Twelve campsites to visit in 2019
If you’re anything like me, then half the fun of a camping trip is discovering somewhere new. There's a lot to be said for sticking with the same trusted places, but I'm definitely one for the fear of missing out!
Fortunately for us lucky lot in the UK, we don’t have to go very far, or pay very much, to have a great holiday in a stunning location.
If you’re wondering where to head to next, then take a look at some of the places we’ve stayed recently. And as there’s twelve campsites, you could just visit one a month!
Okay, so first things first, this ISN’T glamping! If you want top-of-the-range facilities, then head back up the road to one of the sprawling sites for mobile homes in Abersoch. But if you want to park your van facing one of the best views in Wales, on a cliff with a walk straight down to the beach, then this is the place. There isn’t much space, so get there early, light your fire, open your beer, and enjoy a life without luxuries. You’ll just have to make do with a four mile long stretch of turquoise sea and sand instead.
Okay, so I might be a little biased - I liked this campsite so much, I got married here! You don’t have to go quite that far, although the barns are great if you do want to. If not, there’s something here for everyone. Sitting by the lake, taking out a canoe, staying by the tent or camper van toasting marshmallows over your fire pit, or if you’ve got the energy, heading to the top of Mount Snowdon straight from the site. It’s worth it for the even better views, and you’ll have earned a treat from the on-site wood-fired pizza oven when you get back. What more could you want?
Want to stay close to Cheddar Gorge and Glastonbury, AND share a campsite with goats? Then Wookey Farm is the place for you! The owners here are as friendly and laid-back as campsite owners can be. The site has good sized pitches marked out, with picnic benches and campfire spots. If you’ve got kids (pun intended) then they’ll love meeting the goats and other farm animals. If you’ve forgotten food, there’s a tiny shop with an honesty box, where you can buy produce made on the farm. This place is great for eco-points too - they’ve got compost loos, solar panels, recycling baskets at every pitch, and goats cheese in the shop that’s so local you can see the creamery from your van!
Tucked away down a lane in the middle of a 110 acre farm, The Hideaway describes itself as ‘eco-glamping with soul’. Well that pretty much sums it up! There are only 40 pitches here, and when they say it’s a quiet site, they mean it. This is one for looking at the stars, reading your book by the fire, and keeping your eyes peeled for wildlife in the morning. You can bring your tent or your camper van, or if you prefer, stay in an ecopod or bell tent. The facilities are spotless, and there’s everything you’ll need - even a book-swap in case you spend a bit too much time reading. I was so relaxed here, I forgot to take any photos until several hours after the sun had gone down! If I were you, I’d get online and book this one early.
Don’t be put off by the name - this isn’t a resort with an arcade and a bowling alley. It couldn’t be further from it. In fact, as one of the most northerly campsites in mainland UK, Sango Sands couldn't be further from most things. There is however, a pub, so you can have a refreshing pint or a heart-warming whisky as a just reward for making it all the way here. More rewarding still, are the views out across the sea, with potential for spotting seals, whales, or dolphins. This place might be remote, but with miles of beaches, hidden caves, cliff-top walks, and plenty of lochs, you won’t be bored. What’s more, if you can live without hot water, then out of season (Nov-Mar) you can even stay here for free!
I really don’t want to set you up for a disappointment, but when we stayed here in October, we were treated to a half-hour display of the Northern Lights! We’d driven down from Ullapool, so we’d already been treated to stunning scenery. Finding a beach-side campsite where we could park the camper van, light a fire, open the wine and watch the sun set, was all we ever wanted. To be treated to the Aurora Borealis was as unexpected as it is unforgettable. I can’t promise you’ll get the same, but I can promise you won’t be disappointed by your coastal camping trip.
