to accommodate rising visitor numbers. Ongoing education around the responsible exercise of access rights is also essential. Occasional friction still occurs between some landowners and access-takers around issues like dogs worrying livestock. Clarifying what constitutes responsible behaviour is key.

The Act’s principles remain timeless, but its implementation must respond to new trends and usage patterns. This requires an open dialogue between interest groups to settle emerging issues. Compromise and mutual understanding from all sides is key to making integrated access work across Scotland’s diverse landscapes. The first 20 years of the Land Reform Act have revolutionised public access to the Scottish countryside. As we look to the future, embracing the delicate dance between access and land use will be critical to safeguarding these hard-won freedoms for generations to come.


Moray – Farmers Improving Access Infrastructure

In the beautiful region of Moray in northeast Scotland, farmers are actively facilitating public access by creating specially designed paths traversing their land. These new routes provide the public with responsible access while protecting farmland from damage or disturbance.

The paths have been constructed by farmers under Moray’s Core Path Improvement Programme, which provides them with fencing and path materials. The project shows the Land Reform Act working well, with landowners enhancing infrastructure to enable the public to enjoy the countryside responsibly. Moray farmer James Duncan has created a new path opening up a circular walk taking in stunning views of the Scalpie Burn and woods in the area of Arradoul. He says the route makes it easier for walkers to stick to a delineated track rather than wandering through fields and potentially disturbing livestock.

Meanwhile over in Rothes, farmer Archie Leitch has installed a path along the banks of the River Spey, Scotland’s fastest flowing river famous for its salmon fishing. Archie is happy for people to witness theSpey’s beauty, but wants them to avoid his crops and farm buildings. His new path solves this by directing people away from sensitive areas. The farmers say that by investing time and resources into developing good paths, they hope to focus access on routes that are appropriate, sustainable and safe. If visitors stick to these designated tracks, it helps prevent issues around privacy, disturbance and crushing crops.

Moray Council Outdoor Access Manager Duncan Eccles says: “It’s great to see farmers getting on board to improve their access infrastructure and work together with the public. It’s all about enhancing responsible enjoyment of this beautiful region.”


The Pentlands – Improving Diversity in the Outdoors

In the rolling Pentland Hills on Edinburgh’s doorstep, efforts are underway to promote diversity and make the outdoors more welcoming to all. The Pentland Hills Regional Park regularly organises hikes led by people from different backgrounds, which helps attract fresh faces who may not traditionally be involved in countryside activities. One such event is a monthly women-only hike welcoming females who want to venture into the hills in an unintimidating environment. The walks create a relaxed ambience to experience the joys of landscape without having to worry about keeping up with super-fit males.

The hike leader, Edinburgh resident Olivia Smith, explains: “Some women don’t feel comfortable striding up mountains alongside lots of men. These walks give women confidence to get outdoors and socialise without any self-consciousness.” As a relatively novice walker herself, Olivia is keen to inspire more people to connect with nature. She says: “You don’t need to be super sporty to gain all the mental and physical benefits. Walking and chatting with other women in a supportive group gives people the impetus to take their first steps.”

The Pentland walks form part of a nationwide initiative by Scottish Women in Sport to break down barriers and improve gender balance in outdoor recreation and adventure tourism. Scotland has a wealth of get-outdoors programmes targeting under-represented groups like women, ethnic minorities and those with disabilities. Because outdoor recreation should be open to all as a route to better health and revitalised wellbeing. As Olivia says, you do not need to be the next Sir Chris Bonington to gain the magic of the mountains. Simply being able to access the uplands and absorb the restorative power of nature is a right that all should enjoy.


Out of Control – The Problem of Dogs Worrying Livestock

However, some key issues still threaten responsible access to rural Scotland. One major problem is dogs worrying and attacking livestock, which causes terrible suffering to animals and financial loss for farmers. Under the Land Reform Act, those exercising access rights must keep their dogs under proper control by a lead or close at heel. But worryingly, incidents of sheep worrying are on the rise. Dogs can chase after sheep, often leaving them maimed or dead in horrific kills. The suffering for the sheep and emotional toll on farmers is immense.

Prominent rural campaigner and farmer Cammy Douglas has had twelve sheep savaged and killed by an out-of-control dog this year in Aberdeenshire. He says: “It was a horrific scene of unimaginable cruelty. And it affects our livelihoods by killing the very animals we rely on. We welcome responsible dog walkers, but owners must keep their pets firmly under control.” Scotland’s Access Code specifies keeping dogs on a lead near livestock and removing poo from fields. But the message is clearly not getting through to some irresponsible owners.

