Big open spaces, the smell of fresh-cut grass and leafy green trees, and the sun on your face. Bliss! We are currently living with ongoing restrictions in Scotland, but getting out and about for daily exercise in your local area is a great way to get an energy boost. We can look ahead to exploring the beautiful country more in the future. For now, it's important to remember that our open spaces may look a little different now and we need to behave a little differently when we visit them.
The Scottish Outdoor Access Code applies all year-round and offers some great tips and advice so that you can enjoy these spaces safely, and give their staff the time and space they need to look after them properly. There are three key principles to the code.
Look after yourself and your household
As we live with ongoing restrictions, it is important to keep to the recommended 2 metre (6ft) distance from people outside your household. Whether you're exploring the streets and paths around your house or travelling further when restrictions are lifted and it's safe to do so, there are some key things to remember.
Take responsibility for your own actions
Remember that the outdoors isn't risk-free and act with care at all times for your own safety and that of others.
Enjoy slow tourism: make use of walkways and local national walking and cycle routes across the country that are open for people to use, but be mindful of others that you come across and to keep the recommended 2 metre (6ft) distance. If you come across others and the walking path is narrow, be patient and allow others to pass safely.
Avoid touching surfaces like gates as much as possible – try to plan a route that does not require you to open gates. Wash your hands or gloves as soon as you get home.
Plan your visit: make sure you plan ahead your trip. Check if the business is open or whether you need to pre-book in advance and look out for businesses who are part of the 'Good to Go' scheme, and are working hard to ensure your safety and welcome. It's also good to know which car parks are open again, which facilities have reopened, and which places are still closed to the public before you venture out.
Be mindful of closures: some spaces, paths and particular spots may still be closed. This is because staff have been unable to carry out their regular checks to ensure it's safe for visitors to use. If you see any closed signs, please respect these as it is not safe for you and your family to use them just now.
Take special care of children: Children aged between 12 and 17 will need to obey physical distancing rules when exploring outdoor spaces.
Stay safe: don't light bonfires and take care when lighting barbeques as these can easily get out of control. Take extra care around natural hazards and ALWAYS clean up after yourself.
Using public transport: capacity on public transport is limited due to the need to remain 2 metres away from anyone outside of your household, and masks are now mandatory. Always consider your journey before you travel, think about the time of day and alternative ways to travel, or places to visit.
Water areas - it is always important to be mindful when around bodies of water. Scotland's countryside is home to many lochs, rivers, canals, and reservoirs which are a pretty sight to see but please be especially cautious when exploring with young children and people who are unable to swim.
Please also read and heed any water safety advice, guidance and signage where provided and keep yourself and other safe. Our coasts and waters are great places to visit for all the family, but make sure you plan ahead where appropriate. For more information, safety guidelines and helpful advice, visit
Look after others
What has been amazing about the last few months, is how much we have all helped each other and supported friends, family and our communities when needed. Please keep that kindness going by considering how your actions affect others when out exploring Scotland.
Respect the interests of other people
Behave with courtesy, consideration and awareness. Respect the privacy, safety and livelihoods of those living and working in the outdoors, and the needs of other people enjoying the outdoors.
Manage your expectations: it is key to remember that now restrictions have eased, a lot of outdoor areas have not been operating for over two months, so even when they re-open, staff will need time and space to check the access to some paths, clean and service facilities, and generally make sure the area is ready for visitors again. As this happens, it is important to be mindful and manage your expectations - be patient and allow staff to do their job before visiting the area.
Visiting smaller and more rural communities: Scotland's cities are amazing, but we all like to head out of them from time to time and spend a much-loved day in the countryside. Please consider where you're going, and the facilities that will be available - smaller communities have less shops, petrol stations and toilets available, and those that are open will be small and may need to limit the number of people who use them at one time. Make sure you're not putting additional pressure on an area that may have a particularly vulnerable community or still be learning to operate post-lockdown. This is particularly true for Scotland's island communities, which are mainly accessible via ferry - which will have limited capacity due to physical distancing. Please consider the impact of your trip before you leave the house.
Tread carefully: as we have been under lockdown, nature has begun to reclaim its space and flourish in our absence. Please make sure you keep your dog on a lead if you are near farms or fields, to be sure not to disturb any animals or wildlife that you come across.
3 tips for farm walks:
- Never feed farm animals.
- Avoid entering fields with crops or animals.
- Leave gates as you find them.
Look after the environment
Look after the places you visit and enjoy, and always leave the land as you find it. Our beautiful landscapes and historic monuments bring a lot of joy to those lucky enough to see them in person - make sure that continues to happen by never causing damage - intentional or accidental.
- Always take your rubbish home with you.
- Pick up after your dog.
- Keep a safe distance from any land management operations.
- Never intentionally or recklessly disturb or destroy a plant, bird, animal or geological feature.
- Don't damage or disturb cultural heritage sites
A lot of Scotland's countryside location may still be shut to the public and should NOT be attempted to access while under lockdown:
- Mountain biking trails - Most formal mountain biking trails are now open. Please make sure that you check before you visit to plan ahead.
- Public toilets - A phased reopening of public toilets will begin on Monday 20 July 2020. Check for all the latest updates here.
- Public car parks - Almost all car parks have reopened, with normal charges applied from 20 July 2020. If you arrive at a car park and it looks busy, please have an alternative plan and go somewhere you can ensure physical distancing guidance.
Find out more:
- Forestry and Land Scotland
- Scottish Natural Heritage
- Scotland's National Nature Reserves
- Cairngorms National Park
- Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park
- National Trust for Scotland
- Historic Environment Scotland
Always follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and enjoy our great outdoors - we're all very lucky to have them!