Scotland’s top 10 wild camping spots
© Getty; Thomas Janisch
Forget about campsites with their rules and regulations, really get back to nature with a night under the stars wild camping in Scotland…
Wild camping might be illegal in most spots of England, but thankfully, north of Hadrian’s Wall and over the Anglo-Scottish border they’re a bit more enlightened when it comes to ruggedly authentic nights under canvas.
And boy, has Scotland got it all. Dramatic landscapes combine rough mountains and desolate glens with shimmering beaches and beautiful bays. This is wild camping at its most adventurous. So what are you waiting for? Grab your compass, backpack and tent immediately and head north...
NB: When wild camping in the below spots – or indeed anywhere – you must ensure you take any litter back home with you and respect the environment at all times.
1. Peanmeanach Beach, Ardnish
One great reason to try wild camping is to immerse yourself in the rugged beauty of barren desolation. Which is why a trip to the Ardnish Peninsula is a must. Following the Highland Clearances this spot on the West Coast is uninhabited. Pitch up near the bothy at Peanmeanach beach; a perfect starting point for a climb up the nearby hill that offers breathtaking views of Loch Doir a Gherrrain and Loch nan Uamh. The latter is the spot where Bonnie Prince Charlie landed in 1745, ahead of his Jacobite uprising and from where he left Scotland forever the following year.
2. Quiraing, Isle of Skye
Upon visiting the Isle of Skye in the 1700s, renowned man of letters Dr. Johnson commented that its ‘delightful bays and sandscapes’ compensated for the isle’s atrocious weather. Nearly 300 years on nothing has changed. The weather is still inclement and the views are still among the best in Britain. The plateaux at Quiraing, one of the most iconic trekking circuits in Scotland, is where you should make your camp. Likened to the scenery in Game of Thrones, the area was formed by a landslip that, incredibly, is still moving.
3. Rackwick Bay, Orkney
A visit to the rough idyll of Rackwick Bay on Orkney’s second largest island of Hoy feels like a trip to the end of the world. Jutting proudly out of the sea is the incredibly muscular 450ft sea stack, the Old Man of Hoy. Peering out of your tent and looking upon Orkney’s most recognisable site will make you feel like a marauding Viking warrior. The views from Hoy’s beach are wonderful and the World War II defence landscapes on Ward Hill are among the best preserved in Britain.
4. Gleann na Muice, Fisherfield
If Munro bagging (climbing mountains) is your thing then Gleann na Muice is the ideal wild camping spot for you. Perfectly placed to make a base camp for the world famous Munros in the area - the Fisherfield Five: some of the remotest mountains in Scotland - this is wild camping at its best. Mean, moody and magnificent, the vistas from the dramatic summits of the mountains are unforgettable.
5. Kilmory Bay, Isle of Rum
Scotland is home to a wonderful array of atmospheric beaches, with views to match, and they don’t come much more distinctive than Kilmory Bay on the Isle of Rum in the Inner Hebrides. Smack bang in the middle of the Red Deer Project - one of the most complete research projects in the world - you’ll find deer wandering across the island and down onto the beach. This northern bay affords a spellbinding view across to the Cuillins, a range of spectacular, rocky mountains on Skye.
6. Bonaly Reservoir, near Edinburgh
For those new to the authentic, stripped back world of wild camping (no heated showers here, folks), Bonaly Reservoir is just the ticket. A short trek outside of Scotland’s magical capital, Edinburgh, you can dip your toes into the delights of wild camping. It also doubles up as a great place to begin walking in the nearby Pentland Hills. A hidden gem for urbanites.
7. Barrisdale, Knoydart
Who’s up for exploring Britain’s last wilderness? Even the most intrepid of explorers refer to the remote Knoydart Peninsula on the West Coast in such terms. Accessible only by ferry (or a 16-mile hike across mountains and glens) at Inverie, walk north through rough tracks to Barrisdale and make camp. This will set you up for the mountains of Ladhar Beinn and Sgurr na Ciche and even some wildcat spotting. Upon returning to Inverie be sure to pop in for a beverage at Britain’s most remote pub, The Old Forge.
8. Glenfeshie, Cairngorms National Park
Backpacking across Cairngorms’ dramatic wild glen is a must for intrepid campers. This romantic part of the Scottish Highlands is home to beautiful trees, surging waterfalls and craggy mountain scenery. Thanks to the efforts of conservation groups the diversity of wildlife (particularly deer) is also improving. You can choose to camp in the evocative mists of the Glenfeshie valley or among the alpine flowers atop the high altitude plateau of Moine Mhor (Great Moss in Gaelic).
9. Glen Sannox, Isle of Arran
For those wishing to explore the geologist’s paradise of the Isle of Arran, Glen Sannox is the ideal spot to set up camp. As well as the magnificent views from the Goat Fell mountains (Arran’s highest peak), there are the wondrous flowing waters at Sannox Burn, replete with large stepping-stones to aid crossing, and the exquisite sandy bay in the village itself. Arran is often described as Scotland in miniature and with such emblematic delights on offer it’s not hard to see why.
10. Inverarnan, Loch Lomond
Bursting out of the northern, more remote, point of Loch Lomond, Inverarnan is a popular spot with walkers navigating the West Highland Way. A popular jaunt is the trek from Inversnaid - and its epic, cascading waterfall - along the rugged, eastern shoreline of Loch Lomond. Wild goats and birds of prey are plentiful here. When you arrive in Inverarnan it would be remiss not to treat yourself to a drink or two in the Drovers Inn, reputed to be one of Scotland’s most raucous pubs. For those looking to wild camp elsewhere in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park you’re advised to read up on these rules.