Wild Camping in the Peak District: What You Need To Know

Wild camping is a liberating experience. It gives you a sense of true freedom by reconnecting you to nature. The UK is vast with beautiful countryside with very little threat from animals, making it ideal to embark on an adventure into the wilderness. Unfortunately, wild camping is extremely difficult because most land in the UK is privately owned. Furthermore, many areas have banned it to prevent damage to wildlife and settlers making public spaces their home.

Can you wild camp in the Peak District?

Land in the the Peak District is protected or privately owned by farms who use it for livestock. You’ll need their permission before you can wild camp in this national park. Luckily, if you’re denied access there are plenty of alternatives such as campsites and inns that give you an authentic countryside experience.

While you may be disappointed to hear this, wild camping isn’t actually necessary in the Peak District. When goinh for long hikes through the region, there’s nearly always places to stay within a reasonable distance so you don’t get stranded. In case you do get lost, there are seven mountain rescue teams that cover the area who do an amazing job at helping visitors get out of sticky situations.

Local residents have mixed feelings about wild camping. It’s not so much the camping that frustrates them because most live within villages and don’t venture out at night. Problems arise due to the lack of parking and irresponsible campers who cause accidents or leave rubbish. Finding public car spots in populated areas can be difficult at the best of times so any influx of visitors abandoning their vehicles for the night may prompt complaints to the council.

Many residents are regulars on walking trails so when visitors leave visible traces of their basecamp it may also prompt further action to deter it happening again, which can lead to blocking off some public paths and ruining it for others. Most locals are friendly but people do express concerns at townhall meetings so it’s best to stay off their radar.

Wild camping tips and alternatives

Despite not being legal, wild camping does still occur in the Peak District, especially around beauty spots such as Bamford Edge because people want to wake up the stunning hilltop views of LadyBower reservoir. It’s actually more popular with residents who are often outdoor enthusiasts and feel like it’s their extended home. They are able to do it because:

  1. They don’t set up a camp base until night when tourists are no longer around.
  2. They leave early in the morning and are careful to remove all traces of being there.
  3. They don’t stay anywhere for more than one night.
  4. They are minimalist and use tiny tents concealed in a backpack.
  5. They go alone or in small numbers.
  6. They are peaceful, considerate, friendly, and dress in walking gear.

Remember, the Peak District is high altitude and leaves you exposed in storms. Strong winds and flooding can be dangerous if you’re not experienced. Forecasting the weather is a great start. Situating yourself at the bottom of a hill to shelter from the elements may backfire if heavy rain ensues, which can lead to high water levels. Of course, stay clear of cliff edges in gusty conditions and keep any equipment well grounded.

Keep a look out for cows in the surrounding area. They are often roaming around and move between fields. If you’re not careful they may attack you if seen as a threat. This is particularly important in spring time when the calves are born as the mothers get very protective. If you have a dog make sure to keep it on the lead to prevent aggravating nearby livestock.

If you need to park and don’t stay in hotel or holiday cottage, find a layby somewhere more remote. Overnight parking is prohibited in the 44 car parks run by the authority so try to avoid any with welcome signs and pay machines.

Campsites are dotted all over the Peak District national park that provide a similar feel to wild camping. Go between September and May and you’ll find many outdoor sites that are discreet and quiet so you remain immersed in nature. Organise your walking trails so you move from one to another situated in a connected village. Unless it’s peak summer season, you can often pay an affordable fee with less than a week’s notice.

Bakewell is a great place to stay because it’s the central access point for the Peak District and there’s a mix of hotels, apartments, campsites and cottages to sleep overnight. Plus, you can easily get a bus to most popular landmark areas within 30 minutes (usually less) and there’s likely a route going back wherever you end up. And if you’re driving by car Bakewell has a fuel station to fill up at any point.