Wild Camping Scotland: Beginners Guide UK

Scotland should be at the top of your list if you’re yearning for an adventure where you can discover and experience the wonders of nature while learning more about the country’s culture and history.

While there is no shortage of official campgrounds near the best tourist hotspots, many visitors take the trip to a new level by wild camping surrounded by remote but scenic landscapes, lochs, or rivers.

With so many exciting destinations to choose, picking which ones to include in the itinerary can be tricky, especially for beginners. As a guide to wild camping in Scotland, this article will help you narrow the options to the Scottish regions that best match your dream outdoor escapade.

What is wild camping in Scotland like?

Compared to its neighbours, Scotland employs a more welcoming approach toward responsible wild campers. It’s no surprise, then, how famous this country is among individuals who want to explore and reconnect with nature without spending so much on accommodation.  

Though Scotland is mainly known for its picturesque mountains and salmon-rich bodies of water, thousands of tourists visit the country for its off-the-beaten-path sites, some of which have immense historical and cultural value. Because of their distance from roads and civilized areas, you must be brave enough to leave your comfort zone and pack well for a wild camping adventure.  

When should I go wild camping in Scotland?

That depends on where you are heading and your camping preferences. The ideal timing also varies if you wish to go fishing, kayaking, hiking, or any activity you want to try in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park.

In general, however, many agree that the best time to wild camp in Scotland is either April or May. During this time of the year, there aren’t too many campers and midges to disturb you. You will also have more dry days to enjoy without the temperature being too hot to manage.

If you’re an angler, we suggest researching the optimal season for a given loch, river, or sea. A lot of people will do the same, though, thus lowering your chances of relishing a peaceful and quiet fishing trip.

Where to wild camp in Scotland

Location can make or break your itinerary. Therefore, you must spend time and effort learning more about the best places for wild camping in Scotland. Each region has something different to offer, whether in terms of sights, ambience, or activities. We will discuss all of that and more in this section.

Wild camping Scotland map

For a quick reference, check out the map above highlighting Scotland’s fantastic wild camping spots. Some of these natural beauties are pretty well-known among outdoor enthusiasts, while others can be regarded as overlooked gems. After carefully evaluating these areas, we believe you should strongly consider them while planning for your Scottish nature getaway.

Wild camping north Scotland

Northern Scotland comprises the Highlands, the Western Isles, Orkney, and Shetland. Most people associate it with majestic mountains and the legendary Loch Ness Monster. However, there’s more to it than that.

Every year, north Scotland attracts visitors who want to immerse themselves in the Highlands’ breathtaking landscapes and long, rich history. It is also famous for its museums, distilleries, and breweries, which you can tour while wild camping. The region also has fantastic coastlines and challenging networks of rivers and lochs that are perfect for anyone who wants to kayak in Scotland.

The temperature in this region changes depending on how near you are to the coastlines, where the weather is typically milder. The coldest months are January and February, while the warmest days occur between July and August.

Wild camping north east Scotland

The north east region has plenty to offer to almost any type of wild camper. Those who enjoy taking photos of stunning vistas will have their fill with the unspoilt coastlines, the nature reserve of St. Cyrus, and the Cairngorms National Park. Animal lovers can also get the opportunity to spot various indigenous species, such as white-beaked dolphins, roe deer, and many more.

Campers interested in learning more about Scottish culture and history should go on a distillery tour in Speyside, or check out the more than 300 castles near Aberdeen.

Though summers tend to be cooler, don’t forget to pack sunscreen and breathable clothes because you can also find in the northeast the sunniest city in the country—Dundee.

Wild camping north west Scotland

Many say that north west Scotland has the most beautiful sights in the country. This includes the North West Highlands UNESCO Geopark, a world heritage site renowned for its dramatic rock formations. The area also features the stunning Sandwood Bay in Sutherland and the NC500, an iconic coastal route that wild campers with motorhomes should not miss out on.

North west Scotland tends to be warmer than its counterpart because of the wind blowing from the Atlantic ocean. If you time your trip right, the weather in this region is ideal for boating or fishing, particularly in the charming village of Ullapool.

Wild camping central Scotland

Also known as the Scottish Midlands, this region contains the densest population in the country. Nevertheless, it can be an excellent destination for wild campers, especially beginners, because the campsites have easy access to the conveniences of Glasgow and Edinburgh.

For example, many locals and tourists enjoy camping at Yellowcraig Beach, which you can reach through a one-hour bus ride from Edinburgh. In addition to paddling, swimming or relaxing by the beach, you can also try horse-riding along the coast.

Central Scotland has a temperate and oceanic climate. The weather rarely makes a turn to the extreme, but expect some days to be quite damp, windy, or rainy.

Wild camping in southern Scotland

Several visitors make the mistake of skipping southern Scotland in favour of the more popular camping destinations in the uplands or near the coast. What they fail to see is the vast expanse of the wilderness in this region, which is ideal for a truly wild and remote camping experience.

This area can also be a great choice if you’re keen to try fishing in Scotland. Its network of lochs and rivers is teeming with trout and salmon at various points of the year. Other outdoor activities you can engage in while in the south include hiking, mountain biking, and joining historical tours.

Wild camping south east Scotland

The south east region is mainly known for the Scottish Borders or the Mairches, as the locals call it. This is where Scotland and England meet, so it has a long history of strife and conflict due to medieval wars and bandits.

