As part of our trip round Scotland following the North Coast 500 route we decided to camp out one night. In Scotland you are able to camp on most unenclosed land (even if it is privately owned). So long as you follow the “leave no trace” policy, and respect the land it’s usually OK to picth up and stay the night.
This was a novelty for me; in England camping is restricted and can only be done on official campsites in most places. I’ve heard stories of friends who have tried it, but who have been chased off by angry farmers so I was looking forward to pitching up without worrying over being woken by someone in the middle of the night telling us to leave. Little did I know we’d be worrying about something else waking us up!
So, back to the trip. We’d booked accommodation for the first 2 nights and then planned to just find somewhere to stay when we were done for the day so our schedule could be more flexible. I’d heard Red Point was a good spot for camping so when we were in the area as evening approached we made the decision to head there and set up camp rather than trying to find somewhere to stay. The added bonus that it would save us some money may also have played a part.
Red Point has a beautiful beach with reddish sand, and plenty of large sand-dunes to nestle down in between and protect the tent from wind and the elements. We found what looked like a good spot, with a handy, left over fire pit surrounded by rocks and pitched up. We’d only been there for a few minutes when we got the shock of our lives; a herd of cows came tramping right through where we’d pitched our tent. Perhaps we hadn’t picked the secluded spot we originally thought! Fortunately none of them went through the tent, but it was a bit of a shock to see them grazing all around.
We shooed them on without much incident, and Colin went to get firewood. He came back over the dunes and suddenly dropped the wood he was carrying, shouting for me to run up the hill next to camp. Confused I stood there wondering why on earth he wanted us to do a bit of hill running at a time like that. It was then I saw the HUGE bull staring right at me, shielding the calves that had come through earlier. Now, i don’t know much about farming and animals, but I know bulls aren’t good news and can be dangerous when angry, like when they think someone is threatening their young! Col and I sprinted up the hill and then slowly edged towards some bushes where we could hide from the bull. We were in a stand-off with the huge animal for what felt like forever (it was probably only a minute or two). My heart was in my mouth, hoping the bull would realise we weren’t a threat and leave us alone as I tried to crouch in the bushes. Eventually the bull looked away and ambled further down the track, leading up the dunes towards a field we’d walked through earlier…. the one taking us back to our car!
There was no way we were going to risk angering the bull again so, deciding we were trapped for the night, we made the most of it taking a walk on the beach before settling down for the night. We never did get our fire going as our lighter broke and then the midges came out in force so we were tucked up in bed for 9:00pm, wondering if we were going to be woken by the cows making their way back through out camp to wherever they had come from.
I can definitely say that our first wild camp was an experience, and would warn people that the beach at Red Point may not be the best place to camp. However, despite the scare we got from the cows I loved the experience of feeling totally away from everything and at one with nature! The views in the morning were stunning, and it’s given us some great memories and travel stories to tell our friends! After all, you don’t make great memories sat at home on the couch do you?
For more information on wild camping in Scotland see the Visit Scotland website.
Have you ever been Wild Camping? I’d love to hear about your experiences of it.