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Camping Laws and Rules in the UK

Before you head out on your camping adventure, you need to be aware of the rules and regulations around what you can and can’t do.
There are different rules in each of the countries that make up the UK and it’s important you know the specific laws where you are going before you head off.

We strongly recommend you check government guidance and websites before going on a camping trip during the pandemic. Check for any restrictions in the area you are leaving and where you are planning on taking your camping trip while coronavirus restrictions are still in place.

The rules and laws around wild camping differ across the UK, but generally if in doubt asking for the landowner’s permission is always the best idea. There are plenty of tips and tricks around where to wild camp in the UK on the internet – this guide is purely to let you know the legality around it.

Can You Pitch a Tent Anywhere in England

It isn’t legal to just pitch a tent and go wild camping wherever you want in England. In the vast majority of places, you’ll need to gain express permission from the landowner to camp on their land. 

Depending on where you are, you may find that landowners are happy for you to pitch your tent, however always check first.

If you do want to get your wild camping fix in England there are some areas that do allow it. There are some areas of Dartmoor where it is legal to camp, just be sure to research before you set off on your trip to make sure you are heading for the designated spots. 

If you want to wild camp on Dartmoor check the rules, but generally, you can camp for one or two nights in some areas of open moorland (away from roads and settlements) if you can carry everything you need with you. It isn’t allowed everywhere, so check where you are allowed to camp on Dartmoor.  

Staying in motorhomes is not permitted anywhere other than designated areas on Dartmoor. 

Can You Pitch a Tent Anywhere in Wales?

It isn’t legal to wild camp or pitch your tent wherever you like in Wales. Unlike in England where there are a few places you can wild camp legally, there are no exceptions to this rule in Wales meaning you have to get permission from the landowner before you set up camp.

It may be surprising that it’s not legal to wild camp in Wales due to the amount of National Parks it has and it is tempting to just pop up your tent, however you should always try to find the landowner (this is the law) before you settle in for the night.

Although tempting and often possible, you cannot legally wild camp in Snowdonia National Park without the permission of the landowner. This doesn’t necessarily stop people, however, we suggest always check with the landowner before stopping for the night.

If you want to go wild camping in the Brecon Beacons, you legally have to get the permission of the landowner. However, to make it easier for those who like to be off grid, the National Park Authority has put together a list of farmers and landowners who are happy for wild campers to stay on their land. Remember that these are still very much wild camping spots and won’t offer facilities like a normal camp spot – if you do use this land, stick to the rules and leave the area as you found it to make sure others can enjoy it after you. Pick up your copy of accepted spots from any of the Brecon Beacons visitors centres.

Can You Pitch a Tent Anywhere in Northern Ireland 

It isn’t legal to pitch your tent and wild camp wherever you want in Northern Ireland.
To pitch a tent in Northern Ireland you need to have the permission of the landowner.  

Can You Pitch a Tent Anywhere in Scotland

Heading for the highlands is a great idea if you want to get your wild camping fix as you can pitch your tent and wild camp legally across most of Scotland. Scotland is the only area of the UK that allows the general public to camp on the majority of unenclosed land due to the right-to-roam laws. 

It should go without saying that you need to be sensible with these rules. You can’t pitch your tent on farmland, golf courses or in someone’s garden (we hope obviously). One of the great things about Scotland is that you can legally camp in many of Scotland’s national parks. Wild camping is a great way to really experience Scotland, however, make sure you are prepared before you go as the weather can be trecherous especially in rural locations.

if you follow the guidelines for wild camping in Scotland you should be absolutely fine. Remember that even though you can camp where you like that all the land is owned, so although you are allowed to be there, you are technically using someone else’s property so be respectful. You wouldn’t want someone setting up camp in your back garden so be sure to be courteous to property owners.

The Land Reform Act, 2003 permits wild camping – as long as you follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code/ Leave no trace policy. This policy is not extended to motorised vehicles so you aren’t allowed to use a campervan or motorhome wherever you please. 

Camping rules in Scotland 

Although you are technically allowed to camp where you please in Scotland, you must follow the Access Code and if you wish to camp near someone’s property you must get permission from the owner. 

  • Take away all litter
  • Leave no trace, remove all signs of your pitch and fire
  • Do not cause any pollution
  • Use a camping stove if possible
  • Carry a trowel and bury your poo if there aren’t toilets nearby 

When you go camping, regardless of whether you are at a campsite or wild camping you should follow the Leave No Trace Principles 

  • Plan Ahead & Prepare
  • Travel & Camp on Durable Surfaces
  • Dispose of Waste Properly
  • Leave What You Find
  • Minimise campfire Impacts
  • Respect Wildlife
  • Be Considerate of others

Can you camp on a beach?

The majority of beaches in the UK are owned by local councils and some by private individuals. This means that it isn’t legal to camp on all beaches due to being privately owned property. If you wish to camp on a beach you will need to gain permission from the owner to camp on a beach in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. There may be some exceptions where you are allowed to camp on the beach, however, if there is not a sign saying that you can pitch a tent it is best to assume that you can’t.

Although camping on a beach can sound really appealing, it can be a little problematic due to the tides. If you do decide to pitch your tent on the beach, be sure to check where the tide line is before getting into your sleeping bag for the night. If you just wing it you could end up waking up soaking wet. If you want the feel of beachside camping without the risk, there are tons of seaside campsites that could be a better option. 

Scotland once again offers the best options if you want to camp on the beach as it is legal.