Is Wild Camping Legal?

Q. What is the legal situation regarding wild camping?

Whilst I realise you cannot wild camp on private land - are you allowed to camp on the higher slopes of The Lake District or Snowdonia. What about the higher slopes that are not within the National Park - like parts of the Berwyns in Wales?

Someone told me the situation is different in Scotland. Is this true?

Please help because I seem to be getting different answers every time I ask somebody.

Thanks in advance

Colin English, Leyland


A. Wild camping is only legal in England/Wales if you have the permission of the landowner - and every bit of land in England and Wales is owned by somebody!

The National Parks Authority expressly forbid wild camping within the National Parks in England and Wales.

However, in practice, both The National Parks Authority and land owners seem to realise there is a long tradition of wild camping the hills and mountains and can't stop wild camping completely. Most seem to tolerate it in the more remote areas - typically 3 or 4 hours walk from an official campsite or other accommodation - and, providing you leave everything as you found it and don't stay more than one night, will leave you alone.

Since there is no hard and fast rule about which areas wild camping is tolerated or not you are advised to be discreet, know the law and be prepared to leave your wild campsite immediately should the land owner request it.

In Scotland, wild camping is enshrined in the access legislation and is, therefore, completely legal. That said, some landowners take exception to walkers and wild campers and can become quite unpleasant. Fortunately these tend to be few and far between.

In any event, when wild camping you should:

Enjoy it. Wild camping can be a lot of fun.

Mike Knipe, Crook


A. Wild Camping and The Law in England, Scotland and Wales.

Tents cannot be pitched just anywhere because every piece of Britain is owned by some individual or some organisation and according to the strict letter of the law permission must be obtained prior to pitching tent and camping.

In practice however, this is often impractical and wild camping is usually tolerated in the more remote areas - typically, more than half a day's walk from an official campsite or other accommodation providing you:

In Scotland, the current access legislation (which came into effect in early 2005) is explicit about your right to wild camp on hill land. However, there are exceptions. Since March 2011 you are not permitted to wild camp between Dryman and Rowardennan on the shore of Loch Lomond. See Loch Lomond Wild Camping Ban for more information.

There appears to be an exception to this with respect to camping in Dartmoor National Park where the right to wild camping is actually enshrined in the National Parks & Access to the Countryside Act, 1949 amendment Dartmoor Commons Act, 1985 - see Wild Camping in the UK for more details.

For the definitive answer with respect to wild camping in Scotland see the answer supplied by the Scottish Natural Heritage

For a few (tongue in cheek) tips on wild camping see Some Wild Camping Tips.

NB. go4awalk.com cannot offer any advice on suitable locations for wild camping - but click here for walks from exisiting campsites.

Hope this helps

Mike (Editor)


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