PDF Available: OMTA Safety Booklet

Access in Aberdeenshire, Rights and Responsibilities

Aberdeenshire Council has produced  information about the right to access outdoor areas.  Access rights apply to most land and inland water in Scotland for non-motorised activity including walking, cycling, horse riding and canoeing. Exceptions include school and recreation grounds, reasonable privacy areas around people’s homes, fields with crops in them, etc. See the following website for more information on outdoor topics:


Illustration courtesy of Nick Anderson

Stay safe driving

  • Like the rest of the UK, drive on the left-hand side at all times. If you are from overseas, wear a wrist band on your left wrist as a constant reminder.
  • Drivers and all passengers need to wear their seatbelts.
  • Keep to speed limits. There are fines for speeding and it could cost you points on your licence.
  • It is unlawful for drivers to have mobile phones in their hand at the wheel. Stop at a layby if you need to make a call or ask a passenger to make the call.
  • The alcohol limit in Scotland is lower than the rest of the UK. See below for more advice.
  • The Mearns is a farming area – watch out for tractors and other slow-moving vehicles, livestock and mud on the road
  • Take particular care on single track roads and use passing places correctly.

See our separate resource ‘Driving Safely in the Mearns’ for more local driving  advice.


Stay Safe at the Coast

If you see anyone in difficulty, call the Coast Guard – dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard.

  • Check the weather and tides: You can get this information from the internet, coastal tourist information centres, or at your holiday accommodation.
  • Take note of the times for high and low tides: If you explore the shoreline, make sure you can get back before the tide comes in.
  • Swimming, tides and currents: If you get caught in a strong current or rip tide, hold onto your surf or body board if you have one. Stay calm, raise your hand and shout for help. If you can’t get help, try and swim parallel to the beach until you’re out of trouble then swim to shore. If you can stand up, wade instead of swimming.
  • Inflatable boats and toys: Don’t use inflatable boats or toys on the open sea or in an offshore wind. If you do find yourself being swept out to sea on an inflatable boat or toy, stay with the boat or toy and shout for help, waving arms if possible. Do not attempt to swim for shore if you are out of your depth.
  • ‘Tombstoning’: Jumping from piers, cliffs, rocks, or other structures into the sea can be very dangerous. A deep pool at lunchtime might be a shallow puddle by teatime due to tidal conditions. Large hazards may be hidden from view under the water.
  • Lifejackets: The Marine and Coastguard Agency (MCA) recommends that recreational sailors wear lifejackets at all times whilst on deck. These should have a sprayhood, light, and whistle if possible. People must ensure that their lifejacket has a crotch strap and that they use it.
  • Buoyancy aids: Kayakers, canoeists, rowers, and dinghy sailors should all wear buoyancy aids as recommended by their sport’s national governing body. For more information: www.canoescotland.org
    Anglers who are fishing close to the water’s edge and from an unstable platform (such as rocks) should wear a lifejacket or buoyancy aid.
  • Before going on the water: Ensure that your boat is safe and seaworthy – get trained, check weather and tides, wear a lifejacket, avoid alcohol and let someone know your plans.

For more information on Sea and Coastal Safety please go to:






Enjoying the Hills

When venturing out onto the hills, please ensure that you are suitably equipped for any sudden change in weather conditions. Always inform someone of your route and anticipated return time.


Check the weather forecast and updates from national and local radio, television, newspapers, or on the web.  The weather can be changeable in the Mearns – it can change at an alarming speed in the hills.  Even on warm sunny days, bad weather might be just around the corner.  So, if you are out and the wind strengthens, clouds thicken, visibility decreases or the temperature falls, consider whether you need to revise your plans.

Make sure you have suitable equipment for your chosen activity.  Take water and food with you in case you are out longer than expected.

Take your phone and make sure the battery is fully charged.

In an Emergency

If one of your party has an accident and cannot be moved, treat any injuries as best you can and calculate your exact position on a map.  If you can’t get a mobile signal, if  possible, leave somebody to care for the  casualty whilst others get help, taking a map with them.

On reaching a telephone, dial 999 and ask for the police and/or ambulance.  Report the map grid reference where you left the casualty and details of the casualty’s condition.

Don’t just rely on your mobile phone –  reception can be patchy in remoter parts of the Mearns.  Check out https://www.mountaineering.scot/ for more information.

Campervan Waste Disposal Sites

If you are travelling by campervan or caravan it is important to dispose of waste properly.

http://www.campa.org.uk/waste disposal/ has advice on this. Most local campsites will have facilities for you to use.

