In Scotland, everyone can camp wherever access rights apply, as long as you’re doing so in a responsible way. This includes some camping spots that are close to roads, although it’s worth remembering that Scottish access rights don’t apply to people sleeping in campervans, caravans or cars.
However, informal camping is banned from certain zones within the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park between March 1 and 30 September each year, due to byelaws introduced in 2017. The byelaws make it a criminal offence to camp, light fires or sleep overnight in a vehicle in many of the park’s most popular camping areas – shown on the map below – unless you’re in a campsite or pay in advance for a permit to stay for up to three nights at a designated ‘wild camping’ spot.
The byelaws even apply if you are behaving responsibly.
If you camp in a byelaw zone without a permit you may be found to be committing a criminal offence, even if you’re observing the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. You could be liable to a conviction and a fine of up to £500.
What does this mean for people caught camping inside the byelaw zones?
If people camp in a zone without a permit, they are likely to be approached by a ranger and requested to move on, or to move into a permit area and buy a permit. If they refuse, rangers have the authority to report the case to the Procurator Fiscal or call the police, who may charge campers under the byelaws.
If a park ranger or police officer believes you’re breaching park byelaws, you may be asked to provide your full name, date and place of birth, address and vehicle registration. Failing to provide these breaches the byelaws and could constitute a criminal offence. Park rangers or police officers may also ask you to leave the park. Failure to do that also breaches the byelaws and could be a criminal offence.
A ranger or police officer can decide to issue warnings, or report the matter to the Procurator Fiscal who will decide whether to bring a criminal prosecution. The maximum fine for breach of the park byelaws is £500, which can only be imposed by a Sheriff Court following a conviction. There is no fixed penalty notice option in place. Anyone charged with a criminal offence should take independent legal advice.
While Ramblers Scotland opposes the byelaws and permits, we do not advise you defy the camping ban. You run the risk of getting a criminal record, which may affect future employment and travel prospects.
What if I unwittingly camp within the zones?
The byelaw zones should be well signposted, but it’s still possible that some campers may be unaware they’re inside a zone – for example due to arriving at loch shores via lesser-travelled hillsides, forests or waterways. Occasionally, people may find themselves wanting to camp within the byelaw zones for safety reasons – such as walkers and cyclists who need to stop due to illness, exhaustion or nightfall, or canoeists driven by a strong wind away from their planned camp spot.
If you inadvertently camp in the byelaw zone without a permit, we advise you to follow instructions from rangers, move your tent to an advised area, and let us know about the incident. We are gathering information about the implementation of the byelaws and are interested to learn about all experiences, including use of the online permit booking system. We can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter or by email on firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more on the byelaws, zones and how to book a permit, go to the Your Park website.
What does the Scottish Outdoor Access Code say about camping?
“Access rights extend to wild camping. This type of camping is lightweight, done in small numbers and only for two or three nights in any one place. You can camp in this way wherever access rights apply, but help to avoid causing problems for local people and land managers by not camping in enclosed fields of crops or farm animals and by keeping well away from buildings, roads or historic structures. Take extra care to avoid disturbing deer stalking or grouse shooting. If you wish to camp close to a house or building, seek the owner's permission.
Leave no trace by:
• taking away all your litter
• removing all traces of your tent pitch and of any open fire (follow the guidance for lighting fires)
• not causing any pollution.”
For more information, watch the 90-second video below, see the code here or read Scottish Natural Heritage’s leaflet here.
Page updated June 2020