Looking for motorhome parking? Want to find free overnight stopovers or camping spots for motorhomes or campervans in the UK? Or looking to stay somewhere that isn't a campsite? Whether you want free spots, wild parking or businesses which let you stay overnight, here's how to find motorhome parking near you.
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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Motorhome Parking- what you need to know first
Whether you're completely new to motorhomes, or you've had a van for a while, a question frequently asked is how to find overnight motorhome parking.
Of course, this could mean a variety of places, so before we go any further, it's important to understand exactly what you're looking for when you use the term ‘motorhome parking'.
Do you want:
- Long-term motorhome parking in a storage yard?
- Free overnight motorhome parking (often known as wild parking or motorhome wild camping)
- Other approved overnight motorhome parking spots, like campsites, Brit Stops (we'll get to that shortly) or aires?
- Daytime motorhome parking?
Of course, what you want is going to greatly affect what you do next and how you find motorhome parking places to meet your needs.
What is the difference between motorhome parking and motorhome camping?
In my humble opinion, there is a difference between the terms ‘motorhome parking' and ‘motorhome camping' (although I am guilty of using them interchangeably!)
‘Camping' implies an intention to stay somewhere, usually for at least a couple of days, and often involves getting equipment out of your motorhome or campervan, such as awnings, chairs, BBQs etc.
‘Parking' is a short-term stop, designed as a rest before you continue your journey. Parking is usually for less than 24 hours and should be viewed much the same way as truckers use parking places for their rest stops.
So, where can you legally park a motorhome or campervan overnight in the UK?
Ok, so campsites aside, where can you legally park overnight with a motorhome or campervan, especially in the UK? Can you just park up wherever you like?
Errrr. No. Sorry.
Most places in the UK are privately owned and, to park up overnight you legally need the permission of the landowner. If you want to stay 100% legal and ensure you are not breaking any laws or local bye-laws, you will need to find a campsite or approved location where the owners of the land are happy for you to stay in your van overnight.
Staying at a place without this permission is wild parking/ wild camping (Despite my earlier explantation, the two are often exactly the same thing- many people refer to wild parking as wild camping.)
We love staying off-grid/ wild camping in our motorhome. It's our favourite way to spend an evening. However, wild parking is getting harder and harder in the UK. There are several places that were brilliant overnight parking spots but have sadly now been closed to all motorhomers and campervanners because of the irresponsible actions of a small number of van users.
It is essential that anyone considering it is aware of the risks (especially the fact that they do NOT have a right to park and may get moved on) and they must be aware and have a responsible attitude to the local environment and other users of the location.
Please, pretty please, if you ‘wild camp' with your motorhome or van, take nothing but photos and leave nothing but tyre tracks behind.
Again, if you're not happy or want to stay in a legal location overnight, choose a campsite or an approved overnight parking place.
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.
Where to find motorhome camping or approved overnight places
Most places in the UK and Europe have allocated places for overnight ‘camping' – commonly known as campsites (I know, I know, I'm hilarious 🤦♀️) although there are other types. If you want to stay in one area for a few days in the UK, a campsite is probably your best solution.
In Europe, there is a system of approved overnight motorhome and campervan parking places called aires, many of which allow vans to stay in one location for 2 or sometimes 3 days before moving on. However, it is often not allowed to get out awnings, chairs or BBQs- if you want to do that you'll need to book into a campsite.
How to find motorhome parking near you
When you're looking for motorhome parking, half the battle is finding somewhere to stay near where you want to be.
There are a couple of options we use to find campsites or approved overnight parking places near us (or near where we want to go).
- Use the book or app which came as part of your motorhome club membership (see which UK motorhome clubs we recommend)
- Look on websites like Pitchup.com or campsites.co.uk to find campsites in your area
- Use the ACSI books or app to find places if you're a member
- Join a club like Brit Stops to get hundreds of approved UK motorhome parking places
- Use forums, Facebook groups or websites like this to get recommendations from other people. Here's a great list of UK stopovers on the UK Motorhomes forum
If you're travelling out of high season around both the UK & Europe and are planning to use campsites, we highly recommend buying an ACSI CampingCard membership. Be aware that some campsites either shut during the winter or are booked up entirely months in advance, so you may wish to book one too.
At some campsites, you will need to pay extra for shower or electric usage. Be warned- the hot water in the shower is on a timer- usually between 3-5 minutes per token.
