• Manchester Camper Hire

The Truth About Wild Camping

For every instagrammed sunset of a secret spot with no one around, somewhere else there are twenty motorhomes parked bumper to bumper next to an over-flowing bin. We need to talk about 'wild camping'.

When people hire vans from Manchester Camper Hire, I often hear that people are going to Scotland, and one of the reasons they give is the understanding that "you can just park up anywhere for free".

There is of course some truth in this. Scotland doesn't have the same trespass laws as England and Wales, so you can walk, picnic and camp in any area of unenclosed land. However, this is where the difference between the letter, and the spirit, of the law comes in. The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 and Scottish Outdoor Access Code, which allow wild camping were only intended to refer to backpackers with tents. The Scottish Outdoor Access Code specifically excludes motorised access for wild camping. This means any motorhome or campervan parking overnight in an area without established campsites and without permission to stay, may be asked to leave by the landowner. Therefore motorhome and campervanners need to exercise discretion, respect and common sense.


It's generally okay to wild camp in a campervan when you're:

  • arriving late and leaving early

  • not close to, or in view of, residential property

  • able to find a spot which isn't private land

  • being respectful of the environment and wildlife

  • lucky enough to find somewhere that isn't already crowded

  • prepared to move on if asked

Wild camping isn't okay if:

  • You plan to stay in a large group, with awnings, campfires and gazebos

  • You're on private land

  • The spot you've found is a gateway, passing point, or farm land

  • You aren't entirely self-sufficient. (No, toilets aren't provided in wild camping locations!)

  • There are signs stating that motorhome parking or overnight parking isn't permitted

  • You want to have a fire or barbecue

Generally speaking, if you're out of sight and not on private land, then no one is going to mind. If you leave no trace after your visit, then local communities aren't going to campaign to prevent campervanners occasionally parking up. However there have been plenty of reports from Scottish residents complaining to the press and to their MSPs about the impact of campervans.


Due to overuse, areas of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park are already subject to wild camping byelaws. This means that camping is only permitted within campsites or with a camping permit. There has already been talk of amending the laws to make overnight parking in vans illegal in other areas due to the problems caused. At the moment, it's hoped that there can be some less drastic solutions, such as these European style basic stopovers. However, the more infrastructure that's put in, the less appealing Scotland will be for many people who are drawn to the wild and unspoilt landscapes.


The dream versus the reality

I bought my first campervan in 2013, and I can count on one hand the number of times I've had perfect wild camps. I've had a great spot on the east coast of Scotland next to a sea loch, with a small castle on one side, and a seal colony on the other. I've also slept in a layby on the A830 which seemed nice enough as the sun went down. When the lorries started hurtling past to get to the ferry port first thing in the morning, it wasn't quite so idyllic!

Great views, terrible nights sleep!

One of the things that I like about campervans, is that I can go and stay anywhere. Places where you couldn't take a huge motorhome, and places where you certainly won't find a Travelodge.

The other reason I like them, is that I'm not getting any younger, and a campervan affords you a couple of extra creature comforts that a tent doesn't! The thing with wild camping is that a small campervan doesn't necessarily have all the creature comforts on board though. We can provide small cassette toilets, but they're not exactly glamorous. And don't forget, you'll have the joyous task of emptying it too! So if you're wild camping and you need to go...you're either going into the woods and 'covering your tracks' with a trowel, or using the squatty potty in the van!


Along with the noise of a lorry rattling past at 5am, and having to bury your own poo in the woods, there's also the fact that you can't drink! I know that's not the end of the world, but it's worth bearing in mind. If you park up, have a beer and start to wind down for the night and then someone knocks on the window and tells you you're on private land, then you've got to move. But you've had a drink, so you can't! So then what do you do? It's a conundrum that wouldn't exist if you'd just paid a few pounds for the campsite up the road with its flushing toilets, level pitches and rows of tress shielding you from the noise of the road.



Why not just use a campsite?

I know a lot of campervan owners and renters aren't keen on overly formal campsites.

If you're looking for campsites that are 'back to basics' then check out the Nearly Wild Camping organisation. They've brought loads of campsites and land owners together who can provide facilities that are more suited to those in self-contained campervans, or who prefer a campsite without all the bells and whistles.


When you see some of the campsites available in Scotland (Invercaimbe, Red Squirrel, Sango Sands, and Cashel Campsite are just a couple that spring to mind and are on this map) you'll struggle to beat the locations, and you can have a fire and a beer without worrying about bothering anyone too. Plus, spending money on campsites is good for the communities you're visiting, and your money often gets used to fund local conservation projects such as with the National Trust and Forestry England campsites.


There are countless ways to find the perfect site, and there really is something for everyone. Try these different websites and apps or check out this map which includes suggestions from our previous customers. If you know of any other great sites, let me know and I can add those too!


I hope this blog's been helpful in navigating the myths and the reality of wild camping in a campervan.

To sum up, wild camping in Scotland is legal, but doing so in a campervan isn't. If you use some common sense, overnight stays on public land are generally accepted, but in most cases you're better off finding a campsite! Remember...


It's generally okay to wild camp in a campervan when you're:

  • arriving late and leaving early

  • not close to, or in view of, residential property

  • able to find a spot which isn't private land

  • being respectful of the environment and wildlife

  • lucky enough to find somewhere that isn't already crowded

  • prepared to move on if asked

Wild camping isn't okay if:

  • You plan to stay in a large group, with awnings, campfires and gazebos

  • You're on private land

  • The spot you've found is a gateway, passing point, or farm land

  • You aren't entirely self-sufficient. (No, toilets aren't provided in wild camping locations!)

  • There are signs stating that motorhome parking or overnight parking isn't permitted

  • You want to have a fire or barbecue


Feel free to get in touch if you need any advice about your camping trip, or visit the website to check availability and book a campervan!


Thanks for reading,

Nick 🚌 😄