Is Wild Camping Legal in the UK? What You Need to Know

A hiker walks up a mountainous hillside in Scotland carrying a backpack

Do you have dreams of being a dweller of the open hills? Do you have visions of traipsing through the heather to find a place to call home for a night or two? 

Wild camping is a little tricky in places, but there are ways to make it work in the UK – it’s just a case of having to do a little research to find out how (and where) to do it.

If you have, therefore, found yourself asking “is wild camping legal in the UK?”, fear not – we’re here to help. 


  • Wild camping is mostly illegal but tolerated/culturally accepted in many unenclosed areas (and in National Parks – ones near you might be the Lake District, the Peak District or the South Downs).
  • Dartmoor is the only place where you can legally wild camp in England without asking the permission of the landowner.


  • Wild camping is legal in Scotland.
  • Certain areas of Loch Lomond require a permit to camp in busy times of the year. For more info, check our full article: “Is wild camping legal in Scotland?”.
  • The access rights given under the Scottish Outdoor Access Code don’t apply to motor vehicles, so take this into account if you’re planning a trip in your car, van or motorhome.


  • Wild camping is not legal in Wales, but it’s tolerated if you follow the Leave No Trace guidelines (see our quick tips section below for more details.)
  • Popular areas for wild camping in Wales include Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons National Park), the Black Mountains, Eryri (Snowdonia National Park) and the Berwyn Mountains.

Northern Ireland:

  • Wild camping is not legal in Northern Ireland, but it’s tolerated if you follow the Leave No Trace guidelines (see our quick tips section below for more details.)

Unwritten Rules for Wild Camping in the UK: Quick Tips

Wild camping may be illegal in many parts of the UK, but it is still often culturally accepted. If you’re planning to wild camp where it isn’t allowed (or wild camp at all), make sure you follow these best practices.


  • Be respectful toward the land and the natural surroundings. Nature is peaceful – let’s help keep it that way!
  • Pitch late (around dusk is a good time) and leave early the next morning.


  • Camp in gardens or fields with livestock or crops. 
  • Leave anything that you brought with you. If in doubt: “pack it in, pack it out”.
  • Build a fire or bring loud music. 
  • Stay for longer than two nights in the same location.

Despite the UK Government claiming that it “appreciates the potential benefits of wild camping in England and its attractiveness to campers”, there remains only one area in England where wild camping is legal: Dartmoor. 

Before you go, though:

  • There are certain places where you’re not allowed to camp on Dartmoor.
  • You can’t camp in the same places for more than two nights.
  • No fires or large groups permitted.

If you do decide to wild camp somewhere other than Dartmoor, these same general rules should be followed. Pitch late, leave early – and leave only footprints.

For exact locations on where you’re allowed to pitch up on Dartmoor, take a look at the official camping map on Dartmoor’s website. 

If you are thinking about a wild camping trip somewhere in the UK, Scotland’s generally the easiest place to do it.

Not only, for example, is Scotland the sole nation within the UK where wild camping is legally permitted – but you’re actually pretty much free to pitch up a shelter on any patch of unenclosed land without even letting a soul know you’re there. 

There are some areas around Loch Lomond where you’ll need a permit to camp in the busiest periods of the year (between March 1st and September 30th) – but these restrictions only encompass about 4% of the National Park, so you’ve got ample space where you’re still free to wild camp outside of those areas – even in the busy summer months.

If you happen to be on the West Highland Way, the entire 15-mile section between Drymen and Rowardennan (as well as about a mile afterwards) lies in the permit area mentioned above – so make sure to plan ahead. You can get more information about permits on the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park website

Don’t let this put you off, though. The rest of Scotland’s unenclosed areas are open season for wild camping throughout the year – so if you’re able to make it up into areas like Glencoe (outside of the aforementioned Loch Lomond corridor) or the Cairngorms, you’re free to pitch up wherever you like on unenclosed land. 

The sun rises over a valley, a forest and a rocky trail in the scottish highlands.
Sunrise at the north end of Glencoe – a perfect wild camping spot on the West Highland Way.

Wild camping is not currently legally permitted in Wales – but there is an ongoing campaign by the British Mountaineering Council for a 12-month trial of wild camping on unenclosed land across Wales. As yet, though, wild camping remains against the law in Wales. 

Despite the legal barrier, though, wild camping in Wales is still a popular activity. If you’re thinking of giving it a try, take a look at our unwritten rules section above  and FAQ sections below – we’ve popped some handy advice there that’ll help you get out there.

If you’re noticing a pattern, you’re onto something. 

Just like most of England and all of Wales, wild camping is not currently legally permitted in Northern Ireland unless you seek the permission of the landowner. 

Despite the legal barrier, though, wild camping in Northern Ireland is still a popular activity. If you’re thinking of giving it a try, take a look at our unwritten rules section above and FAQ sections below to make sure you’re following standard wild camping courtesies.

Wrapping Up: Wild Camping and the Law

So… is wild camping legal in the UK? Well, dear reader, yes – in places. In Scotland, yes; in England, a little bit; and in Wales and Northern Ireland, no. 

Wherever you are in the UK, though, wild camping can work. For more information on wild camping in the UK, check out the rest of the articles on our website. We’ll help you with what to bring, how to choose a good place to go wild camping, how to find a good place to pitch once you get there – and pretty much anything else you might want to know. 

If you’ve got any other questions we haven’t answered here, pop them in the comments box below this article and we’ll try to help.

