Wild Camping in the UK

Wild Camping

Would you love to try wild camping in the UK? Have you camped at campsites but would love to try and go more natural and wild with your camps?  Maybe you want to discover the more breathtaking views that can be enjoyed by getting off the beaten track and finding your little piece of unspoiled land to spend the night on.

There are some laws and responsibilities to know and follow before you go.  Please don’t allow this to put you off as long as you know the laws and are responsible while camping these can be some of the most rewarding camping trips you will experience.

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So, What is Wild Camping?

Wild camping is where you can get off the beaten track and set up camp somewhere for the night.  There are no facilities apart from what nature provides and the kit you take.  You would be totally out there on your own.  It is a chance to experience camping in the most natural way. Although this can limit your stay to 1 or two nights at most before moving on.

tent pitched on moors

Wild Camping – Your Responsibilities

Now wild camping is great if you are seeking some adventure or even solitude.  You can spend time in some of the most amazing surroundings that nature has to offer. But, with this, comes responsibility.  If you are planning to wild camp there are some basic rules that should be followed.  Some people are a little lax at following these and really, it only spoils it for other people.  The aim here is to enjoy yourself and your surrounding. While not spoiling the natural beauty or the chance for others to enjoy the same after you have left.

  • Leave no trace – this should speak for itself.  Leave no trace of you being there.  Take all rubbish away with you, leave no trace of fires. Only stay one or two nights so you are not leaving a footprint where you set up camp.
  • Ensure you have permission – if you believe the land is owned by someone i.e. farmer ensure you seek permission before setting up camp.
  • Be discreet – if you are planning to wild camp be discreet.  Camp away from paths and roads, use a subtle coloured tent (something that will blend into the surroundings).
  • Lighting Fires – where possible use a stove for cooking.  If you do light a fire make sure you do this responsibly.  Do not light fires on grass areas, where other things could catch fire (under or beside bushes). Do not cut down parts of trees or bushes, take your own or use what you find on the ground.
  • Toilet waste – you are going to need to go to the toilet while camping, please do so by carrying a trowel to dig a hole to do your needs.  For both urinating and faeces this should be no less than 100ft but preferably 200ft from any open water, running steams or rivers. Ensure you dig deep enough to minimise animals digging this back up.  If possible dig soil and lay on a piece of tarp or bag and fill the hole in well when finished using.
  • Bathing – please do not use beauty products in the rivers and streams.  These have chemicals in them that are harmful to plants and animals that live in the waters.  If you do wish bathe in the water do it eau natural.  You can also use body wipes such as Pits & Bits.
  • Keep your stay short – by keeping your stay short you leave no trace of a tent or tarp being there.  This is especially true if you are setting up camp on a grass area.  Grass will change colour if you have a tent set up more than one or two nights, especially if the weather is really good.

Top Tip

Another good tip is to let someone know roughly the area you are planning to camp and when you will be returning.  If you are truly wanting to get off-grid you will have no phone signal or at best a poor signal.  So if something unforeseen should happen and you don’t return they will have somewhere to start looking for you.  This could save your life! Check our camping safety page or print and take our Emergency Contact Cards under our printable section.

Wild camping UK

Take Appropriate Equipmemt

I know this may sound silly saying this but please take appropriate equipment. Do not take a big family tent. A small tent with enough room for sleeping is all you should be using. Or, tarp, hammock, bivvy setup.

If you really want to get off the beaten track you are going to want a lightweight tent. Something you can carry in your pack along with the rest of your camping gear.

Check out some of these small tents that are great for wild camping – Backpacking Tents

Wild Camping and the Law

Whatever the reason is for wanting to wild camp there are some things you should know before setting off on your adventure.

To start off with, not all countries or regions allow wild camping so it is really important that you check this out before you even start planning your little adventure.  You may be prosecuted if you do not adhere to the law for the area you are camping in and the owners of the land have the right to ask you to move on or to report you if you are camping illegally.

This being said there is nothing better and more relaxing than camping in the wild so as long as you do your homework first there should be no need for you to worry and all the more reason for you to relax and enjoy your stay once you get there.

You can check this out by doing an internet search and reading up on the laws and rights for the particular area you would like to camp in.

Wild Camping in Scotland

I am blessed that I live in Scotland. A country where wild camping is for the most part still allowed and a staple part of the camping community’s world. Here we follow the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003.  This allows everyone to use the land as long as it is done so responsibly, see https://www.outdooraccess-scotland.scot/ for more information.

However due to the lack of responsibility of some people these laws are being challenged and changed in certain areas such as Loch Lomond.  Here they have introduced new bylaws specifically for camping within Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. This now means that to wild camp here you will need to purchase a permit before you go.  These are not expensive and could save you a fine of up to £500 if caught camping there unauthorised. See the link below for more details.

Wild camping England and Wales

Camping in England and Wales can be much different with each area having different rules and laws around wild camping.  I have to admit I am not as confident in the rules for each area in England and Wales as I am in Scotland but there is some great advice for these areas and a good read at – https://www.campsites.co.uk/guides/wild-camping/wild-camping-in-england-and-wales

As with much of the UK, there are some beautiful places to camp in England and Wales with many national parks and moors to be used.  As with anywhere make sure you have permission before setting up camp.

wild camping in the UK

Wild camping in Northern Ireland

Like England and Wales, Northern Ireland has restrictive laws on the use of land for recreational activities.  Many would say that Northern Ireland has one of the most restrictive where to even walk the land, mountains and even some national monuments means you have to walk over restricted land to get there. Although these are civil laws and not criminal for trespassing, you must leave land if asked to do so by the owner.

As with any wild camping trip know where you want to go and seek advice or ask permission before doing so.  If you do set up on owned land you may be asked to leave.

Like Scotland, Ireland can have some beautiful wild camping spots if you are willing to take the time to find them and also like Scotland you could be sharing your camp with plenty of midges so please take protection.

So Should You Try Wild Camping?

YES! YES! YEStent pitched overlooking a loch

Don’t let the law put you off, work with it to enjoy your time away!

For most this is an activity to be truly enjoyed by everyone.  You will see some of the most beautiful spots any country has to offer.  By sleeping on some of the most unspoiled lands with the most amazing views and sounds of nature.  If you are looking to recharge and get some time out from our ever-growing hectic lifestyles then this is a real treat.

Just always follow the rules above and leave no trace and follow the laws for the country and area you are going to be camping in or the land you are camping on.  Remember some people will if asked will let you camp on their land at no cost as long as it is for one night and you leave no trace.

Why not even think about Hammock Camping if the woods are where your wild camping may take you.

Have YOU any wild camping stories you would like to share?  Pop them in the comments below and share them with others.  I would ask that no wild camping spots be specifically discussed as then they become overrun and not so wild but general areas are ok.

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