One of the reasons owning a campervan or motorhome appeals to people is that it provides you with the opportunity to be spontaneous. But where can you park your vehicle? Is overnight parking allowed wherever you can find a space? Is wild camping legal and are the rules the same across the UK? What about if you chose to go further afield and visit mainland Europe?
Have a read of our guide to overnight parking laws and wild camping in the UK and Europe.
- Can you park anywhere with a motorhome or campervan?
- What are the rules on wild camping with a campervan or motorhome?
- Is it illegal to go wild camping in a motorhome or campervan?
- Are the wild camping rules different in Scotland, Wales, or Northern Island?
- Is it illegal to go wild camping in a motorhome or campervan in Europe?
- Is it legal to sleep in a campervan or motorhome overnight on the road in the UK?
Unfortunately not, although it is a fairly common misconception to think that you can.
Imagine if you parked on a piece of land with the best intentions, knowing you would leave it as you found it and were only planning to stay for one night, but you don’t have the land owner’s permission? They might arrive early the next morning and find their access blocked, causing them inconvenience and hassle.
Even when you’re parking in a designated car park or at a campsite it’s always worth checking that your campervan or motorhome doesn’t fall foul of any access issues due to its dimensions, such as height barriers or encroaching on multiple spaces, as this could leave you without a place to park or even a damaged vehicle.
It’s important to make sure that you have appropriate insurance for your vehicle, in case of an accident. If you’re planning on hiring out your vehicle then you’ll need self-drive hire and ideally public liability insurance.
Before we go into the legality of wild camping it’s worth making a distinction between overnight parking for your campervan or motorhome and wild camping itself. In contrast to parking, wild camping can be defined as camping in a remote area with no facilities, rather than at a formal campsite or organised setting.
Don’t assume that just because you’re parked in a designated area that you’re allowed to park there overnight, as in many places this isn’t permitted. Check the signage and if in doubt it’s probably best to move on.
If you’re interested in finding out more about overnight parking spots in the UK you can consult the Brit Stops website, or you can buy a copy of their current print publication.
In the UK it is possible to camp in the wild at some National Parks, such as Dartmoor and the Lake District, but if you’re planning to do so you should check for the areas where this is allowed before you head off as the options are limited.
If you decide to wild camp, make sure you stick to basic camping etiquette, leaving as few traces of your presence as possible and take nothing from the land except your photographs and memories. Also, avoid camping near paths or road verges and be aware of other people who are using the area. Setting up later in the day and packing up first thing in the morning can help ensure that any disruption you may cause is kept to a minimum.
If you do decide to go wild camping in the UK, you need to make sure that you have the explicit permission of the landowner before using their land as if you don’t, you could be breaking the law. If you decide to camp in a National Park, remember that not all of them allow it and the ones that do will have areas that are out of bounds. Check out ukmotorhomes.net for a list of other potential sanctioned stopovers in the UK.
It’s also worth checking the wording of any vehicle breakdown policy you might have as it may not cover you if you need assistance off a public highway which either you, or your breakdown provider, have no legal access to.
Check out our article on how to reduce campervan or motorhome breakdowns and you can find out about ways to decrease the chances of needing to make a breakdown call out in the first place.
Wild camping laws vary around the UK so you’ll need to be aware of any regional differences –
- The rules in Scotland are different due to a range of legislation including the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, and the Road and Traffic Act 1988. While this means wild camping on most unenclosed lands is allowed, it’s important to remember that this permission only gives access rights for non-motorised activity. So, if you want to use your campervan or motorhome for wild camping in Scotland, you’ll still need to get the landowners permission before you set up. If you have permission, be sure to apply common courtesy and make sure you aren’t blocking any access points to land or buildings or causing any damage.
- The rules in Wales are essentially the same as in England. National Parks are the easiest option and of the three that you can visit, Snowdonia National Park is the most open to wild camping. As long as you’re a considerate camper, get the landowners permission, and stick to quiet areas you shouldn’t run into any issues if you decide to go further afield.
- The rules in Northern Ireland are also similar to England and Wales; you’ll need permission from the landowner and should aim to arrive later in the day and head off fairly early in the morning to minimise disruption to others.
Wild camping rules in Europe are similar to those in the UK; there are a number of commonalities, but each country has a slightly different take on the matter.
In most instances setting up your campervan or motorhome at designated campsites or Aires (approved motorhome parking spots across Europe) is encouraged, but wild camping is permitted in many national parks or elsewhere if you are considerate and have the permission of the landowner.
It’s important to do your research before you visit another country to check up on the latest rules and regulations.
For more information on overnight parking in Europe check out the following websites –
Roads and highways are owned by the Local Authority, so parking up at the side of the road overnight could mean that you’re breaking the law. There is no legal right to park beside the road, although, aside from the Highways Act 1980 and the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act there are no laws that specifically prohibit it.
Public car parks are also generally covered by Traffic Regulation Orders which vary across the UK. These generally forbid sleeping, camping, and cooking and may place a limit on the size and class of vehicle allowed. It’s worth keeping an eye out for truck stops though as these allow overnight parking.