Guide to the Countryside Code

Getting outdoors is unbeatable! We’re lucky in the UK to have the right to roam, which means we can hike, ride, run and canter through nature along the many access ways and pathways on offer. With more of us than ever enjoying time outside, it’s essential that we all know how to respect and enjoy the countryside.

The Countryside Code (Scottish Outdoor Access Code in Scotland) is a set of standard guidelines for members of the public to explore the countryside responsibly. In this guide, we look at the three key themes within the Countryside Code – Respect, Protect & Enjoy.

Respecting our Right to Roam

It is easy to take our right to roam for granted. But did you know that the battle for the right to access went on for over 100 years, creating the way to the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 in England and Wales, and Statutory Access Rights in Scotland. This code allows people of all ages and backgrounds to enjoy the health and well-being benefits that nature offers, while giving guidelines for how to give it the respect it deserves. The easiest way to understand the lay of the land and how to navigate the countryside is by looking at an Ordnance Survey map.

Heading outdoors is easy and enjoyable when you follow these simple guidelines.

Respect Everyone

  • Respect the local community and other people enjoying the outdoors
  • Park considerately by keeping access to gateways and driveways clear
  • Leave gates and property as you find them. Always close gates you pass through
  • Follow paths and give way to others where it is narrow
  • Road traffic should slow down or stop for horses, walkers and farm animals
  • Cyclists should give way to walkers and horse riders on bridleways
  • Do not feed livestock, horses or wild animals
  • Follow local signs and keep to marked paths unless wider access is available. Follow defined paths when in fields.
  • Use gates or stiles rather than climbing walls or fences
  • Do not disturb ruins or historic sites. Don’t interfere with farm machinery or livestock.

Protect the Environment

  • Take all litter home and leave no trace of your visit (this includes food waste like banana skins)
  • Do not light fires and only have BBQs where signs say you can and ensure they are extinguished and disposed of responsibly
  • Always keep dogs under control and in sight. Keep your dog on a short lead around farm animals
  • Clean up after your dog and get rid of the mess responsibly – bag it, take it, bin it as dog waste is unpleasant and can cause illness in farm animals
  • Do not cause damage or disturbance to nature

Enjoy the Outdoors

  • Be prepared by checking your route and local weather forecast. Equip yourself with the right gear and always carry an up-to-date map
  • Plan your adventure so you know what to expect and emergency routes
  • Be sure to give farm animals plenty of space, especially if you have a dog
  • Be safe by letting a friend or family member know where you’re planning to go
  • Enjoy your visit, have fun and make memories

Extra Advice on Livestock & Dogs

A common question asked is how to navigate livestock when out on a walk with your four legged friend. Here are some simple tips to keep you safe when outdoors.

  • Before entering field with livestock, put your dog on a short lead
  • Access the field and note any livestock. Also look at where the path goes and check your map to see where you’re heading.
  • Give livestock a wide berth and walk calmly, keeping an eye on both your dog and the animals
  • If there are young animals in the field such as calves, don’t get in-between them and their mothers.
  • If the path you are following takes you directly through livestock, give them a wide berth. It is safer to leave the path for a brief period to navigate around the livestock.
  • If your dog does get loose accidentally, make your way calmly to the edge of the field, find the exit and remove yourself from danger. Your dog will often follow you and you can call it from a safe environment.
  • If you do feel threatened by the livestock, either retrace your steps, or let your dog off and make your way to the exit. Your dog will be fine and will follow you.

Follow the simple guidelines in the Countryside Code and you’ll stay safe, respect nature and enjoy the great outdoors.