The 50 Best nights under canvas
Love yurts? Nuts about huts? Whatever your camping style, Rhiannon Batten and her panel of experts have picked the greatest British sites to stay at this summer
Friday 14 June 2013
Iain Duff is the editor of ‘Camping’ magazine, campingmagazine.co.uk
Richard Hammond is chief executive of green-holiday specialists greentraveller.co.uk
Jonathan Knight is the founder of Cool Camping and editor of the new ‘Cool Camping Britain’ guide, coolcamping.co.uk
Tania Pascoe is co-author of the Wild Guide to Devon, Cornwall and the South West, wildguide.net
Tom Dixon is managing director of glamping specialists, Canopy & Stars, canopyandstars.co.uk
“One of a new breed of sites where the principle is to leave the environment untouched and keep things as simple as possible,” says Jonathan. “This site, on the Firle estate in Sussex, is essentially a field in a gorgeous location, where showers and other amenities have been provided. Campfires are allowed too.”
From £10pp per night; firlecamp.co.uk
Mellow Farm Camping
Set on the River Wey, outside Farnham in Surrey, there are three camping areas to choose from. Tania’s favourite is Oxbow, set in the old oxbow of the river. “Hire a canoe, visit the surrounding working farm or wander in the neighbouring forests and heathlands.”
From £5pp per night; mellowfarmadventure.co.uk
The Secret Site
Tucked away in wooded, Sussex, countryside, “barn owls, stoats, deer, glow worms, grass snakes, kestrels and woodpeckers thrive and there is a huge range of woodland birds, butterflies and other insects to enjoy,” says Iain. “As well as regular pitches, there is a tree tent for hire.”
From £11pp per night; thesecretcampsite.co.uk
Northmoor Lock Paddocks
“I’m always amazed there aren’t more campsites by the Thames,” says Jonathan, “so thank goodness for Northmoor Lock Paddocks” in Oxfordshire. It offers “several camping fields right by the river that are perfect if you have your own kayak or skiff.” Build campfires, go fishing or try river swimming. “It’s a rare opportunity to go all Famous Five for the weekend,” he adds.
From £5pp per night; manorfarmappleton.co.uk
Book into this Suffolk site for “utter peace and tranquility in the heart of the countryside,” says Richard. “Choose from bell tents, tipis or woodland hideouts, or grab one of just five traditional tent pitches. The garden is a haven for wildlife. There are bikes to borrow, herbs to pick, ducks and hens to feed and a jungle shower hidden in the trees”.
From £14 per tent pitch per night; aldegarden.co.uk
Glottenham Castle, in Sussex, is home to four very different tented spaces, explains Tom. “Among them is De Etchyngham, an unusual geodome packed with mid-century modern pieces.” The rambling, bohemian and friendly farm is yours to explore, he adds.
From £95 per night for two; canopyandstars.co.uk
The 13 luxury tented lodges at Port Lympne Wild Animal Park, in Kent, are “something else”, according to Jonathan. “Calling it glamping is putting it mildly. They come equipped not only with full-size beds, wood-burning stoves and electricity but also attached bathrooms with power showers.”
From £450 for three nights for up to six; aspinallfoundation.org/short-breaks/elephant-lodge
Secret Spot Camping
A plant nursery and surf shop as well as “a cool little campsite – the nursery connection explains the prolific number of interesting plants scattered around – this site outside Braunton, in Devon, is near enough to the beaches of Croyde Bay and Saunton Sands to be handy for a swim or surf, but not too near to be over-run with surfers,” says Jonathan.
From £12.50pp per night; coolcamping.co.uk/campsites/543-the-secret-spot
“Wild camping is not only allowed but encouraged in many areas of Dartmoor National Park,” says Tania. She recommends Piles Copse, near Ivybridge, “an idyllic place to camp wild, with a pretty stream setting”. However, you will need to ask for permission to camp here from the landowner (contact: John Howell, 01752691749). Or continue further up the Erme valley for more equally beautiful locations.
“With a sandy beach 10 minutes’ walk away, and lots of on-site activities, Seaview is ideal for children,” says Iain of this Cornish site, outside Gorran. “There are myriad facilities on offer, including a heated outdoor swimming pool with a sun terrace. The Eden Project is also close by.”
From £9 per night for two; seaviewinternational.com
One of the Feather Down Farm Days sites, this Cornish farm, outside Penzance, offers “luxurious and yet simultaneously rustic safari tent camping on a working farm with sea views,” says Tania. “There is also a sauna and hot tub in the meadow for relaxing after a hard day.”