Keep your valuables safe

The basic rule is that valuable items should never be left in unattended cars, or other vehicles. If there is no alternative but to leave an item in a car, it should be kept out of view, so thieves are not tempted by it. Safeguard your vehicle by ensuring it is left secure with anything of value removed if possible.  If it is not possible to take  possessions with you, then at least either make sure nothing is left on view or lock them in the boot.  All vehicles should be locked when they are left – even if it is only for a few minutes.


Keep Pets Safe

The Mearns can be a great place to bring your pet, but please follow these guidelines:

  • Keep your dog on a lead if you cannot rely on its obedience or if it may disturb livestock or nesting birds.
  • Let your dog off the lead if a farm animal chases you and your dog – don’t risk getting hurt trying to protect your pet.
  • Take particular care when walking along cliff paths; dogs may not see potential dangers.
  • Be aware that if you allow your pet to swim that much of our coastline is deep and rocky with no shallows: your pet may struggle to get out.
  • Check your pet for ticks, particularly if it has been running through heather or long grass.
  • Please be a responsible dog owner and clean up after your pet.  Please dispose of dog poo properly: you can use any public litter bin, not just designated dog waste bins.


General Health Advice

As many areas in the Mearns are used for grazing by livestock and wild animals, it is good to take everyday precautions to     prevent illness. All animals naturally carry a range of germs, some of which can be transmitted to humans, where they may cause ill health. If you are out and about in the countryside-whether walking, camping, cross country running or anything else you should take a few measures to protect your family and yourself.

How to reduce the risks

Minimise direct contact with the ground and animal dung. Having a sewn-in  groundsheet in your tent will help keep your environment clean. If you get splashes of mud or dirty water on clothes, clean them off straight away.

The key to avoiding potential illnesses is to ensure that everyone practices good hand hygiene, especially before eating and  drinking. Wash your hands clean before eating, ideally with hot running water and soap, or with hand wipes or alcohol gel.

Safety and alcohol

  • Don’t drink alcohol before an activity – it can slow your reactions and make you more vulnerable to hypothermia.
  • Enjoy yourself – but don’t drink too much if you are in charge of a barbecue.
  • Alcohol and swimming don’t mix! Alcohol causes loss of coordination, slows reaction times and reduces the body’s temperature, increasing the risk of hypothermia if you get into difficulties.
  • Do not drink and drive. One drink could put you over the limit. For more            information, visit  www.mygov.scot/drink-drive-limit-scotland
  • If drinking alcohol, always remember keep safe and look out for those around you.

Sun Safety

During summer days when there is a cool breeze, the strength of the sun can feel  deceptively lower than it actually is.  Be sensible, cover your skin in the sun, wear a hat, use SPF 30+ Sunscreen and wear  sunglasses. Information is provided by Sun Awareness, British Association of  Dermatologists.

Advice on where to ask for help in the event of an accident or illness

We hope you and your family will have a lovely visit and will stay safe and well.   However, if something does happen, the following information offers you advice on resources for seeking assistance.

Accident and Emergency Health Services

Emergency health services are free to  everyone.  However, there may be a cost for non-emergency services, depending on your country of origin.

For an emergency, call 999 and ask for an Ambulance, Police or Fire Service.

Go to www.nhsinform.scot/scotlands-service-directory for a full list of NHS services.

NHS Grampian Switchboard number is currently 0345 456 6000.

For a health emergency out of hours (generally from around 6pm – 8am) call NHS 24 on 111. They can offer advice and if necessary, put you in contact with local out of hours’ services.

The nearest Accident and Emergency  Departments are:

Aberdeen Royal Infirmary

0345 456 6000



Ninewells Hospital

01382 660111



Minor Injuries Units

For less serious injuries, such as cuts, sprains, stings and ear infections, one of the local Minor Injuries Units may be suitable. You usually don’t need an appointment. Below are current details of the most local Units as of early 2020.

Kincardine Hospital, Kirkton Road, Stonehaven, AB39 2NJ 

tel. 01569 765 150        8am – 10pm: 7 days a week

Minor Injuries Unit, Links Health Centre, Frank Wood Way, Montrose, DD8 8TY   

tel. 01674 672 554       9am – 4.30pm: Mon – Fri

Brechin Health Centre, Infirmary Road, Brechin, DD9 7AN

tel. 01356 624 411        8am – 6pm


The information provided is for  general purposes only. All information contained within is provided in good faith.  However we make no representation or warranty of any kind, express or implied regarding the accuracy, adequacy, validity, reliability, availability or completeness of any information supplied.