Wild Camping in the UK: Can you camp anywhere?

If you’re a natural-born explorer who loves nothing more than escaping the crowds and heading off the beaten track, then wild camping in the UK might be your idea of a perfect weekend. The question is, can you camp anywhere, or are there specific rules that need to be followed? Read on to find out exactly where you can pitch up without hassle.

Can you 'wild camp' in England, Wales and Northern Ireland?

It’s easy to see the thrill of wild camping. It’s a true ‘back to nature’ experience that’s often challenging and rewarding. There are no crowds, no shower blocks, and there’s no on-site entertainment to navigate. And while the thought of no running water or Wi-Fi might worry many seasoned campers, others love the carefree element of travelling without home comforts. 

So can you wild camp anywhere in England and Wales? Unfortunately, the answer to this is no. Generally speaking, it’s illegal to wild camp in these countries unless you have the permission of the landowner. This might sound restrictive, but many landowners do host wild campers, so long as they’re respectful and leave no sign of their camping adventure behind. Therefore, if you fancy a wild camping trip in say, the Peak District, you’ll have to do your homework (and a bit of sweet-talking in advance) to ensure you get the green light. 

It’s also worth noting that wild camping is permitted in Dartmoor for up to two consecutive nights in the same spot, provided it’s more than 100 metres from any public roads and is not within an enclosed or otherwise restricted area. In Wales, the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority also provides a list of local farms which allow wild camping. Furthermore, the Caravan and Motorhome Club has a wide range of great campsites across the UK that very much offer a ‘wild camping’ feel due to their remoteness. Pitching up at a proper camping site is generally considered safer and more comfortable than braving the unknown, and with so many sites available, you can tailor the camping experiences offered to suit your personal holiday preferences.

Can you camp anywhere in Scotland?

When it comes to wild camping, you’ll have plenty more options available to you in Scotland, as this activity is permitted in accordance with the access rights established by the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003. So whether you fancy heading to the Western Isles for a waterside camping experience, or want to go inland towards woodland and forest, you won’t be short of choice. Many of the small island communities off the coast of Scotland even offer basic camping facilities for your convenience.

While wild camping is widely accepted and loved in this part of the world, there are some exceptions to the ‘camping anywhere’ rule. But these are mostly common sense. Firstly, don’t be a nuisance. With so many wonderful sites to explore there’s absolutely no need to pitch up on someone’s private land or in a school field. Wild camping is also forbidden on golf courses and at other visitor attractions. Always look out for ‘no camping’ signs, and respect the wishes of individual landowners. 

Before you set off on a wild camping adventure of a lifetime, be sure to do your research. Some parts of Scotland are also subject to by-laws that prohibit wild camping, such as the island of Tiree in the Inner Hebrides and East Loch Lomond. Head to VisitScotland.com for essential wild camping information.


General rules for wild campers 

In order to protect nature, keep landowners happy and ensure wild camping can be enjoyed for many years to come, it’s important to follow a basic set of rules. 

  • Leave no trace of your stay - take all rubbish with you
  • Don’t light fires. Use camping stoves and portable BBQs instead to avoid scorching grass and scarring the environment.
  • Don’t be an eyesore. Keep your camping area to a minimum in order to avoid obstructing the natural beauty of an area.
  • Look for a toilet area away from any natural streams to avoid contamination, and always bury your waste where possible. 

Wild camping can be great fun, but if you prefer the safety and cleanliness of an organised campsite, there are many options available to you through the Caravan and Motorhome Club.

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