Public access to the countryside in England and Wales is permitted under various laws, notably the Highways Acts and the Countryside and Rights of way Act 2000. Until recently, most legal access has been restricted to public highways - but bear in mind that in law, footpaths (for pedestrian use) and bridleways (where horses and bicycles are also permitted) are "highways" just as much as a major motorway. In practice, blocking a path across a field tends to attract less atention than blocking the M25! Such public rights of way (PROW) are defined and managed by the County Highways Authority. There are about 1025km of public footpaths on Anglesey, but only 2 short sections of bridleway (near Llanddona) were originally registered.


The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 created the legal concept of Access Land - commonly known as the "right to roam". Unlike in Scotland and many other European Countries where there is a public right of access on open land (including farmland) the right in Wales and England is restricted to defined areas of "mountain, moor, heath and down" and registered Common Land. It is defined on maps issued by the appropriate countryside body in England and Wales, in this case CCW. There is a general right of public access, on foot, for open-air recreation on such land.

There are exceptions and regulations relating to this. For instance, the mapping of access land required that decisions be made to exclude very small areas of mountain, moor heath and down, while the right of access does not apply close to houses, parks or gardens or on military land. There are other regulations, which enable temporary closure for land management or conservation purposes. Details of current access land on Anglesey, covering some 2304ha, is available on the Countryside Council for Wales website.

An owner of land can also dedicate Access Land in perpetuity. For instance, the Forestry Commission has dedicated 806ha of conifer plantation at Newborough Forest as such. The Countryside Council for Wales has also indicated its intention to declare National Nature Reserves (NNRs) as access land where possible. However, there is a snag, as most of the reserves are not actually owned by CCW, but leased or managed under similar long agreements, and obtaining the requisite permission from the (often private) landowner is unlikely to be easy, given that access land designation is in perpetuity and therefore restricts the landowner's futUre options. Newborough NNR for instance, is largely leased, rather than owned by CCW, so this has limited practical value in this case. Fortunately, three of public footpaths offer reasonable access across the open dunes and link to the open foreshore.


Access to the foreshore is permitted in law for fishing and navigation, but is only an assumed right (unopposed by the Crown) for recreation. Most of the Anglesey foreshore is owned by the Crown Estate, and leased for management purposes to the County Council. However, significant parts around Penmon and Beaumaris are privately owned by the local Estate. In practice, quiet recreational use is tolerated.

The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 also empowers government to extend the definition of "open country" (and thereby, access land) to coastal land; defined as "foreshore and land adjacent to the foreshore including cliff, bank, barrier, dune, beach or flat adjacent to the foreshore". The Welsh Government indicated its intention to improve access to the coast but rejected use of this power in favour of a policy of seeking improved access as local needs and opportunites dictate. The Welsh Government also announced its desire to see a coastal footpath around the whole Welsh coast. The Local Access Forum, with representatives of users walkers and other users, agencies an landowners, will therefore play a key role in driving this agenda.

There is a good coastal footpath around much of the island, using existing public footpaths and other negotiated access, and plans afoot to upgrade this to National Trail status. This coastal path gives direct access to about 18 SSSI (protected areas) and close to several others that are accessible by detour on public paths, in addition to taking the walker through the highlights of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).