Wild camping in Scotland is very much accepted. In fact, for many people it’s a way of life, a hobby or a favourite pastime. From Loch Lomond to Loch Eck, people have been making their way north for years in search of a quiet sport, excellent views, and total freedom. The reason it’s so popular north of the border is because there’s no law of trespass in Scotland. In effect you can camp (almost) anywhere that falls into the category of being wild. It’s actually quite a privilege, and one I tend to forget when I camp elsewhere (I once mistakenly camped on farmland on the wrong side of the English border. There weren’t any crops or livestock to disturb, but that didn’t stop me getting thrown off the hill at the barrel-end of a shotgun by an irate farmer. I always double check my bearings anytime I walk near the border now…..)
Loch Lomond is without doubt one of the most popular camping destinations for travellers heading to the west of Scotland. It’s scenic without being terribly remote, warmer than you’re likely to get in the true Highlands, and easy to access by public transport as well as car. And with plenty of quiet laybys and gravelly patches of beach, you don’t have to travel far to find somewhere that’s perfect for pitching a tent.
While camping on the west banks and on the islands in the heart of the Loch is unrestricted by legislation regarding location, heading to the east is a whole different story, with a camping ban that’s legally enforceable and regularly policed. Pitch a tent in the wrong place here and you’ll end up in trouble. The camping restrictions are clearly marked around the area of Balmaha and Rowardennan, and although the only camping allowed in this area is in designated sites that you need to pay for, you can camp further northwards along the West Highland Way without problem.
The camping ban has caused all sorts of outcry from hikers and campers heading here. It’s seen as a breach of people’s right to camp where they please. But people who find fault with this ban are missing one vital point – the right of access for wild campers, really means the spot you pick to knock in your tent pegs has got to be wild, right? The middle of sleepy Balmaha, or on someone’s doorstep in Rowardennan, doesn’t really fall into that category.
There have been attempts made to have the camping ban introduced in the village of Luss on the west of the loch, but so far the National Parks authority has resisted appealing for the change – and frankly, I can’t see why. The village doesn’t deserve to be descended upon in such boisterous fashion every summertime, particularly not where there’s a perfectly good purpose-built campsite right on its doorstep. The Luss Pools are the reason most people visit, that and the fact that they like to be within walking distance of a pub – but again, that sort of defeats the point of going wild.
To understand your rights when you go camping on Loch Lomond, make sure you’ve read the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. It’s a simple and easy-to-understand guide to what you can and can’t do, which land you can cross, and reasons you’re allowed to be there.
All of the above said, there are some fabulous places that I recommend for camping on Loch Lomond. The islands have some excellent spots to choose from, and there are nooks and crannies (that’s a good Scottish phrase by the way) the whole way up both shorelines. If you want some suggestions for places to pitch your tent in this part of Scotland, drop me and email and I’ll let you in on a few secrets. Also, check out our partner site at Short Breaks and Holidays in Scotland where you can request free itineraries for your holidays in Scotland.