Scotland is one of the only places in the UK where you can camp just about anywhere you want to. They call it wild camping and it is completely legal in the entire country of Scotland. What does this mean? Does it mean you can pitch your tent in someone’s backyard? No. But you can camp on any unenclosed land as long as it is not too close to a building, road, or other structure.
The Scottish Midge
Before you head out to camp in Scotland, you need to know a little bit about midges, also known as the Scottish midge or Smidge. A midge is a tiny fly with a big bite. In fact, they are only two millimeters long but they fly in swarms that look like clouds so you can usually see them coming. Avoid warm humid places where they breed.
The Scottish midge typically swarms in the morning and evening. They do not like wind or direct sunlight and prefer the woods and cloudy days. You can use DEET insect repellent, wear long sleeves and pants, or even buy anti-insect clothing. Plus, avoid areas heavily populated by the little no-see-ums. And to protect your belongings from these pests, leave them at a Scotland luggage storage facility nearby.
Wild Camping in Scotland
Thanks to the Land Reform Act of 2003, you are allowed to camp in any unenclosed spaces that are not marked as “no camping” zones. In such a beautiful and scenic country, this means a lot. But there are still rules to follow. For example:
- Only camp in small groups of two or three people
- Do not stay longer than three days
- Take your trash with you
- Use a stove or BBQ pit instead of a fire
- Bury waste and only urinate at least 100 feet away from water
- Remove all traces when you leave
Wild Camping in National Parks
The only place you are not allowed to wild camp is in Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park. You can still camp here, but you have to have a permit and reserve your space in advance for many places between March and September. So, that means wild camping in this spectacular park is legal from October through February.
The other national park in Scotland, Cairngorms, allows wild camping year-round. The Cairngorms is the largest national park in the UK with close to 1,500 square miles or over 1.1 million acres. The park is also home to over 50 mountains taller than 3,000 feet high. This includes four of the five tallest mountains in the UK including:
- Sgor an Lochain at 4,127 feet
- Cairn Toul at 4,236 feet
- Braeriach at 4,252 feet
- Ben Macdui at 4,295 feet
Best Camping Spots in Scotland
From the peaceful Western Isles to the southern village of the Isle of Whithorn, there are literally thousands of places to camp. Whether you want to be on the beach, in the woods, or up in the mountains, Scotland has a bit of everything to explore. Although there are many private campsites and those that need permits, you will also find a vast array of choices.
- Peanmeanach Beach
Located in southwestern Scotland on the Ardnish Peninsula, Peanmeanach Beach is sandwiched between Loch Nan Uamh and Loch Ailort. This is the perfect secluded spot for those who enjoy hiking in the wilderness because you have to trek about three hours to get there. The only sign of life here is the abandoned village by the sea with an old bothy.
- Peanmeanach Bothy
This is rugged and uninhabited camping so don’t expect restrooms, picnic tables, or a convenience store. Bring all that you will need for your stay including plenty of water, food, a first aid kit, and provisions for cleaning up after yourself. You will likely be alone out there, which is perfect for those looking for peace and quiet with no cell service for miles.
- Gleann na Muice
If you want to climb a mountain, choose Gleann na Muice in the Fisherfield Forest as your wild camping site. Gleann na Muice is located at the base of the Fisherfield Five, which are the most remote mountains in Scotland. The hike can be strenuous and should only be attempted by experienced hikers.
- Lochan Fada
Located in northeastern Scotland between Loch Maree and Fionn Loch, you will also be near the Lochan Fada, a hidden gem in the Highlands. For the average hiker, it takes approximately 2.5 hours to walk to the site, but it is well worth the walk. Make this your base camp and head for the mountains.
Beach lovers will enjoy the stunning beaches on the Isle of Rum. If you want to stay close to civilization, Kinloch is the perfect place just minutes from the ferry on the eastern coast. If you want to do some wild camping, try to get a spot by the Kinloch Castle and Heritage Center. The Farm Fields were the home of the earliest known settlers in Scotland dating back to 7,500 BC.
- Isle of Skye
Located in the Scottish Highlands on the eastern coast of the Isle of Skye is a tiny village overlooking the Kyle Rhea. You will have to take a ferry to get there from the mainland and then walk through the pine woods where you can camp on the hill. This is a particularly nice spot for wildlife enthusiasts because you will see the otters and seals along the shoreline.
- The Fairy Pools
Don’t skip the Fairy Pools in the middle of the Isle of Skye. The green and blue waterfalls are a wonderful place to make camp. The naturally beautiful backdrop is perfect for selfies and group photos. You can hike into the woods as far as you like for a secluded site or stay close to the villages for access to amenities nearby.
- Kilmory Bay
Kilmory Bay to the north is one of the best spots on the island for camping though, with both rocky and sandy beaches to explore. You will certainly see deer wandering around as this is the area of the Red Deer Project. But don’t leave the island without seeing Bloodstone Hill and the Guirdil Bothy on the west coast.
- Ardnamurchan Campsite
For those who want to visit nature without having to walk miles, Ardnamurchan is perfect. Located on the shore just west of Kilchoan, you can choose your spot from beaches to coves as well as forest areas. Here you get terraces, electricity, shoreline access, hot showers, and free Wi-Fi. They even have a shop, pub, and café.
- Bunree Club in Onich
If you are caravanning and want to stay at the beach, Bunree Club can put you at the water’s edge! It is only 10 miles from Fort William and is situated on Loch Linnhe. There are almost 100 sites to choose from and offer electric hookups, waste disposal, gas, Wi-Fi, and showers. You can take a cable car to the highest mountain in Scotland, Ben Nevis where you can see some amazing views.
- Cairngorms National Park
Whether you want to pitch a tent in the wilderness or park your caravan in an area with showers and food, you can find it all in this national park. It is the largest of its kind and boasts 14 different permitted campsites, glamping sites, and unlimited wild campsites all over the park. You will have over a million acres to explore featuring castles, beaches, and mountains galore.
- Loch Ness Shores Camping and Caravan
Up in north Scotland is Loch Ness, the home of Nessie the Loch Ness Monster. Being so famous, there are quite a few campgrounds all along the loch but the most popular is the Loch Ness Shores in the middle of the loch. They have sites for tents, campers, and glamping with electricity, showers, drinking water, and more. Besides the loch, you can also visit the River Foyers, Falls of the Foyers, and the highlands.
- Loch Ness Bay Camping
Camp on the other side of Loch Ness near Nessieland and the Nessie Museum at Loch Ness Bay Camping. You can choose from a primitive tent pitch to a hardstanding pitch with an electric hook-up. They even have cottages. And they all have access to amenities like showers, water, a market, and a laundry facility. Both Nessieland and the Nessie Museum are within walking distance too!
Scotland is one of the most popular countries in the world to camp due to their awesome Land Reform Law that lets you enjoy wild camping anywhere you want. You can literally take a hike into the woods and pitch a tent wherever you want to within reason. Also, be sure to stop in town to check out some of the local attractions like Edinburgh Castle and the Scottish National Gallery.