Orkney Islands Council
Working together for a better Orkney

Access Legislation

New legislation has recently been passed which clarifies public access rights in Scotland.

Land Reform Scotland Act 2003

Part One of the Land Reform Scotland Act 2003 has been created to give everyone greater freedom to enjoy the outdoors. It clarifies for both access users and land managers what you can and cannot do as well as where you can and cannot go. The new legislation came into force on 9 February 2004 creating “a statutory right of responsible access to most areas of land and inland water for the purpose of recreation and crossing land.”

The new right of access includes:

  • Hills, moorland, grassland, woods, coasts, paths and tracks, rivers and lochs.
  • Getting from one place to another.
  • Walking, cycling and horse riding, also running, climbing, sailing, wind surfing, canoeing and wild camping.
  • Pastimes such as photography, bird watching and painting.
  • Family and social activities like dog walking, beach games and picnics.
  • Taking part in recreational and educational events.

The main places where access rights do not apply are:

  • Houses and gardens, and non residential buildings and associated land.
  • Land in which crops are growing.
  • Land next to a school and used by the school.
  • Sports and playing fields when they are in use.
  • Golf courses, except for crossing a golf course without interfering with a game.
  • Places like airfields, working quarries and construction sites.
  • Visitor attractions which charge for entry.

Access rights do not extend to:

  • Hunting, shooting or fishing.
  • Anyone behaving in a manner which constitutes a statutory offence eg allowing a dog to worry livestock, breach of the peace.
  • Motorised vehicles, except for disabled access.
  • Anyone responsible for a dog which is not under proper control.
  • Anyone taking away anything from the land for commercial purposes.

In addition to creating a new access right, the Act also places nine new duties and eleven new powers upon the Council including:

  • An overarching duty to uphold access rights.
  • A duty to produce a Core Paths Plan.
  • A duty to establish a Local Access Forum.
  • A duty to publicise the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.

Scottish Outdoor Access Code

With the new access right comes a duty for everyone to act responsibly in the countryside. To define what is meant by responsible access the Scottish Outdoor Access Code has been produced. The Code gives advice and guidance to users and land managers on what their responsibilities are in relation to access.

The Code is based on three key principles which apply equally to access users and land managers:

  • Respect the interests of others.
  • Care for the environment.
  • Take responsibility for your own actions.

Finding Out More

  • The Land Reform Scotland Act 2003 is available from the Legislation.gov.uk website, available from the 'Related Sites' section of this page.
  • The Scottish Outdoor Access Code can be found at the Scottish Outdoor Access Code website, available from Related Sites.
  • The Scottish Outdoor Access website has valuable information on all aspects of access.
  • Free leaflets and booklets about access in Orkney are available at the Council Offices or from SNH.

Related Sites