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.
Finding Campsites in Scotland
There is no doubt that pitching in a campsite offers convenience for facilities and reassurance for those not quite brave enough to stay a night in the open. However, as with all accommodation there is the brilliant, the average and the ugly. No matter what budget you are on you probably want to avoid the ugly so here are the ways I find the best options out there.
There are some great websites that list campsites in Scotland, along with their facilities and reviews. I personally have 2 go-to websites and my favourite is https://www.campsites.co.uk/ which has over 200 campsites in Scotland listed.
You can search on their map or put in your location and it will list the nearest campsites to you. You can also filter to only search for tent pitches and filter again for any particular facilities. Each site has user reviews and a detailed description along with ideas for things to do in the area which is helpful if you need some extra local inspiration. It also has some great resources for novice campers.
Another website I really like is https://www.pitchup.com/ as you can search the whole of Scotland or a particular destination for available tent pitches and book directly from the website.
A good tip is to cross-reference both websites. Using both websites is a great way to check availability, get a really detailed description and book online.
Best Campsites in Scotland for Tents
What makes a campsite the best usually depends on the location, facilities and your individual preferences. Most websites, including the ones I have already mentioned, have user reviews and TripAdvisor is also a good place to find feedback from other campers.
Personally, one of the best campsites I've come across recently is Seaview Camping Park in Benderloch. Quirky sculptures and artwork, spotless communal areas, new individual shower rooms, thoughtful extras like frozen meals and a pathway to the beach are just some of the reasons why this place deserves all those 5 star comments.
Other websites that specialise in unique or stylish places to pitch your tent include Cool Camping and Camping with Style who have also collated this list of Instagrammable campsites in Scotland in case your only reason for camping is that you're 'doing it for The Gram' - and if so, who am I to judge?
5 Star Campsites in Scotland
VisitScotland is the national tourist organisation in Scotland and they run a Quality Assurance Scheme for tourism businesses. They award a star grading from 1 to 5 depending on the standard of the business, with 5 being the highest. It is worth noting that they only grade businesses that are signed up to the scheme and this involves an annual fee. This means not all campsites choose to participate and those that haven't can still be of an excellent standard even if they haven't joined to be graded.
However, if a campsite has signed up and been awarded 5 stars by VisitScotland, you can be assured of a high standard of quality. They have a list of their current 5 star campsites and holiday parks online but not all of them take tents so you will have to use their search filters to find exactly what you're looking for.
Cheap Campsites in Scotland
The cheapest way to camp with a tent in Scotland is to go wild camping which is absolutely free and you can't get cheaper than that! This is my favourite option and I have written more about how to wild camp below.
However, if you prefer to have some basic facilities like toilets and a shower but are on a limited budget then the Pitchup website allows you to sort results in price order from lowest to highest.
Wild Camping in Scotland
In Scotland we are very lucky to have great access to roam and camp in the outdoors. It means anyone can immerse themselves in nature and scenic landscapes provided they follow a few rules.
One of those privileges is the ability to camp for free on most unenclosed spaces such as beaches, glens, mountains and forests. This is commonly known as wild camping and provided you follow a few common sense regulations and act responsibly, it is generally legal.
For the purposes of this blog I will be referring to the rules surrounding wild tent camping in Scotland, although many of the same general guidelines also apply to camper vans and motor-homes. Along with your legal access rights, you should also adhere to the Scottish Outdoor Access Code
Wild camping in Scotland should only be done in small numbers and you should not spend more than 2 or 3 nights in one place. You should always try to minimise your impact on the environment, avoid disturbing wildlife, be considerate of the land owner and leave no trace at the end of your stay.
My own intention is always to leave a place exactly as I found it and this should be your intention too. Unfortunately, some thoughtless individuals leave behind their rubbish, the remains of their fire or damage the environment. These actions are not only harmful to nature and the landscape, they risk our outdoor privileges being revoked or restricted which has already happened in parts of Loch Lomond.
It makes no sense to damage the beautiful landscape that you've come to see so be sure to keep it just as lovely for the next visitor to enjoy.
Scottish Outdoor Access Code
The Scottish Outdoor Access Code has a specific section on camping which you should read thoroughly before setting out with your tent. It gives very good explanations on where you can or cannot stay and how to camp responsibly. In summary it states -
Most of the guidelines are common sense, for example don't pitch up in someone's back garden or a field of cows! If the land is unenclosed and has public access then it is generally okay, but if in doubt always ask locally.