More education is vital to emphasise to dog walkers that letting pets roam free near farm animals breaches the right to roam ethos. Stronger enforcement is also needed of the Access Code and laws like the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Act 2021 that make dog attacks on livestock a criminal offence.

Responsible access relies on all involved acting reasonably. Dog walkers must play their part by keeping their pets strictly leashed and leaving no trace when visiting the countryside. This ensures the original spirit of the Land Reform Act remains alive.


Arlene’s Seal Spotting Paddleboarding Adventure

A wonderful way to experience Scotland’s amazing wildlife and scenery is to go paddleboarding, navigating the waters while spotting seals, dolphins and seabirds. However, this must be done with care to avoid disturbing sensitive marine species. In a recent Landward episode, presenter Arlene Stuart explored the waters of the Moray Firth off the far northeast coast of Scotland to marvel at its thriving seal colonies. But she did so in a careful way that put conservation first.

Arlene went out paddleboarding with expert guide Jessie Simpson, who is passionate about enabling people to connect with wildlife from the water, while adamantly prioritising animal welfare. Jessie says: “Paddleboarding is a unique way to immerse yourself in nature, floating silently over kelp forests and getting eye-to-eye with curious seals. But we need to do it sustainably by following strict seal watching guidelines.” Key rules include maintaining a 100m distance from seals and never separating mothers from their pups. Loud noises, splashing or sudden movements can disturb the animals, so people should paddle smoothly and keep noise to a minimum.

Jessie always briefs her clients thoroughly so they understand how to appreciate seals safely. She says: “Watching Sealife in its natural environment is a privilege that comes with a duty of care. With the right education, paddleboarding can open people’s eyes to the wonders of the coastal environment.” Arlene’s magical adventure showed how access activities like paddleboarding can foster deeper connections with nature, so long as done mindfully. With responsible guiding, appreciating wildlife from the water need not cost the price of disturbing these captivating creatures in their realm.


The Isle of Eigg – A Model for Community-Owned Land


The small Hebridean island of Eigg provides an inspirational example of land owned and managed sustainably by the local community. In 1997, the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust led a community buy-out of the island, ending centuries of control by absentee landlords. This empowered the 100 residents to take charge of managing their home in a way that balances people and nature. Eigg is run by the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust, comprising a board elected from the islanders. Decisions about land use are made democratically for the benefit of all. The island even generates most of its electricity from renewable sources like solar, wind and hydro.

Local resident Maggie Fyffe says: “The community pull together to care for this island like one big family. We respect its fragile ecology and want to tread lightly so future generations can enjoy Eigg’s beauty.” A key priority is safeguarding the island’s diverse wildlife like corncrakes, golden eagles and whales. Eigg operates as a wildlife sanctuary guided by principles of harmony between humans and nature. Sustainable land stewardship underpins everything. Islanders work together to manage grazing, restore peatlands and monitor rare species. A special ranger service helps coordinate conservation efforts.

Eigg’s community-driven approach could provide inspiration for local empowerment and green innovation elsewhere in Scotland. As Maggie says:

“We’ve proven that when people feel connected to the land and have a stake in decisions, they look after it so much better. Everyone should have some control over the land where they live.”


Callander – Coping with Overtourism Pressures

However, increasing visitor numbers are putting pressure on some rural hotspots like Callander in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. Located conveniently near Glasgow and Edinburgh, the popularity of Callander has exploded in recent years. Day-trippers and tour buses pour in during summer months, causing congestion in the village and littering of beauty spots. Local resident Elspeth Murray says: “Don’t get me wrong, we want people to come enjoy our corner of Scotland. But the sheer volume of visitors is making life difficult for locals and harming the environment.” Issues like illegal camping, overflowing bins and pollution have become commonplace. Locals often can’t even access car parks or trails on weekends due to overcrowding.

Callander Community Council is working closely with National Park authorities and Police Scotland to mitigate challenges through measures like:

  • Expanding infrastructure like car parking and toilet facilities
  • Extra ranger patrols to enforce responsible behaviour
  • Traffic management to ease congestion
  • ‘Rediscover Callander’ initiative promoting lesser-known sites

As Elspeth notes: “We need to manage visitors better and spread them beyond the honeypot hotspots. With some careful planning, we can share the beauty of Callander without it being loved to death.”

