What are the rules for hiking on public bridleways?

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Like most people that take up walking, I love to head to the countryside and walk in the fresh air and benefit from all that nature surrounding me. You can’t beat a great view from the top of a hill, or walking through an orchard or wood – walking through a town just isn’t as inspirational. However, when we walk in the country we come across different kinds of paths. And one of the first questions I had when I started walking in the country was when I came across a sign with a horse that said bridleway. So, is it ok for people to walk along a public bridleway?

The short answer is, yes, people are permitted to walk along public bridleways. Bridleways are meant for horseriders, walkers and cyclists. So if you are out walking in the countryside and you come across a bridleway sign, don’t think that this path is for horses only, feel free to make use of the bridleway too.

As bridleways are often marked along the way with a mounted horse sign, then I always find it is wise to be aware of horses and give way to them. The last thing you want is to startle a horse and cause it to bolt, maybe throwing it’s rider off. I do love to see horses out though, they are such majestic beasts. So follow my example and treat horses as number one on bridleways.

Cyclists are supposed to give way to horseriders and walkers, and whilst most cyclists I come across are respectful, you do get the odd one that will be so determined to beat their best time that they think they own the path. Section 30 of the Countryside Act of 1968 states:

“Any member of the public shall have, as a right of way, the right to ride a bicycle, [not being a mechanically propelled vehicle], on any bridleway, but in exercising that right cyclists shall give way to pedestrians and persons on horseback.”

Keep your wits around you, and you’ll be safe.

Some public bridleways are just narrow paths between fields. These may be churned up by horses hooves, and you may be concerned that if you meet a few horses coming the other way that there will be nowhere to go. Around my area I have not come across this situation yet, but I am sure with common sense I can pass easily.

Can people drive on a bridleway?

As you can see from the above excerpt from the Countryside Act, cars and motorbikes are not permitted on public bridleways. Now, you will always get some idiots that decide to break the law, but I am sure these instances are few and far between.

I certainly haven’t come across anyone driving but I expect one day I will see someone thinking they can ride a motorbike. And no doubt if I start shouting about the Countryside Act they will give me a lot of aggro back – maybe not worth the effort! Some battles are not worth the effort, but if I can take a license plate number then I will.

Can I walk my dog on a bridleway?

Yes, you are permitted to walk your dog on a public bridleway. But as mentioned above, you don’t want to startle a horse, so please keep your dog under close control. If he is not used to horses then he may bark at them, which could be disastrous. It’s always best to err on the side of caution. Keeping your dog on a lead until you come off the bridleway is a much safer option, but if he is used to horses and is very well behaved with good recall then he may be ok off leash.

Our dog Paco is slowly getting used to horses and I think as always it is just a case of dogs getting better behaved with age, and the more they come across these situations the more they will be used to them. You just don’t know how the horse will react – they may not be used to dogs, but they may be fine. Don’t take the risk and always consider the worst case scenario.

I have a young baby – is it ok to take a pushchair onto a public bridleway?

Yes, you are allowed to take a pushchair or buggy carrying your child onto a bridleway. I am too old for this situation, my buggy pushing days are long gone, although I am sure one day I will be called into babysitting duties for my children. But again, I would just be aware of any situations where a horse may be startled.

How can I see a bridleway on a map?

Bridleways are marked by long green dashed lines on an Ordnance Survey map. Regular footpaths are marked by shorter green lines. If you have an Ordnance Survey map of your walk, it is good to be prepared by taking a quick look before you head out on your walk. that way you will know what type of footpath you will come across, and obviously if you will come across any public bridleways. Forewarned is forearmed.

Conclusion – What are the rules for hiking on public bridleways?

To sum up, yes you can walk on public bridleways, but just be aware of other users, whether they are equine or of the two wheeled variety. If you liked this post please bookmark this site and feel free to take a look around at my other posts. I hope you enjoy them.

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