Wild camping in Scotland montage

Walk on the Wild Side – Wild Camping in Scotland

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The thought of wild camping solo gives some people the heebiejeebies, quite often females. Have no fear (other than the weather)! Based on my own experiences, here are some tips and reasons for you to try wild camping in Scotland. Or anywhere else you fancy, for that matter.

“Aren’t you scared?”
“What of?” I ask.
“Being out there. Alone. As a woman.”

I’ve been ‘out there, alone’ for years travelling, hiking, camping. Alone to me represents freedom, not fear.

I’m talking to a couple who are wild camping virgins. It’s the woman who asks, watching my face intently for any clues to an underlying anxiety.

“Scared of men, I suppose,” she offers when I give no reaction, waiting for more clarification other than being born a female.

“The weather scares me; the wind tearing my tent down; torrential rain causing rivers to burst. But not people.” I answer smiling, trying to reassure her that wild camping in Scotland as a woman is safe. She stares at me like I’m either a heroine or completely insane.

Overlooking Kylesku, wild camping in Scotland
Overlooking Kylesku, wild camping in Scotland

There are several places that as a woman being ‘out there, alone’ has panicked me. Going through unsavoury parts of London at 3am. Walking through dodgy areas in Lima, Peru, after dark. Hurrying along a pitch black beach track in Thailand with ferocious dogs chasing me.

But not wild camping in Scotland. I’ve not been frightened doing that because I’m a woman. I’ve been worried because of the crazy wind and what it might do to my tent. Thankfully, it’s pretty solid and (I think) I know how to pitch it well.

Outer Hebrides, wild camping in Scotland
Outer Hebrides, wild camping in Scotland

“If I’m wild camping alone then there are no people around,” I laugh. “I wouldn’t camp in the middle of a city, where, yes, I’d likely be terrified of the drunkards stumbling past!

“There was one time, though,” I offer, “when I was too afraid to move. There were three very drunk, very obnoxious and very incoherent Glaswegian men near my tent. I was petrified.” She looks at me in horror. I have just confirmed her fears. “But that was in a free campsite.”

She unconsciously touches her partner’s arm for reassurance. “You’re very brave,” she tells me, smiling.

The weather scares me; the wind tearing my tent down; torrential rain causing rivers to burst. But not people.

I’m not sure I’ve ever been brave. I wouldn’t say camping, hiking, or travelling is valiant. Putting your life at risk to save others is brave. Being forced to confront your ultimate phobia is courageous. Doing something adventurous, for pleasure and by choice, is not.

Yet, I guess to some, wild camping in Scotland as a female might just seem perilous. Being eaten alive by midges is a very real threat. Turning into an amphibian in the drenching rain is a possibility. Forgetting to pack your tent pegs could actually happen. But probably not much else for a solo woman camper.

Uig, wild camping in Scotland
A great view of Valtos beach, Outer Hebrides, as I went wild camping in Scotland.
So why go wild camping in Scotland?

⛺ It’s soooo much quieter than on a campsite where there are snorers and revellers.
⛺ You’ll find some of the best views in the world to gaze out at.
⛺ There’s no pressure to hike further than you feel like, you can stop when you’re tired.
⛺ You can stay as long as you like without the room being booked out by someone else.
⛺ You have complete freedom.
⛺ And to be honest, when you’re long-distance hiking, you often don’t have any other option.
⛺ On top of all that; it’s free.

Whalsay, Shetland - wild camping in Scotland
Whalsay, Shetland – wild camping in Scotland

Obviously you can’t get a shower but this really doesn’t phase you when you’ve done it a few times (you can jump in a river/loch if you so desire). You don’t actually care about what you look like as everyone else hiking and camping is as dishevelled as you are. Plonk a hat over your unwashed hair and you’re good to go.

