Wild camping can be an exhilarating and rewarding experience. You've arrived at this page because you're interested in camping off-grid, camping in the raw, wild camping.
At Campingmole, we do love our campsites. But, sometimes we find camping without dozens of other people is something very precious. We're particularly enthralled by the darks skies!
For those moments of camping in total peace and tranquillity, we've compiled the ultimate guide to wild camping. We've put together the internet's best and most comprehensive wild camping resource.
You might be wondering: "what's so great about it?".
Well, in this article, we'll be rounding up every single detail about wild camping.
We've also got a great collection of links to every resource available on the internet (just in case we missed anything).
Let's cut to the chase and say up front that wild camping is not allowed anywhere and everywhere.
In general, land in England and Wales is classed as privately owned. Pretty much every inch of land in the UK is owned by someone - The Crown, The National Trust, private ownership. You'll need to ask for landowner permission before camping.
On the whole, however, you should be ok to pitch up as long as you're somewhere sensible and reasonably remote.
Further Information >>
Further InformationSo we've established that the law may not be on your side to just turn up and erect your tent. That doesn't mean that wild camping can be ruled out altogether.
It may just need a little bit more planning and communication than you originally thought. Some farmers and landowners may allow you to pitch your tent if you ask, but don't assume you have rights to put up your tent, even in a national park. Although, we'll be the first to admit, that finding the details of the landowner is not always straight forward.
Camping is not one of the activities covered under the Countryside Rights of Way Act. So, even for "Open Access Land", you'd need to obtain the landowner's permission. That's if you can even establish who owns the field or area of land.
For reference, open access land is highlighted yellow on OS Explorer maps. Open access land is basically an area of land where you can go walking, sight-seeing or climbing. You can't camp there without permission, but you can walk through it unhindered.
You can find open access land using the following map finder from Natural England: map finder
We don't advocate wild camping in England and Wales without first getting permission from the landowner, but it can be done. Wild camping is often tolerated if you're careful and are respectful. You may be able to find a quiet corner of a field or spot at the edge of wood to put your tent.
Whatever you do, don't turn up with a massive party of people and 10 bottles of Vodka! It also doesn't mean lighting massive fires (or any fires at all if you can help it), particularly if there has been no significant recent rainfall. If in doubt, google "common sense".
The "Rules" >>
Peat moorland (which can catch fire and spread underground) and heathland are particularly vulnerable and especially during the summer months.
If you're into wild camping, you can probably skip this section as you're probably already kitted up to the eyeballs.
For everyone else, read on. Hopefully there'll be something here you haven't thought of. Try to keep your kit nice and light.
If you can afford it, try and invest in some good kit, even if you're just starting off. If you get some cheap kit, you may not get a good sense of how great wild camping can be - as your kit could mar your experience. However, we're aware that as your kit gets lighter, the cost of it does seem to go up.
The Vango Aero range nullifies this comfort/weight quandry. Check it out here.
Some of those rivers may look clean but could still contain all sorts of things you don't want in your guts!
National Parks >>
Britain's national parks contain some of the most beguiling and enchanting landscapes in the country. They provide us with some of the best, raw and untouched wilderness and darkest, clearest skies in these isles.
Some parks have slightly different rules around wild camping, and here we've assessed each one individually.
We've contacted all the parks to get the skinny on camping wild directly from the horse's mouth. Most of them have provided additional information and set the record straight to avoid any ambiguity.Brecon Beacons >>
In the heart of South Wales, the beautiful Brecon Beacons takes some topping. In 2013, it was classified as an International Dark Sky Reserve and contains some of the most breath-taking scenery in the UK. The only other UK park with this status is Exmoor (in 2011).We contacted the folks over at Brecon Beacons about camping in the raw. Here is what they said:
We received this very kind and detailed response less than 24 hours after sending the enquiry. So, our thanks go over to the very nice folks who look after the Brecon Beacons. Extra brownie points for the farm campsites PDF they supplied.
..you would need to obtain the landowner's permission. As about 70% of land within the Brecon Beacons National Park (BBNP) is privately owned, it is very difficult to establish who owns which field/ area of land… we have compiled a list of farm sites where you can be sure you'll be allowed to pitch a tent for a nominal fee.
