Camping, Bushcraft & Survival

Wild Camping in Scotland | Essential Guide

What are the rules of wild camping in Scotland? And where are the best places to go?

Whether you’re wild camping in the UK or wild camping in mainland Europe, there really is nothing quite like the thrill of wild camping. For many, especially those based in the UK, wild camping in Scotland is where it’s at. Why is this? Well, firstly it’s legal. Unlike in England and Wales, Dartmoor aside, where it is most definitely not legal. Secondly, because it’s Scotland and Scotland has some of the best natural scenery you’ll find anywhere on Earth.

What do you need to know about the rules of wild camping in Scotland? And where are the best places to go wild camping in Scotland? You can find the answer to these questions, right here.

Wild Camping In Scotland | The Rules

The wild camping laws in Scotland are pretty unique compared with the rest of the UK. Photo: Getty Images.

Before you go wild camping in Scotland, it’s worth familiarising yourself with the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. It’s a bit like the Highway Code, but with an emphasis on outdoor activities. The main policy, and something you really need to remember, is “leave no trace.”

Because of Scotland’s access legislation, the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, you are allowed to camp on most unenclosed land. However, because of overuse, East Loch Lomond is actually subject to wild camping byelaws.

A Beginner’s Guide To Wild Camping Gear

Some things to remember. Stay away from overcrowded areas. If a spot looks busy, move on to another location. Too many wild campers in one spot is not what wild camping is about, and can have a negative impact on the environment.

Don’t cut down or damage trees, and use a stove. If you are insistent on making a camp fire, be sure to leave no trace of it when you pack up and leave. Speaking of when you leave, make sure you’ve collected up all of your litter before departing. And finally, if you have any doubts about the place you’re camping…track down the the landowner and ask them.

Wild Camping In Scotland | Where To Go?

With basically all of Scotland to go wild camping in, choosing a place to actually go do it is a surprisingly tricky decision (especially if you’re the indecisive type). There’s so much choice that you can get caught in a loop, constantly wondering whether the grass is greener over there or whether you’ll have a better view of the Loch if you camp up there.

To those people who can’t make up their minds, we say relax. Scotland has such a splendid array of wild camping spots, you’d have to fudge it catastrophically to end up somewhere ugly. Although, with that in mind, maybe give Coatbridge a swerve. It’s no Isle of Skye.

Wild Camping on the Isle of Skye

Loch Coruisk is one of the best places to go wild camping on the Isle of Skye. Photo: Getty Images.

The Isle of Skye is not only one of the most beautiful places in Scotland, it’s also right up in the mix when it comes to most beautiful places in the world. The fact that you can wild camp here, legally and without issue, makes it all the sweeter as a destination. Camasunary Bay, Loch Coruisk, Ben Tianavaig, and the Quiraing are all well worth a look if you’re going to go camping on this stunning Scottish island.

Wild Camping in Cairngorms National Park

Cairngorms National Park will delight anyone with a passion for wild camping. Photo: Getty Images.

When it comes to Scotland’s mountains, they don’t come much more Scottish and mountainous than those of the Cairngorms National Park. Wild camping in the Cairngorms is a truly epic experience, one that you won’t ever forget. A quick word of warning about the area, though. Due to the extremities here it’s especially important that you’re well prepared for the environment and weather, as even experienced mountain enthusiasts have known to be caught out by a combination of the two. Our spot tip: Loch A’an. Loch A’an is a breathtaking pocket of Scotland, hidden deep in the heart of the mountains and only accessible on foot. You’ll love it.

Wild Camping on the Pentland Hills

Near to Edinburgh, and beautiful to boot, Pentland Hills is a great place for wild camping. Photo: Getty Images.

The Pentland Hills are a great option for those looking to go walking near Edinburgh. They’re also really cool if you’re based in the Scottish capital, and are in desperate need of a quick adrenaline fix from your mountain bike. In terms of wild camping options here, explore the surrounding area at Bonaly Reservoir or head on over to East Kip.

Wild Camping in the Southern Uplands

The Southern Uplands have much to offer the wild camping enthusiast. Photo: Getty Images.

When you picture yourself wild camping in Scotland, you probably imagine yourself going up to the Highlands and having the full-on blue-faced Braveheart experience. As a result, the sparsely populated and southernmost geographical area of Southern Uplands might not get a look in. We think that’s a real shame, however, as this region has so much to offer. The Galloway National Park, for example, was the first place in the UK to be designated as a Dark Sky Reserve. This means it’s far enough away from light pollution to make it the ideal place to go stargazing. In terms of specific wild camping spots, Loch Enoch comes highly recommended.

Wild Camping in the Outer Hebrides

With its white sand and turquoise blue water, Vatersay in the Outer Hebrides is not your typical Scottish destination. Photo: Getty Images.

From the southernmost point of Scotland to it’s more northern reaches, let’s talk about the Outer Hebrides. Vatersay, which is actually the southernmost inhabited island of the Outer Hebrides, is a dream come true for people looking to wild camp somewhere far removed from mainland life. The beaches here will steal your heart, while the high sand dunes will protect you from the wind. Head to tranquil Varsatay Bay in the east; a place where white sandy beaches meets beautiful blue water.

Wild Camping in Sutherland

Sandwood Bay is one of the UK’s most beautiful wild camping spots. Photo: Getty Images.

Right at the very top of mainland Scotland sits the historic Highlands county of Sutherland. Like anything this far north, it’s a bit of a mission to get to but totally worth it when you make the effort. Sandwood Bay, in particular, has legendary status in the wild camping community (and with good reason). It can only be reached by walking a 4 mile path that starts in the hamlet of Blairmore. The bay is run by the John Muir Trust, and is thought to be one of the cleanest and nicest beaches in the entire UK. The Am Buachaille sea stack here is genuinely awe-inspiring, and the sheer amount of plant life tucked behind the dunes is a real treat for nature lovers.

Wild Camping in Glen Coe

The ‘Lost Valley’ at Glencoe has a fascinating history. Photo: Getty Images.

Glen Coe, not to be mistaken with Fatal Attractions’ bunny-boiler Glenn Close, is a brilliant place to go wild camping in Scotland. Coire Gabhail, also known as the ‘Lost Valley’, is a secluded spot where you can really lose yourself to the magnificence of the Scottish Highlands. Surrounded on all sides by mountains, you’ll find a water-providing stream and boulders to shield you from the wind. It was here, in fact, where the Clan MacDonald of Glencoe hid themselves in the aftermath of the infamous Glencoe massacre of 1692. Don’t worry though. The days of Scotland’s clans brutally murdering each other in these parts are most definitely behind us.

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