The UK's Best Campsites
Camping is more than just a cheap holiday option, where, snail-like, you bring everything you need to a new, and more interesting location for a few days: it's about revelling in the glorious great outdoors and getting back to basics.
Just how basic depends on your taste, which is why these best places to pitch your tent in the UK have been split up into a few different kinds of camping holidays: Best beach side campsites, Best campsites for kids and families, Most scenic campsites, Quietest campsites and Best campsites for adventurers.
Best Campsites on the Coast:
The beach has an almost infinite appeal, and pitching your tent or parking your caravan by the sea means falling asleep to the sound of waves crashing your toes still wriggling with sand, swapping baths and showers for dips in the ocean, collecting shells and peering into rockpools, long walks along the beach, evening tales of pirate treasure, salty, ruddy skin and waking up in the morning to the scent of the sea.
Near Swansea, the Three Cliffs Bay Caravan and Camping Site is a blue bay enclosed with grassy wildflower dotted limbs that makes you wake up in the morning feeling glad of the world we live in and jealous of having to share it. It's so close to the beach that you can slide down the hill to it, just like the Ayr Holiday Park which has views over the cliffs and beach of Porthmeor Bay. Ayr campsite is just a few minutes walk from the pubs and decent fish and chip shops of St. Ives, and for even higher standards of creature comforts a man comes by in a van every morning selling staples and newspapers, so cook your camp stove breakfast without missing out on a leisurely musing over the news.
Shell Island Campsite, on an island you can only reach at low tide, is the UK's largest site and once you get there and pitch your tent in the sand dunes you're a captive audience for the views and the beach, the entertainment of going crabbing on the causeway or shell collecting, and strolling the paths that wind all over the island. The opposite is Dennis Cove Campsite, only a 10 minute walk from the Cornish gentrification of Padstow with its fish and chip shop by Rick Stein, but the beach lovely and sandy, the views exceptional and your dog's welcome.
Teetering on the edge of a cliff overlooking Caerfai Bay and a stunning line of coast beyond, Caerfai Bay Caravan and Tent Park is on the edge of the Pembrokeshire National Park and only 200 metres away from the nearest sandy beach. Hooks House Farm Camp is similarly arranged for Robin Hood's Bay and the North York Moors National Park. The children's story name isn't totally out of place: the owners are very friendly and that this campsite is a nice place to use as a base to go on some long coastal walks or to spend time rockpooling at the beach which is a non perilous scramble down the hill.
Best Campsites for Kids and Families:
Camping is great for kids – at these campsites there's lots of opportunity for freedom and green exploration, and for getting hands, knees and the seat of your pants dirty, and maybe even building a fire and eating things that have been cooked on a stick – the height of kid haute cuisine.
Fisherground Campsite is a child's dream: it has an adventure course, a tree house, zip wire and a pond with rafts; and just down the road is a miniature steam railway. But best of all you're allowed to have an open fire, and they do a big communal barbecue. For adults the draw is the close proximity to the scenic strolls of the Lake District. If your kids like to make a lot of noise, each of the 20 pitches in of the Blackberry Wood Campsite, just off the South Downs Way, has its own little wooded clearing marked out by logs around a fireplace, and you can bring your dog. For wild kids, the feral countryside of Bronte's 'Wuthering Heights' is the unapologetic backdrop of the Vale of Pickering Caravan Park - Carr House Farm, turned campsite - and the addition of a good children's play area and a football field mean this is billed as a family site.
Camping for people who like camping, and to sleep with only a thin layer of material between themselves and the elements, these sites have monumental backdrops and offer a chance to commune up, under, in and all over nature, hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing etc.
Gwern Gof Isaf Farm is popular with Duke of Edinburgh Award challengers, rock climbers, abseilers and people who prefer sweeping scenes of rocky peaks and outcrops rising up to Tyfan Peak, over creature comforts. Sligachan Campsite benefits from the epic Black Cuillins in the same way, so all walking, cycling, or recreating is on a grander scale and the facilities are basic – this is proper camping without the bells and decorations, and plenty of midges outweighed by glorious sunsets.
Turner Hall Farm in the Lake District's Duddon Valley has a tempered, more rolling backdrop but is well loved by the hiking boots set, and Troytown Farm's remote, remote, remote location on the Atlantic Ocean gives campers the feeling of being on the very edge of the known world. If at the edge of the world there was fresh dairy farm produce and home made ice cream worth raving over.
Most Scenic Campsites:
Some campsites have settings to rival photographs on the covers of the best travel magazines. These camps offer views to walk and roll around in and walking trails with yet more photogenic sights at every turn.
Lovely views of the North Devon coast are the Little Meadow Camp Site's main attraction; the cliff it perches on has been shaped into terraces so that every pitch gets a scenic view of the Atlantic over Watermouth Bay. Batcombe Vale Camp in deepest, rural Somerset is set among hills that roll around greenly, waiting for walkers to explore them. Four lovely lakes, ringed by pathways and lanes and well stocked with fish and free boats make up the idyllic picture near Longleat Zoo.The Warren near Folkestone sits atop the white cliffs with views over the ocean and hedges its bets by having both 'family size bathrooms', and 'honeymoon pitches', and markets itself as being ideal for a pre-continental camping warm up.
Most Peaceful Campsites:
Wake up to the sounds of perky birdsong, and see how that improves your day; these campsites are places to really get away from whatever is bothering you, to read, to ponder, to wander and to get the kind of recharge of energy that a spa would charge you a mint for but that nature gives you for free. Breathe in, breathe out... sigh....
Tranquil Side Farm is surrounded by breathtaking views overlooking Ullswater, and is a mile from the nearest road so the only sounds you'll hear are the quiet murmurs of fellow campers and the rural ambient bleating of sheep. Skye Farm Camping Ground by Buttermere is one of the prettiest places in the pretty Lakes District and has a no bar, no car rule, mean this is camping for people who like camping. All you hear is the babbling of the brook, and the air, sans exhaust, is clean and crisp. Low Wray Campsite is another idyllic Lake District site, and is one of the few places you can camp right next to a lake, and it's Lake Windermere. Peaceful, no parties of more than four are allowed – unless you have a big family.
Go rural at Burrowhayes Farm campsite which is well equipped enough to be able to rent you a horse. Most campers come to walk or admire Exmoor, which the site is on the cusp of, or to recharge on peace and quiet, but it's close to Minehead if the scenic quiet grows oppressive. Or overlook the Channel Islands from Bay View Farm spreading down off a remote hill - its tenants entertain themselves fishing, strolling and admiring the view.
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