Britain consists of three countries: England, Scotland and  Wales.  Northern Ireland is also part of the UK. The Republic of Ireland is a separate country and has its own section. The Isle of Man is also not part of Britain.

Free camping in Britain

Free camping in Britain is a mixed bag.

  • England & Wales - Because of problems with 'new age travellers' during the 1980's England & Wales have laws preventing one from just pulling over and stopping for the night. However, it is still possible to free camp, if you choose your location well. But you should always be prepared for a knock on the door from the police who might ask you to move along.
  • Scotland - Whilst Scottish law allows people the right to roam and camp, the right to roam act specifically excludes all forms of motorised camping (including caravans).  So free camping is not legal, but generally accepted if people are respectful.  Read more about the act.

Tips for Free camping in England & Wales

To efficiently wild camp in Britain you need to blend in, and not draw attention to yourself.

  1. If you are spending lots of time wild camping in Britain get a National Trust membership.  This membership will allow you to park your vehicle at almost all of the NT sites for free, and allows one adult to enter the attractions also.  They have thousands of great locations to visit. In many coastal areas, such as Cornwall, the NT membership also allows you to park at the beach for free.  However, you cannot camp overnight at a NT site.
  2. If you find secluded beach car parks, and hill areas you can probably stay for one night without a problem.  Be prepared to be moved on if the police or an official come along.
  3. You can camp in residential areas using the simple plan:  During the day park at safe areas like supermarket car parks, beaches, etc.  Do all of your chores, including eating your evening meal at these car parks.  Then, once everything is done for the day, drive to a residential area when there are lots of cars or preferably vans. Park considerately on the road.  Choose a quiet road.  As soon as you arrive turn off the engine and all of the lights.  Go straight to bed.  No one will know you are in the vehicle.  In the morning, when you wake, immediately drive to a car park, such as a supermarket, then have your breakfast.  Using this technique you can camp almost anywhere.  When combined with National Trust membership you can visit nice places all day, and park in quiet places at night, visiting supermarkets to stock up on supplies and eat.  The secret is to not park at the same places regularly.  Alternate your spots so people don't recognise you.
  4. In popular holiday areas, there may be restrictions on overnight parking in car parks or a road laybys. In quieter areas however, it may be acceptable to find some quiet area to park.
  5. Upon entering a town look for the sign directing you to the “Long Stay Car Park”, where you might be allowed to stay the night. Check the signs carefully. It’s always surprising where you’ll end up, sometimes an ugly industrial area, sometimes a truly wonderful parking spot in the centre of town.
  6. It’s often possible to stay the odd night in the car park of a rural pub. If you ask the owner/manager, many are welcome to aloow you to overnight in the car park. Always pick a place in the car park away from the main traffic in and out so as not to cause any inconvenience to the visitors. There are many rural pubs with fantastic locations.  It would be polite to have a meal or drinks in the pub for the pleasure of staying in the car park.

Tesco supermarkets

The general ruling for Tesco is that they have no problem with motor homes "parked up" for the night IF the following is observed:

  1. Park in a discreet corner of the car park - i.e., not right outside the front door, blocking others.
  2. Do not set up BBQ and picnic tables! This also applies to chairs etc.
  3. If there is more than 2 at any one time they start to worry.
  4. Never leave anything behind; including water on the tarmac because non-campers think it is from the loo.
  5. Only stay one night.

If you follow the above rules you should be ok at most branches of Tesco. If you do some shopping before you leave, it would be a nice gesture to mention to the manager, who you are, and thank him for the use of the car park. Although he may not be aware that you were even there. If he sees you are a customer in his store it could encourage him to keep letting people stay overnight.

Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994

The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 is now used with regard to wild camping. It was introduced on the back of raves and N.A.T.s and all the hassle that went on at Stonehenge a few years ago. Have a look at the government’s own website containing the act.

