The 50 Best nights under canvas
From tucked-away retreats and luxury yurts to perfect pitches for getting back to nature, Rhiannon Batten presents the experts’ guide to sleeping under the stars
Friday 01 June 2012
Rhiannon Batten is a travel writer and camper. She tweets at @rhiannonbatten
Richard Hammon is chief executive of green holiday specialists, GreenTraveller (greentraveller.co.uk)
Alastair Sawday is the founder of Canopy & Stars (canopyandstars.co.uk)
Jo Keeling is the editor of "brilliantly British" Pretty Nostalgic magazine (prettynostalgic.co.uk)
Jonathan Knight is founder and editor of the 'Cool Camping' guidebooks (coolcamping.co.uk)
James Nation is the founder of camping website Campr (campr.co.uk)
The South East
"The setting may be rustic but the style of the place is special," says Jonathan. Bell tent and tipi interiors are "decked out with bunting, shabby chic throws and bedlinen, and the communal safari tent looks like a Bedouin palace – with fur throws and Moroccan lamps". James is also a fan.
Manor Farm, Tortington, Arundel, West Sussex, BN18 0BG (billycancamping.co.uk). From £195
"Soak up that safari experience here without venturing into the Serengeti," says Jo. "The 10 canvas lodges overlook a watering hole, so you can sit on your verandah and watch zebras munching the lawn and herds of wildebeest galloping across the Kent plains."
Port Lympne Wild Animal Park, Lympne, Nr Hythe, Kent, CT21 4PD (aspinallfoundation.org). From £120 per person, half-board
This campsite, on the car-free island of Sark, is one of the best places in the UK to see the night sky, says Richard. "Hire a pre-erected tent or bring your own. Don't miss the sandy cove at Le Grande Grêve. It's the pick of the island's stunning beaches."
Sark, Channel Islands, GY9 0SB (01481 832202, ind.pn/J6o5h3). Pitches from £7.50 per person per night
"Look out of your yurt here and you'll spot apple trees and vegetable patches," says Alastair. "This isn't surprising as it's set in the garden of a Queen Anne country house". It's also an ideal setting for a spot of croquet.
Mount Hall, London Road, Great Horkesley, Essex, CO6 4BZ (01275 395447, canopyandstars.co.uk). From £95 per night, for two
At this "large expanse of open heathland, in the New Forest, horses graze happily alongside campers," says Jonathan. "There are no designated pitches, so choose between company or solitude, forest or open space and whether you want to walk or drive to the facilities." Also recommended by James.
Beaulieu Road, Brockenhurst, Hampshire, SO42 7QL (01590 624344, campingintheforest.co.uk). Pitches from £13.30 for two, per night
"In the South Downs National Park, this collection of yurts and bell tents is great for groups," advises Richard. "You can also book a range of guided activities, from foraging and falconry to bush craft and natural navigation."
Old Shepherd's Cottage, Firle, Sussex, BN8 6LL (07908 352090, safaribritain.com). Campsite hire from £1,300 for two nights for up to 20 people
Swallowtail Hill Farm
"The two bell tents here offer a marvellous introduction to farm life," according to Alastair. Inside each one you'll find "furniture made by local craftsmen and, outside, your very own fire pit". A range of farm activities is also available.
Hobbs Lane, Beckley, East Sussex, TN31 6TT (0845 337 2948, swallowtailhill.com). Bell tents from £80 per night, for up to four
For anyone dreaming of a Swallows and Amazons experience, this campsite comes pretty close. Its five pitches (plus loo and shower) are set within a small copse on an island on the Thames. To get there, you'll have to walk, cycle or paddle in.
Eynsham, Witney, Oxfordshire, OX29 4JH (01865 881452, visitthames.co.uk). Pitches from £8 per night for two
Jo says: "Tara and D'Arcy can show you how to forage on their land and the nearby seashore, then cook up wild tapas by the fire: picking winkles out with pins, making wild garlic bread and feasting on freshly gathered samphire. Choose from one of three bell tents or tipis, all a pebble's throw from the beach."
