The Right to Roam

Scotland’s liberal access laws make life a whole lot better for everyone.

Published April 5, 2016
Part of our Battle for the Coastline series

On a cloudless, hot week in Scotland—something of a rarity—a small band of paddleboarders met at the airport in Glasgow, piled their gear into a van, and hit the road. One couple had flown for 11 hours across the globe from Canada; the other couple had driven for almost three days from the Netherlands. They were there to test what sounded like utopia to them—the right to roam the coastline, to paddle where they wished, to camp where they wished, and to eschew a schedule, other than the one the tides dictated. This was no deserted coastline—there were people, houses, and plenty of sheep. Would Scotland live up to their expectations?

Outdoor adventure has a special place in the Scottish psyche, and the country legislated the public’s right to access privately owned land in 2003. Anyone can travel across most land and inland water, provided they do so responsibly.

If utopia is straightforward, easy, fun, and friendly, this place delivered. Scotland, the paddleboarders proclaimed at the end of the trip, had won over their hearts—and it wasn’t just the scotch talking.

Read the rest of the Battle for the Coastline.