A HIGHLAND estate could face formal proceedings if locked gates blocking public access to their estate, and the Speyside Way that runs through it, are not removed.

It comes as Ramblers Scotland called on the owner of the Kinrara estate to take down locked gates which are believed to have been erected in the last week.

Under Scottish law, there is an obligation on landowners to ensure that public access is facilitated where access rights apply, though this is often done on the basis of goodwill and cooperation of the parties concerned.

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Thousands of people use the Speyside Way each year, bringing many economic benefits to the area. The presence of the gates, however, means some will now face long detours to join the trail, with the closest alternatives being at Aviemore, Dalraddy Holiday Park and Kincraig.

The Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA), which is responsible for managing the system of access rights, is investigating the gates, which are blocking three tarmac entrances to the estate grounds. If they remain locked, it is possible that the authority will use legal powers but the process can be expensive and lengthy, and moves have already been made to resolve the matter informally.

“We’ve contacted the estate to understand their end of the story before we decide what to do,” said Murray Ferguson, director of planning and rural development at the CNPA.

“It’s theoretically possible that they’ve got a reason for putting up these gates. It’s important we give them a chance to have their say first.”

Ferguson said the CNPA was not consulted before the gates were installed and they were informed when members of the public expressed their concerns. He added that the response from the owners of the Kinrara estate will allow them in turn to decide their next move.

“We always try to resolve things informally if we possibly can, and a lot of the right-to-roam stuff happens on the basis of goodwill and cooperation,” he added. “But if push comes to shove, the 2003 Land Reform Act provides a right for everybody in Scotland to have access over almost all the land as long as they behave responsibly, and there’s similar obligations on the landowners and land managers to respect people’s access rights.

“If we don’t get cooperation from the estate and they don’t have a good reason for putting in these gates then we’ve got formal powers that we can use to force them to take the gates away or we’ll do it and charge them. But we don’t want to do that unless we have to and it’s not a power that gets very frequently used.”

Ramblers Scotland, a volunteer group with around 6500 members, said they fully supported the CNPA in their bid to have the gates removed.

“It’s extremely disappointing that a public body is having to spend time and money on such an avoidable problem, and that access remains blocked during the peak summer season,” said director of the organisation Brendan Paddy.

“We call upon Kinrara Estate to remove the gates now, so that tourists and residents can once again exercise their access rights, join the Speyside Way and enjoy the natural beauty of the Cairngorms National Park.”

The National was unable to reach the estate for comment by the time we went to press last night.