Ramblers’ Rights and Wild Camping in the UK

by EuroBlawg on October 29, 2013

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Feature article regarding ramblers’ rights and wild camping in the UK. Further posts from other parts of the EU welcome.

Long gone are the days when ramblers and hikers were free to roam the countryside, exploring lanes and pastures at their leisure. In a modern context, anyone out for a relaxing stroll always has to bear in mind the risk that they may actually be trespassing and breaking the law.

This guide has been created to highlight some of the key rules and important legislation that governs rambler’s rights and wild camping in the UK. As well as identifying the key pieces of legislation, this post offers some advice to walkers in the UK, to prevent the risk of breaking this legislation.

England and Wales

The key piece of legislation that applies to this issue is the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. Since this law was introduced, walkers have access to the majority of mountains, moors and common land in England and Wales.

Although walkers are within their legal rights to walk on land that is uncultivated, this still leads to disputes with land owners claiming that they are trespassing on private property. In situations where you are challenged about this right, a land owner cannot prevent you from passing across land, providing it is not being used for crops or livestock,

Sites like Open Access confirm whether walkers can access different parts of the country. Unless walking in the area is prohibited to protect wildlife, walkers are free to explore it at their leisure.

To ensure that walkers don’t stray into areas in which walking is prohibited, effective map reading or use of GPS systems is encouraged. You can find a full range of the navigation tools, in the selection of outdoor equipment at Cotswold Outdoor.


In Scotland, walkers have even more access than they do in the rest of the UK. Hikers and ramblers are free to explore the countryside, with the exception of private land, providing they are considerate and respectful to the environment.

The same applies to wild camping in Scotland. Under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, you are allowed to camp on any unenclosed land. Again, this opportunity is made under the conditions that all campers will be respectful of the countryside and take measures to ensure that their walking does not have a negative impact on the environment. You can find guidelines and advice for walking in Scotland, by clicking here.

One thing to note which differentiates Scotland from the rest of UK with regard to walking, is that Scottish authorities are not required to maintain or provide signage on walking routes. However, this presents less of a problem in Scotland, where walkers are free to explore the countryside without limitation.

Northern Ireland

Again, Northern Ireland presents a somewhat different situation with regards to walker’s rights. Walkers must obtain permission before entering any privately owned land. Usually, land owners are quite tolerant of ramblers, although again, this legal status does present the possibility that walkers will be challenges by landowners.

EuroBlawg is an EU law blog ("blawg") sharing news and intelligence related to European Union law. You can register today via the get started button above to join us as a guest EU law blogger.

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