True freedom comes with four wheels, travelling uninhibited in your motorhome. The motorhome lifestyle allows you to go wherever you please, whenever you please. And being able to sleep in your form of transport also allows you to avoid the extra costs and hassles of booking accommodation wherever you travel to. But even with a motorhome, you must consider where to park or camp for the evening, and this can be muddled with unclear regulations and laws. That’s why we’re going to share some options for free campervan parking in the UK with you.
One of the main perks of free motorhome camping in the UK is that it can contribute to a budget-friendly campervan trip. You may worry about how much campervan hire costs, but if you organise cheap campervan hire and plan well you'll have a stress-free holiday.
Free overnight parking rules
The rules on parking overnight can be unclear, but technically wild camping without the landowners' permission is illegal in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Furthermore, official rules generally are up to the jurisdiction of each local government and law enforcement. Yet even though overnight camping is not allowed in most parts of the UK, it isn't strictly enforced everywhere. In some places, it's even tolerated, as long as you stay out of people's way. Stopping at a lay-by or in a public car park probably won’t get you into any trouble, but setting up camp on someone’s property or staying in the car park of a specific business could lead to you being asked to move.
Free overnight parking options
Our advice is to be on the lookout for truck stops along the roads, as these are not just for trucks! If you follow the rules of the trucker, by only parking long-term overnight, taking up one spot and generally being courteous, there should be no issues! Beware of safety at these, and always ensure you lock your doors and keep valuables out of sight.
For car parks, just go and ask the owner first as many won’t mind. Often supermarkets or casinos allow motorhome owners to use their car parks overnight, as long as it isn’t for more than a night and nothing is being blocked. Lately, there has also been a new trend of Nightstops, specifically allocated places for motorhomes to park for the night.
Organisations and businesses can sign up to be a Nightstop, and may ask in return you purchase a meal there or simply allow you to stay for free! Sites such as Practical Motorhome show you all the Nightstops currently registered, so you can always find your closest one. If you’re a business owner, consider registering to be a Nightstop to help your fellow motorhome travellers, it could result in some good karma for you or them visiting your store.
Wild camping tips
Car parks may be practical, but they don’t provide the best view to wake up to. If you’re focused more on the journey and stops, rather than your road trip destination, then perhaps some wild camping spots are more in line with what you’re looking for. For successful wild camping in the UK, always follow the general rule of ‘leave only footprints, take only photographs’. Furthermore, stick to the following wild camping tips:
-Don’t camp on verges or in car parks
-Always ensure you are out of sight of any walking paths and well-known tarns
-Stay for only a single night at each location
-Arrive late and leave early
-Keep noise to a minimum
We recommend visiting Wild With Consent to find wild camping spots with the landowners' permission.
Where can you wild camp in England?
There is a longstanding tradition of wild camping in the Lake District. This beautiful site allows wild camping in several areas within its proximity, but only with permission from the landowner and by following the code above. Be sure to first research the areas allowing it, which can be done on the official Lake District website. Two particularly good spots are Thornthwaite Beacon and Place Fell, which are both within reach of freshwater streams for drinking — always boil and/or sterilize before you drink!
Wild camping in the Yorkshire Dales is strongly restricted and discouraged, especially during grouse shooting season, but if you’re discreet you can usually stay a night without any issues.
Cornwall is often filled with motorhome and campervan owners looking for a place for free motorhome camping, and there are numerous places to set up camp. We recommend Bodmin Moor, possibly around the Gold Diggings quarry, which also has wonderful spots for wild swimming. Be wary of staying on the surrounding farmland, which is owned land and off-limits.
If you're near Wiltshire, check out the Rising Sun Lacock for your overnight parking needs. They have a large, hard-standing car pack with a beautiful garden and stunning views of the Wiltshire countryside. They allow visitors to use the pub toilets and bins. Dogs are welcome and breakfast can be provided upon request. It is free to stay as long as you purchase something in their pub.
For any other free camping spots in England, do a quick search for a forum and follow general guidelines, and you should be fine.
Wild camping in Wales
A list of places to free camp in the UK with a motorhome must include Wales, given its suitability for camping and motorhome travel. This gorgeous country should definitely be included on your road trip, and there are many spots for you to stay overnight.
After organising your campervan hire in Wales, we strongly recommend staying in Snowdonia National Park, which is very wild camping-friendly. As long as you camp off the beaten track and follow the general code, you’ll have no issues with free overnight parking in Wales. Camping above Aber Falls is particularly breathtaking, and will reignite your love for camping, nature and Wales. Wild camping in the Brecon Beacons can be slightly more difficult, but there are two locations where wild camping is allowed. At Melte and Llech Llia, you can camp with up to 10 people, but groups of a bigger size or disobeying guidelines will be asked to leave.
Check out our full guide to free overnight motorhome parking in Wales.
Wild camping in Scotland
There are plenty of great destinations for enjoying your motorhome hire in Scotland. This stunning country is an ideal motorhome holiday destination, and wild camping during your NC500 road trip itinerary will help reduce your costs.
Wild camping is permitted in Scotland but be aware that this doesn't extend to motorhomes. You must always get explicit permission from the landowner if you are travelling in a campervan and ensure you don't damage the stunning Scottish nature.
Many people wild camp in tents in the Cairngorms National Park. Another popular park for wild camping in Scotland is Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park, as long as you follow their wild camping guidelines.
The Isle of Skye is also very wild camping friendly, so you can roam the gorgeous shores with peace, and sleep to the sounds of waves and wildlife.
Check out our full guide to free motorhome camping in Scotland.
The advice to take from this blog is that when in doubt, check! Ask the owner of the closest establishment if you can park there overnight, or run a quick Google search. Free motorhome parking is just about always thinking ahead. Free camping in the UK is a great idea for your next staycation and will lead to a fun journey with unexpected stops. Just remember when camping somewhere to keep to yourself and follow the rules of courtesy, and you shouldn’t run into any trouble.