Glamping? It’s a travesty of an honourable British tradition. As far as we’re concerned, if you’re more than 80% comfortable under canvas, you’re not communing with nature – you’re middle-class terraforming. No, a straight-up, no-frills tent in the middle of somewhere green and beautiful remains the best and only way to camp. And the cheapest. In this spirit, we’ve scoured the nation in search of campsites that combine an appealing location and attractive prices (and, where possible, a hot shower – even we have our creature comforts). Read on, then, for the UK campsites that offer the best value, the homeliest stay, and the most knock-out photo ops.
Located a mile’s walk from the 3,000-year-old White Horse, Britchcombe offers stunning views of Oxfordshire countryside dotted with remains from the prehistoric and Iron Ages.
Site The facilities are basic but well kept and include toilets, showers, a washing-up block and a fridge. The site is sloping, so it’s best to pitch in the higher areas when the weather turns wet. Electric hook-ups are also available.
Price £7 adult, £3.50 children (up to 14), free for under-5s.
Getting there Train to Swindon. Buses are infrequent, so it’s best to get a taxi (Connect Cabs, 01793 238444, about £25).
Britchcombe Countryside Holidays, Britchcombe Farm, Uffington, Faringdon, Oxfordshire, SN7 7QJ (01367 821 022).
At the foot of the South Downs this site comprises a series of secluded glades and is surrounded by trails; the coast and Brighton are a short drive away.
Site Pitch size varies, with each in its own woodland clearing. Basic amenities are provided, such as toilets, showers (open to the sky), a washing-up block and a small shop. The site tends to get muddy after the rain so wellies are advisable.
Price £5 per tent + £5-£9 adult (depending on season), £2.50-£4.50 under-12 (ditto). Free for under-3s.
Getting there Train to Plumpton, then a 30min walk. Alternatively, a taxi from Hassocks train station is about £10, or from Brighton mainline station about £20-£25 (Five Star Taxis, 01273 846 666).
Blackberry Wood, Streat Lane, near Ditchling, East Sussex, BN6 8RS (01273 890 035).
An eclectic crowd makes Debden’s vibe more akin to a festival than a holiday in Essex. Its expansive 50 acres (including several playgrounds) are walking distance from the tube.
Site Generous pitches are all well marked, and there are adequate facilities including a café, small shop, coin-operated laundry and showers. Electric hook-ups are also available.
Price £7 adult, £3.50 under-16 (Newham residents); £8 adult, £4 under-16 (non-Newham residents).
Getting there Debden, the nearest tube station, is around one-and-a-half miles away; Loughton is two miles. Both stations are on the Central Line.
Debden House, Debden Green, Loughton, Essex, IG10 2NZ (020 8508 3008).
Set among the Norfolk Broads, this is a spacious, peaceful site popular with those who want to combine camping and boating.
Site The area could accommodate at least twice as many pitches, so space is plentiful, and the fields are well drained and almost flat. There is only one male and one female shower but facilities are well kept.
Price £18.25 for up to four people, £3.50 extra adult.
Getting there The nearest train station is at Acle. From there, take a taxi (Our Hire, 01493 752 223, about £8).
Woodside Farm, Common Lane, Thurne, near Great Yarmouth, Norfolk NR29 3BX (01692 670 367).
Perched on a cliff a few miles from Land’s End, and a steep downward walk to the sand and sea of Pednvounder Beach, this farm affords its campers an ocean view.
Site In bad weather the wind can be battering in the treeless fields. That aside, there are adequate facilities including token-run showers, and the pitches are flat and well drained. There is a limited number of electric hook-ups.
Price £2-£4 tent, £1 car, £5-£6 adult (depending on season), £3 child 11-15, £2 child 4-10.
Getting there Train to Penzance. Bus 1A runs regularly, taking 35 mins to the bottom of Treen Hill, from where it’s a short walk uphill to the campsite.
Treen Farm Campsite, St Levan, Penzance, Cornwall, TR19 6LF (07598 469 322 – no advance bookings).
A working farm with an environmental awareness, Highertown seeks to be as green as possible. It offers patrons a peaceful, simple stay within quintessential English countryside.
Site Solar-heated water is used in the showers and washing-up block (bring change: the tap costs 20p and the shower 40p), and toilets of both the normal and compost variety are available. Electric hook-ups and a coin-operated washing machine are also at your disposal. All pitches are located in one large field.
Price £8 adult, £4 child.
