Latest news stories from ScotWays.

Cattle and public access

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The death last month of a dog walker on the Pennine Way in Yorkshire has highlighted the dangers of cattle, particularly when dogs are present. In the incident last month it appears that cows were panicked by the sight of the walker’s two dogs and stampeded, trampling the walker to death. The cows behaved aggressively because they were with their calves. Former Home Secretary, David Blunkett, was injured earlier in June by a charging cow when he was out walking with his guide dog, and another dog walker was killed by stampeding cattle in Suffolk last year.

The advice in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code is not to take your dog into fields where there are lambs, calves or other young animals. However, if you go into a field where cattle act aggressively and move towards you, the advice is that you should let the dog go and take the shortest, safest route out of the field.

The Health and Safety Executive has issued guidance on cattle and public access in Scotland (Agriculture Information Sheet No 17S). This advises farmers on the precautions they can take to ensure the safety of the public.

If a walker is injured by cattle, the farmer may have to pay compensation if he has not taken adequate precautions to protect the public. In a recent English court case (Shirley McKaskie v John Cameron, Blackpool County Court, 1st July 2009) a dog walker successfully sued a farmer for damages for injuries she suffered when attacked by a herd of cows as she was crossing a field.

Scottish Planning Policy Consultation – ScotWays Response

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As part of our work at ScotWays we comment on planning applications all over Scotland where we think there may be an adverse impact on public access. When making our comments we often refer to the Scottish Government’s planning policy documents, such as Scottish Planning Policy 11 – Open Space and Physical Activity, which includes the key phrase “Access rights and core path plans are material considerations in determining applications for planning permission”.

ScotWays recently submitted detailed comments to the Scottish Government in response to their consultation on the proposal to replace 17 existing planning policies, covering different issues, with a single, more concise, Scottish Planning Policy (SPP). In some respects we think that the proposed new Policy does not give sufficient protection to public access or to protection of the landscape which is of vital importance for enjoyment of the outdoors. We have made a number of suggestions for revisions of the draft Policy to deal with these issues.

The consultation period closed on 24th June and we await the outcome with interest. If you would like to view our full response, you can download the complete document from this website, just click on the ‘Downloads’ tab above. If you would like to read more about the SPP consultative draft, visit

A new way to access the old ways – Heritage Paths Website is Launched!

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A new window opened on Scotland’s history today. It will guide walkers and other access takers to nearly 2000km of historic paths around the country. Launched at the Bishop’s Bridge, the old packhorse bridge in Ceres, the Heritage Paths Project website is an online resource giving easy access to a wealth of information on hundreds of miles of historic paths across Scotland.


The new website, , run by the Scottish Rights of Way and Access Society (ScotWays) was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH). The Heritage Paths Project brings together carefully researched images, maps and information relating to the traditional routes and long distance paths used down the generations for journeys such as trade, pilgrimage, travel and burial customs.


Users now have the tools to find out about old paths all over Scotland and travel them.  The website has a range of paths from those that are very accessible to those that are more challenging, but all give a new insight into the purpose and methods of travel before the car.


This online database should encourage people to get outdoors by putting these paths in their historic context and encouraging people to explore them for themselves.


Chairman of ScotWays George Menzies, said:

“ScotWays has been protecting and promoting paths for over 150 years and we are delighted to be able to pass on our knowledge of the paths’ histories in such an accessible way.”


The website also promotes access to the countryside to a wide range of users as well as walkers, such as bike riders, horse riders and motorised wheelchair users. SNH Chief Executive Ian Jardine said:


“Using Scotland’s path networks offers physical, emotional and cultural benefits to people of all ages and abilities. SNH is delighted to support the Heritage Paths online resource. It delivers information that will interest people in their surroundings and their history, and will hopefully encourage more people to go out and explore the natural heritage around them.”


Attending the launch were pupils from Ceres Primary who walked back in time along the famous local path The Waterless Road, guided by professional school guides Forth Pilgrim who explained its fascinating history.


