The dilemma of upland footpaths: Understanding private landowner engagement in the provision of a public good

Ross MacKay, Katrin Prager* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

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With a right to responsible access across almost all land in Scotland, millions of recreationists make free use of an extensive upland path network. These paths provide easy access to some of the most spectacular, but most fragile habitats in the country. This path network is expected to come under increasing pressure from both use and climate. With many hundreds of kilometres already in poor condition, a new strategy to sustainably manage this important resource is required. As key stakeholders in the management of upland paths, understanding landowner engagement is key. Based on semi-structured qualitative interviews with land management representatives we found a diverging sense of responsibility for path management along the private/non-private landownership divide, but a positive attitude towards public access across the board. This resulted in a generally positive intention to engage in upland path management. Principal factors influencing engagement are; landowner awareness of the complex and nuanced issues associated with path degradation, the perceived benefits of path works, and the availability of and access to appropriate funding. From this, a typology of behaviours was developed. More than one behaviour type was identified on most properties, with engagement increasing in-line with severity of path degradation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-157
Number of pages27
JournalScottish Geographical Journal
Issue number1-4
Early online date27 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - 27 Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Open Access available under the T&F Agreement
We would like to thank all of the land management professionals who offered their time and insight in support of this research.


  • Land management
  • theory of planned behaviour
  • Cairngorms National Park
  • User contribution


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