Free To Explore
WALKING across Scotland as part of the annual coast-to-coast TGO (The Great Outdoors) Challenge earlier this summer was quite an eye-opener.
More than 300 people took part in the two-week event – including my friend Alex and me – beginning at one of 13 official start points on the west coast.
It was an incredible way to experience lots of the country I’d never seen before – but chatting to other Challengers was something of a revelation.
Ours was a mountainous route and we went entire days without seeing anybody. But there are “funnel points” en route, locations where geography means it’s more likely you’ll bump into other Challengers. There are only so many ways across Loch Ness or through the Cairngorms, for example. Glen Feshie (above) was one of these points. There were loads of walkers from the rest of the UK, but the number of overseas visitors surprised me.
There were people from Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, Austria, France, Belgium, Sweden, Switzerland, Canada, Australia, South Korea and Uganda.
Particularly impressive was the number of participants from the US – they numbered more than 30, or 10 per cent of everyone taking part.
The one thing every visitor was desperate to talk about was our enviable “right to roam”. It’s something we’re so used to in Scotland that it’s easy to take for granted. Talking to others from around the world of the frustrations they experience in trying to access their countryside makes you realise just how blessed we are.
Our access laws are among the most progressive – if not the most progressive – on the planet.
But these were rights that were hard won over generations – and it was only 15 years ago that they were enshrined in law with the Land Reform Act.
Naturally, with rights come responsibilities and it’s incumbent on all who use the outdoors to treat our precious landscapes with care and respect.
This month, Fiona Russell has written an excellent article on the battle for our access rights and the anniversary of the reform legislation. It’s on page 58. @Scotsmaged