HOW TO FIND SAFE, DISCOUNTED AND FREE OVERNIGHT MOTORHOME PARKING IN THE UK (AND EUROPE)? An Important question for your 2022 season ahead. So we asked our friends at Oaktree Motorhomes to provide some advice and top-tips for owners:
Some people say that only motorhome and campervan travelling can give you true freedom. With such a vehicle, you can go to any place you want at any time of day and night. One of the most significant perks of using such a means of transport is the possibility to stay inside overnight, avoiding the cost of accommodation. However, is free motorhome camping allowed everywhere? Or is it necessary to look for dedicated parking spots? In a moment, we’ll explain more about motorhome and campervan overnight parking in the United Kingdom (and Europe in general).
Are Free Motorhome Camping and Wild Camping the Same Thing?
They are very similar but with a slight difference. Usually, wild motorhome camping is referred to as parking in a remote place without any other motorhomes around. On the other hand, when we talk about free overnight motorhome parking in the UK, we typically mean finding a safe spot to sleep where nobody will charge you for staying all night. Nevertheless, both mean sleeping in your vehicle at no cost and typically with an outstanding view!
Can You Park Overnight Just Anywhere in the UK?
Unfortunately, it is not that simple. Some people decide on parking their vehicle somewhere off the beaten track instead of a dedicated motorhome or campervan parking, but it can be risky – one needs to be careful whose land they stay on.
Generally, every piece of land is owned by someone in the UK. For this reason, to avoid any legal problems, you should always ask the landowner for permission for campervan or motorhome parking. Otherwise, you may get into some trouble with local authorities.
The wild camping laws in the United Kingdom can be different depending on a particular country. In Wales and England, it is basically illegal unless you have explicit permission from a landowner. However, in Scotland, the situation is different due to the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 that allows camping in most public unenclosed places.
Nevertheless, you need to keep in mind that this act mentions non-motorised activities, so if you want to stay overnight in your motorhome or campervan, you still need to obtain permission from the landowner in Scotland.
It is worth knowing that even in Wales and England, there are still exceptions, and wild camping is allowed in such places as the Lake District and parts of Dartmoor.
No matter where you are wild camping, you should always do your best to follow the rule of “leaving only footprints, taking only photographs.” It is strongly recommended not to park up on verges or in sight of walking paths. Also, try to keep your stay as short as possible – arrive late and get back on your road trip in the early hours.
As a rule of thumb, you should always ask the owner of the closest establishment if they allow motorhome free camping. If you cannot see buildings around, it would be a good idea to at least google the area you want to stay in to check if it is available for motorhome wild camping.
How About Facilities in Free Camping Spots?
In most cases, there are no facilities in unpaid motorhome camping spots, and that is the reason why they are free to use! Bear in mind that in the UK (and many other countries in Europe), there may be a small charge for emptying your waste and toilet and filling it with fresh water in campsites for motorhomes. Interestingly, you can even sometimes find dedicated motorhome service spots that local authorities provide. They are usually located next to garages, supermarkets, or just outside a town or city.
How Can I Find Discounted or Free Overnight Motorhome Parking in the UK or Another Country in Europe?
Nowadays, when most people go on a road trip with their mobile devices, it is the easiest to find the best parking places for motorhomes and campervans using apps designed particularly for that purpose. There are many of them nowadays, and they all have mapping and navigation services that cover not only the UK but the whole of Europe as well. They can check where you are using the GPS in your smartphone and tell you what is available nearby. In most apps, you can see both paid and free aires, camping places, car parks and campsites.
Usually, you can easily check the pictures and reviews of all the places to make the right decision on where to stay overnight. After spending the night at a particular spot, you can also add your own updates and reviews, helping other motorhome or campervan travellers to find the best site for sleeping in their vehicle.
Here you can find a list of the most popular apps for finding the best overnight parking points for motorhomes and more.
Park4Night is an excellent motorhome overnight parking app that you can download for free. It lists various places suitable for parking motorhomes, including campsites, aires, fields, lay-bys, and supermarket car parks. What is more, you can also find there companies providing facilities for motorhomes. If you do not mind spending £10 a year, you can even use this app offline, which is a great option for everyone who likes wild camping in places where there is no internet connection available. It is worth knowing that Park4Night can also be installed on TomTom Garmin, Mappy or iGo sat navs at quite a reasonable cost.
Camperstop.com is a great app for finding overnight parking as well, but in this case, you need to cover the cost of a hard copy (€26.50) before you can sign up for an annual subscription for €5.49. There is also an option to purchase certain data sets to your mobile device for prices starting from €3.25. What is more, you can find a free handy trip planner showing you stops around the route, so it can prove useful if you want to plan your motorhome or campervan journey in advance.
