UK Rights of Way: Ten things you may not know about them
By Steve Dempster
If you're new to country walking in the UK, or are planning a visit and
would like to enjoy a walk in the countryside, you may be confused as to
just where you can and can't go. The short article that follows should
serve to demystify the meaning of all those finger-posts, yellow arrows
and stiles that are dotted about everywhere. So here are ten things you
may not know about UK Public Rights of Way . . .
Paths marked as Public Footpaths are open only to walkers - no
cyclists, horse-riders or motor vehicles.
Paths marked as Public Bridleways are open to walkers, horse-
riders and cyclists.
Paths marked as Restricted Byways are open to all non-
motorised users: walkers, horse riders, cyclists and horse-drawn
Paths marked as Byways Open To All Traffic (BOATS) are
open to all traffic including motor vehicles - though they may not be
maintained to the standard of ordinary roads.
From a legal standpoint, a Public Right of Way is subject to the same
protection in law as all other roads, being part of the Queen's
On a Public Right of Way as listed above, your legal right is to
pass and repass along the way. You may stop to rest, take
refreshment or simply admire the view - providing you stay on the path
and don't cause any type of obstruction.
Paths that cross commons, open spaces and public parks to which the
public has normal access may not be Public Rights of Way - though some
Some paths are known as Permissive Paths because the owner
of the land has given permission for the public to use them. There is often
a disclaimer notice on these paths that states that they are not dedicated
as rights of way - some are even closed one day per year in order to
enforce this statement.
Even though a Public Right of Way may be unused for many years, it
remains a Public Right of Way, the legal maxim being Once a highway,
always a highway. The exception to this is Scotland, where paths may
be closed after twenty years non-use.
If you see a sign by a path declaring it to be a Road Used as a
Public Path (RUPP), this is now obsolete. All RUPP's were re-classified
in May 2006 as Restricted Byways open to all non-motorised users
in the same manner as described above.
Please note:the above information is provided in good faith and is
researched to the best of my knowledge. It is not intended to be a
definitive interpretation of the law.
About the Author
Steve Dempster is actively involved in running several websites and
spends part of his working day creating short, informative articles such as
the one above. Get more info on walking in the UK at the Countrywalkers
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