Microadventures Ireland

Is Wild Camping Legal in Ireland?

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In this post, I would like to discuss the question “Is wild camping legal in Ireland” and express my honest opinion on wild camping and in particular, the legal issues surrounding wild camping in Ireland.

Firstly, you should know that most of the land is privately owned in Ireland and I should also know because in 2015 I spent one week trying to lug a backpack over fences in search of somewhere to pitch my tent. It was a disaster and I ended up quitting the trip because I just could not find anywhere to camp in the evenings.

At the same time, I never asked for permission to camp from any land owners/farmers and had I done so, they would surely have no issue with me camping for the night.

Is wild camping legal in Ireland?

Put it this way, if you camp on private land and the owner requests that you move on, you are obliged to leave. However, according to laws in Ireland, trespassing is not a criminal offense but rather a civil matter. Furthermore, it is only likely to become an issue in the first place if you refuse to leave.

When it comes to National Parks, the rules for every park is different and some allow camping while others do not. Then there is other state owned land which is managed by Coillte and while this organization grants permission to camp in forested areas, this is most often to groups such as the Defense Forces or Scouts.

It’s looking pretty bleak for that permission you were looking for to go wild camping in Ireland, right?

The problem with wild camping in Ireland

What you must firstly understand is that land owners have every right to be annoyed with people wild camping and I say this from my experience of witnessing the rubbish left behind by an inconsiderate few. Lighting fires is also common in areas where they really should not happen and excessive drinking of alcohol is always the perfect ingredient for a noisey night, much to the annoyance of nearby houses.

Anyway, these are the issues with wild camping in Ireland but there is also one point which I would like to make regarding the dangers of wild camping.

Dangers of wild camping in Ireland

While no dangerous animals exist in Ireland, there are still precautions which need to be taken. For example, the Wicklow Mountains is not somewhere you want to get caught in a storm without the proper equipment, experience or knowledge. For the above reasons, the emergency rescue teams are called out far too often and this further damages the reputation of wild camping – not to mention it puts peoples lives in serious danger.

What should happen with regard to wild camping in Ireland

Personally, I believe that Ireland should be following in the footsteps of our Scottish neighbors by creating a responsible and fair set of procedures/rules for wild camping in Ireland. Furthermore, for mental health reasons alone, I feel that we should be encouraging people to get outdoors more often and a good way to start is by educating people about safety etc.

PS. Wild Camping is legal in the Scottish Highlands and because of the way they manage this process, it also comes without issues while creating jobs for the people who manage. In an ideal world, we could also learn from Allmstatten in Sweden, the absolute right of every man and woman to roam free wherever they wish.

Can you go wild camping in Ireland?

If you do choose to go wild camping in Ireland, it is essential that you prepare adequately and leave no trace. Camp out of sight and out of the way but then also stay a clear distance from houses and refrain from making noise. Do no light fires, do not bother livestock and get up at first light to ensure you are gone before anyone even knows you are there.

Listen, the fact that you are reading this article tells me two things – 1. You want to go wild camping in Ireland and 2. You are not an ignorant fool who intends on causing trouble or leaving a mess behind. This is a good start, so let me finish by telling you about my experience thus far.

Conclusion

In the beginning, I was very afraid of wild camping in Ireland and worried about this incessantly throughout the day, right the way up until I took the tent down the following morning. However, I have since realized that nobody actually cares about people like me and you, not to mention that they very rarely (if ever) know that anyone is camping in the first place.

Yes, that’s right, no person in their right mind is interested in stepping from the safety and comfort of their home to look for people pitching a tent in a field five miles from their front doorstep. You got it? Nobody cares – you are not causing trouble, leaving a mess, getting in the way or posing any threat.

So next time you consider going wild camping in Ireland, remember this, nobody cares about you minding your own business in the middle of nowhere and in the absolute worse case scenario, if they do, move on and look for somewhere else. Simple.

I'm an Outdoor Adventure Blogger from Dublin, Ireland. In late 2013 I began riding a bicycle across Africa and it was during this adventure when I discovered a passion for the great outdoors and the general uncertainty of life on the road. Next April, I am hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.

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