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Is Scotland Closed?

Updated: Sep 2, 2023

In Scotland we are in a fortunate position. Our right to enjoy the countryside and explore it is guarded in law (Section 1 of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003), so long as we respect people’s privacy. But over the last year or two I’ve notice how increasingly difficult exploration is becoming.

So what’s making it difficult? There seems to be 3 common issues:

Bridges and paths that need repair – 5 locations I’ve tried in recent months have this issue

o Colinton Dell with a landslip closing the path for 3 years

o Bracklinn Falls – bridge repairs, closed

o The Fairy Bridge Trail, Glen Crerar, bridge in disrepair, closed for 3 years

o Linn Jaw, West Lothian, bridge in disrepair, whole path closed for 2 years, despite the river being shallow and wadable in wellies.

o John Knox’s Pulpit, Lomond Hills, danger of landslip (closed for 1 week, the way this ought to be handled!)

o Maspie Den, first closed due to “Covid Risk” and then labelled “path in disrepair”, closed for 2 years with no sign of repairs. How bad can that path be?

All of these coincided with Covid lockdown’s and were then not made safe. So what’s going on? Has the increased footfall of locked down hordes damaged the access. Or has the money run out for repairs that are necessary and usually unseen but ongoing? And why do these areas need cordoned off – would a “proceed at your own risk” sign not suffice? Or can alternative routes for the short sections affected be provided? Note John Knox’s Pulpit was quickly changed from no admittance to proceed at your own risk after a land slide, and it works fine.

Forestry and land works

o Ben Gullipen, Foresty work ongoing, no admittance

o Glen Etive, hydro electric works, limited admittance and the whole glen closed on one of the days when I made the two and a half hour trip up to there.

The countryside needs managed, industry progresses, I get all that, but my trip to Ben Gullipen was at the weekend when no work was ongoing, but access to the hill was closed 24x7. Should access be so casually curtailed? Shouldn’t every effort be made to provide alternative routes around works?

Parking areas closed without alternatives

o I’ll pretty much include all of East Lothian in this one. It is SO hard to stop your car legally in the East Lothian Countryside, few laybys and often car parking areas closed off while work is “ongoing”. Thorter Burn is a great case in point – a felled woodland with a boggy “path” as access and the small parking area closed, with no alternative for miles. I see so many signs saying “Private” or “No Access”…

o No Overnight Parking – this is everywhere. How do you go wild camping (ie back packing, tent on your back, leave no trace) when you can’t leave your car at the trail head. Arrochar Alps, I’m thinking of you!

I’m frustrated… Am I just being unlucky that so many places I want to go to, seem to be so awkward, or is this part of a wider problem where landowners are finding loop holes to limit access? I really don’t know, but the end effect is clear - a decreasing level of access for responsible use of the countryside.

Interested to hear if others are seeing the same trend. In the meantime here is an image of the Fairy Bridge in Glen Crerar, currently only accessible via bog and woodland using orienteering skills.

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