Campsites always have their regulations and rules and if you really want to get back to raw nature and spend some night under the stars, Scotland is a good place to go wild camping in.
In England, wild camping is illegal in most places. Over the Anglo-Scottish border and north of Hadrian’s Wall they are however still opportunities to spend authentic, rugged nights under canvas in nature.
Scotland’s amazing landscapes combine desolate glens and rough mountains with beautiful bays and shimmering beaches. This is wild camping at its best. All you need to get going are a few friends, your tent, backpack, and compass, and you’re set for the adventure of a lifetime.
Please note that when you wild camp anywhere you should always take all your litter with you while respecting the environment at all times.
Quiraing, Isle of Skye
Dr Johnson, a renowned man of letters, in the 1700s visited the Isle of Skye and said that isle’s atrocious weather was offset by its wonderful sandscapes and bays. This has not changed in the 300 years since then. Although the views are still among some of the best in the UK, the weather is still severe. One of Scotland’s most iconic trekking circuits, the plateaux at Quiraing, is an excellent place to set up your camp. The area was originally formed by a landslip that still moves to this day, and many have likened the scenery to that seen in the Game of Thrones.
Peanmeanach Beach, Ardnish
If you are looking for the natural beauty of barren desolation, a great way to do this is by going wild camping and a visit to the Ardnish Peninsula will provide an unforgettable experience. This spot on the West Coast has not been inhabited since the Highland Clearances. The bothy at Peanmeanach beach is a perfect place to start climbing up the nearby hill to discover the amazing views of Loch nan Uamh and Loch Doir a Gherrrain. Bonnie Prince Charlie landed in Loch nan Uamh in 1745, before his Jacobite uprising, and left Scotland forever the year after.
Gleann na Muice, Fisherfield
If you like to climb mountains, also known as Munro bagging, then Gleann na Muice is an ideal wild camping spot from where to start. It is located ideally for a base camp with easy access to the Fisherfield Five, the world-famous Munros, and some of the remotest mountains in Scotland. Magnificent, moody and mean, this is wild camping at its best and the vistas from the mountains’ dramatic summits are not easily forgotten.
Rackwick Bay, Orkney
Visiting the rough utopia of Rackwick Bay on Hoy, Orkney’s second-biggest island feels like a trip to the ends of the earth. The Old Man of Hoy, an incredibly rugged 450ft sea stack, juts proudly out of the sea. You will feel like a prowling Viking warrior as you peer out of your tent and look over the most recognisable site in Orkney. The beach views at Hoy are stunning, and the defence landscapes from the Second World War on Ward Hill are some of the best preserved in the UK.
Bonaly Reservoir, near Edinburgh
If you are new to the stripped back, authentic world of wild camping without any hot showers or other amenities, Bonaly Reservoir is a good place to start. A short distance from Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital, you can get your feet wet in wild camping delights. It also serves as a great place to start walking in a hidden gem for urbanites, the nearby Pentland Hills.
Kilmory Bay, Isle of Rum
Scotland has a beautiful range of atmospheric beaches, with matching views, and the Isle of Rum in the Inner Hebrides’ Kilmory Bay is one of the most distinctive. Located at the very center of the Red Deer Project – one of the most complete research projects globally – you’ll come across deer wandering down onto the beach and across the island. This northern bay affords mesmerising views across the Cuillins, Skye’s range of rocky, spectacular mountains.
The remote Knoydart Peninsula on the West Coast is known as Britain’s last wilderness, even to the most intrepid of explorers. It can be accessed via a 16-mile hike across glens and mountains, or from Inverie by ferry. You then need to head north through rough tracks to Barrisdale before making camp. This will put you in the position to spot some wildcat or explore the hills of Sgurr na Ciche and Ladhar Beinn. When you return to Inverie, a stop for a beverage at The Old Forge, Britain’s most remote pub, is well worth it.
Loch Beinn a’ Mheadhoin, Glen Affric
Surrounded by ancient Scots pine and rugged mountains, Beinn a’ Mheadhoin is a glassy freshwater loch snuggled to the east of Scotland’s prettiest glen, the amazingly picturesque Glen Affric. Countless tiny promontories and islands provide the opportunity for fun adventurous swimming, and the numerous small beaches make perfect camping spots. The old tree stumps look like hobbit seats and are ideal for sitting around a campfire. To really escape from it all, you can canoe over to one of the islets to camp.
