Countryside Code Etiquette: The Essential Guide
With windswept coastlines, majestic mountains and sweeping glens as far as the eye can see, Scotland’s beauty is truly vast and endless. By embracing its inviting landscape and accepting nature’s invitation to explore, Scotland has enjoyed almost unspoilt land access throughout its history.
Unlike the somewhat restrictive laws which govern rights of way south of the border, everyone in Scotland has the right to enjoy almost all land and inland waters. Though we firmly believe that our access rights are a gift which should be enjoyed, there are a number of responsibilities we must keep in mind.
The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 sets out the rights of walkers, horse riders, cyclists and canoeists. These rights have been made easier to follow in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, but at 135 pages it isn’t exactly a light read! To help you explore responsibly, we’ve perused the facts and pulled out the key points for you.
|Lyme Park||Osterley Park|
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The Outdoor Access Code
- Respect the interests of other people
- Be considerate and respect the privacy, livelihoods and needs of those enjoying the outdoors.
- Care for the environment
- Enjoy the places you visit and look after them by caring for wildlife and historic sites.
- Take responsibility for your own actions
- Whilst land managers should take due care to ensure your safety, the outdoors cannot be made risk-free.
You do not have a legal right to access:
- Houses or gardens
- Farm buildings
- Land where crops are grown
- Land used by schools or for recreation
- Golf courses or visitor attractions
Your legal access rights also do not extend to the pursuit of:
- Motorised recreation
- Hunting, shooting and fishing
- Any activity which could be deemed as an offence
Furthermore, Canoeing in English and Welsh rivers has long been restricted under current laws. The British Canoe Union has created the River Access Campaign in an effort to overcome these laws. The slogan of the campaign is ‘We have the right to roam, but not the permission to paddle’.
What are my rights?
Leisure pursuits such as hunting, shooting and fishing are all excluded from your access rights. To undertake any of these activities you must have explicit permission from the landowner. If you are stalking deer or fishing for salmon or sea trout, you must have landowner’s permission in writing.
The law makes no distinction between air rifles and more powerful guns for which you need a licence – they are all classed as firearms. This means that any offence you commit can carry a very heavy penalty – and there are at least 38 different offences. If you are 18 years or older there are no restrictions on buying an air rifle and ammunition, and you can use it wherever you have permission to shoot.
Featuring Turnerkamp Loden Breeks with CTX by Laksen
From December 2016, it is now an offence to purchase or use an air weapon in Scotland without an air weapon certificate. However, if you hold a valid firearm certificate that was issued to you before December 2016, you will not need to apply for a separate air weapon certificate. An air weapon certificate costs £72 for 5 years.
Wild camping in Scotland is very different from the rest of the UK. While you can camp freely almost anywhere in Scotland, it is a mostly illegal activity in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Here is a concise rundown the of the laws you need to know:
- Wild camping in Scotland is allowed on most unenclosed land, aside from the obvious (like private residential land).
- Keep an eye out for signs saying ‘no camping’. Often these signs are intended to keep people away from land for their own good
- Keep the land tidy and take all litter with you once you leave
Some national parks throughout the rest of the UK welcome wild camping, as long as you respect the land. In England and Wales you need the landowners permission before camping. If you’re ever in doubt, find an official campsite. The same basic rules apply when camping in the rest of the UK (leave no trace of your stay, keep noise levels to a minimum etc.)
What do I need?
What are my rights?
In Scotland you have the right to walk on most land, provided it is not part of the exclusion list above. To keep you right, ScotWays has been publishing a guide of all our nation’s rights of way for over 60 years. ‘Scottish Hill Tracks,’ is a catalogue of Scotland’s major rural routes.
Schoffel Countrywear – Perfect for the outdoors
Quirkier walking laws include the right to ‘pass and repass along the way’ (that’s stopping, resting and enjoying the view without causing an obstruction to you and me), or taking a ‘natural accompaniment,’ such as a pram or wheelchair on your walk. What else is deemed a ‘natural accompaniment?’ We’ll leave that up to you.
What do I need?
The Scottish elements and rugged terrain can make for challenging country walks. Being responsibly kitted out will allow you to explore safely. Laksen’s Tripod Seat offers a convenient way to take a much needed rest on longer journeys. A Thermal Bottle filled with your favourite hot drink will also make a welcome addition to your walk. Taking a hot drink with you is sensible during colder months, when winds from the North really start to bite. Finish the look with a sturdy pair of Loake shoes.
What are my rights?
Key things to remember are:
- Give way to walkers on narrow routes where possible, or look for an alternative path.
- Take care to avoid wet, boggy or soft ground.
- Try to avoid churning up land surfaces.
- Be careful to not alarm farm animals or wildlife, especially around fields.
- Do not enter fields with other horses or animals.
Remember: You must get permission to carry out repetitive schooling on other people’s land. You also need explicit consent to use jumps or custom gallops when not already in use.
If you’re approaching a horse on your bike, please keep the following in mind:
- The blind spot of a horse is huge – this is often why they panic when hearing cyclists approaching, as they can’t see where the noise is coming from until the last minute. If it is safe to slow down as you approach the horse, then make an effort to do so
- If you can’t slow down in time, then making noise well in advance of the horse (like ringing a bell or even shouting slightly) can be a very effective way to ensure that the horse is aware of your presence as early as possible
- Pay attention to the body language of the rider too – if they are waving at you it may be a request to stop completely. This could be for your own safety, as an already panicked horse can be dangerous to be around
- If you can keep a wide distance between yourself and the horse, then make the effort to do so. This will minimise the risk of an accident greatly
What do I need?
