Camping and public access rights

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Scotland’s access rights extend to camping, so long as it’s done responsibly. With the easing of lockdown this summer, we are seeing increased numbers of people camping outwith formal campsites. What can we all do to ensure that camping takes place in a responsible manner?

The Scottish Outdoor Access Code says:

  • Wild camping is lightweight, done in small numbers and for up to 2 or 3 nights only in one place.
  • Do not camp in enclosed fields of crops or farm animals.
  • Camp well away from buildings, roads or historic structures.
  • Leave no trace; take away all litter, remove all traces of your pitch and don’t cause pollution.

In relation to lighting fires, the Scottish Outdoor Access Code says:

  • Wherever possible, use a stove rather than an open fire.
  • If lighting an open fire, keep it small, under control and supervised
  • Never light an open fire during prolonged dry periods, and heed all advice at times of high risk
  • Never light an open fire in forests, woods or on peaty ground
  • Never light an open fire near to buildings or cultural heritage sites
  • Ensure any fire is properly extinguished and remove all traces before you leave.

There has been a lot of recent press coverage about dirty camping, but it is important to remember that Scotland’s access rights do not permit this anti-social behaviour. People who behave in this way do not have access rights and their actions can be dealt with under existing legislation. Mountaineering Scotland has launched a Considerate Camping Campaign to help people consider the impacts of camping, both individually and cumulatively. Their website also provides practical guidance on how to be a responsible camper.

Malcolm Combe, author of the ScotWays Guide to the Law of Access to Land in Scotland, has written a Strathclyde Law Blog article on camping and public access rights.