Free To Ex­plore

The Scots Magazine - - Front Page - ROBERT WIGHT, Edi­tor mail@scots­magazine.com

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

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