There’s nothing quite like the thrill of wild camping, especially in a country that you aren’t familiar with. When we visited Scotland in June this year, we knew we had to try it.
During our Scotland road trip, we spent five nights at two different campsites and visited lots of places across the Scottish Highlands. On our sixth and final night camping, we planned to wild camp.
Unlike England and Wales, wild camping is legal in Scotland, which is why we knew we had an amazing opportunity to experience wild camping for ourselves. So here’s what we learned from our first experience of wild camping in Scotland.
Planning Where to Wild Camp
A month before the road trip, we purchased a Wild Guide to Scotland book. It’s full of great ideas for day hikes, places to wild swim, campsites and places to eat. Alongside planning for our day trips and adventures, we also use the Wild Guide to find which areas were best for beginner wild camping.
We had found the perfect route to follow during the week to see some of the amazing Scottish Highland landscape. We found a well known wild camping spot called Foss Wild Camp Spot (Google Maps) and we planned to finish off our week of camping here. It had been recommended by other travellers and it was along the shore of Loch Tummel.
We drove from Inverness to Pitlochry and found a small gravel car park (Google Maps) along the road leading to the camping area. Now, We won’t lie, we were extremely nervous about leaving the car in an unsecured area near the main road, but we didn’t have any other options. We gathered everything we thought we’d need, locked the car, and prepared ourselves for the 4.6-mile trek ahead of us to the camping spot.
What We Took With Us
After we parked up and stretched our legs, we needed to ensure that everything we needed to take with us, could fit into our backpacks. Alan had a medium-sized hiking bag and I had a small backpack to store food and water for the night.
In the hiking bag we had:
- a tent
- a sleeping bag
- a blanket
- a first aid kit
- several torches and spare batteries
- waterproof jackets
- spare socks
- playing cards
In the picnic bag, we had:
- a disposable bbq
- cooking utensils
- bread buns
- plenty of water
- tomato ketchup, of course
We made sure we had plenty of layers on us. It might have been warm when we set off, but we knew we were in for a pretty cold night under the stars. We layered up, with breathable clothing, fleeces and waterproof jackets, along with thick socks and our hiking shoes.
We had two tents with us in Scotland. Our primary tent was a 4-person tent that we used at the main campsite. This had plenty of room inside for sleeping, storing our things and relaxing on an evening. This tent, however, was far too big and heavy to carry.
Our second tent is a pop-up tent Alan bought a few years ago. Whilst it’s not the sturdiest of tents and there isn’t a lot of room for storing things or sitting around, it was perfect for wild camping. Unfortunately, the one he bought on Amazon isn’t available any more, but this quick pop-up tent looks identical.
After triple checking that we had everything and the car was definitely locked, we set off down the main road on a 1-hour 37-minute journey.
Things We Learned Wild Camping
When we set off from the car it was 18:00. Our original thought was we didn’t want to arrive at the wild camping spot too early. Otherwise, we’d just be sat around waiting to sleep. This meant that by the time we were due to arrive it would be around 19:30.
After a short while, we started to get pretty tired. The route we were taking was along a road with lots of little hills. We were very aware that we hadn’t eaten since lunch. Our legs were tired from exploring the Falls of Foyers earlier in the day. Leaving it this late and not eating until we arrived was our first mistake.
On our way to the Foss Wild Camp Spot, we found a beautiful, secluded area right on the shore of Loch Tummel. It was accessed by climbing down a hill, which brought you out into an opening next to the Loch. There was evidence of others wild camping there, with a makeshift firepit and (unfortunately) some left-over rubbish.
We joked about using this spot to wild camp, as it was closer to the car, but in all honesty, I think we were a bit nervous. This was our first-time wild camping, so we wanted to stay in a well-known camping spot. We were just under 2-miles from the Foss Wild Camp Spot where we’d planned on staying, so we set off again. This would be our second mistake.
Around 20:00, we arrived at Foss Wild Camp Spot. Tired, hungry and ready to rest. However, we were greatly underwhelmed. This area was right by the main road and there wasn’t much shelter to pitch our tent. We felt exposed and didn’t like there. After a short break and after eating our way through half a bag of skittles, we decided we were going to double back on ourselves. We were heading back to the spot we’d found earlier.
We couldn’t remember exactly where our new camping spot was. Going around corner after corner, swearing we recognised that tree and we must be close. At 20:30, we finally returned to where we’d bee just a short while earlier.
Alan went and set up the tent on a flat piece of grass, hidden away from the view from the road, whilst I set up the BBQ next to Loch Tummel. Within 5 minutes, the tent was up and the BBQ was on the go! We were really ready for this food.
After eating our burgers, we admired the scenery around us and started thinking about getting into our tent. This is when we came to realise our biggest mistake. We hadn’t brought a big enough bag for our rubbish, especially the disposable bbq. Leaving the BBQ absolutely wasn’t an option and carrying it back to the car didn’t sound like fun. So, we decided we would walk back to the car in the morning, leaving the BBQ. Once at the car, we would drive back to the spot and pick up the BBQ and take it with us.
Our final lesson came in the form of our wild camping sleeping arrangement. We brought a single sleeping bag to share (ugh) and a blanket. We didn’t have pillows, we simply used our bags and hoodies as cushions. This wasn’t comfortable. We fought over the blanket throughout the night to get that extra warmth.
However, as you can imagine, the worst part was sharing the sleeping bag. I’m not entirely sure why we didn’t think this part through. Maybe we just assumed that a small sleeping bag would be fine for us to sleep in for one night. Let me tell you, it is not… and we still regret it to this day. One of us would roll over and drag the other one along with them and neither of us could position ourselves in a spot that didn’t have some kind of lump or rock digging into our backs.
But oh, how fun it was!
Despite these lessons and our mistakes, we thoroughly enjoyed our first wild camping experience. We’re definitely going to be planning our next camping trip very soon. Now that we have officially camped in the wild without electric hookups and toilet facilities, we believe we can face anything… HA!
Next time we go wild camping, we are going to find another wild camping approved spot. I think we’ll also try to scout out the surrounding area to make sure we aren’t missing out on an even more impressive spot, though.
To make it a more comfortable experience, we’re going to purchase one of those small, inflatable mattresses that roll up and fit inside your bag easily. It’s a small price to pay and definitely worth having for times like this. We’re also going to make sure that we have rubbish bags that are suitable for the waste we’ll be throwing out and try to cut back on bringing food with unnecessary packaging that can’t be recycled.
We are also going to be purchasing separate sleeping bags or a double sleeping bag, we haven’t quite figured out which one would be best. We know for certain that we need something much bigger to keep us somewhat warmer during the night.
After wild camping for around 12 hours, we think that it was pretty successful. We didn’t experience anything bad enough to put us off doing it again. We look forward to our next wild camping adventure. We’ll see if we can handle it for more than 12 hours and if we come across any new problems that we can learn from.