Unless you’re already knee-deep in planning an outdoorsy trip to Scotland, chances are you don’t know that wild camping is legal here, and free. The first time Travis and I learned about the Scottish Outdoor Access Code was from the clerk who set up our mobile phone service. (He also told us about bothies, which are unlocked shelters open for virtually anyone to use….more on that later.)
If you’re okay with foregoing some of the luxuries of hotel accommodations, considering packing your camping gear may be for you. It’s a great way to get off the beaten track and enjoy the natural beauty Scotland has to offer.
Although wild camping is legal in Scotland, there are some rules you should be aware of to avoid any potential problems. To read the rules yourself, follow this link: http://www.snh.org.uk/pdfs/publications/access/full%20code.pdf.
If you don’t want to read all of the rules, here’s an abridged version:
- Leave no trace – take away all litter and evidence of an open fire and tent pitching
- Act responsibly – Keep a reasonable distance from private dwellings. If you want to camp near a home, seek the home owner’s permission.
- Follow the path if there is one
- If you open a gate, close it (and vice versa)
- Keep noise to a minimum
- Travel in “small” numbers (note that “small” is not specifically defined)
- Keep moving if your destination is already saturated with other campers
- Stay a maximum of 2-3 nights in one place
- Don’t cut down the trees
Where can I pitch my tent?
- On most unenclosed land including paths and tracks and grass sports fields when not in use
Where can I NOT place my tent?
- Golf courses (but you can walk/cycle through them as long as you don’t interfere with the game)
- Tourist attractions which charge for entry
- Synthetic sports fields or sports fields in which grass is grown and prepared for a particular recreational purpose
- Fields where animals are enclosed
- Fields where crops are growing (you can camp in the margins, though)
- Nearby a person’s home/gardens, roads, or historic sites
If you are traveling to East Loch Lomond, look at the bylaws. Historically, this is a popular camping spot, and this particular area has a number of restrictions depending on when you are trying to visit. It’s advisable to book at a campsite to avoid fines if you’re camping there.
Good luck planning your next trip to the U.K. on the cheap!