✅ Where can you go camping for free in the UK?
Wondering where you can go camping for free in the UK? The answers might surprise you.
Feeling the wind between your fingertips as you wander deeper into the wilderness, be it the tip of Scafell Pike with friends looking over the stunning lakes or pitching up beside the calm waters of Loch Hourn for a soul-searching grounding into nature.
Travelling across the UK with the intention of free tent camping (also called wild camping) is one of the most freeing adventures anyone can take.
And, honestly, it is something everybody should do just once in their life; overnight camping surrounded by nothing but nature and maybe a couple of people you love, too.
✅ Where is it legal to wild camp in the UK?
We wanted to share some of the most stunning locations in the UK for those asking the question, “where can I go camping for free?”.
But first, we need to let you in on regulations to avoid a conundrum down-the-line.
Wild camping – or free tent camping – is simply the umbrella term for all camping that
doesn’t involve a camper-van, a campsite or paying to relax under the stars for the
Essentially, it can be anywhere from beside the lakes and rivers to the woods and into
hills as long as you’re abiding by the restrictions and regulations of the area (yes, while
it may be free to your pocket, it’s not always free from rules).
If you do want to head out for a camping trip in seclusion, then you’ll need to ensure you’re being safe and keeping nature natural.
Sometimes going out for a family hike, a walk on the wild side alone or exploring new avenues of life with friends, you don’t want boundaries.
This means having the freedom to go walking in any direction until the sun goes down and not having to worry about where you’ll be overnight camping.
In these cases, you’ll want to ensure you’re fully kitted out with the tools and knowhow to bring relentless camping for free in the UK. Here’s a list:
✅ Guide to Camping Regulations
- Bug spray
- GPS (just in case!)
- Power bank
- Emergency numbers list
- Bivvy bag or tent
- Litter free snacks
- Head torch
- Sleeping bag
✅ Is free camping legal in the UK?
When it comes to wild camping, while you may be getting excited to head out and
pitch up, it’s not entirely legal throughout the UK.
There are, however, a couple of exceptions: Scotland and – for some strange but blissful reason – Dartmoor.
That doesn’t mean to say you’ll never be able to go camping in the stunning natural
Bob Ross painting that is the UK, it just means that you’ll need to ask for permission
from the landowner.
However, this can take away the whole ‘free tent camping’ vibe.
If you decide to head out without asking for permission, it’s likely you’ll be disturbed
on your adventure and asked to move on. In some of the rarer circumstances, landowners have been known to exercise their right to prosecute.
To avoid all this hassle, it’s best to follow some core regulations that are generally
known in our camping community as ‘leave no trace’.
This means, using public toilets where possible, not interacting with wildlife, not
lighting a campfire, not making a BBQ, only staying in the location for one night and
setting-up camp late and leaving early.
You’re also asked not to contribute to noise pollution, use eco-friendly products, not wash in streams or rivers.
Make sure your remove all your litter, ask the landowner’s permission where possible, don’t stray from public areas (including roads, buildings and historic architecture) and camp in small numbers, maxing-out at three. Phew 🙂
✅ Where can I set up a tent for free?
Stunning National Trust land such as beaches, the Lake District, the Brecon Beacons and the Peak District are owned and have their own rules.
While there’s a big no-no in some areas (such as water-level lake district) they tend to tolerate wild campers looking to camp for free in the UK who abide by the ‘leave no trace’ community guidelines.
Don’t forget, Dartmoor is a free-for-all! The Dartmoor National Park even has a wild
camping map on their website to gander at.
✅ Where else can you camp for free?
The Scottish Outdoor Access Code
The Scottish Outdoor Access Code provides travellers, visitors and anyone else looking to venture into Scotland’s vast beauty the opportunity to spread their wings and fly (as long as you commit to the few regulations).
Thanks to the Land Reform Act of 2003, free tent camping in Scotland opens the doors
to lochs, moors, forests, hills, rivers, coasts, woods, farms, parks and pretty much any
other free land – island-hopping, anyone?
While wild camping, you need to adhere to three key principles:
• Respect for others and their interests
• Due care to the environment and inhabitants
• Take responsibility for your actions
Another benefit to heading to the Highlands to see Northern beauty is having the freedom to camp for around three nights at a time instead of one.
However, there is one thing to keep in mind: as Loch Lomond and the Trossachs
National Park have been such a popular spot for wild camping, the national parks have
introduced some bylaws.
Between the months of March and September, you need to obtain a (free) permit for camping.
The hills of Wales are alive with the sound of silence; Snowdonia is a stunning
location for some by-the-book free tent camping.
With its incredible views of the Welsh plains and so many things to do to take your breath away.
Consider taking the Snowdon Mountain Railway and head for a hike before stopping off alongside the clear blue waters of Llyn Cwellyn.
The Lake District
While restricted to the higher levels of the Lake District, it will not disappoint.
You’ll have more of the unmissable views of the lakes underneath with the
classic towns of Windemere and Grasmere providing the much-needed
gingerbread stocks for hiking and journeying throughout the days.
The Brecon Beacons
Home to the Welsh wonders, it is truly the place to venture into the wilderness
to disconnect from reality (translation: there’s no phone connection
anywhere but the beauty makes up for it).
One of the best places would be to set up camp for free in the UK plains of Fforest Fawr to watch the early morning sun rise with options to shelter under the forest trees, too.
The Peak District
One of the greatest hiking routes in the UK is along Mam Tor, offering Creswell
Craggs and the oldest cave art dating back to the Ice Age.
With stunning paths and choices all along this long route, you can pitch up your overnight camping bivvy bag along the route of endless views of Hope Valley.
Dartmoor National Park
Given that it’s the only place with assured legality for cost-free wild camping
in England, it is the safest place to begin your adventures.
And it doesn’t hold back, either. The green landscape of Riddon Ridge is also home to the pesky Piskie Cave: a cave in the rocks that poses a challenge to many travellers as it
is often hard to find.
Also offering the opportunity to get the ski legs going in the winter months,
Aviemoor is home to steam train attractions, eagle events and the naturally
stunning Loch an Eilein at Rothiemurchus which could be where you decide to
camp for free in the UK and discover true bliss.
Porthcurno Beach is a hidden away cove located at the South of England
harbouring sunny skies and warm weathers in the Summertime that simply
can’t be beaten.
Even without parking on the beach itself (to avoid any unwanted tent flooding), staying up high on the cliffs brings the soothing sounds of crashing waves and the views of the sun rising in the horizon.
Taking the trekking over to Northern Ireland, we see county Donegal’s
Overnight camping near the historic Royal Castle is an experience
that takes you back to the 13th century.
There’s even a Maritime Museum and Planetarium to explore during the day with family and friends, or whoever the other two adventurers walking alongside you are.
When you’re adventuring in the North, South, East or West of any of the four magnificent regions of the UK, don’t forget to enjoy the little things and go prepared. Take pictures, make memories and simply take-in the scenery and history of it all.