Being appropriately dressed is vital to ensure safety on treks. Head protection should always be worn, as should high visibility clothing when necessary. Stay safe by avoiding loose clothing and keeping warm and dry in the colder months. A jacket like the Lady Dalness Jacket with CTX is specially designed to protect you from the elements. For treks that may involve kicked up mud, a machine washable jacket is a practical choice.
What are my rights?
You are free to take your dog on footpaths provided he is kept under close control. There is no requirement for footpaths to be suitable for dogs, so ensure that your dog can cope with rough terrain. The Scottish Outdoor Access Code has produced a brief leaflet covering the fundamentals of walking your dog.
The key points include:
- Keep your dog away from farm animals, especially younger animals that can become startled easily.
- Keep your dog on a short lead in recreation areas, public places and fields of farm animals.
- Do not take your dog through fields of crops unless there is a clear path, which you should stick to.
- Ensure your dog doesn’t disturb ground nesting birds by keeping your dog on a short lead.
- Always bag and bin dog waste.
Remember: Under the Animals (Scotland) Act 1987, a farmer has the right to shoot your dog if it is endangering farm animals, in some cases. Keep your dog away from farm animals to protect you, your dog and the farm animals.
What do I need?
Scotland’s changeable weather can take its toll on your dog. Keep him warm with Barbour’s Quilted Dog Coat. 70g of insulating wadding will be certain to keep out the cold, whilst Barbour’s traditional tartan lining and smart corduroy collar will make him the smartest dog in town or country. Pair the coat with Dubarry’s Glenbrook collar, perfect to attach tags, bells, lights or reflectors for identification.
Metal Detecting Etiquette
What are the laws?
The essentials of the metal detecting laws are as follows:
- Do not trespass
- Leave no trace of your activities
- If you discover any lethal object (bomb etc.) then do not touch it, mark the land and inform the police and landowner
- Report all unusual historic finds to the landowner
Bird Watching Etiquette/Code Of Ethics (ABA)
What are the laws?
The UK bird watching laws and codes of conduct are a bit hard to make sense of, and don’t seem to be as comprehensive as the American alternative. Luckily the code of ethics from the ABA (American Bird Association) is pretty applicable to anyone who is involved in birdwatching.
The code of ethics goes as follows:
- Promote the welfare of birds and their environment – this essentially boils down to being considerate. If you’re taking pictures or filming, try to do so as discreetly as possible. Keep well away from nests, and limit the use of artificial lighting.
- Respect the law, and the rights of others – this is less about the birds and more about landowners. Do not enter private property without explicit permission from the landowner, and follow all laws of the countryside/road.
- Ensure that feeders, nest structures, and other artificial bird environments are safe – if you are deliberately attracting birds to an area to observe them, please ensure cleanliness of feeders and minimise their risk of being exposed to predators (such as cats)
- Group birding, whether organized or impromptu, requires special care – be helpful and considerate of beginners, keep group sizes to a limit that reduces impact on environment, and be an ethical role model for the group.
- Photography Ethics – use an appropriate lens to photograph animals. If the animal appears stressed then move back and use a longer lens. Prepare yourself and your equipment for unexpected events so as to minimise disruption if anything goes wrong.
Fishing Etiquette (Scottish Laws)
Unlike other British countries, Scotland has no national rod licence . It is generally a civil offence to fish for most types of fish (salmon/sea trout usually requires legal right or written permission).
Other important points of these Scottish fishing laws include:
- Fishing for salmon/sea trout on a Sunday is not allowed
- If land has a protection order then permission is required to fish there (from the landowner)
- However, even if the land doesn’t have a Protection order, it’s still common courtesy to ask for permission
Waste Disposal Etiquette (Fly Tipping Laws)
Waste disposal (fly-tipping ) is defined as the illegal deposit of waste onto land which is not licensed to accept it, i.e disposal of waste anywhere apart from at a dump. Aside from ruining the beauty of the countryside, fly tipping can also cause harm to wildlife and humans, and is considered a serious crime.
The laws surrounding fly tipping include:
- Penalties for fly tipping can range from large fines to imprisonment
- Unfortunately, if you are a private landowner and become a victim of fly tipping, it then becomes your responsibility to dispose of the waste
- If you witness fly-tipping, report it immediately to your local authorities
Drone Flying Etiquette
Drone flying has become an increasingly popular countryside hobby over the past few years. The quiet and spacious nature of the British countryside makes it the perfect place for enthusiasts to enjoy their hobby in peace. However, there are still numerous laws and codes that these enthusiasts must abide by, as outlined by the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority):
- You are responsible for every flight
- You are responsible for avoiding collisions – never fly near airports or close to aircraft, doing so is a criminal offence
- Keep your drone in sight at all times – keep it below 400 ft (unless sub7kg, where you are allowed to do this provided that your drone is under control)
- Take the time to properly learn how to use your drone
- Avoid congested areas, it is illegal to fly your drone in these areas
- Never fly within 50m of a vehicle, building or person (unless sub7kg, where you are allowed to do this provided that your drone is under control)
- Consider privacy rights – any footage you take of your flights should be within the permissions of the privacy rights of the surrounding areas
- If your drone weighs more than 7kg, you must apply for prior permission from the CAA to fly within the limits outlined above
Noise pollution is more of a problem then ever in the countryside. Thanks to technological advancements, even the smallest phone can make a noise loud enough to disturb anyone (or anything) within a 50m radius. Noise pollution is defined as any ‘unwanted or disturbing sound’, and although the definition of the term ‘unwanted sound’ is debatable, however there are plenty of people (and animals) who would consider the emitted from some of the equipment used in the hobbies listed within this guide as ‘unwanted’, which is why it’s important for everyone involved in countryside hobbies to be aware of noise pollution. Rather than being a mere annoyance, for many noise is actually harmful to health and wellbeing, and it can certainly disrupt the tranquility of the countryside.
