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In the past few years, camping has become quite popular in different parts of the UK. With too many campsites to choose from, it might be rather challenging to determine the camping site that might be ideal for you, especially if you are camping in the UK for the first time.
While planning for a camping trip to the UK might seem like a challenging task, it can be quite easy with the right information.
To make your trip epic, we are going to show you how you can get the best out of your camping trip by giving you an insight into some of the best campsites in the UK. We are also going to take you through UK land laws so that you can choose the most suitable location for your camping trip.
An Overview of UK Camping
Camping locations in the UK are widespread from Wales to Scotland. There are also various camping sites in the British Isles. However, most campsites in the UK are distributed in areas with hilly terrains and reserved environments with beautiful/natural scenery.
The west side of the UK has many reserved locations and parks as compared to the east part. Not to mention, the west side is more hilly than the other parts of the UK.
What Defines An Epic Camping Trip In The UK?
To have an epic camping experience, you should camp in a location with attractive scenery and topography. For instance, if a campsite is located in a place with hilly terrain, you can easily go for hikes or mountaineering just around the campsite.
Campsites that are close to historic sites can also take your camping experience to the next level. You can visit historic sites during the day, then go back to your campsite at night.
There are also different legal land policies & laws in various parts of the UK, which might affect your camping experience. For example, Scotland has liberal land laws, which makes it easier for you to roam freely and pitch tents anywhere.
Best Seasons for Camping In The UK
Summer and autumn are the best seasons for camping in the UK. Winter camping can be quite hectic since it requires more gear.
In the UK, the Summer season starts in late June, then stretches out to the first few weeks of September. On the other hand, autumn starts in September, then ends in November. If you are planning to go on a camping trip in the UK or visit the UK, you should do it between June and November.
Where Do You Start Once You Are In The UK?
Preparing for Camping
One of the first things that you need to do once you are in the UK is to do background research on the campsites that you are planning to visit. Do some research to know how much they charge for hosting you for a single night. You should also check whether they have facilities such as bathrooms and toilets.
Getting A Guide
If you are planning to do wild camping in different parts of the UK, get in touch with a private guide tour company.
Such companies also offer outdoor adventures like mountaineering and hiking, which can be done while you are on your camping trip.
With many colleagues under their umbrellas, organizations that offer private guide services will assign you a guide who will help you tour different places. Most guides know the terrain very well and can help choose the best spots for wild camping.
It is also more secure to do wild camping with experienced instructors and guides. Examples of such organizations include Team Walking, Much Better Adventures, Adventure Tours UK, Black Dog Adventures, and Thistle Trekking.
The cost of a guided walk only is $105 per day. Most guided walk packages can cover a group of about 10 people.
A guided camping trip that offers you accommodation, meals, and access to outdoor activities is about $250 per night—Much Better Adventures offers this.
If you prefer carrying your own camping gear and preparing your own meals, you will be charged $60 - $150 per night for a guided wild camping trip. Gibbon Adventures, Team Walking, and Nothern Guiding are some of the organizations that provide guided wild camping tours.
Indulging in two outdoor activities like gorge walking and rock climbing may cost you around $200 per day if you are alone. As a group, the average price per person will range from $65 to $160, depending on the size of your group.
Hiking expeditions backed up with camping activities are usually offered at $250 per person in a single night. Sidetracked Adventures is one of the organizations that features hiking packages with wild camping activities.
While such organizations might offer you outdoor touring services, they operate within certain boundaries. First find the location you are interested in exploring, and then search for a guide in that area.
Creating A Camping Checklist
Create a comprehensive camping checklist so that you can gather all the necessary equipment. Group the items in the checklist into these categories; shelter essentials, kitchen essentials, toiletries, and weatherproof gear.
You should also include a map and compass in the checklist if you are planning to go on a wild camp.
The required gear will differ, depending on your camping style. Car rental camping makes it easier for you to carry more gear as compared to other camping styles.
Here are some of the sheltering essentials that you are going to require if you prefer car rental camping:
- A tent
- A sleeping bag
- An air mattress or a mat
The kitchen essentials that you will need include:
- Cooking pots
Light gear is the most suitable option for wild camping and hiking, especially if you are planning to cover a wide area. Backpacking gear should have a maximum weight of 10 kilograms. Look for a large backpack with enough space to accommodate your camping gear—aim for 50+ Litres.
Some of the sheltering essentials that can fit on a backpack include a one-person backpacking tent, a mummy sleeping bag, an inflatable air mattress, and inflatable pillows.
When it comes to kitchen essentials, you have to carry a backpacking stove, a compact and foldable cooking set, tiny ingredient containers, iodine tablets for water, and some MREs.