Free overnight motorhome parking UK
It's important to remember that not every motorhome parking spot is free. Many have a small charge, but it will almost always be cheaper than a campsite.
Again, there are different types of free overnight parking places. These are:
- Wild parking/ motorhome wild camping spots- no charge unless you use a paid app to find them
- Approved overnight spot, which are sometimes free and sometimes paid, like the Stay the Night scheme in Scotland (see below)
- Brit Stops or equivalent in Europe- often free to park a motorhome or campervan in a car park overnight, but only if you've bought a meal or drink in the pub
- Free parking on a residential street or supermarket if allowed (see below)
So how do you find free overnight motorhome and campervan parking spots in the UK?
We find these places using one or several of the following methods:
- Motorhome parking apps (see below)
- Word of Mouth/ recommendations from people who have been
- Facebook groups like our Wandering Bird Facebook group (you're very welcome to join)
- Using maps like Google maps to search out likely spots
Motorhome parking apps
So, HOW do we find these free overnight motorhome stopovers? There are three apps we use. They're all great but work in slightly different ways.
This is the app/ website we use the most when motorhoming in both the UK & Europe. It's free to use and download, but there are starting to be more and more places which you need to pay to see details of.
This is how we use it:
- Drive to somewhere we want to explore.
- As we get closer, open up the app on my iPad or laptop (read more about getting internet in a motorhome)
- Put in the area you are heading for into Park4night and filter your options to find motorhome parking near you
- Look at photos and comments to remove any with bad reviews, or which have spaces too small for your motorhome to fit into.
- Check to make sure the place is open! A lot of places close between Oct- Apr.
- Then choose the one you like the sound of best. I tend to go on gut feel. I might have two or three options at this point but if I'm honest I'll know which one of those three I like the idea of most, and that's the one we head for first. If we get there and it's full/ closed/ turned into a building site (has happened twice to us!!) then we have other options we can fall back on and we can head to those next.
We use Park4night as it tends to have the most options for places to stay in the UK & Europe. However, there are some other good choices too.
Camper contact (https://www.campercontact.com/en)
This site works in a very similar way to Park4night, however, the BIG thing it offers which we love is you can remove all parking spaces which aren't suitable for longer motorhomes. We love this feature when we are towing a trailer behind our motorhome and want to make absolutely sure it's suitable for a longer vehicle.
Camper contact is free on the website but the app requires payment.
Search for sites is a motorhome parking app based in the UK. It's a really useful site and occasionally there are different places on here than on the other two. Pretty much all the reviews on here seem to be in English, which can help when you want to read what people thought!
Between the three of these motorhome parking apps, we've travelled around the UK & Europe without any problems, using them to find campsites, aires and other overnight motorhome parking spots.
If you find out of date information, please take the time to update the app so other motorhomers don't do the same thing. They are all great resources and, without them, motorhome road trips in Europe wouldn't be nearly so easy.
Tips for off-grid parking with a motorhome
Wild parking is tolerated in many places with a motorhome or campervan, providing you follow these rules:
- Stay well away from areas where wild camping is prohibited
- Stay away from private land and buildings, unless you have the owners permission (eg- almost all land in France is privately owned)
- Arrive late in the day (late afternoon at earliest) and leave by mid-morning.
- In most places, do NOT light a fire or BBQ. At all.
- Don't put out tables/ chairs/ awnings. This is not a campsite (NOTE- we have used our outdoor chairs and BBQ a few times when we've been wild camping in the middle of nowhere. Use your judgement.)
- Don't make loud noise/ play loud music
- Clear up ALL litter and waste
- Watch children and pets and don't let them wander away- wild camping doesn't mean there is no-one else around
- Be sensible about safety. Lock doors and windows before going to sleep (there's a whole section on security later in this guide)
If wild camping is something you'd like to try but feel a bit intimidated by, there's a step-by-step guide we've created for you, including how (and WHY) we choose to stay at some places and not others. It covers the UK & Europe and includes lots of tips for staying safe overnight.
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
Motorhome parking in residential areas
Many campervan owners wonder if they can sleep in their car when it's parked on a residential street. This is often known as ‘stealth camping' and many people try to do it without people realising that they're in there overnight.
