The 50 Best: Camping sites (1-25)
From down to earth to the lap of luxury, there is a wealth of open-air experiences on offer - especially in the UK. Andrea Oates presents the experts' guide
Monday 26 June 2006
1. THREE CLIFFS BAY, GOWER
The major attraction of this site is its spectacular position, which offers panoramic views of the Gower coastline. "The beach is easily, if steeply, accessible from the site, and it's never packed because there isn't a car park quite close enough for the typical moto-sapiens," says Andy.
Where: Three Cliffs Bay Caravan and Camping Site, North Hills Farm, Penmaen, Swansea, Gower (01792 371218: www.threecliffsbay.com)
How much: family tent (two adults and two children) £14, small tent (two adults) £11
2. TURNER HALL FARM, CUMBRIA
This small, basic site lies in the Duddon Valley, the most beautiful part of one of the Lake District's least developed areas. "Walk off the site in any direction and it won't be long before a hill comes under foot," says Andy. "From the highest ground in England, to the loveliest river stroll by the Duddon, this is one of the greatest places on the planet to take your boots. Basic facilities, but who cares?"
Where: Turner Hall Farm, Seathwaite, Broughton-in-Furness, Cumbria (01229 716420)
How much: adults £3, children (under-16) £1, vehicles £1
3. BRIGHOUSE BAY, DUMFRIES AND GALLOWAY
Situated at the head of the Solway Firth and surrounded by 1,200 acres of great walking country, Brighouse Bay is set in a quiet, secluded peninsula, with magnificent views over the Irish Sea. The award-winning holiday park offers a swimming pool, toddlers' pool, games room, ten-pin bowling, playground, toddlers' corner, bar, bistro, family room and function suite.
Where: Brighouse Bay Holiday Park, Borgue, Kirkcudbright, Dumfries and Galloway (01557 870267; www.gillespie-leisure.co.uk/brighouse)
When: 18 April-31 October
How much: two adults and tent £11.90, children £1.40
4. LE VAL DE CANTOBRE, AVEYRON, FRANCE
The Grands Causses Regional Park encompasses some of France's most spectacular landscapes, including the Gorges du Tarn. This park campsite, in the grounds of a medieval farmhouse, has pitches arranged on terraces looking down the valley, and there is a full activity programme available.
Where: Le Val de Cantobre, 12230 Nant d'Aveyron, France (00 33 5 65 58 43 00: www.valdecantobre.com)
When: 6 May-10 September
How much: pitch, including two people, from €19, children (4 and over) €4
5. FOUR SEASONS TENTED CAMP, GOLDEN TRIANGLE, THAILAND
"This is top-notch Four Seasons pampering, in canvas cabins with recycled-teak floors and en-suite "exotic rain" showers," says Jonathan. "You can get there only by chauffeured river boat, but once you've arrived, you can learn how to ride your own elephant to get around the jungle - certainly an eco-friendly alternative to a 4x4!"
Where: Four Seasons Tented Camp, Golden Triangle, Thailand (00 66 53 910 200: www.fourseasons.com/goldentriangle)
When: all year
How much: from £863 per person per night for a three-night "Tented Adventure" package.
6. THE WARREN, FOLKESTONE, KENT
"A lovely little find with tremendous views over the ocean," says Jonathan. Situated at the top of the famous white cliffs that stretch between Dover and Folkestone, the main section of the site is open to the weather, but there are little hideaways tucked in among the trees, including a secluded "honeymoon pitch", which has just enough space for one tent.
Where: The Camping and Caravanning Club Site, The Warren, Folkestone, Kent (01303 255093 - no phone calls after 8pm; www.campingandcaravanningclub.co.uk)
When: 30 March-30 October
How much: adults from £4.65, children from £2.05, plus £5.40 per night for non-Caravanning and Camping Club members.
7. GWERN GOF ISAF FARM, CONWY
"Scenery of the very tall, very rocky variety soars skywards from the edges of the site wherever you cast your amazed gaze," says Andy. Gwern Gôf Isaf is situated on a traditional north Wales hill farm at the bottom of the looming Tryfan peak. Set in the heart of the mountains, it is a great base for walking or climbing the surrounding peaks of the Glyders and the Carneddau. The National Mountaineering Centre at Plas-y-Brenin is only three miles away.
Where: Gwern Gôf Isaf Farm, Capel Curig, Bettws-y-Coed, Conwy (01690 720276; www.gwerngofisaf.co.uk)
When: all year
How much: £3 per person per night
8. VALE OF PICKERING CARAVAN PARK, NORTH YORKSHIRE
"This 15-acre site, surrounded by beautiful countryside, is one of the very best family caravan parks in the country," according to Steve. "There is a good-size playing field for football and other games, and a superb children's play area. The luxury toilet and wash facilities are of an exceptionally high standard and are kept immaculately clean."
