Is Wild Camping illegal?
Just to be clear, I'm not a lawyer. I've read a bit, and I've thought a bit, and this is my own view. So please read on, think on, but eventually make up your own mind, and do whatever you think is best.
Most people new to this sort of thing (me included) has questions about the legality and safety of sleeping wild sooner or later, and Al Humphreys (as ever) answers them jolly well in this straightforward article on his site. He concludes that he would not worry too much about the theoretical legal aspects of sleeping in a bivvy, that if you act with common sense and courtesy you will be fine, and quite sensibly puts the whole 'am I doing something naughty' question in perspective - "remember, you are acting far more illegally and dangerously every time you break the speed limit in a car".
That gave me the confidence to head out for a bivvy on my own, but once I started making plans to sleep out with my boys, I wanted to understand the position a little better, and to find out where on earth we could take on a night in the Wilds.
What follows (again, just my personal views as a non-lawyer) should help you get started, and hopefully let you see that it's not black and white, but please don't rely on this any more than anything else you read on the internet!
The short answer is that while wild-camping it is not explicitly "legal" without permission, it's not actually "illegal" either, and the difference is actually quite important.
If you are discovered sleeping somewhere, by someone who'd rather you weren't there, and you haven't asked permission, the result is that if you might very well be asked to leave. However it's very hard to see how you could be arrested, or prosecuted, unless you've been doing something else that actually is illegal, or unless it's on certain specific types of land (like railways). Read on to find out more...