Are you legally allowed to wild camp in the UK? Well it depends upon where you plan on doing it but the general rule is you should seek the land owner’s permission. That said, it’s not always possible or practical to do this so common sense must prevail.
The Countryside and Rights of Way Act gives everyone the right to walk across 865,000 hectares of hill, moor and woodland officially designated ‘access land’ in England and about 450,000 hectares in Wales. Your right to roam only applies to these designated areas which can be found highlighted on Ordnance survey maps.
We do not have a statutory right to wild camp in England and Wales, and as such we should ask for permission from the land owner. However this can be difficult to achieve; you may not know who owns the land; you may decide to pitch quite late at night and it’s not practical to ask permission. Pitching in this manner should be a last resort and you need to be sensible about the spots you choose. Obviously be discreet, leave no trace and it’s a good idea to pack up your gear early in the morning before the dog walkers come round.
Northern Ireland is a very different case altogether. There are very few public rights of way and no legal framework for public access to open land.
If you are looking for other places to camp across the UK, think about Mountain Bothies, these are basic structures that you are free to camp in. To find out where they are and pay a small donation to their upkeep visit the Mountain Bothies Association.
Wild camping can get a bad reputation because some people leave all of their waste behind. Our motto at Feisty Camping has always been to leave an area better than when we found it. If this means we have to pick up other people’s rubbish, we take it on the chin and do it. We never want to damage the environment we take so much pleasure from.
Certain areas in Dartmoor National Park are officially sanctioned for wild camping provided you are not camping on farm land, archaeological sites, moorland enclosed by walls or flood plains. We love camping in this region, it offers great walking, brilliant fly fishing and a range of landscapes.
Scotland is different and they enjoy more freedom thanks to the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003. Wild campers are allowed to responsibly pitch their tents on open ground, forests, rivers and lochs, at any time of day or night. By “responsible” they mean that you should treat the environment with respect leaving no impact on the land you use, taking litter home with you, ensuring you don’t obstruct/interfere with other activities such as farming.
However there is an exception to this liberal law, a 9 mile stretch on the banks of Loch Lomond is not accessible to wild campers. Thankfully Scotland’s a big place so that shouldn’t be a problem.