Furore over estate’s charges for walkers

Duke of Buccleuch

Duke of Buccleuch

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One of Scotland’s richest men has been accused of breaking the spirit of Scotland’s ‘right to roam’ law by closing the gates of his country park to walkers unless they pay at least £10.

The Duke of Buccleuch, the UK’s largest private landowner, has announced that, from March 21, the gates to his Dalkieth park will be shut overnight from 7pm-7am with access restricted to those who have paid the annual fee for a pass – £10 for adults, £20 for dog-walkers and £20 for a family.

The estate said the move was “to improve safety and security” after a spate of antisocial behaviour and petty vandalism.

He has already installed CCTV, electric controls on the main gate, and there have been moves to restrict access at other entrances.

The arrangements are being brought in as the park prepares to open its multi-million pound redevelopment, including a new adventure playground together with cafés, restaurants and shops.

A £1 charge for one-off visitors will be maintained alongside an annual Friends of Dalkeith Country Park pass card for regular users,from £10. Pedestrian users will be able to gain access at all hours by purchasing the annual pass card.

Dalkeith Country Park is one of the duke’s five major country estates, four of them in Scotland and one in England, covering a total of over 240,000 acres. It is the site of Dalkeith Palace, built in 1702 and used by Bonnie Prince Charlie during the Jacobite Rebellion in 1745.

Midlothian Council said it is believed the duke is complying with the law as the estate previously charged for access in the summer from 10am to 4pm.

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