Northern Ireland’s magnificent geological formations – like the Giant’s Causeway – and its deep blue sea and lush green countryside make this country a perfect destination for any outdoor enthusiast.
Wild camping in Northern Ireland is the best way to experience all the unparalleled natural scenery in this corner of the island. Pack up your tent and discover the beautiful coastline, remote hideaways, and rugged peaks of the UK’s smallest country. Here’s everything you need to know about Northern Ireland’s best wild campsites:
Is Wild Camping Legal in Northern Ireland?
Like in England and Wales, wild camping in Northern Ireland is technically illegal. However, thousands of people still do it every year.
While it’s highly recommended that you always try to obtain the landowner’s permission before pitching your tent somewhere, wild camping is generally tolerated even if you don’t have permission. However, there are several rules you must follow if you don’t want to get into trouble:
- Free camping on someone’s property isn’t the right time for an all-day barbecue. Arrive late and leave early.
- Use a tent that pitches quickly, blends in with the landscape, and looks as discreet as possible.
- Leave your spot in the same – or better – shape as you’ve found it. Take all the litter with you.
- Stay away from cultivated lands, farms, settlements, and hiking trails.
- You must never light a fire while wild camping in Northern Ireland.
- Get familiar with the Leave No Trace principles.
Best Wild Camping Spots in Northern Ireland
Chimney Rock Mountain
With miles of hiking trails and stunning vistas, the Mourne Mountains are an epic range in Northern Ireland’s southeast. There are plenty of excellent wild camping spots here, but the summit of Chimney Rock Mountain offers the best views. It is located in the eastern part of the range, just over a mile from the sea coast.
The best thing about this place is that you can access it via a hiking route. Drive south from Belfast via A24, switch to Kilkeel Road at Newcastle, and continue until you reach Blood Bridge Car Park, where you can leave your vehicle. From there, it takes about half an hour of walking uphill to reach the summit.
Chimney Rock Mountain is windy year-round. Its summit is particularly exposed – you’ll want to camp behind one of the many large boulders at the top. If possible, try wild camping here during a mild summer night.
Fortunately, this is just one of many excellent tent-pitching spots in the Mourne Mountains. Others include Spinkwee River (lots of tree shade), Annalong Valley (sweeping views), Hen Mountain (very easy to access), and Pigeon Rock (surrounded by picturesque countryside). Whichever of these places you choose for your wild camping adventure, pack a good bug repellant – the Mourne Mountains are particularly notorious for midges.
Port Moon Bothy
Home to some spectacular tourist sites – such as Carrick a Rede and the Giant’s Causeway – the Causeway Coast is one of the most majestic areas of Northern Ireland. There’s no shortage of things to see and explore here, ranging from butter-coloured coves to sea arches to rolling green glens. As such, the coast is a prime wild camping destination and a particularly excellent choice for those seeking vast ocean views.
One of the coast’s best wild camping spots is Port Moon Bothy, located 11 miles northeast of Coleraine. Like other bothies found in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and other parts of the UK, Port Moon Bothy is situated in a very remote area. It’s a humble but safe haven that provides visitors with a unique overnight experience.
The bothy is spacious, comfortable, and well-equipped. While it has no mains water or electricity, it can accommodate up to 8 people and features a table, some seating, hurricane oil lamps, and a wood-burning stove. You’ll have to bring your own firewood and water – the nearby stream should not be used as it’s shared with grazing sheep.
While staying here certainly brings that “wild camping” feel, the bothy is, unfortunately, accessible only to Causeway Coast Kayak Association members. Still, becoming a member to gain this access is well worth it – spending a holiday here is something you certainly won’t forget anytime soon.
A recipient of multiple awards, Benone Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in Northern Ireland. Stretching from Magilligan Point to the seaside village of Castlerock, the beach features clean, golden sand without rocks and stunning views across Lough Foyle to Donegal. Put simply, it’s a genuine paradise for any outdoor enthusiast.
As such, it is also one of the best wild camping destinations in the country. Those wishing to pitch a tent here should do so somewhere halfway between Martello Tower and Benone Tourist Complex and against the dunes. Do so, and you will avoid any hassles from the daily beach clean-up workers.
One especially great thing about camping at Benone Beach is that you’ll be only a few miles from another fantastic wild camping destination – Binevenagh. Situated just south of the beach, this is a designated AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) full of rocky plateaus and rolling hills. Its woods are a particularly great place for wild camping and are well-used by bikers and hikers.
