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What's what in camping?

The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 establishes a statutory right to camp informally, and the Scottish Outdoor Access Code describes the responsibilities and best practice guidance that should be followed when exercising your right to camp wild, for example not camping in enclosed fields of crops or farm animals.

Newcomers to camping may be confused by different names for styles of camping, with the term 'wild camping' often used to refer to any form of camping outside an organised campsite. However, for clarity, camping outwith a campsite can be split into two categories: 'wild camping' and 'roadside camping'.

Wild camping is usually done well away from roads and buildings, is lightweight, done in small numbers and only for two or three nights in any one place.

Wild camping has a more adventurous ring to it than roadside camping or staying on a campsite, and for many it is the only true form of camping. But it does mean you have to be properly equipped and have the experience - and confidence - to spend a night out in possible poor weather away from the comforts of a campsite or even a dry seat in your car.

Read more about getting the best out of wild camping.

Wild camping photo by Alistair Young.

Roadside camping is not usually considered wild camping, although it does take place and is lawful.  Following a few simple guidelines can reduce impacts from informal roadside camping:

  • Whenever practicable use an official campsite with sanitation facilities.
  • Ask nearby residents before pitching if you wish to camp near houses.
  • Remember that vehicles have a great impact on vegetation.  Park on hard ground or on a safe metalled area.  It is better to walk to your car than drive to your tent.
  • Avoid sites that at risk of being overused. Congregational roadside camping can cause significant problems.
  • Take particular care with toilet hygiene.
  • If you are looking for a place for a few hours sleep then pitch late, leave early and be unobtrusive. 
  • Remember that the Scottish Outdoor Access Code guidance on camping still applies.