The guiding principles emphasise the importance of conservation, access and personal enjoyment in the countryside and the need to find a balance between safety and these wider objectives. The principles also underpin the balance between the personal responsibility of the visitor and the responsibility of the landowner or manager.
The principles apply to individuals and groups visiting land, water, buildings and other structures. They are relevant to open countryside, nature reserves, forests. canals, rivers and reservoirs, as well as parks and gardens, historic houses and monuments. Visitors include paying visitors and people engaged in informal recreation, as well as participants in various sports and activities. The principles are not intended to cover employee safety or the work of contractors, which are well covered in publications from the safety authorities in the UK and Ireland.