My land is your land

photo: Carolina Hawranek

The Swedish Right of Public Access is by many considered the holiest cow in the barn of Swedishness. In Swedish, it is called ‘Allemansrätten’, and translated directly it means ‘Every man’s right’. This practice gives every man (and woman!) the right to roam freely in the countryside, regardless of who owns the land.

Ellen Edberg

The tradition of the Right of Public Access is said to have medieval roots, and given how much we take this right for granted this doesn’t seem unlikely. So what does it mean, the Right of Public Access?

It basically means that everybody is free to go everywhere. If there is a fence on the field, it’s your right to cross it. If you have a boat or a kayak (lucky you!) it’s your right to use it in whichever lake you fancy. You can ride your bike or your horse (if you have a horse you’re really lucky!) in any forest you like. The exception to this is of course the grounds in immediate proximity of a house – the inhabitants shouldn’t have to feel disturbed – and the risk is they might if you ride your horse in their garden.

Do not disturb is the key phrase to keep in mind when using your Right to Public Access. Even if the nature won’t complain as much as people do, it is crucial that you don’t disturb animals or harm trees and plants.

When in kindergarten and school, Swedish kids are taught how to behave when out and about in the countryside: you don’t break  branches off of trees (if you for some reason want a stick you pick one up from the ground), you bring your garbage when you leave, you don’t light fires on the ground (or anywhere that is not a designated fireplace), and you never disturb a wild animal.

As far as I know, this right to go wherever you want is quiet unique. Why not make use of it? I’m sure some fresh air would do you good.


If you want to read more about your rights and duties when roaming the countryside, visit the website of the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency.