Permission to camp
Some countries have a right to roam, which may include the right to engage in activities such as camping. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_to_roam
There is no comparable legal right in Ireland.
Most land in Ireland is privately owned. Permission is needed to camp on private land.
Personally, I don’t see a lot of point in camping on farmland, for the most part. It’s not usually scenic or interesting, and if you don’t have permission, you will be trespassing. If necessary, Gardai can be called to move an illegal occupant of land.
Mountainous areas are likely to be privately owned commonage lands, held by a number of common owners. Depending on the particular circumstances, there may be no objection to camping in these areas, provided that no mess or trouble is caused, and you don’t stay long. However, if asked to leave, it would be best to do so. I think that the reality of the situation is that although there is no ‘right to roam’ in Ireland which would permit hiking and camping on private land, farmers and landowners often turn a blind eye to people coming onto these mountainous areas. This informal access to certain lands may be part of the reason that the government has taken no action to impose ‘right to roam’ type legislation in this country.
Some land is owned by the State. This could be Coillte land or the National Parks. Most foreshore is also owned by the State.
Here is what Coillte has to say about wild camping:
Camping is currently permitted in Coillte forests only with permission. Permission for over-night camping is frequently granted by Forest Managers to organised groups such as Scouts or members of the Defence Forces on training exercises.
In practise camping often occurs without permission, especially close to large urban areas or adjacent to long distance walking routes. Some of this camping is conducted responsibly, but unfortunately, much unauthorised camping activity results in damage to trees, littering and other environmental damage (water quality can be an issue in some of our upland and ‘wild land’ due to the incorrect disposal of user waste.)
With regard to the National Parks, some allow camping and some don’t. The rules of each park needs to be checked, and if in doubt, make contact.
The Wicklow Mountains National Park allows camping under certain conditions. Written permission is required for groups of more than ten people. Campfire permits are currently suspended. Camping in Glendalough is not permitted.
Ballycroy National Park allows wild camping.
As far as I recall, camping is not permitted in Killarney National Park.
Fires can be lit, with permission.
People may apply for a permit for a campfire on Coillte lands.
People may apply for a permit for a campfire in Ballycroy National Park. Campfires are not permitted in Wicklow National Park, currently.
Leave no trace policy
1 Plan Ahead and Prepare
• Before you go check, where possible, if access is allowed and your activity is permitted in the area you wish to visit.
• Respect any signs, regulations, policies and special concerns for the area that you wish to visit. Permits may sometimes be needed for activities on public lands.
• Where possible travel by public transport or share cars; consider the availability of parking.
• Ensure you have the skills and equipment needed for your activity and to cope with emergencies that could arise.
• Check the weather forecast and always be prepared for changing weather conditions.
• For environmental and safety reasons, and to minimise your impact on other users, keep group numbers small; split larger parties into smaller groups.
2 Be Considerate of Others
• Respect the people who live and work in the countryside.
• Park appropriately - avoid blocking gateways, forest entrances or narrow roads. Remember that farm machinery, local residents and the emergency services may need access at all times.
• Take care not to damage property, especially walls, fences and crops.
• Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
• Let nature's sounds prevail. Keep noise to a minimum.
3 Respect Farm Animals and Wildlife
• Dogs should be kept under close control and should only be brought onto hills or farmland with the landowner's permission. Some public areas stipulate that dogs must be kept on a lead at all times, please adhere to local guidelines.
• Observe wild animals and birds from a distance. Avoid disturbing them, particularly at sensitive times: mating, nesting and raising young (mostly between spring and early summer).
• Keep wildlife wild, don't feed wild animals or birds - our foods damage their health and leave them vulnerable to predators.
• Farm animals are not pets; remain at a safe distance.
4 Travel and Camp on Durable Ground
Durable ground includes established tracks and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow.
In popular areas:
• Concentrate use on existing tracks and campsites.
• To avoid further erosion, travel in single file in the middle of the track even when wet or muddy.
In more remote areas:
• Disperse use to prevent the creation of new tracks and campsites.
• Avoid places where impacts are just beginning to show.
• Protect water quality by camping at least 30m from lakes and streams.
• Keep campsites small and discreet.
