Do You Know Your ROW (Rights Of Way)?

Let’s face it, if you are on this website then you like to use public Rights Of Way (ROW). There are all sorts of rights of way on an OS map, ranging from footpaths to Byways Open To All Traffic. Lets have a look at all the different types of rights of way and establish what rights we do or don’t have as the case may be!

Rights Of Way Legend

  • Footpath – The green dashed line (on OS Explorer Maps) or pink dashed line (on OS Landranger Maps) are footpaths with public right of way. These footpaths are legally protected routes open to the public. Local authorities keep and maintain the definitive map of Rights of Way. These are the legal documents for the status and alignment of Rights of Way. Local Authorities pass details of amendments to the definitive map to Ordnance Survey for inclusion in our maps. Footpaths may cross private land and in such cases the footpath must be kept to, the public only have the right to walk along the footpath. If a landowner wishes to divert a public right of way they must obtain a legal order from the local authorities to amend the definitive map. Footpaths are sign posted, usually with yellow or green arrows.
  • Bridleway – Bridleways are also legally protected routes that the public have access to either on foot or on horseback.
    Cyclists can use bridleways however according to the Countryside Act 1968 there is no legal obligation to facilitate the cyclists on the routes. If pushbike riders use bridleways they must give way to other users.
    Bridleway signs can be recognised by the blue arrow.
  • Byway open to all traffic – These are the Rights of Way that will be of interest to Greenlaners, these byways are open to all forms of traffic as the title suggests. Pedestrians, horse riders, cyclists and motorised vehicles can use these routes. If you use these routes in a 4×4 or on a motorbike, it is worth noting that normal highway laws apply, this means the vehicle must be taxed, have an MOT certificate and be roadworthy. Insurance and a driving license is also required to use these ROW. BOAT’s are usually marked with a red arrow.
  • Restricted byway – These byways have restrictions in place which prevent users from traveling along them in motorised vehicles. You can only use restricted byways on foot, horseback, bicycle or horse drawn carriage.
  • Other public access route – Whilst these routes are rights of way, the exact permissions of the routes need to be checked with the local highway authority prior to traveling on one of these routes.
  • Recreational route – These routes are created by Local Authorities, Government Agencies or volunteer organisations, Usually these routes follow existing rights of way which are waymarked by the organisation that created the route.
  • National Trail / Long distance route – As the title suggests, these are long distance routes.  Restrictions apply, some will only be open to walkers, others may also be open to cyclists and horse riders.
  • Permissive footpath – A footpath which crosses over private land and isn’t a right of way. Permission for access will have been granted by the landowner, they have the right to withdraw permission at any time. These paths are usually closed for one day per year, doing so protects the landowner against any future claims of continuous public right of way. The date of closure will be well signed in the area or access.
  • Permissive bridleway – Exactly the same rules apply as with the permissive footpath. These routes cross private land with permissive access granted by the landowner.
  • Traffic free cycle route – A designated traffic free cycle route, these are not part of the national cycle network.
  • National cycle network – A national, sign posted cycle routes that are either on road or traffic free.
  • Danger area – These routes usually cross areas such as a military firing range, always adhere to the warning signs around the area! It is advised to contact the Ministry of Defence when planning your trip to find out about any restrictions in the area.
  • Managed access – This could also be on a military firing range and again the warning notices around the area need be observed and adhered to at all times. Access is restricted and managed in this area and you can contact the Ministry of Defence ahead of your trip to find out about any restrictions.
  • Open access land (England & Wales) – These areas in England Wales is shaded in yellow on the map. This is open access land and within this area you are free to roam, this means you do not have to stick to footpaths and trails running across this land. Boundaries to open access land is a thicker tan coloured line.
  • Right to Roam (Scotland) – The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 gives the public the right to be on any land for recreational, educational and certain other purposes and to cross the land if exercised responsibly. In some circumstances it may be required that you get permission from the landowners, however you have the right to roam on foot, cycling or horse riding.  Dog walkers are permitted, however dogs must be kept under control at all times. Hunting, shooting, fishing or access to motorised vehicles is not permitted.

Whilst most of you are probably only interested in BOAT’s, it is useful to know your right’s of way. If you come across a blocked right of way or you are unsure about access, then your first port of call should be with the Rights of Way Officer with the local authority. They will hold the definitive list of the rights of way in that area and should be able to advise or help clear the route.

If you are looking to plan a ‘green laning’ day using ‘green roads’ or BOAT’s then check out our guide to planning a greenlaning route.

New to greenlaning? Check out or beginners guide to green laning



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