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.
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Is campervan wild camping legal in the UK?
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.
We hope you found the video useful. If you did, we'd love it if you followed us on Youtube. New videos with tips for motorhoming and campervanning in the UK and Europe are released weekly.
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.
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.
Is motorhome wild camping legal in Europe?
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 used to be very tolerant but have struggled recently with selfish idiots leaving waste behind. Others, like Switzerland and Slovenia, have always been tough, especially in the National Parks. Read more about campervanning in Switzerland.
Motorhome wild camping guides for the UK & Europe
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.
Is it legal to sleep in a campervan on the road?
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:
- In a campsite
- In an approved overnight aire in France or Europe
- Off-grid/ free parking (learn how to find motorhome wild camping spots here)