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Wild Camping In The Lake District | Where To Go

Our team bring you five great areas for wild camping in the Lake District National Park, plus some advice for camping respectfully

Wild camping is sleeping under the stars in the great outdoors, but not in an official campsite. It is pitching your tent on a mountain summit, cuddling into your sleeping bag in a remote cave, sheltering under your tarp in an atmospheric forest, or laying out your bivvy bag on a sweeping ridgeline. It is resting your head overnight and leaving no trace of your presence the next day.

It’s a magical pursuit – an easy, inexpensive activity that will revive your verve for life and open your eyes once more to the wonders of the world. You’ll find escapism in its purest form; losing yourself in nature, feeling vulnerable and exposed – and surviving. It’s resetting your equilibrium; and it is good, old-fashioned adventurous fun.

“It is a magical pursuit – an easy, inexpensive activity that will revive your verve for life”

“But is it legal?” I hear you ask. “And where can you do it?” The law is somewhat convoluted but, in layman’s terms, wild camping is legal in some places, such as Scotland and Dartmoor. In others it is technically illegal, unless you have the landowner’s permission. You could attempt to obtain permission, but in practice – due to difficulties in identifying and contacting a landowner – this is usually not feasible. The good news, however, is that wild camping in the Lake District is generally accepted if carried out responsibly.

An undisclosed location! Photo: James Forrest

The Lake District National Park Authority, for example, states that ‘there is a tradition of wild camping in the Lake District’ and that ‘in the past, camping has often been tolerated’. It goes on to explain that, legally speaking, permission from the landowner is required, but in general the authority’s website isn’t dismissive or critical of wild camping – it describes wild camping in Lakeland as an ‘unforgettable experience’ and outlines best practice principles on how to camp respectfully.

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These include: not leaving any trace, setting up late, leaving early, being discreet, not lighting fires, carrying away all litter, performing toilet duties away from water sources, burying human waste, camping above the highest fell wall, pitching well away from towns and villages, staying for one night only, keeping groups small, and minimising your impact on the environment. Follow these rules and you can happily wild camp in the Lake District without fear of any repercussions. But where are the best places to pitch up?

“You can select your own spot by poring over a map”

The Lake District wild camping locations we’ve selected aren’t specific, because – naturally – we don’t want a beauty spot to be suddenly inundated with 50 tents on the next sunny weekend. But our suggestions should give you some general areas to consider. You can select your own spot by poring over a map and looking for a place that’s high up, flat, sheltered and with some epic views. After all, finding your own special spot is half the fun, right?

Wild Camping In Ullswater

Ullswater is known as Britain’s most beautiful lake, meaning that the fells surrounding the lake are blessed with stunning panoramas.

Beautiful Ullswater. Look to camp in the fells above the lake and not on its shores. Photo: James Forrest

The lakeshore itself is busy, dotted with farms, houses, popular footpaths and bustling tourist villages, so it’s best to avoid wild camping close to the lake. But climb one of the fells surrounding the lake and you’re onto a winner. There are numerous options, ranging from dinky hills to towering summits including Helvellyn to the south-west. Pore over a map, choose your spot and feast on those views of Britain’s most beautiful lake.

Wild Camping In The Scafell Massif

Scafell Pike is England’s highest, and perhaps most iconic, mountain – and sleeping atop the roof of England is a goal of many outdoor enthusiasts.


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The summit is very rocky and would be extremely exposed in bad weather, so it isn’t always a sensible option. But if you look at the wider Scafell Massif as a whole, including several surrounding summits, you will discover hidden valleys, mountain tarns, smaller subsidiary tops and a myriad of wild, rugged places to consider pitching your tent. Select wisely and you might be treated to views of Wast Water stretching out towards the coast – a sight to behold.

Wild Camping In The Borrowdale Valley

The Borrowdale Valley, which extends south from the shores of Derwentwater, is one of the Lake District’s best-loved valleys. Alfred Wainwright waxed lyrical about the loveliness of Borrowdale – and this scenic beauty makes it a superb choice for a wild camp.

Again, avoiding the busy valley bottom is advised, but if you ascend out of the valley into the surrounding fells you won’t be short of a suitable wild camping site. To the east of Rosthwaite are some delightful tarns and rounded grassy hills; to the south is the lumpy, bumpy Glaramara ridge, which serves up lots of surprises; and in-between is the rugged, vast hollow of Langstrath, Lakeland’s longest uninhabited valley and the perfect place for some quiet escapism.

Wild Camping In Ennerdale

Rising abruptly out of the coastal plains of West Cumbria, Ennerdale is a remote, wild place with a unique character. Its forested slopes and the River Liza make it somehow feel more like Scotland, New Zealand or Scandinavia than north-west England – and consequently it’s a great place for a wild camp. Ennerdale is best explored in dry, still conditions, without rain or high wind, as the ideal wild camping spots are up high.


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To the north of the lake you could walk from Great Borne to the delightful Buttermere Edge ridge, which serves up camp views over Buttermere and Crummock Water; to the south are grassier, gentler hills for a more under-stated, quieter camping experience; or for real excitement and adventure head east and south-east for Ennerdale’s craggy, dramatic mountains including Steeple and Pillar.

Wild Camping In Loweswater Fells

Loweswater feels somewhat under-stated and over-looked. It lacks the mass appeal of Derwentwater, the ruggedness of Wast Water, or the beauty of Buttermere – but it oozes charm. It is a peaceful little lake, with its own waterfall and a mixed woodland of alder, oak, lime, chestnut, ash and sycamore.


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As always, camping low down is generally frowned upon, so opt instead for one of the grassy, rounded hills surrounding the lake. The fells to the south are quiet and remote-feeling, but never spectacular, while to the north the small fells surprisingly serve up soul-stirring views towards Buttermere and Crummock Water – simply stunning.

A Reminder of Leave No Trace Wild Camping in the Lake District

  • Take away all of your rubbish – if you find rubbish left by others, try and take that as well
  • Leave your spot EXACTLY as you found it, including the mark left by your tent
  • Cause no ground or water pollution
  • Be responsible for your actions
  • Keep any noise to an absolute minimum
  • Avoid lighting fires
  • Protect the surrounding nature and be respectful of its wildlife

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