Wet wipes and eco-friendly liquid soaps will help you freshen up easily. Equip yourself with a solar panel power bank for charging cameras and phones.
If you are planning to camp during the summer season, choose the type of gear that is ideal for warm weather conditions. During the day, the average temperature ranges from 13°C - 21°C and can peak at 25°C. Moisture-wicking shirts and pants are the most suitable clothes for sunny weather.
You can also throw in a wide-brimmed hat or a buff face mask to protect your face from harsh UV rays while camping in the summer season. Do not forget to carry high-quality hiking boots.
Since the overall temperature can drop to 11°C or 10°C at night, carry a jacket to counter those conditions. The jacket should be waterproof to keep you dry if it rains.
With an average rainfall intensity that ranges from 77 mm - 80 mm, the autumn season is more rainy than the winter season. September and November, the months with the highest rainfall intensity rates, fall in the autumn season. The summer season has regular rains and an average rainfall intensity of 61 mm per month.
Furthermore, Western England has higher rainfall intensity than other parts of England. Manchester, Liverpool, and the Lake District are some of the areas with the highest rainfall intensity.
Winter is the second wettest season with an average rainfall intensity of 70 mm - 73 mm. If winter camping is your thing, you need high-quality gear that will keep you warm and dry—the average temperature in winter is 5°C to 6°C.
Examples of such gear include base layers, gloves, scarves, thick jackets, and thick socks. You should opt for a waterproof sleeping bag (some extra blankets might also come in handy).
In England, there is a small difference in the average temperatures recorded in the North, West, and Southern regions during the winter season. Winter temperatures in Northern England (Sunderland, Newcastle, and Middlesbrough) can range from 4°C to 5°C. Cities and towns located in Central England (Manchester, Liverpool, and Birmingham) usually record an average temperature of 5°C - 6°C. The average winter temperature in Southern England ranges from 5°C - 7°C.
Renting Gear or Traveling With Gear?
Traveling with the required gear can be hectic and expensive, especially if you are going to camp for two weeks. Not to mention, most airlines will charge you an extra fee if you have extra heavy luggage.
The most viable option is to rent the camping gear that you are going to use. Some of the camping gear that you can rent include tents, portable gas stoves, butane gas canisters, camping bags, and sleeping bags.
Most camping companies and organizations have renting packages, which can cover you for a number of days for a fixed price. The renting options are categorized into different durations; 1- 4 nights, 5 - 10 nights, and 10 - 20 nights. The average cost of hiring tents from such rentals for two weeks is $100 - $200, depending on the quality and capacity of the tent.
Hiring a 4-person tent or a 6-person tent is more expensive than hiring a 2-person tent. Renting a sleeping bag for 10-20 nights will be roughly $10 - $15. Essential sleeping gear such as inflatable mattresses and camping beds can be hired for $15 - $20. Contented Camping is one of the rental stores that features such packages.
Other stores will bill you per day. Such stores are ideal for short camping trips. However, they can be rather costly in the long run. Here’s a quick breakdown of the rental cost per day:
- One-person tent- $13 to $15
- Inflatable mattress- $5 to $7
- Inflatable pillow- $3 to $5
- Cooking set- $4 to $5
Few organizations have peer-to-peer renting options, making it easier for you to hire gear from other campers. An example of such an organization is Fat Llama. If you are planning to purchase new outdoor gear, shop in respectable stores such as Cotswold Outdoor and Outdoor Gear UK. It’s also worthwhile to note that Cotswold has various stores, which are distributed across the UK.
Most Popular Types of Camping In The UK
This is one of the most preferred camping styles in the UK. It is a type of camping, which is normally done on a commercial campsite. To gain access to the campsite, you have to pay for a pitching space. Not to mention, campsite camping is ideal for couples, families, and large groups.
Most campsites in the UK have policies. For instance, some will outline the sizes of the tents that can be pitched on the campsite. Due to this, you have to go through the policies of a campsite before you pitch your tent.
Various campsites feature an electric hook up system, making it possible for you to charge various appliances. Such campsites will also offer you access to crucial facilities like washrooms.
As the name hints, wild camping involves exploring the wild by pitching your tent in remote locations. Wild camping is totally legal in multiple parts of Scotland. However, it is prohibited in England unless you have permission from the landowner. In the UK, wild areas in Scotland are the best for wild camping. A private guide can help you choose the best spot for camping. You can analyze various areas using the Geograph coverage map.
Most companies that offer glamping services in the UK usually pitch the tents for you and provide the necessary facilities to make your tour epic. Examples of glamping sites include the Llyod Meadows site, Worcester glamping, Watkinsons glamping, and Stonehenge camping.
Hiking vs Car Rental Camping in The UK?