To ensure you don’t become a noise polluter, keep the following in mind:
- Be aware of how much noise you and your equipment is making
- Try to avoid areas where members of the public are gathering
- Try to keep your groups to a minimum of 6 people – larger groups tend to be less aware of how much noise they are making
- Try to avoid areas where wild animals are (paying attention to signs is very important as often they will let you know where animals are nesting etc.)
An SSSI is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and there are over 4,000 of these sites across England (covering roughly 7% of the country) and almost 7,000 across the entire UK. This is why it’s vital to familiarise yourself with these sites if you plan on rambling around the countryside. When an area of land is classified as an SSSI, it is generally regarded as an important geological/wildlife area, usually because they are home to species who would struggle to survive elsewhere (due to developments and pollution). Areas are identified as an SSSI by Natural England.
If you own or happen to stumble across an SSSI, then you should keep the following in mind:
- Any development on the land (even if you own it) must be passed by Natural England before being undertaken to ensure preservation of the land
- If an area of land is designated as an SSSI, it doesn’t automatically mean that walkers have right of access. It’s important that you look for symbols on your map which indicate whether or not the land can be accessed
If you’re fortunate enough to live in the countryside, you may consider setting up a small garden for local wildlife to enjoy. This is known as ‘wildlife gardening’, and can help support the safety of surrounding wildlife by creating an environment which feels similar to their natural habitat. However, you need to ensure that your garden is creating a safe environment for the nature, otherwise you could end up doing more harm than good.
Here are some points to keep in mind when creating your wildlife garden:
- If you start feeding animals, don’t stop. Animals like birds and hedgehogs could become reliant on you providing food, and if you stop they could struggle to adapt. Building a wildlife garden is a big commitment!
- Wait until winter to cut hedges/shrubs etc. to ensure that you don’t disturb any nesting animals
- Don’t be too ambitious and try to grow too many different types of plants. Most garden flowers like lavender are perfect for nectar and will flower for longer.
Finding a Hedgehog
The countryside is home to various types of animals which you likely won’t find in more urban areas, and arguably the most vulnerable of these animals is the hedgehog. Despite their prickly appearance, they’re far from being aggressive – they’re timid animals who will curl up into a ball at the slightest sign of danger. It’s not uncommon for people walking in the countryside to stumble across a hedgehog looking a little bit worse for wear, as they tend to get themselves into bother quite frequently. The real question is what to do when this happens, and how you can help to protect hedgehogs in the longterm.
Here are our tips:
- If you have found a hedgehog you feel concerned about, consider your own safety first. Ideally use gloves like garden gloves to pick the hedgehog up, and take it to an indoor area where you can place it in a cardboard box with a towel. If possible, place the hedgehog in a warm area (or fill a hot water bottle and place it under the towel).
- If you stumble across a hoglet (baby hedgehog), you’ll have to act slightly more urgently. You’ll usually find hoglets between the months of May and September, and if you find them in the open it’s likely that they’ve been abandoned by their mother. You’ll have to act quickly to get them warmth and ideally food too, however check them first for ticks and maggots, which should be removed immediately. If the hoglet appears to have a serious injury, then contact a vet ASAP
- If driving in the countryside, take extra care to look out for hedgehogs on the roads. Unlike other animals, hedgehogs won’t attempt to move out of the way of your car – they’ll just curl up into a ball. Keep any eye out for small black shapes on the road as you drive
- If you tend to find hedgehogs near your home, creating a comfortable environment for them can be a real help to their chances of survival. The easiest way to create a ‘hedgehog home’ is to create an area of your garden which is full of leaves where a hedgehog could nest. If you’d like to provide them with even more comfort, a cardboard box with bedding at the bottom is an ideal home for a hedgehog
Edinburgh – Meadows
Often the best areas of countryside are hidden within our cities – The Meadows in Edinburgh is a perfect example of this. Hidden with the Scottish capital is arguably one of the best open spaces in the entire country. Not only is it incredibly well kept, it’s home to a whole host of different activities and clubs. Here you’ll find dog walkers, footballers and more recently drone pilots. There are also facilities like tennis courts, cafes and toilets.
The meadows was once home to a loch which supplied the city with water, which probably explains why the grass is so green and luscious.
There are a few things to keep in mind when enjoying the park to ensure that it can continue to be enjoyed for years to come:
- If you’re participating in an activity, please ensure that you clean up after yourself and leave the area looking as it did when you arrived. This could be as simple as ensuring that empty water bottles are placed in bins rather than simply left
- Also, respect the fact that people are visiting the park for different reasons. So although you may be there to play and have fun, others may be there to relax and enjoy some peace. Try to limit noise levels as much as possible.
