Camping guide: Scotland
Between us here at DD we’ve covered a lot of ground on our hammock camping trips - from the jungles of Africa to the coastlines of Australia! Though one spot is particularly close to our hearts (as well as being considerably more accessible for us), and that’s our home base here in Scotland, UK.
So why Scotland? I always feel there’s a common sentiment among those who visit that it quickly becomes a ‘home from home’, and I can see why - there really is something for everyone. Whether you envision yourself in deep pine forests, by tranquil loch-sides, at mountainous heights or even on sandy beaches - you can find it all here.
Explore for free...
The Freedom of Scotland Act means that wild camping in Scotland is legal and free - so in theory you can walk into whichever spot you fancy and set up for the night (though we’d advise not being tempted to hunker down in someone’s back garden).
This has always been great news for us, because it means limitless exploration. So, if you’ve ever wondered what it’d be like to wake up on the banks of Loch Ness or to a view of the UK’s highest peaks, you can just go and do it - without having to find and book a campsite. Better still, hammock campers won’t even have to try and find flat ground... imagine the possibilities! (To find out more of the advantages hammock camping offers, click here).
Here are a few of my favourite things about camping in Scotland:
You can often safely drink straight from a stream - look for that cold, clear, fast-flowing water that runs down from mountains and over rocks. This is where you get the bottled stuff from!
No need to bring kindling for your fire! The forest floors are awash with old heather, fallen twigs, pine cones…
- Hiking trails here are some of the most breathtaking and challenging in the country. Backpackers can expect an adventure.
- It’s small! Why’s that good? Quite simply, if you wanted to spend one night in the Great Glen and the next on the Isle of Jura, you can. Like everything here, it’s only a few hours’ drive away.
- Fishing: as long as you obtain a permit from the land-owner, there’s seriously good fishing to be done in Scotland’s rivers between January and November. Trout for dinner, salmon for breakfast! Read more about fishing in Scotland here.
Respect, conserve, enjoy
While all this has probably made you want to pack up your gear and head straight for the Highlands, there are a few things we’d always recommend considering before taking advantage of Scotland’s natural accommodation.
Loads of Scotland’s wild places are part of its two main National Parks - Loch Lomond and the Trossachs to the west, and the vast Cairngorms in the East Highlands. These protected places are home to 25% of the UK’s threatened species of wildlife and flora - which means rare and exciting opportunities to see them, but it’s also important to be considerate to them when you’re out camping.
Large areas of land are also - without perhaps you realising it - part of an estate. These are well maintained by the landowner and cherished by the community, so be extra careful when starting fires or setting up camp.
Luckily, hammock camping is a great way to ensure as little disturbance to wildlife as possible, since you don’t need to flatten any surfaces (or even pierce the ground with pegs if you don’t want to). There are further ways to minimise damage on your camp:
- Be cautious when starting camp fires. Never start one around bushes/amongst heather, or if the conditions are hot and dry - you could have a wildfire on your hands in minutes. Camp near a water source if possible, and try and check if the local estate allows it - the easiest way is to look out for “NO FIRES” signposts!
- Use tree huggers with your suspension kit: these protect the bark of the trees from rope damage.
- Keep a trash bag handy and throw anything into it as soon as it’s been finished with, so it’s not forgotten about.
- Check you’re not obstructing a public footpath!
- Look around you for animal nests or dens, especially in spring. If you think one might be nearby, look for another spot.
- Watch the ground when you walk - rare plants come in all shapes and sizes, as do animals!
Oh, and before we forget - stunning though Scotland is, be prepared for these things:
- Weather changes (seriously, it can go from blazing sunshine to driving hail storm in literally minutes)
- MIDGES: The word that strikes despair into the hearts of the hardiest wild campers. These miniscule insects will bite you raw in the summer, and swarm in humid conditions or near water. Carry a good insect repellent, and don’t forget - most of our DD hammocks come with bug nets that are primed to keep them out… so at the very least, you face a sound sleep!!
Still - there’s a reason we at DD still make a beeline for the Scottish wilderness on our days off. It’s wild, humbling, peaceful, ancient - and it’s all on our doorstep. If it’s not on yours, why not pay a visit? We promise you it’ll be worth it.
Recommended areas to try hammock camping:
- The Cairngorms National Park (Rothiemurchus, Abernethy Forest, Glen Feshie and the Royal Deeside area have great woodlands)
- Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park (note: restrictions apply to the east of Loch Lomond between March and October)
- Glen Affric, Loch Ness
- Dunkeld, Perthshire
- Skye and Torridon
- Peebles & Glentress
- Ardnamurchan, Argyll
- Galloway Forest Park
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About the writer
DD's former content writer, Jocasta is never far from a beach, the woods or a set of mountains. When she's not illustrating or writing, she's exploring Scotland and spotting wildlife.