From £215 for four nights for up to six; featherdown.co.uk
Summed up by Tom as “a woodland hotel of sorts”, this collection of yurts, bell tents, a tipi and a shepherd’s hut sits in a leafy pocket near Taunton, in Dorset. “Each is beautifully designed, crafted and entirely private. Have a go at woodworking, or just chill out in the sauna yurt, knock up a pizza in the outdoor oven and take long walk,” he says.
From £70 per night for a bell tent sleeping two; canopyandstars.co.uk/craftycamping
Cornish Tipi Holidays
Near St Kew, Cornwall, this is “the original tipi and wild-swimming campsite”, according to Tania. “In 16 acres of woodland and meadows are 16 tipis of varying size, plus a beautiful, spring-fed, turquoise quarry lake. Borrow a canoe, catch your own fish, then cook it on a campfire.”
From £210 for three nights for up to three people; cornishtipiholidays.co.uk
The Yurt at Harptree Court, East Harptree, Somerset
“Is there a more luxurious yurt in the world?” asks Tom of this canvas cottage at East Harptree, in Somerset. “The stately grandeur of the manor house at Harptree Court has overflowed into this amazing three-pod yurt: think Georgian antiques, a roll-top bath and Persian rugs,” he explains.
From £115 per night for two; harptreecourt.co.uk
Described by Tania as “idyllic, family-run riverside camping on a farm dating back to medieval times and home to England’s last river swimming club,” this site outside Trowbridge, in Wiltshire, also lays on fairtrade cream teas in the gardens in summer, made with cream from the farm’s cows.
Tent pitches from £14 per night for two; stowfordmanorfarm.co.uk
This new site, outside Combe Martin, on the North Devon coast, is currently home to three decadent canvas-roofed cottages (two more are in the pipeline). Each has its own barbecue area, woodburner, en-suite shower and stash of board games and you can order in home-made ready-meals and local cider. It’s also close to Exmoor for dark sky stargazing.
From £475 for four nights for up to six; longlandsdevon.co.uk
“For most of the year, Eweleaze is a working organic farm but every August it becomes a splendid, eco-friendly campsite,” says Iain. “The facilities, near Osmington in Dorset, are excellent and the views of the county’s Jurassic Coast are breathtaking.” New for this summer are a patisserie cabin, a back-to- basics rotisserie restaurant, boat trips from the local beach and a Dorset Bath, the owner’s take on the Turkish kind.
From £7.50 per night per adult; eweleaze.co.uk
High Nature Centre
Head here for “yurt camping on a lovely five-acre smallholding outside Salcombe in Devon”, says Jonathan. “The yurts are really well furnished by owners Cat and Doug and the fact that it is within a few minutes’ walk of some cracking beaches is an added bonus. The chill-out polytunnels here are a nice touch, allowing campers space to relax on the farm if the weather is not so good.”
From £280 for four nights for two; high-nature.co.uk
This yurt, near Wincanton in Somerset, “was one of the first places we had with Canopy & Stars and is still as popular as ever,” says Tom. “Wonderfully eccentric, the interior can best be described as ‘late 18th century with French influence’ and it’s roomy for four, with its two-pod arrangement”.
From £95 per night for four; yarlingtonhouse.com
This Cornish site, at Penwith near Porthcurno, is summed up by Tania as “a fantastic cliff-top family campsite with great views”. There is “a lovely walk through a wild flower-filled lane down to Pedn-Vounder, Penwith’s most spectacular sands, or visit the delightful café or pub in the hamlet”. There’s no booking, she warns, so turn up from 8.30am to grab a pitch.
From £5 per adult plus £2 per tent; treenfarmcampsite.co.uk
Midlands and East:
The eight large ‘Soulpad’ canvas bell tents at this site, outside King’s Lynn in Norfolk, are set “in secluded corners of a 21-acre private estate, whose owners have gone to great efforts to run the camp sustainably”, says Richard. “This includes reclaimed sculptured decking and wicker wind screens, four solar-shower units and – new this summer – an outside sunken fire pit.”
From £140 for two nights for up to four; westlexham.org
A thriving holiday park, packed with facilities and activities and with a real community feel, this site near Holt, in Norfolk, is recommended by Iain. “If the words ‘holiday’ and ‘park’ fill you with dread, don’t worry,” he adds. “Camping pitches here are surrounded by natural countryside and you can walk for what seems like miles through woodland without actually leaving the site.”
