With travel restrictions prevailing in the UK, for many, travelling to their usual holiday destination may be impractical or even impossible. However, travelling around the UK is permitted, and with warmer weather and beautiful countryside, camping in British summertime seems appealing. However, it is important to be aware of the laws concerning camping and wild camping in the UK. In this guide, we give an overview of how to camp with confidence.
Is ‘wild camping’ legal in the UK?
The laws on wild camping in the UK vary depending on which country you wish to camp in.
England and Wales
Generally, it is illegal to wild camp in England and Wales without the express permission of the landowner. Many landowners are happy to host wild campers, but only if they are respectful of the area they are camping.
While there is no express rule allowing wild camping, there are designated areas in some English parks where wild camping is okay, including Dartmoor National Park that does actually allow some forms of wild camping. This doesn’t mean that you can just drive there and pitch up; however, it means you can set up your tent and get your rest in if you are on a multi-day walking trip. In other National Parks such as the Peak District, all you need to do to wild camp is ask the landowner and ensure you leave no trace when you leave.
In Wales, the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority provides a list of local farms which allow wild camping.
Wild camping is legal almost everywhere in Scotland. Scotland has what is known as ‘right-to-roam’ laws which allow people to walk, hike, camp and swim in nature without (too much) restriction. However, there are limits to these rights; for example, you couldn’t just camp in someone’s garden, a golf course, or a school football pitch. If you have identified a spot you think might be good for camping, check whether you think it might be restricted. Similarly, while wild camping is allowed, you must still follow general guidelines about doing it. You must be respectful of the area, wildlife and other campers.
Are there any rules for wild camping?
If you are camping, whether it is legal, you have sought permission from the landowner or otherwise, you should make every attempt to be as respectful as you can and leave no trace when you leave. The Countryside Code sets out some clear principles for wild camping, which you should adhere to, regardless of where you are camping in the UK.
Leave no trace
Don’t leave behind rubbish or damage to the area and try not to disturb any wildlife. This principle is particularly crucial if you are camping in protected landscapes or national parks.
Don’t light fires
While the roaring campfire may seem appealing, you should not light any fires if you are wild camping. Instead, you should use camping stoves and portable barbeques and be careful not to scorch any grass. You should obey this rule even where there is evidence of previous fires.
Don’t be an ‘eyesore’
When people are walking in nature, they want to enjoy the scenery and landscape as much as possible. So try to keep your camping area to a minimum, don’t camp in large groups and don’t take over big areas of natural beauty.
Be respectful with personal waste
Of course, you will need to go to the toilet when camping in nature. However, you should ensure you go far away from any natural streams and bury anything you might leave behind. Dispose of feminine hygiene products as you would rubbish as burying them may attract and be dangerous to wildlife.
Responsible wild camping is generally about respect for nature and your surroundings; keep this in mind at all times.
This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.