The Wanderlust guide to the best of camping in the UK
Many people’s fondest memories are of their holidays. But it is surprising how quickly holiday memories can fade of all-in package holidays to “standard” destinations such as the South of Spain, the Canaries, with their hotels, pools and beach resort cocktails and false camaraderie. In a recent survey most people, when asked about their favourite holiday ever, chose one involving camping. Whether it was with their parents when young, or more recently, it was the self-sufficiency, the fun, the fact that not everything could be planned and done for you to the nth degree. In fact most people’s favourite camping holidays were those in Britain, and where everything didn’t go to plan. It may have been the weather, or a new and confusing tent to erect in a wind…In short, those recollected holidays were and adventure.
Camping these days can be as sophisticated or as back-to-the-earth as you like. More and more people who started out with a toe in the water of camping at established camp sites have progressed top what is known as wild camping. There’s no better way to give succour to your wanderlust!
How do you do wild camping? Simple. Choose your area, pack your tent and head into the landscape, map in hand for a night (or several) out under the stars (or under canvas under the stars.
But be prepared for the shock of having to do everything yourself. Wild camping is a million miles from campsite camping. There are no flushing toilets, no washing blocks, no camp shop, and best of all no irritating snoring from the neighbouring tent just a few yards away.
Wild camping is a little easier in Scotland where the Land Reform Act 2003 allows you to camp legally almost where you want for a short period. Ditto for Dartmoor, where the right to wild camp falls under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. Elsewhere you’re supposed to ask the landowner’s permission before sleeping on their land, but it is usually tolerated provided you remain discreet and follow the basic wild camp etiquette. That is basically the countryside code with knobs on. Here are some “rules” for wild camping.
Arrive late and leave early: Plan to arrive at your chosen location as the sun is going down and be packed up and away by the time the sun is fully risen and before other walkers are out and about. Keep away from main tracks and paths. This is supposed to be “wild” after all!
No open fires. Do I really need to explain why?
Leave no trace of your camp, save a few holes in the ground where you staked out. No rubbish to remain.
Toilets- the difficult issue. Did you remember to bring a small shovel? Find a sheltered but outdoor spot at least 50 metres away from water and downstream of popular camping areas. Dig a 6–8-inch deep hole, and replace the earth once you have finished your business. Remember to carry out your toilet roll with your other rubbish unless they are genuinely biodegradable rolls.
Have you got a map that is sufficiently detailed to show paths, freshwater rivers and lakes? You’ll need a map not just to move from place to place, but to see where you can get your fresh water for drinking, cooking etc. No cheating and taking huge flagons of bottled water (also they really add weight to your backpack).
I should also add that the uncertainty is fun. Who wants everything carefully planned and plotted out? The best times are those that occur spontaneously!