Getting there Train to Looe, then Polruan 281 bus to Lansallos church (Mon-Fri, journey 30 mins).
Highertown Farm Campsite, Lansallos, Looe, Cornwall, PL13 2PX (01208 265 211).
Within Exmoor National Park and on the bank of the Exe, Westermill offers all the benefits of real countryside, including walks, pubs, fishing and steam trains.
Site The site is set across four fields (the first being the only one fenced off from the water, so best for children), with hedges and trees giving a sense of privacy. Solar- and gas-powered showers, toilets and washing-up facilities are available, as is a shop selling home-grown meats.
Price £6.50 adult, £3.50 child, £2.50 car.
Getting there Tricky. Buses do run from Minehead and Tiverton to Exford (0871 200 2233), but it’s still a two-and-a-half-mile walk to the site. From Easter-September, the Moor Rover bus (01643 709 701) can pick up and drop off anywhere within Exmoor National Park, but you’ll need to book well ahead.
Westermill Farm, Exford, near Minehead, Somerset, TA24 7NJ (01643 831 238/07970 594 808).
Abbey Home Farm
Located on an organic farm in the Cotswolds, Abbey Home pushes a ‘back-to-nature’ feel. The communal fire is used for marshmallow toasting.
Site Large and small fields, barns, yurts and a cottage all available. Guests can make us of a washing-up tap, solar-powered showers, compost toilets, a shop and a café. There is a more ‘private’ area a mile from the main field with room for four tents and its own compost toilet.
Pitches 40 tents on the large field; 50 people and 8 people respectively on the small fields.
Price Varies according to accommodation choice; inquire directly.
Getting there The nearest train station is Kemble, on the other side of Cirencester. Buses are infrequent, so it’s best to get a taxi, about £15, to the farm. Cirencester Taxis (01285 642 767) operate from the rail station.
Abbey Home Farm, Burford Rd, Cirencester, Gloucestershire, GL7 5HF (01285 640 441).
North Lees Campsite
A haven for outdoor enthusiasts – climbing and walking are just two of the pursuits available here. Nearby Hathersage affords visitors an array of literary and historical highlights.
Site You can pitch where you like among the tall trees. A stone building houses the showers (one male, one female) and the toilets, all of which are well-maintained, as well as a covered washing-up area.
Price £6.50-£7.50 adult (depending on season), £4.50-£6.50 child (ditto), £1 car.
Getting there It’s a long walk uphill from the nearest station at Hathersage, where the 272 bus from Sheffield also stops. So get a taxi instead (Grindleford Private Hire, 01433 630 360, about £6).
North Lees Campsite, Birley Lane, Hathersage, Derbyshire, S32 1BR (01433 650 838).
Upper Booth Farm
A conservation-conscious National Trust farm on the Pennine Way, and connected to numerous other paths, Upper Booth is ideal for walkers.
Site Two fields and no designated spots mean you can choose your view, and numbers are kept low so it never feels too busy. Minimal facilities include toilets, hot showers and a washing-up spot. In summer the farm kitchen doubles as a makeshift café. There’s also a barn that sleeps 12.
Price £6 adult, £5 under-12s, £4-£5 vehicle, £7 person on bank holidays. Barn £8 person or £90 for entire space.
Getting there Train to Edale and then 200 bus (15min), which takes you to the door of the farm. It’s a school bus, so there are three buses a day in the afternoon, and no service at weekends or in the holidays.
Upper Booth Farm & Campsite, Edale, Hope Valley, Derbyshire, S33 7ZJ (01433 670 250).
For walkers and gawpers: set in the 300ft-high Gordale Scar gorge in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales, this is one dramatic camping spot.
Site Such facilities as there are – toilets, showers and a washing-up area – are incredibly basic and not as well kept as some. However, you can pitch wherever you like and electric hook-ups are possible.
Price £3 adult, £1.50 child, £3 tent, £3 vehicle.
Getting there The nearest train station is Skipton. Local buses run from Skipton to Malham (try DalesBus). The journey takes 45-60min, then it’s a 20min walk to Gordale Scar. Transport details (and numbers of local taxi firms) are available on the Malham website.
Gordale Scar Campsite, Gordale Farm, Malham, North Yorkshire, BD23 4DL (01729 830 333).
A secluded spot in a local nature reserve, this site is far from traffic and a good base for exploring Yorkshire’s literary history and natural beauty.
