A sheriff has taken a walk through a Stirlingshire estate to see at first hand land at the centre of a right-to-roam controversy.

Sheriff Andrew Cubie took a hike along with members of the Ramblers’ Association and estate owner Euan Snowie, who wants to exclude the public from 40 acres of his Boquhan land. Mr Snowie said he felt threatened when people came on to the land.

The hearing at Stirling Sheriff Court was told that, because Mr Snowie was active in waste management, he would be a target for criminals. He told the court he had moved to Boquhan, near Kippen, for peace of mind. He had been a high-profile businessman involved in the disposal of animal carcasses from Yorkshire and Dumfriesshire during the foot-and-mouth-disease epidemic of 2001.

The gates to the estate were locked in September 2005 and remain so. Stirling Council has ordered the Snowies to open one of the gates to allow access; hence the appeal. The Ramblers’ Association (RA) in Scotland says the provisions of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act should apply to the whole estate. Mr Snowie originally wanted to exclude walkers, runners and cyclists from the whole of the area, but has since relented and now only wants 40 acres to be kept for him and his family.

He said: “Because of my involvement in waste management there are certain threats, and I have been briefed as to what to look for as a potential target.

“The fact that my gates are secured allows me a first defence. Claire [his wife] and I were both extremely concerned for the safety of our children and our security.

“It is a lovely place to walk during the day but at night it is extremely spooky.”

Dennis Canavan, president of the RA Scotland, countered: “This part of Stirlingshire has some of the most beautiful walking country in Britain and it would be a tragedy if the public were excluded from it.

“If the Snowies get away with this then I fear other landowners will follow suit. The Act is one of the most important and radical pieces of legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament and Mr and Mrs Snowie are trying to get round it by arguing that their large country estate somehow equates to somebody's back garden.”

Stagecoach bus tycoon Ann Gloag has made a similar application for her Kinfauns Castle estate in Perthshire. Euan Snowie, 39, has made a substantial donation to the Labour Party.