Rights of way

What is a right of way?

A right of way allows you to travel over land that belongs to someone else. There are 2 types of right of way, a public right of way and a private right of way.

There may be limits on how you can use a right of way. For example, you may only be allowed to walk or cycle over certain rights of way, while you may be allowed to drive over others. Some rights of way can have certain conditions, such as closing a gate after you use it.

What is the difference between a public and private right of way?

A public right of way means anyone can use it. For instance, a public road is a public right of a way. There are very few registered public rights of way that are not maintained as public roads.

Some walking paths are also public rights of way. However, many walking routes are “permissive routes”, and not public rights of way. This means that the landowner allows you to use the route but could withdraw that permission at any time. See our page on Walking and rambling in Ireland for more information about this.

Only certain people can use a private right of way. They can only use it for specific reasons, such as to access their property. Private rights of way are typically arrangements between neighbours. A private right of way could be a laneway, a boreen or a gap in a fence that leads to a property owned by someone who does not own the laneway, boreen or gap. These private rights of way are also known as easements.

How is a private right of way established?

A private right of way is generally established in one of the following 3 ways:

  1. By using it
  2. By necessity or implication
  3. When transferring land

Establishing a right of way by using it

Generally, a private right of way is established if you openly use land, without the owner’s permission, in a particular way for a specific number of years. For example, a farmer may have travelled over a neighbour’s land with their livestock or machinery for many years. This is sometimes known as 'acquisition by prescription'.

Traditionally, a right of way is established when you have travelled over the land continuously for more than 20 years.

Establishing a right of way by necessity

You can also establish a private right of way by necessity or implication. For example, if you buy a piece of land which is landlocked, you will normally be granted a right of way to pass over the seller’s land, so that you can access your own land.

Establishing a right of way when transferring land

A right of way can also be granted or kept by a landowner when transferring land. This should be clearly set out in a formal agreement to avoid any disputes.

Registering a private right of way

There is no requirement to register a right of way.

The Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2009 set-out a requirement to register certain rights of way. But, the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform (Amendment) Act 2021 amended this before the deadline for mandatory registration passed. This means that registration remained optional.

Though, there are benefits to registering your right of way. For example, if your right of way is registered it will be recorded on your property’s folio so people can see it. A folio is an official document that describes the property and who owns it.

How can I register a private right of way?

You can register a private right of way with Tailte Éireann by swearing and submitting an affidavit.

Tailte Éireann will notify the person who owns the land that the right of way passes over to check that they do not dispute the right of way.

If there is no dispute about the right of way, they will note the right of way on your property’s folio.

If there is a dispute over the right of way, you must apply to the Circuit Court to register the right of way.

For more information about registering a private right of way, see Tailte Éireann’s website.

Land Registry

Tailte Éireann

Chancery Street
Dublin 7
D07 T652

Tel: 051 303000
Fax: (01) 804 8074
Page edited: 25 May 2023