Motorhome at night

You’ve found the motorhome of your dreams and it’s off into the sunset! Or is it? Can you wild camp with a motorhome outside of caravan parks in the UK? Where can you go? Here is some information about wild motorhome camping sites and general advice for safe motorhome travel in the United Kingdom.

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Sometimes it’s great to leave the creature comforts of the standard caravan park behind you. This gives you the opportunity to explore the exciting world of wild motorhome camping. Traveling to more remote areas allows you to enjoy incredible scenery, solitude, and nature.

Having a little breathing room is certainly a plus when you find yourself on a touring holiday. We’ve assembled some tips for motorhome travel off the beaten path, as well as some advice for safe travel.

Is wild motorhome camping legal in the UK?

No camping sign

Technically, no. The law states that wild camping with a motorhome or touring caravan is not permitted in England, Wales, or Northern Ireland without explicit permission from the landowner.

Some people do attempt to get away with wild camping in lesser populated areas, but therein lies the danger of trespassing and giving a bad reputation to motorhome enthusiasts. 

It is permissible to wild camp in Scotland thanks to the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, but the stipulations permit only “lightweight camping”. This would prohibit motorhomes from taking advantage of this regulation. In truly remote areas, some folks will often disregard the regulations and opt to stay for a short period of time.

There are, however, many resources for locating suitable locations that offer fewer pitches and amenities for a less civilised experience.

In the US, there is a growing movement, thanks to HipCamp, where landowners permit motorhome owners or caravanners to stay on private property for a small fee. 

The UK equivalent is Cool Camping or wild camping, and there are many great places to discover that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to access. Another similar resource for booking a stay on private land is Nearly Wild Camping. Another great resource for finding less crowded locations is the wild camping section of the PitchUp website.

For an extensive list of motorhome stopovers in the UK and Ireland you can visit UK Motorhomes. Stopovers are somewhat similar to the ‘aires’ you stumble upon in mainland Europe. These are not campsites, they are simply car and lorry parks that have no specific regulations prohibiting overnight stays. These sites can be helpful when you are en route to a destination.

Of course, use common sense when traveling with your motorhome. Do not trespass or take your motorhome through any gates or private property without explicit permission from the owner. It’s imperative that motorhome travellers be respectful and considerate to avoid creating a bad impression about camping enthusiasts. General rules for wild camping include employing Leave No Trace ethic and limiting your stay to just a couple days.

If you get permission from a landowners to wild motorhome camp - remember these rules.

  • Land in the Britain is typically owned by someone. For this reason, be careful not to damage anything like field crops or trees.
  • Remember, it's wild motorhome camping so using the bare essentials is part of the adventure. Avoid using deck chairs, awnings, and other typical caravan accessories as this may concern the landowners you are turning their land into a campsite, thus regretting their decision to allow you to pitch there for a couple of nights.
  • It's tempting to build a campfire, but our advice: Don't do this as it's a significant fire hazard and best not to risk it.
  • Without question, never litter. Also, don't put your garbage in bin liners and store them under the motorhome - Not only do they look unsightly, but animals may also open them and spread litter everywhere.
  • Buy some extra toilet cassettes and dispose of sewer waste responsibly.

Pre-drive Motorhome safety check-up

Motorhome safety check

Once you’ve selected your destination, a pre-drive safety check-up is common sense before departing on any motorhome or touring caravan holiday. It’s easy to heed the undeniable lure of the open road, but many silly accidents or mistakes can be prevented by a quick, thorough check. For a more comprehensive caravan safety checklist, click here.

1. Perform a lap around your trusty steed to visually check for anything amiss or accessories/gear that isn’t properly strapped down or fastened.
2. Check fluid levels such as oil, transmission, coolant, and washing fluid.
3. Close all doors and windows, ensuring latches are secure or locked.
4. Ensure that all brake lights, signals, and headlights are in working order.
5. Inspect tow bar and safety cables.
6. Secure all awnings, jacks, or stairs.
7. Double check brakes, tyre tread and tyre pressure.
8. Turn off all appliances and ensure propane or fuel is disconnected.
9. If you don’t have sturdy tyres with good tread, stay on paved roads!

Motorhomes are not 4x4s

motorhome on bumpy road

One of the easiest things to forget when operating a motorhome is the limited clearance. Roads with deep ruts and boulders should probably be avoided since motorhomes are not designed with this type of clearance in mind. Approach dips, rocks, potholes, and the other risks on the road slowly. Nobody will think any less of you should you choose to turn back, it’s not worth getting stuck!  

Bumps and Speed Humps

speed bump

When navigating your motorhome over any bump or speed hump, approach the incline straight-on so that both wheels go over the bump at the same time. This will prevent your motorhome from rocking side to side and dislodging any gear or appliances stashed inside. Of course, you should also approach any bump at a very slow rate of speed. Don’t be ashamed to creep like a turtle, slow and steady wins the day!

Scouting

Once on the road, if you are ever unsure or concerned about what lies ahead, take the time to get out of your motorhome and scout. If the kids are along for the ride, it can be a nice way to take a break from driving and turn this chore into an exciting adventure. It’s far easier to scout and bail than to find yourself in a real quagmire. I had a friend who once had to endure reversing his motorhome for 8 entire kilometers because he didn’t bother to check his map and refused to scout for a turnout, (there were none). Carefully evaluate any sharp turns, big boulders, or low-hanging tree limbs.

What Goes Down Must Come Up  

A huge amount of traction is lost when rolling atop sand or loose gravel. This will be exacerbated should you find yourself travelling downhill. Before hauling your motorhome up to that majestic view atop a big hill, consider the incline. It is far more difficult to stop and slow down on unimproved roads with a heavy motorhome. The size and weight of your vehicle will also greatly impact the horsepower needed to crest a steep hill. Don’t forget this crucial fact before merrily rambling down a big incline. If you’re uncertain about the type of grade your motorhome can handle it might be better to stay on the safe side.

Being Stuck Sucks

If you do feel that you’re losing traction, stop pushing the accelerator pedal immediately. Spinning your wheels will only intensify the problem and could result in damage to your transmission, engine, or rear axle. If you are in sand, consider lowering your tyre pressure. Digging trenches behind your wheels and adding sand, gravel, or rocks is often effective to achieving escape. I’ve even used my rubber car mats as an extra source of traction to extract stuck vehicles.  

Tools of the Trade

It’s always a good idea to carry along a toolkit for emergencies or sticky situations. A solid touring caravan or motorhome toolbox will contain the following:

  • Small saw 
  • Tow chain and cable
  • Sturdy shovel (don’t buy a plastic one) 
  • Axe. 
  • Simple set of socket wrenches 
  • Screwdrivers
  • Pliers
  • Hammer
  • Buy single wrenches that match any odd or oversized bolts and nuts on your motorhome
  • Quality wheel lug wrench
  • Aluminum duct tape 
  • Sealant
  • Tyre plug kit (this saved me on a deserted road once)

Always invest in good quality tools as the last thing you need in a calamity is a shoddy tool breaking in the heat of the moment. Consider investing in a roadside or emergency service program if you’re not up for repairs or don’t feel confident in your ability to perform a self-rescue. To read a helpful guide on repairing a caravan punctured tyre: click here.

Lastly, it’s wise to leave your travel itinerary and destination with a friend or family member back home. It is our hope that you escape to nature safely and take the time to prepare for any hazards or mishaps that could come about.