Wild Guernsey, Pouquelaie Vinery, Ruette Rocques aux Caulx, St Peter's, Guernsey,GY7 9HX (07781 122420, wildguernsey.co.uk). From £15 per person per night
The South West:
"The two living spaces here really are the most luxurious way for a couple to camp in Cornwall," states Alastair. Each features "king-size beds, wood-powered baths and your own private deck". For entertainment, there's just "the rolling moors of Bodmin and each other".
The Old Vicarage, St Clether, Launceston, Cornwall PL15 8QJ (01275 395447, ekopod.com). From £95 per night for two
This "unique site, only open for a few weeks in August, has a festival atmosphere, with campers often staying for a fortnight", says James. "The facilities are basic but it has an amazing location overlooking Weymouth". This year they're also offering bell tents.
Eweleaze Farm, Osmington, Dorset DT3 6ED (01305 833690, eweleaze.co.uk). Pitches from £7 per person per night
The Yurt Retreat
Unusually for a campsite, this one is adults-only. If that sounds X-rated, fear not. Part of an organic dairy farm, the site's four yurts and communal lodge (complete with kitchen, lounge and showers) are as wholesome as they come. Each yurt is styled with vintage or handmade furniture and comes with a log burner and its own loo.
Fordscroft Farm, Fordscroft, Crewkerne, Somerset TA18 7TU (theyurtretreat.co.uk). From £204 for three nights, for up to four
According to Alastair, the owners of this farm campsite "have thought of everything to create a relaxing camping experience; wild swimming and canoeing, a hammock for lazy afternoons, a wood-fired hot tub and the choice of a huge tipi or yurt to sleep in".
Mixtow, Fowey, Cornwall PL23 1NA (01726 870844, adventurecornwall.co.uk). Tipi from £510 per week for up to five
"Discover a little oasis on the far-western edge of Cornwall," advises Jonathan. "Push past the hens and palm trees and you'll discover 12 spacious pitches lining the garden's edges, each hidden away from the outside world".
Bosavern House, St Just, Penzance, Cornwall TR19 7RD (01736 788301, secretbosavern.com). Pitches from £15.75 for two
Babes in the Woods
"Babes in the Woods invites you to camp in their 300 acres of woodland for your hen-party," says Jo. "Replace L-plates and feather boas with bushcraft workshops, yoga sessions, cream teas and champagne and stay overnight in bell tents laced with rustic furniture and tweedy bedspreads."
Nr Dittisham, Dartmouth, South Devon (020 7193 8633, babesinthewoods.co.uk). From £195 per person, per night, including food, accommodation and activities
Based on the western edge of St Agnes, Troytown Farm "runs right down to the beach. The site has amazing views of the Atlantic," says James. It's based on a working dairy farm so "fresh milk and homemade ice cream are available in the shop". Bring your own canvas or rent a bell tent.
St Agnes, Scilly Isles TR22 0PL (01720 422360, troytown.co.uk). Basic pitches from £7.50 per person per night
An online community that opens up private gardens to campers, CampInMyGarden "is like couchsurfing with tents," says Jo. "We recently pitched up under an oak tree at 'Jods's Place' in Devon. As we cooked sausages over the fire, their eldest son taught me the guitar, while the youngest lassoed my husband with a climbing rope before generously returning him in time to stir the beans."
Jods's place, Nr Cullompton, Devon (devoncampinmygarden.com). From £8 per person, per night
Wild Comfort & British Bells
If you want luxury as well as solitude, head to the south-west. Wild Comfort, in Devon, and British Bells, in Cornwall, now offer a moveable feast of posh, furnished bell tents. With the former you choose from a range of settings, with the latter you find the site and they come to you.
Prices start from around £230 for two nights for up to four (wildcomfort, britishbells.com)
Midlands & East:
The 100 acres of garden and fields surrounding Wing Hall make for a near-perfect camping spot, according to Jonathan. "The no-music policy helps to maintain an air of peace and tranquillity and there are plenty of hideaway pitches to hole up in."
Wing, Oakham, Rutland, LE15 8RY (winghall.co.uk). Pitches from £7 per person per night
An informal site, near the market town of Bishop's Castle, Foxholes is, according to James, a good base for walkers, cyclists and beer drinkers (Bishop's Castle is home to two micro-breweries). "The site has great views of the Shropshire hills."
