Paths and rights of access - advice and information

Stirling's outdoors, extending from the parks and open spaces in our towns to the remote and wild areas of land and water, provide great opportunities for open-air recreation, help improve people’s health and contribute to the economy of the area. 

The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003

What is it?

On 9th February 2009 the Act came into force. Part One of the Act creates a statutory right of responsible access for everyone to most land and inland water in Scotland for the purposes of:

  • recreation
  • carrying out a relevant educational activity
  • commercially or for profit, an activity which the person could carry on otherwise than commercially or for profit (e.g. leading a nature walk, taking photography class).

Who does it apply to?

Everyone who takes non-motorised access including not just walkers but cyclists, horse riders, canoeists, paragliders, potholers and others. It does not include any motorised forms of transport with the exception of motorised wheelchairs and mobility scooters. 

However certain activities are excluded from the Act. These include:

  • hunting, shooting and fishing
  • being on land when responsible for a dog or other animal not under proper control
  • taking things away from the land for commercial purposes or for profit
  • being on land with a motorised vehicle (other than one constructed or adapted for use by a person who has a disability, being used by that person)
  • being on a golf course for recreation, although you are allowed to cross it.

Where can I not go?

Although the Act does give you a right of responsible access to most land and inland water in Scotland, there are certain areas where your access rights do not exist.

  These include:

  • buildings or other structures
  • curtilages of buildings that are not houses (e.g. farmyards)
  • in relation to a house, sufficient adjacent land to enable persons living there to have reasonable measures of privacy in the house to ensure that their enjoyment of the house is not unreasonably disturbed
  • private gardens in common ownership
  • land next to schools
  • land developed or set out as a sports or playing field or for a particular recreational purpose
  • land in which crops have been sown or are growing (but field margins are OK)
  • land excluded by virtue of past entry by payment.

The Scottish Outdoor Access Code

The Scottish Outdoor Access Code defines what is meant by responsible. The Code gives advice and guidance to users and land managers on what their respective responsibilities are in different settings and situations.

Stirling Local Access Forum has also produced 'Enjoy Stirling's Outdoors - Your Guide to Responsible Access' to help you on your way.

Countryside Access and Recreation Strategy

Developed by the Stirling Area Local Access Forum, the Countryside Access and Recreation Strategy has the vision of improving access and recreation opportunities for all to the countryside in the Stirling Council area, whilst promoting responsible use, supporting rural economies and respecting current land management. The key principles and policies all promote working in a sustainable way with communities to meet their needs whilst promoting responsible use.

The strategy was last reviewed in 2005

Core Paths Plan

The Act puts a duty on us to produce a Core Paths Plan. This is a system of paths providing you with reasonable access throughout your area. A core path can be anything— a right of way, farm track, an old drove road, a route published in a guidebook, basically anywhere whether there is a route on the ground or water, or not.

We produced the Core Paths Plain in consultation with the local communities and the Stirling Council Core Paths Plan was adopted in 2009. We are currently working to bring the network up to standard. 

Rights of Way

Before the current road system was created, people used a network of paths, known as rights of way to go about their everyday business. Routes included drovers routes for cattle, paths to enable people to walk to work and even routes used by postal services to deliver mail. Many of these routes became public roads, some have become overgrown or been destroyed, but many are still in existence.

Rights of Way are governed primarily by Common Law and must fulfil the following criteria:

  • A path must run from one public place to another public place. Usually the public place is a road.
  • The path must follow a more or less defined route.
  • The path must have been used openly by the public without the permission of the landowner.
  • The path must have been used for 20 years or more.

There is no definitive map of rights of way in Scotland although we do record all rights of way that we know about. As long as a path meets all four of the above criteria, it is a right of way whether it is recorded by the council or not.

For further information on Rights of Way in Stirling, please contact the Access Officer. Scotways also provides useful information on the subject.