Wild Camping in Scotland

What is Wild Camping?

Wild camping, sometimes called dispersed camping or free camping, is the act of camping anywhere that isn't a designated camp site. Usually this means in the open countryside as part of a hiking, dog walking, backpacking, or bike-packing trip.

Generally this covers two or three nights in one location for a small number of people, so if you're planning a longer trip or even just one night with a large group of friends you'll need to consider planning stops at proper campsites to accommodate your party size.

Wild camping is great is you're going off the beaten track, exploring hidden gems, or undertaking one of Scotland's amazing hiking trails as it allows you the flexibility of stopping anywhere along your route and taking in some phenomenal sights.

Read on whilst we discuss some of the keys things to know and remember whilst in Scotland wild camping whether you take your trusty tent or rent one of our amazing Volkswagen Campervans.


Wild camping in Scotland

Is Wild Camping Legal in Scotland?

In Scotland you can travel the length and breadth of the country and take your overnight stops wherever suits you best thanks to an Act of Scottish Parliament called the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 which makes it legal to wild camp on your travels.

Around 57% of Scottish land is owned privately and around half of the country's rural land is owned by less than 500 landowners, although there has been a long withstanding tradition of access to land in Scotland.

The Act established the lawful rights of the public being able to access land and means that as long as you have a recreational, educational, or specific other purpose you now have the right to be on and cross land.

The Land Reform Act states that "a person has access rights only if they are exercised responsibly", and tasked Scottish Natural Heritage with producing the Code so as to provide guidance to both access users and land managers on what behaviour would be considered "responsible".

So whilst you can certainly place your tent pitch in the best wild camping spots for overnight camping it doesn't mean that wild campers can set up camp in a farmer's field and ask the farm animals to move over.

What is wild camping

What is the Scottish Outdoor Access Code?

The Scottish Outdoor Access Code is a detailed guidance on the universal access to land in Scotland and is approved by both the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament. The code apply to both those accessing the land and the land managers.

The key principles:

• Respect the interests of others.

• Care for the environment.

• Take responsibility for your own actions.

These are fairly straightforward and, for most people, is something that you would be doing without having to give it a second thought. However, not everyone is as considerate and Keep Scotland Beautiful estimates that 50 tonnes of litter is left on Scotland's roadsides every month.

This means that you must leave the area you choose for wild camping in Scotland exactly as you found it by taking any rubbish with you, making sure you don't cause any damage to the area and either burying human waste at least 30 metres away from open water or taking it with you to dispose of.

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Are There Any Exceptions For Wild Camping in Scotland?

There are byelaws in place in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park specifically for camping at certain times of the year. These are in effect between March and September and create a Camping Management Zone that covers less than 4% of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. What it does, however, is help to protect some of the most cherished loch shores during the peak season for visitors.

Between March and September camping in these zones is only permittable if you have a permit or are staying at one of the established managed campsites here. Outside of these zones camping is unaffected and you can still choose to wild camp here without a camping permit.

The byelaw also relates to fire lighting right down to the way that you collect wood for a planned open fire here. You're asked to bring your own so you don't disturb the local wildlife but also to only build a fire where it will cause any damage or to use a fire bowl if one is available but a camping stove is preferable above all else as it can be easily turned off.

Refusing to comply with the byelaws can result in a report the Procurator Fiscal and a fine of up to £500.

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Can You Wild Camp With a Campervan?

If you're looking at campervan or motorhome wild camping trip unfortunately the Access Code rights do not apply to vehicles. This is due to the higher impact that vehicles will have on the environment in national parks and popular areas that people like to stop.

It says: "You need to be aware that whilst you might visit a place only occasionally and feel that you cause no harm, the land manager or the environment might have to cope with the cumulative effects of many people. Acting with awareness and common sense underpins responsible behaviour".

So whilst you can absolutely take your campervan on your trip, you'll just need to be aware of where you stop with it and not take it into areas where its presence or trail will cause any harm to the local environment. You'll obviously also want to make sure that wherever you decide to do any overnight parking is safe.

To use camper vans in line with the Access Code you are asked to have consideration when you park. This includes:

  • not blocking an entrance to a field or building
  • not making it difficult for other people to use a road or track
  • having regard for the safety of others
  • trying not to damage the verge
  • using a car park if one is nearby.
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How to Pick a Wild Camping Spot?

Look for inspiration

Lots of people share their wild camping experience online, #wildcamping has over one million posts on Instagram for example, which will give you some great ideas of where you can stop or even places that aren't actually as suitable as you might have thought. This is also a great way to get additional wild camping tips from people who are seasoned campers.

Research your route

This is always important but especially so if you're taking a campervan as you'll need to make sure that the route is accessible for your vehicle and that you'll be able to set up safely and securely for overnight parking. This also includes making sure that you're not planning to stop in residential areas or on private property.

You'll also need to consider what's important for you to visit and to see. Maybe you want to travel through the Cairngorms National Park with a stop off for some skiing or you simply want to enjoy wild camping in less visited areas.

Check the Weather

It maybe seems obvious but checking the weather is vital to knowing if your chosen spots are going to be suitable to stop at as Scotland's weather can be unpredictable all year round! The beautiful spot that you've chosen on top of a hill could be a disaster if it's too windy whilst a lower setting at the base of a hill could become flooded with heavy rainfall.

Of course if you're taking a campervan wild camping then you'll be much better protected from the elements but will need to consider if its suitable to stretch out your sleeping bag under the awning or to even leave your chairs out!

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Whether you're heading for the Cairngorms National Park or hoping to tackle the NC500 route, we have options that will suit your trip if you don't quite fancy the full wild camping experience. Hiring one of our campervans is an excellent entry into all of the wonderful beauty spots that Scotland has to offer and an even better option if you're bringing the whole family.

The team at Clarkie's Campers are always available to offer more information or to get help with booking your amazing trip!

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