Since you are going to be camping in new locations around the UK, car rental camping might be the best option for you. A car makes it easier for you to explore various places in a short period of timeAlso, due to various land policies, hiking and trekking on private land can be rather challenging.
Apart from that, the UK has different spots where you can park a car if you want to do some hiking—a win-win situation. Parking spots are designated with a P symbol on an OS (ordnance survey) map. To rent a car in the UK, you have to present your international driving permit (IDL) and passport.
Places Where You Can Camp In The UK
National Park campsites
Surrounded by woods, mountains, wetlands, and moorlands, national parks in the UK can give you a superb camping experience. Examples of such parks include the Lake District, Brecon Beacons, Pembrokeshire, and Loch Lomond.
Activities such as cycling, caving, and mountain biking are also offered in most national parks.
As the name hints, these are campsites that offer you space and access to basic amenities. Some campsites are located in medium-sized private fields, while others are situated on large commercial grounds to accommodate caravans and tents. Large commercial campsites usually offer more services than smaller campsites. Most commercial campsites are privately owned. Check the reviews of other campers on websites such as Touradvisor to get an insight into the services offered.
Open Access Vs Private Land
Various parts of the UK have different rules, which govern access to land. A large percentage of the land in the UK is privately owned (private land). England has strict rules, which prohibit camping on private land. However, you can use the trails that pass through private land as you are exploring various places.
Mountains, downs, and moors that are privately owned but can be accessed are known as open access land. The owner of the land can be the Forestry Commission, a trust, or an individual.
Such land is referred to as open access because you can exercise the freedom to roam while you are using the land. Unlike private land, you don’t have to follow footpaths on open access land.
While you can walk through open access land, you cannot camp on such land unless you have the permission of the owner.
However, some parts of England have local bylaws, which promote camping activities on open access land.
To have an epic wild camping experience, use an OS Explorer map to differentiate between private land and open access land. Hard copies have more accurate scales, which can be interpreted easily as compared to softcopies.
The organization behind OS Explorer produces multiple maps for different places in the UK (Lake District, Brecon Beacons, and Dartmoor), so you have to buy a map that covers the area you are planning to visit. For example, the Lake District has separate maps covering the North Eastern, North Western, South Eastern, and South Western areas. One copy is about $12.
When it comes to visual representation, private land is represented with a white colour while private woodland is represented with a dark green colour.
Comparatively, open access land has a peachy and faint orange colour with some dark orange borders, showing boundary lines.
Thanks to the yellow shade that’s featured in open access woodland areas, the OS map brings out the difference between open access and private woodland.
It also comes with a detailed key, which shows you the symbols that represent public roads and paths (public rights of way). Green broken dashes are used to indicate footpaths. Such dashes usually cut through open access land, making it much easier for you to know open access land.
Lake District Camping Laws
While wild camping is still not fully legal in Lake District, many campers usually pitch their tents there due to their tolerance. Plus, open access land in Lake District is quite huge, making it easier for campers to find a perfect spot to pitch their tent.
- Cleaning up the area where you had pitched your tent on
- Avoid camping in one location for more than one night
- Keeping the camping group quite small
A large section of Dartmoor is covered by common land and moorland. Dartmoor has a rather old bylaw, which supports wild camping under various regulations. For example, you cannot camp next to a vehicle in Dartmoor.
Also, if you are planning to pitch a tent, it should be at least 200 M away from the road or any footpaths that might be in that area. Waste should be discarded at least 100 M away from the campsite to preserve the environment.
Since certain areas of Dartmoor are military training grounds, you should be quite keen while you are choosing a camping spot. Training grounds usually have warning signs.
In Scotland, wild camping is totally legal due to the liberal land access laws, which give you the freedom to pitch your tent anywhere. In 2003, there was a land reform act that made it possible for everyone to access various parts of Scotland freely.
However, there are certain guidelines and restrictions for streamlining camping activities. For instance, campers are not allowed to pitch their tents inside a private property with existing buildings without the permission of the owner.
Doing anything that harms the environment is also prohibited. An area like Loch Lomond also has bylaws, which restrict campers from camping there during various times of the year (March to September).
Best Campsites In The UK
Caolasnacon, Kinlochleven, Argyll (Scotland)
Situated close to a water body known as Loch Leven, Caolasnacon is a highland camping park that offers you a wide array of camping options. You can pitch your tent or hire some of the caravans that are found in the park.
Glencoe, a historic site known due to the massacre that happened in 1692, might intrigue you if you want to get some insight into Scotland’s history.
Thanks to the huge water body (Loch Leven), you can indulge yourself in activities such as fishing, wind-surfing and water skiing. Caolasnacon is located in a place with hilly terrain, making it possible for you to do some climbing and hiking.