Whether you decide to camp at the beach or in the woods, check out the aforementioned village of Castlerock while in the area. Its Hezzlet House (a 17th-century cottage full of history) and the Chocolate Manor (the name speaks for itself) are well worth the visit, as is the spacious and clean Castlerock Beach.
The Ards Peninsula
Embraced by a score of sandy seashores to the east and pristine waters of Strangford Lough to the west, the Ards Peninsula is one of Northern Ireland’s most overlooked parts. However, this region is a little slice of heaven for those who know where to look. There are wild camping spots to be found everywhere in the area, all the way from Bangor to Ballyquintin Point.
I did not mark a specific spot on the map since outdoor enthusiasts can wild camp on both shores. Finding a good wild camping spot on the eastern shore may be more difficult – there are villages, resorts, and campgrounds on the whole north-south stretch of the coast. I recommend checking out the not-so-populated section between Silver Bay Caravan Park and Kearney Village.
You should have more luck on the peninsula’s western coast: it’s not as populated, and there’s an abundance of relatively secluded locations overlooking Strangford Lough. Still, remember that you’ll be camping on private land no matter how remote your spot is, so give your best to get the landowner’s permission first. If that fails, stay as discreet as possible and leave your campsite immediately in the morning.
Use the opportunity to visit some of the many places of interest on the peninsula. These include the stunning beaches of Cloughey Bay and Helen’s Bay, the charming seaside villages of Kearney and Portaferry, and viewpoints with breathtaking views, such as Burr Point and Orlock Point. Mount Stewart, a 19th-century manor with lush gardens, is also well worth a visit.
Located near the village of the same name, in the far south of Northern Ireland, Rostrevor Forest is a vast woodland covering an area of 1,700 hectares. The forest was planted almost a century ago and is currently undergoing a programme of felling and replanting. Several wildlife species live here, including jays, sparrow hawks, wood pigeons, grey and red squirrels, foxes, and badgers.
As such, Rostrevor Forest is a very idyllic and lively place, ideal for wild camping. After all, its most famous landmarks – like Rostrevor Oakwood (a special conservation area abundant with 250-year-old trees) and the Cloughmore Stone (a 10,000-year-old granite boulder) can only be reached on foot. In addition, the woodland is well-frequented by hikers and picnickers, so it’s only fitting that you should go there with your tent, too.
One place particularly worth visiting in this untouched wilderness is the Kodak Corner in the southern part of the forest. Located atop a hill, this is a vantage point with a stunning view over Carlingford Lough and the county of Louth behind it. You may also want to check out Fiddler’s Green, once a popular local entertainment spot.
If you’re up for hiking, you’ll appreciate the several fantastic trails just east of the forest, including Slievemeen, Slievefadda, and Knockshee. Moreover, Rostrevor Forest is only five miles west of Mourne Park, a large expanse of ancient woodland and yet another of Northern Ireland’s excellent wild camping destinations.
Lower Lough Erne
An aquatic paradise in the heart of Northern Ireland, Fermanagh Lakelands consists of two connected lakes – Upper Lough Erne and Lower Lough Erne. The lakes and the river that connects them (River Erne) have played an important role in Irish mythology and folklore. Lower Lough Erne is the larger of the two lakes, surrounded by excellent wild camping spots.
Still, it’s worth noting that this lake – and its smaller cousin – are the best destinations for wild campers who are also into canoeing/kayaking. That’s because Lough Erne Canoe Trail, one of the country’s best canoe trails, passes through both lakes. Paddling through this maze of narrow channels and bays allows one to explore the innumerable islands and camp on them.
If you’d rather camp on the shore, consider searching for a suitable spot on one of Lower Lough Erne’s many peninsulas. Pitching a tent close to the Cliffs of Magho Viewpoint is a good idea – you’ll be surrounded by lush vegetation while having a stunning view of the lake. The wooded area just south of Drumgrenaghan is another excellent option, though it’s recommended to seek a landowner’s permission first.
Some points of interest worth checking out include the ruins of Old Castle Archdale on the lake’s eastern shore and Blackslee Waterfall on its western shore. In fact, the said waterfall is located in a deep forest that’s just tailor-made for tent-pitching – yet another fantastic wild camping opportunity.
