Motorhome & Campervan parking laws – where can you stay overnight?

Confused about Motorhome & Campervan Parking laws in the UK and Europe? Wondering where you can park overnight and if you can park anywhere with a van? Or even if it's legal? Here's everything you need to know…

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Motorhome and Campervan Parking laws in the UK

Most people buy a motorhome or campervan because they want freedom. They want to be able to move around, explore, enjoy epic road trips and park up overnight in incredible places without always have to pay for campsites- or rely on them having space.

The problem is- how do you know where you can park? Some of the most common questions we get asked on a regular basis are:

  • Can you park anywhere with a campervan or motorhome?
  • Is it legal to sleep in a campervan on the road?
  • where can I park a motorhome or campervan overnight?

So, let's go through these and discuss the campervan parking laws for the UK and Europe.


Can you park anywhere with a motorhome?

One of the things which drives me CRAZY is the assumption some people have that you can just turn up with a motorhome or campervan and park anywhere. At any time. And do whatever you like.

Especially when campervanning in Scotland (we'll get to that shortly).

Some of these people are just rude, some don't care, but many have been mis-informed, and are confused. If that's you, it's ok. It's not your fault- there is a LOT of bad information about wild/ free motorhome parking going around.

That's what we're going to clear up today.

motorhome wild camping checklist

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Our aim with this post is to help reduce the bad information, and inform people so you can act accordingly. We LOVE motorhome wild camping in the UK and Europe. It's one of our favourite ways to explore.

But, I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start at the beginning. In order to explain everything properly, we've created a video. It's 14 minutes long, but it explains all the important things you need to know about the campervan & motorhome parking laws in the UK.

There is a particular emphasis in this video on Scotland, as that's the main place in the UK where people seem to get confused. For that reason, we've created a totally separate post just about how to motorhome wild camp in Scotland.

If you have time, I highly recommend you watch the video above. (Oh, and if you subscribe to our channel here, you can get more motorhome and campervan tips for the UK and Europe.)

Wild camping with a motorhome or campervan is NOT legal in any of the countries in the UK. However, it is… tolerated if you're considerate and use common sense. But it's not a legal right.


Can you park anywhere in the UK with a campervan or motorhome?

In short, no. You can't just park up wherever you like with a campervan or motorhome- even if it's a stealth van. (There's a reason people work so hard to hide the fact that they're staying in their campervan overnight.)

Scotland is the only country where wild camping is legal… but that doesn't apply to motorised vehicles (ie, motorhomes and camper vans.) THIS is where a lot of the confusion comes in.

For most UK motorhome holidays, if you want to wild camp you'll need to either stay to more remote areas, like the Peak District, Yorkshire and Northumberland. Although, if you are planning a Wales Road trip, the Brecon Beacons are awesome for finding overnight parking spots.

READ MORE: How to find motorhome parking and free overnight stopovers in the UK and Europe


Motorhome & Campervan Wild Parking laws in Scotland

As I mentioned before, we've created a post entirely about wild camping with a motorhome in Scotland, but here's a quick summary for you.

There are 3 different campervan parking laws we need to pay attention to in Scotland.

Scottish Outdoor Access Code

The Scottish Outdoor Access code says that wild camping a non-motorised recreation and does not extend to activities that are based on the use of a vehicle such as sleeping in cars, campers, vans or caravans. There is no legal right to park beside the road overnight but there may be no objection in some instances so extra care is needed.

Land Reform Act of 2003

The Land Reform Act of 2003 says where you park your vehicle is important.

You should not cause any damage or create an obstruction by blocking an entrance to a field or a building, making it difficult for anyone else to use a road or a track. You must be aware for the safety of others, you should not damage the verge and you must use a car park if there is one nearby.

Road Traffic Act of 1988

The Road Traffic Act of 1988 says it is an offence to drive a motor vehicle without lawful authority on land of any description which is not part of a road, a footpath or a bridleway.

Most roads and land (including beaches) are private property and you don't have the right to just park up whatever you like without permission from the landowner. The parking of camper vans or cars on roads and laybys is subject to the road traffic legislation and regulations. Off-road parking of a motor vehicle on verges or adjacent land without permission is unlawful.

It also states that you can drive a vehicle off-road away from a public road for the purposes of parking as long as you stay within 15 yards of a public road but you do still need the landowner's permission to park.

Campervan Parking laws- Campervan Overnight Parking in UK
Campervan Overnight Parking in UK

Most countries welcome motorhome touring in Europe and have a similar policy regarding staying overnight in your motorhome as the UK does. They prefer you to use campsites or aires (approved motorhome parking places across Europe), but wild camping is tolerated in most places if you are discreet and avoid the main tourist areas (like the French Riviera or the Italian Lakes), so plan your European road trip accordingly.