Despite the name ('camping on farms') these sites are often semi wild and when using them you'll still feel far removed from it all. Please note that the Central Beacons are owned by the National Trust who have a separate bylaw preventing camping on any part of their land here.
However if you look at the Grid References for some of the entries for Brecon, Libanus and Cantref you'll find that there are sites listed in the foothills of the Central Beacons, that are very basic and remote. The two Ordnance Survey maps that cover the Brecon Beacons National Park are OL12 which covers the West and Central area, and OL13 for the Eastern area (both are Explorer maps 1:25:000 scale).
You'll be pleased to know that walking is covered under the Crow Act and, as mentioned before all 'Open Access Land' is highlighted in yellow on OS Explorer maps. All four mountain ranges (Black Mountains, Brecon Beacons, Fforest Fawr and Black Mountain) fall under this.
The Cairngorms >>
Situated in central Scotland, the Cairngorms is the UK's largest national park. It's home to some special animals - including red squirrels, Ospreys, Eagles and the famous Scottish Wild Cat. As the park is covered by Scotland's outdoor access code, you don't need any specific permission or authorisation to camp here.
There are no known bye-laws preventing access to any area of the park. Also, you'll be in Scotland, so don't forget your midgie repellant.Dartmoor >>
Situated in Devon in the South West of England, Dartmoor is a glorious, sweeping moorland with some stunning vistas.
Dartmoor is subject to same common land access laws as the rest of England and Wales so you'll need permission to camp.
However, Dartmoor does have areas of common land where you can put your tent. These are areas covered by the Dartmoor commons act As long as you're not on farmland and you're not staying any length of time, you should be ok. Luckily, large swathes of dartmoor are pitchable.
There is an interactive map showing exact areas where you camp and where you can't here
For the specifics of wild camping in Dartmoor, you can view the details directly from the horse's mouth here: http://www.dartmoor.gov.uk/visiting/vi-planningyourvisit/camping
There's also a great PDF leaflet about camping and backpacking on Dartmoor national park which can be found here. Page 9 is particularly interesting and gives great advice regarding the live munitions testing within dartmoor's military ranges.Exmoor >>
There are two national parks in the UK that have International Dark Sky Reserve status. One is the Brecon Beacons, the other is Exmoor. Exmoor is famous for it's endangered wild ponies.
The Exmoor website states the following: "There is no general right to camp on Exmoor outside of private campsites, but you can do so with the permission of the landowner".
So, basically the same as everywhere else.
Read into this what you will. We haven't found anything superceding this.
[Section 2.7] Wild camping or bivying as part of a long distance walk for example can be desirable for visitors and the Authority will be more tolerant of this type of camping than multiday stays supported by a vehicle.
Also, organised groups such as scout groups will be treated more sympathetically. Camping will only normally be allowed by agreement but there may be some locations where 'wild camping' spots could be agreed without a need to confirm permission with us.
The Lake District >>
As England's largest national park, the Lake District is one of the UK's most diverse parks. It has England's highest mountain and its deepest lake. It is home to some of the most breath-taking scenery in these isles. As such, it is an extraordinarily popular outdoors location.
Wild camping in the Lake District seems to be fairly well tolerated as long as you follow the “rules”. Once contacted, we got a very lengthy and helpful response from the Lake District National Park Authority:
Loch Lomond Trossachs >>
.. Legally wherever you camp you must have the permission of a landowner to camp on their land, though there is a tradition of wild camping in the Lake District.
In the past, camping has often been tolerated as long as people: .. see our rules
Sometimes groups, such as young people on awards schemes, have arranged permission for camping in advance. However this does not mean these sites are open to everyone. Please check. Camping in car parks or on roadside verges is not allowed.
As the National Park Authority we do not have the power to allow camping on private land and we do not permit camping on the land that we own. Wherever you pitch, please remember that the landowners or their representatives have the legal right to order you to break camp and move on.
On the West coast of Scotland (just above Glasgow), this national park became Scotland's first national park in 2002. Loch Lomond is the largest freshwater lake in the UK. It has beautiful views from the top of its Munros and glens.