One of my pet hates is open camp fires that have just been abandoned. They leave such a scar on the landscape - here are just a few I've come across in just the last couple of weeks. I really can't understand why anyone would do this - don't be that person - ever!
Wild Camping at Loch Lomond
Wild camping is permitted all over Scotland apart from certain areas around Loch Lomond.
Since the 1st March 2017 some controversial byelaws came in to force which restrict wild camping in certain areas of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. Within these areas you can only use your tent within a campsite or with a camping permit or you will be breaking the law.
The camping management byelaws are in effect from 1st March until 30th September. You don’t need a permit between October and February. To check the restricted areas on a map and for general information about wild camping, visit the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park website.
Unfortunately, anti-social behaviour was one of the main reasons these new laws were introduced. If we want our wild camping rights to remain in the rest of Scotland it is up to every camper to act responsibly.
Wild Camping Essentials
The list below gives an idea of items to pack for your tent camping trip. You may choose to take more or less depending on your personal needs.
If you are going to be carrying your tent and camping equipment with you, it is a really good idea to keep your pack as lightweight as possible and only take the minimum amount you need. This is one of the reasons that I picked my new Vango tent as it only weighs just over 2kg.
If you are wild camping, remember that you will have to carry your rubbish out with you so have extra bags or containers for this purpose. if you're only away for 1 night then this shouldn't be an issue but for multi-day hikes think about the weight and size of your food packaging.
Some other wild camping items that are worth carrying in your backpack include -
Also don't forget to include a treat for yourself to enjoy in your tent at the end of the day - hot chocolate or a whisky liqueur are my personal vices!
Additional Beginner's Tips
So you're excited for your first wild camping trip in Scotland, you've got all the gear and thanks to this blog post, a bit of an idea. Here are some other tips that will help make your first experience go as smoothly as possible -
Where to pitch your tent -
Ah the dreaded midge - it can definitely spoil a good camping holiday if you're not prepared.
If you are in a midge hot spot between May and August then you want to avoid setting up or breaking down your camp at dawn or dusk when they are out in droves.
If it can't be avoided wear midge repellent and a head net or jacket to prevent bites. As it is pretty much impossible to keep midges out your tent as you go in and out, it is best to stay indoors once you're settled or even better, avoid midge hot spots in the first place. This blog post explains how you can survive the dreaded midge and avoid bites.
Hopefully this guide has answered some of the questions you have about exploring Scotland with your tent, however if you have any other advice or questions leave them in the comments section below.
Scotland really is one of the best countries in the world to go camping so make the most of the picturesque scenery and arrange your own outdoors adventure!
Vango F10 Erebus Tent Review
When I got the opportunity to review a Vango tent, it came at just the right time as I was researching for a new tent for a planned bike-packing trip around some of the Orkney Islands this summer.
I already knew I needed something lightweight that was small enough to sit on my bike. It also had to be big enough to accommodate myself, Mr Adventures Around Scotland and our lurcher who likes to stretch out and take up as much room as possible when she sleeps!
It also had to stand up to Orkney weather, especially the winds, and be quick to assemble as I hate faffing about when all I want to do is settle down for the evening. After checking their website the F10 Erebus 3 sounded like it would fit the bill.
When it arrived I was delighted at how little it weighed, just over 2kgs, and how compact it was. I decided the best test was to take it on an Orkney island adventure on a typically windy day to see how it would fare.
As we couldn't find anywhere with shelter, we had no choice but to camp in an exposed spot with the blustery wind buffeting us. On the plus side we had the most amazing view and a white sandy beach on our doorstep!
With only 2 poles to put in place, we had our tent set up in no time and could settle down for our dinner and a good night's sleep. This is the lightest tent that I've owned and I was a bit worried about how it would stand up to the constant buffeting but I needn't have worried.
It survived a pretty robust Orkney wind test and we had plenty of room, in fact it seemed surprisingly spacious inside for its size. Built in compartments kept all our stuff organised and I'm pretty sure I've picked the perfect tent for our future adventures. You'll no doubt be seeing a lot more of this tent in my summer camping photos!
Disclaimer - my Vango tent was gifted to me for the purposes of a review, however as always, all opinions are my own and I only ever work with quality businesses that I can personally recommend
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