I was going for a run along a public (at least it looked public!) path alongside an old canal that I had discovered using Google Maps. However, about 3km into the path, just before where I expected it to rejoin the road, I encountered a sign saying "Private Property", and realised I was running into the side / driveway area of somebody's house, and to get back to the road I needed to enter their property and run out their driveway (about 100m long). There was no passable way around the private area.

At this point, to turn back would have added about 6-8km to my run. The owner, who was out the front of his house at the time, said, "You can go through, but it's private property" - so I thanked him and ran through.

I'm wondering though, what the legal situation here is, or what is the etiquette? On the one hand, the entrance to the path (3km from his house) has no indication that it's private or that there is no through way. I've also been told that canals must have public paths alongside them so he should not be blocking the path (though admittedly this canal is very old and unlikely to have actually been used in decades), as well as talk of the rights of ramblers to cross privately owned land. All this is hearsay however.

I've also been wondering about his statement - whether he meant that he was allowing me through this time but to keep away in future because it's private, or that people are allowed to go through but was reminding me to respect the fact that it's private property.

The route appears on the AllTrails app which renewed my interest in it, and also indicates at the very least that I'm not the only one using it!

This is in the Republic of Ireland.

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    In England at least, you need to have a sign, and to physically close the path once a year, to prevent the path becoming a public right of way through customary usage. Here, it may well be true that the land is private property, with a public right of way across it, and the owner simply wants to put people off using it. Commented Sep 1, 2022 at 11:30
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    @WeatherVane - England has very restrictive rules on this. Scotland, for example, has no real trespass laws aside from military, some government, some dangerous land etc
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Sep 1, 2022 at 18:31
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    @RoryAlsop I would like the Scottish 'right to roam' laws to be implemented in England too. They also allow wild camping almost anywhere except National Parks and some obvious other exceptions. Commented Sep 1, 2022 at 18:43
  • @WeatherVane - yep, unfortunately these laws in England (and to be honest the parts of Scotland owned by the Royal Family) are all about protecting the landed gentry, so I doubt change will happen
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Sep 1, 2022 at 21:49
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    Yes - that's completely separate to the National Park legislation. Commented Sep 2, 2022 at 19:31

1 Answer 1


The Republic of Ireland has notoriously poor public rights of access. You have no right of access to private land, even if you're on one of the official waymarked trails, although these are established with landowner consent. National Parks are public land, so there is a right to roam, but private lands within National Parks remain private. Keep Ireland Open is a campaign group whose aim is to improve public rights of access in Ireland. They may be able to help work out the specifics in your case.

Ascertaining whether or not the road you're on is a public right of way or a private road is difficult, with no national register of public rights of way. Your best bet would probably be to visit your County Council's website and try and find a map of their roads. Wexford has this map, for example. Roads are classified as either National, Regional, or Local, and any that don't appear on a map that shows each of these road types are likely to be privately owned.

However, Ireland also has fairly weak Trespass to Land laws. As such trespassing on private property would not be a criminal offence unless your doing so is likely to cause fear, or unless you're breaking another law in the process such as by causing substantial damage (Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994). You are therefore unlikely to be arrested for going for a jog.

TLDR: It is unlikely that you have a legal right of access. However, I would take the owners statement of "you can go through but..." to mean that you now have the owners permission to use the path.

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    It might be worth noting that the reason it is useful to check whether a route is public or not is the fact that people have been known to simply expand their property and put up signs that have no basis in law. The presence of a "private property" sign is no guarantee, although you should assume it is true unless you know different.
    – Eric Nolan
    Commented Oct 27, 2022 at 10:18

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