As with the Cairngorms, the park is covered by Scotland's outdoor access code. We tried to find information regarding the byelaws but only found lots of confusing and conflicting advice. Once again, we went direct to source, who said:
The New Forest >>
There is a camping byelaw in force on East Loch Lomond, stretching from Drymen to Rowardennan. This means if you want to camp in this area you would have to use a managed campsite. For more information on the area affected please see http://www.lochlomond-trossachs.org/visiting/east-loch-lomond-camping-byelaws/menu-id-611.html.
There has been some confusion as to byelaws due to a current proposal to incorporate some other loch shores within camping management zones. This is with the minister at present and will be going to further consultation before any decision is made. Even if additional byelaws do come in force, it will not be this year and will only cover up to 3.5% of the entire national park area so you will have plenty of options
Famous for its wild roaming horses, the New Forest is one of the UK's best known forests. It is perched in the county of Hampshire, just above the south coast. The land is owned by multiple parties so all of it is technically private land which prohibits wild camping without prior permission.
After contacting the National Park Authority regards our rights to camp wild, their response was:
The Norfolk Broads >>
The National Park Authority does not own any land so we cannot give you permission to camp in the New Forest. The Forestry Commission have numerous campsites which are recommended. If you still want to ‘wild' camp then I would suggest you contact the Forestry Commission in Lyndhurst on 0300 067 4601 to possibly obtain permission from them.
Our thanks to these guys for a very quick response (within 24 hours of enquiring). Although brief the response left very little room for ambiguity. Wild camping in the broads looks to be a no-no. Don't fret though. There are still plenty of excellent, reasonably priced campsites available on Campingmole: Campsites in the Norfolk Broads
..wild camping is not allowed in the Broads. If you do camp on sites not designated for camping purposes you would be trespassing ...
Northumberland National Park >>
Home to Kielder forest and Lake and some of the darkest skies in the UK, Northumberland National Park has something for everyone. We contacted the park authority who provided us with a brief and disappointing response:
Unfortunately there is no statutory right to wild camp in England and Wales, without the express permission of the landowner.
There was no mention of the use of bothies or the free backpacker sites they have dotted around the area.
There is some information on the following page: http://www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/INFD-8ZSMG2 of
the Forestry Commission website.
We contacted their officer for the backpacking and bothy sites and this is what we were told:
All we ask is if you could let us know when and where you will be going, how many people and how many tents. Strictly no fires policy.
We were also sent a very useful PDF which shows all the backpacking sites which you can see here
So, you can't wild camp within the park, but you can make use of the free backpacker sites within Kielder park. They are very much back to nature sites and still get you closer to nature than a traditional campsite. Key features (taken from the PDF):
- They aren't staffed
- They don't have showers, toilets and water standpipes
- Access to the site is by foot
- The sites are open all year
- They are free
- NO FIRES!
- Sites are marked with a red and white post
The North York Moors (NYM) is based in North Yorkshire and is one of the largest areas of heather moorland in the UK. If you do manage to camp wild in the NYM, it's because of all this highly flammable heather you should avoid fires. Especially in the summer.
When we contacted the good people over at the North York Moors National Park Authority about camping wild there we got an all too familiar response:
Sorry, but you are not allowed to wild camp in the North York Moors National Park. The majority of the land is in private ownership. There are plenty of camp sites in the area though.
There seems to be little evidence of tolerance on the part of the people that run the park. So, if you decide to wild camp here, then you do so knowing (as with most places to be honest) that you could well be moved on during the night!The Peak District >>
The area has something for everyone .. rivers, lakes, caves, lowlands and high vantage points. As with many other areas, the authorities do not take kindly to wilder campers on their land. This is from the peak district official website:
The Pembrokeshire Coast >>
There is no provision under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act for camping on open access land. If you wish to wild camp in the Peak District National Park you must first obtain permission from the landowner before camping otherwise you will be committing a trespass. The Peak District National Park Authority does not allow wild camping on its own land.
With some amazing walks, beautiful beaches and fantastic forests, it has everything the outdoors lover could ever wish for.
There are plenty of legitimate campsites, as like with most everywhere else, unless you have permission, you're tresspassing.