Where: Vale of Pickering Caravan Park, Carr House Farm, Allerston, Pickering, North Yorkshire (01723 859280, www.valeofpickering.co.uk)
When: 1 March-7 January
How much: tent pitches from £10
9. CASTEL CAMPING LE TY NADAN, BRITTANY
The campsite is in a superb setting amongst wooded countryside on a 60-acre, riverside estate. "A massive range of activities is on offer on, and near to, this site in south Finisterre, including canoeing, riding, fishing and climbing," says Rod. "The new indoor pool complex is outstanding." Pitches are spacious, each being separated by hedges for peace and privacy.
Where: Castel Camping Le Ty Nadan, 29310 Locunolé, France (00 33 (2) 98 71 75 47; www.camping-ty-nadan.fr)
When: 1 April-2 September
How much: pitch, including car, from €8.70 per person (age 7 and over) from €4.30, child (2-6) from €1.70
10. LONGITUDE 131 O, CENTRAL AUSTRALIA
"The palatial tents in the middle of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in Australia are essentially deluxe hotel rooms under a fabric roof," says Jonathan. "Even the electric blinds are operated by a nifty bedside switch. But the reason for coming all this way is to enjoy the spiritual experience of sunrise at Uluru from the comfort of your kingsize bed. A perfect marriage of luxury and landscape."
Where: Longitude 131º, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Australia (00 61 2 8296 8010; www.longitude131.com.au)
When: all year
How much: luxury tent twin share £375, sole use £600 (no under-16s)
11. BAY VIEW FARM, CORNWALL
From your pitch right on the hilltop you can look out over the Cornish coast to west Looe and St George's Island. "A glorious view and good facilities are the features of this small site," says Jonathan. Children will love the site owner's Shire horses in the adjacent field, and the picturesque fishing village of Polperro is just around the corner.
Where: Bay View Farm, St Martins, Looe, Cornwall (01503 265922)
When: all year
How much: from £10 per pitch with electricity, from £8 without
12. SYKE FARM, CUMBRIA
"For obvious scenic variety, Buttermere is one of the most appealing places in the Lakes, and it's tempting just to get your chair out and sit on the site admiring the scenery," says Andy. "So be strong, lace up those boots and get among it". The site lies on the edge of the village, where two excellent pubs offer refuelling opportunities for worn-out walkers, and it is a short walk to the lake from which this valley gets its name.
Where: Syke Farm Camping Ground, Buttermere, Cumbria (017687 70222)
When: all year but come during the off-season for extra tranquility
How much: adults from £3.50, children from £1.50
13. TREVORNICK HOLIDAY PARK, CORNWALL
"A great family destination with everything to keep the family amused," says Steve. A short walk takes you to the glorious Hollywell Bay beach, with safe swimming and surfing. A funfair and crazy golf can be found nearby, and on-site facilities include a large children's adventure play area, a swimming pool, bars, restaurants and golf. Pre-erected luxury Eurotents are also available to hire.
Where: Trevornick Holiday Park, Holywell Bay, Newquay, Cornwall (01637 830531; www.trevornick.co.uk)
How much: adults from £4.70, children (4-14) from £1.20, car from £1.15
14. PLAYA MONTROIG CAMPING RESORT, TARRAGONA, SPAIN
"Set in its own tropical gardens with an excellent location next to a fine, sandy beach, this site boasts plenty of top-quality amenities and entertainment, and its Tam-Tam eco-park is great for children," says Rod. As well as the huge woodland area, there are play areas, and a large open-air theatre hosting performaces by clowns and magic and puppet shows.
Where: Playa Montroig Camping Resort, 43300 Montroig (Tarragona), Spain ( www.playamontroig.com)
When: 16 March-29 October
How much: per pitch including two people and car from €13
15. COTTAR'S 1920S MARA SAFARI CAMP, KENYA
"If you ever secretly wish you'd been around in the olden days, when the world was undiscovered and unexplored, and everyone packed their clothes in trunks, then head off to Cottar's 1920s Camp," says Jonathan. " Ideally positioned for game-spotting in the Masai Mara and Serengeti, this luxury tented camp is furnished with original safari antiques. Each pristine white canvas tent has its own ensuite dressing room and bathroom, complete with luxury Twenties shower."
Where: Cottar's 1920s Mara Safari Camp, Masai Mara, Kenya, East Africa (00 1 888 870 0903; www.cottars.com)
When: all year
How much: from £230 per person per night sharing, third bed in room for a child (3-12) from £120
16. AYR HOLIDAY PARK, CORNWALL
Fantastic views across Porthmeor Bay to the rocky headland, known as the Island, not to mention "the best toilets in the whole of England," according to Jonathan, perfect for first-time campers worried about rickety old loos. Although the site is just a few minutes' walk from the attractions of St Ives, with its sandy beaches, trendy bars and cafés, and fish and chip shops, it retains a peaceful atmosphere.