Well to be completely honest, this one’s all about the pub. Absolutely, there are footpaths and cycling trails straight from the site, good clean facilities, and fields as far as the eye can see, but the best thing about this campsite is that you’re basically sleeping in the beer garden. The Royal Oak was only fairly recently refurbished, but retains all of the best bits of a traditional pub - cosy nooks and crannies, a well stocked bar, huge portions of excellent pub grub, a decent range of beers and roaring fires. Camping-wise, things have got a bit more organised since we first started coming here. Now there are clearly marked pitches, and you absolutely have to book in advance. The top field is on quite a steep slope, and in wet weather we’ve seen a couple of the older camper vans needing a push from the neighbours, but the bottom field is completely flat. This is a great base for exploring the Peak District, and when you wake up in the van, you can just wander into the pub again for coffee and breakfast.
Exactly how much space do you want? Even though it was Easter, it felt like we had the entire field to ourselves, with just grass on one side, and the sea on the other. We walked from our pitch, onto the Wales Coastal Path, and wandered along the clifftops to St Davids. After stopping to look at seals, admire the Blue Lagoon, and chat to the ponies on the headland, we made it to the pub for some Welsh Rarebit. Then it was back to the campsite to light the fire and watch the sunset.
I really wasn't sure whether to tell people about this one. We found a campsite, within a campsite! When we pulled in (slowing down for the peacocks, obviously) and went to check in, we were offered a choice between the “main campsite” or “the hidden bit”. I’m glad we chose the latter. The main campsite is great - spacious, with a playground for the kids, and great facilities. But head past the static caravans, over the bridge, and down into the dip, and the hidden field is perfect. We were able to get what felt like an island all to ourselves, with the river snaking around our little temporary village. Shelter built, fire burning, and beers chilling in the river. Looking back, I’m not sure why leaving our private campsite to tackle Helvellyn via Striding Edge seemed like such a good idea.
Coniston is a favourite part of the Lakes for a lot of people, me included, thanks to the pubs, the fells, and of course that famous bit of water. Coniston Hall is perfectly positioned to make the most of all of it. This isn't a place for rows of clearly marked pitches - just find a bit that’s as level as you can, park up between the trees, and make yourself at home. You can walk straight in to the village, or keep going if you want to and get up on the tops. If heights aren’t for you, just spend the afternoon boating!
Is ‘boutique’ camping a thing yet? Well, if it is, then i reckon this comes pretty close. There are a couple of converted railway carriages which are now cosy camping pods, but the best thing to do is just park your van up on one edge of the field, so you’re perfectly positioned to take in the view. The last stay we had there (and we’ve had a few) we were able to sit outside the van, drinking by the fire, watching a lightning storm dancing above the fells in the distance. We stayed nice and dry, with the rain eventually bouncing off the roof of the van after we’d called it a night. In the morning, you could see all the way down to the Irish Sea in the distance, whilst ducks and chickens were happily tip-toeing around the site hoping to catch a bit of dropped breakfast. Once you’ve dragged yourself away from the site, the hardest thing to do is decide which direction to head in - Coniston, Grizedale, Broughton, or Seathwaite...
You might have noticed from the other campsites in this list, that I favour a certain type of campsite. For me, camping isn't about perfectly manicured gardens and rows of gravel pitches - it’s about getting as close to the countryside as you can. My ideal campsite needs to have plenty of trees, great views, a laid-back approach to where you pitch, and be close to water. And you HAVE to be able to have a fire! Red Squirrel gets a tick on all of those, and then gets a bonus point for being walking distance to a cracking pub - The Clachaig, which aside from the great food and drink, has live music every weekend. If you want to walk a bit further, you can easily wander to The Lost Valley, or go to the other extreme on Aonoch Eagach! Back at the campsite, this place feels like another world. There’s an understandable rule about noise after 11pm, but other than that, it’s all about crazy hand-painted signs and water taps coming out of trees. Okay, so last time we were here, it chucked it down for four days, our friend’s tent got flooded (get a van!), my Kindle and sunglasses both got melted by the fire, and the string on the guitar broke too. But I still came home thinking this is the best campsite in Scotland. Good luck seeing any red squirrels though.
I hope that one or more of these suggestions takes you to a great stay somewhere you haven't been yet. If you want to suggest any that I’ve missed, please feel free to get in touch!