We contacted the park authority regarding wild camping and this is what they said:
Unfortunately there are no opportunities for wild camping along the Coast Path.
In most cases the farm land comes right up to the edge of the coastal slope – and you would need the landowner's permission to camp.
The other snag is the lack of drinking water – you would need to carry it from the nearest tap – none of the streams etc. is(sic) drinkable.
Snowdonia (Eryri in Welsh) is an enchanting magical area of North Wales - waterfalls, bucolic lakes and captivating forests - Snowdonia has it all. The mountain itself is the highest in England and Wales.
There is a strong tradition of wild camping in the area and there seems to be a little more tolerance than other parks for this particular activity. It's generally accepted that as long as you follow the "rules", you should be able to enjoy one or two night stints in the company of some of the most majestic vistas in the UK.
However, their faq page also says this:
...most land within Snowdonia National Park is privately owned and has specific land uses .. and wild camping is not allowed unless permission .. by the landowner/s or farmer otherwise you are committing a trespass. This is also the case in any unfenced isolated upland areas
.. some areas may have other sensitive designations such as Special Sites of Scientific Interest or Special Areas of Conservation to protect natural features ..
We contacted the park authority regarding wild camping and this is what they said:
Although camping should be confined to authorised sites, the Snowdonia National Park Authority accepts that wild camping on un-enclosed fell land, remote from the roads, is generally accepted if undertaken responsibly by small numbers of people.
As most of the land suitable for wild camping is not owned by the Snowdonia National Park Authority, we are not therefore in a position to directly permit wild camping.
We advice(sic) everyone who wishes to go wild camping to have landowners' consent.
The Yorkshire Dales >>
The official policy on wild camping is that it should only take place with the landowners consent...
[however] it is sometimes difficult to who the land owner is in the higher remoter mountain areas.
We do have a good choice of campsites in the wilder mountain areas especially around Capel Curig please see www.croeso-betws.org.uk/acc/camping.htm
These include the Pennine and Dales Ways and the latest national trail - the Pennine Bridleway.
On the subject of wild camping, the park authority had this to say:
Wilder Campsites >>
.. 97% of land in the national park is in private ownership, much of this land is either small farms or larger shooting estates with no right to wild camp.
As the National Park Authority we can only promote the use of registered camping sites and if land owners come across people wild camping it is likely people will be moved on unless permission is gained first. ... [even though] you are trying to be responsible .. but unless permission can be obtained from the land owner we can only promote authorised camp sites.
So, depending on where you're looking to stay, this guide may or may not have been good news. If it's been bad news or you've been put off wild camping, there may be a great alternative which is wilder camping!
Wilder camping is essentially a fully sanctioned (and paid for) campsite that usually has very basic or zero facilities. They're usually just a tract of rough land where you can put your tent and (nearly) just get away from it all. You'll also have the added bonus of being able to have a fire; something you shouldn't really be intending when actual wild camping.
We're guessing your next question is .. "how do I find a wilder campsite?". Well, we've put together an extensive list below with locationhttp://www.wildcampingcornwall.co.uk Sancreed, Cornwall
http://badgellswoodcamping.co.uk Meopham, Kent
http://www.freewebs.com/holestationcampsite/ Beaworth, Devon
http://www.glynymulfarm.co.uk/ Neath, Portalbot
http://www.trellyn.co.uk/ Abercastle, Haverfordwest
http://lazyduck.co.uk/camping-aviemore/ Nethy Bridge, Cairngorms
http://www.ecocampuk.co.uk/ Brighton, East Sussex
http://www.cerenetycampsite.co.uk/ Bude, Cornwall
http://dodgsonwood.co.uk/campsite/ Ulverston, Cumbria
http://www.chapel-marketing.com/middleinfa/ Abergavenny, Brecon Beacons
http://gwaliafarm.co.uk/ Machynlleth, Powys
http://www.graigwen.co.uk/ Dolgellau, Snowdonia
http://www.tryfanwales.co.uk/ Betws-y-Coed, Snowdonia
http://www.campingwildwales.co.uk/ Trefin, Haverfordwest
http://woodlandcampingeco.wordpress.com/ East Grinstead, West Sussex
http://www.dernwoodfarm.co.uk/ Heathfield, East Sussex
http://www.camping-fife-near-edinburgh.blogspot.com/ Dunfermline, Fife
If you own or know of a place that offers wilder camping, then please let us know. Just use the contact us form
Wild vs Stealth camping >>
Wild vs Stealth camping
We're pleased to announce a few words by legendary stealth camper Allan Stokell around the differences between wild camping and stealth camping. In this piece, we also learn about some of the differences in laws in some of the Canadian states.
