A sign on the Ledgowan estate. Photo: Richard Webb CC-BY-SA-2.0

A sign on the Ledgowan estate. Photo: Richard Webb CC-BY-SA-2.0

The Ramblers are encouraging walkers to continue using a Highland estate and not to be bullied into avoiding the area.

The plea came after reports of visitors to the Ledgowan estate at Achnasheen being stopped by the landowner who has demanded names and addresses of walkers.

The Ramblers said outdoor enthusiasts have the right to walk on the land in Wester Ross under Scottish access laws.

The walkers’ charity and the British Mountaineering Council have previously said any walkers who are intimidated on the hills by landowners should call the police.

The Ramblers said the Ledgowan estate, east of Kinlochewe, is reported to have introduced a new access policy.

The report said under the new policy, walkers are likely to be stopped and asked for their name and address, and if these are not forthcoming, photographs of the walkers and their vehicles will be taken.

A Ramblers spokesperson said: “While this is said to be in response to recent thefts and poaching incidents, Ramblers Scotland condemns the apparent lack of respect for Scotland’s access legislation which gives duties on landowners to take proper account of the interests of persons exercising access rights across their land.”

Helen Todd, campaigns policy manager at Ramblers Scotland said: “Ledgowan estate has been known to us for a number of years, following reports of intimidatory behaviour and obstructions, such as locked gates, on this estate.

“It is frustrating that the behaviour of this one landowner has tied up the local authority and local access forum for countless hours while they have to deal with the many complaints, when they should be free to positively promote access in the area.

A hilltrack on the Ledgowan estate. Photo: PFO CC-BY-SA-2.0

A hilltrack on the Ledgowan estate. Photo: PFO CC-BY-SA-2.0

“This particular landowner is refusing to recognise his obligations under the land reform legislation, unlike the vast majority of landowners in Scotland.

“It is not illegal for landowners and their employees to take photographs of walkers, but walkers are under no obligation to give their contact details to anyone except a police officer.

“If they feel threatened or intimidated while walking responsibly on the estate, they should call the police, as we advised in guidance jointly published last year with the Mountaineering Council of Scotland.

“We encourage people to continue walking on this estate, in a responsible way, as to avoid the area would be to give in to bullying tactics.”

In a letter in the name Richard Simpson, the son of estate owner and said to have been distributed to local residents, the estate said: “We encourage access to Ledgowan using our managed tours.

“We run safaris taking members of the public on the hill roads to view the wildlife pointed out by our stalkers.”

It outlined the reasons for asking walkers for names and addresses. “Reasons – there are some malicious people about. There has already been an incident of a black throated diver being found dead on the loch side which the police have investigated. This had nothing to do with the estate staff.”

The letter added: “We let the houses out to UK and foreign guests who all look for security (Russian, German and Danish) and it is imperative that we can offer this.”

Andrea Partridge, access officer for the MCofS, said: “If anyone feels they have been intimidated or threatened while exercising their statutory rights of access, they should report the incident immediately to the police by calling 101.

“They should make a note of the time and location of the incident, individual’s names if appropriate, and vehicle registration numbers.”

The MCofS said, under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, people have a right of access to most land and inland water in Scotland, so long as they act responsibly as detailed in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.

“Landowners should respect these access rights when managing their land or water and act reasonably when asking people to avoid land management operations,” the council said.

“They are also expected to cooperate with their local authority and other bodies to help integrate access and land management.”

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