Known for its outstanding beauty and isolated location, Murlough Bay offers breathtaking seaside views in a remote corner of Antrim. In addition, this stunning location has historical significance: this is where St Colomba arrived from Iona almost 1,500 years ago, and it’s also the burial site of Sir Roger Casement, an Irish patriot executed in 1916. It’s also worth mentioning that Murlough Bay was a Game of Thrones filming location.
Once you get here via Murlough Road, you will have two options: leaving your vehicle at the car park just before Roger Casement Memorial and hiking to the bay (less than a mile) or driving further north and parking at Murlough Bay Parking (if you’re not interested in hiking). Try to find a suitable spot to pitch your tent. If the place seems particularly busy, head further northwest, and you’ll have no trouble finding a secluded spot at the nearby Fairhead Cliffs.
Another excellent wild camping spot in the area is Torr Head, two miles southeast of the bay. However, you must obtain the landowner’s permission to camp there. Regardless of whether you choose to wild camp at Murlough Bay or Torr Head, you’ll have a breathtaking view over the sea all the way to the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland.
While in the area, visit the Cold War Navy Listening Station, hike the Greenanmore Trail, and check out the view from the nearby Carnanmore Mountain. To stock up on your wild camping provisions, you’ll want to head to the seaside town of Ballycastle (5 miles west). The town has a wealthy architectural heritage, and taking a stroll through its picturesque streets is something you won’t forget anytime soon.
The largest lake in the British Isles, Lough Neagh, features a genuinely unique landscape steeped in fauna, flora, folklore, and heritage. The vast waters of this immense freshwater lake make it feel like an ocean, and its scenery and tranquillity make it an ideal wild camping location. Many excellent tent-pitching spots exist on all four of the lake’s shores.
However, all of the lands around the lake are privately owned, and you will likely be moved if you try camping on the shore without obtaining the owner’s permission first. If you don’t want to do that and would rather have your wild camping adventure go unnoticed, seek a secluded spot in the wooded areas on the lake’s northern, western, and southeastern shores.
If you manage to find a spot like that, you’ll be rewarded with an unforgettable view of tranquil water stretching for miles. Lough Neagh is a particularly great destination for wild campers who are into bird watching – make sure to pack your binoculars. Here, you will likely spot dozens of species, including the mute swan, cormorant, mallard, teal, gadwall, wigeon, and shelduck.
Some attractions near Lough Neagh worth checking out include Clementsmount Fun Farm, Randalstown Forest Nature Reserve, Crumlin Glen, and one of the world’s largest collections of owls – the World of Owls in Randalstown. The lake is only 13 miles from Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland and a city with endless things to do and see.
For more similar wild camping spots, see our Loch Lomond wild camping guide as well.
One of Northern Ireland’s largest upland areas, the Sperrins are a range of beautiful, untouched, and wild mountains. Campers and hikers can expect land teeming with wildlife, boggy uplands, quiet valleys, and heather-clad hills. Often referred to as an “undiscovered gem”, this region is very remote and, as such, a perfect choice for wild camping.
The fact that this territory is so depopulated means that it’s very easy to find a camping spot where you won’t be bothered by anyone. However, choosing the Sperrins as your wild camping destination also has a significant disadvantage – there’s a good reason why the area is not frequently hiked. It is very damp, boggy, and prone to generally harsh conditions.
If this isn’t a problem and you’re up for a challenge, you’ll be treated to unforgettable views of the rolling Northern Ireland countryside in all four directions (if you choose to camp up high, that is). Also, the term “sleeping under the stars” gets a new meaning here – the region is an outstanding dark skies destination and an ideal option for wild campers interested in stargazing.
The quaint nearby towns of Strabane and Dungiven are well worth visiting while in the area. Moreover, you’ll be relatively close to some wild camping destinations already described in this article: Binevenagh (just south of Benone Beach) and Lough Neagh, to name a few.
Where to Next?
Bearing the nickname “Scotland in Miniature”, the fabulous Isle of Arran is just across the North Channel from Northern Ireland. With its ever-changing shoreline, towering mountains, and secluded beaches, it’s one of the finest wild camping destinations in the UK.
Learn more about its best wild camping spots in my guide to wild camping on Arran.
I love hiking, backpacking, and camping. From the Camino de Santiago to the West Highland Way in Scotland or simply a great day hike on the weekend. Hiking refreshes me, my mind, and keeps my body reasonably fit. So far I have walked three Camino routes and many other long distance hikes in the UK, Canada, and around the rest of Europe. One of the best was my hike up Ben Nevis.