Wild Camping / Overnight Parking in Scotland


Staff member
May 26, 2013
Below is information provided by the policy manager for Scottish Natural Heritage



There have been a number of queries to the Outdoor Access Scotland website asking whether campervan owners can park for sleeping overnight in lay-bys and other roadside locations. There have also been concerns raised by local residents, following apparent recent increases in the number of campervans parked overnight in informal rather than formal sites.

These issues should primarily be addressed to the relevant roads authority. This note aims to summarise our general advice on this topic.

Motor vehicles are specifically excluded from the access rights in Scotland established by the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003. (The only exception is for a motor vehicle that is constructed or adapted for use by a person who has a disability and which is being used by that person)

Legal position

It is an offence to drive a motor vehicle off-road (under the Road Traffic Act 1988 s.34), on land of any description not forming part of a road, without lawful authority, unless in an emergency. That section makes allowance to drive a motor vehicle off-road in order to park (within 15 yards of the road), but it specifies that this does not confer any legal right to park the vehicle on that off-road land, which without the landowner’s permission may contravene the property laws of trespass.

On roads and lay-bys, there are a number of restrictions which apply to waiting and parking. These are summarised in Rules 238-252 of the Highway Code, including links to the primary and secondary legislation behind the restrictions. There are some particular requirements for parking at night, including requirements for use of lights in some circumstances (Rules 248 - 250).

In addition, some local authorities have passed Traffic Regulation Orders which permit/prohibit overnight camping in vehicles, within the area to which they apply. There may also be bylaws or management rules in place relating to overnight parking by vehicles.


Travelling with a campervan is a great way to see and enjoy Scotland, but it can raise issues for people living in areas popular with this type of activity. These issues can include
  • cumulative impact at regularly-used spots
  • loss of income from not using local facilities
  • littering (including human waste)
  • visual impact
  • disturbance of peace and privacy nearby
Legally, you should obtain the landowner’s permission if you want to park off-road. In practice, informal roadside parking takes place in many parts of rural Scotland without causing undue concern.

Advice to campervan/caravan owners

  • Check for and observe any information indicating that overnight parking on a road or lay-by in vehicles is prohibited by Traffic Regulation Orders or bylaws.
  • Do not obstruct access to fields and do not create a hazard for other traffic.
  • Be considerate of other people, including local residents, other visitors and other road users. Avoid parking in places that will disturb or affect the enjoyment of others, e.g. by detracting from the scenic attraction of a location.
  • Leave no trace.
  • Never empty any chemical toilet waste anywhere other than a designated chemical waste facility.
  • Support the local economy as much as possible, for example by using local shops and facilities.
www.scottishcamping.com is a comprehensive directory of 500 campsites and caravan parks in Scotland

www.visitscotland.com/library/caravansandcampsites lists a range of campsites and caravan sites to suit all tastes

Advice to land managers

  • Contact the police if you believe that a criminal offence has been committed.
  • Contact the relevant local authority to find out if there are any Traffic Regulation Orders relating to overnight parking in vehicles.
  • Speak to campervan users if they are causing unreasonable disturbance due to their location, numbers or behaviour.
  • Consider working with your community council or local authority on management options and practical solutions if necessary.
For the first query, the best information on wild tent camping in Scotland is contained in the following website pages -

Camping | Scottish Outdoor Access Code
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