Which National Parks can I Wild Camp at?
There are 10 National Parks in England, 3 in Wales, and 2 in Scotland. Collectively they cover around 37% of the landmass in the UK. That’s a lot of landscape for hikers and campers to explore! However, there are different rules in each country related to wild camping.
Unlike the United States and Canada where wild camping is permitted in nearly every National Park, the UK has more restrictions. This is mainly due to the UK being an ancient nation with a long history of land ownership. Many generations of landowners have owned the grounds that are now present in National Parks.
Although these areas are protected and preserved by the National Park Authority, they still fall under an old set of laws and often this legislation doesn’t permit wild camping. However, there are some exceptions to these rules! Let’s take a look at which National Parks do allow wild camping.
1 . Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park
Scotland have opted to update their wild camping laws to take after our Scandinavian cousins with their “freedom to roam” act. This is aimed at giving rights back to hikers and campers who wish to use the land for recreational purposes. Essentially this means that campers can pitch almost wherever they like in the Scottish National Parks without facing any ramifications.
Loch Lomond is one of the biggest lakes in Britain. The National Park also contains many Munros with Ben Lomond being one of the highlights. Many hikers head to the glens, lochs, and forests of the National Park for rambling adventures and wild camping trips.
However, due to overcrowding in recent years, the Scottish government has introduced a permit system. Wild campers are still allowed within the park but in limited numbers. Permits must be obtained between the months of March and September to gain access. This is to protect the nature and wildlife in the National Park from overcrowding.
2 . Cairngorms National Park
The Cairngorms is the biggest National Park in the UK. As a result, there is an inexhaustible list of places to wild camp. The Cairngorms is predominantly a mountainous region and is ideal for those campers who enjoy rugged summit pitches.
It is a particularly prosperous part of the Scottish Highlands home to a quarter of the endangered animal/plant species in the UK. Many hillwalkers visit the Cairngorms for its isolation, wildlife watching, and dramatic scenery.
To find the best wild camping spots, try to avoid busy walking paths and established settlements. Instead, opt for the wild glens and craggy fells set deeper into the National Park. Loch-side camping is particularly popular but boggy land breeds clouds of midges so come prepared!
Loch Morlich is a spectacular place to wild camp near Aviemore. If you want a claim to fame, you could camp around Ben Macdui, the highest summit in the region. However, be aware that the conditions are extreme and sometimes dangerous. To find your perfect pitch, buy an OS map and select some remote areas that have flat, sheltered ground.
3 . Dartmoor National Park
Dartmoor is a popular National Park in Devon, England. It is frequently used for military training activities, Duke of Edinburgh expeditions, and Ten Tors hiking competitions. The National Park is characterised by granite tors and rough moorland. As a special exception in England, the government have granted extensive land rights for public access.
That means this is one of the few places in England and Wales where wild camping is not only allowed, but also encouraged! However, Dartmoor National Park still has some regulations in place to protect the land and ensure it is used harmoniously by wild campers.
Wild campers are told to carry their own backpacks and equipment. Pitches are limited to two nights maximum. If you want some ideas of where to pitch, there’s a comprehensive camping map to show the advised camping locations. Unfortunately, vehicle camping and large groups are not allowed.
4 . Other National Parks?
As a general guide, wild camping works best in secluded locations. For those campers desperate to explore England and Wales, this is a valuable thing to bear in mind. For example, the Lake District is England’s largest National Park spread across 2,362 square kilometres. This provides ample opportunity to camp atop isolated fells in a spectacular wilderness area.
Snowdonia is the largest National Park in Wales and another excellent location for wild campers. As with the Lake District, you can reach some immensely remote locations that are perfect for wild camping. The Brecon Beacons is another great wild camping area, particularly the western peaks which have a low footfall.
In any case, here are some good tips to help you pitch in an English or Welsh National Park. If you’re in a hilly or mountainous area, pitch at a high elevation away from farms, fences, and towns. Set up camp late and leave early. If you’re wild camping along the coast or in the countryside, head for hidden coves and remote woodland to hide your tent from plain view.
There are many different rules and bylaws for each National Park. Before setting off for your wild camping adventure, research the laws that pertain to your chosen location. That way, you get some idea of what you can and can’t do when wild camping.
Unfortunately, wild camping often carries a stigma around it. Many organisations and authorities say they don’t permit wild camping as a blanket rule. This is mainly to protect the land and respect any antiquated land rulings. As a wild camper looking for adventure, this may seem like a bit of a damp squib.
Don’t be put off by this. Commit to your trip but do it in a manner which allows you to affect the smallest number of people possible. Treat the land with respect and remember that other members of the public wish to use these National Parks also. With that in mind, get exploring and happy camping!