Learn about Countryside Access to help you responsibly get outside.
Where you can go in the Park
Since May 2005, large areas of Northumberland National Park are accessible to the public as a result of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CROW). This means that you can now walk feely on designated ‘Access Land’ without having to stay on rights of way.
Up to date information about access land, where you can go and what you can do is available on the Countryside Access website.
Open Access Land
Open Access Land across the National Park is clearly mapped on all the new Ordnance Survey Explorer Series maps, which were revised in time for the commencement of this new right. Look out for the new waymarking symbols that show when you are entering or leaving Access Land.
Land mapped as open access is shown on the Ordnance Survey Explorer map series and on the online maps on the Countryside Access website. It generally comprises areas of mountain, moor, heath, down and registered common land although in certain places known as ‘Excepted Land’ access will be excluded. Such areas include dwellings, active mines and quarries and military bye-lawed land.
Waymarking symbols for access land
Access land will normally be indicated on the ground at key entry points by a waymarking symbols. On your walks, keep an eye out for these signs:
No. Open Access is not a ‘right to roam’ everywhere. You can walk on Access Land, but you must also look out for local restrictions.
Access to buildings and access within 20 metres of a house is not allowed
You can’t walk across arable land.
Active quarries, railway lines and military bye-lawed land is also out of bounds.
The live firing area at the Otterburn army training estate falls into this last category. Despite this, one third of the estate (the dry training area) is not byelawed and thus is mapped as access land. For more details on access at Otterburn please go to the Otterburn information pages.
You can, of course, always walk on existing Rights of Way.
About 1,100 kilometres of rights of way provide the focus for accessing the special area of Northumberland National Park.
Furthermore, we have negotiated about 50 kilometres of permissive access, and the vast majority of open moorland, as well as Forestry Commission woodland, which is now “Open Access” land and can be explored on foot.
The responsibility for rights of way within the county of Northumberland lies with the highway authority, Northumberland County Council. It has a wide range of statutory duties to protect and maintain rights of way, and additional discretionary powers to support rights of way management functions.
Where to find up to date information
The highway authority is responsible for the Definitive Map, which provides a legal record of public rights of way and public rights known to exist at any point in time.
Within the National Park, there are 707 kilometres of public footpath, 422 kilometres of public bridleway, 38 kilometres of byway open to all traffic and 50 kilometres of restricted byway.
Northumberland National Park Authority has delegated responsibility from the highway authority in terms of the physical maintenance and improvement of the public rights of way network.
The majority of this work is carried out by our Rangers, who are responsible for surveying paths, signing routes, helping landowners to keep gates and stiles in good condition, and help to resolve conflicts between path users and those who live and work in the National Park.
Where you can go
Public Rights of Way, excluding the road network, fall into four categories:
Where a landowner allows the public access over private property with permission e.g. our Hillfort Trails. Permission can be removed or suspended and the route or level of permitted use (i.e. whether on foot, horse or vehicle) may be changed at the wish of the landowner. It is important to respect the landowner’s wishes so that these routes remain open to everyone.
There are a number of other long-distance routes that run through the National Park such as St Cuthbert’s Way, St Oswald’s Way, Hadrian’s Cycleway and the Pennine Cycleway. We also promote a number of shorter leisure and circular routes often based around villages.
Consider the local community and other people enjoying the outdoors
Leave gates and property as you find them and follow paths unless wider access is available
Be responsible for leaving no trace of your visit and take your litter home
Keep dogs under effective control
Plan ahead and be prepared
Follow advice and local signs
Enjoy the outdoors
Plan ahead and be prepared
Follow advice and local signs
Code for Land Managers
3 sections of the Code are dedicated to land managers:
Know your rights, responsibilities and liabilities
Make it easy for visitors to act responsibly
Identify possible threats to visitor’s safety
Grazing cattle may become protective of calves, especially when dogs are present. If you are approached by cattle, let go of your dog immediately.
Twenty-three per cent of Northumberland National Park (stretching from the A68 to Upper Coquetdale) is owned by the Ministry of Defence and used as a military training area.
It is the shared aim of the Northumberland National Park and the MoD to encourage as much access to the area as possible. You are free to use the rights of way and access land to the north of the River Coquet at all times – this is the dry training area where there is no live firing.
Otterburn Ranges information
Useful information about access and safety in the Otterburn Ranges.