Overtourism is an issue facing scenic sites worldwide. But solutions exist through responsible promotion, visitor education and community-led management. The combined insight of locals is key to developing sustainable tourism.



Ben Lawers – Treading Lightly In Fragile Landscapes

However, some landscapes require special care as their ecology is highly sensitive to trampling. An example is the high mountain Ben Lawers in Perthshire, which is home to rare arctic-alpine plants. This protects habitats while still allowing climbers to ascend this spectacular Munro peak.

As hillwalker Ruaridh Cameron explains: “Ben Lawers needs very careful management as its alpine flora is extremely fragile. Just one footstep can obliterate decades of growth. By sticking to defined paths, we can still enjoy the summit without damaging its rare treasures.” The National Trust for Scotland owns much of the land on Ben Lawers. It has an expert conservation team that carefully monitors and safeguards the mountain environment. Boardwalks, signage and ranger patrols help control access to prevent harm. But personal responsibility is still paramount. Hillwalkers must respect rules like avoiding protected areas and sticking to marked routes.

As Ruaridh advises: “When we visit fragile places, we need to be extra vigilant to tread lightly. Simple actions like staying on the path really do make a difference in protecting special spots like Ben Lawers.” Scotland is blessed with remarkable landscapes, but some require special care. With growing outdoor recreation, a mindset of responsible access is key to preserving our environmental heritage.


Scotland’s Great Outdoors – A Natural Treasure For All

Scotland’s wild and beautiful landscapes are the nation’s greatest asset. The Land Reform Act’s enshrining of public access rights has allowed this natural treasure to be enjoyed by all. However, with such privilege comes great responsibility. Exercising access rights sustainably is critical as recreation patterns change and pressures on hotspots grow. Small individual actions like staying on paths, keeping dogs controlled and leaving no trace can protect landscapes when multiplied by thousands of users. Personal responsibility remains the cornerstone of preserving access.

But collaboration is equally vital between landowners, public agencies, communities and access-takers. Communication and willingness to compromise allows win-win solutions to be found to conflicting needs. As the iconic Scottish writer Nan Shepherd wrote: “The hills are a refuge where spirit and body can be recharged and remade”. Scotland’s landscapes renew and inspire, if accessed with respect.

The legacy of the Land Reform Act is to be guarded carefully so these revitalising lands remain open to all. With mindful exercise of our access rights, the majesty of Scotland’s countryside will endure for the health and enjoyment of generations to come.


Key Takeaways – What We Have Learned

  • The Land Reform Act was a milestone in clarifying public access rights to the countryside. But its success depends on people exercising these responsibly.
  • Balancing access with land management relies on cooperation between all interest groups and willingness to compromise.
  • Access to nature provides immense benefits for health and wellbeing. Widening participation is important so everyone can experience the magic of the outdoors.
  • Issues like overtourism, dogs worrying livestock and trampling fragile habitats need collaborative solutions based on education, responsibility and better infrastructure.
  • Small individual actions to protect the environment and respect other users are crucial. Personal responsibility and following the Access Code remain pivotal.
  • With care, the right to roam can continue allowing Scotland’s rejuvenating landscapes to be enjoyed sustainably by all.


FAQs Landward episode 16 2023


Q: What is the Scottish Outdoor Access Code?

A: This is the set of guidance that outlines responsibilities for exercising access rights responsibly, covering issues like keeping dogs under control, avoiding damaging property and respecting privacy.

Q: Can landowners restrict access to their land?

A: Access can be restricted for certain legitimate purposes like land management, privacy and public safety. But blanket restrictions are not permitted – access must still be facilitated where possible.

Q: Where does the right to roam apply in Scotland?

A: It covers most uncultivated countryside like hills, woods and beaches. There are certain exclusions like houses, gardens and sports fields. The Access Code provides more detailed guidance.

Q: What should I do if approached by farm animals while hiking?

A: Move calmly out the field and rejoin a path or track. Do not panic or run, as this can frighten livestock and cause them to give chase.

Q: How can I travel responsibly between places in the Scottish countryside?

A: Use public transport where possible and walk or cycle for local trips. Park considerately if driving and don’t block access. Support local businesses to benefit rural communities.


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