Montgomery Road, Bishop's Castle, Shropshire, SY9 5HA (01588 638924, foxholes-castle.co.uk). Pitches from £7 per person per night
"As you paddle down the River Wye in sturdy Canadian canoes, assign one of your party to look out for otters bumbling along the riverbank and another for spotting the white hat of your tipi poking through the top of the trees," says Jo. "It's a wonderful way to explore the more remote stretches of the River Wye."
Orchard Farmhouse, Mordiford, Herefordshire, HR1 4EJ (01432 870700, tipiadventure.co.uk). Tipis from £180 per night for up to seven, plus £50 per day canoe hire
At this sustainable community and education centre, events range from "escape the Olympics" breaks to yoga weekends. You can also simply book in to stay in one of its bell tents and tuck into delicious local, organic food (barbecues, suppers and afternoon teas can be arranged). If you want to be under canvas but you don't want to be outdoors, they also offer indoor camping "nooks".
Kings Lynn, Norfolk, PE32 2QN (01760 755434, westlexham.org). Bell tents from £113 for two nights for two, camping nooks from £85 for two nights for two
"The owner's passion for sustainability, food and beauty is reflected in these three yurts, perched on the edge of the Peak District," says Alastair. "Hampers of local sausages, fresh eggs and freshly baked bread await your arrival and you'll crave no more comfort than the sheepskin rugs and sumptuous beds provided."
Limestone View Farm, Stoney Lane, Cauldon, Staffordshire, ST10 3EP (07845 939603, secretcloudhouseholidays.co.uk). From £265 for three nights for two adults
Described by Alastair as "a romantic and eclectic camp" between Hay and Hereford, Midland Farm offers just one yurt, together with an adjacent shepherd's hut that houses kitchen and bathroom facilities. The key to its appeal is "variety," he adds, with "a French antique bed, Indian throws and a vintage-style kitchen". Stay here and you'll also be surrounded by an RHS garden.
Pig Street, Norton Wood, Norton Canon, Herefordshire, HR4 7BP (01544 318575, midlandfarm.co.uk). From £200 for two nights, for up to four
Recommended by James, this eco-aware site near the Norfolk coast is based on a working farm. The campsite "is divided up into paddocks, between pretty stone walls, and a variety of watersports is available at nearby beaches", he adds.
Burnham Deepdale, Norfolk, PE31 8DD (01485 210256, deepdalebackpackers.co.uk). Pitches from £4.50 per person per night
Described by Richard as a cluster of 10 "innovative, large geodesic domes perched in a garden in the Forest of Dean", book into the sleek and stylish surroundings here and you'll have your own woodburning stove, small campfire kitchen and a recycled whisky barrel providing hot water storage for showers.
Mile End, Coleford, Gloucestershire GL16 7EN (domegarden.co.uk). From £345 for four nights for up to four people
For a romantic splurge, look no further than Bluebells. Described by its owners as a "canvas cottage" it's more like a canvas stately home, with a roll-top bath, "proper" loo, sleigh bed, goose-down duvet, gramophone and tandem. Sparkling wine and breakfast supplies are also included.
Osbaston House Farm, Lount Road, Osbaston, Warwickshire, CV13 0HR (01455 292888; thedandelionhideaway.co.uk). From £348 for four nights for two
Yorkshire's newest posh site (it opened in April) is a hit with Richard. Among the accommodation options are eight yurts equipped, unusually, with running water. "The site has an impressive commitment to sustainability, including a vast wood-chip boiler to supply heating and hot water, and a café that serves delicious local food." For ultimate decadence, book a lomi lomi massage.
High Knowle Farm, Knowle Lane, Masham (thebivouac.co.uk). Yurts from £240 for four nights for up to five
The owners of this small but stylish tipi and yurt camp (there are two of each) are "devoted to the rugged, beautiful Tarsey Valley and share their passion with their guests," says Alastair. Expect "dramatic views, an abundance of wildlife, and hiking and biking trails". Or, book in for one of the site's workshops – bushcraft, painting and "wilderness therapy" are all available.
Thorneyburn, Tarset, Northumberland, NE48 1NA (01434 240902, wildnorthumbrian.co.uk). From £180 for two nights for up to six
Described by Richard as "a stylish new yurt camp with bell tents and a bow-top gypsy wagon, set among oak woods in the southwest Lake District", the emphasis here is on a low impact holiday. "Expect solar panels for charging mobiles and safari-style showers."
