The right to roam is yet another way Scotland distinguishes itself from the rest of the UK. If you’re looking for your next bikepacking adventure, Scotland is the place to be! Find out more about the right to roam below and check out some helpful guidelines and tips for cycling and camping in the South of Scotland!
What is the right to roam?
The right to roam, embodied as a statutory right since 2005, allows everyone to access most land and inland water in Scotland for recreational and other purposes. Access under this right can be enjoyed over most land in Scotland including all uncultivated land such as hills, mountains, moorland, woods and forests. Access rights apply to any non-motorised activity, including walking, cycling, horse-riding and wild camping. They also allow access on inland water for canoeing, rowing, sailing and swimming.
These rights only exist if they are exercised responsibly, as specified by the guidelines of the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. You should always refer to the guidelines set out in this code if you’re looking to exercise the right to roam.
The Scottish right to roam distinguishes Scotland from the rest of the UK, where access rights are much more restricted. In England, only 8% of land is accessible through the right to roam, and one fifth of Wales is – and this only applies to walkers! Access rights in Northern Ireland are even more restricted. It’s fair to say that Scotland is the place to be, especially if you like to see the world on two wheels!
The Scottish Outdoor Access Code relies on three key principles to ensure that everybody respects the environment around them and honours the conditions of the right to roam. Click through the three principles below:
Planning a route is easier if you can go everywhere! Or, does it make it more difficult? Either way, before you head off on your next adventure, you should know some of the basic rules to follow when cycling in the great Scottish outdoors.
In general, the rules are simple – it’s basically common sense. You should firstly remember that you’re sharing the land you’re on with others, whether they be walkers or horse riders. If you encounter them, try to give them an advanced warning of your presence and ideally give way to them if the path is narrow.
You may also encounter wildlife and cross by or through farm animal land. When you do, be mindful of them and try not to alarm them, both for your and their safety.
Lastly, when cycling off-path in winter or during a wet weather period, avoid wet, boggy, or soft ground. You don’t want to get stuck or churn up the surface trying to get through.
For more cycling guidelines, a helpful resource is the Do the Ride Thing guide. Though it was developed with mountain biking in mind, it contains a lot of useful information and tips on how to deal with the situations that might arise when cycling in the wild.
Access rights extend to wild camping, meaning you can set up camp just about anywhere as long as you’re not disturbing local people, land managers or deer stalkers. Try to stick to smaller groups and if you want to stay in the same location over multiple days, stick to a maximum of three nights.
It’s always best to come prepared with a small camping stove for your overnight stays. Stoves are preferred because they tend to pollute less and leave less of a trace. However, if you must light an open fire, you can as long as you avoid forests, woods, farmland, or peaty ground, and buildings and cultural heritage sites.
When you leave your campsite, remove all traces of your stay! Collect all of your rubbish so you can dispose of it properly at a later time, and, if you lit an open fire, remove all traces of it before leaving.
Before heading off on your adventure, always check if access will be restricted by deer stalking activities. Stag stalking season takes place between 1st July and 20th October, with most stalking taking place from August onwards. Stalking also continues during the hind season between 21st October and 15th February. In the case of it being deer stalking season, you should be prepared to follow reasonable requests.
There are six areas in the Southern Uplands region where deer stalking may take place. Always check the Heading for the Scottish Hills website to inform yourself about any restrictions or issues. There should also be signs put up around the affected areas, so keep your eyes peeled for them and avoid crossing any land where stalking is taking place. Stalking does not normally take place on Sundays.
Check out some more of our bikepacking guides and blogs, as well as helpful itineraries to help you start planning your next adventure!
Bothies are small, hut-like shelters found in the more remote areas of the countryside and in mountainous regions. Originally used as farm accommodation for itinerant workers, they now provide shelter to hikers, bikepackers, and other adventurers. There are 11 bothies in the South of Scotland and they are definitely worth checking out while on a bikepacking adventure.
The narrow valley that links Clatteringshaws with Glentrool is a classic highland landscape. Flanked by Merrick – the highest peak in southern Scotland – with a loch at either end, it deserves to be better known. It has several tracks that you can link together on a bike, but the classic route is the cafe at Clatteringshaws to the cafe at Glentrool and back. A slight detour to White Laggan Bothy for coffee making is part of today’s plan.