When pondering the best places to camp in the Scottish Highlands, one person’s idyllic and far-flung wild-camp could be another’s idea of Hell on Earth. So considering a few vital things can make a real difference when selecting a spot.
Wilderness Guide, John Walker shares his favourite camping spots and what else to think about with his 5 Best Places to Camp in the Highlands.
Find out more about what makes a good campsite (or a terrible one) in:
Wild Camping: What NOT to do.
Indeed, would you prefer an ‘all mod cons’ campsite, with showers, toilets, electricity and internet access? If so, I am afraid they’re not listed here. Here we have a little walk on the wilder side of camping. So which are my (current) favourite five? In no particular order…
Location: Fisherfield | Grid Ref: NH048785
A proper wild camp spot, requiring a long walk-in from either Poolewe or Corrie Hallie. Includes a challenging river crossing on the latter route.
I have used this a number of times as a base to break down the long trip required to bag the Fisherfield Five, (used to be Six before Beinn a’Chlaidheimh was demoted from Munro status of course).
Once there, you find a splendid area of flat grass as the burn splits and ribbons, surrounded by An Teallach to the North East, Beinn Dearg Mor to the North West, and to the South and West the wonderful peaks that make up the rest of the Fisherfield cirque.
Location: Sutherland | Grid Ref: NC181600
A ‘campsite’ of sorts, looked after by the local community, but really just some cracking machair grassland leading to a deserted beach.
There is a tap and a couple of waste bins further up the track. Quite simply wonderful, with cliff-top walks to boot. The famous Sandwood Bay is within a few hour’s walk too, if you’re so inclined. I stumbled upon this gem whilst looking for a place to pitch up prior to a trip out to Sandwood, as I didn’t fancy carrying our gear all the way out there. It is a fine place to stop and just relax.
Location: Glen Etive | Grid Ref: NN141427
A proper wild camp again, this time set at 660m at the head of the Allt nam Meirleach, in the coire between Ben Starav and Glas Bheinn Mhor.
I first used this on a great trip with my wife, when we bagged Beinn Aighenan. Well, great except for the fact I had omitted to replace the insoles in her boots post-cleaning, a fact not discovered until the summit – Whoops! An absolute belter of a high camp, benefiting from the views back to West Glen Etive, a surprisingly flat area to camp, and a good water source. It is also fairly well sheltered from most wind. The camp spot on the picture is just below the Bealach on Ben Starav’s east ridge, and just above the ridge in the centre of the picture.
Location: Cairngorms | Grid Ref: NJ01100
Probably my favourite wild camp, in the atmospheric Coire Etchachan, alongside the highest named body of water in the UK, at 920m.
I like a midsummer night walk to the summit of either Derry Cairngorm or Ben Macdui, which is usually quite possible even without a head-torch. It is even straightforward if dark enough to need one, especially under moonlight (as long as your navigation is up to it of course.) Make a couple of days of it and explore the heart of the Cairngorms.
Location: Glencoe | Grid Ref: NN119573
Set in lovely woodland adjacent to the River Coe, it is loved by many, loathed by equally as many – but I couldn’t help myself.
If you like a lively (if not raucous at times) atmosphere, campfires and random loonies with guitars and cans of Tennents, it’s a hoot. If you prefer the kind of atmosphere I have been describing in the sites above, it will be hell on earth. I often think everyone should try the Red Squirrel at least once, especially after an exciting crossing of the Aonach Eagach, or a full-on day on Bidean nam Bian. The blood will be up after a good ole’ night in the Clachaig Inn along the road. Sometimes you can strike it lucky and end up around a campfire with some great singers and copious amounts of malt whisky. Just don’t plan to climb too much the next day.
Want to explore these camping locations but new to the whole sleeping in the outdoors thing?
Have a read of our Beginner’s Guide to Wild Camping for some starter tips.
Read more from John Walker own blog here
If you’re still not sure you’re ready to brave the wilderness alone, why not try one of our canoeing or sea kayaking expedition trips that include wilderness camping, and let our expert guides show you the ropes. Our trips take wild camping to another level with freshly baked bread, great menus, cosy communal teepees and the most secluded of locations, to prove we do the best wild camping tours you can check out reviews here.