Kirkby-in-Furness, Cumbria, LA17 7XR (01229 889888, ashlackyurts.co.uk). From £300 for four nights for up to five
Stay at Lanefoot Farm and you can "enjoy spotless facilities, a friendly atmosphere and a pitch to suit all tastes," according to Jonathan. "The main field has an exceptional view of Skiddaw, the field is perfect for families, and there's a sheltered spot by the trees for more challenging weather conditions."
Thornthwaite, Keswick, CA12 5RZ (01768 778097, stayinthornthwaite.co.uk). Pitches from £15 for two people for two nights
"This sustainable campsite offers a range of luxury tents across its 200-acre woodland," says Jonathan. "With lovingly decorated interiors and thoughtful touches, such as home-made cakes, the owners have created a truly special site." Jo agrees. "At 75 square metres, these tents are larger than most hotel suites."
Village Farm, Scrayingham, York, North Yorkshire, YO41 1JD (01759 371776, jollydaysluxurycamping.co.uk). Bell tents from £130 per night
Full Circle Yurts
Richard describes this collection of four handcrafted, Mongolian yurts as "one of the best-sited camps in the country". The yurts "have views of Lake Windermere, and are among a grove of giant redwoods adjacent to the grounds of stately Rydal Hall, from where it's a short stroll to the waterfalls and plunge pools at Rydal Beck".
Rydal Hall, Ambleside, Cumbria, LA22 9LX (07975 671928, lake-district-yurts.co.uk). From £345 for four nights for up to six
Reached by ferry from Balmaha, at the southern end of Loch Lomond, this island campsite makes a good detour for walkers seeking respite from the West Highland Way. The waterside facilities can cater for up to 12 campers per night.
Port Bawn, Inchcailloch, near Balmaha (01389 722600). Pitches £5 per person per night
The Orkney island of Westray is "a remarkable and very friendly place," says Jo. "The simple Barn campsite here is superbly equipped for the £5 per pitch cost with a communal camper's kitchen and games room. It's an ideal budget base from which to go meet the local puffins".
Chalmersquoy, Westray, Orkney, KW17 2BZ (01857 677214, thebarnwestray.co.uk). Pitches from £5 per tent per night, plus £1.50 per person
"Set in the grounds of the stunning castle that features on the Scottish £5 note, this site is surrounded by parkland and has access to some great walks," says James. It's a Camping & Caravanning Club site, but non-members are also welcome.
Culzean, Maybole, Ayrshire, KA19 8JX (01655 760627, campingandcaravanningclub.co.uk/culzeancastle). Pitches from £7.10 per person per night, for non-members
"These three traditional yurts are an eclectic mix of Kyrgk design and local materials, with a homely, earthy feel," says Alastair. More reasons to visit? "The Trossachs are a haven for the arts and creative courses, with the lochs and the Arrochar Alps for exploration."
West Moss-side, Thornhill, Stirling, FK8 3QJ (01275 395447, trossachsyurts.com). From £150 for two nights, for up to four
The Lazy Duck
Part of a lovingly run rural complex, there are four tent pitches at the Lazy Duck's secluded campsite. If it's raining, you can use a campers' shelter to cook and eat in and there's a bush shower for the brave. Warm up afterwards with a turn in the sauna.
Badnanfhuarain, Nethy Bridge, Inverness-shire, PH25 3ED (01479 821642, lazyduck.co.uk). Pitches from £10 per person plus £5 for each additional camper, up to a maximum of three per tent
"The Knoydart peninsula, which is accessible only by boat or via an 18-mile hike, is a great place to go camping in the semi wild," says Richard. "One of the best places to pitch is this wild beach site (with compost toilet and running water), a 10-minute stroll round the bay from where the ferry drops you off."
Near Inverie, Knoydart, by Mallaig, PH41 4PL. (01687-462242; www.knoydart-foundation.com) £4 per tent
Summed up by James as "a collectively owned site, based in a wood, with pitches set amongst the trees," here "you can light your own campfires in braziers and, if it's warm enough, set up a hammock and camp wild-style". Pack your own tent or glamp it up in a pre-erected Swedish-style kata.
