Do you enjoy spending time off-grid with your motorhome or campervan? Have you heard about the ‘Motorhome Wild Camping bill' and the changes to the law which will happen if it's passed? Here's everything you need to know about the rules for wild camping in a van in the UK.
Don't forget to grab your free motorhome wild camping checklist here to help you set up your van to stay overnight without electricity or facilities.
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If you’ve followed our adventures around the UK and Europe for a while, you’ll know we love wild camping with our motorhome.
We love being able to enjoy beautiful spots without them being ruined by noisy campsites and without the craziness of having to book a campsite up 3 months in advance. Heck, I don’t even know what I’m making for dinner tonight- don’t ask me where we’re going to be in 3 months!
I don’t care whether you call it motorhome wild camping, wild park ups, off-grid parking or any other variation, what we’re talking about is staying overnight somewhere in the UK without a formal booking or paying any money.
UK Motorhome Wild Camping- the uncomfortable truth
Our very first time wild camping with our motorhome was in Scotland several years ago, and we were terrified. We did everything wrong and stayed in some ridiculous places but, despite all that, we fell in love with the freedom. Since then we've wild camped all over Europe and the UK, including some incredible places in Wales.
However, the uncomfortable truth is that wild camping with your motorhome in the UK is not a legal right (like it is if you go motorhoming in Norway or some other countries.) In the UK, all the land is owned by someone, and you need the landowner's permission to stay, even for a quick overnight stop.
Yes, even in Scotland (where wild camping with a tent has some rights), which is where some people get confused. You can read more about the laws for wild camping in Scotland here.
However, at the moment the crime of trespassing is only a civil crime and there's not a whole lot that the Police can do except ask you to move on (which you absolutely SHOULD).
Free overnight motorhome parking- the current UK law
That’s the law as it stands right now. Most of us know that National Parks don’t tolerate wild camping, and most seaside locations don’t allow it either. And no, this doesn’t include field campsites, or places like Brit Stops or car parks where you can pay overnight to stay- those are allowed as the landowner has given permission for it (if you want to know how to set your van up for off-grid parking, here's what you need- and what you don't!)
We have always tried to pick places as far away from civilisation or the seaside as possible. Also, when we’ve visited popular locations like Cornwall or the NC500 with our motorhome, we’ve booked into a campsite.
Sure, we wild camped next to Stonehenge for the night- but the security came and had a coffee with us- they didn’t care. And that’s the key. If no-one cares, and you leave no trace, there shouldn’t be a problem.
But it isn’t a RIGHT. You could be asked to move on at any time.
Also, the police can ALREADY seize a vehicle if the owners refuse to move after being asked to. Seizure powers are already conferred on police in relation to failure to comply with a police direction to leave land under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. All they are doing is giving them this power now that the bill is making it a criminal offence.
Which brings us to this bill and the reasons behind it.
I made a video about the PCSC Bill and how it might affect motorhome wild camping in the UK. You can watch it here: (If you don't want to watch now, you can get the info in written form below)
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There is a new bill currently going through Parliament called the Police, Crime, Sentencing and courts bill. Now, this bill is 300 pages long and I am not a lawyer, but one of the things it focuses on is moving the crime of trespass from civil to criminal.
And to do this effectively, they want to introduce tougher punishments if the law is broken and increase the powers for the Police and other agencies to move people on if they are causing problems for the landowners.
Many landowners don’t care if you stay overnight somewhere discreet, pick up after yourself and don’t empty all your waste into the hedgerows. However, we’ve all read the disgusting headlines over the past 18 months where a small minority is causing damage and vandalism with no thought for the landowner or the environment- and frankly, I can’t blame the landowners for being upset and wanting more rights to protect their property.
There have been several Petitions, calling the Government to withdraw or amend the bill. One of the biggest now has over 50,000 signatures and therefore demanded a response from the Government, which was received on 26th July 2021.
In it, the Government clearly states that: “Those residing on land in a vehicle who do not cause significant harm will not be caught by the new offence.”
Just like now, you will just be asked to move on. And if you comply, there's no problem or charge to be bought against you. Exactly like it is today- that's one of the risks of wild camping with your van instead of paying for a campsite.
There are bits about the petition which drive me mad. For example, it talks about people “grouping together for security and companionship”. In my opinion, you should NOT be wild camping in a group. That’s just asking for trouble. If you turn up at a spot and there are other vans there, we generally try and move on and book a cheap campsite or a field so we can camp together without causing issues.
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
So, how might this rule affect motorhome wild camping in the UK?
Firstly, I don't believe the police or any other agency have any interest in going around and rounding up motorhomes and campervanners. But if they are called out by a landowner who is upset that people are parked up on their land, they need to have the power to ask them to move on.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I think the UK is woeful in its provision for motorhomes and campervanners who don’t want to use campsites. Having toured so much with a motorhome in Europe, it’s so frustrating just how rubbish the facilities in the UK are- from everything from getting water and safely emptying waste, to being able to park up near a town.
More and more carparks have height barriers on- WHY? What is the big deal with letting a motorhome stay overnight and paying for the space they use? It drives me nuts.
Having said that, there are more places wising up to providing overnight parking. Leisure centres, local rugby and football clubs and many council run buildings allow overnight parking if you ask in advance (and usually pay a small fee). But finding them is a pain in the butt.
So, if you enjoy spending time off-grid with your van, and you're worried about the new laws, use one of these new places- support them, respect them and show them it's a great use of their space.
But, in all honesty, if you are respectful, stay in discreet, out of the way places and don't cause noise or damage (and move on if asked), I don't believe this bill will change how we wild camp in the UK with our vans.
Want more UK motorhoming tips?
- How to plan the perfect UK road trip
- 17 incredible UK motorhoming holidays
- 5 breathtaking scenic drives in Scotland
- 15 incredible places to visit in Wales
- How to plan an NC500 trip with a van
- The Ultimate Cornwall road trip itinerary