Highland landowner speaks out over ramblers' right to roam row

A Highland landowner has spoken out as a landmark right to roam row over access to his estate edges towards a breakthrough.

Donald Houston, owner of Ardnamurchan Estates, has made a legal move to stop people walking through his timber yard at Glenborrodale, with both Highland Council and Ramblers Scotland contesting him over access to the land.

Mr Houston said he took the action to exempt the yard from right to roam legislation after local hillwalkers continued to climb over his gates to access a well-established route over the Ardnamurchan Peninsula. Two walkers were interviewed by police in 2019, but no further action taken.

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Meanwhile, Highland Council is seeking to run part of the core path network, from Arivegaig to Glenborrodale and Laga, through part of the timber yard.

Donald Houston, owner of Ardnamurchan Estates. PIC: Contributed.Donald Houston, owner of Ardnamurchan Estates. PIC: Contributed.
Donald Houston, owner of Ardnamurchan Estates. PIC: Contributed.

A court hearing at Fort William Sheriff Court next month has now been delayed to allow parties time to negotiate a resolution.

Mr Houston welcomed the move and claimed people walking through the yard posed a risk to safety.

Mr Houston said: “We have absolute categorical, crystal clear endorsed evidence that there has never been access and never has been. We are not trying to take away something that was there.”

The landowner admitted the route trough the timber yard was the easiest way to access the surrounding hills but said alternatives had been suggested.

He said: "You can’t have members of the public walking through areas where there are tractors, tippers, fork lifts and chipping machines. It’s like going through a factory site in the middle of town, or having a children’s play park in the middle of the M1.

"People have been climbing over gates to get access and we have to stop work, stop what we are doing.

"We have suggested alternative routes to the council for three to four years.”

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He added: “We have been trying to get Highland Council to sit down and discuss these issues but they have refused to do so, until now.”

The Health and Safety Executive is now also involved and confirmed it was working with the landowner to insure “suitable measures” were in place to protect walkers in the area of the timber yard.

Ramblers Scotland said it was open to finding a compromise with the landowner.

Brendan Paddy, director of Ramblers Scotland, said: “Unfortunately there have been numerous issues on the estate with access which have not been limited to the wood yard. A number of gates have been locked.

“It would be easy to take at face value the claims of the estate if it were not not for repeated issues of access over many years.

“The fact that something is a working yard does not mean that access cannot be taken

“We are always open to compromises about these things and open to the landowner proposing a sensible alternative.

"What we are very concerned about is if they block access completely on the basis of commercial activity. There are established routes on farmyards all over Scotland.”

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A crowdfunder launched by Ramblers Scotland to fight Mr Houston has raised around £28,000 of the estimated £82,000 court costs.

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