From £20.75 per night for a tent and two adults; kellingheath.co.uk
Secret Meadows, near Woodbridge in Suffolk, is made up of five plush safari tents, each like a little canvas cottage, looking out on to the broad meadows, explains Tom. “The camp has been set up by Sinfield Nature Conservation Trust to help maintain this amazing site and just by being here you’re helping out.”
From £78 per night for six; www.secretmeadows.co.uk
“What’s unique about this Lincolnshire campsite is that there is a bubble-car museum attached to it – and who doesn’t love bubble cars?” asks Jonathan. “The main campsite field is next to the museum but there’s a smaller tree-sheltered paddock, too, for more private pitching. Book the rally field for the weekend and the owners can arrange catering”.
From £5 per tent plus £1 per person; bubblecarmuseum.co.uk
At this site in Wissington, Suffolk, you can “enjoy simple riverside camping with direct access onto Constable’s picturesque River Stour,” says Tania. “Hire a canoe and head out on a dawn safari or take a leisurely paddle to one of the riverside pubs for lunch.”
From £12 per night for a tent and up to four adults; rushbanksfarm.co.uk
Offa’s Dyke Yurts
Tom recommends this site near Oswestry, in Shropshire, as “a wonderful place for families, not least because you have your own personal playpark stretching out in front. It’s a spacious camp in complete privacy with spectacular views and it is well placed for walks along the Offa’s Dyke path”.
From £80 per night for four adults and two children; offasdykeyurts.com
With its “white biodome, rolling countryside and a comfy interior that reminds you of the nearby coast”, this site at Bagthorpe, in Norfolk, promises “true glamping”, according to Tom. “Owners Emily and Nick Walton have opened up their organic farm to a lucky few. Everything you need is provided, including homemade cake on arrival.”
From £85 per night for two; bagthorpefarm.co.uk
Richard recommends this peaceful Staffordshire site, with its furnished collection of three yurts and a bell tent. “Although the yurts sleep up to four, this is an ideal spot for a romantic break,” he says. “Or go as a group and take over the whole site.” There’s also a wood-fired hot tub on site.
From £265 for three nights for up to four; secretcloudhouseholidays.co.uk
Herding Hill Farm
“A friendly site that lies in an idyllic spot above the small town of Haltwhistle in Northumberland, close to Hadrian’s Wall”, this comes recommended by Iain. The site is well maintained, the children’s play area is outstanding and the toilet and shower block would put many a hotel to shame.
From £20 per night for a tent and two adults; herdinghillfarm.co.uk
One of several encampments at Scales Plantation, between Keswick and Penrith in Cumbria, this family-sized safari tent is tucked away in a clearing in the woodland. Stay here and “you’re perfectly placed for striking out into the Lake District, with real beds and a hot shower and a woodburning range to come home to,” says Tom.
From £98 per night for eight; scalesplantation.com
The Quiet Site
“You might want to visit this site, by Ullswater in Cumbria, for the idyllic lakeside location, but what’s most likely to make you want to come back here is the site’s Quiet Bar,” says Iain. “Its owners reckon they have the best campsite pub in Britain, and who are we to argue?”
From £16 per night for a tent and two adults; thequietsite.co.uk
“Yurts are two-a-penny these days, so it’s nice to find a site that goes the extra mile to provide genuinely comfortable, spacious accommodation,” says Jonathan. At this one, outside Kirkby-in-Furness in Cumbria, “the beautiful old oak wood setting is magical yet you’re still not far from some prime Lake District destinations, including Windermere and Ambleside”.
Camping from £10pp, yurts from £260 for three nights for four; ashlack.co.uk
Wild Northumbrian Yurts
Book into this site in the tranquil Tarset valley, near Kielder Water in Northumbria, to “stay in a tipi or yurt among wildflower meadows with views of fells and woodland,” says Richard. You can learn bushcraft, pottery, falconry, go on walks or just relax in the very comfortably furnished canvas hideaways.
From £180 for two nights for up to six; wildnorthumbrian.co.uk
Wasdale National Trust Campsite
Situated right at the head of Wast Water, in the Lake District, “the dramatic scenery you can view from your tent is unbeatable”, approves Tania. “It’s a National Trust-run campsite, with a local produce shop on site, and is perfect for walking the Scafell range.”
From £8.25pp for a tent or from £30 per night for a heated pod for two; nationaltrust.org.uk
Described by Richard as “much more than just a group of yurts plonked in a field”, at this site outside Masham, on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales, “you can book in for wild picnics, barbecue and pizza evenings, forest camps, foraging courses and wine-tastings”.
