Free camping… what’s not to like? Free camping and wild camping in the UK has many fans for many reasons – it means truly getting out into wilderness and having an immersive camping experience, it gets you close to nature, it’s easy to do… and in some cases it’s absolutely free.
There are two different types of free camping in Britain: wild camping, which can be done in campsites or caravan parks in a remote area; and truly free camping, where travellers and their vans park up without paying for a campsite or caravan park pitch. Both are brilliantly suited to #vanlife, getting on the road and seeing the best of Britain’s many beautiful and wild areas.
Read on for our overview of wild and free camping in the UK, and our suggestions of areas and parks where you can do it hassle-free.
Is free camping legal in the UK?
Truly free camping, where you park your van or pitch your tent in a remote area that’s not attached to a park or property, is technically illegal in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The exception is Dartmoor in southwest England, where wild camping is allowed in certain places.
But in reality, wild camping is tolerated in most places, as long as you ask permission of the landowner first, or, if that’s not possible, as long as you’re discreet and practise the “leave no trace” principle. You will be asked to leave if someone of authority has a problem with you being there. Be sure to follow the wild camping code of conduct too.
In Scotland, free camping is legal apart from some areas in one of the national parks, under the terms of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, which allows wild camping in areas of unenclosed land. This refers to tent/bicycle camping rather than caravan/campervan, but in practice it’s unlikely you’ll be bothered if you park up overnight and follow the conduct rules above.
Where to 'free camp' or 'wild camp' in the UK
Try these parks for a wild camping experience in the UK.
Set on an organic farm near Exeter, Bickham Barn is in a beautiful Devon valley with lots of green space and close proximity to Devon beaches, attractions and family days out. It takes motorhomes on gravel pitches with electric hook-up. Barbecues are allowed.
The farm rears turkeys and traditional breed cattle and grows a wide variety of vegetables for use in its bar and the Bickham Barn Rustic Restaurant. Guests can also buy organic produce and fresh ingredients.
Bickham Barn is under a mile from its local village Kenn. It’s five miles from the farm to Haldon Forest Park; just over six miles to Exeter and under 10 miles to Dartmoor National Park.
This is an excellent area for families and children as the coast is a short drive away: the beach and nature reserve of Dawlish Warren is eight miles from Bickham Barn and Teignmouth is 10 miles. Exmouth – ideal for watersports – is about 13.5 miles away.
Park up in western Cornwall to be close to the north and south coasts at Trevessa Farm. This small and friendly park is about three and a half miles from Hayle to the north and three miles from Marazion and access to St Michael’s Mount to the south.
The farm has stunning views over the Cornish countryside; hardstanding and grass pitches for touring vehicles; chemical disposal and two toilets and showers, in a sheltered countryside setting four kilometres from local village St Erth. Barbecues are allowed.
Trevessa Farm is well set for exploring the Cornish coasts, the South West Coast Path, Penzance, St Ives and Falmouth. For children, Paradise Park and JungleBarn, Coast 2 Coast Karting and Loggans Moor Brewers Fayre indoor play centre are all in or close to Hayle.
Trevessa Farm, 9 Long Lanes, St Erth, Hayle, Cornwall TR27 6JZ
Another southwest England campsite, Back of Beyond Touring Park is a peaceful campsite spread over 30 acres of gorgeous Dorset countryside. It’s for over-18s only, so ideal for adventurers looking for a child-free caravan holiday.
The park has its own private lakes and woodland, is dog friendly (there are even doggie ice creams in the licensed shop) and is family owned and run. The team takes pride in keeping the place pristine at all times. Caravans, motorhomes and campervans can park up on hardstanding, all-weather or astroturf pitches; campervan owners can also opt for a pitch in a quiet woodland glade. Shared amenities available to all guests include four heated toilet and shower blocks; a private/disabled shower room; a warm water dog wash; and Elsan points. Facilities are open 24 hours a day.
Back of Beyond Touring Park is near the New Forest, close to Bournemouth and the market towns of Ringwood and Wimborne. The Moors Valley Country Park & Forest is three miles away. You might also like to drive to Christchurch, Salisbury and Southampton, all easily reached from here.
