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What are public rights of way?

An explanation of the different types of rights of way in the countryside.

Public rights of way are the main means of getting about in the countryside. They are minor highways, protected in law like all other public roads. There are four types:

  • Footpath: a public right of way with recorded rights for walkers*.  Waymarked with yellow arrows.
  • Bridleway: a public right of way with recorded rights for walkers, horse riders and cyclists* Waymarked with blue arrows.
  • Restricted Byway (formerly Road Used as Public Path RUPP): A public right of way with recorded rights to walk, ride a horse or bicycle and use a horse drawn carriage. Waymarked with purple arrows.
  • Byway open to all traffic (BOAT): a public right of way with recorded rights for all users. Waymarked with red arrows.

*Other access rights may exist on some routes including unrecorded higher rights for other users and/or private access rights to land and property. Although it is unlawful to use motor vehicles on footpaths, bridleways and restricted byways, there may be other private rights of access with vehicles.


Ordnance Survey 'Explorer' maps (orange cover) are recommended as the very best way to plan and follow a walking or riding route through the countryside. At a scale of 1:25,000 (or 4cm to 1km), they show most publicly accessible routes and areas, including public rights of way, access areas, rural cycle tracks, the road network and other helpful tourist information such as pubs, telephone boxes and features of interest.

Buy them from bookshops and larger newsagents but please be aware that they may not show the most recent changes to the Definitive Map, so if you are in any doubt it is best to use our interactive countryside map.