Yurts from £182 for two nights; thebivouac.co.uk
Set on a private estate outside Aviemore, in the Cairngorms, this secluded yurt is “a cosy space in wonderful isolation on a hillside above the River Spey,” says Tom. Genial owner, Walter, “has collected all sorts of treasures with which to deck out the yurt – including a Victorian double bed, tapestry chair, mahogany writing table and a barbecue created from a truck wheel”.
From £70 per night for two; inshriachhouse.com
“Mull is a magical place and this campsite’s location is magnificent, overlooking the sea and the mainland, with glimpses of faraway Ben Nevis on clear days,” sums up Iain. “For kids, there is crabbing off the old pier, a superb play area next to the harbour and a general feeling of freedom and peace.”
From £16 per night for two; shielingholidays.co.uk
Kinloch Village Campsite
“Not to be confused with several other campsites with variations on the ‘Kinloch’ name, this place is a fantastic semi-wild campsite on the Isle of Rum,” says Jonathan. “The facilities are a bit basic but campers are here for the knock-out views of the Isle, the sea and beyond to the mainland.”
From £5pp per night; isleofrum.com
The three yurts at this site, outside Stirling, are “a fusion of Kyrgyz design and local materials and have a real homely, earthy feel,” says Tom. “Thick rugs and wood-burning stoves keep you in comfort and warmth. A brilliant camp for families.”
From £75 per night for four; trossachsyurts.com
“The Land Reform Act means that you are allowed to camp responsibly on most unenclosed land in Scotland,” says Tania. If you’re in search of a lovely wild spot to pitch a tent and watch the sunset, she recommends “the tiny sandy cove at Sheigra, outside Kinlochbervie in Sutherland”.
Iain recommends this holiday park outside Tayinloan, on the Kintyre peninsula, as “a family owned campsite set amid magnificent coastal scenery on its own private beach, overlooking the islands of Gigha, Islay and Jura. Every pitch has a sea view and there are private woodland walks and lots of wildlife”.
From £7 per night per tent plus £4 per adult; pointsands.com
“This little site in Ross-shire is about as close as you can get to wild camping with the bonus of loos and showers on hand (public conveniences are just outside the site),” says Jonathan. “It’s a tiny, tents-only campsite and, despite its position opposite the Torridon Countryside Centre, it feels wonderfully remote.”
Pant yr Hwch Farm
It’s little surprise that this Feather Down site, near Lampeter, scores an impressive 9.8 out of 10 from visitors, according to Richard. “Part of a traditional Welsh hill farm, the owners keep a flock of rare-breed Badger Face sheep, woolly pigs, chickens, ducks and bees, alongside a vegetable garden and orchard.”
From £215 for four nights for up to six; featherdown.co.uk
“The latest innovation from the pioneering team at Fforest, just outside Cardigan, is a ‘Campshack’ – two pod tents joined in the middle by a wooden kitchen and dining shack housing a wood-fired stove and oven,” says Richard. “Perfect for groups who want to sleep under canvas without sacrificing social space.”
From £896 for four nights for up to eight, including breakfast, coldatnight.co.uk
Cosy Under Canvas
At this woodland site, near Newchurch, in Powys, “there’s a chiminea on the deck of each tipi that’s great for toasting marshmallows,” says Richard. “Don’t miss the wood-fired hot tubs tucked away in the trees.”
From £150 for four nights for four, cosyundercanvas.co.uk
Porthclais Farm Campsite
“Awesome views can be enjoyed from this cliff-top farm campsite near St Davids, in Pembrokeshire”, according to Tania. “Wildlife abounds in this area and each of several nearby coves offers a new adventure.”
From £7pp per night; porthclais-farm-campsite.co.uk
A collection of two tipis and two yurts outside Machynlleth, in Powys, Tom describes this site as “a place to hide yourself away in the hills or to replenish your spirits with meditation and healing from local practitioners”.
From £108 for two people for two nights; ecoretreats.co.uk
Red Kite Tree Tent
“This wins my vote for the most innovative glampsite in the UK this year,” says Richard. A spherical canvas pod suspended between trees near Llandrindod Wells in Powys, facilities even stretch to a double bed and a wood-burning stove.”
From £299 for three nights; sheepskinlife.com
Described by Jonathan as “effectively the Welsh version of John O’ Groats or Land’s End”, this site at St Davids, in Pembrokeshire, is the most westerly campsite in Wales.
From £5.50pp per night; coolcamping.co.uk
Set on a working hill farm outside Builth Wells, in Powys, Fforest Fields enjoys “a beautiful, rural location”, says Iain. “The original site has an intimate feel, while the second has views down the valley.”
From £17 per night for a tent and two people; fforestfields.co.uk
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