• Aim to leave your campsite as you found it, or better.
5 Leave What You Find
• Respect property. For example, farming or forestry machinery, fences, stone walls etc. Leave gates as you find them (open or closed).
• Preserve the past: examine - without damaging - archaeological structures, old walls and heritage artefacts e.g. holy wells, mine workings, monuments.
• Conserve the present: leave rocks, flowers, plants, animals and all natural habitats as you find them. Fallen trees are a valuable wildlife habitat; do not remove or use for firewood.
• Avoid introducing non-native plants and animals e.g. zebra mussels in rivers and lakes.
• Do not build rock cairns, structures or shelters
6 Dispose of Waste Properly
• "If You Bring It In, Take It Out" - take home all litter and leftover food (including tea bags, fruit peels and other biodegradable foods).
• To dispose of solid human waste, dig a hole 15-20cms deep and at least 30m from water, campsites and tracks. Cover and disguise the hole when finished.
• Bring home toilet paper and hygiene products.
• Wash yourself or your dishes 30m away from streams or lakes and if necessary use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Bring home any solids and scatter strained dishwater.
• For more information on sanitation in the outdoors read the "Where to go in the outdoors" leaflet
7 Minimise the Effects of Fire
• Fires can cause lasting impacts and be devastating to forests, natural habitats and farmland. Therefore when camping use a lightweight stove for cooking.
• Where fires are permitted: Use established fire rings, barbecues or create a mound fire.
• Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand. Do not use growing vegetation for use as firewood.
• Avoid burning plastics or other substances: which emit toxic fumes.
• Burn all fires to ash, put out fires completely, and then scatter cool ashes.
There is overlap between the Leave no Trace principles and the Camping Code principles but they are worth mentioning. This is the Camping Code from the Ballycroy National Park website:
1. Campsites will be at least 400 m from a road capable of carrying a vehicle.
2. Campsites will be at least 400m from a building.
3. Tents will be moved every second night to allow vegetation to recover.
4. Campers will remove all food waste and litter, whether or not it is biodegradable. Buried waste would be exposed by foraging animals or by erosion.
5. *Latrine Protocol; Catholes for disposal of human waste should be located at least 30m away from watercourses and 50m from walking routes. Human waste should be buried or carried out of the site. No evidence of latrine use should remain visible. All toilet paper and hygiene products must be carried out.
6. Campfires are allowed by written permit only, where permitted use only mound fires. Use only sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand, do not cut growing vegetation.
7. Soap and toothpaste must be kept at least 30m away from watercourses.
8. Dish and utensil washing will be conducted at least 30 metres from water bodies. All waste-water should be strained and scattered. In no circumstances should waste-water used in washing be pored into lakes, streams or rivers.
9. Campers are required to conduct themselves in a quiet manner, disturbing neither the local community, wildlife or other visitors.
10. Camp-sites must be kept visually unobtrusive.
11. Campsites must be left as found, or better.
12. Failure to comply with this code will result in withdrawal of permission to camp. In such cases National Park Rangers will demand that the visitors break camp.
1. If you leave your car parked in the middle of nowhere, it could be the target of thieves or vandals. Wicklow has a reputation for this. If you have permission to park your car in a farmer’s yard, great. You may be able to leave it in a pub car park. It can be a good idea to take a look at the ground in the car park. If you see broken glass, it could be that it is a place where break-ins happen. Maybe it would be safer to park somewhere else.
2. Sometimes when you arrive at an area which is suitable for camping, there may be clues as to the type of people who have been there previously. If there is rubbish and empty beer cans, it could be that young fellas will arrive to drink beer. You might want to consider moving on and finding somewhere else.
3. I think that it’s better to camp somewhere remote, well away from any public road. Few people would bother going out to a remote location in the middle of the night.
4. If you have a light on in your tent in the middle of the night, it will glow and will be visible from a distance. This should not be something to worry about too much, provided that you have chosen a safe location to camp in the first place.
5. Don’t cook inside your tent, due to the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
6. Use decent gear that will stand up to the circumstances and the elements. A tent that may be okay for sea level may not last five minutes on the summit of a mountain. Bring good waterproofs and enough warm clothes.
7. Bring a fully charged mobile phone in a good case.