One of the reasons that the Cairngorms National Park is such a wonderful wilderness to visit is due to its generous ‘free to roam’ laws in Scotland.
These laws mean that anyone who wishes to visit the (vast majority of the) Cairngorms’ hills, valleys, moors and waters has the right to do so. This covers all activities such as walking, biking, running and, even, wild camping. (For more indepth guidance, please refer to the Scottish Outdoor Access Code website.)
The legislation was introduced in 2003 as a reflection of Scottish culture: we believe strongly in nature as a fantastic source of recreation and wellbeing, as well as education, and that this privilege should be accessible to all.
But, as Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben also said in Spiderman, “with great power comes great responsibility”. And, with this right to roam freely, there are specific responsibilities that the roamer must take on, or lose the privilege. These responsibilities are, in the main, common sense and, above all, the right thing to do to protect our beautiful environment.
The three most important responsibilities, which must be taken on, in order to have free access to the Park are:
1) Take responsibility for your own actions
For example, keep yourself, and your dependents, safe, not putting yourself in any kind of danger. Be aware of your environment so you can access any potential risks.
2) Respect the interests of other people
If you’re passing by residential areas at night, for instance, don’t be noisy or a cause for alarm. Or, if you’re passing by farmland, for example, use your common sense and stay clear of work-in-progress such as harvesting or tree felling. Similarly, choose a sensible place to pitch your tent if you’re camping, away from things like fields of crops or livestock.
3) Care for the environment
To look after the Park and avoid pollution or harm to wildlife, it’s essential that visitors always take away all their litter and leave no trace of having been there in the first place. This extends to, for example, refraining from biking or hiking off path which could damage the soil and surfaces, as well as disrupting wildlife, especially in the key breeding seasons.
These two responsibilities – lighting fires and taking charge of your dog – are so important in the Park. Here’s why:
1) Being responsible about lighting fires
Forest fires can be a big problem in the Park. In dry spells, the peat in the forest can be like a tinderbox – so much so that a still, smouldering cigarette, or a BBQ on the ground, can be enough to set the ground alight. Consequently, we would urge you to follow the advice of the Scottish Outdoor Access Code on fires, which is:
“Never light an open fire during prolonged dry periods or in areas such as forests, woods, farmland or on peaty ground or near to buildings or in cultural heritage sites where damage can be easily caused. Heed all advice at times of high risk”
2) Being a responsible dog owner/walker
The Cairngorms National Park is a mecca for delightful dog walks and our four-legged friends are much welcomed guests. However, please be mindful of respecting others when walking your dog – the ‘free to roam’ rights apply equally to dog walkers who behave responsibly and as long as dogs are kept under control. For a blog specifically on responsible access for dog walkers/ owners, see here.
For more guidance, please refer to the Scottish Outdoor Access Code website.
Dog Friendly Cairngorms
Click below for more on how to ensure you and your four legged friend are having fun, while also protecting the Park