Nowadays, the area is much quieter and more peaceful. Many of the old forts and abbeys remain standing there. Some industrial structures, such as the old mills, can still be found mostly intact. You can explore and take photos of them before heading to the rivers or the coastline for a day of salmon fly fishing.

Wild camping south west Scotland

Divided into three areas—Ayrshire & Arran, Clydesdale, and Dumfries & Galloway—south west Scotland consists mostly of rural lands. Interestingly, more people know of this region for its numerous golf courses, where the Open Championship are sometimes held.

Wild camping is best done on the Isle of Arran, which is often regarded as “Scotland in Miniature.” The island features highlands and lowlands, inhabited by diverse wildlife and surrounded by azure blue waters. Other wild camping locations can be found in Dumfries & Galloway. It has picturesque vistas that feature forests, hills, and sea cliffs.

Wild camping in East Scotland

Eastern Scotland has an exciting topography with its towering mountains, scenic valleys, and estuaries of various rivers, ideal for fishing, kayaking, or white-water sports. Because of its location, expect the climate to be cooler, with winters sometimes reaching below zero-degree temperatures.

That said, east Scotland attracts a large crowd of campers every year. It perfectly blends nature with culture and history, so there is no dull day while wild camping and exploring this region.

Wild camping east coast Scotland

Though the west coast is more popular among tourists, the eastern coast of Scotland has plenty to offer. Seaside towns, such as North Berwick, Fife, and Moray, are excellent stops for anglers and golfers. Those who enjoy swimming or simply walking on the beach will have plenty of options. We recommend West Sands Beach for its white sand, crystal waters, and picture-perfect dunes.

Bird lovers should also check out The Scottish Seabird Centre near the east coast. If you time your trip well, you will learn more about the marine ecosystem while birdwatching on a boat.

Wild camping in west Scotland

Sightseeing wild campers should strongly consider going to western Scotland. This region is a feast for the eyes—impressive mountains, lochs, and vistas dotted with castles and other historical sites. From Loch Lomond to Oban, then to Glen Coe and the Isle of Skye, you will be in awe of the wilderness before you.

Since most of West Scotland lies above sea level, its climate can be mild for much of the year. February is usually the coldest month there. The temperature picks up steadily, reaching the peak around July or August.

Wild camping west coast Scotland

The west coast of Scotland is perfect for campers who want to go on a road trip by the ocean or go island-hopping in the Hebrides. It’s also a dream destination for those who want to try camping on an uninhabited island since there are over 200 to choose from over there.

In addition, the west coast also houses Argyll Forest Park, the oldest of its kind in the UK. A diverse set of wild animals also lives in the area, so you can spend the day trying to spot or photograph them. The most prominent is the sea eagle, the fourth largest type of eagle in the world.

Wild camping in Scotland highlands

The Scottish Highlands encapsulates the polarities of wild camping. This region is both thrilling yet relaxing; remote yet massively popular. These mountains can be challenging even to the most experienced wild campers, but they still pique the interest of first-timers.

It’s important to note that many of the recommended camping spots in the Highlands, such as the magnificent Gleann na Muice, are barely equipped with the basic facilities you might need during the trip. The temperature drops significantly as you near the peaks—with rain, hail, and strong winds upping the difficulty now and then. Nevertheless, many consider the Highlands as an unmissable part of a wild camping adventure in Scotland.

Wild camping near Perth Scotland

Wild campers who want to explore this historic city in central Scotland will find plenty of suitable places to pitch their tents. We particularly like the view afforded by staying on the hills, but you can also try finding a good campsite along River Tay. Remember to maintain your distance from the water and any buildings, roads, or other structures.

The weather in this area is typically mild throughout the year. If it’s not raining or hailing, we encourage hillwalking with your camera. Go on day trips to the city, too. Visit the Perth Museum and Art Gallery or hop from one church to another to admire various architectural feats throughout the centuries.

FAQs about wild camping in Scotland

Where is the best place to wild camp in Scotland?

The answer varies depending on how you envision your dream wild camping trip. To find out, we suggest listing the sights, activities, and experiences you want to tick off during your stay. Then, cross-check your list with our descriptions of Scotland’s different wild camping locations. Use that as your starting point in your research to determine if that is genuinely the best camping spot for you.

Can you park and sleep anywhere in Scotland?

No, the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and various traffic laws specify where you can park and sleep while wild camping in Scotland. Before the trip, go over the guidelines and regulations to avoid getting fined or angering the locals. Pay special attention to restrictions imposed on heavier vehicles, such as motorhomes or campervans, since those can cause significant damage to the environment, even when parked. 

Can you be charged for wild camping in Scotland?

Wild camping in most unenclosed lands is not illegal in Scotland, so trespassing is less of an issue than in the rest of the UK. What can get you in trouble is failing to observe the golden rule of wild camping: leave no trace behind. It will be in your best interest to read through the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and other relevant guidelines to familiarize yourself with the dos and don’ts of wild camping in Scotland.

Why You Should Wild Camp in Scotland

Some beginners might think that the Scottish wilderness is too much for their survival skills to handle. However, as you have learned in this article, Scotland has a wide selection of campgrounds suited for people from all walks of life. Whether you’re seeking a quiet escape from modern living or an adrenaline-packed adventure, there’s a good chance you can live your dream camping experience in Scotland.

Now that you understand better what to expect, your next step is to start planning. Research further the places that piqued your interest. Check out the best times to head there, and make a list of everything you will need to stay safe and comfortable during your wild camping trip.

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