Wild camping. Are you aware of the term? Perhaps you’ve done it without even realising it! Let’s explore and find out where the best wild camping places to pitch up in the UK are.
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What is Wild Camping?
Wild camping refers to pitching your tent, caravan or motorhome in a natural environment. So, no hook-up — or running water. Away from the trappings of modern-day life.
Although the term wild —or primitive camping— generally references outdoor locations such as undeveloped fields, forests, beaches or mountains. Dedicated campsites are starting to catch on to this, and some now provide wild camping alongside their standard offering.
That said, if you’re keen to be off-grid, it’s unlikely these options will appeal to you.
Many campers —who like to go wild camping in the UK— crave the experience of being at one with nature. They want the solitude of being the only person (or group) in that area. The idea of camping in a field full of strangers —without the added benefit of electricity or water— defeats the object.
Wild Camping — Can You Camp Anywhere?
The quick answer to this is — no. You most definitely can’t!
The Vagrancy Act officially made it an offence to sleep rough; regardless of a person’s reasoning. It had catastrophic consequences for people experiencing homelessness and hindered those wishing to camp in the wild.
Where is Wild Camping in the UK Legal?
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland
Permission from the landowner is required to camp in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. However, it’s permitted to indulge in a spot of wild camping on Dartmoor for a maximum of two consecutive nights in one location. Provided it is at least 100 meters away from public roads and is not in an enclosed or restricted area.
Additionally, there are remote and spacious campsites available throughout the country with limited pitches and unique settings.
Wild camping is generally allowed on most unenclosed land in Scotland, following the access rights specified in the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003. However, it’s crucial to be respectful towards others and avoid setting up camp on private land or causing any disturbances.
Private residential or public property (school grounds and playing fields) are prohibited—as well as golf courses, airfields, military bases, private farms etc.
Some Things To Remember When Wild Camping in the UK
- Make sure you observe any ‘no camping’ signs. Be respectful of the land-owners wishes.
- Leave no trace. This goes without saying. Ensure everything you came with is taken away with you.
- Be mindful not to do anything that could set fire to dry foliage. Use a stove rather than a campfire particularly when the weather has been very warm and the ground is tinder dry. Even sparks can catch fire to highly flammable grass and foliage.
- If you need to do any ‘business’ whilst you’re there, bury it using a hand shovel. Or take a camping toilet with you and be sure to take the bags to dispose of properly once you leave.
Nearly Wild Camping Alternatives in The UK
If you’re not feeling the wild camping vibe but still want an experience that brings you closer to nature than a standard campsite, why not ask a local farmer if you can pitch on their land?
We did this for Mr D’s 50th, and it was one of the best weekends ever. A small group of us had the best time. Totally wild camping is perhaps a bit daunting for first-time camping with the family, a field near village shops, pubs and other amenities definitely makes it easier.
Alternatively, Nearly Wild Camping offers an online directory of UK locations suitable for tents, vans and caravans, ranging from riverside woods to wildflower meadows, clifftops to heathland and all the different degrees of ‘wild’.
Their ‘Wildness Rating’ is really helpful when it comes to choosing a suitable location. And the location profiles give full details of what facilities are available and what you can do. Both on-site and in the locality.
Plus, the beauty of this website is that you can message the landowners directly to ask if they can cater for your requirements, i.e. ‘You accept campervans, but would we be able to bring our caravan?’
It is a paid service. An annual family/landowner membership subscription costs £24.
A free alternative is Pitchup.com. This website allows users to browse over five thousand campsites, glamping sites and holiday parks throughout the UK, Europe and the Americas.
Some listings offer relatively wild camping in the UK —from family-run farms to unspoilt woodland locations— you’re sure to find a spot to suit you.
Caro Davies is a former art-director turned writer and content-creator, and editor behind UK lifestyle blog The Listed Home. She writes about home-related topics, from interiors and DIY to food and craft. The Listed Home has been featured in various publications, including Ideal Home, Grazia, and Homes & Antiques magazines.