I'm an American who moved to the UK 2.5 years ago but didn't start doing a lot of outdoor activities until early this year (here, specifically, as the job that moved me over was very demanding at first.)

As such, I'm trying to find documented and reliable information on Etiquette for hiking and scrambling that might not be the same as the US. Here are some specific examples, but a well written article from a reputable source that discusses discusses overall etiquette would be better than answers to these specific questions. Does anyone have such an article they could point me to? (Article could mean blog from a reputable source, vblog, podcast, magazine article, etc.)

1) In the states, we frequently say "on your left" and then pass on the left when we mean to overtake. This is true for bikers, hikers, parents with strollers, etc. Plenty of people, especially in areas with lots of novices, don't know what you're talking about, but it's a widely accepted practice. I've noticed almost no one in the UK announcing a plan to overtake, but is there an actual preference?

2) In the states, cyclists and hikers should yield to horses and cyclist should yield to hikers (even though most hikers who also mountain bike will yield, knowing how much more difficult it is on the cyclist to start and stop, the established etiquette is frequently sign posted.)

3) Priority for oncoming traffic of the same type. I've always heard that uphill hikers/scramblers should have priority over those going downhill. I was recently told this was not true in the UK and that people moving downhill should have priority. This was based on anecdotal evidence though of a crowd of people getting annoyed with a group who insisted on priority moving past a group of nervous children coming down a loose rock slope on Snowden in the winter.

  • I don't think you'll find anything like that documented officially for the UK - I've regularly been on and led walks here, and never heard of any established convention like that. I've also looked through my copy of Hillwalking (the official textbook of the Walking Group Leader certification) and I couldn't find anything about yielding there; if there were such a rule I feel it would be mentioned in that book. From experience, "hello" or "excuse me" are quite acceptable; in a narrow gully an individual or couple would tend to yield to a larger group but that's about it.
    – user3245
    Aug 7, 2018 at 20:20
  • See if the UK has any outdoor magazines. They may have articles about accepted practices. Aug 8, 2018 at 3:13

1 Answer 1


It's not very different but here are a few things that might help

  1. Coming up from behind, a greeting is more common than a warning. I'm often on a bike and if I'm gaining on a hiker or horse rider (on a bridleway where all are allowed) I'll call out "good morning" in a friendly voice (tone of voice especially important around horses and loose dogs/children). This may be followed by "mind if I pass?" or even "mind if I pass when it's a good place?" on narrow paths or when there are kids on bikes/in trailers. The same applies when hiking fast or running on a path. On some paths, bike commuting or out for a run, if the greeting doesn't get me noticed, I'll call a bit louder "coming through on the left", or "bike on the right".

  2. Giving way (to use the UK term) is the same, with horses also having priority over cyclists. But plenty of people ignore this or don't know. I've noticed that casual walkers get further from the road in the UK than in the US, where more than about 1/4 of a mile from the car park you only see people geared up for hiking; in the UK you can be 4x as far and see people in flipflops. Slower people generally let faster ones go through despite technical priority, even people mountain biking on footpaths (where it's not allowed).

  3. Uphill generally has priority (also when driving on narrow surfaced roads, offroading may be different as stopping is easier going up). However most people would say that getting nervous kids to a place where they feel safe trumps that. Talking is generally the solution, as many people going up will be glad of a breather, and it's often easier on steep stuff to step aside to a stable position when going up.

Fairly typically for the UK not much is written down. For example the Ramblers' Association guidelines for walk leaders mentions nothing of much use. The closest we have to anything definitive is the countryside code; the Ramblers' interpretation of parts of this is helpful. Scrambling in particular tends to fall in the gaps between climbing (lots of written guidance and best practice, skill and kit required) and hiking (anyone can do it).

There are some activity-specific guides which are worth a ride even if you're just using the same space:

  • The British Horse Society have some guidance on horses and bikes sharing space (with a focus on the road, but covering bridleways as well.
  • British cycling have a video with some guidance which gives a nice insight into the general etiquette of sharing.

There's a nice summary, with some other aspects I hadn't considered here. This is written from an international perspective but is all in agreement with UK practice.

  • 3
    It's the UK, so of course it's nuanced and quirky! But I'd go along with all of what you've written.
    – Jerb
    Aug 7, 2018 at 12:16
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    +1, Just like to add, although its not in a question, but briefly mentioned in point 3, if driving a cars/trucks "off road" while maybe on route to some walking spots, best practice is the vehicle coming downhill takes priority, as especially on a steeper dirt tracks (or wet track) the process of stopping against gravity is more likely to make you slide whereas coming up hill you can more easily stop with gravity helping, and then reverse out the way. but this is more an Off-Roading rule then general rule Aug 7, 2018 at 12:46
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    @ChrisH No worries, your answer was good, just thought i'd add that in, much to the hate of Many i Green Lane in my Land Rover, (on private land, with owners permission) and sometimes i meet drivers that have taken a wrong turn and don't know the etiquette is different in those circumstances, only reason i mentioned it. Aug 7, 2018 at 13:12
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    @ChrisH - I found almost exactly what I was hoping to find here: wonderfulwellies.co.uk/… Your answer highlighted and confirmed what I thought to be true, but since I was specifically looking for a source to back that up, would you consider editing this link into your answer (it doesn't conflict with anything you've said). I'd much rather this link exist in the answer than comments for future readers! :)
    – AHamilton
    Aug 7, 2018 at 14:14
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    @AHamilton I've added it at the end. It's interesting. That's a UK shop site, but most of the language isn't very British ("yield" is essentially unknown in this context in British; the "101" description derives from US college course naming conventions but is becoming more common in British English; "trail" as opposed to the more specific British terms for rights of way that might be expected in places) but then the mention of Duke of Edinburgh groups is UK/commonwealth. I concentrated on official/NGB sources so this is a nice addition.
    – Chris H
    Aug 7, 2018 at 14:24

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