- Dogs can be left off the lead at the park, but ensure that their waste is quickly collected and that they stay clear of people lying on the grass and small children
- If flying a drone, it is recommended that you find a quiet area of the park and avoid flying your drone within 50m of other park goers
- Alcohol is not allowed to be consumed within the park
If the Meadows is the ultimate open space for activities in Edinburgh, then Holyrood Park could be described as the best place in Edinburgh simply to take in the view. Overlooked by Arthur’s Seat, most of Holyrood Park tends to be occupied by locals enjoying a leisurely stroll around the area. However for anybody looking to take in the best view in the city, Arthur’s Seat (an extinct volcano) is only a short climb at around 250 metres high.
Historic Scotland manage the area, and their work has been critical in ensuring that the beauty of the park remains intact, however some responsibility should also fall on visitors to the park.
The following points are important to keep in mind when visiting the park area:
- Bins are provided, so ensure that all litter is placed in bins where possible. If bins are full then take your litter with you until you find a bin
- Arthur’s Seat is a good walk for anyone to go on during the day, but evening walks should only be attempted if you have prepared sufficiently. This includes bringing torches and proper walking equipment like poles and sturdy boots with you (Dubarry Boots are recommended)
- Holyrood Park is home to a variety of rare and threatened plant species, so picking of plants is discouraged
- Off road cycling is not permitted, however there are marked cycle paths
Upon visiting Pollok Park, you might find it hard to believe that you’re still in Glasgow. Instead of feeling like a park located in the middle of one of the most populous cities in the UK, it feels like a step into the tranquility of the Scottish countryside. That’s exactly why this park is so treasured by the locals, who have maintained the cleanliness and peacefulness of the area, despite the chaos of the streets and roads only kilometers away.
In 2006, the park was named Britain’s Best Park, and in 2008 it was voted the best in Europe. Part of the appeal of this park is that it isn’t just for relaxing in – it’s also home to a variety of events, including the Pollok Park Run.
The park is extremely well kept, and part of the reason for this is that the locals treat the park with huge amounts of respect.
Located in the heart of Pollok Country Park is Pollok Country House, a grand building which is managed by the National Trust For Scotland and is free for the public to visit. The house is home to a collection of rare Spanish paintings, and has been preserved very well despite being built in the 18th century. Antique furniture can also be found within the house. The main attraction tends to be the incredible garden, which boasts a collection of over 1,000 species of Rhododendron plants. A large beech tree in the middle of the garden is known as the Pollok House Beech, and is thought to be over 250 years old.
- The park has achieved a Green Flag Award every year since 2012, which is an award given to well managed parks and open spaces. Every visitor to the park is advised to keep this in mind as it is a huge draw to the park, and to lose the award could have a serious impact on the appeal of the park
- The area is a sanctuary for wildlife, so it is advised to avoid the heavily wooded areas which are likely home to vulnerable wildlife
- There is a car park available, but if possible it is much better to take public transport from the town to the park to reduce emissions and noise
- There is a park ranger service on hand who monitor the area
- The park is open at all times, however if visiting at night it is requested that no alcohol is consumed within the area
- Picnics are popular but please ensure that all litter is placed in bins or taken away
If you’re near the West End of Glasgow, Kelvingrove Park is well worth a visit. Located on the river Kelvin and home to the Kelvingrove art gallery and museum, there is plenty to see and do at the park, which attracts visitors all year round.
The park was created in the 19th century, and was intended to provide an area of peace and tranquility which locals could enjoy to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. For many, the park still serves the same purpose to this day.
The park is owned by Glasgow Council, who have limited budgets to deal with the care and maintenance of the area. This is why it is absolutely crucial for locals and other visitors to take responsibility for their actions every time they visit the area. Some general guidelines for visiting the park would be:
Kelvingrove museum opened in 1901, and has long been considered one of the best free attractions in Scotland. The contents of the museum and gallery include art from many different periods of history, including a very famous piece from Salvador Dali.
Nestled in the heart of Kelvingrove Park, if you’re visiting the park you may as well stop off at the museum and gallery.
- Avoid entering the river. It is home to various types of wildlife who could become stressed if you enter the water
- The park itself is a haven for wildlife, and whilst admiring the wildlife from a distance is encouraged, approaching the wildlife is not advised
- Waking your dog around the area is permitted, but please keep your dog on a lead if walking around the area
- The park is also a popular area for students to gather, but consuming alcohol in the park is discouraged. Picnics are fine but please ensure litter is either binned or taken away with you
- Kelvingrove park is also the proud owner of a Green Flag award
- The park is open at all times
From the West End to the East End – Glasgow Green might not be as pretty as the other 2 parks listed in this guide, but it still attracts many visitors, both locals and tourists, to it’s grounds. Glasgow Green is also the oldest park in the city by quite a long way, making it extra special in the eyes of the locals. It was established in the 15th century, long before Kelvingrove and Pollok.
The park is within walking distance to the city centre, which generally regarded as being both a good and a bad thing for the park. Good in the sense that it attracts lots of visitors, bad in the sense that of all the Glasgow parks in this list, it is the most vulnerable to litter and other forms of mistreatment. Fortunately there are guidelines in place which are intended to make visitors to the park aware of what they should and shouldn’t be doing:
- The park was awarded a Green Flag award in 2011, and is consequently subject higher standards than other parks to ensure that this award remains in place
- Playing fields and other facilities are available for all to use, however it is asked that nothing is ‘hogged’ and that all areas are kept clean and free from litter etc.
