Camping in Scotland
I go tent camping in Scotland every year as it allows me to travel on a budget when I want to save my pennies but it also allows me to stay in some of the most beautiful spots in the country for free. There are some great campsites out there and they are especially handy if you need to freshen up with a proper shower, but personally, I enjoy the freedom of wild camping and choosing the view from my 'room'.
I often get asked about places to camp and particularly the rules about wild camping in Scotland so I thought I would put together this guide based on my own experiences. It covers all the basics for beginners or those planning a holiday in Scotland with their tent for the first time.
I've just returned from my latest wild camping trip to try out my new Vango tent and this time I went to Shapinsay, which is one of the Orkney islands. After a day exploring, I found the perfect (albeit windy) spot by the beach and this was my view. I think you'll agree it's a pretty good one considering it cost me nothing. If I was staying in a hotel, I'd be charged a premium for a sea view like this. I realise how lucky I am living in Scotland and having all this outdoor freedom.
My guide to camping with a tent in Scotland
If you are travelling on a budget or just want the flexibility that travelling with a tent brings, then Scotland is one of the best countries in the world for a camping excursion. In my book, spending the night under canvas is the ultimate accommodation experience when it comes to truly immersing yourself in the spectacular Scottish landscape.
With our extensive roaming and camping rights, there are many options when it comes to enjoying a tent holiday. If you're not sure where to start or where you can go with your tent, my guide covers advice on the following topics -
Choosing a tent
The most important thing for your camping trip is choosing the right tent. Forget supermarket bargains or cheap festival pop-ups, they are a false economy. Your tent is your accommodation, and ultimately, all that is protecting you from the Scottish elements is some material so it needs to be up to the job.
If you want a comfortable night's sleep it is worth buying the best quality you can afford which is suitable for your purposes. Not only will it last a long time, keep you dry and cosy, it will also make your life far less stressful when it comes to transporting, setting up and breaking down.
Some basic things you need to think about when buying your tent -
There are all sorts of extras that might be important to you like storage, doors, separate compartments etc so think carefully about what kind of trip you are planning before buying a tent and if possible visit an outdoor shop to get professional advice.
My latest tent is a Vango F10 Erebus 3 which was gifted to me to review (you can read what I think about it at the bottom of this article). I chose this particular model as is very compact and lightweight which is ideal for future bike-packing trips that I'm planning in Scotland.
I have bought tents from Vango before and have always been impressed with the quality and this was no exception. The company was established in Scotland in 1966 and have a long history of designing and manufacturing outdoor equipment. Needless to say their tents have been thoroughly tested in the Scottish outdoors and around the world so I have confidence in their products.
They have a wide range of tents for every style of camper so I recommend checking the Vango website out to see what options are available.
Last week I spent 2 nights at The Lovat Loch Ness Hotel which sits near to the shores of Loch Ness and the Caledonian Canal in the village of Fort Augustus. I have stopped off at Fort Augustus fairly regularly to stretch my legs on journeys from Fort William to Inverness but never really stayed long enough to explore properly.
Through my itinerary planning service I also get asked a lot about this area as it is a popular tourist route so I felt it was time to get much better acquainted. It is also important to me that I can personally endorse accommodation based on my own experience whenever possible.
- spoiler - I will definitely be recommending The Lovat Loch Ness!
Some of the biggest draws to Orkney are the world class historic attractions and in particular the sites that make up the Heart of Neolithic Orkney, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These are probably some of the places that I get asked about the most so I was excited to cover them on the latest Orkney 'See You at the Weekend' itinerary. The heritage sites include the Ring of Brodgar, Skara Brae, the Standing Stones of Stenness and Maeshowe, along with a number of unexcavated burial, ceremonial and settlement sites.
I often get asked by visitors to Scotland why they should include Orkney in their vacation and there are many reasons. However, if ancient history is your thing then I can guarantee you will find nowhere else in the country as rich in significant archaeological attractions as on these islands. It is always a sobering thought to remember that many of these monuments are significantly older than the Egyptian pyramids.