Searchforsites allows you to search for practically any site for motorhomes possible. Moreover, there are over 100k members who provide and update data on a daily basis, so it is very likely all the information will be relevant there. There is a mobile app available, but the creators recommend using the website instead. Searchforsites is available for free, and you can transfer its data to your TomTom or Garmin sat nav for a certain price.
Campercontact is appreciated for its easy navigation and over 33,000 motorhome parking spots to browse, and the new ones are constantly being added there. Furthermore, it has a feature allowing you to check the most recommended motorhome parking places in every country and get suggestions on route ideas. You can have a completely offline version for just £5.99 a year, so it is great value for money.
Brit Stops is not an app, but we are mentioning it as an alternative for those travellers who prefer to stay offline. It is a UK-based printed guide that can tell you which pub car parks can be utilised for a motorhome night parking site in England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. Such a car park is usually free because the pub owners know that motorhome travellers staying there for many hours will eat or drink at their place. Services may be limited, but if you are a client, you can usually easily access the toilet and get some fresh water. The Brit Stops book costs £28 plus postage.
Are There Social Media Accounts Helping to Find a Free Motorhome Car Park?
Social media are very helpful for motorhome travellers looking for a night car park! There is a vivid community that will always provide you with all the necessary information, answer your questions, and clarify your doubts. Moreover, as they have their own experience of staying at a certain site, they can tell if it is free or not, or whether there is a toilet and fresh water access, etc. Here are some of the groups or accounts worth following!
Campervan Overnight Parking
In this Facebook group, you will find over 113k travellers sharing important information and providing necessary help. Whenever you post a question concerning a free car park or another issue, there will be lots of comments with useful information. It is perfect for those who love to plan their trip in advance and consult its details with other people who have already visited a certain place.
This group has fewer members, but it is still an impressive number – 34k and counting! You can find there a site to spend the night both in the UK and other European countries. It is quite a busy group where around 20 posts are published a day, so you can be sure to get up-to-date information all the time!
An Instagram account supplementary to the app of the same name. You can see marvellous pictures there and check their locations. What is more, the images come with information and directions that will certainly be helpful if you decide to stay there overnight during your motorhome or campervan trip. It is a great solution for wild camping fans because it shows only free places surrounded by nature. If you prefer to stay in a quiet and peaceful place than in a car park full of other vehicles, you will certainly like such ideas!
What Are the Examples of Discounted Overnight Motorhome Parking Places in the UK?
We have gathered some examples of places where you can stay overnight in your campervan or motorhome without spending a little fortune on it. They are as follows:
- Canterbury, Kent: Dover Road Park & Ride. This spot is located just about a mile from Canterbury city centre along the A2. Parking there for 24 hours costs just £3, including the bus fare, and they allow motorhomes to stay overnight. You can dump the grey and black water there and get fresh one with no additional fee. There are 24 large parking bays, so most likely, you will find a free spot there.
- Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk: Ram Meadow Car Park. Bury St Edmunds is a gorgeous town with a lot of great pubs and restaurants and the famous Green King Brewery. The car park is located in the town centre, close to the Abbey Gardens, so you can have many cool places to visit close at hand! For parking there for 24 hours, you will be charged only £2.50, and you are free to use a nearby toilet block. However, keep in mind that this toilet block is not open all night long.
- Tintagel, Cornwall: King Arthur’s Car Park. This spot is located opposite The Old Post Office on Fore Street. It has an official license to let motorhomes park at £3.50 per night (approximately 4.00 PM to 10.00 AM). However, keep in mind that there are no services and that the public toilet block closes at 10 PM. It is a great spot on the North Cornwall coast because you can see the famous Tintagel Castle, which is said to have been King Arthur’s home. Apart from that, you can enjoy beautiful landscapes and visit excellent pubs!
- Bideford, Appledore, and Westward Ho, Devon. Torridge District Council allows motorhomes to stay in their car parks from 6 PM to 9 AM for £5 per night. One of the most recommended ones is in Bideford because you can have a great time cycling on the Tarka trail and enjoying gorgeous views there. Appledore is also quite a charming village to visit!
The Bottom Line
Overall, even though you are not allowed to park just anywhere you like in the UK, there are many ways to find free or discounted places to park motorhomes overnight. You can always try to talk to the owner of the land you would like to stay on and ask them for permission – they may be as kind as to let you do it for free or demand just a small fee.
What is more, you can use one of many apps or even a printed guide to find spots accepting motorhomes for free or at a low price. There are also various social media groups and accounts where you can discuss your plans with other experienced motorhome travellers and get amazingly useful advice from them. See you down the road!