- Due to the proximity of the park to the centre, it is often used as a shortcut by locals, so lighting is provided above paths. It is asked that this lighting is not tampered with as it provides visibility for anyone walking through the park in the dark
- People are discouraged from wading in the water of the fountain within the park
The Glasgow Necropolis is a Victorian cemetery in Glasgow, located to the East of St Mungo’s Cathedral and opened in 1833. The cemetery is a popular tourist attraction, not only due to the location but also due to the significant number of people buried there – over 50,000 people, represented by around 4000 monuments and many more tombstones.
The cemetery was heavily influenced by the Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris, which is often regarded as being the first ‘garden cemetery’. It was also one of the fist cemeteries in Britain to profit from burying the dead, moving this responsibility away from the church and into the hands of the Merchant’s House of Glasgow.
Much of the layout of the cemetery was provided by architects like Alexander Thomson and David Hamilton, and it really shows. There is a bridge leading into the cemetery (designed by David Hamilton) which eventually became known as the ‘Bridge of Sighs’ due to the number of funeral processions happening over it.
There are some notable monuments in the cemetery, including one for John Knox and one for Charles Tennant.
Other things to keep in mind when you visit The Glasgow Necropolis:
- It may be considered a tourist attraction, but it is important to remember that people still visit the cemetery to pay their respects and it is the burial ground of many loved ones and soldiers. So please be respectful and behave in an appropriate manner during your visit.
- The cemetery is very old so you have to pay extra care to stick to the paths to avoid walking into any of the tombstones
- The cemetery is the second largest green space in the centre of Glasgow, so it also happens to be home to a wide variety of wildlife. Keep an eye out for small critters and please refrain from picking any of the wildflowers growing
Home to one of the most varied and popular collections of wildflowers across the whole of Britain, and a whole host of some of the rarest wildlife you’ll find within Scotland, Ben Lawers Nature Reserve is something of a hidden gem in Scotland – despite being one of the tallest mountains in the country. Popular with hikers and nature enthusiasts, the mountain has become well known for boasting arguably the best view of the Scottish countryside.
The terrain of the mountain is refreshingly accessible, and will appeal to both seasoned walkers and families with young children.
If visiting Ben Lawers, please keep the following in mind:
- As mentioned, the reserve is a hotspot for wildlife. Please try your best to stick to the paths to avoid disturbing the habitats of this wildlife
- The wildflowers at the reserve are also protected, so please avoid picking/trampling them
- The hills are also home to archaeological remains, so be conscious of what you climb on/touch
Castle Fraser is one of Scotland’s oldest and largest tower houses, and is full of quirky and surprising features which make it a real delight to visit. One of the best things about the tower is that the access is almost unlimited – you can climb the stairs and enjoy the stunning views from the very top of the tower. The castle was home to the Fraser family for over 400 years, and is full of family portraits and heirlooms which are still in mint condition.
After you’ve explored the tower, the surrounding garden and forest areas are well worth a visit too. Home to organically grown produce and a ‘Woodlands Secrets’ play area, there is plenty to be explored for all ages.
The estate is still maintained by the NTS, who ask visitors to keep several points in mind when visiting:
- Walking within the wooded areas is actively encouraged, however there are trails which need to be stuck to, otherwise you may risk trampling on some of the organic produce which is being grown
- Many of the portraits and heirlooms within the house are not behind safeguards, so it is asked that people avoid touching the items (and that children are asked not to touch them either)
- The castle can be hired for weddings and other venues, which contributes significantly towards the upkeep of the castle and estate
Arduaine Garden is a colourful and beautiful garden based in Argyll, which attracts thousands of visitors to this fairly remote part of Scotland every year. The garden has a distinctively ‘exotic’ feel to it, and this is entirely deliberate – it was built in the 19th century with the intention of imitating some of the incredible gardens throughout the world. The remote location of the garden actually works in it’s favour – the warmer airs which come in from the North Atlantic allow for a wider variety of flowers to be grown compared to the rest of Scotland. This has led to everything from East Asian to South American plants and flowers to thrive in the gardens, making it a very popular location with enthusiasts.
Some points to consider when visiting the gardens:
- They are wheelchair accessible
- ‘Well behaved’ dogs are allowed however this is very subjective!
- Guided tours are available
- No picking/collection of flowers is tolerated
Falkland Palace is a royal of the Scottish Kings based in Fife which was once the home of Mary, Queen of Scots. The land was originally the site of a hunting lodge, but in the 13th century a fully fledged palace was developed. The gardens which surround the palace (which are more than 3 hectares in size) are famous for being the home of the world’s oldest tennis courts. The gardens are probably responsible for attracting the majority of visitors to the palace as they are such a delight to explore.
When exploring the grounds, there are several things to keep in mind:
- The grounds are home to a variety of wildlife, something which has been encouraged by the NTS. A meadow has been developed to encourage wildlife to live there. It is mostly rare insects which are found in the meadow (some of which won’t be found anywhere else in Scotland), but there have also been sightings of red squirrels in the grounds.
- The gardens are also home to more than 10,000 wild flowers, which visitors are prohibited from picking but are more than welcome to admire!
- Native trees such as oak and willow trees have existed in the meadow since the 15th century, and are still going strong. This is partly down the hard work of the huge garden team who look after the grounds, but also due to the respect that visitors show to
- the grounds
Fort George is one of the most historically interesting areas of Scotland which you can visit today. Built in the 18th century, it was originally intended to act as a fortress which would pacify the Scottish Highlands in the aftermath of the Jacobite rising. The fortress was never attacked, which is testament to how daunting it is.