There are some countries, like Portugal, which are much more tolerant (or used to be!) and were incredible places to enjoy wild camping in a van. Others, like Switzerland and Slovenia, make it tough, especially in the National Parks. Read more about campervanning in Switzerland.

Motorhome wild camping guides for the UK & Europe

Motorhome wild parking guide

For information on how to find good wild camping places, WHAT to do when you're there and how to stay safe, check out our step-by-step guide for motorhome wild camping in the UK and Europe, complete with database of 250+ overnight spots we've stayed with our motorhome.

Don't forget to grab your free wild camping checklist here


Practical application of the campervan parking laws

None of the above sounds particularly encouraging for anyone wanting to stay off-grid with their motorhome or campervan. So how do people do it? Let's break it down into some practical advice.

The fact of the matter is that most land in the UK and Europe is owned by somebody. It's nearly all private land and we do not just have the right in a motorised vehicle to turn up and park.

In reality, wild camping is generally tolerated as an overnight stop only- exactly like truck drivers are tolerated to stop in a lay-by so that they can get some rest.

It is intended to be a sleeping place, not somewhere where you get out an awning and a load of chairs and make camp for a few days- and that is where I think some of the issues have arisen.

As the numbers of motorhome and campervan owners has risen, especially people living in a van fulltime, there has been increased pressure on the places which welcome off-grid parking. To the point that many of them are now over-run and over-saturated.

The infrastructure is just not there at the moment to deal with the sheer numbers of people who visit. Sadly, there are also a few disgusting individuals who seem to delight in leaving behind waste, litter and damaging their surroundings. I can understand why many places have started putting up ‘No overnight parking' signs and adding in height barriers.

RELATED: 5 essential items you NEED for wild camping (and 2 you don't!)


The answer to this one is more complicated and it seems to have been deliberately kept that way in order for the authorities to deal with huge groups of people travelling in caravans and campers who then park up in inappropriate places and cause trouble in the local community.

So you, in your camper or motorhome, are not the issue and, in most places, my opinion (and this is just my opinion) is that you will be absolutely fine in your campervan overnight on the road.

Some tips for you:

  • Don't stay in one place longer than one night, especially near residential or built-up areas
  • Try to avoid residential streets- people are more likely to worry and call the police. Try to find more remote places where you are away from people
  • Avoid car parks- you're more likely to draw attention and many of these have campervan parking laws which prohibit overnight stays.
  • Avoid putting anything outside your vehicle, like washing, chairs, awnings etc
  • Never leave waste, damage or litter behind
  • Don't light fires unless they're off the ground
  • Obey any ‘no overnight parking' signs

Of course, if you own a house and have the camper outside it, there's absolutely no reason why you can't stay overnight on the road in your camper.

And while we're on the subject, yes- it's perfectly legal to live fulltime in a motorhome or campervan in the UK and Europe.


Where can I park a motorhome or campervan overnight?

There are two reasons for this question. Firstly, if you've just bought a motorhome and want to know where to keep it long term, that will depend on what resources you have available. The most common solutions for long-term motorhome parking are:

  • your driveway (if it's big enough)- be aware of motorhome security
  • On the road outside/ near your house – you might want to fit additional motorhome door locks
  • In secure motorhome parking areas, such as a storage facility

Alternatively, are you asking where you can park a motorhome or campervan overnight while you're travelling? If so, the answer is:


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14 thoughts on “Motorhome & Campervan parking laws – where can you stay overnight?”

  1. I so agree with your opening rant. I have just been reading some reviews on parl-4-night and was appalled to read, “there is a no overnight parking sign but we had no problem”, and “parked is a passing place, but it is very quiet”. This sort of self, stupid approach is bound to antagonise local people.
    My rant over.

    Reply
    • After many years of touring all of Western Europe Eastern Europe and Turkey our motorhome We have found the following works.
      If you have heard of a place … do not go there. It will probably be too popular and locals will be fed up with visitors and campervans.
      Consider the residents. Would you like a campervan parked outside your house.
      Use paper maps not sat-navs and go off route. There are so many great places to find.
      Buy a discrete campervan or get it resprayed. There is no worse eyesore than a group of white shiny campervans parked in a wild place.
      Away from tourist areas I have always found people helpful curious and friendly. Try it.

      Reply
  2. Some interesting facts there. The issue of Wild Camping is becoming more polarised this year with many honeypot areas suffering from ad hoc inexperienced stay-cationers.

