Signs, signs, signs...

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Signs are one of the most important tools for the management of responsible access in the outdoors. It is first and foremost a simple and effective method of communication between the people who own or manage land and water, and those who take access on it. Signs offer an obvious welcome and have a significant role to play in promoting paths and encouraging and supporting people in their use. This will help everyone to take access responsibly and allow land and access managers to carry out operations safely, and provide opportunities for everyone to enjoy the outdoors.

Signs for outdoor access fall into two categories: advisory signs and directional signs.

Advisory signs - are about letting people know what to expect, providing information about issues affecting access or advice on responsible behaviour.

advisory sign metal panel

Directional signs - are about route finding and cover any sign which helps people to find their way to, or along, a path.

directional sign softwood fingerpost routered arrow and wording

The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 (the Act) has fundamentally altered the legal basis for outdoor access in Scotland. Everyone now has access rights to most land and inland water, subject to their responsible behaviour. Access and land managers also have a duty under the Act to use and manage land responsibly in relation to access rights. To reflect and support these new arrangements, important, but subtle, changes are required in how access and land managers communicate with users. The introduction of the Scottish Outdoor Access Code (the Code) sets out guidance which provides advice on responsible behaviour by both users and access and land managers.

People may exercise their access rights in parks, greenspaces and the wider countryside, for recreational or everyday functional purposes such as getting to work or school. The new approach promoted by Paths for All's good practice guide: icon Signage Guidance for Outdoor Access - A Guide to Good Practice, asks land and access managers to think afresh about what information users need to make informed choices, and how best to communicate this through signs and other means. It is the quality of the communication that will be a key factor in the successful management of outdoor access, and in realising the benefits of the access arrangements brought into effect by the Act.

© 2014 Paths for All - Registered Scottish Charity No: SC025535, Company Limited by Guarantee No: 168554 inc. 19 Sept 1996 at Companies House, Edinburgh