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How to get started with wild camping in the UK

BY Ellie Sivins

9th Oct 2023 Inspire

3 min read

How to get started with wild camping in the UK
With camping in the wild surging in popularity, we look at the right to roam laws and leave no trace principles that guide wild campers around the UK
Dartmoor park, Devon is the last place where wild camping is legal in England without needing landowner permission.
In January, a court ruled in favour of a Dartmouth estate who challenged the right to roam in the area. Campaigners at Right to Roam contested the ruling with success on July 31, where an appeal to the court reinstated the right to roam in Dartmoor.
For many, this news ignited interest in wild camping across the UK. 

What is wild camping?

Wild camping, also known as free camping or dispersed camping, refers to setting up camp in the wilderness or other outdoor areas that are not designated campsites.
Unlike traditional camping, which typically takes place in regulated areas with access to facilities, wild camping allows individuals to immerse themselves in nature and camp in remote and secluded locations.
Wild camping isn’t for everyone as it requires a lot of self-reliance to meet basic needs. This includes finding a suitable water source, practising proper waste disposal and ensuring your own safety and security.
Also, campers should always prioritise Leave No Trace principles to make a minimal impact on the environment. 
"Campers should always prioritise Leave No Trace principles to make a minimal impact on the environment"
Finding a good wild camping spot requires careful research, planning and consideration of various factors such as legality, safety, and accessibility.
To find a good wild camping spot, campers must first check local regulations and ensure that wild camping is permitted in the area you intend to visit. Then, look for an area free from potential hazards, ie, avoiding camping near cliffs, areas prone to flooding or in wildlife habitats.
Finally, you must decide whether you prefer a completely secluded camping experience or if you would appreciate certain facilities nearby, such as water sources, toilets or fire pits.

Scotland and the right to roam

Wild camping in Scottish highlands by loch
In England and Wales, wild camping continues to be at the discretion of the landowner, other than in Dartmoor. In Scotland, however, according to the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, people may camp on most unenclosed land, regardless of whether it is state or privately owned. 
Scotland is a haven for wild camping, and across the country there are some of the most beautiful spots to set up camp.
It is best to check restrictions before choosing your spot, as in many locations, camping may be restricted in the summer because of the high risk of wildfires or free roaming animals in a particular area.
Across many popular hiking locations, there are often bothies, stone structures that are touted as "camping without the tent" that many use to wild camp. 
"In Scotland, people may camp on most unenclosed land, regardless of whether it is state or privately owned"
Loch Lomond is often recommended as the best place to start your wild camping hobby. It’s a popular beautiful location, with facilities never too far away. From March to September you will, however, need to attain a permit for a small fee. 
If you’re hoping for some incredible views of the Cairngorms National Park, Aviemore and its surrounding lochs, Loch Eanaich or Loch Morlich are wonderful places to wild camp.
Due to high traffic periods, camping at designated sites is often preferred, but following a few simple camping rules can prevent any complaints: camp only in small groups away from buildings and roads; only stay in one location a maximum of two days; no campfires; and leave no trace. 
A bit further afield is the well-loved Isle of Skye. If you’re looking for ocean views, Coral Beach is a good wild camping location, and not too far from nearby parking.
Another, more remote location is Camasunary Bay. With mountain views, a bothy for windy nights and plenty of room to pitch a tent, the bay is bound to be popular among campers. For a loch view on Skye, Loch Slapin is fairly popular for great views and flat grassland. 

Is wild camping legal in England?

Wild camping in England
In England, much of what constitutes as wild camping is restricted by permits or landowners, except in Dartmoor National Park.
Located in Devon, the national park offers designated areas where wild camping is allowed. With its rugged moorland and enchanting rivers, Dartmoor provides a unique and memorable wild camping experience.
Although traditional wild camping with a tent is restricted in the rest of England and Wales, bothies can be found across both Wales and the North of England available to campers. 
Camping in the wild is great, but you must respect nature and leave no trace. Always follow the local regulations and guidelines, ensuring you camp responsibly and leave the area as you found it.
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