I lived in the U.K. years ago and, at the time, really missed the wild, wide open spaces of America. This go around, though, I’ve had a real reversal. I haven’t longed for the landscapes of home, and I’ve found the local countryside enthralling.

In Scotland, walkers have the right to access any route that people have been able to walk for at least twenty years

Part of that reversal comes from living in Scotland rather than England. Natural spaces are a lot more accessible, and plentiful, up here. I think my ideas about open space have changed, too, though. I’m better able to appreciate areas of natural beauty on a smaller scale. Maybe that’s because I’m usually walking at the speed of a three year old (with my three year old). Perhaps I’m also a bit more introspective and less thrill-bound. I’m tempted to claim that writing has made me more appreciative of fine details and more observant, but, that isn’t true. I wrote more in my twenties than I do now.

Sharing the trail.

Sharing the trail.

Scotland is a great place to wander in non-wilderness areas. I’m off to the Highlands in a couple of weeks and expect to get into some areas that are truly wild, undeveloped, and unspoiled. For now, though, right near my little town, thanks to Scotland’s Outdoor Access Code, I can walk out my front door and ramble across open countryside, toward hills or coast, as far as these legs can manage.

In Scotland, walkers have the right to access any route that people have been able to walk for at least twenty years, so long as the route links two public places. I can walk on paths across all sorts of private land. Farms. Golf courses. Estates of the fabulously wealthy.

There’s an outdoor clothing and equipment store here called Trespass. I guess the company is trying to evoke a knows-no-boundaries wilderness adventurer spirit, but the name strikes me as a bit silly. It’s very hard to trespass here. In most relevant cases, landowners must let you cross their land.

Last weekend, I was dropped at the end of a road nine miles down the coast and walked home. I climbed a few stiles to cross farmers’ fields, dodged some golf balls, waded across a stream or two, and had to hustle several cows up a hill, but otherwise my journey was unimpeded. I filled my pocket with colorful seashells, sidestepped thousands of daffodils and, after returning home, met someone for tea and scones.

Despite the dark winter, life in Scotland is pretty good.

For those interested in learning more about outdoor access and the right to roam, I’d recommend a look at Ramblers, an organization dedicated to open space access in Britain.

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