Access FAQs

Outdoor Access Rights and Core Paths FAQ

Published by: Fife Council

Questions and answers relating to access rights under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003.

Q.      What activities are covered by rights of access?

You can exercise access rights for crossing land and water, for recreational purposes, for educational purposes, and for some commercial purposes. There is no definition of 'recreational purposes', but the Access Code suggests a range of countryside activities that would be appropriate, including cycling, horse riding and wild camping. 'Education' is for the understanding of the natural or cultural heritage. Access rights apply above and below the land, and can be exercised in groups. The Access Code gives special advice on groups and events. You can exercise access rights at any time but you should take special care not to disturb local residents when close to property after dark.


Q.      What activities are not covered by rights of access?

Under the Land Reform Act, certain activities are excluded from the exercise of access rights: the use of a motorised vehicle or vessel (except special vehicles for disabled people); field sports; or when with a dog or other animal which is not under proper control. There is a right to cross a golf course, but not of recreation on it.


Q.      What does behaving responsibly mean?

Behaving responsibly means acting lawfully and reasonably and not causing unreasonable interference with the rights and interests of others. A new Scottish Outdoor Access Code is the reference point for guidance on responsibility, both for land managers and for those exercising the rights.

The Access Code is wide-ranging in its content and gives detailed advice about different situations, but it will not cover all circumstances. Three basic principles underpin all the advice in the Code: respect the interests of other people, care for the environment, and take responsibility for your own actions.


Q.      Where do access rights not apply?

The main places where access rights are not exercisable are:

  • Houses and other residences, and sufficient space around them to give residents reasonable privacy and lack of disturbance - this will often be the garden area.
  • Other buildings, works and structures, and the areas around them (curtilages).
  • Land where crops are growing. Grass is not treated as a crop, except hay and silage in the late stages of growth. You can exercise access rights on field margins.
  • Land next to and used by a school.
  • Places, such as visitor attractions, which charge for entry.
  • Land on which building or engineering works are being carried out, or which is being used for mineral working or quarrying.
  • Land developed and in use for a particular recreational purpose, where the exercise of access rights would interfere with this use.
  • Land set out for a particular recreational purpose or as a sports or playing field, when it is being used for that purpose and exercise of the rights would interfere with the use. But rights never apply to specially prepared sports surfaces - golf greens, tennis courts or bowling greens.

Q.      Are access rights different in Scotland from those in England and Wales?

Yes. Access rights are very different. In England & Wales the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 applies. This gives rights of free access only in certain areas that are mapped, though you will be able to use rights of way elsewhere. In Scotland, on the other hand, you can go anywhere that is not specifically excluded, provided that you behave responsibly.

Q.      Who should I contact if I have a problem about access rights?


You should initially contact your local authority Access Officer.  Please e-mail



Q.      Who deals with Rights of Way in the Council?

Currently the countryside access team deal with rights of way enquiries.  Please contact



Q.      Our local footpath is completely overgrown - who deals with that?

Legally, nobody has a responsibility to maintain Rights of Way or access routes.  In practice, some paths have traditionally been looked after by the Council or other local organisations.  If the path is a Right of Way, then the public can maintain it themselves, and this is often the best way.  If you would like advice on path maintenance, please contact the countryside team


Q.      As a landowner, how can I get advice on managing access on my land?

This is initially the remit of the Access Officer, contact ( ), although there are many other organisations working in Fife which she can put you in contact with.


Q.      Where can I get a copy of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003?

You can obtain a copy from The Stationery Office, or you can access it online at

Q.      Where can I get a copy of the Scottish Outdoor Access Code?

You can obtain a free copy from Scottish Natural Heritage's Publications Section. Telephone: 01738 444177, or email to request a copy.  You can also download it from:


Q.      What is a core path?

The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 states 'it is the duty of the local draw up a plan for a system of paths ('core paths') sufficient for the purpose of giving the public reasonable access throughout their area'.

These 'core paths' systems will be available for recreation and everyday journeys by local people and visitors, providing opportunities for walking, cycling, riding and other activities for all ages and abilities; and once in place, will form an invaluable nationwide resource.

Core paths will be of particular benefit close to where people live, and will be key elements in the path networks that will extend from the centre of settlements through public open spaces and green corridors to connect with the urban fringe and the wider countryside. They will provide access to:

  • Beaches
  • Parks
  • Woodlands
  • Hills
  • Historic sites
  • Riverbanks, loch shores and launch points
  • Link settlements and towns/villages

Q.      Does the Council maintain core paths?

Fife Council only has a statutory duty to have an adopted core path plan, not to maintain all the paths.

Some of the paths in the adopted Core Path Plan are already maintained by certain Council departments (e.g. Parks & Countryside, Transportation).

Others will not be maintained, or will be maintained by local community groups, landowners or voluntary organisations/individuals. 

For further information on which core paths are maintained please contact the Access Team.


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