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Scotland’s Outdoor Access Code means there are public rights of way and opportunities for wild camping all over the country, but it’s not as simple as setting up the tent and settling in.
There may be a lot to consider when it comes to wild camping in Scotland, but the payoff is completely worth it. There are few places in the world as breathtakingly beautiful as Scotland's great wilderness.
What is wild camping?
All camping is at least a little bit wild, right? But in Scotland, the term ‘wild camping’ means literally camping in the wilderness. The idea is that you can carry your tent and gear to a secluded spot that suits you, then set up camp for the night to enjoy the Scottish countryside in all its remote and rugged glory, without any noisy neighbours or grumbling campsite generators to keep you awake.
A rather adventurous way to travel, wild camping is incredibly popular among hikers and backpackers – it’s free, easy and a wonderful way to see Scotland’s varied geography. You can wild camp near beaches, amid mountains, on the waterfront of glassy lochs and even inside some national parks.
That sounds cold and exhausting - should I try it?
While a week-long wild camping trip might not be totally up your street, consider pairing a rugged night or two in the romantic Scottish wilderness with a stay at one of the country’s best spa hotels, or check into your own lodge with a hot tub to warm your cockles afterward.
Wild camping doesn’t have to be completely unluxurious – you could bring an inflatable mattress or proper pillows to mitigate some of the potential discomforts – but it will definitely be an unforgettable experience.
Where can I go wild camping in Scotland?
Where you are allowed to pitch your tent is all based on the Scottish Outdoor Access Code (opens in new tab). This essentially governs the countryside and provides guidance for access rights across farmland, woods, moors, and the coastline. The three main principles of the Scottish Outdoor Access Code are:
- Respect the interests of others
- Care for the environment
- Take responsibility for your own actions
In Scotland, according to the code, wild camping is allowed on “hills and moors, forests and woods, beaches and the coast, rivers and lochs, parks and some types of farmland.” There are some exceptions, though, such as private houses and gardens, other buildings and their compounds, school grounds, and attractions that charge an entry fee.
There are also seasonal restrictions in some areas and others, such as Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, where wild camping isn’t allowed for conservation reasons. Always check the Outdoor Access Code (opens in new tab) for more detail.
Where are the best places for wild camping in Scotland?
With so much of the countryside and coastline open for all to enjoy, finding the perfect spot for a night or two in your tent is tricky – how do you narrow it down? Here are some of our favourite spots for a bit of wild camping in Scotland.
For wild camping on the coast try Sandwood Bay, Sutherland
Located right on Scotland’s own Route 66, called the North Coast 500, Sandwood Bay is an incredibly popular wild camping spot – and for good reason. This sweep of golden sand is lapped by waves from the bracing North Sea and views out to impressive sea stacks and brooding cliffs are mesmerizing. It’s a four-mile walk to the beach along a well-trodden path (it’s pretty flat, so ideal if you’re using a cart to bring your gear). Sunsets here are spectacular.
For wild camping lochside try Loch Beinn a’ Mheadhoin, the Highlands
Pitch your tent between mountains cloaked in ancient pine forests and the shimmering freshwater Loch Beinn a’ Mheadhoin, a meandering body of water with islands, gentle rocky falls and beaches along its fringes. Set up camp on a beach and spend a day or two enjoying some wild swimming or walking among the trails that surround the loch.
For wild camping in the mountains try The Quiraing, Isle of Skye
The Isle of Skye is one of Scotland’s most beautiful places, drawing travelers from all over the world to marvel at its dramatic landscapes. There are hundreds of incredible spots for wild camping on Skye, but none is quite so mesmerizing as the Quiraing – a huge landslip that has some of the most enthralling scenery on the island. There’s a car park on the small road between Uig and Staffin, and you don’t have to walk far with your gear to find a good spot. Sunrise here in the morning will take your breath away.
Lottie is an NCTJ-trained journalist, an experienced travel writer and an expert in creating compelling digital content.
Lottie has been in the travel writing business for nearly a decade and has writing and photography bylines at The Telegraph, The Times, The Independent, the i and National Geographic Traveller. She's done broadcast work for BBC Radio 4 and have contributed to a number of guidebooks and coffee table titles during her career.
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