Much of the reason Fort George is such a delight to visit is due to the design of the fortress – it is shaped like a star, with outposts at each point. The building has remained almost completely unaltered since it was initially built, and is still in use as army barracks.
Most of the site is still accessible to visitors, however there is a small entrance charge (the money is used to fund the maintenance of the building).
If visiting Fort George, please keep in mind:
- The fort is still used as an army barracks so there may be a military presence when you visit
- Displays and actors recreating activities which soldiers would partake in at the fortress happens quite frequently, so if you see people dressed funny jumping around then it is probably just actors!
- There is a museum called the Highlander’s Museum there which displays uniforms, medals and weapons. It is asked that visitors be respectful of the items in display in the museum.
- The main rampart is bigger than the size of 5 football pitches, so be prepared for some serious walking!
Nestled in the heart of Aberdeenshire, the rather awkward location of Fyvie castle means it is often overlooked as a Scottish castle worth visiting. However, it is well worth the trip up north to take a look at this incredible 800 year old fortress.
One word springs to mind when you first lay eyes on Fyvie Castle – grandeur. Surrounded by pristine grass and a picturesque loch, the castle grounds are in immaculate condition thanks to the ongoing efforts from the NTS. Other notable features of the castle surroundings include a glass-roofed racquets court and a walled garden.
Inside, the castle is full of history – you’ll find everything from portraits to a ‘death mask’.
If you make the trip up to Aberdeen to see Fyvie castle, keep the following in mind:
- As already mentioned, the grounds are immaculate. Please ensure that you respect the efforts of the NTS and do your best to stick to paths during your visit
- Equally, the inside of the castle is also very well kept. Please refrain from touching any of the items on display (who’d want to touch a death mask anyway?)
- The castle is said to be haunted, and has featured on many tv shows about haunted buildings. So if nothing else, please respect the wishes of the previous residents and be respectful to their home!
- The Fyvie Live Music festival is now being held there every summer – by all means have a great time, but don’t make too much of a mess!
Doune Castle is fairly unique in it’s location, especially compared to other Scottish castles such as Stirling and Edinburgh. It doesn’t sit on a hill – it’s actually located in a fairly flat section of the Scottish countryside which doesn’t make it a very difficult castle to reach.
The castle has remained in very good condition, and is a great place to visit with younger children. There is an audio tour which is narrated by Terry Jones (formerly of Monty Python).
The surrounding area is very accessible and is essentially just farmland, which is why it’s important that visitors to the castle keep a few things in mind when visiting:
- Although the surrounding area is quite flat, there is a slope up towards the castle. So wearing sturdy walking boots when visiting is advised
- The riverside walk alongside the castle is home to various species of animals and plants, so sticking to the walking paths is advised to avoid disturbing the wildlife
- Much of the surrounding woodland is accessible, but again straying from the paths is not advised
- Much of the path leading up to the castle is cobbled, which can be slippy when wet
Despite it’s ruinous condition, Uruqhart Castle remains a stunning castle to visit. Located on the banks of Loch Ness, it was once one of the largest castles in Scotland.
The guardhouse and various battlements are still accessible, and there is also a working trebuchet which can be viewed.
The castle can still be visited, and it’s countryside location makes it one of the most special castles to visit in the whole of the UK.
However it’s important to keep a few things in mind when visiting the castle:
- Dress appropriately and be prepared for a cold day out
- Dogs are allowed but must be kept on a lead and a no fouling rule applies
- The tarmac path leading to the castle is fairly steep so sturdy footwear is recommended
St Andrews Castle is often overlooked, however it’s worth the trip to Fife to visit the castle. Located right on the seafront and home to an underground mine, the castle might be small compared to some of the others in this list, but there is more than enough to do when you arrive to keep all entertained.
The castle is also home to the ‘bottle prison’, one of the most infamous castle prisons in Britain.
Getting to St Andrews isn’t the most straightforward trip you’ll ever take, however it’s well worth the effort. Generally the weather is quite good in St Andrews, however it’s still advised to bring warm clothing and suitable footwear with you when visiting in case of rain.
Things to keep in mind are:
- There is no parking on site, so you will need to walk from the town area to access the castle
- Entry to the castle is over a wooden bridge, which can become slippy
- If visiting the beach after seeing the castle, please take all litter/belongings home with you
Skara Brae is a stone built settlement based in Orkney, dating back to roughly 3100 BC. It is regarded as Europe’s most complete Neolithic village, and is older than both Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids, at over 5,000 years old. The village was uncovered in the 19th century during a snowstorm, and although artifacts have been taken from the site since it was uncovered, it has remained incredibly intact, and is now a major tourist attraction (despite it’s obscure location). There is a visitor attraction on site which is full of artifacts and information about the site.
Obviously Skara Brae is an incredibly important location, and unlike other locations we’ve included in this list there are defined rules you absolutely must adhere to when visiting Skara Brae:
- The site is around half a kilometre from the car park along a crushed stone path, so disabled access is not the easiest
- The visitor centre is closer to the car park and has ramp access
- There is a limited number of motorised and manual wheelchairs available to rent from the visitor centre
- Assistance dogs are permitted but must be kept on a lead
The Callanish Stones (also known as the Callanish Standing Stones) are a group of standing stones in the Outer Hebrides. Similar to Skara Brae, they date from the Neolithic period and are estimated to be around 5,000 years old. Archaeologists have discovered that the site was likely used for rituals during the Bronze Age, however other theories exist. Some astrologists believe that the circle could have been used as a lunar observatory area. There are 13 stones arranged in a circle formation, with each stone between 10 and 30 metres long.