    You say that wild camping is illegal – actually it’s strictly not. It is a Common Law tort of trespass for which the remedy is damages to the land owner. It is not a Police matter. Certainly there is no “right” to camp but neither is it usually explicitly prohibited. Where it is prohibited it is usually under a bylaw. The enforcement of bylaws is specific and notice /signage etc needs to be in place to inform the public that a bylaw is applicable. Then there is the Road Traffic Act which “allows” parking within 13.75m of a public highway. “Parking” under this context is not limited to daytime. As you say, parking for rest is “tolerated” but I would argue more than that – that it was the intention of Parliament to allow rest under the act. Where the line is drawn between “rest” and “camping” is unclear.

    Whilst these may seem like “loopholes” they really are not. One of my peeves is Landowners expectation to exclusivity to land access just because they “own” the land. Ownership does not include mineral rights or treasure trove etc and neither should it include access to what, in many cases, were openly roamed for millennia before enclosing by elites.

    Reply
  3. I so agree with your initial two points ,
    1. “the assumption that you can JUST TURN UP with a motorhome or campervan (or tent for that matter), AND PARK anywhere, anytime and do as you want. No matter Where. ( A lot of people doing this in Ireland this year, – Staycationers / newbies, and giving Motorhomer’s a bad name/reputation).
    2. Some are so rude and dont care. Others mis-informed as to what is acceptable behaviour.

    I like your further breakdown of the ‘Scottish Laws’, But would go further by saying these SHOULD be the standards we adopt, NO MATTER WHERE we ‘Wild Camp’- Ireland , UK or Europe.

    Reply
  4. I am new to all this and currently planning a trip from Bristol to Faro in Portugal (when it gets safe to do so) What I am a bit surprised about is that anyone can think it’s ok to stay on other peoples land for free, I was looking at planning a route across France then Spain and Portugal with the different laws that we all need to follow, France has strange rules that you are not allowed to wild camp on the coast or in national parks, but that you can free camp in other places except that there are no laws and you could still face fines.

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  5. Kat, what you say it’s exactly right but I really do think we need to get away from using the term ‘wild camping’ when we are talking about motorised vehicles. Wild camping only applies in Scotland if you are in a tent! What we are talking about is ‘overnight parking’ Even terms like ‘free parking’ sounds like we are just free loaders, I don’t mind spending a small sum of money to park up in a stunning spot or have some facilities like water, waste disposal. We need to avoid using the word ‘camping’ because we are not – that’s what you do on a campsite. Overnight parking means you don’t put out chairs, awnings, barbecues etc. In Europe the rules are pretty well defined what you can/ can’t do, we need to spell it out more in the UK to minimise conflicts with the locals. Keep up the great work!

    Reply
    • In many ways I totally agree Ian. I’ve started calling it off-grid parking, but it’s not caught on yet! 🙂 And it’s rarely about staying anywhere for ‘free’- especially for motorhome owners. It’s about having the flexibility and wanting to enjoy some of the incredible places the UK has to offer without needing to book 3 months in advance into a noisy campsite. I think most of us are more than happy to pay for facilities- there just needs to be more of them in the UK.

      Reply
  6. most landlords will let you sleep in pub car parks for 1 night just buy an evening meal in the pub and slip the landlord a few quid dont do anything silly like put an awning up or tables and chairs outside just stay in the van and leave in the morning and do not leave any litter

    Reply
  7. All the UK needs to do is follow the French (& others) example of having a network of Aires. Free or small fee, regs to stop abuse. Shop locally, aire may have loo or disposal point. It’s not rocket science but why doesn’t the UK get it?
    Sympathise with those who pay £50,000 for a self contained van and don’t want to pay£40 to park in a field. Very happy to support the local economy in legitimate ways, shops, bars, touristy things.
    Re Portugal: still good for overnight parking, it’s encouraged at some surprising places e.g. reservoirs. Spain stricter but still places which allow free overnighting. Stay clear of anywhere raising bulls, they are a bit old fashioned.

    Let’s all hope for a rapid return to normality, happy canning!

    Lindsay Tyler

    Reply
  8. I think from conversations i have had with my local council is that the large obvious motorhomes do take up lots of space and in busy beach carparks can cause issues for that reason..the council have a problem though…DVLA classify van conversions and motorhomes as motorcaravans on V5…there is no campervan classification. On our local beach they have a sign charging motorhomes a flat £15 for any stay…i asked what they thought a motorhome was and i was told..anything that you can sleep and cook in…the DVLA wont register small vans and most conversions as motorcaravans so they are not in my mind. On the overnight stop point…if you take only photos and leave only footprints i think it should be allowed…i have seen so much more mess from small cars with big speakers having visited macdonalds.

    Reply
    • Paul you are spot on with your comments , all I can add is that in the uk the powers that be are so blinkered and don’t realise the opportunity they are missing with car parks that are mostly empty overnight if they put in empty point and water and have a reasonable charge £5 -£10 depend where it is .

      Reply

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