Tips for wild camping in Scotland:

⛺ Ladies, if you’re worried about your safety with regards to men, don’t buy a blazingly bright tent. Get a dark green one to blend in. Mine is the MSR Hubba NX, a sturdy little three-season tent.
⛺ And don’t camp where you are visible on the outskirts of towns or cities. That might be the time when you opt for a hostel if there’s no campsite around.
⛺ Don’t post on social media your whereabouts. I post about it when I’ve left the location.

Camp food - wild camping in Scotland
Camp food, make it simple when you’re wild camping in Scotland – you have to carry it all!

⛺ Start looking for somewhere about one to two hours before you actually want to camp if you’re hiking because there can be so much bog that it could take that much time to find a grassy patch. Yes, seriously. Look for dark green grass, of the grazing variety. That is pitchable grass.
⛺ If bog cotton is blowing around, it probably means there’s bog. Keep moving till you find grass.
⛺ Check to see if there are any cows or bulls around, I wouldn’t fancy spending a night near them.
⛺ If there is no water source nearby your intended camp, make sure you fill up en route (check your map). I usually go through 1.5-2 litres of water for dinner and breakfast including hot drinks.

Camping near a loch in Shetland while wild camping in Scotland
Camping near a loch in Shetland while wild camping in Scotland.

⛺ If you meet any friendly locals, ask them if they know of a good camping spot.
⛺ Take a midge net and repellent, the wee beasties can be vicious. Also take tick tweezers in case you get bitten by one.
⛺ Pitch in a sheltered spot if possible. Use sheep folds, old crofters’ houses, mounds, anything for shelter against the wind. Use rocks to keep your pegs pitched if it’s solid ground or super windy.

Crofter's house - wild camping in Scotland
Using a crofter’s house for shelter from the wind when wild camping in Scotland

⛺ Look out for barns, caves and bus shelters on your journey because if the weather turns really bad, you can return to them.
⛺ Pitch your tent so you are feet first into the wind and don’t have your guy lines pulled too taut, they need some slack if the wind is pulling on them.
⛺ Don’t pitch on riverbanks if it’s lashing down or forecast to do so overnight; torrential rain can cause rivers to burst their banks. I’ve been witness to it while wild camping.
⛺ In Scotland, it’s perfectly legal to camp anywhere that isn’t a garden, a golf course, or a field with crops in it.

Wild camping in Scotland - food
Cooking on my Primus Spider stove near a loch, while wild camping in Scotland

⛺ Take a trowel and go to the loo away from water sources.
⛺ Leave the place exactly as you found it; no rubbish; no chopping down trees for firewood; no evidence that you’ve been to the toilet; no evidence that you were there at all.

Above all, enjoy it, it’s fun!

It’s not actually legal to wild camp in England and Wales, but of course people do it. Just be far more discreet, and if you get pulled up for it by the police, well, you might get the chance of four walls, a free bed and board for the night!

Jane Batchelor is currently hiking 2,500 miles through Britain, camping as she goes, with the occasional stay in a hostel or locals’ houses. For more photos, follow her Facebook and Instagram pages. To find out more about her journey, click here.

9 comments

  • Illegal camping uk England and Wales is a civil offence anyway… the land owner would have to take you to court, im not sure they can actually lock you up there and then for it.

  • Great post! I agree – it’s more troublesome to be alone in crowded places than a long in the wild. It’s sad how some of us have become a nation of us and them, fear’s been inbred into us from a young age. I’ve yet to wild camp alone but I do a lot of walking on my own (with the dog) and it’s lovely. Getting ready for the WHW granted it’s with 2 other women but that feels quite a solo challenge also. Keep up the great work!

    • Thanks! Yes, I agree about the fear thing. It can be hard to take the first leap into solo wild camping, I did my first wild camps with others, too. The only downside to camping solo is you have to carry everything – no sharing of gear!

      Enjoy the WHW. Waterproof socks (I use Sealskinz) might be a good piece of kit to take – Scottish rain is something else!

  • Oh and I forgot to say yes the whole not putting it on social media is SO important until you’re back home! I’ve seen some bad things happen with this and in my younger days nearly had an unpleasant experience myself (that was in a coffee shop in a crowded place!).

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