Site You can pitch anywhere on the long strip of grass and there are picnic tables and stone slabs for barbeques scattered around. No vehicle access means a steep walk down to the site. Well-tended men’s and women’s toilets are provided, along with one shower, drinking taps and washing-up points.
Price £6 adult, £4 under-15s, free for under-5s.
Getting there Train to Halifax. Bus 574 stops at Booth, half a mile from the campsite (35min).
Jerusalem Farm, Jerusalem Lane, Booth, Halifax, West Yorkshire, HX2 6XJ (01422 883 246).
With access to local beaches that offer good swimming, surfing and cliff walks, Trefalen is ideal for outdoorsy types.
Site A basic site with one, clean toilet block, as well as washing-up sinks and drinking taps, but no hot water or showers.
Price £10-£12 for two-person tent (depending on size). Additional adult £5, additional under-14 £3.
Getting there Train to Pembroke, from where the Coastal Cruiser 387/388 buses run several times a day. It takes about an hour to Broad Haven beach car park, next to the campsite.
Trefalen Farm, Bosherston near Pembroke, Pembrokeshire, SA71 5DR (01646 661 643).
Located next to the ruins of a 12th-century priory (whose cellar has been converted into a pub), this site is in the Brecon Beacons National Park.
Site There are no showers and two toilet options: the pub (preferable but bound by opening hours) or the car park (always open but not particularly pleasant). No set pitches but in wet weather it’s advisable to aim for the top of the slope.
Price £3 adult, free for under-5s.
Getting there There is no public transport to the priory. The nearest train station is Abergavenny, from where it’s a 13-mile/£25 taxi ride (Taxi Tacsi, 01291 691 870).
Llanthony Priory, Court Farm, Llanthony, Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, NP7 7NN (01873 890 359).
Gwern Gof Uchaf
Dramatic scenery offers challenging climbing for adventurous campers and gentle walks, picnics and angling for those seeking relaxation, all at the foot of Tryfan, a 3,000-foot mountain.
Site You can pitch in front of the 14-person farmhouse (which can also be rented out) or on a little mezzanine field slightly higher up. A shower block offers unisex facilities and a washing-up area, kept in good order (and where a weather report is pinned up). Two toilets for men and for women are available.
Price £5 adult, £4 under-15s, £10 farmhouse bed.
Getting there Train to Bangor, from which you can take buses to Betws-y-Coed (changing at Llandudno Junction or Llanberis).
Gwern Gof Uchaf, Capel Curig, Betws-y-Coed, Conwy, LL24 OEU (01690 720 294).
A small, friendly site at the top of Wales on the Creuddyn peninsula, Tan-y-Bryn affords stunning views of the shoreline.
Site There are three gently sloping fields in which to pitch your tent and basic facilities such as toilets, showers and washing-up facilities are provided, as well as an information room with notices about local businesses and a fridge-freezer. Electric hook-ups are available.
Price £12 for a two-person tent, £5-£6 for a solo tent.
Getting there Llandudno Junction is the nearest train station, but no buses go nearby. A taxi costs about £5.50 (Roger’s Taxis, 01492 572 224).
Bryn Pydew, Llandudno Junction, Conwy, Gwynedd, LL31 9JZ (01492 549 296).
Machrihanish Holiday Park
Situated at the tip of the Kintyre peninsula, this site allows access to a three-mile sandy beach and long walks along Kintyre Way.
Site Pitching here is done in a ‘like-for-like’ fashion, with families, couples and singles grouped together. Comprehensive disabled and parent-and-child facilities are available, with good showers and toilets for all. Mod cons like hairdryers, straighteners and styling irons can be hired, and a ‘camper’s caravan’ features a microwave, sink, crockery, TV and music player.
Price £13.50-£14.50 for a two-person tent, £10 for a solo tent, more for electricity. £6.50 additional adult, £3 additional child. Glamping tents, caravans and wigwams also available – see website for details.
Getting there There are two flights a day Mon-Fri from Glasgow International to Campbeltown (journey 45min). From there, local buses to Machrihanish stop just outside the campsite, or you can get a taxi (01586 551 122). Buses run from Glasgow to Campbeltown but, at about four and a half hours, it’s a very long journey.
Machrihanish Camping & Caravan Park, East Trodigal, Campbeltown, Argyll, PA28 6PT (01586 810 366).
Mains Farm Wigwams
Thornhill’s history-steeped neighbour Stirling and the mountainous, loch-filled Trossachs are both easily accessible, while the village itself boasts a unique landscape including the floodplain of the River Forth.
