Back on your European tour and want to boondock for the night? Here’s the specifics that may help you on the way and prevent you from having to answer frustrating questions by the local police while wild camping in the United Kingdom.
Britain, Snowdonia Wales, north devon
MobileRVing: The Buzz, Your Outdoor Lifestyle Insider, Written by Karl Hughes.
Boondocking Need To Knows - The UK
Wild Camping In Britain Can Be Tricky, But Remember The Basics - Be Considerate, Ask Permission...And Leave No Trace
It’s one thing to book a stay in a campsite and enjoy the amenities upon offer, but what if you’re in the mood to experience the true freedom that is wild camping? Referred to as ‘boondocking’ in America, wild camping is a tricky subject in Britain, with different laws and unspoken agreements that could mean an obtrusive farmer’s torchlight at midnight, depending on where you’ve pitched yourself. Working out where you can park up and relax for the night can take some more planning than you think, so here’s the specifics that may help you on the way and prevent you from having to answer frustrating questions by the local police.
England, Wales and Ireland
Wild camping in England, Wales and Ireland is technically illegal due to the fact that all land in the three countries is owned by somebody. That’s not say it’s impossible, it simply means that it is vital you get permission from the landowners before you pull up. You can’t just wander into woodlands and set up your tent. However, there are places where there are exceptions. For example, Snowdonia in Wales and the Lake District in England both allow wild camping ‘within reasonable limits’. Showing up with a convoy of twenty RV’s and the intention to park up for a month is probably not going to be considered a reasonable limit. With jaw-dropping scenery and a real sense of being totally cut off from the world, it’s definitely worth staying a few days though, just remember to always ask permission.
Dartmoor is another place where the laws are slightly different, in that you are able to pitch up, but only for a maximum of two consecutive nights. There are parts of Dartmoor that are restricted, so it’s worth checking out this interactive map to plan your time there sensibly. Just remember to prepare properly if you’re heading off into the wilds of Dartmoor, and check beforehand about any seasonal-specific rules, as there are parts of the year where lambing and bird-breeding take place.
The further into the wilderness you get, the more remote you travel, the more likely it is that your wild camping will be tolerated. For example, Ilfracombe is considered one of the most remote places in England, and has designated wild camping areas. Make this seaside parish your base as you explore North Devon. A scenic drive to the coast in your RV will lead you on an adventure to withess things like the Ilfracombe Aquarium, unique Tunnels Beaches, Larkstone Leisure Park, Hele Cornmill and Chambercombe Manor, one of Britain's most haunted houses.
Of course, it’s always going to be a good idea to try and scope out the area before you start pitching up, but most people are going to let you camp on their land as long as you agree not to leave anything behind or do any damage. Look around for houses and farmland and just ask. You might even get some quality advice on the best place to pop your tent!
This is the place to head to if you really want to get into the wild-camping mindset. You couldn’t ask for a better country if the thought of just setting your tent up where you like appeals. In 2003, the Scottish government declared that wild camping would be legal across the country, and set up some guidelines for you to follow. They’re pretty much the easiest rules to follow ever, with the short version essentially being ‘leave no trace’.
There is an exception to the Scottish wild camping rules however, and that is the western area surrounding Loch Lomond National Park, which proved to be too popular. As a result, both camping and drinking alcohol have been banned there. Of course, that still leaves a lot of Scotland to explore!
Wild Camping Tips
Camping in remote, unregulated places with no amenities is about as pure as a holiday can get. The freedom of parking yourself on a random hill and watching the sunset is the epitome of true contentment, but there are a few things that will make your experience all the better.
The first thing to consider is how many other people have chosen the same area to camp on? If it looks like a crowd, move on. Too many people invariably lessens the experience and landowners are going to be more wary about overcrowding.
If you’re making a fire in order to cook dinner or simply warm up, do not start cutting down trees or branches. Preferably use a stove, but if you do make a campfire, make certain that you remove all signs of it before you leave. Talking of removing all signs, obviously remember to take all of your litter with you when you finally depart. Whether you’ve been in the same place for one night or three, taking your litter is the right thing to do for so many obvious reasons. Just remember that tidy campers make for happy landowners and you won’t go far wrong.
Finally, be aware of seasonal activities (you don’t want to wake up in a field to find that you’re in the middle of a grouse shooting event).
So preparation, planning and seeking out local knowledge are the keys to making the most of your wild camping experience in the UK. There may not be any hot showers, but out there in the wilderness, nobody will be able to hear your early morning rendition of ‘Born to be Wild’.
Graduate of the University of Wolverhampton with a Degree in Broadcast Journalism and a Masters in Popular Culture. He's worked for publications in the UK, Spain and Italy, reporting on local, national and international news stories.
Make Sure To Check Out:
Glencoe Scotland, which has much to offer visitors, both in summer and in winter, and is indeed a glen for all seasons. It is regarded by many as a gateway to the Highlands, and is a well established centre within the Outdoor Capital of the UK.