The best wild camping happens when you park on a deserted clifftop or beach at night, says Katy Whittaker. From the Scottish Highlands to Cornwall, here are 5 of the UK's best wild camping areas
If you want really wild camping, go north. The Loch Hourn area of the Scottish Highlands is just inland from Skye, and it's a fantastic place to begin. It'll be just you, your tent, mountains, lochs and sky.
From Kinloch Hourn, you can hike to Barisdale along the south side of the loch, and from there to the remote village of Inverie and on into the mountains of Knoydart. Alternatively, stay closer to Kinloch Hourn itself, exploring the great ridge of Arnisdale, with incredible views of mountains, waterfalls and wild moorland.
You can make arrangements to camp here by calling Kinloch Hourn Lodge. Midgies are pretty endemic from the end of May until October, so this area of the Highlands is not somewhere you'll want to sit outside in the early evening, even armed with repellent. Dizzying views more than make up for this, though, and if you are prepared to come equipped for colder weather, midgies are less of a problem in spring time.
For more information, see kinlochhourn.com.
The coast of West Wales has all the beauty of Cornwall but free of the crowds. Manorafon is less than 10 minutes from the mile-long splendour of Penbryn beach. Although there are geodesic domes available to rent, we pitched our own tent in a quiet corner.
With no Internet connection or mobile phone signal, you can glory in the freedom of severing ties with the rest of the world. Manorafon is the perfect choice if you are trying to convert less hardened travellers to the freedom of wild camping. There are no manicured green pitches here but, with a wood-fired sauna on site, creature comforts are in reach for those who want them. The Cardigan Bay area is home to a large population of bottlenose dolphins, too, so keep your eyes peeled.
For more information, see coldatnight.co.uk.
Bradmoor Woods in Norfolk offers wild camping for groups. The specially built structures here have a 'steampunk' twist: old railway carriages, converted grain silos and the upturned hull of a boat.
Owners Lucy and Alec describe their magical location as not for the faint-hearted, but this private forest site is ideal for gatherings of like-minded people coming together for a celebration. If you and your friends used to camp up mountains together but now have young families, this would be the ideal spot for a reunion, as it's still wild but manageable.
Bradmoor Woods is sometimes used by festivals, but fear not: when hired by your group, these woods are yours alone, to be shared only with the herds of roe deer.
For more information, see bradmoorwoods.co.uk.
30 miles from the Cornish mainland, camping on the Isles of Scilly is as wild as it gets. The islands aren't as hard to reach as you might think. Actually, if you look on the journey as part of the adventure, it becomes a treat, a long way from sitting in traffic on the M6. The helicopter service from Penzance is still much missed by islanders and travellers alike, but travel by plane or ferry to St Mary's, the largest island, and an efficient system of smaller boat-services will take you to the off-islands.
There are campsites on some but not all of the five inhabited isles. We stayed on Bryher, with quiet white swathes of sparkling, silver-flecked sand and spectacular views of ocean and open sky. You can order all your groceries in advance from Bryher shop, so there's no need to cram tins of beans into your rucksack. There are no cars on Bryher, but that's not a problem, as the kind and hospitable owners, Jo and Tom, will haul all your gear up to the campsite with their tractor and trailer.
For more information, see bryhercampsite.co.uk.
For me, wild camping anywhere near my adopted home usually means a phone call to a friendly farmer, but the relaxed Digeddi Wildlife Camping comes highly recommended, and is at least an hour away from the nearest motorway. A hand-painted sign directs you from a Welsh B-road down a track sheltered by trees.
As well as hosting livery stables, Digeddi is agricultural in the real and unreconstructed sense: on the way in, you'll pass a tideline of farm machinery that will be very familiar if your usual habitat is a rural one. Afterwards, the site opens out into a glorious 17 acres of wide fields that look out onto the river Wye slipping over rocks. Beyond the river, hills rise up beyond the woods, and there are panoramic views of the Black Mountains. Skip stones across the river, heave your canoe into the water, light a campfire on the shingle beach or near your tent, and go and make friends with the horses. One young camper here was delighted to see the horse she'd first met as a foal the year before.
You can hire a canoe at Digeddi to explore the river, where you might even spot otters. No one will bother you with rules and regulations here, but the hot showers are legendarily good.
For more information, see digeddi.com.
KJ Whittaker's new book, False Lights, the first of a new trilogy for adults, is published by Head of Zeus in hardback on September 7. The book is an alternate history based on the 'what if' idea that Napoleon had won at Waterloo. Much of the novel is based in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.