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Update: Glen Strathfarrar winter access for vehicles

Tuesday 22nd November 2022, 12:46pm

Mountaineering Scotland has been in negotiations with Bidwells the factor who represent the Braulen Estate and control access to the private road at Glen Strathfarrar since early 2022. As reported to members previously, the estate proposed new conditions on vehicular access by Mountaineering Scotland members. Whilst we made some constructive progress at a meeting in December 2021, we have been unable to reach a compromise on one of the key conditions of access which has been communicated to us.

Regretfully, we could not accept the terms proposed by Glenavon & Braulen Estates regarding vehicular access to the glen for this winter season. Estate staff proposed a restriction allowing access only to the four Munros for those accessing the glen by car, in addition to a three car per-day limit.

The glen road is a private road, which closes to the public annually from November through to the end of March.  Mountaineering Scotland members were, until the winter of 2019/20, permitted by agreement to take vehicles along the 15-mile road, bringing the summits, subsidiary tops and winter climbing crags within reach during the shorter daylight hours of winter.

We acknowledge and appreciate that granting winter vehicular access through an agreement with the landowner is a privilege which has been enjoyed by members of Mountaineering Scotland. This agreement has been an accepted practice for a number of years, given the considerable practical difficulties as well as safety considerations in accessing the glen in winter by bike or by walking.

Management activities for Red Deer throughout the winter season has been given as a reason for amending the conditions of access. The previous agreement excluded low-level walking in the glen to avoid disturbing wintering deer herds sheltering on the lower ground. However, the new vehicular access condition restricting walkers to Munros only is, we feel, contrary to the spirt of Part 1 of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 - since our members would be required to forfeit their right of access, exercised responsibly and accept restrictions as to where to walk, climb or ski during the entire winter period, in exchange for the privilege of driving up the private road.

There are normally very low numbers of members accessing the glen during the winter period (averaging 25 30 visits) and over the years we had developed a robust process to notify the estate of when and where our members were intending to go, to avoid interfering with estate deer management. Despite the long history of responsible access our members have enjoyed and our attempts to engage with the estate, we are unclear why these changes have been proposed.

Mountaineering Scotland will continue to keep open communications with estate staff and hope that re-negotiation may be possible for vehicle use in the glen for recreational access activities and destinations in the winter closed season.

Glenavon & Braulen Estate says that the public is welcome to access the glen at any time under statutory rights and responsibilities as set out in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. There is a car park by the glen gate, and non-vehicular access continues to be available to members of the public who wish to enjoy Glen Strathfarrar between November and April.