Newgale, Pembrokeshire (Wales)
Founded in 1935, Newgale is one of the oldest campsites in the UK. The campsite is suitable for caravans, motorhomes, tents, and campervans. It is also close to Newgale beach, offering you a spectacular view of the ocean and access to the beach. Not to mention, Newgale beach has a long coastline.
Due to its proximity to the ocean, you can easily go for surfing. The beach has various shops, which makes it possible for you to hire surfing gear. Furthermore, the Newgale campsite is quite close to St David city—one of the smallest cities in the UK. St David city is the home of one of the oldest cathedrals in the UK (St David cathedral). The cathedral has a rich history, which goes way back to the 12th century.
Fisherground Campsite (England)
The Fisherground campsite sits in Eskdale—a valley that is found in England. With a beautiful pond that is sustained by a water stream, Fisherground campsite features fun activities such as water paddling.
And thanks to the large playing ground, children can enjoy their stay there. Plus, it also gives you access to climbing frames, tyre-rope swings and zip wires, making it possible for you to have some fun.
Since Scafell Pike mountain is quite close to the campsite, you can easily go for a hike if you love hiking activities.
Rhosson Ganol Camping Site (Wales)
Located on a rather high hill, the Rhosson Ganol campsite gives you a spectacular view of the Pembroke Coast, which is just a stone’s throw from the camp. Not to mention, you can easily get a glimpse of Ramsey Island from the campsite.
Speaking of which, there are various boat ride services, which can take you to Ramsey island for some exploration. The campsite features 40 different designated spaces for tents, caravans, and camper vans. While this campsite offers you free wifi, you have to pay for electrical hookups.
Twiteys Tipis Camping Site
The Twiteys Tipis camping site is eight miles from Warwick and four miles from Stratford. Not to mention, Warwick castle is quite close to the campsite, making it easier for you to take your adventure to the next level.
It gets better. Shakespeare's birthplace is also located in Warwickshire; it is preserved as a museum. It is an interesting place to visit if you want to reconnect with history.
Surrounded by wildflower meadows and tall grass, Twiteys Tipis also brings you closer to nature. To create a safe environment for everyone, cars are usually parked outside the campsite in a safe location.
The Doward Park campsite sits in Wye valley and is close to Monmouth and Wye town. It also borders the Dean forest, giving you access to woodland-like environment. Since this campsite is located in a serene environment, the organization has regulations that limit the maximum number of people per group to two.
King Authur’s cave is a few miles away from the campsite. The Seven Sisters is another landmark that you should visit while you are in Wye. It is a string of cliffs, which are quite beautiful and interesting.
Should You Cook Or Eat In Restaurants?
In the UK, most campsites allow BBQing and cooking, making it possible for you to cook your own meals while camping. Cooking your own meals is cheaper as compared to eating in restaurants and any eateries that might be close to the camp. However, you can try out the local cuisine once in a while.
Places To Visit While In The UK
The Stonehenge should be the first location on your list if you are planning to visit the most iconic places in the UK. It was put together in the Mesolithic period.
Thanks to the exhibition, you will be given an insight into more than 250 ancient items. The exhibition team also explains the techniques that were used to put up the megaliths.
The Windsor Castle is a historical structure, which can give you insight into historical events that happened in the 11th century. For starters, William The Conqueror built a superb fortress where the Windsor castle sits today.
While there have been various changes in the interior part of the castle, the outer walls of Windsor castle are still intact and resemble what was erected many years ago, making it easier for you to enjoy ancient architecture.
The present building was erected in the 15th century. However, Canterbury Cathedral dates back to the 11th century. One of the most fascinating things about the Canterbury Cathedral is the workmanship displayed through the architectural components.
It is amazing to see what masons could build with simple tools. Not to mention, the construction was done for 25 years.
Featuring beautiful architectural components and concepts, the construction of Castle Howard lasted for 100 years. It is situated in North Yorkshire, England.
Sitting on 1000 acres of land, the castle is surrounded by beautiful and well-kept gardens that can be explored easily. It also has woodland paths, which makes it easier for you you to explore the beautiful scenery.
With more than 40,000 pillars, the Giant's Causeway is found in Northern Ireland along the Northern Coastline. The pillars have unequal dimensions since they were formed from a natural volcanic activity that occurred about 60 million years ago.
While the pillars have unequal dimensions, the Giant's causeway is quite beautiful and gives you spectacular views of the ocean.
Over To You
And there you have it, everything you need to know to have an epic camping trip in the UK. Just do some background research on the campsites that you are planning to visit. Also, make sure that you have the necessary gear. Having a checklist will make it easier for you to know whether you have left out anything.
With that said, explore some of the most famous places in the UK while you are on your camping. You should indulge yourself in activities such as hiking, surfing, and mountaineering. And don’t forget to order try out British tea!