Our Journal

Informational, Tips & Advice
27 August 2023
Kim Pierce

A Guide To North Coast 500 Wild Camping

Can you wild camp in Scotland?

Due to the Land Reform Act 2003 in Scotland, it is one of the few places where wild camping is legal. However, wild camping is only legal for pitching a tent, you can not go off road in a vehicle to camp.

If you’re looking to park up and head out on foot, our “Wild Camping Kit” can be added to your booking which is perfect for finding a unique spot for the night.

It is important to treat the land with respect when wild camping, and follow the guidelines outlined below.

Morning Coffee – Image by @karlova_victoria via Twenty20

Can I Wild Camp in a Vehicle? 

Motorised vehicles are excluded from the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and the right to access land does not extend to vehicles.

Please stay in managed campsites or caravan parks. However, do keep an eye out as some regions have signposted areas for official wild-camping sites for vehicles where overnight parking is permitted some of which are on the island of Lewis & Harris.

The Road Traffic Act 1988 also states that you can only drive off-road, away from a public road, for the purpose of parking and within 15 yards of a public road and you do still need the landowners permission to park.

What are the Rules When Wild Camping?

  • Leave no trace – Take away all your rubbish and try to pick up any others have left behind. Leave the area as you’d wish to find it.
  • Don’t cause pollution – Limit noise and take all your grey waste away with you.
  • Be respectful – It’s a privilege to be able to wild camp and one of the only places you still can so respect the rules, landowners and other campers to allow wild camping to remain for years to come.
  • Avoid Overcrowding – Respect the land and ensure its not overused by moving away if a spots already busy and sticking to smaller groups.
  • Avoid open fires where possible – Use a stove rather then an open fire wherever possible and never light a fire during dry periods or in sensitive places like forests or peaty ground.
  • If in doubt ask the landowner – If you’re not sure whether its a good spot to camp, ask the landowner wherever possible. Who knows.. they may even be able to point you to an even better secret spot.

Learn more on best practices for wild camping by reading the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.

Alternative Options for Sleeping in your Motorhome

  1. Campsites – There are some stunning campsites around Scotland and numerous options to choose from some of which are right on the beach. If you’re a member of a motorhome club you can also use some more exclusive sites which have 5 max pitches and well worth a look into. Check out some campsites around Scotland here.
  2. Brit Stops – There is a great new scheme in place bringing campervanners and small businesses together. Business’ such as pubs, restaurants, cafes and attractions who sign up are happy for campervanners to stay overnight in exchange for you having a meal, or buying a product at their shop and facilities. A great way to explore and support the local communities. Order your guide here.
  3. Car Parks – The Scottish Forestry Commission has recently run a ‘Stay the Night’ trial allowing overnight parking in participating car parks. This has now ended but they are collecting the feedback and seeing if they can turn this into future options for 2021. Keep an eye on their website for more up-to-date information.
  4. National Parks – Many National parks in Scotland have a permit system which allows overnight parking for a small fee (around £3 a night). You will need to buy a permit through the National Parks websites. You can book a camping permit for up to three nights in one area and book up to 4 weeks in advance (2021). A permit allows you to camp anywhere within your chosen permit area.

Top Spots for Wild Camping around the North Coast 500

  • Sandwood Bay, Sutherland – High rolling sand dunes and one of the UK’s most famous wild beaches. Park up, grab your gear and hike the four-mile walk for the ultimate in remote beach camping. Pink-hued sand and more than 200 species of plant growing on the dunes encompassed by sea stack and cliffs. Also a great spot for surfing.
  • Loch Being a’Mheadhoin, Glen Affric – A peaceful, freshwater loch situated in the Glen Affric, which is often described as the most beautiful glen in Scotland and is home to the 3rd largest area of ancient Caledonian pinewoods in Scotland. The many small picturesque beaches are perfect camp spots. For the ultimate escape, canoe or paddle board over to one of the islets and for a night.
  • Kilmory Bay, Isle of Rum – Along the wild northern coast of Rum is a magnificent bay which looks directly out over the skyline of the Cuilins on Skye. Set up camp and while relaxing with a drink, look out for a red deer wandering the beach, Kilmory is the heart of the Red Deer Project, one of the longest running studies of an animal population in the world.
  • Vatersay, Outer Hebrides – The perfect spot for those seeking a little solitude. The southernmost inhabited islands of the Outer Hebrides are brimming with colourful wildflowers, and stunning beaches. Vatersay Bay is backed with high sand dunes which help provide shelter for camping and picnics on the beach.
  • LochAssynt, Sutherland – A famous landmark in Scotland, this area can be quite busy so best to visit out of season. Set up camp overlooking enchanting ruins a the east end of the Loch.
  • Quiraing, Isle of Skye – The backdrop to many Hollywood movies, the Quiraing in the Isle of Skye is one of the most photographed landscapes in Scotland. Watch the sunrise from your tent on top of one of the many spectacular plateauxs that make up this unique and stunning landscape.
Quiraing, Isle of Skye – Image via Twenty20

There are stunning campsites in fantastic locations up and down Scotland and around the North Coast 500 route. By pitching at a proper campsite, you will help protect Scotlands natural environments and often fragile ecosystems. Check out our blog on the best North Coast 500 campsites coming soon!