Take a Drive on the Wild Side

We’re as keen as you are to get out and about our in campers.  But, until we’re given the all clear, we thought we’d whet your appetite with some useful info about wild camping or simply another way to describe it is overnight stops in the UK that are absolutely free of charge!  

First of all planning a road trip is so much fun. So, when the time comes, you can jump into your campervan conversion and hit the road and stay overnight in your camper.  After lockdown, this will be a wonderful change of scene and gives you the chance to go a little further afield and experience what our beautiful countryside has to offer...with no need to book an overcrowded campsite pitch...sounds perfect... yes?

If you’ve always dreamed of touring the UK but weren’t sure on the rules of free overnight places to stay, then hopefully we can answer some of your burning questions.

What are the rules of overnight camping?

The crucial thing to remember is that it is not allowed everywhere. It really is not a given that you can say somewhere...so please never assume you can stay. Secondly, just because you can park somewhere doesn’t mean that you can stay the whole night. 

Campervan overnight parking is difficult, but luckily there are loads of websites and apps to help make it easier. There’s no guarantees, but….if you’re not noticeable, then it’s difficult to get into trouble.  Stay away from public paths and tourist spots.  If in doubt, always ask the landowner… usually landowners are very gracious and won’t mind but you must always ask.

The rules on parking overnight in the UK are pretty unclear.  There are no official rules forbidding it necessarily and mainly it seems to be up to the jurisdiction of each local government and law enforcement, who tend to follow the unofficial rule of allowing it unless it is on private property. Therefore, stopping at a lay-by or in a public car park probably might not get you into any trouble, but setting up camp on private property or staying in the car park of a specific business could lead to you being asked to move unless you’ve agreed it with the business owner.  

One tip is to look out for truck stops and car parks, and quite often supermarkets will allow you to use their car parks for a quick overnight but always check first.  Generally speaking, if you follow the wild camping etiquette then you’ll be fine. These rules are pretty simple…

  1. Respect the space and leave it as you found it.  Always take your rubbish home, don’t cause any damage or obstructions and definitely no noise pollution.
  2. A general rule of thumb is arrive late and leave early.  The overnight stop over is just that...to sleep and move on nice and early. 
  3. Always ask the landowner if possible
  4. Overnight stops are not for camping. Do not pitch a tent, wind out your awning, hang out laundry or put out a camping table...it’s not a campsite. 
  5. Security is key. Keep your doors locked, don’t mistake overnight stops as having the safety of a campsite and a campervan safe is always a good idea for keeping money and documents safe.

Why not join a wild camping forum to stay in touch and chat with other like minded folk and pick up some great hints, tips and advice along the way. 

How to find free places to stay in your campervan?

Wild camping is not just being up a mountain with a tent...it also refers to campervans that can park up in the middle of nowhere and stay overnight. Bear in mind that wild camping or free camping does not offer services such as electricity, water and bathroom facilities...but if your van is kitted out then you’re sorted and ready to go.

Some people just love the idea of adventure and head off into the great unknown without a plan.  Whilst the other way of doing it is to plan and be a bit more organised, especially if it’s your first time and haven’t built up your wild camping confidence :)

Check out Brit Stops...a brilliant book of free UK stopovers that includes country pubs, farm shops, vineyards, breweries, cafes/restaurants and even museums.  This gem of a book suggests a network of ‘pit stops’ around the British Isles where you can take the time to relax, stop over and travel on the next morning having enjoyed some local produce. Rather than charge a fee, it relies on mutual benefits offered, where you can stop over for free on a no frills basis and the hosts get the opportunity to show their wares…you’ll get to taste some of the most delicious meals, farm produce and real ales along the way! The book itself comes at a small price but well worth it if you want to enter the world of UK wild camping. It’ll really help you to plan your journey or just pop it in your van and head off on an exciting adventure!

How much water can your campervan carry? 

You’ll need to consider what your water requirements are.  Water containers offer a great deal of water storage and the best way for you to get clean drinking water wherever you are. We usually find that it takes about 60 litres of water for 3-4 days of free camping if you’re very frugal.  But, obviously, if your camper has a shower, then you’ll need way more,  although there are some fantastic portable outdoor shower products out there so you can keep clean and fresh if you want too :)

How to deal with your campervan waste

Consider your…errr… loo situation :) Motorhomes are easy, but even with a camper you can always find space for a portable toilet. 

Grey and black water waste also needs considering. If you only have grey waste (dish and shower water) then please think and only use products that aren’t harmful to the environment, in the absence of a specific waste disposal site you can simply tip grey waste into a road drain. Black waste (from toilets) is more tricky...there are not many places in the UK that offer this facility so a helpful tip is to simply ask at a campsite. Many will let you do this if you pay a small fee, even if you're not camping there.

Cooking whilst wild camping

Just make sure you have enough gas...especially if you’re running a heater as well. We always carry a spare canister, just in case. 

Pack smart

It’s all about packing smart. You need to pack all the appropriate things you’ll need before you set off.  Luckily, being in a campervan solves a lot of these issues because you’ll have space to store things.  It’s all about making sure you have enough of the essentials with you before you set off... water, food, tools, spare parts if you are going somewhere really remote. The rest you can replenish during your travels.

OK, so now that the boring practicalities are out of the way, now is the time for the really fun part...get planning your next campervan adventure...

The Lake District National Park has a long standing tradition of wild camping amongst the Beacons and Fells, with the most stunning views of lakes and mountains...as long as the etiquette is maintained. 

How about Scotland?  Wild camping is almost allowed anywhere and there are so many extensive rural areas off the beaten track that you’ll really have no issues at all. Try the Cairngorms National Park and, of course, the Western isles....both really beautiful places. 

Wales is also a beautiful place to experience...a night under the stars is calling you :)

Please don’t forget that wherever you stay, just remember you are an ambassador for campervanning, and it's important that you do your research before you park up for the night. We urge you to follow the wild camping etiquette...be considerate, and leave the place exactly as you found it, or perhaps even better :).  Spend some money locally, even if you are camping for free, and please consider the local economy - shop locally, go to the bar, eat in a local restaurant. All these things really make a difference to local communities and as fellow campervanners we want to be welcomed with open arms wherever we choose to travel.