The visitor centre at the site is full of more information about the formation and the various theories surrounding what it could represent.
If visiting the stones, consider the following:
- The car park is also well within walking distance of the visitor centre (less than 30m)
- However, similar to Skara Brae, the car park is located quite a long way from the site itself and is only accessible via a loose gravel path
- The ground surrounding the stones is covered in grass, so wheelchair access is not easily achieved
The Clava Cairns is a cemetery dating back from the Bronze Age, located near Inverness. The settlement is renowned for being very well preserved despite being roughly 4,000 years old. The layout of the cemetery consists of 3 ‘cairns’ arranged in circular shapes, marked out with small standing stones. The cairns are located on a terrace above the River Nairn, and are described as ‘burial cairns built to house the dead’. Despite the grisly description, the settlement is well known for being very picturesque and quite beautiful in a very morbid way.
The burial chambers at the cairns are obviously cleared now, but research has indicated that only 1 or 2 people would have been buried in each of these cairns. This suggests that whoever was buried here was very important, and likely to be a chief or similar.
If visiting the Clava Cairns, keep the following in mind:
- Clava Cairns is free to visit all year round, so can get busy
- The site is also close to Inverness so can be easily travelled to from this area
The Ring of Brodgar is a Neolithic henge and stone circle based in Orkney. Most henges do not contain stone circles, so Brodgar is unique in this respect. The exact age of the Ring of Brodgar is unknown, however it is likely over 4,000 years old. Much of the spectacle of the Ring of Brodgar is the sheer size – it originally consisted of around 60 stones but 36 stones are left standing. It is generally regarded as one of the most impressive Neolithic monuments on the British Isles.
The Ring of Brodgar is free to visit, and is open all year round. There is parking on site fairly close to the ring, however it is still based on grassy slopes so isn’t the easiest terrain for wheelchair users.
Some points to keep in mind:
- The Ring of Brodgar has World Heritage status so this should be kept in mind when visiting
- It can be a little muddy at the site so it could be worth taking a decent pair of walking boots
- There is wildlife at the site too so please be considerate of their environment
- Conservation work takes place at the site quite frequently throughout the year so be aware that when you visit there may be workers on site
Situated on the Droma River just south of Ullapool, Corrieshalloch Gorge is one of the most famous gorges in all the Highlands, mainly because it was formed during the last Ice Age. The name CorrieShalloch means ‘unattractive corrie’ in Gaelic, however many visitors to the gorge would probably dispute this. There is a suspension bridge which makes crossing the gorge safe, which has been there since Victorian times (but has been reinforced since!).
The gorge is full of wildlife, and can be a great place to spot a wide variety of birds and other animals, including Golden Eagles!
If visiting the gorge please keep the following in mind:
- As mentioned the gorge is home to a variety of wildlife, so it is encouraged to be considerate of their habitat
- The suspension bridge is sturdy, however the obvious safety tips apply (for example, resist the urge to jump up and down the bridge if you see a golden eagle!)
- The site is unmanned
- Dogs are welcome but should be kept on a lead
Killiecrankie is another gorge, and is well known for being where one of the goriest battles in Scottish history took place – The Battle of Killiecrankie. The history of the battle is still etched on the gorge, most notably in the form of Soldier’s Leap – the spot where a Redcoat soldier leapt 18ft across the river Garry to flee from the Jacobites. However, it’s not just gory history that attracts visitors to Killiecrankie, as the gorge is also home to a variety of wildlife, including red squirrels, woodpeckers and pine martens.
Accessible parking and toilets are available on site, and there are also baby changing facilities and activities for children at the gorge, so if the gory history isn’t their thing then they won’t be too bored! The gorge is a perfect place to bring dogs too. There is also a small shop at the gorge where hot drinks can be purchased.
The David Livingstone Centre is a biographical museum in South Lanarkshire, dedicated to the life of the explorer David Livingstone. The museum is hosted in an Grade A listed building, and is a great day out for anyone, regardless of whether they’ve heard of David Livingstone before or not. The building itself is one of the old mill buildings, where Livingstone was born and then worked during his childhood. The location of the mill buildings in South Lanarkshire is in stark contrast to the contents of the museum – full of information and artefacts collected during the travels of Livingstone around Africa.
The centre itself not only acts as a museum, but also as a memorial to Livingstone, one of the great British heroes of the Victoria era. The centre cost roughly 6 million to build, but you can see where the money was spent. Not only is the appearance of the museum incredible, there are countless exhibitions inside. Journals, letters and equipment belonging to Livingstone have all been preserved. There is a restaurant on site, and parking is also available.
Hugh Miller was one of the great Scots of the 19th century. He was known as a fossil hunter, stonemason, writer and social justice campaigner, among other things. The most incredible thing about Hugh Miller was that he was entirely self-taught in geology, which is staggering when you consider the legacy he has left behind. The incredible story of his life, which includes being orphaned after his father was lost at sea, is told at Hugh Miller’s Birthplace & Museum, which is now a National Trust property.
The cottage was actually built by Miller’s grandfather, who was himself a pirate. The Georgian Villa where the museum is based was built by Miller’s father. The exhibitions are pretty interactive, and really informative, so visiting the museum and cottage is a great day out.