If you want to discover some of the Neolithic highlights then this 1 day itinerary is for you.
ABOUT THE ITINERARY AND MY ADVICE
This itinerary is one of several autumn and spring themed day trip ideas that are being introduced by Destination Orkney over the coming months as part of their 'See You at The Weekend' campaign. I'll be trying them all out so stay tuned for lots more Orkney inspiration from me.
If you intend on following the full World Heritage itinerary then I would advise some advance planning as you will need to take in to consideration opening times and book a place on the Maeshowe tour. Due to these variables it is unlikely that your route will be exactly the same order as mine. I've included a list of the locations below, with a map at the bottom of the page.
ORKNEY WORLD HERITAGE ITINERARY LOCATIONS
Stones of Stenness
One of the best places to start your day is at the Standing Stones of Stenness which may be the earliest henge monument in the British Isles. As there are only four stones remaining, they don't attract as much attention as the nearby Ring of Brodgar despite their massive size. I find this a shame as they form part of what was once a significant site, dating back to 3100 to 2900 BC which precedes the Ring of Brodgar by about 500 years.
The remaining stones were part of an oval-shaped setting that once consisted of up to 12 stones, although it is thought the site was never completed and may have been built over generations. The surrounding ditch is now gone, however the central hearth remains. Evidence recovered shows Neolithic people once cooked and ate at the site.
As for its purpose, the best guesses are that it was used for ceremonies or rituals. With the hearth as a focal point, you can almost imagine the smell of smoke and people gathering around the light and warmth of the flames.
One of the reasons I opted to swap city life for island life is my love of the coast. I could happily potter about beaches and stroll along cliff tops all day long - in fact, that is exactly how I spent last weekend.
When I found out the latest Orkney 'See You at the Weekend' itinerary detailed below was based on local seascapes, with four coastal walks to cover, I was in my element. This was the excuse I had been looking for to ditch mundane household chores and adult responsibilities for the day. Instead, I lost track of time walking along wave battered cliffs, mesmerised by churning seas and feeling revitalised by the brisk sea-breeze.
It would have been easy for me to focus solely on the dramatic scenery but I was intrigued by the physical remnants left behind by the people who lived and worked along these stretches of coast over the centuries. Although each walk took me through a unique and equally stunning landscape, my imagination was in overdrive as I followed in the steps of prehistoric man, Vikings, soldiers and fishermen.
If there is one thing I recommend you do on a visit to Orkney, it would be to include at least one coastal walk in your itinerary.
ABOUT THE ITINERARY AND MY ADVICE
The itinerary is one of several autumn and spring themed day trip ideas that are being introduced by Destination Orkney over the coming months as part of their 'See You at The Weekend' campaign. I'll be trying them all out so stay tuned for lots more Orkney inspiration from me.
The Seascape itinerary involves as much or as little walking as you are comfortable with but I do recommend wearing sturdy, waterproof footwear and be prepared for all seasons in 1 day! Also, please be careful along the cliff walks and keep to the paths. It might be very tempting to snap a photo of you balanced on the cliff edge for Instagram likes, but it is a very long way down in some places and just not worth becoming a statistic.
I also recommend taking a spare bag with you to pick up some of the litter that washes up along the beaches. If we all remove a few bits on our walk, we can make a bigger difference
ORKNEY SEASCAPE ITINERARY LOCATIONS
The walk along the cliffs at Yesnaby is without doubt one of the most dramatic coastal walks on Orkney Mainland. With rugged red crags, sea stacks, arches and geos, there are plenty of striking features to look out for.
The surrounding geology spans hundreds of millions of years and the many layers reveal the history of the landscape dating back to a time when Orkney was located south of the equator. During that period much of Yesnaby formed the bottom of a vast freshwater lake called Lake Orcadie.
On a windy day (of which there are many on Orkney!) the sea below bubbles and churns like a cauldron. The waves crash over rocks and rush through small gaps with ferocious power. On really windy days, sea foam and spray are blown over the cliff tops.
Yesnaby is a great spot if you want to witness the might of Mother Nature.
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