Wild camping is a pursuit that must be carefully defined. In some cultures, it involves camping in a big stripy hat and staying up way past midnight. In others, it entails camping in a non-campsite environment, usually in an untamed rural location. Today we will focus on the latter.
If you think about it, there's something a little anachronistic about camping in a campsite. It used to be different. Back in Robin Hood's day, we Britons would camp where we damn well pleased, camping in tents anywhere across land, forest, pasture and beach. Then, our fair country was divvied up, and everywhere became somebody's. And so, technically, wild camping became trespassing.
But as with every great dollop of bureaucracy, there are loopholes. One mighty great loophole arrived in Scotland in 2003 in the shape of the Land Reform Act. But its general theme can be summarised thus: wild camping on public hill land is OK in Scotland, so long as you are 100m from a road, and don't leave rubbish behind. Oh, and ask any local landowners just in case. And don't come crying to us if they say no.
In England and Wales, things are a little stuffier. You can't do it unless the landowner has given you permission. But once again, there are exceptions. Kind of. It is generally accepted that wild camping is OK above the "intake walls" on mountain areas – these are the partitions between pasture and uncultivated land. Wild campers are advised to keep their groups small, not stay for too long, camp at least 100m from a road, and try to pitch out of sight of farm settlements and houses.
England and Wales
Due to its welcoming rules on wild camping, Dartmoor is a safe bet, and free from the threat of angry farmers. Aim for the southern bits, well out of range of the army firing ranges in the north. In the Lake District, the shores of remote Styhead tarn are a popular wild camping spot, and provide a great base for climbing Scafell Pike or Great Gable. Also recommends a couple of spots in the Brecon Beacons: by the Clun Gwyn waterfalls near Ystradfellte, in a bracken field where overnight camping is allowed for groups of fewer than 10 (OS Map ref SN918084); and on the Cnewr Estate (OS Map ref SN922193), so long as you avoid lambing season.
Unfortunately in England and Wales it is illegal to camp anywhere you like, unless you first ask the landowner's permission. However, in some upland and remote areas wild camping is tolerated.
areas to try high in the lake district hills some areas of the peak district (but banned when the moors are very dry) north Pennines or Northumbria areas to avoid.
The forestry commission is very strict on not allowing wild camping as is the national trust and national parks authority
HUMBLE BEE FARM
WHITWELL HALL COUNTRY
Hole Station Campsite
Areas to try in Wales
Avoid anywhere where there is lots of fog! again the forestry commission is very strict on not allowing wild camping as is the national trust and national parks authority
GLYN Y MUL FARM
TRELLYN WOODLAND CAMPING
As discussed above, most of Scotland is your oyster. The Falls of Falloch are an exhilarating spot for kayakers, who peel off the A82 (running south from Crianlarich to the northern tip of Loch Lomond) and furrow into footpaths along the river Falloch. Secluded areas abound for overnight pitching. There are easier spots to find on the eastern shores of Loch Lomond, but don't expect much solitude in summer. The Hebrides are fantastic for wild camping – aim for the west coast of Harris, between Horgabost and Scarista, for stunning views of Taransay.
Scotland is just brilliant for wild camping, the law is different in Scotland and wild camping is completely legal and well accepted. the current access legislation is explicit about people's right to camp on hill land - usually more than 100 metres away from a public road, some landowners do take exception, but thankfully they are few and far between. if you're near a dwelling it's also a good idea to ask permission and not just set up camp on their doorstep!
Areas to try the highlands mar estate near braemar loch lomond the ben nevis or cairngorm regions. Areas to avoid anywhere midges hang out
RED SQUIRREL CAMPSITE
DALES FARM COTTAGE
ISLE OF COLL
Wild camping in France is a legal grey area, but is generally tolerated with the permission of landowners, or if you're well away from tourist sites. You are also advised not to stay beyond 9am the next day. And whatever you do, don't light a fire. They hate that. The Ardennes in the north-east and the Morvan peaks in Burgundy are popular with rambling Parisians. In the south, forums report laissez-faire attitudes to wild camping around Saintes Maries-de-la-Mer in the Camargue.
Wild camping here is illegal, the authorities preferring to point tourists towards money-making, taxable hotels and campsites. This rule is rampantly ignored, but we're not going to recommend that you wild camp, just in case. But a friend of a friend of a friend tells us there are numerous stunning spots on the Cyclades islands which are virtually un-policed, particularly the north-western coast of Amorgos and the southern beaches of Anafi. And we certainly wouldn't recommend the east coast of the Peloponnese around Leonidi and Kyparissi, despite the fact that they are totally unregulated and utterly remote. Nope, not us.
Wild camping in Bulgaria comes with a dash of political activism and a whiff of nudity. Over the summer, hundreds of hippy families relocate to the wild beaches of the Black Sea for weeks on end. Many of them visit annually to protest against the aggressive private land grab that has claimed 90% of the coastline. Pitching up on the sand, they often take all their clothes off for good measure. The beaches of Irakli and Karadere are very popular, the latter under threat from a large Norman Foster-sponsored development. Tsk.
Wild camping in Norway (and Sweden too, for that matter) is enshrined in the Allemannsretten – every man or woman's right of public access. An easy way to find a wild pitch is to travel to Oslo and take a commuter ferry across the inner fjord to Langøyene island, whose grassy shores are fair game for campers. The wooded area around Sognsvann lake, north of the city, is also a popular spot. A more adventurous summer destination is the dramatic Lofoten islands, inside the Arctic Circle, where camping comes with the added perk of midnight sun.
Wild camping in Estonia is widely tolerated, according to the tourist board, but getting permission from the landowner is advised. The large island of Saaremaa, in the Baltic, is covered in thick forests and has a handful of campsites, but many locals pitch on the beaches in the north of the island, around Murika. In the north-east of Estonia the Lahemaa national park is another beautiful area smothered in forest, where landowners are well-known for welcoming campers.
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