Scroll down to the sections on trespass and especially the section headed "Powers to remove unauthorised campers"(77). Hope that gives a clearer definition of what’s legal and what’s not....
Basically there's no "right" to stay anywhere, other than on someone’s land with their permission. Thanks to all those 'new age travellers' in the 1980's you can be asked to move on at any time and failure to comply can land you in a whole heap of trouble.
If you stay in a layby or any part of a Highway, like a grass verge, then the local authority can ask you to move on. They first have to know you're there of course, but once you've been spotted and they ask you to move, then you have to move.
The Police have powers to move you from landowners land if there are two people camping and (a) you've damaged property or land or (b) you've been abusive to the landowner when asked to leave. In this instance, damage to the land could include ruts formed in the field by the tyres, so they can force you to leave under most circumstances. This also includes common land if asked to leave by a commoner. Of course, once asked, most people will comply and move on, so no problem, but it's as well to be aware that you've really no rights. Service stations started putting up the time limits for parking at the same time this legislation went through

Other websites

Comments (57)

  • MatthewB0941's picture

    Hey all. I have lived in a vehicle for 6 months now. It's a spiritual journey for me. Make sure you are well hidden behind curtains etc, keep quiet and be mindful and you can park anywhere. Just be courteous and keep yourself to yourself.

    TIP - park in upper class residential areas preferably out in the country as you will blend in more than if you park at a random spot in the middle of nowhere and you're the only vehicle there.

    Dec 05, 2016
  • glenn_uk's picture

    "Basically there's no "right" to stay anywhere, other than on someone’s land with their permission. Thanks to all those 'new age travellers' in the 1980's you can be asked to move on at any time and failure to comply can land you in a whole heap of trouble."

    Thanks to all those 'new age travellers' - what, they made these draconian laws?

    Ehem, turn the telescope the other way around. It was the government of the time that so hated travellers, that they were set upon by riot police - beaten, their vehicles destroyed, terrorised - and then banned from doing anything they might be associated with. All the stuff middle class people like doing too, unfortunately, which is why we're all caught up with these authoritarian laws.

    And you want to blame our strictest laws in Europe for travellers/ campers - a national disgrace - on the 'new age travellers'. Please read up, before writing such stuff.

    Oct 15, 2015
  • Chris march's picture

    Can someone just answer the question without getting into a England/Scotland debate.........can we park a caravan anywhere in the country side for free

    Jan 11, 2015
  • Darren's picture

    No, the police will move you on.
    You can park on private land. But for longer than 28 days in a year you'll need planning permission.

    Jan 11, 2015
  • Chris march's picture

    Yes or Fukin no......can u camp for free? Scotland or England......?????

    Jan 11, 2015
  • Sam and Haz's picture

    We're in the process of saving up for our van and heading of around the UK.
    Do we need a certain type of insurance? And is it easy enough to find casual work as you're on the move? What's the best way to fund your trip in terms of fuel etc...

    Also is what we're doing actually legal as we're not paying council tax etc...

    Thanks.

    Jul 23, 2013
  • Darren's picture

    Hi

    Are you going to travel around in a panel van with some things in the back or a proper campervan?
    If it's a van you'll have to get van insurance, and campervan insurance for a proper campervan. An insurance company won't insure you (probably) if you are living in the back of a van, so I wouldn't tell them.
    You can find casual work in some places. Try yacht harbours, large resorts, bars in busy tourist towns. You'll have to do a lot of asking but there is some work around.
    Try to reduce your driving speed, 50 or 60 mph uses less fuel than 70mph.
    It's perfectly legal to not be paying council tax.

    Jul 23, 2013
  • Neil's picture

    Thanks for the interesting and sometimes entertaining info. Getting my VWT5 converted right now so hopefully will be camping very soon.

    Nov 13, 2012
  • pauly's picture

    i have a motorhome have never had a problem wild camping in england or scotland.i think wales is a more difficult area to wild camp,well the areas i have been to were.i work on a lot of retail parks, business parks, and industrial parks.these are perfect stopovers for us campers while travelling,general rule is where truck drivers park you will have no probs.just make sure you don,t wander into a clamping zone in some companies marked parking spaces, always look out for signs before you stop.and don,t forget to take your rubbish with you.i hope some newer vanners will find this helpful

    Feb 24, 2012
  • jason's picture

    hi all ive been using vans in winter for any years. i had a bongo for 5 years and surf all winter in the uk. it can get prity cold without heating so either get a 4 season sleeping bag or some sort of heater. ive since converted a long wheelbase movano and put a webasto night heater in to it (toastie) the best investment i made, no more waking up to ice on the inside of the vans. -10 no problem hope this helps anyone whos vans all year around.

