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Walking your dog: access rights

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With such a great scenic environment in South Ayrshire, walking your dog is an easy way to get out and about and get some regular exercise – but there are rules that we all have to follow when enjoying the great outdoors.

The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 gives everyone (not motorised vehicles) statutory access rights to most land and inland water (although there are certain exemptions listed below). You only have these rights if you exercise them responsibly by respecting people’s privacy, safety, livelihood and Scotland’s environment.

In summary, your access rights are:

  • everyone, whatever their age or ability, has access rights;
  • you can exercise these rights, provided you do so responsibly, over most land and inland water in Scotland at any time of the day or night;
  • you can exercise access rights for recreational purposes (family and social activities such as walking the dog and more active pursuits like horse riding, cycling, wild camping and taking part in events) and for crossing over land or water; and
  • existing rights, including public rights of way and navigation and existing rights on the foreshore, continue.

Please note, when walking your dog, access rights only apply if your dog is kept under proper control, which is either on a short lead of two metres or less or at heel and responding to commands. Your dog is not under control if it is running free, out of your sight or causing alarm to people or other animals.

The main places where access rights don’t apply are:

  • houses and gardens, and non-residential buildings and associated land;
  • land where crops are growing;
  • land next to a school and used by the school;
  • sports or playing fields when in use and where the exercise of access rights would interfere with such use;
  • land developed and in use for recreation and where the exercise of access rights would interfere with such use;
  • golf courses (but you can cross a golf course provided you don’t interfere with any game of golf and do not cross any of the greens);
  • places like airfields, railways, telecommunication sites, military bases and installations, working quarries and construction sites; and visitor attractions or other places which charge for entry; and
  • commercial premises and land which is the subject of a specific exemption order made under the Act.

For a fuller explanation, check out the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.

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