Heritage Paths Project Officer, Neil Ramsay demonstrated the depth of information available on the website database. He said:

“The website includes old paths and roads that were used for a wide variety of purposes. These include coffin roads used to take the dead to be buried in consecrated ground, Roman Roads built nearly 2000 years ago and the drove roads that saw hundreds of thousands of cattle walking from all parts of Scotland to descend on the big cattle Trysts at Crieff and Falkirk.”


A unique aspect to the website is that it combines the latest Google Maps technology with historic Bartholomew maps showing the paths in an easily accessible format. This combined feature was generously designed and created by the National Library of Scotland and shows detailed historic mapping with the modern road network overlaid.


The website already contains many historic paths, but Neil Ramsay is keen to keep adding to the project. He said:

“Ideally the resource should continue to grow and expand as people use it and contribute their own local knowledge and information about the old paths in their areas. There are also aspects of paths’ history that are undocumented and we’d like users to see the website as a dynamic resource that can be added to.”


Scotland Manager of HLF, Colin McLean, said

“The Heritage Lottery Fund is delighted to have been able help fund this exciting new resource. Not only will people be encouraged to enjoy Scotland’s marvellous outdoor landscape but will be able to walk in the footsteps of their ancestors who shaped the history of Scotland.”

So why not see for yourself? Visit today!

Householder Permitted Development Rights Consultation – ScotWays Response

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ScotWays recently submitted comments on Scottish Government plans to relax the planning controls on certain developments in relation to existing residential properties, thus reducing the need for planning applications.

As part of their proposals for modernisation of the planning system, the Scottish Government intend to remove a number of minor householder planning applications from the planning system. It is hoped this will allow individuals more freedom to develop their property and planning authorities to allocate resources to more significant developments, while retaining an appropriate level of planning control.

Our main concerns with the proposed changes to permitted development rights are about possible encroachment of development over public rights of way or core paths, and possible limitations on how the public can exercise statutory rights of access to land. We are aware that this can already be a problem under the existing permitted development rights. This can occur both within settlements and in rural settings.

John Mackay, ScotWays Director said, “We think that this issue is best addressed by an addition to the general conditions, to the effect that permitted development rights do not apply where the development encroaches on or otherwise impedes passage along a public right of way or core path, or impedes the exercise by the public of access rights under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003.”

If you would like to read more about the Householder Permitted Development Rights Consultation Paper, visit

Keep up to date with our Spring Update!

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We recently sent out our Spring Update. We think it’s a great way to let all our valued members know what we’ve been up to, and give them the opportunity to get involved in our work.

If you are a ScotWays member and have not yet received your copy of the Spring Update, please contact the office so we can check we have your details correct.

If you are not currently a member but would like to receive our Spring Update and all the other benefits of ScotWays membership, click on the Membership tab above to find out more.

Some of our oldest signs to be re-installed

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Working on the Heritage Paths Project and researching the many old routes around Scotland has helped us to understand and value Scotland's historic paths. A less anticipated outcome of the project has been a reappraisal of ScotWays' own involvement in historic paths and the sad realisation that many of our original signs, probably the oldest of their type in the world, have gone missing. This prompted us to give a rallying call for anyone who notices a cast iron ScotWays sign to let us know about them and their condition but it has also encouraged us to look into re-installing some of the original signs that we are in possession of.

With the invaluable help of Friends of the Pentlands we are now in a position to reinstall some of the original Victorian signs in the Pentland Hills region. Friends of the Pentlands refurbished four of our original signs and are now looking for suitable sites for them. If this proves successful and walkers appreciate the signs we may attempt to recover other signs and reinstall them as well.

Sign Spotters Still Wanted

Thank you to all of you who have already responded to our sign spotters appeal. We are still interested in reports of our old cast iron signs, so if you spot one when you are out and about, do let us know. Ideally we would like you to provide a grid ref, a note of the condition of both the sign itself and its pole and, if possible, a photograph. Please send you reports to us by email or post.