How to Seek the Permission to Wild Camp from a Landowner

This seems like the tricky part, right? It doesn’t have to be. If you do choose to seek the permission of a landowner, use these three steps:

  1. Identify the landowner
  2. Ask for permission
  3. Thank the landowner

Remember that the process of identifying the landowner and getting in contact (as well as hearing back from them) might take a little while, so plan accordingly – give yourself enough time to make another plan if your first try doesn’t quite go as planned.

And finally, if you can’t find out who owns the land before you go on your wild camping trip (or you don’t have the time to go through the pre-trip process), there is another option: trying to ask the landowner in person.

If you choose to do this, just know that turning up at someone’s house at dusk and knocking on their door is probably not the greatest way to make a first impression; so remember to give yourself enough time in the day to find a farm building and ask permission before heading out into the hills.

1a. Identifying the Landowner in England

We use the interactive map created by “Who Owns England?” to identify landowners in England. Though it doesn’t cover everywhere, it gives a good basis of information for you to go about contacting the landowner of potential wild camping spots.

Also, as some estate-owned land is labelled on the original map data, you might still be able to find some information about who the landowner is in areas on the map which aren’t covered by the Who Owns England? Data.

1.b. Identifying the Landowner in Wales

It’s a little bit more difficult to find out who owns land in Wales, as there aren’t any all-encompassing maps (akin to “Who Owns England?”). It takes a little bit more digging, then – but here’s how we’d do it.

On the Welsh Open Access land data map, open access land (i.e. land that’s privately owned, but allows your “right to roam”) is marked in green patches. Clicking on those patches will give you a set of coordinates – the address of which can be found by clicking on the little information symbol next to the coordinates.

The address you get is specific to the coordinates you click on, so we’d recommend copying that address into Google Maps to try and hone in on where you’re looking at. 

As about 80% of Welsh land is used for agricultural purposes, it’s reasonably likely that the land in question is owned by a farm. Once you’ve decided on a good looking field or forest, then, have a look on Google Maps to see if there are any farm buildings registered nearby. If so, that farm might be the one that owns the land you’d like to camp on.

Have a look online to find some contact information. If you’re lucky, you might find a phone number or an email address – and if not, you can always send a letter.

1.c. Identifying the Landowner in Northern Ireland

Similarly to Wales, there isn’t a free publicly accessible map of land ownership in Northern Ireland.

If you have found a lovely-looking potential camping spot on a map, however, you can search the Northern Ireland Land Registry to try and find out who owns the land you’d like to pitch up on. Although it’ll cost you £5 every time you’d like to do this, think of it this way: it’s cheaper than what you’d normally pay for a campsite.

2. Asking for Permission

Here are some ways to increase your chances of success when asking a landowner for permission to wild camp on their land:

  • Be clear with what your plans are, letting them know when you’ll arrive and leave. As mentioned earlier, two nights is usually the maximum amount of time you should spend wild camping in a single location.
  • Subtly show an awareness of the Leave No Trace principles; this should ease any worries the landowner might have about their land being impacted by your site.
  • Being courteous (and remembering that it’s their land) can go a long way to showing the landowner that you act respectfully and responsibly in the outdoors.

3. Thanking the Landowner

After your grand adventure out in the hills, thank the landowner for allowing you to wild camp on their land. This is not only good courtesy; it may help maintain a relationship that could allow you to camp on that land again in the future.


What happens if I want to wild camp somewhere other than Scotland or Dartmoor?

Remember to follow the Leave No Trace principles. Bring out what you’ve brought in, don’t stay in one place for too long (staying for two nights is generally the maximum amount of time you should spend in one location), and don’t camp anywhere with livestock or crops.

Will I get arrested if I get caught wild camping without permission?

Unless you’re doing something spectacularly disruptive then no, you won’t be arrested if you’re found to be wild camping on someone’s private land. 

Wild Camping is technically classed as a civil, not a criminal offence – so if you do happen to meet a police officer as you’re bedding down in the countryside (which, in itself, is highly unlikely) you’ll most likely just be asked to move along. 

Fines are also possible, and this could escalate into a criminal matter if you refuse to move; but as you’ve already carried all your things in with a backpack anyway, it shouldn’t be too difficult to pack up and trundle on toward the next best spot. 

Happy camping!


British Mountaineering Council, 2023. “BMC Vision for the Future of Wild Camping” (accessed August 2023), available at:

Crown Prosecution Service, 2019. “Trespass and Nuisance on Land” (accessed August 2023), available at:

Dartmoor National Park, 2023. “Dartmoor Camping Map” (accessed August 2023), available at:

The Highland Council, 2023. “Outdoor Highlands Camping” (accessed August 2023), available at:

Leave No Trace, 2023. “The Seven Principles” (accessed 2023) available at:

Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, 2023. “Go Wild Camping” (accessed August 2023), available at:

Natural Resources Wales, 2023. “Area Statements and farmers, foresters and land managers” (accessed August 2023), available at:,%2C%20water%20and%20air%20quality).

NI Direct, 2023. “Searching the Land Registry” (accessed August 2023), available at:

Scottish Outdoor Access Code, 2023. “Responsible behaviour by the public” (accessed August 2023), available at:

UK Parliament, April 2021. Petition: “Allow wild camping in England”, available at:

UK Government, June 2022. “New police powers to crack down on unauthorised encampments come into force”. Available at:

Welsh Government, 2023. “Data Map Wales” (accessed August 2023), available at:

Who Owns England?, 2023. “Who Owns England?” Map (accessed August 2023), available at:

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