    Feb 10, 2012
  • Darren's picture

    Great to hear about your heater Jason. I fitted a Propex into my van, and it's fantastic. Blown heating is hard to beat :)
    Where abouts do you surf?

    Feb 11, 2012
  • Dionysian's picture

    Just a heads up after reading the above. Technically if you have the keys on you, even on private land, and you're over the limit, you could get prosecuted for being drunk in charge. Lay-bys are obvious contenders for getting a tug, but even your own drive - unless you have gates that you close for 2 x 24 hour periods per year - is fair game. I've heard some camp sites will look after the ignition key for you while you keep the back door key. Hence not able to drive ... Not sure what to do in a wild camping situation though!

    Crazy I know but there it is. Only glimmer of hope is that it's not an automatic ban, a mere 10 points + fine minimum.

    Jan 04, 2012
  • boooooooo's picture

    Hi all,
    Im living down in england at the mo in my wee 4 birth caravan (with my cat). I have found an amazing site which doesnt mind the odd vanner whos looking for more a long term place to stay. In the next 2 weeks I will have lived in my van for the whole 4 seasons and absolutely love it,,,cant imagine living in a house anymore. I am planning on moving back up to scotland after xmas as my daughter has recently moved back to dumbartonshire. I will be moving in my van,,,
    what im asking is....... does anyone know of any touring sites around the dunbartonshire/loch lomond/campsie hills area which may provide a plot for more long term folk like myself. At the mo i do use hookup but im in the throws of doing my homework to make my van more electrically self sufficient,,,so I wont necessarly need hook-up.
    Someone has givenme a phone number for a farm in Milgarvie but it would be ace to have a few options..
    SO if someone could give me a wee few pointers i would certainly be a very happy bunny :)

    HAPPY CAMPING FOLKS :)

    Oct 10, 2011
  • Jim's picture

    This statement from your home page is wrong and misleading..

    Scotland - Scottish law allows people the right to roam and camp. Free camping is tolerated if done responsible.

    The right to roam act specifically excludes all forms of motorised camping (including caravans)

    The laws In England regarding parking and over night stopping with a camper van apply equally in Scotland. Please amend accordingly

    You can read the full code here http://www.outdooraccess-scotland.com/outdoors-responsibly/access-code-a...

    Sep 28, 2011
  • Darren's picture

    Thanks for the information. I have updated the page.

    Sep 29, 2011
  • Anonymous's picture

    Hi,

    Anyone know of any additional places to below where you can camp for free in Scotland pls? I would also be interested in Wales too? Any info would be most appreciated.

    Kind regards

    L

    Jun 09, 2011
  • Anonymous's picture

    Hi,

    Anyone know of any additional places to below where you can camp for free in Scotland pls? I would also be interested in Wales too? Any info would be most appreciated.

    Kind regards

    L

    Jun 09, 2011
  • Anonymous's picture

    I am sad to see that this page is turning into a meeting ground for racism. I am english and england is great, i live in Scotland and the scottish people are lovely. I would like to remind people we are discussing camping and we live in the 21st century, keep your racism to yourself and not on this page. We are not interested in such comments and are here to learn about free locations for camping and to embrace other cultures. All cultures can learn something from each other and no culture is superior over another, we are all equals.

    Jun 09, 2011
  • Anonymous's picture

    Have been reading through all the great comments on this site, I am 47 year old female in UK, am selling up and going to live in a camper van alone, except for my bull mastiff..who will be coming along for the ride...don't know anything about this new way of life I am planning :) I have traveled about a fair bit, but never in a camper van, does anyone out there have a dog on board? do you take them into Europe? Is that allowed?

    Thanking you in advance.

    Mar 29, 2011
  • Nicholas's picture

    How amazing read your post and I am doing the same packing up and living in a horsebox with my 10stone mastiff :-) hows it going ?

    Jun 15, 2014

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