Braincroft, Crieff, Perthshire, PH7 4JZ (01764 670140, comriecroft.com). Standard pitches from £7 per person per night
Harvest Moon Holidays
One for "pampered campers" according to Jonathan, this coastal farm site promises "luxurious safari tents, fresh linen, clean towels and culinary gadgetry".
Lochhouses Farm, Tyninghame, East Lothian EH42 1XP (07785 394026, harvestmoonholidays.com). From £485 for four midweek nights, for up to eight
Cae Wennol Yurts
"In the beautiful Conwy valley, overlooking the Tal Y Fan mountains, this tranquil and comfortable family-run yurt camp is a great base from which to explore Snowdonia," advises Richard. It's all about enjoying nature here.
Ty Hwynt i'r Ffrwd, Hen Efail, Conwy, North Wales, LL32 8SP (caewennolyurts.co.uk). From £80 per night for up to four
Cosy Under Canvas
"Located in four acres of beautiful woodland, this is a retreat like no other," says Jonathan. "Whether you choose to stay a Scandinavian tipi, or a geodesic dome, inside you'll find touches such as sheepskin rugs,hand-carved furniture and wood-burning stoves".
Dolbedwyn, Newchurch, Kington, Powys, Wales, HR5 3QQ (01497 851603, cosyundercanvas.co.uk). Tipis from £325 for three nights for up to four
Pant yr Hwch
"At West Wales's first Feather Down Farm the owners are making impressive efforts to achieve self-sufficiency for their 18th-century smallholding," according to Richard. "A collection of five luxury tents, they're clustered on a gently sloping meadow and overlooking a wooded river valley."
Nr Lampeter, Ceredigion,SA48 7LY (01420 80804, featherdown.co.uk). From £279 for four nights for up to six
"Based on an organic farm, overlooking a gorgeous bay", Caerfai also promises easy access to "some decent surf in the right conditions," says James. Also recommended by Richard.
St David's, Pembrokeshire,SA62 6QD (01437 720548, cawscaerfai.co.uk). Pitches from £4.50 per person per night
The Dapper Camping Club
"A dashing blend of plush and quirky furniture, a decanter of complimentary sherry, Welsh wool blankets, second-hand books and a porcelain leopard: you don't get more eccentrically British," says Jo.
Y Neuadd, Talachddu, Brecon, Powys, LD3 0UF (dappercampingclub.co.uk). From £190 for two nights for two people
"You can choose between luxury domes, 'threepis', bell tents, traditional canvas tents or rustic stone 'crog lofts' at this magical site by the River Teifi," says Richard.
Cilgerran, Cardigan, SA43 2TB (coldatnight.co.uk). From £230 for four nights for two people, B&B
"Surrounded by water, this is one of the prettiest sites in Wales," enthuses James. "It's based around a river, where you can swim and light campfires on the banks. Bliss!"
Cefn Uchaf, Llanbedr, Gwynedd, LL45 2PL (nantcolwaterfalls.co.uk). Pitches from £8 per person per night
Ty Cefn Tregib
"Two authentic Mongolian yurts create tranquil spaces in this quiet corner of the Brecon Beacons," says Alastair. "Inside you'll find king-size beds and colourful décor, and Llandeilo is a stroll away."
Ffairfach, Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire, SA19 6TD (01558 823942, tregib.co.uk). From £230 for four nights for two
Three Cliffs Bay
"You really can't beat the views at this campsite on the Gower," says Jo. "If you have a head for heights, request a pitch on the cliff-side and watch the tide roll in below as you cook your tea."
North Hill Lane, Swansea, SA3 2HB (01792 371218, threecliffsbay.com). From £13 per one-man tent plus £5 foradditional campers
Best for...Exotic wildlife
Sitting in the grounds of Port Lympne Wild Animal Park this site's canvas lodges overlook a waterhole, so you can watch zebra and wildebeast having their morning drink.
Best for...Dramatic views
Pack your binoculars for this hillside site in the Tarsey Valley. There’s plenty of wildlife to spot,rugged scenery to enjoy and plenty of hiking and biking trails to explore.
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