The top 6 locations for wilderness camping in England and Wales

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wilderness camping locations

This piece is brought to you by National Geographic Traveller (UK).

Following the recent loss of the legal right to wild camp in Dartmoor National Park, camping under the stars in England and Wales now requires landowner permission. However, for those seeking a wild sleep experience, there are numerous hidden campgrounds and glamping locations offering remote sites and the opportunity for a unique off-grid adventure.

  1. Challacombe Meadows, Devon

Ideal for: seclusion

At Wild With Consent, a booking platform where permission to camp in isolated spots has already been acquired from landowners, you can reserve an entirely private site if you have a self-sustained campervan. Among various remarkable locations, like a Northumbrian site with views of Holy Island or a coastal space near a Pembrokeshire beach, Challacombe Meadows stands out. It’s situated near an array of hiking trails around Widecombe in the Moor in Dartmoor National Park, offering a choice of pitch amidst the wildflowers. Basic amenities like toilets and running water are a short stroll away, with a cosy pub and farm shop also close by for a touch of civilization. Tent pitches start at £45.

2. Bush Farm, Cornwall

Ideal for: choice of location

Bush Farm is a semi-wild 200-acre area a few miles northwest of Plymouth, where campers are given the freedom to set up their tent wherever they prefer – be it the meadow, hilltop, riverbank, or deep within the woods. Visitors can spend their days swimming in the wild, meandering through rural landscapes or exploring the southern Cornish coast, with evenings dedicated to stargazing beneath the deep black sky. Individual pitches start at £12.

3. Fire & Stars Woodland Camping, Leicestershire

Ideal for: a stripped-down experience

Situated halfway between Birmingham and Nottingham, Fire & Stars is a serene woodland campsite spreading across 47 acres of unspoilt forest, housing just 21 tranquil pitches. True to its name, this campsite is best experienced by the warm light of a campfire under a sky filled with stars. This is a real back-to-basics location, offering toilet facilities, but you must bring your own drinking water and any other necessities. A portion of the campsite’s earnings goes towards maintaining the woodland. Pitches start at £50 for up to six individuals.

4. The Wildman Woods, Carmarthenshire

Ideal for: riverside living

This lesser-known location allows you to set up your tent right on the banks of River Sawdde at the foothills of Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons) National Park. Wildman Woods offers a rustic setting, with pitches nestled amidst the trees near the soothing sounds of flowing water. It’s an excellent spot for daytime paddling. The Beacons Way footpath passes by the site on its way to Fan Brycheiniog’s summit, making hiking boots a necessity. Individual pitches start at £10.

5. Penrhos Isaf Bothy, Gwyned

Ideal for: travelling light

While bothies, basic huts that serve as mountain refuges and are open to everyone for free, are usually associated with the Scottish Highlands, there are many scattered across northern England and Wales. They offer a viable alternative to wild camping, especially during unpredictable weather, and provided you’re open to sharing with other travellers who may arrive at any point. Penrhos Isaf stands among the best, located at the base of Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) in Eryri National Park (Snowdonia National Park), offering a charming stone farmhouse tucked away in the forest, equipped with a wood-burning stove. Bothy is free of charge.

6. Ashurst Campsite, Hampshire

Ideal for: walks through the forest

Camping New Forest offers a variety of woodland campsites on Forestry England land. While these sites are generally equipped with full camping facilities and accommodate campervans and caravans, they also provide a number of tent-only pitches in semi-secluded forest glades for a tranquil campfire experience. Ashurst Campsite, nestled deep within the New Forest, offers a peaceful ancient oak grove where local wild ponies can often be seen grazing. Pitches start at £21.90 for two.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about wilderness camping locations

What are some of the best places for wilderness camping in England and Wales?

Some top spots include Challacombe Meadows in Devon, Bush Farm in Cornwall, Fire & Stars Woodland Camping in Leicestershire, The Wildman Woods in Carmarthenshire, Penrhos Isaf Bothy in Gwyned, and Ashurst Campsite in Hampshire.

What facilities are available at these wilderness campsites?

Facilities can vary. Some sites provide basic amenities like toilets and running water, while others require you to bring your own essentials. Some are more rugged and provide a back-to-basics experience. However, most sites are nearby hiking trails, rivers, or other natural attractions.

What activities can I engage in at these camping sites?

Activities can include hiking, wild swimming, stargazing, exploring local landscapes, paddling, and enjoying the tranquility of nature.

How much do these wilderness campsites cost?

The prices for these campsites can range from free (like Penrhos Isaf Bothy) to £50 for up to six people (like at Fire & Stars Woodland Camping).

Are these campsites suitable for campervans?

Some of these campsites, like Challacombe Meadows and Ashurst Campsite, accommodate campervans. However, you should check the specific details of each site for their rules and restrictions.

What is wild camping and is it legal in England and Wales?

Wild camping refers to setting up a tent and sleeping in areas that are not designated campgrounds. In most parts of England and Wales, wild camping without the landowner’s permission is technically illegal. However, there are exceptions, and in many cases, landowners may not mind if you camp responsibly.

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StargazerLily July 29, 2023 - 12:57 am

Wild sleeping, so exciting! Gotta try it. do I need any special gear?

JennyAdventure July 29, 2023 - 2:36 am

love this article, got me dreaming of my next camping trip, if only I could decide where to go first.

HikerJoe21 July 29, 2023 - 5:40 am

anyone been to penrhos isaf? sounds intriguing. can’t beat a free bothy stay!

camping_king July 29, 2023 - 9:37 am

Ashurst Campsite sounds cool! love the idea of wild ponies roaming around. sign me up!

BeckyWild July 29, 2023 - 5:58 pm

Fire & Stars sounds like my kind of place. nothing beats a good ol’ campfire under the stars, does it?


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