Not many people realise that the creator of the globally known story of Peter Pan, JM Barrie, was born in Kirriemuir, Scotland, however fans of Peter Pan are known to flock to this little town from all over the world. Although there are plenty of Peter Pan things to visit in Kirriemuir, the main attraction is a little house, where Barrie was born. The house is a typical weaver’s house; everyone lived upstairs and the windows are large so that looms could be removed. Barrie lived with his seven brothers and sisters in two upstairs rooms, while his father’s weaving workshop was downstairs. The washhouse in the yard was Barrie’s first theatre, and is believed to have inspired the Wendy house in Peter Pan.
There’s an exhibition in the house which tells the story of his life and work and includes the writing desk from Barrie’s London flat where he penned Peter Pan. Guided tours are available around the house, and there are staff members in every room of the house who can help with any questions you may have. There is a small shop where books by JM Barrie and other popular Scottish writers can be purchased. If you’re visiting the house, it’s important to keep in mind that it is essentially a museum and should be treated as such.
Perched on the edge of the Lake District is Lyme Park, an exceptionally beautiful part of Britain. The 1400 acre of land is home to a stunning house, as well as woodland and moorland, and is a great place to explore for people of all ages. Red deer can be seen throughout the area, and the estate is the filming place of Pride and Prejudice which makes it very popular with fans of the film. Although much of the estate has been left untouched, there are several gardens throughout the area which are worth exploring too – including the rose garden and the ravine garden.
Lyme Park also has facilities for children, including rope walks and a badger den which will keep little ones entertained.
Things to keep in mind when exploring the area:
- Wild animals still live here, so please be respectful of their environment and keep clear of wild animals if spotted (especially larger animals like Red Deer)
- There is a cafe on site, but it is asked if taking food out the cafe that you ensure all litter is binned
- Dogs are welcome, however it is asked that they are kept on a lead
- No open fires are permitted unfortunately!
Ostereley Park is one of the largest open spaces in London, and is a popular spot for tourists and Londoners alike. Much of the appeal is that the green open space of Osterley Park is worlds away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre, despite only being a short trip on the tube away. The Park is a clean and impressively well kept area now, however it was only very recently that this was the case. It was previously an overgrown area of wilderness which required a huge amount of work to tidy up. If you visit the park today, you’ll like find people running and cycling along the paths, as well as tourists admiring the impressive Osterley House, which is nestled in the heart of the park.
If visiting the park, keep the following in mind:
- The park is home to a wide variety of wildflowers and wildlife, so please be respectful of their environment. This includes taking home any litter and avoiding areas which aren’t marked as paths/areas you can explore
- It is advised that dogs are kept on a lead
- Parking is expensive (£7!) so it is recommended that you take the tube or bus
Built to resemble an Italian palace, Kingston Lacy is a lavish country house teeming with fine art and antiques. The house even has a room known as the ‘Egyptian Room’, which is home to the largest private collection of Egyptian artefacts in the UK. The house is often regarded as being an ‘art lover’s dream’, as there is a huge amount of art on display from a range of different artists. However. it’s not just the house that is worth visiting – the surrounding gardens are a great combination of woodland and extremely well kept land perfect for kids to run around.
- There are various points of historical importance on this site, including a Roman Road and Iron Age forts, so respecting the area is definitely encouraged.
- Equally important are the natural areas of the gardens, as these are home to a variety of wildlife. The heathland and water meadows are both home to a variety of plants and animals
- Assistance dogs are welcome in all areas of the gardens, dogs on a short lead are welcome in the park and the woodlands
Cheddar Gorge is arguably the most famous Gorge in the whole of the UK. It is unique in that it is a limestone gorge, and it is perhaps most famous for being the site of where the oldest complete human skeleton ever found in the UK was discovered. ‘Cheddar Man’ as he was dubbed when he was found at the start of the 20th century is thought to be over 9,000 years old, and is one of the main reasons why Cheddar Gorge was able to establish itself as such a popular attraction. The gorge and the caves within the gorge were formed by rivers flowing within the gorge. The gorge is estimated to attract around half a million visitors every year.
At nearly 400 feet deep and over 3 miles long, Cheddar Gorge is the largest gorge in England. It is estimated that the gorge is over 1 million years old, and must have formed during the last ice age. The gorge is adjacent from the village of Cheddar, which is full of cafes and shops. Dogs are welcome at the gorge, however it is asked that they are kept on a lead if possible. As you would imagine, the gorge has steep sides so it is recommended that appropriate footwear is worn when visiting, and it is also advised that the gorge may prove tricky for those with limited mobility.
The Winter Garden in Sheffield is one of the largest temperature glasshouses to be built in the UK over the last 100 years, and is a firm favourite with locals and tourists alike. The Winter Garden includes over 2,500 plants and flowers, all crammed within a glasshouse that is approximately 5,000 times the size of a standard greenhouse. The Winter Garden is also the largest urban glasshouse in Europe, and the urban setting of it is also part of the appeal, as it is quite amazing to see such a variety of plants in the heart of the city.
The bedding plants are changed 5 times per year, so every time they are changed it’s worth going along to take a look. Amazingly, all of the plants in the glasshouse are watered by hose or watering can, which must be a huge job. The wood used to build the glasshouse is Larch, a durable timber which will turn into a silvery grey colour over time. All of the larch used has been derived from sustainable forests.
By properly following countryside etiquette you will ensure that you and others are able to fully enjoy the British landscape now and for years to come. You can help to keep the land accessible, safeguard animals and the environment, and protect the livelihoods of those who rely on the land. With the correct knowledge, equipment, attire, and mindset you can explore Britain the right way – and keep out of trouble!