The best way to see Ireland is to reject the tourist traps, avoid the popular destinations and get back to nature. That’s why wild camping in Ireland is growing more popular by the day.
You won’t be short of a stunning view and you’ll get to wake up to the sounds of delicately twittering birds and share your morning coffee with a deer or two.
However, finding safe wild camping spots can be tricky, especially if you’re trying to avoid private land, and want to be as safe as possible.
Keep reading to learn everything you need about wild camping on the emerald aisle.
Is Wild Camping Legal In Ireland?
Yes, wild camping is completely legal in Ireland and is accepted in most parts of the country.
However, the majority of land across the country is privately owned and this is why some people, and many other blogs online, will tell you wild camping in Ireland is illegal.
It’s not, it can just be tricky at times to find places you know are ok to camp in.
To avoid arguments with local landowners, always ask permission to camp first and if you can’t figure out who the landowner is, find somewhere else. You can be considered a trespasser on someone’s land if they find you camping without permission, regardless of whether you were aware the land was private or not.
9 Of The Best Places To Go Wild Camping In Ireland
The wilderness camping community is fairly tight-knit and the best wild camping areas in Ireland are often closely guarded secrets.
But, fear not, here is a list of the 9 best places you can go wild camping and, you never know, you might meet some other wild campers along your travels who will guide you to even more secret and beautiful spots.
#1 Wicklow Mountains National Park
Wild camping in the Wicklow Mountains National Park is the perfect place for those new to wild camping. If you’re apprehensive about pitching your tent up in the middle of nowhere, this national park should help you build your wild camping confidence.
There’s no campsite set up here but, aside from Glendalough, camping is permitted throughout the national park.
Campfires are strictly prohibited and they do have a list of common sense rules that all wild campers are expected to follow.
#2 Knockmealdown Mountains, Waterford
Nestled right on the border shared by Tipperary and Waterford, the Knockmealdown Mountains are peaceful, wild, and perfect for wild camping in Ireland.
Credit to Richard Webb via https://www.geograph.org.uk/
You can wake up to panoramic views of blackwater valley and the surrounding farmland.
However, it will require a bit of a hike. You’ll need to come well-equipped with the right footwear as you climb uphill to the best wild camping spots in Ireland.
I don’t recommend camping here during the winter and even in the summer, you’ll want to have some good warm clothes as the winds can get quite chilly the higher up you climb.
#3 Connemara National Park
Another national park, Connemara national park welcomes wild campers, although campfires are forbidden and you are expected to remove all rubbish you bring with you.
If you are wild camping with your camper van, Connemara national park doesn’t allow overnight stays in the car park.
Currently, there are no forbidden areas for wild campers throughout the national park, but it’s always a good idea to check their website before you visit in case this changes. And don’t forget to check out the picture-perfect beaches in Connemara when you are there.
#4 Minard Castle, Dingle
Close to Dingle is a small beach of stone and sand and perched over the beach looking out onto the ocean are the remains of Minard castle.
How amazing would it be to wake up to the dramatic landscape of this lesser-known Dingle-based bay?
There is a car park by the beach making it very easy to transport your camping gear. However, keep the tides in mind because during high tide the shingle beach all but disappears under the murky waves.
#5 Beara Peninsula, Cork/Kerry
With over 200km of breathtaking coastline, the Beara Peninsula has become a firm favourite for all wild campers in Ireland.
There’s plenty of prime camping land and you get incredible views of the Atlantic Ocean.
If you are looking for a more remote camping spot, there’s no shortage of elevated areas away from the prying eyes of the public thanks to the two mountain ranges here.
#6 Ben Crom Reservoir, Mourne Mountains
Right on the edge of the man-made Ben Crom Reservoir is a stone shelter that has stood for decades and has become a popular wilderness camping spot in Ireland.
That being said, you can set up camp pretty much anywhere around this spectacular reservoir and avoid other campers.
Many campers love this spot for its ease to reach and stunning mountain views.
#7 Black Valley, Kerry
Connecting the Gap of Dungloe and Moll’s Gap in County Kerry, Black Valley offers an abundance of suitable wild camping spots that serve as the perfect base camp for exploring the countryside.
However, Black Valley is incredibly remote and if you get caught in some bad winter weather you are miles from civilisation. So, this area is only for summer wild camping.
Unlike the national parks and Coillte areas, parts of Black Valley are privately owned. You will need to be careful about where you camp and get permission from any landowners before you pitch up your tent.
#8 Glenbarrow, Laois
A short walk from Slieve Blooms Way, Glenbarrow is more rugged and remote than other wild camping spots in Slieve Bloom.
With fresh water sources, stunning waterfalls, and its dramatic steep-sided valley, Glenbarrow has been increasing in popularity for campers over the last few years.
There are no camping facilities here and campfires are forbidden but the solitude and peaceful nature of this area is sure to leave a lasting memory.
#9 Dunree Beach, Donegal
If beach camping is the dream, then Dunree Beach on the Inishowen Peninsula of Donegal is where you should head.
The dunes provide the perfect shelter and enough privacy for a small tent or two and the horseshoe shape of the bay provides a little extra protection from the elements of the open ocean.
Harbour Porpoises and Bottle Nosed Dolphins are often reported to swim through the bay and you can also visit Fort Dunree which looms over the beach on the hill to the south.
Essential Gear You Need To Go Wild Camping In Ireland
If you go wild camping you want to ensure that you have all the right gear with you or you could be risking your safety and others.