Often, councils have rules in place about ‘human habitation' so, although it might be legal to PARK your motorhome up overnight, it might not actually be legal to STAY in it overnight. Activities such as sleeping, cooking and cleaning are often banned.
However, if there is no obvious signage banning overnight parking, or staying in your vehicle overnight then it becomes a bit of a grey area. Technically, you need the permission of the land owner to ‘camp' overnight. But you are allowed to park for rest purposes (as many trucks do).
In reality, if you are discrete, not blocking anyone's driveway, parking in front of someone's house or view of the sea/ landscape and not making noise/ leaving waste, you'll probably be absolutely fine staying overnight on a street for one night. But you will need to move on in the morning so that you don't overstay your welcome.
Don't forget many residential streets in the UK require a parking permit- you will need one of these for your vehicle if the area requires it. And, of course, if there is a parking fee to pay you'll need to pay it.
Can you stay overnight in a car park or supermarket with a motorhome or camper?
Staying overnight in car parks can be equally confusing. Most local authority operated car parks have rules which apply to the use of the car park, which often include clauses prohibiting sleeping, camping and cooking. There are also often height barriers in place or restrictions specifying the classes of vehicle which are permitted to use the car park.
Some people vocally argue in forums and Facebook groups that restrictions that aren't posted in the car park itself cannot be enforced- we recommend reading the signs carefully, and then make a personal decision whether you want to take the risk or not. Personally, we never stay anywhere if the signs prohibit it.
Motorhome parking Scotland
Ah, Scotland. One of my absolutely favourite places to visit with a motorhome. We love the scenery, the culture, the food and the people (most of them are lovely, despite how unwelcoming the news have made them out to be towards motorhomers.)
Usually, I am the first person to promote and encourage responsible motorhome wild camping. We enjoy it immensely and have done it across most of Europe with any issue.
Scotland has long been a destination for campervanners and motorhomers looking to stay off-grid, despite the fact that wild camping in Scotland is not a ‘right' (a bit like if you go campervanning in Norway)
However, the country has been overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of vans in recent years after they created routes like the North Coast 500 and the South Coast 300 and they are becoming victims of their own success and how fast word of mouth has spread (much like wild camping with a motorhome in Portugal).
The problem with many of the campervans who visit Scotland is that they don't have their own facilities onboard- and people have been leaving waste (of the humankind and other kinds) all over the place.
TOP TIP: If you need to find a toilet as you travel, lockdown loo is a great resource.
On top of that, many wild camping spots don't have any facilities, so people have been leaving piles of rubbish and even emptying their chemical toilets into bushes or over the countryside. Times this by thousands upon thousands of vanlifers and it's no wonder the Scottish government are trying to protect their country.
Despite what you might have read elsewhere, wild camping with a motorised vehicle is NOT legal in Scotland- and the locals are getting more and more upset with the damage and mess left behind.
The Scottish authorities have been trying hard to promote using campsites and approved places only (here are some of the best motorhome campsites along the NC500 route) but already in 2021 it's apparently crazy busy up there and there have been problems with the locals.
So, at the moment, until better facilities are in place, we don't recommend wild camping in Scotland with a motorhome or campervan– use one of the campsites, CS or CL locations and avoid any unpleasantness.
Another great option which was trialled in 2020 and has been brought back for 2021 is the Stay the Night in the Forest scheme.
This fantastic scheme allows motorhomes and campervans that are self-contained and have their own toilet facilities to stay overnight at pre-approved car parks between 26 April – 31 October 2021. This does not include overnight tent camping or car parking. Note every place is free, but it's a heck of a lot cheaper than a campsite. Find out everything you need to know about the scheme here.
If you use a place, please treat it with respect. We really don't want to lose this scheme in the future and that is sadly what might happen if the damage and destruction doesn't stop.
Where can you take your motorhome in the UK?
If you're touring the UK, there are literally thousands of places you can visit with your motorhome. A lot of it will depend on the sort of motorhome holiday you want to have- would you like a campsite near a beach or with facilities for the kids? Do you want an adult-only site with stunning views and a relaxed atmosphere? Are you visiting a specific location and need to be nearby?
Here are some posts to help you have an unforgettable UK break:
- How to plan a UK road trip (without feeling overwhelmed!)
- 17 best UK motorhoming destinations
- The best UK road trips and scenic drives
- Campervanning in Scotland- your complete guide