Site The pitches are a bit of a walk from the basic shower and toilet facilities. There is also a washing-up area and a washing machine/dryer. Electric hook-ups are available but should be reserved in advance.
Price £8 tent, £4 adult, £2 child. Wigwams also available.
Getting there Train to Stirling, then 11 bus (several times a day, no service Sun) to Thornhill; journey takes 30 mins. On Sun, there’s a Harlequin Coach service from Stirling bus station to Thornhill at 9am. Mains Farm is a short walk from the village.
Mains Farm Wigwams, Thornhill, Stirlingshire, FK8 3QR (01786 850 735).
Very remote, this site has views across the bay and is a good base for scenic walks along a stunning coast of inlets and dunes. The village eatery, the Applecross Inn, is legendary.
Site All basic necessities are provided for and in good condition, with a licensed café/restaurant on site. Within the six acres there is no restriction on where you pitch, and the reception has a payphone (there is no mobile phone reception) and a cash machine. A coin-operated washing machine and tumble dryer are also available.
Price £7-£9 adult (depending on season), £4.50 under-16s, free under-12s. Camping huts and static caravans also available.
Getting there Train to Strathcarron or Achnasheen, then get a taxi to Applecross (try Lochcarron Garage on 01520 722 205).
Applecross Campsite, Applecross, Strathcarron, Ross-shire, IV54 8ND (01520 744 268).
This isolated spot on the Scoraig peninsula presents numerous walking and climbing opportunities; the owners hire out boats, allowing you to make use of the nearby loch.
Site There are marked pitches in the camping area, with toilets, showers, washing-up areas and limited electricity all provided. The bothy (which offers further accommodation for 9-12 people) forms the social hub, and contains a fridge and sink but no cooking facilities.
Price £2.50 tent, £5 adult, £2.50 child.
Getting there A couple of options. Train to Inverness, then the Westerbus (01445 712 255, one a day on Mon, Wed, Sat) to end of Badrallach Road; or City Link bus Ullapool service (08705 505 050, several times daily) from Inverness to Braemore Junction. Collection can be arranged from both drop-off points with the campsite owners.
Badrallach, Dundonnell, Ross-shire IV23 2QP (01854 633 281).
Bored with the canvas suburbia of organised campsites? Then forget the rows of neatly marshalled tents, chemical toilets and trappings of civilisation and try one of these unusual ways to sleep over in the great British outdoors.
1. Cosy up in a Romany caravan
A traditional Romany caravan now has a permanent home, in a wildflower meadow near Llangrannog in West Wales. Built in 1924, the Gypsy Caravan Cardigan Bay has a wood-burning stove and is just big enough for two; best of all, you get exclusive use of the tranquil meadow. As well as the caravan, there’s a cabin with a shower room, kitchen and wooden veranda; sitting out here on a balmy summer evening is heavenly.
2. Camp out on the Thames in a skiff
The idea of navigating the Thames in an antiquated, round-bottomed rowing boat might sound alarming at first, but bear with us: it’s the upper stretches of the Thames, where tranquility reigns and the route is lined with idyllic waterside boozers. The boats in question are also things of beauty: a fleet of seven 100-year-old skiffs, stars of the annual Swan Upping swan census held on the river (not to mention ‘Shakespeare in Love‘ and ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire‘). Everything you could possibly need is on board – sculls (oars), mooring spikes, a stove and cooking equipment, crockery, sleeping and rowing mats and, best of all, a wet-weather cover that enables your boat to double up as a three-berth tent. All in all, it’s a Jerome K Jerome fan’s dream come true.
3. Go boutique at Bestival
Camp Bestival (an off-shoot of Bestival) is, as the name suggests, not just for music lovers, but boutique campers too. And the available options are great fun. Yurts and Squrts offer fun, cosy and green accommodation in both adult and child sizes; the Yurtel comes complete with a king-size bed and miniature toiletries; the solar-powered Podpads are lovingly decorated little wooden huts, with fitted carpet, shelving and locks on the front door; while Eve’s Tipis are set up for some serious luxury lounging on floor cushions, and sheepskins rugs. Campervans are also available for hire.
