Camping and access rights

The right to camp is a much-valued part of Scotland’s access rights, but it must be done responsibly.  There are many ways to deal with problems arising from irresponsible camping; a ban on camping should be the last resort.


Scotland’s progressive rights of public access to land also include the right to camp away from campsites as long as it’s done responsibly. Of course, with rights come responsibilities and ‘leave no trace’ principles embedded within the Scottish Outdoor Access Code are crucial in driving forward the message that we should behave in a caring and responsible manner in the outdoors.

Camping is a much-treasured and time-honoured way of getting close to nature and engaging with the great outdoors. This is especially true for young people whose first real outdoor trip may be a camping expedition with the Scouts or with their parents, something they will remember all their lives. It’s also an inexpensive activity for people on low incomes who often can’t afford to stay in a campsite or other accommodation.

For many people, ‘wild’ camping is about enjoying the right to set up a tent far from any civilisation for a night or two. But access rights also include camping on roadsides if you are travelling by car or by bicycle, in locations where access rights apply. Roadside camping is particularly helpful for those with a disability who need to be close to a vehicle but who would otherwise be unable to experience a night outdoors. 

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Our position
Many thousands of people camp in line with the guidance in the Code throughout Scotland each year and it’s part of our role as a charity to encourage more people to enjoy and benefit from our countryside and our access rights while also ensuring they understand their responsibilities.

Nevertheless, we accept that in some places problems can arise from many tents using the same ground near roadsides week after week and causing damage.

Occasionally a minority of visitors may come to party, leaving litter and tents behind when they leave and causing concern to the local community.

We believe the response to dealing with such problems should be in line with the National Access Forum guidance on managing informal camping, which was drawn up after consultation with landowning and recreation bodies.

This sets out a range of options for dealing with irresponsible behaviour, including education, enforcement of existing legislation on littering, vandalism and anti-social behaviour, and investment in new campsites, toilets and litter bins to deal with the demand.

Byelaws are part of the toolkit for managing camping but should be used as a last resort. This is why we have campaigned against the introduction of camping byelaws in Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park.

Further info: 

Page last updated June 2020