Back of Beyond Touring Park, East Moors Lane, Ringwood, Dorset BH24 2SB
Retreat to the stunning Scottish Highlands with a remote caravan holiday at Badrallach Campsite, Bothy and Holiday Cottage, in beautiful scenery on the shore of Little Loch Broom. The closest main road is eight miles from here, so you won’t be bothered by busy traffic noise.
All pitches have views of the nearby Munros and Corbetts (mountains over 3,000ft and a separate mountain over 2,500ft respectively), most have a fire circle and a handful have electric hook-up. The amenities were constructed using local materials and are kept spotlessly clean.
This campsite is all about getting away from it all, but if you’d like to take a day trip, drive to Ullapool (four miles as the crow flies but further by road) and take the ferry to the Isle of Lewis.
Book early to be sure of getting a vehicle pitch at this campsite: the team keeps visitor numbers low to ensure the peaceful atmosphere is retained, and not all pitches can accept vans.
The Lake District is one of the most famously scenic regions in the UK, known for its meres (lakes) and its poetic and cultural heritage. Hire a campervan or caravan for a holiday at Castlerigg Hall Caravan and Camping Park just outside Keswick, the Lake District’s main town a few miles from Derwentwater.
For couples and families only, this is a smartly-maintained space with easy access to all the main Lake District attractions.
Caravan and motorhome pitches come in three tariffs: hook-up only, standard with hook-up, grey waste disposal and water, and superior: as standard but with a picnic bench and a guaranteed lake view.
Castlerigg Hall Caravan and Camping Park, Castlerigg Hall, Keswick, Cumbria, CA12 4TE
Use Coastal Stay as a base for a #vanlife holiday around the wild and beautiful Welsh coast. It’s a small and remote site in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, less than a mile from well-known Abereiddy Beach. Britain’s smallest city, St David’s, is about three miles away.
Top activities around here are surfing, coasteering amd diving at the nearby Blue Lagoon. Several stunning walks including the hiking the Pembrokeshire Coast Path are close by. Campfires are allowed on site and this is a great area for stargazing.
Coastal Stay pitches are suitable for caravans, motorhomes and campervans. All have a firepit and some have electric hook-up. As with Badrallach Campsite, Bothy and Holiday Cottage in the Scottish Highlands, book early to stay here as visitor numbers are kept low.
Peak District wild camping is generally tolerated by landowners (but please don’t park overnight in car parks or by the edge of the road). If you’d prefer a proper caravan park with a wild camping vibe, try Bank House Farm next to the River Manifold, overlooking Derbyshire countryside two miles from Hartington village and its famous cheese shop.
Bank House Farm is in the grounds of an old farmhouse, with a river running through the site. Catch and release fishing is available by arrangement. Nearby, there are walks and bike rides along the Tissington Trail and Manifold Trail; family days out at Alton Towers and Castleton Caves and Blue John Mines; spa days at Buxton; and seeing the Peak District from above via the Heights of Abraham cable cars.
Choose a pitch with or without electric hook-up. Farm facilities also include fridges/freezers for guests’ use, a chemical disposal point and fire basket hire.
Bank House Farm, Mill Lane, Hulme End, Nr Hartington, Derbyshire SK17 0EX
Non-park free camping in the UK
Dartmoor is the place to be if you want to properly free camp in the UK, as wild camping is legal there apart from certain areas such as Roborough, Spitchwick Common, Holne Moor, Cadover and Hayton. Be sure to park up at least 100 metres from any road and make sure your camp is hidden from residential and roadside view.
An important fact to remember when free camping on Dartmoor: it’s strictly forbidden to camp anywhere around Dartmoor’s military ranges when they’re in use. Check the Dartmoor firing times website before you pick your pitch. The Dartmoor camping map shows permitted places to wild camp.
Or head north to Scotland, where free camping is allowed all over the country apart from a few places in the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.
If you’d like to fully free camp anywhere else in the UK, use one of the excellent apps or books available to find a place where you can easily park up (links below).
You don’t have your own motorhome or caravan to try some UK wild camping? No problem – hire one on Camplify. You can choose from vehicles all over the country and customise your search by price or vehicle type, or pick a static caravan to use as a base for your holiday. Get started here.
And if you’re a motorhome, caravan or campervan owner, hire your vehicle out! You can make money during the times you’re not touring, and it’s 100% free to list. Add your vehicle here.