Countryside access and rights of way

Public rights of way

A public right of way is a right of passage between two places that the public habitually go. Rights of way are a defined route often over private property. You can follow:

  • roads, tracks and paths
  • a less defined route over fields, hill and moorland
  • a path in an urban area

Public rights of way in Scotland become established through a history of use. For a right of way to exist it must meet four criteria which are:

  • the route must connect two public places
  • the route must follow a more or less defined route
  • the use must have been a right and not a consent
  • there must have been continuous use for 20 years or more

Countryside (Scotland) Act 1967

Section 46 of the above act outlines the statutory powers and duties of local authorities concerning the protection and management of rights of way.

We have a duty to keep paths open and free from obstruction and powers to carry out maintenance and improvement works.

Rights of Way in the Scottish Borders

The facts:

  • there are over 750 claimed rights of way throughout the region
  • this is over 1800km of paths
  • many of these form part of Scottish Borders Core Paths Plan 2009

For more information contact the ranger service.

Scottish Rights of Way and Access Society (Scotways)

Scotways works to monitor and protect Rights of Way. This charity was founded in 1845 in response to increasing restrictions to land by some landowners.

Scotland has enjoyed rights of way and responsible access to most open land for centuries. However, without legal protection these rights may have been lost. Scotways still works to protect access to the countryside for all.