Wild Camping

Wild Camping In The UK – An Introduction

The Wild Camper’s Guide To Pitching Remote

Is it legal to wild camp in the Lake District or any part of the UK? What are the rules of wild camping? What will I need for wild camping? You really have to do your homework when you think you might actually be breaking the law but don’t worry, all the answers will be revealed.

If you’re a resident in, or are visiting, the UK and you have considered wild camping this guide to will tell you everything you need to know to get started.

On Dartmoor and most parts of Scotland it’s perfectly legal to just pop your tent up and have a sleep over but in the rest of England, Wales and Northern Ireland you’re supposed to ask the landowner’s permission to wild camp. So, why do you see so many photos of tents on Facebook and Instagram and their owners don’t seem to have a care in the World?

Well, we’ll get to that a bit later, but first…

Where can I wild camp?

Is wild camping illegal? Well, actually it’s not a criminal offence, that is you can’t be prosecuted for simply sleeping in a bivvy bag or even a tent in a wild place. The problem is when people refuse to leave after being asked, this is then classed as trespassing. So, where can you wild camp legally?

It’s not just about finding a remote spot. There are actually many places you can legally wild camp, it’s just not advertised very well.

In Scotland, the land of the free, it is legal to camp in the wild just about anywhere (although not so long ago they changed the rules around Loch Lomond and the Isle of Tiree), this excludes enclosed, residential and public areas. I can’t imagine that you’d think it right to just camp on a golf course, on school grounds or in someone’s garden for example.

So it’s legal in Scotland (ish) but where else?

On Dartmoor you are free to camp for up to two nights in the same spot as long as you’re 100m from a road.

In the Lake District and Peak District National Parks wild camping is ‘tolerated’, I don’t like this word but that’s the one they use. Basically, they allow it because they can’t police it. If you’re far enough away from dwellings and roads then who’s going to come looking for you in the middle of the night?

It might be a good idea to mention here, as nobody else does, that actually asking permission can pay dividends. I asked a landowner once if I could camp in a field and after saying he’d rather I didn’t, he directed me to woodland by the river where I he was happy for me to camp. I did, and a few weeks later I hammock camped there with a roaring fire to cook my supper on, nearly wild camping!

Seems fair that if the landowners are going to allow it then we should leave the place looking like we’ve never been there right? That’s where wild camping etiquette comes in, the countryside code.

The ‘rules of wild camping’

  • Pitch late and strike early
  • Keep groups small
  • Stay only one night
  • Leave no trace of your visit
  • Don’t light fires, even if there is evidence of one previously
  • Take what you brought
  • Leave early
  • Toilet 30m from water and paths
  • Basically, be respectful, be nice.

“Take only memories, leave only footprints.”

Chief Seattle

What to do if you’re asked to move on whilst wild camping

Although it may be illegal, remember, wild camping is only a civil offence. You can’t be tried in a court for wild camping! You’ll never have the police at the door wielding photographic evidence.

If you pitch and someone comes along asking you to leave, and you know you’re trespassing, just pack up and move on. When you’re a good distance away and feel they won’t come back start again. Wild camping along the Hadrian’s Wall route can be tricky because you’re low down, not too far from houses and farmland. Don’t fight it, just move on.

Wild camping = Freedom

So, why do people of social media look like they’re having the time of their life wild camping? Why do they appear not to have a care in the World?

Wild camping is wonderful.

Maybe it’s simply because wild camping makes you feel as free as you can be guys! A long day’s hiking ends and you’re still thousands of feet above sea level. You find a good camping spot, lie on the ground, protect yourself from the elements and set about cooking supper, you doze off and when you wake there are a billion stars right above you or the sun is shining again, your troubles can feel like they’re a million miles away.

Happy wild camping.