Scotland has a unique system of statutory rights of responsible access to land and water. Our system is very different to the one in England and Wales, and is more like those in the Scandinavian countries. We have greater rights than elsewhere in the UK, but there is more emphasis on our corresponding responsibilities.
For anyone that is not familiar with the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, it is worth taking some time to read the following information and explore the suggested links. This should help to prepare you for your time in Scotland’s outdoors and enable you to exercise your rights in a responsible way.
For further information about the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, click here.
There are a lot of myths and misunderstandings surrounding some of our rights and responsibilities, so the following section has been written to provide a clear guide to the laws relating to camping, fires, dogs and litter. For further detail on any of these issues, please refer to the Scottish Outdoor Access Code (Section 5 and Annex 1) from the link above.
Section 2 of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 states that: “A person has access rights only if they are exercised responsibly”. Our access rights are cherished in Scotland and so is the tidiness of our towns and countryside where we go to seek our recreation and relaxation. We have rights to walk, cycle, paddle our canoes and ride our horses, but anyone who breaks the law by dropping litter, creating a fire hazard, allowing dogs to worry livestock, or causing a breach of the peace is then deemed to have surrendered those rights. Please read the information on this page and ensure that you are fully informed and able to act within the spirit of the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.
There are three very different types of camping that are worth describing and drawing a distinction between.
- Camping on a caravan and campsite. There are numerous caravan and campsites in the Heart 200 area and many of these are promoted via this website.
- Wild camping is a great way to spend the night away from civilisation, usually as part of a multi-day journey in remote country. Scotland’s access rights provide us with the statutory right to camp in this way. These links provide useful advice for those planning to wild camp. Mountaineering Scotland. Scottish Canoe Association.
- Roadside camping is not wild camping. In many places around the Heart 200 route, there have been serious problems caused by inappropriate roadside camping, such as litter, pollution and fires getting out of control. Whilst it is possible to camp beside the road legally, our advice would be to: 1. Pitch late, 2. Leave early, 3. Leave the site cleaner than you found it, 4. Do not light open fires close to the roadside, and 5. Never miss an opportunity to use a proper toilet and avoid defecating close to the roadside.
Another term for inappropriate roadside camping is dirty camping. Like many places in Scotland, parts of our area have suffered considerable problems from hooligan behaviour linked with people camping in a reckless and illegal manner close to rural roads and lochshores. This kind of anti-social behaviour is not welcomed by local communities and will often be dealt with by the police. To repeat the line from the section above, ‘A person has access rights only if they are exercised responsibly’. The people causing these problems have chosen to surrender their access rights by breaking a range of laws linked to littering, causing damage to property and livestock, endangering wildlife, creating fire hazards and various other criminal offences.
For the benefit of local residents and to help maintain the area in a condition that others will wish to visit, please do not camp beside a road or lochshore if you are not prepared to follow these simple guidelines and stay within the law.
Always use a stove for cooking, it is the best way to prevent wildfires.
Campfires in the wrong place, such as on peaty ground or near trees, can cause major damage. Campfires cause damage to vegetation and leave unsightly scars on the ground for subsequent visitors, plus there is often a very real risk of them getting out of control and leading to a wildfire.
Anyone lighting a fire in the Scottish countryside that is perceived to be endangering other people or property could be prosecuted under the Trespass (Scotland) Act 1865 or Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982.
Never light a fire anywhere when there is a high fire risk. If in doubt, don’t take the risk. Wildfires are to be avoided at all times.
If you are travelling with dogs, or other pets, make sure that their poo is collected in a bag and disposed of at the nearest waste bin.
Please also be aware that a person in charge of a dog is guilty of an offence if their dog worries livestock. Worrying includes a dog attacking or chasing livestock.
Our recreational activities often take us into remote areas for lengthy periods of time, so the issue of going to the toilet in the great outdoors does need to be considered. Rather than being a taboo subject, we all need to think about it, talk about it, plan for it and do the right thing. This ‘Where to “Go” in the Great Outdoors’ advice from Mountaineering Scotland is well worth reading.
No one wants to see a stunning view spoiled by litter, but unfortunately, we do see a rise in littering at busy times. As well as not looking good, it can also be harmful to people and wildlife. A lot of the Heart 200 route is in remote rural areas, so you won’t find bins everywhere, and where there are bins, they may only be emptied once a fortnight. Bins do fill up fast, so if a bin is full don’t leave your rubbish beside or on top of it. This is littering and only encourages other people to copy your example. Don’t let litter breed litter!
The best advice we can give is to carry a bag or container and take all your litter home with you. If you can bring it with you, you can take it away! Even better, pick up the odd piece of litter left by other people and leave the area tidier and more beautiful than it was when you arrived.