“Friluftsliv”. It is a widely accepted word in Sweden and the rest of Scandinavia. There is no direct translation in the English language. It encompasses much that cannot be simply put into words. The best way to describe it is perhaps a life in the free air, where nature is very much part of everyday life. It includes many activities, both big and small. At the very foundation of this notion is the right to roam, Allemansrätten.
Allemansrätten, which directly translated means “the right of all men”, allows freedom to walk, bicycle, ride a horse, or camp pretty much anywhere. This applies to all land that cannot be harmed by your presence there, or is being farmed.
You are allowed to walk, bike or ride a horse on private roads. You can pick wild berries, mushrooms, and flowers as long as they are not endangered. After putting up your tent for the night you can have an open fire, as long as you make sure that it doesn’t leave permanent damage to the area, using fallen branches as fuel.
Basically, the only restrictions applies to the area right around a residential dwelling, where the most immediate surrounding is off limits. Picking someone’s flowers out of the flowerbed in their back garden will get a Scandinavian just as riled as it would anywhere else in the world.
These rights are at the core of the Scandinavian way of life. They consider them a legacy and a human right. Putting up a “no trespassing” sign would be a violation. But with all this freedom comes a great responsibility. While Allemansrätten offers rights to the individual, it also places equal emphasis on looking after the countryside. The land is something precious to be cared for, to be left in the same state you found it for the next person who will come across it.
While some would consider this way of looking at nature a distinctly Scandinavian trait, the Scottish Outdoor Access Code is in fact very much similar to Allemansrätten. If anything, the Scottish Access Code is even more detailed in what are the rights of access to land in terms of having them written down.
However, while in Scandinavia most know their rights when it comes to accessing land, fewer in the UK know of the freedom offered in Scotland. Most would rather look at England and Wales, and attribute their regulations to all of the British Isles.
In England you will find designated areas of open access land, where you are allowed to wander off the paths. But not even there are you allowed to pitch your tent without permission from the land owner. While there is of course plenty of areas left to explore in England and Wales still, these are limitations that aren’t found in Scotland.
There are many good resources where you can find out more about what your rights are. I would suggest you take a look before your next outing. There is a lot to explore out there, knowing what is allowed and what isn’t lets you tap into even more of it while at the same time ensuring that the impact you make on the land is as small as possible.
There are clear similarities between Scotland and Scandinavia, ties that go way back. Not only in geographical appearance, minus expansive forests, but also in the way people view the outdoors. It might be that Scandinavia is ahead of the curve, but Scotland and the UK in general are definitely getting there. Maybe in a generation or two, Scotland will have a word for “friluftsliv” of their own.