Wild camping in the UK is only legal if you have permission from the landowner to camp on their land. This however does not apply to most parts of Scotland and some parts of Dartmoor. Most landowners will be quite happy to allow wild camping accommodating providing you leave early and arrive late, and leave no trace of having been there. Using an OS map makes it easy to pick spots that are at least a 20-minute walk from the nearest building or road and away from marked hiking routes. You should also avoid map markings like broken lines (tracks) and green slashes (bogs). Make ensure you take all your litter back with you and respect the environment wherever you go.
From the Cairngorms to Cornwall, here are some spots you may want to consider for wild camping.
Camasunary, Isle of Skye
Camasunary is framed by the majestic Cuillin range and the Sgurr na Stri, Blaven peaks. This tranquil bay is the perfect place to sleep over down after a day of backpacking in the Skye Munros. A mountain hut (bothy) is also available if you require more a sturdy place to shelter in if the weather turns bad. The secluded beach, where sea and mountain meet in a spectacular fashion, is an ideal spot to watch dawn break over the isles of Rum and Eigg while you plan your day’s adventure with coffee brewing over the camp stove.
Yes, Tor, Dartmoor
As you don’t require permission to do so, this is one of the best places to wild camp in the UK. It is however not allowed on all areas of open moorland, so use the official camping map to check first. Yes, Tor is one of the highest points in the area and is ideal for walking. To the south, you will find the quieter camping areas and more isolated spots like Great Knesset, Lints Tor, and Dinger Tor. You could also move to the high ground around Ivybridge, which provides majestic views over the countryside and town lying far below you.
The wild Carneddau range came into existence more than 400 million years ago and is only a valley away from the busy tourist town of Snowdon. The mix of heather and grass, together with rivers provide lots of choices for places to wild camp. There is a bothy to sleep in at the bottom of Cwm Dulyn or you can camp outside it if you don’t need extra shelter before getting up in the morning to climb the peaks of Foel Fras and Drum. Melynllyn’ shores also provide a magical sleeping place beneath the imposing rock amphitheatre beside the lake. The Snowdonia wild camping guide can be found here.
Haystacks, Lake District
The Lake District provides shimmering pools of water and majestic mountain ranges and boasts some of the most spectacular views in the world. This area in northwest England was recently awarded UNESCO World Heritage status. Alfred Wainwright, one of Lakeland’s most famous writers, requested that his ashes be scattered at Haystacks in the Western Fells as he loved the hill so much. When camping at its 597 metre-high summit, you’ll be treated to views of Buttermere, Crummock Water, and Ennerdale Water far below on clear nights. It has the added advantage of being far away from any tourists.
The Black Mountains, Brecon Beacons
As the Black Mountains in the Brecon Beacons is not the main drawing card for the crowds, this is excellent news for wilderness lovers. As the tourists are exploring the area’s more famous peaks, including Pen y Fan, the highest mountain in South Wales, you’ll be able to find a perfect piece of seclusion in the lesser-known Black Mountains. The 713 metre-high peak Rhos Direction offers the perfect summit sleep, or if you want a little more shelter, you can pitch up in the hollows around Mynydd Bychan.
Loch Lomond and some other sites in Scotland’s national parks and elsewhere require campers to get a permit (see here for more information) due to a new law introduced in 2017. This is however not the case for the Cairngorms, an amazingly beautiful mountain range in the eastern Highlands. At Glenfeshie, you’ll feel utterly removed from the stresses of modern life, with its sweeping mountain vistas and tumbling waterfalls. This is the location of one of the country’s most successful “rewilding” projects, and many walking routes also start here, making it possible for backpack camping straight from your tent.
The Cheviots, Northumberland
If you want to experience sleeping in two counties at the same time head to the Cheviot Hills. The rolling hills overlap the Anglo-Scottish border between the Scottish Borders and Northumberland. Use Pennine Way to hike up onto the Cheviots, from either Kirk Yetholm to the north or Byrness to the south.
What is wild camping?
Wild camping means making camp outside of a caravan park or campsite and sleeping in the wilderness in a tent. You might undertake a micro-adventure sleeping in nature or do a multi-day hike in a national park. You should however first check if it is legal to do so.
Wild camping can be daunting for first-timers, no matter how tempting the thought of peace in the wilderness may be. This short guide will explain how you can wild camp safely and legally in the UK.
Where wild camping is permitted in the UK
Generally, you should first check whether wild camping is legal in an area, or you should obtain permission. It is also vital that you leave no trace.
Before going out into the wilderness to wild camp, you should first check the rules for the region. In most of Northern Ireland, Wales, and England, campers don’t have legal rights, so be sure to get the landowner’s permission or check before you camp. At some sites in Scotland like Loch Lomond, campers now need to obtain a permit, so it’s critical to do research before you set out on your adventure.
Is UK Wild Camping legal?
As per the access rights established by the Land Reform (Scotland) Act of 2003, wild camping is mostly allowed anywhere in Scotland. There are, however, exceptions to this rule. You can’t, for example, wild camp legally on someone’s front lawn or make a nuisance of yourself.
● Check for signs that camping is not allowed. Respect a landowner’s wishes if they ask you not to camp on their land.
● In Scotland, wild camping is permitted on most unenclosed land. This excludes public property (like school playing fields or grounds), private residential property, airfields, golf courses, working sites like quarries, land with crops growing, or military bases.
● Never overstay your welcome. Leave early and arrive late, avoid crowding the area, and don’t cause damage to sensitive habitats.
● Don’t leave a trace of your visit. Rather than using a campfire, use a stove, take your rubbish with you and use a hand shovel when you have to take care of business.
● Be considerate. You wouldn’t be happy if someone pitches up on your village green or next to your bedroom window, so keep as inconspicuous as possible.
● Research before you go. In some parts of Scotland, there are bylaws that ban wild camping, such as East Loch Lomond and the Inner Hebrides’ island of Tiree. A good place to start is VisitScotland.com which will provide you with links to the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. This is essential reading for all would-be wild campers.
● Always put safety first. Tell someone where you expect to be and for how long, especially if you travel alone, and prepare for any type of weather. Consider supplies such as a whistle, a torch, and first aid kit.
Wild camping in Northern Ireland, Wales and England
Permission must generally be obtained from landowners before you can camp anywhere in Northern Ireland, Wales, and England. Wild camping is however allowed in Dartmoor national park for two consecutive nights in the same place, as long as it’s more than 100 metres from a public road, and it is not within enclosed or otherwise restricted areas.
There are many great campsites around the country that offer a feeling of wild camping with spacious and remote sites, unique settings, and limited pitches. Pitchup.com has a list of several you may want to try.
Wild camping in Scotland
Whether you’re looking for a rugged coastline or a wooded glen, you’ll have numerous choices in Scotland. You’re always close to the water on the Western Isles, and there are perfect pitching spots on the closely grazed land at the borders of sea and loch.
The rolling moorland inland provides almost unlimited, albeit rather boggy, choices for those that want to be more adventurous, and also miles of forest and woodland to explore. Many small and remote island communities offer very basic camping facilities – sometimes no more than a simple mown plot – in return for a small donation for those battling to find a rock-free or dry spot.
Be prepared for your wild camping trip
If you prepare well and plan, your wild camping trip won’t be scary. Although there will always be an element of chance, that’s part of the charm!
The key is to do your research on the area you want to visit beforehand and make sure you have a contingency plan for when you battle to find a suitable spot for a quieter camping experience. This may be as simple as a list of nearby B&Bs or campsites to try when needed.
With a pragmatic outlook, enough provisions, and the right gear, nothing will stand in your way of finding your own spot of heavenly beauty.