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.
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.
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?