Going camping this summer? Laws & rules you might not know that could land you in trouble

Holidays: Northern Ireland is ‘amazing for camping’ says expert

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However, a camping holiday is not without its rules and laws. Campers should be aware of what they can and cannot do around the UK, with each country having different rules and laws.

The biggest – and best – news is that all accommodation, including campsites, are open in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

From August 7, Wales will move to “level zero,” which means almost all its Covid restrictions will be lifted. Note that face masks will remain compulsory in shops, on public transport and when accessing healthcare.

From August 9, Scotland will also remove almost all its restrictions, and on August 16, all restrictions in England will also have been lifted.

Northern Ireland, meanwhile, will review its remaining restrictions on August 12, so holidaymakers should keep an eye out on the latest updates.

READ MORE: UK holidays: Scotland & north east could be key for last-minute stays

On top of Coronavirus rules and restrictions, campers should be aware of general camping rules around the UK.

One of the most important camping rules in England, Wales and Northern Ireland: campers need permission to start a campfire.

To start a campfire, campers need the landowner’s permission, even on campsites. All the land in England and Wales is privately owned, so getting permission to start a fire is always required.

In Scotland, open campfires are legal, but there are a few rules.

Scottish Open Fire Rules:
– No fires in forests, farmland, peaty ground, very dry conditions, cultural heritage sites, ASSI (Areas of Special Scientific Interest), plantations, farmland or near buildings and roads.

– Fires need to stay small, under control and be supervised at all times.

– If there is major damage, the Firestarter may be liable.

– All traces of an open fire need to be removed.

Another rule to keep in mind: it is illegal to dig up or remove a plant in its entirety without permission from the landowner. If campers want to go foraging, they won’t be allowed to remove plants from the root and they will only be able to take mushrooms that have opened their caps.

For campers looking to go fishing, it’s important to know that a rod fishing licence is required if fishing for salmon, trout, freshwater fish, smelt or eel. This rule applies to England (except on the River Tweed) and Wales, as well as the Border Esk region, including the parts in Scotland.

In Northern Ireland, a rod license and angling permit is also required, this time from a Northern Irish agency.

Fishing in Scotland is license-free, except in the Border Esk region.

Littering when camping is illegal, and campers who litter can be fined or face prosecution in court.

Pet owners should be aware that if camping next to privately-owned access land, including mountains, moors, heaths and downs, dogs should be kept on a lead no more than two metres long between March 1 and July 31, and at all times around livestock.

Wild camping is illegal in England and Wales. However, all campers need to do to make wild camping legal is to ask for the landowner’s permission first and leave no trace behind.

There is one exception to the no wild camping laws in England and Wales, and that’s Dartmoor National Park.

Wild camping is allowed in some of the Park’s areas, with a couple of rules.
– All equipment must be carried on foot.

– Campers can stay a maximum of two nights.

– Large tents and overnight stays in vehicles – including campervans and caravans – are prohibited.

– Campers must be at least 100 metres from the road.

– Campers must leave no trace behind.

Wild camping is legal in Scotland (except in some areas of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park) as long as campers follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code:

“Access rights extend to wild camping. This type of camping is lightweight, done in small numbers and only for two or three nights in any one place.

“You can camp in this way wherever access rights apply but help to avoid causing problems for local people and land managers by not camping in enclosed fields of crops or farm animals and by keeping well away from buildings, roads or historic structures.

“Take extra care to avoid disturbing deer stalking or grouse shooting.

“If you wish to camp close to a house or building, seek the owner’s permission. Leave no trace by taking away all your litter, removing all traces of your tent pitch and of any open fire and not causing any pollution.

“The Access Code notes that access rights do not apply to motor vehicles.”
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