Allan Stokell is the internet's best known stealth camper. He posts blogs and makes videos promoting stealth camping.
Stealth vs Wild – the North American experience.
In the UK you have a bonnet and a boot. We have a hood and a trunk. The several thousand kilometres that separate us make for different language use. This may also go for wild and stealth camping. In North America wild camping is camping somewhere other than a campground such as crown land without any attempt to conceal. We have millions of square kilometres where there are just trees, water and rock. Sometimes a few bears and other fauna will share your wild accommodation but there is no human to hide from.
In Ontario where I live you can camp for up to 21 days for free on land owned by the Queen. In beautiful British Columbia it is only 14 days. Queen Elizabeth doesn't seem to mind. She only visits the colonies occasionally and I'm sure it slips her mind to check up on who's out in her back 40. Editor's Note: Back 40 is a term Canadians use to refer to the 40 acres of uninhabited land behind your house but also can mean any amount of unused, uninhabited land along way from any houses.
So wild camping is really camping out in the middle of nowhere with the mosquitoes. If you choose to do this by the way, from my own experience bring lost of insect repellent containing at least 30% DEET. Trust me, nothing else works and mosquitoes love the English. On the subject of wild camping in Canada, be prepared with bear repellent as well as metal food storage containers. Don't camp during mating season, the males get a bit grumpy if they are not getting any. Keep away from females with cubs too. That starts 220 days after the males get lucky. One last thing, so as not to scare you about bears; they have very poor hygiene and you can usually smell them from a distance. You only need to smell it once and you will recognise it forever.
Stealth camping on the other hand is camping out of sight, on unfenced, unimproved, non-agricultural land for one night with no fire or food using the Leave No Trace principles. Stealth camping comes from hikers and touring cyclists being 'caught out' between campgrounds with night approaching quickly. No time to look for a land owner, just set up out of sight for the night and leave early in the morning. No fire or cooking at the site.
Before I began stealth camping I would get caught between campsites fairly regularly. Also let's face it these campgrounds aren't very user friendly for hikers or cyclist. They are full of behemoth monsters vehicles running their generator all night so they can have air conditioning and a freezer. The other possibility is that you arrive during a school break and are stuck with noisy drunks playing atrocious music all night. No wonder people stealth camp. The province has attempted to control these excesses by offering separate camp sites without electricity and sewer hookups and designating some campgrounds alcohol free.
Stealth camping is not trespassing as some people say. Those people don't know what trespass is: It is refusing to leave someone's property when told to do so. In Ontario you can be told by a land owner or agent, a "no trespass" sign, red or orange spray on trees, fences, land improvements or proximity to houses. The further south you travel in North America the less likely people will know what trespassing is. In several southern states there are "stand your ground" laws that some people interpret as giving them the right to shoot trespassers. It does not, but just try to tell that to someone with a gun.
If you are interested in stealth camping I have a series of episodic videos posted on YouTube.
Just type in "5 Star Stealth Camping" for the HD versions.
He is afraid to go to Texas where just about everyone says he will be shot.
You can visit Allan's excellent website here
You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
SummaryOK, there's alot of information here, so we need a summary!
- Scotland (see exceptions in Loch Lomond)
- Wilder campsites
- Lake District
- Brecon Beacons
- Everywhere else (without permission)
It cannot be stressed enough: LEAVE NO TRACE.
The reason you're wild camping is to get away from it all. You wouldn't want to see someone else's Twix wrapper. They don't want to see yours!
If you have any comments, or see something we've missed or reported incorrectly then please get in touch and we'll put it right.Finally, some food for thought