For me, wild camping and cycle touring go hand in hand. There are campsites dotted all around the United Kingdom but not everyone wants a busy holiday spot with all the modern amenities. However those who prefer a camping spot away from civilisation out in the wild face a challenge. Strict laws are in place to prevent wild camping throughout the UK, ignoring them can lead to prosecution. This article summarises the camping regulations in England, Scotland and Wales. It offers suggestions on where to wild camp and how to find places to stay.
Designated campsites are a great way to escape urban life for a relaxing few days. They often come with extras like showers, toilets and electricity points to make your getaway more comfortable. Comfort isn’t what everyone is after though. You maybe considering a truly wild camping experience away from luxury and modern conveniences – not to mention all the other people typically using a campsite at the same time.
Luckily, there are places in the UK where you can pitch a tent and sleep away from civilisation. There are plenty of spots where camping isn’t allowed, so it’s important to check before you head off so you don’t inadvertently break the law.
Wild Camping in England
The expansive Dartmoor National Park in Devon is one of the few places in England where you can just turn up with your equipment and set up camp. To protect the area, there are a few guidelines in place, but they mostly involve common sense and basic respect for the land. The main points are that large, heavy tents aren’t allowed, you need to set up at least 100 metres away from roads, and you should limit your stay to two nights. Contact the Dartmoor National Park organisation for full information.
Since all land in England is owned by people and organisations, you’ll generally need express permission from the land owner in places to set up camp. However, don’t let that put you off, many landowners are happy for people to use their land responsibly, so it’s always worth asking. Offering a small payment can go a long way, and something can normally be arranged in areas like the Lake District, where many people manage to legally camp among the stunning scenery.
Wild Camping in Wales
There are no places in Wales where wild camping is automatically allowed, but there are two areas where permission is often granted: Snowdonia and the Brecon Beacons.
Plenty of farms and other privately-owned pieces of land are often used by campers with the full blessing of the owner. You shouldn’t have trouble finding a suitable place to sleep. As usual, be respectful and sensible, and keep group sizes to a minimum.
Wild Camping in Scotland
Cross over the Scottish border and you’ll find a completely different story to England and Wales. The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 means that, with a few exceptions, you can camp pretty much anywhere, making it a wilderness explorer’s dream.
Obviously, you should avoid anywhere enclosed or obviously private, and look out for ‘No camping’ signs. East Loch Lomond is also under strict limitations, with a restricted zone in place where camping is forbidden at any time. As long as you do a bit of research beforehand, Scotland is largely yours to explore and use for camping as you please.
Wherever your adventures take you, remember to make absolutely certain you know what you’re doing and you’ve double-checked the legal status of the place you’re planning on visiting. Keep groups small, always be a responsible camper, and leave the site you choose just as it was when you arrived, without any litter or damage. And never embark on a remote camping trip without being properly equipped and prepared!