Wednesday, 30 April 2014 11:27

Wild Camping - The Law in the UK

Written by

It would be great if you could just put up a tent wherever you like for the night, but not surprisingly there's a rules, regulations and laws on when and where you can camp. The most important factor is which side of the border you're on, with the law in Scotland radically different to those covering England and Wales. In short wild camping in Scotland is a right, whereas in the rest of the UK there is no automatic right without express permission from the relevant landowner.


The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, which came into force in February 2005 sets out the rights of access and the right to camp throughout the whole of Scotland. The Act established a legal right to camp (when done by a person in the exercise of the access rights created by the Land Reform Act) and details the responsibilities and guidelines to be followed.

3 Tarns Wild Camp Akto The law provides specific advice on wild camping and recommends that in order to avoid causing problems you should not camp in enclosed fields of crops or farm animals. Access rights extend to wild camping. This type of camping is lightweight, done in small numbers and only for two or three nights in any one place. You can camp in this way wherever access rights apply but help to avoid causing problems for local people and land managers by not camping in enclosed fields of crops or farm animals and by keeping well away from buildings, roads or historic structures. Take extra care to avoid disturbing deer stalking or grouse shooting. If you wish to camp close to a house or building, seek the owner's permission. The full version of the Code can be found here.

Esk Hause Wild Camp Om


In England and Wales the position is entirely different, with no such right to camp -even on on land opened up by the CRoW legislation. In short you need the express permission of the landowner to camp anywhere in England and Wales, though there are certain areas where wild camping is accepted providing reasonable precautions are taken. In the Lake District and Snowdonia there are wide areas where the practice is accepted providing you're out of sight of all roads and human habitation, but it's always worth bearing in mind it's not a right, but a privilige granted by the landowners. Camp high up, pitch late and strike camp early are the general rules, along with leaving no trace of having been there.

Although designed for Scotland the Mountaineering Council of Scotland (MCoS) have published a very useful and easy to follow guide of best practice, and one which should be followed whether in Scotland, England or Wales.

The essentials are:

  • Keep group sizes small
  • Camp as unobtrusively as possible and away from popular spots which become overused
  • Leave no trace of your having been there
  • Remember noise travels from tents and may disturb wildlife
  • Vegetation becomes more sensitive as you gain altitude
  • Lighting fires on peaty soils and dry grass pose a major fire risk
  • Take extra care when camping near water courses not to pollute the water
  • Remove all food and wastescraps - they can attract scavengers and put other species at risk
  • Never go to the toilet within 30 metres of frsh or running water, and always carry out wastewhere possible.
  • If carrying out waste is impossible ensure it is buried at least 15 cm below ground and covered
  • Do not bury used toilet paper.
  • Carry out all rubbish, even other people's.
3 Tarns Wild CampWild camping is meant to be fun, and a great way of experiencing nature first hand. Start off with a short trip in a familiar area where if it all gets a bit too much you can quickly pack up and retreat. Despite the advice in the code above there's a few popular and well used spots that make good starting points. Angle Tarn and Sprinkling Tarn in the lake District provide all the essentials of a good location - unobtrusive, readily available water (remember to take a water filter and/or boil all water),well protected from the elements and a short walk-in.

Dartmoor is slightly different to the rest of the UK. Basically, you have a de facto right to camp, bearing in mind the obvious exceptions.
The Dartmoor NPA actively encourages wild camping. Link here to there excellent site.

Note: This article was restored from the archives. It's published creation date is inaccurate.