Gatescarth Pass copyright LDNPA

Green Road driving

Green road driving and riding refers to the recreational use of motor vehicles such as 4x4s and trail bikes on unsealed routes with public vehicular rights. These routes are often referred to collectively as 'green roads', but more formally they are known as 'Byways Open to All Traffic' (BOAT), 'Unsurfaced County Road' (UCR), or 'Other Route with Public Access' (ORPA – on Ordnance Survey Maps). These are often finger posted as 'Public Ways' in Cumbria and the National Park.

All unsealed routes with public vehicular access are subject to the same laws as surfaced roads, so all vehicles must be road-legal, that is, taxed and insured, with MOT’s if appropriate, and with visible and correctly sized number plates.

It is a criminal offence to drive or ride a motor-vehicle on any other land or public right of way (footpath, bridleway, restricted byway) without permission from the landowner.

Where are the Legal Routes in the Lake District?

Detailed information and maps on vehicular routes in Cumbria and their condition is given on Cumbria County Council's website: (http://www.cumbria.gov.uk/roads-transport/public-transport-road-safety/countryside-access/HOTR/Hierarchy_of_Trails_Routes.asp)Ordnance Survey maps show unsurfaced routes with vehicular access as follows:

  • 1:50,000 scale Ordnance Survey 'Landranger' maps: Red crosses usually within a double line (BOAT) and red dots usually within a double line (ORPA).
  • 1:25,000 scale Ordnance Survey' Explorer' maps: Green crosses usually within a double line (BOAT) and large green dots usually within a double line (ORPA)


Though with the caveat that 'The exact nature of the rights to these routes and the existence of any restrictions may be checked with the local highway authority' – which is Cumbria County Council.

Regulation and Restrictions


Some routes are further subject to 'Traffic Regulation Orders' (TROs) which may close the route periodically, sometimes seasonally.

In the Lake District there are TROs on the following routes

  • Little Langdale Ford – River Brathay, U5531 - closed
  • Nibthwaite to Parkamoor – U5051 and U5052; discretionary closures depending on weather and condition
  • Rusland Pool – U5566 seasonally closed between 1 October and 31 May 
  • Gatescarth Pass, permit system for use of BOAT 548015/361002 between Sadgill and Mardale


Routes may also be subject to voluntary restraint notices from user groups such as the Land Access and Recreation Association (LARA), the Green Lanes Association (GLASS) and the Trail Riders Fellowship TRF. Specific advice can also be given by representatives of these user groups.

Codes of Conduct

Walkers, cyclists, horse-riders, 4x4s and trail riders (motorcycles) all want to use the Lake District for recreation, as well as farmers and landowners who make their living from the land. The landscape is also very vulnerable to damage. Pressures and conflicts arise where users leave legal routes and are inconsiderate to others. For guidance, please refer to the Lake District's 'Green Road Drivers Code of Conduct': http://www.lakedistrict.gov.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/179396/leaflet_green_road_code_9_03.pdf

Other Useful Links

The Trail Riders' Fellowship website is also a source of very helpful guidance on trail-riding (motorbikes): www.trf.org.uk

Illegal Off-Roading


Taking a vehicle off a legitimate route without permission is both illegal and unacceptable, and damages the reputation of legal vehicle users. Any such activity witnessed, for example vehicles leaving the legal routes, not being road-legal, or behaving dangerously, should be reported to Cumbria Police using the 101 non-emergency number.

It is also useful to report incidents to the Lake District National Park Authority, using the email address: hq@lakedistrict.gov.uk

Need holiday accommodation?

Cottage near Coniston - copyright Charlie Hedley

We've cosy holiday cottages, quirky boutique hotels, friendly bed and breakfasts and luxury hotels!

Our commission goes towards keeping the National Park special: Browse and book accommodation online here