Mass protest on Ledgowan Estate to test legal rights of access

Plans for a mass protest walk on Ledgowan Estate in Wester Ross on St Andrew’s Day are continuing, as walkers threaten to exercise their legal right of access.

The protest comes after a number of incidents in which it was claimed the estate were trying to restrict access to the land.

The walk was first proposed in the aftermath of a blog by Dr Kenneth Brown of Glenmoriston, in which he detailed an encounter with the son of Ledgowan Estate owner Andrew Simpson. In October Dr Brown and his wife were returning to their car after walking in the Achnasheen area when Richard Simpson approached them, demanding to know what they were doing “walking on his hill” and behaving in an aggressive manner. Dr Brown decided to air the incident on land reform campaigner Andy Wightman’s blog, resulting in a flood of criticism of the estate.

Dr Brown’s experience follows a long-running dispute between Ledgowan Estate and Highland Council over attempts to block access at Ledgowan to members of the public, with gates padlocked and reports of threats from estate workers. In March of this year the council overruled an estate objection to the creation of a footpath and permanent cycle track in Achnasheen, which the landowners claimed encroached on the privacy of the lodge.

With the renewed attention on Ledgowan, the creation of 18 kilometres of track on the estate for “agricultural activities” has come under the spotlight and the protest on 30th November will focus on management as well as concerns about “hostility to access”.

The walk has been organised by activist Gerry Loose, who said: “That there is an absolute right of access enshrined in Scots Law is unarguable. That the estate managers and title holders have the best interests of the people of Scotland at heart,  and that the managers and title holders respect their duties to conform to the planning regulations of their local authority, may be determined by this mass walk.”

He added: “It’s not so much a protest as an inspection: people who hold legal title to estates in Scotland claim, among other things, to be custodians, stewards of land. I’d just like to see how well that stewardship is getting along on Ledgowan, since I and everyone else has access and we’re the folk that it’s being looked after for.”