Hardened Londoners sometimes need to remind themselves what the great outdoors looks like. Forget the luxury of London hotels, just a short train journey from London you can find amazing campsites and glamping spots in glorious greenery. Whether you want to escape the chaos and go really off grid, pitch your own two-man or kip inside a luxe bell tent, we’ve selected the best rural camping spots for you, all within a few hours or less of London. Watch wildlife that isn’t a fox or pigeon, hit some country pubs or breweries, and sample some local food, while you stay at one of these countryside campsites near London.
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The best camping near to London
Going off-grid doesn’t have to mean ditching comfort, as you’ll find out at Plush Tents. As the name suggests, punters can experience ‘the last word in luxury camping’, in yurts that are probably nicer – and bigger – than your flat. The location is a beautiful site tucked-away in the South Downs, and if you get bored of the on-site hammocks and hot tub (as if), you can always stroll down to the sea nearby or explore the rather lovely city of Chichester.
Chapel Lane, East Ashling, Chichester, West Sussex, PO18 9AW.
Who says that you can’t party while camping? Certainly not the Fire Pit crew, who hire out the whole site to groups. There are 15 tent pitches, plus the Wren’s Nest – a cool and cosy ‘hazel bender-tent’ that sleeps eight. For anyone who gets FOMO at leaving Hackney for more than a few hours, there are yoga classes, an old double decker bus where you can hang out (read: drink) and a warehouse serving coffee and cocktails. It’s basically Dalston dropped into a massive field. From May to September, weekends are whole site hire-only, but smaller groups can pitch-up during the week. And yes, there is a fire pit.
The Firs, Wendling, near Dereham, Norfolk, NR19 2LT.
A couple of hours south west of the city is this peaceful campsite where you can pitch up next to the bright and breezy meadows of the South Downs. At 700 acres, the actual farm is pretty spacious (it’s home to 150 woolly sheep), and the sizeable camping field means that pets, kids and your energetic mates have loads of space to roam. And your tent won’t be squished up next to anyone else's. There are fire pits for evenings spent toasting marshmallows, but if you want to go further afield head to The Flower Pots pub in Cheriton or pretty market town New Alresford, just a short drive away.
Cheriton, Nr Alresford, Hampshire, SO24 0NX.
At this tiny, idyllic Suffolk retreat you can choose to stay in a yurt, bell tent, gypsy caravan, woodland hideout or even experience full-blown country living in Badger Cottage – or just bring a standard tent to pitch. It’s a lovely, tranquil spot surrounded by greenery and woodland, full of ducks and chickens. Oh, and the site is actually set in the grounds of a rather belting pub – the Sweffling White Horse – which serves all kinds of local ales and has won several CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) awards. Bliss.
The White Horse Inn, Low Road, Sweffling, Suffolk, IP17 2BB.
A lot of sites label themselves as ‘secret’, but Wild Boar Wood really is covert; the location is only revealed after booking, to preserve the area’s isolated wonder. We can tell you that it’s set in a bluebell wood in a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty not far from Brighton. Don’t bring your own tent, as it’s ‘off-grid wild glamping’ all the way, meaning you’ll be in a fully equipped bell tent, with no power and cooking on an open fire. But you do get to witness steam trains on the Bluebell Railway tearing past like it’s the 1930s.
Near High Weald Dairy, RH17 7EA – exact location revealed after booking.
Nestled away in an East Sussex hamlet, this not-quite-secret site is perfect for exploring the charming town of Lewes and the coastal chaos of Brighton. The super-chilled space is surrounded by woodland where you can catch a glimpse of deer, sparrow hawks and glow-worms. Plus, you can pay a bit more and spend the night in one of two ‘secret shelters’: a tree tent suspended in the trees (‘similar to a harvest mouse nest,’) or the Gridshell – a sustainable tent/cabin hybrid built by engineers.
Brickyard Farm, Town Littleworth, Barcombe, East Sussex BN8 4TD.
Set over 11 acres, the Orchard is near a beautiful stretch of Suffolk coastline and Rendlesham Forest – the location of supposed UFO sightings in 1980. An on-site shop stuffed full of delicious local food (you can even pre-order before your stay) and over 200 types of wine, beer and spirits all help sweeten the deal, and if you’re not the outdoorsy type you can opt for a pre-erected tent. Just don’t expect to be pitched-up next to Mulder and Scully.