The Lost Valley, Glencoe
The ethereal hanging valley of Coire Gabhail hides from the famous Glencoe behind numerous towering peaks. The past of this secret glen is dark: many members of Clan MacDonald found refuge here after the 1692 Glencoe massacre. Surrounded by mountains on all sides, it is a perfect place to make camp, with its giant boulders to shelter behind, meandering stream, and flat high meadow.
Glenfeshie, Cairngorms National Park
For intrepid wild campers, trekking across Cairngorms’ vivid wild glen should be on your list to do. This romantic area in the Scottish Highlands provides craggy mountain scenery, surging waterfalls, and beautiful trees. Conservation groups have ensured that the wildlife diversity (mostly deer) is also improving. You can camp surrounded by the alpine flowers on Moine Mhor’s (Gaelic for Great Moss) high altitude plateau or in the Glenfeshie valley’s evocative mists.
Inverarnan, Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park
Inverarnan bursts out of the more remote northern point of Loch Lomond, and is a popular spot with walkers along the West Highland Way. One of the most popular outings is a walk from Inversnaid and its cascading waterfall along the craggy, eastern shoreline of Loch Lomond. You’ll find plenty of birds of prey and wild goats here. When in Inverarnan, be sure you treat yourself to a drink or two in the Drovers Inn, with its reputation as one of the most raucous pubs in Scotland. Be sure to first read up on the rules for those wanting to wild camp elsewhere in the Trossachs National Park and Loch Lomond.
Glen Sannox, Isle of Arran
If you want to explore the Isle of Arran’s geological paradise, the ideal spot to set up camp is at Glen Sannox. It provides stunning views from Arran’s highest peak, the Goat Fell Mountains, and there are also Sannox Burn’s fabulous flowing waters, complete with large stepping-stones to help you in crossing. Don’t forget to check out the exquisite sandy bay in the village itself. People often describe Arran as Scotland in miniature. With such characteristic delights on display, it’s not difficult to see why.
Glen Nevis, Lochaber
This scenic glen is located only a few miles from Fort William in the heart of the Highlands and it combines easy access with breath taking scenery. The gorge is surrounded by Britain’s tallest mountains and opens up to expose a spectacular hanging valley with hilly meadows. The exquisite 120m-high Steall Falls pours into the gorge to join the lovely river complete with a famous wire bridge and plunge pools.
A Guide To Wild Camping Scotland
The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 is a part of Scotland’s access legislation and it specifies you camping is allowed on most unenclosed land.
The Trossachs National Park and Loch Lomond areas are however subject to wild camping bylaws. Camping is therefore only allowed with a camping permit or within campsites.
Getting away from civilisation and the city to spend quality time on your own or in the company of others often makes for a great vacation in Scotland. It is however crucial that you always considerate your surroundings and be responsible when doing so.
Before you go, read the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, and be familiar with the dos and don’ts of wild camping in Scotland.
Fire provides a good source of heat while wild camping and is also a way to cook food. When doing this, ensure that you do so safely for the surrounding landscapes and for yourself.
● Keep fires supervised, controlled and small
● Instead of an open fire rather use a stove where possible
● Ensure the fire has been extinguished properly and remove all traces of it before leaving the area
● Don’t light a fire during prolonged dry periods or in areas like woods, forests, peaty ground, or farmland
Top Tips To Remember when Wild Camping in Scotland
The Scottish outdoor access code will provide the crucial detail, but remember:
● Always leave the area where you camp exactly as you found it.
● Avoid digging and removing boulders or vegetation by selecting a dry, flat area to pitch your tent.
● Ask permission from nearby residents if you want to make your camp close to houses.
● Access rules for a wild camp don’t apply to motorised vehicles. Read our guidelines for caravanning and camping and learn more about outdoors parking.
● Avoid sites that are overused.
● Be careful with toilet hygiene and where possible, use public toilets.
Essentials for Wild Camping in Scotland
If you are a first time wild camper, there are a few things that you’ll require to make your wild camping trip memorable. Remember that you’ll have to carry everything yourself unless you have another person who is willing to do so for you.
● Change of clothes
● First Aid Kit
Check out our guide on what to pack here.
Scotland has some really stunning camping parks in fantastic locations, from wooded areas surrounded by ancient pines to beachside crofts. If you pitch up at proper campsites, it results in our natural environments and their ecosystems, which are often fragile, remaining intact.