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Campervans and where to park

Campervans and motorhomes and where you can park in the Lake District

This advice and information applies to the Lake District in England, other countries have different laws and guidance.

Wild camping and fly camping

Wild camping is traditionally a term applied to camping that takes place away from formal campsites. Although no one has a right to wild camp in the Lake District (or anywhere in England for that matter) it is an activity that has been tolerated by landowners for many years provided that people are quiet, unobtrusive and leave the site as they found it and move on after a night or two at the most. Mostly this activity takes place on open moorland or mountain away from improved agricultural land or woodland.

The places where wild camping has traditionally taken place do not apply to campervans, caravans or large ‘static’ camps. Some campervan and motorhome overnight camping has become a problem in parts of the Lake District and is often called fly camping.

Legally camping in a campervan or motorhome

The only legal places to park are on formal camp sites. No one has a right to simply ‘pitch up’ for a night or two as all land in England is owned by someone such as a farmer, private landowner, public body or charitable organisation and you need their permission to use their land.

There are lots of great campsites across the Lake District, ranging from basic and wild feeling sites, through to glamping sites and ones with great facilities. The map below shows sites which are great for 'touring', so campervans, caravans and motorhomes are all welcome at these places to camp.

Campsites and camping grounds for campervans and motorhomes in the Lake District:

Locations listed on websites promoting informal parking

There are a number of websites that identify and promote ‘informal’ campsites. This is generally information that has circulated amongst campervan users for years but is now being put on websites.

Some of these locations have been used for years and the use has been tolerated by the landowner, they have ‘turned a blind eye’ as most people have been quiet, discrete and left the places spotless when they go. However there is no right to use these places and a landowner can require anyone to leave at any time.

Problem camping on private land

In some locations the landowner may not have a problem with people continuing to use their land, however the recent growth in people using campervans has meant many of these locations becoming heavily used and some users have abused the areas by damaging land and leaving litter as well as behaving in an anti-social manner.

Because of this landowners are becoming increasingly concerned for their land, property, wildlife and the well-being of themselves, neighbours and their local community and so are no longer tolerant of their land being used.

It is not possible in most cases to separate the ‘considerate’ users from those who abuse the privilege extended to them and so previously used locations are increasingly being made unavailable.

Parking on the road, roadsides and laybys

Parking on a highway is not a right, but provided the parked vehicle is not causing an obstruction it is generally accepted as being acceptable. However many of the roads in the Lake District are narrow and a badly or thoughtlessly parked vehicle of any type can prevent emergency vehicles getting to places they need to be.

This has become a significant issue in some valleys and has led to roads being closed to visitor traffic with Temporary Traffic Regulation Orders (TRO). Even without a temporary or emergency TRO the police can require any vehicle they believe to be obstructing a highway to move, even in the middle of the night!

Laybys are part of the highway and so the same rules apply as parking on a road itself.

Common Land, Access Land and Public Rights of Way

Most of the land in the Lake District is owned by private landowners, bodies such as the National Trust, or United Utilities. Large amounts are open for you to walk on or through, however there are certain restrictions.

  • Common land is owned, for example by a local council, privately or by the National Trust. You usually have the right to roam on it.
  • You can access some land in England without having to use paths, this is called ‘open access land’ or ‘access land’.
  • The footpaths and tracks through open countryside, farms and woodland are Public Rights of Ways.

Activities such as walking, running, watching wildlife are permitted on each of these.

However on each of these types of land, you cannot:

  • Camp without landowner’s permission
  • Drive a vehicle or park overnight
  • Light a fire or have a barbecue
  • Hold a festival or other event without permission
  • Damage hedges, fences, walls, crops or anything else on the land
  • Leave gates open, that are not propped or fastened open
  • Leave litter
  • Disturb livestock, wildlife or habitats with intent
  • Commit any criminal offence

Where you are allowed to go for different activities in the Lake District

Find out more about where you can cycle, ride a horse and other permitted activities

Find out which activites you can do on the main lakes in the Lake District