28 Spring Lane, Wickham Market, Suffolk IP13 0SJ.
Want to leave London without really leaving London? Head to this spot in the vast Lee Valley Park and enjoy all the good stuff about the great outdoors just a short train ride away from the heart of the city. You’re surrounded by excellent walking and bike trails, and Lee Valley Park Farms is nearby (with meerkats, zebu and bearded dragons), as is the White Water Centre if you fancy some gnarly extreme sports. The site even has wifi for those who can’t bear to go without checking their email hourly (aka 99 per cent of Londoners).
Sewardstone Road, Waltham Abbey, Chingford, E4 7RA.
It may sound like a children’s adventure playground, but Little Ropers is actually a small ‘wild camping’ site for anyone who wants to really get away from it all and roam through some beautiful scenery. The site is on a 100-acre farm in the Stour Valley (tents only – no glamping or on-site breweries here) and you can camp in actual woodland for extra back-to-nature vibes. Look out for the farm llamas, Quentin and Herbert.
Assington Road, Bures, Suffolk, CO8 5JX.
This 11-acre site’s selling point is its focus on ‘the study and enjoyment of wildlife and a real camping experience in the heart of the Fens’. That wildlife includes everything from Gloucestershire Old Spots pigs to stoats to woodpeckers, and if you can stomach the ethical dilemma of eating the animals after looking at them, head to the camp’s beer and sausage-tasting every Saturday. Speaking of alcohol, there’s an on-site distillery, plus ‘Fenland Bushcraft’ workshops where city-types can go a bit feral and learn how to forage and make a fire.
Mile Tree Lane, Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, PE13 4TR.
Two hours away but a whole world apart from London, this beautifully located site is set on a working farm in a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The owners pitch the experience somewhere between camping and glamping, so you get fully furnished bell tents with hot showers, a few comforts (including two ‘welcome bottles’ of cider) and flushing toilets nearby, but you’re still off-grid and very much out in the open. Once you’ve got your nature fix, take a trip to nearby Salisbury or go further afield to the jaw-dropping Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage Site.
Woodminton Farm, Bowerchalke, Salisbury, Wiltshire, SP5 5DD.
A few hours from the capital by car or train, Stowford Manor is worth the journey. The site is surrounded by the River Frome, meaning that swimming, boating and fishing are all on the agenda – you can even join what is believed to be the world’s oldest river swimming club in nearby Farleigh. Check the charms of Bath and Bradford on Avon, try your hand at a glassblowing workshop in the local area or go wild at Longleat Safari Park. And don’t forget to finish the day with a renowned afternoon tea at the farm’s teahouse.
Wingfield, Trowbridge, Wiltshire, BA14 9LH.
Camping by the Thames doesn’t sound too appealing if you’re thinking of that awful excuse for a ‘beach’ in front of the Oxo Tower – but move that thought to the rustic Oxfordshire countryside. This riverside site offers campers the chance to explore the Thames in a way that Londoners never could, via wild swimming (without the threat of dysentery) or in one of the site’s Barefoot canoes. You can even try your hand at coarse fishing. Okay, you can’t cook anything you catch, but just head to one of the nearby local boozers for a feed instead, or venture to Oxford, six miles away.
Northmoor Lock Paddocks, Badswell Lane, Appleton, OX13 5JN.
Set in the rolling Chiltern Hills, this small site is a quiet gem. It’s surrounded by superb views of unspoilt, eye-catching countryside and you’re also in a prime location for spotting red kites (Londoners: they’re birds of prey). Pitch your festival-worn two-person tent or glamp it up in a bell tent with an Indian Kadai fire pit, barbecue and ice bucket for the champagne or – let’s be honest – prosecco. As a bonus, you’re also next door to a cracking local pub, with another just a few minutes away.
City Road, Radnage, High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, HP14 4DW.
Immerse yourself in nature and wildlife at a site that cares just as much about forest conservation as it does about camping. At this tranquil spot, in a large expanse of Kent woodland, there are recycling facilities, composting loos and even biodegradable shower gel on sale, to ensure that every aspect of your stay is eco-friendly. The more secluded Bluebell Camping area is hidden deep within the woods, so if you’re desperate to recoup, head down there to get some A-grade peace and quiet.
Badgells Wood, Whitehorse Road, Meopham, Kent, DA13 0UF.
Hidden away in Oxfordshire, alongside the Thames and home of the Henley Royal Regatta, is a super calming campsite with a chilled back-to-nature vibe. It’s a great spot to spend a few days away from the city, with fishing and swimming spots, shops and a farm kitchen that serves tasty and local fresh food all nearby. If you’ve got a furry friend, you’ll be pleased to know that a dog washing site is coming later on in 2018 too, so you won’t have to put up with a muddy buddy for long. Winner.
Marlow Road, Henley on Thames, Oxfordshire, RG9 2HY.