4. Kip in a vintage caravan
Deep in the woods of the North York Moors, La Rosa’s 20-acre site is occupied by eight kitsch and colourful caravans. Each is kitted out according to a different retro theme; Vegas Vice pays tribute to Elvis, while La Rosa’s opulent, mirror-bedecked interior is a homage to 1930s striptease star Gypsy Rose Lee. The whole site is run on low-tech lines and there’s no electricity: three of the caravans are cosily heated by wood-burning stoves, while showers are candlelit affairs in a hay byre and toilet trips involve a compost loo in a converted shepherd’s hut. There’s also a jauntily striped communal circus tent, where children can delve into the dressing-up box on rainy afternoons, and grown-ups natter and take afternoon tea from the charmingly mismatched rose-print crockery. A leftfield delight.
5. Pitch your tent at Three Cliffs Bay
This clifftop campsite is justly famed for its magnificent views over sandy Three Cliffs Bay. The pitches on the field by the cliff’s edge are somewhat sloping – but with views like that, who’s complaining? (Plus there’s a flatter back field for more cautious campers.) The beach is a short but slippery scramble down the cliff path; once you’ve made it safely down, you’re rewarded with a picture-perfect, unspoilt stretch of sand: happily, limited car parking keeps the holidaymaking hordes away.
6. Join the beach hut brigade
Beach huts began life as mobile contraptions, wheeled to the water’s edge to preserve the modesty of Victorian ladies with a horror of showing so much as an ankle in public. Sadly, they became somewhat redundant once we all stripped off into swimsuits and cavorted merrily on the sands – until someone had the bright idea of turning them into static huts; a little piece of privacy on increasingly busy beaches. These days, you’ll be lucky to get your hands on one: price tags of £50,000 and upwards aren’t unheard of, even though you’re generally not allowed to stay in them overnight. A rare exception is Mudeford Spit in Dorset, where you can sleep in the huts overnight between March and November. Prices to buy are eye-watering – but renting is more manageable.
7. Hit the road in a camper van
Based in the surf mecca of Devon, O’Connors Campers (01837 659 599) specialises in renovating authentic VWs, fitting them with new engines and interiors while retaining their classic boho look. There are 17 available for hire, from the ’60s splitscreen to ’70s bay window models. ‘A VW represents freedom and escape,’ says O’Connors’ Sam Money. ‘They’re not very big, so you can get them into a beach car park, but they’ve got everything you need inside. You can come straight out of the water, lean your surfboard up against the front and have a cup of tea – and if the waves aren’t big enough, you just hop in and drive up the coast.’
8. Rent an airstream
A bottle of cold beer, the opening harmonies of ‘Good Vibrations’ wafting through the air, the sunlight glinting off the chrome curves of an Airstream caravan: this is about as close as you can get to starring in your own American road movie. OK, so you’re stationary in the middle of a working dairy farm in a field on the Isle of Wight, with a bank of cloud scudding across the sky – but the same spirit of freedom is most certainly present. Vintage Vacations (07802 758 113) owns 13 beautifully restored old caravans, most of them classic Airstreams from the 1950s and ’60s, and they’re available to hire for short breaks of up to a week. All amenities are included in the reasonable tariff, and the caravans boast shower facilities (though you are asked to use the farm’s loo block; vintage caravan loos are a step too retro).
9. Sleep over on safari
Forget Kenya: a safari experience can be yours for a fraction of the price in Kent, at the Port Lympne Wild Animal Park. Home to some 650 animals, including the largest breeding herd of black rhino outside Africa, the park’s latest offering is an overnight safari package. After dinner around the communal campfire and a surprisingly cosy night under canvas (in commodious tents with with proper beds), you get to accompany the rangers on a magical dawn safari, getting up close and personal with the park’s free-range zebra, giraffe, antelope and wildebeest.
10. Go wild camping
In most parts of England and Wales, you have to ask the landowner’s permission before pitching your tent. In practice, many turn a blind eye if you’re only there for a night and are discreet, or don’t even notice you’re there (the golden rule being ‘pitch late, leave early’).
In Scotland, it’s legal to camp wild, so long as you follow the rules: leave the flora and fauna as you found it (party animals and budding Ray Mears take note), avoid farmland and camp well out of sight of any houses and roads. After that, it’s simply a question of remembering to pack the essentials – an Ordnance Survey map, compass, torch, plenty of food and water, and a sturdy tent and sleeping bag.
Dartmoor, England’s last great wilderness, is a place where camping is encouraged. But beware: according to folklore, Dartmoor is rife with strange apparitions – from a pair of disembodied throttling hands to the pack of demon hounds that inspired the Hound of the Baskervilles. It’s also home to a notorious prison – a dour, forbidding cluster of grey stone buildings.
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