Camping and wild camping are one of the best ways to see highland countries and enjoy the rural backcountry of Scotland. Learning about the laws, people and weather can help you properly plan out your next hiking trip.
Camping in Scotland in April may require having a good four-season tent and waterproof equipment. The only perk that does this is that there are no mosquitoes early in the spring. So if the weather goes in your favor, you will truly enjoy the scenery, and not have to worry about the insects.
This article is intended to serve as a guide for campers, newbies, and pros, with information on how to prepare for April camping (and should you even consider it).
Table of Contents
Wild Camping Legislation
It is allowed and legal to wild camp in Scotland after the Land Reform Act 2003. There are a few exceptions to this act that allow campers to pitch their tent anywhere if the land is unenclosed. No campsite restrictions allow more versatility for camp adventures and are easier to plan.
This does not mean that you are allowed to damage the surroundings and wildlife. Always wild camp with the intention to leave no trace, and respect the environment and locals. The following guidance includes people who should be:
- Kind and respectful to others, and pay careful attention to small communities and vulnerable groups.
- Plan ahead as some types of businesses (facilities like cafes, toilets or car parks may not be open) during the time of your stay.
- Be vary of touching services and public surfaces
- Maintain physical distance by staying at least 2m away from other people, or staying with your close family members and avoiding other people and surfaces.
- For any signs of influenza, contact your local Covid19 prevention teams and follow their further guidelines.
In practice, the activity guidelines are not so different from the everyday tips- responsible time and activities people do outdoors. No littering and staying cautious (especially if you have a pet), and be respectful of other humans and nature. More information is available on the website for Outdoor Access Scotland.
Camping in Scotland Has a Sense of Freedom
People living abroad should take their time and look at the terrain and recommended camping routes, and, depending of the length of their stay, as well as the length of the terrain they want to cover, there are a few camping options travelers should consider.
It is possible to roam the country using the public transport of course. Being dependant on bus schedules, train routes and flight times can significantly downsize your vacation by spending it on commuting.
Campervans are a great option to experience the wonderful scenery and decide when and where you want to stop the engine and start your camping journey. Any unexpected weather changes (or other circumstances) are easily adjusted when you are in a campervan.
Camping in April
Learning how to find good campsites in Scotland may be a bit frustrating, especially for people who don’t have their checked contacts and don’t know where to look. Booking campsites in advance is something you should consider if it is near the high peak of the summer season.
Early spring, on the other hand, is quiet in Scotland. Also, because of the laws that are camp friendly, it is a cheaper and easier option to wild camp. Doing it with a campervan has additional perks since the dry kitchen and warm soft beds are always at your disposal.
The Scottish Outdoor Access Code will provide you with all the necessary information to roam responsibly, and, as we previously mentioned, the pandemic conditions simply include safe distance and responsible activities to the scope of the rules. There are guidelines on how to behave around farm animals, during cycling activities, hiking, and camping in tents.
Wild Camping in a Campervan
This is a great option to see more and feel comfortable at the same time. However, motorized vehicles are excluded from the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. There are no explicit guidelines for overnight parking in campervans, but it is quite often in Scotland.
The major issue is that many remote communities dislike the “wild” campers in vehicles for several reasons. Mainly because campers tend to forget that their right to access land does not extend to vehicles. This means that if you pull up a site that has a sign prohibiting overnight parking, the best advice to give is – simply to move on.
Caravan parks were made for a reason. In some regions, you will be able to find sign-posted, wild-camping sites where overnight parking is permitted. Lewis&Harris is a great example. Also, consider camping and parking your camper in such a place if you are considering leaving your car and hiking to a wild camping site.
Tip #1 Location
Scottish weather is a specific phenomenon because it can change a drunken man’s mood. The sun may shine all day, and with a simple breeze, heavy rain can drop all over the campsite. Luckily, choosing a good spot for camping depends solely on the camper.
The Highlands provide many secluded wild spots for camping that can be easily accessed. So you don’t have to be an expert hiker or mountain climber (but you do need to know how to operate your requirements). An alternative to the highlands, people may want to consider camping on the shores of lochs and rivers.
Pitching a Tent
Finding a good spot for your tent can be challenging, as nature does not take orders. Official campsites have plenty of flat ground as they were either chosen or slightly adjusted to fit the needs of a larger number of campers. Plenty of flat ground that is well drained – finding this in the wild is like hitting a jackpot.
The best place for a tent is a spot with a flat surface (as much as possible that is), on reasonably dry ground. Scottish wetlands will give you a challenge on that one, which is why the reward is greater once you do manage to find it. Beware, if you have plastic tent stakes, you’re going to look for softer ground. Also, try to find a good sheltered spot that may keep you protected from the weather, at least from one side.
Young campers might feel enthusiastic and think they can simply dig a ditch and make their own secluded and perfect camping spot. Never do this!
Wild camping is only legal and will remain to be so, only if people keep to the code and minimize their impact on nature.
Tip #2 Using Fires
Using and lighting a fire is not illegal in Scotland, and it is important to understand that it poses a high risk of causing a fire. This is more pronounced in this region than some other camping sites in Europe, for example, because of the peaty soils or dry grass. Scotland is synonymous with rain, but wildfires are possible. If the fire gets out of control, you will be liable for it.
Instead of feeling the pressure of the risk, a great alternative is to use camping stoves. On the other hand, if for some reason you do like a fire, leave all traces of it before you leave the campsite. Collecting firewood is not allowed in many places as it damages the environment, which means that you are required to drag your own firewood. It is also preferred if you use a fire bowl for safety.
A simple barbeque requires more planning in this country. If you are using a single-use type, set them up on rocks so they will not damage the grass beneath. Remember to leave no trace!
Tip #3 Pack the Essentials
Depending on the amount of time, land, and whether you will be spending outdoors you will need to pack heavier or lighter. But here are some camping essentials you should have with you at all times:
- A large backpack to carry camping equipment (60L ones for longer trips and 40-50l are enough for shorter campouts).
- A lightweight tent that is easy to pitch.
- A warm sleeping bag and sleeping pad.
- A portable water system that has a water filter (to use from streams), a large bottle, and a bladder.
- A camping stove, gas cartridge, pot, cutlery, pocket knife, and a cup.
- Firestarters – lighter or matching (kept waterproof in a Ziploc bag).
- A headlamp and walking poles.
- Quick-dry clothes, so nothing cotton.
- A waterproof body layer- jacket and trousers.
- A towel.
- Midge repellant.
- Map and compass on more advanced trails.
- Power-banks and waterproof pouches (reusable Ziploc bags).
- Biodegradable toiletries and hand sanitizing gel.
- Toilet paper for emergencies
- First aid kit.
- Extra pair of light-weight shoes to take a break from the heavy hiking boots.
What Are the Most Important Tips for Camping in Scotland in April?
Hiking and wild camping across Scotland can be an interesting adventure, no matter the route or region you find yourself in. Depending on your personal preference, you can commute by camper or public transport. The most important thing to keep in mind is the ever-changing spring weather. It can be cold and damp, and hot and sunny in a single day. Learn about the wildlife botanical culture in the area, you just might find some plants are quite useful for your camping.