Here is a list of the essential gear you will need when you go wilderness camping.
- Sleeping bag
- Camping stove
- .Warm clothes
- Hiking boots
- First-aid kit
- Emergency whistle & blanket
- Toilet provisions
The more experience you have with wild camping the more your essentials list will change but this is a good place to start.
How To Stay Safe When You Are Wild Camping In Ireland
One thing to consider when you go wild camping in Ireland is staying safe and respecting your surroundings.
The Wild Camping Code is the perfect piece of quick and easy reference material to help you make the right decisions when you camp out in the rugged wilderness of Ireland.
The Wild Camping Code
All campsites must be at least 400m away from roads capable of carrying vehicles
Campsites must be at least 400m away from buildings
Tents are not allowed to stay in one place longer than 2 nights
All food waste, litter and equipment must be removed when you leave including biodegradable items.
Soap, toothpaste, and other hygiene products must be kept at least 30m away from watercourses
All dishes and utensils must be washed at least 30m away from any bodies of water and no waste water should be poured into water sources like lakes, rivers, and ponds
Campers must be quiet and courteous of animals, visitors, and the local community
Wild campsites must be visually unobtrusive
Areas where you camp must be left as you found them or better
Choosing A Wild Camping Spot
Firstly, you want to choose a spot that you are allowed to camp in. Either a spot situated on public lands, such as Coillte areas or national parks that permit wild camping or private land when you have permission.
When choosing a spot, you want to make sure the area is relatively elevated, so it doesn’t run the risk of flooding. This is also a good reason not to set up your camp directly next to a river, lake, or other body of water.
Make sure the area where you pitch your tent is relatively flat. This will ensure that your tent is well secure, as well as being far more comfortable to sleep on.
Be aware that the more open your pitch site is to the elements the more effort you may have to make to secure your tent properly so that it can withstand the changeable and wild weather of Ireland.
Interacting With Wildlife
When it comes to Irish wildlife, it’s always best to keep your distance. Wildlife is notoriously afraid and usually for good reason. You don’t want to disturb nests or dens either.
You want to keep all your food and edible items well secured so that animals can’t get to it and aren’t attracted by it.
Food And Water When Wild Camping
When wild camping, you want everything to be as quick and easy as possible to transport and cook. Packet foods, such as pasta, rice, oats, dried fruits and nuts, as well as dehydrated soups are the perfect kind of food to take wild camping.
They take up very little room in your pack, aren’t particularly heavy, and are very easy to cook, most only needing the addition of water.
As for water, you’ll want to take as much as you can carry. Especially if you choose to wild camp somewhere very remote like Black Valley in Kerry.
Luckily, fresh water from the Irish mountains is abundant and usually very clean. Just make sure you boil it first before drinking to ensure there are no nasties that could make you a little ill.
If you want to be extra cautious, you can always purchase purification tablets or filters online for your wild-gathered water.
3 Wild Camping Rules To Remember
If you’re wild camping, I can wager a bet that you might not be a big fan of conforming rules.
However, when it comes to wild camping in Ireland, there are a few rules that not only keep you and other members of the public safe but also avoids anyone creating harsher rules that prohibit wild camping altogether.
#1 Always Ask Permission
Most land in Ireland is owned by someone.
So, if you are planning to wild camp on possible private land, always ask permission from the landowner first.
In many situations, it might be better to ask forgiveness than permission but not here. You don’t want to incur the wrath of an irritated farmer when they find you in the path of their livestock at 6 am.
If you can’t find a landowner then it’s just better and less trouble to find somewhere different to camp.
#2 Leave Everything As You Found It
This particular rule applies to anything we have to do with nature, but especially to wild camping.
As you know, wild camping is legal in Ireland, but if some wild campers aren’t responsible and choose to leave rubbish and equipment behind, this could ruin the fun for all wild campers.
Always prepare to have bags to bring home any rubbish and refrain from destroying anything in the area.
Sometimes equipment breaks mid-wild camp. It’s inevitable, especially if you are a regular camper in Ireland. A nasty trend that has appeared in recent years is the leaving behind of broken or unusable equipment.
Some people will even leave their entire campsite behind because they don’t want the hassle of packing everything up.
Please don’t be this person.
Take everything you bring with you.
#3 Toilet Rules
You will need to ‘lighten the load’ when you are out wild camping in Ireland and you won’t have the ease of a public toilet.
You will effectively be pooping behind a bush but there are a few things you need to keep in mind.
Disposing of human waste in the Irish wilderness is easy, as long as you remember these three things.
- Human waste must be disposed of at least 30m from watercourses and 50m from walking routes.
- All human waste must be buried properly. Ensure the hole is deep enough to eliminate the risk of someone happening upon your pile of doo-doo. More commonly known as cat holes, I recommend digging this hole a good 6 to 8 inches deep.
- All toilet paper and hygiene products must be taken home with you. These aren’t safe to bury in the wild.
Are You Ready To Wild Camp In Ireland?
If you want to avoid the crowds and see the real beauty of Ireland, wild camping is where it’s at.
With a little bit of preparation and research, you’ll find that Ireland is one of the best places to get back to nature and camp in the wilderness.
I am a British-born copywriter who moved to Ireland over a decade ago and have been captivated by Irish culture, landscape and folklore. I enjoy sharing my passion for Ireland through my writing as a freelancer.