What are the best practices for setting up a tent on sandy beaches in the UK?

Camping on the beach can be a thrilling adventure for anyone seeking a new experience, a break from the city's hustle, or an opportunity to reconnect with nature. Picture waking up to the sound of crashing waves, the smell of salty sea air, and a stunning sunrise over the horizon. It can be a captivating experience, but it also comes with unique challenges, especially when it comes to setting up a tent on sandy beaches. This guide will provide you with the best practices for setting up your tent on sandy beaches in the UK, ensuring you have a safe, enjoyable, and memorable camping experience.

1. Selecting the Ideal Campsite

Discovering the perfect campsite is an important part of any camping trip. On the beach, there are distinct features to consider. Firstly, ensure you are camping in a designated area. Wild camping on undesignated beaches in the UK is often against the law. Check local regulations to avoid any penalties.

Secondly, when choosing a beach campsite, look for higher ground. It will prevent your camp from being flooded during high tides. Do a quick review of the tides timetable. Being aware of the tide patterns ensures you don’t set up camp in an area that will be submerged at high tide.

A windbreak such as a dune or bush can provide essential protection from strong beach winds. However, be cautious to keep a safe distance from cliffs or unstable dunes that may collapse.

2. Choosing the Right Tent

Choosing the right tent is crucial for a comfortable camping experience. Beach camping requires tents designed to withstand strong winds and sandy conditions. A dome or geodesic tent is a good option. They are stable and can resist strong winds from the sea better than other designs.

Check the tent's material. It should be water-resistant to withstand possible rain showers or sea sprays. Also, ensure the tent has good ventilation. Beaches can get hot during the day, and a well-ventilated tent provides a more comfortable shelter.

Finally, a tent with a strong and deep-set groundsheet is preferable. Sand can get everywhere, and a good groundsheet keeps it out of your sleeping area.

3. Setting Up Your Tent

Setting up your tent on sand can be tricky. Normal tent pegs don't hold well in sand, so consider using sand pegs or sand anchors. These are longer, with a wider surface area for better grip in the sand.

When erecting your tent, ensure its back faces the prevailing wind. This will help you avoid sand blowing into your tent and will add stability. Before you start, flatten the sand where you plan to set your tent. This provides a comfortable and even sleeping surface.

Once your tent is set up, consider using a tarp or footprint under the tent to prevent moisture from seeping in. Another tarp or sunshade above your tent will provide shade and help keep the tent cool during the day.

4. Leave No Trace

The "Leave No Trace" principle is an essential ethic for all campers. The principle encourages respect for nature and the environment. When camping on the beach, don't leave anything behind. This includes rubbish, food scraps, and even toilet waste. Use designated facilities where available.

Also, avoid disturbing wildlife and marine life. Many beaches in the UK are home to protected species and disturbing them can have serious consequences. Keep a safe distance and don't feed them.

Finally, when leaving your campsite, ensure it is as clean, or cleaner than you found it. This allows others to enjoy the same pristine conditions on their visit.

5. Safety Considerations

Lastly, but most importantly, there are some safety aspects to consider when camping on the beach. Always let someone know where you are going and how long you plan to stay. In case of emergency, this information can be vital.

Pay attention to the weather forecast. Beach conditions can change rapidly, and being prepared will help you avoid any dangerous situations. Wind, rain, or even sudden heatwaves can turn a pleasant camping trip into a challenging experience.

Finally, remember the sea itself can be a dangerous place. Be aware of tides, currents, and any marine creatures that could pose a threat. Avoid swimming at night and always supervise children near the water. Safety should be your primary concern, ensuring a memorable and enjoyable beach camping experience.

While the thought of setting up a tent on a sandy beach may initially seem daunting, with these practices in mind, you'll be well equipped to handle the task. So, go ahead, plan that beach camping trip, and embrace the adventure that awaits!

6. Essential Camping Gear

In addition to your beach tent, there are some essential items you should bring along to ensure a successful beach camping trip. Firstly, a sleeping bag suitable for the expected weather conditions is a must-have item. An insulated bag is best if you're camping during a cooler season, while a lighter one will do just fine during the summer months.

Don't forget a beach umbrella or sunshade. Not only will they provide shade during the day, but they can also act as a windbreak, giving you some respite from the occasional strong coastal breeze.

For cooking, a portable stove or a grill is a good idea, as open fires are generally not allowed on UK beaches. Remember to bring enough water for drinking and cooking or a water purifier if you plan on sourcing water locally.

Other items you should consider include a first-aid kit, a torch or lantern for night-time, a multi-tool for any minor repairs, and bin liners or sacks to ensure you can uphold the Leave No Trace principle.

7. Exploring the Best Beach Camping Spots

Now that you're equipped with the necessary knowledge and gear, it's time to find the perfect spot for your beach camping adventure. The UK is home to numerous stunning coastal areas suitable for beach camping.

For instance, the Peak District National Park offers incredible views and several campsites close to the beach. In Scotland, Loch Lomond is a popular choice, providing a unique combination of lake and beach camping.

If you're a fan of wild camping, certain parts of Scotland permit this practice, so long as you follow the Outdoor Access Code. However, always check the local regulations as rules can vary.

Remember that camping, whether on a beach resort, national park, or a secluded beach, requires planning and respect for the local environment. The more prepared you are, the more you'll be able to relax and enjoy the natural beauty of your surroundings.


Setting up a tent on a sandy beach can indeed pose new challenges, even for experienced campers. But with careful planning, the right gear, and respect for the environment, beach camping can offer a rewarding break from everyday life.

This guide’s best practices aim to equip you with the knowledge you need to face these challenges head-on. Whether you choose a designated camp beach, partake in wild camping, or pitch your tent at a beach resort, the UK offers a plethora of beautiful beach camping destinations waiting to be explored.

So why wait? Pack your beach tents and umbrellas, check the weather forecast, and venture out on your next camping trip. As you watch the sunset over the horizon from your tent, you'll find the effort was well worth the reward. The unique connection with nature that beach camping provides is truly an experience like no other.