Scotland has a long and proud tradition of wild camping. It is one of the great pleasures of exploring the countryside, discovering your very own perfect pitch amid the mountains and glens, or on the coast. Wild camping opens up a world of possibilities, allowing self-contained backpackers and mountain-bikers to venture further off the beaten track, push deeper into the remote areas of our isles and set up home wherever the fancy takes. All you need is a bit of flat land, fresh running water, some fallen timber for a roaring open fire and the best views Mother Nature can muster. Here are some of my favourite wild camp sites…
New from Amenta Publishing – Wild Camping in Scotland by James Carron. This Kindle ebook offers expert advice and tips on all aspects of wild camping, from selecting a suitable tent to finding a great pitch. It also includes 30 ‘perfect pitches’, great wild camping locations in the Scottish Highlands and Islands. Read more…
1. Altanour Lodge, Glen Ey, near Braemar
In its day, the shooting lodge at the top of Glen Ey must have been a great place to stay. The building, now a ruin, occupies a prized location, nestling amid high peaks and surrounded by larch trees. For those seeking to get away from it all, it’s hard to imagine a more desirable location. There is plenty of flat space amongst the trees to pitch up a tent, the youthful Ey Burn offers an inexhaustible supply of water and there’s plenty of fallen timber for a camp fire. The immediate neighbourhood boasts a clutch of Munros, including An Socach, Carn Bhac, Beinn Iutharn Mhor, Beinn Iutharn Bheag and Carn an Righ.
Map: OS Landranger 1:50,000 sheet 43.
Grid ref: NO 083824.
How to get there: Bike or walk the five miles in along a good track from Inverey, near Braemar. En route you pass the Colonel’s Bed, a deep rocky gorge with impressive waterfalls.
2. Tanera Beg, Summer Isles
You are unlikely to encounter another soul here on the second largest of the Summer Isles. Unlike its larger neighbour Tanera More, the island is completely uninhabited. The bay at Mol Bheag offers a safe landing point for kayaks and above the shoreline there are plenty of potential pitches amid the heather. Wander up to the island’s highest points (just 83 metres above sea level) and savour views across neighbouring Eilean Fada Mor and Tanera More to the mainland and the characteristic cut-off cone of Stac Pollaidh. On the paddle home, stop off at Tanera More where there’s a tearoom serving home baking.
Map: OS Landranger 1:50,000 sheet 15.
Grid ref: NB 965077.
How of get there: Access by sea kayak, either from the pier at Badentarbat Bay, near Auchiltibuie, or the natural harbour at Old Dornie, a few miles north.
3. Coruisk, Isle of Skye
Enveloped by the brooding shadow of the Black Cuillin ridge, this perfect pitch occupies a small chunk of very remote land separating Loch Coruisk from Loch Scavaig on the southern coast of Skye. The ground is flat and grassy and nestles amid some of Scotland’s most dramatic upland scenery. The calm waters of adjacent Loch na Cuilce are frequently used as a safe anchorage by yachts and it is here you’ll also find the landing stage for boat trips from Elgol, so there’s no guarantee you’ll have this spot all to yourself.
Map: OS Landranger 1:50,000 sheet 32.
Grid ref: NG 487197.
How to get there: Walk in from Sligachan via Glen Sligachan and Loch Coruisk.
4. Ruigh-aiteachain, Glen Feshie
Glen Feshie is a traditional Scottish glen, flanked by craggy mountains, dotted with Scots Pine trees and home to wandering herds of red deer. It was here that Edward Landseer created his famous Monarch of the Glen painting of a proud stag. One of the best places to camp is by Ruigh-aiteachain bothy. There are plenty of flat grassy pitches amongst the pine trees and the bothy is always open, should you need to retreat from the elements to the comfort of a roaring log fire. The bothy provides a good starting point for the Munros of Sgor Gaoith and Mullach Clach a’Bhlair and, across the glen, Carn Dearg Mor, a Corbett.
Map: OS Landranger 1:50,000 sheet 43.
Grid ref: NN 847928.
How to get there: Walk or cycle in from the road end at Auchlean, a short drive south from Kincraig via Feshiebridge.
5. Glen Almond, Perthshire
A popular right of way runs through Glen Almond, linking the Sma’ Glen with Loch Tay. Camping lower down Glen Almond is no real fun; there are farms and rather too many sheep. However, at the top of the glen, where the valley’s main track ends and a path begins, the landscape is altogether wilder and more remote. There’s plenty of flat land just off the path west of the weir below Dundornie and it is here that you’ll find your perfect pitch for the night. Lively hill streams provide running water and, if you’re feeling fit, Ben Chonzie, a Munro, is within easy reach.
Map: OS Landranger 1:50,000 sheet 52.
Grid ref: NN 755334.
How to get there: There are two ways in – either walk in from Ardtalnaig on Loch Tay via Gleann a’Chilleine, or walk or cycle in from Newton Bridge in the Sma’ Glen.
6. Sandwood Bay, Sutherland
One of the most beautiful and wild spots in the British Isles, Sandwood Bay boasts a fine sweep of golden sand a mile long and an impressive sea stack, Am Bhuachaille. The walk in passes a string of small lochs and the ruins of a cottage said to be haunted by the ghost of an old mariner. The area is owned by conservation charity the John Muir Trust so there is no danger of commercial development spoiling this unique spot. Pitch up on the grassy dunes above the beach and explore the coastal cliffs and Sandwood Loch before enjoying the sunset over the vast openness of the Atlantic Ocean.
Map: OS Landranger 1:50,000 sheet 9.
Grid ref: NC 220653.
How to get there: Walk in from Blairmore, north of the fishing port of Kinlochbervie.
7. Rubha Barr nan Gobag, Isle of Jura
North of Whitefarland Bay, the west coast of Jura is uninhabited and the many raised beaches are ideal for wild camping. Our perfect pitch is just south of Rubha Barr nan Gobag, but there are scores of other spots to choose from. Sheltered by rocky outcrops and serviced by a bubbling burn, the flat grass above the shingle is ideal for tents. Forays along the beach provide driftwood for a camp fire. The site is an ideal base for an ascent of the Paps of Jura, three rocky, scree-strewn peaks offering an exhilarating mountain challenge.
Map: OS Landranger 1:50,000 sheet 61.
Grid ref: NR 441735.
How to get there: Walk north from the ferry pier at Feolin, following the estate track to Loch a’Chnuic Bhric, or kayak across the South of Islay from Bunnahabhian, on neighbouring Islay.
8. Steall Meadows, Upper Glen Nevis, Lochaber
Flat grassy plains flank the Water of Nevis ahead of the river’s dramatic plunge into lower Glen Nevis. These are perfect for wild camping in the sheltered glen separating Scotland’s tallest mountain, Ben Nevis, from the Mamores, a ridge of high scree-covered peaks. There’s plenty to explore here, including a perilous wire bridge across the river. It’s a real test of balance and nerve and those who don’t master it face a cooling dip in the water below. Above there is a spectacular waterfall which is well worth exploring.
Map: OS Landranger 1:50,000 sheet 41.
Grid ref: NN 180685.
How to get there: From the public car park at the end of the Glen Nevis road, a path leads up through a rocky gorge to Steall.
Wild Camping in Scotland – Kindle guide with expert advice and tips on all aspects of wild camping, from selecting a suitable tent to finding a great pitch. It also includes 30 ‘perfect pitches’, great wild camping locations in the Scottish Highlands and Islands.
For advice on wild camping in Scotland, read the Mountaineering Council of Scotland’s guide to good practice (opens as a pdf).