Where: Ayr Holiday Park, St Ives, Cornwall (01736 795855; www.ayrholidaypark.co.uk)
When: all year
How much: tent from £5.50, adults from £3, children (5-16) from £1.30, cars £1.50
17. BURROWHAYES FARM, SOMERSET
This is situated beside the Horner Water in the glorious Horner Valley, with a view of Dunkery Beacon. "You can either let your own legs carry you onto Exmoor from here, or hire one of the horses that live on-site to take you up there," says Andy. "You need never cover your own tracks in a week of wondrous walking. The site also has top-notch facilities."
Where: Burrowhayes Farm Caravan and Camping Site, West Luccombe, Porlock, Somerset (01643 862463; www.burrowhayes.co.uk)
When: mid-March-end October
How much: pitch including car and up to two people from £8, children (3-15) from £1.50
18. FISHERGROUND CAMPSITE, CUMBRIA
This Lake District site, right in the heart of Eskdale, caters mainly for families and groups with children. "This really is a children's paradise, with rafts on the pond, a tree house, a zip wire, Tarzan ropes, and an adventure course," says Steve. "Campfires are allowed and the site also has direct access to a station on the fantastic Ravenglass & Eskdale Miniature Steam Railway."
Where: Fisherground Campsite, Fellside Cottage, Eskdale, Cumbria (01946 723349; www.fishergroundcampsite.co.uk)
When: 1 March-31 October
How much: adults £4.50, children £2.50, vehicles £2
19. FERIENPARADIES NATTERER SEE, AUSTRIA
This site is situated in unspoilt, picturesque surroundings in the Alps near Innsbruck. "A beautiful Tyrolean mountain site that celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2004," says Rod. "An excellent location around two lakes, with a very wide range of activities on offer, including curling, tobogganing and langlauf."
Where: Ferienparadies Natterer See, 6161 Natters, Austria (00 43 512 54 67 32; www.natterersee.com)
When: 29 April-28 October
How much: pitches from €7.80, adults from €5.70 plus taxes, children (up to 13) from €4.40
20. OBEROI VANYAVILAS, INDIA
"Staying in a tent right next to a tiger reserve might sound a bit rash, but the Oberoi Vanyavilas pulls it off in amazing style," says Jonathan. "The tents have four-poster beds, marble bathrooms, and gold-thread-embroidered silk canopies. Each has a walled garden, and there's even a spa set around the lake to relax in after a hard-day's tiger-spotting in the adjacent Ranthambore Tiger Reserve. I've checked the separating wall and can vouch for its sturdiness!"
Where:The Oberoi Vanyavilas, Ranthambhore, Rajasthan, India (00 91 7462 22 3999; www.oberoivanyavilas.com)
How much: £360 for a luxury tent, double or single
21. TROYTOWN FARM, ISLES OF SCILLY
"This is just a lovely place in the remotest part of St Agnes, the most remote of the Isles of Scilly," says Jonathan. "It's right at the water's edge and has a fantastic edge-of-the-world feel to it. The campsite is not accessible from the road, so a tractor picks up you and your camping equipment. However, it's not too remote to be walking distance from the only pub.
Where: Troytown Campsite, Troytown Farm, St Agnes, Isles of Scilly (01720 422360; www.troytown.co.uk)
When: March-October, winter by arrangement
How much: from £5.75 per person
22. BLACKBERRY WOOD, EAST SUSSEX
"Just off the South Downs Way, this is Cool Camping's No 1 campsite," says Jonathan. "Set in glorious woodland, each pitch has its own little clearing with logs to sit on, and a fireplace where you can make a real fire, get cosy and toast your marshmallows." The site is also 10 minutes' walk from one of the nicest gastropubs in the south of England, the Jolly Sportsman.
Where: Blackberry Wood, Streat Lane, Streat, near Ditchling, East Sussex (01273 890035)
How much: tent £5, adult £5, children £3
23. BOSWORTH WATER TRUST, WARWICKSHIRE
"This is a lovely family site located next to large lakes, offering fishing, sailing and windsurfing," according to Steve. There is a large children's play area and plenty of open space for games. Some pitches are right next to the water and ideal for those keen on fishing. For fishing widows (or widowers), there is also a fully licensed café bar with panoramic views over the lake.
Where: Bosworth Water Trust, Far Coton Lane, Wellsborough Road, Nr Nuneaton, Warwickshire (01455 291876; www.bosworthwatertrust.co.uk)
When: all year
How much: tent, including occupants, from £12
24. CAMPING UNION LIDO VACANZE, VENETO, ITALY
"This is one of Europe's largest and very best sites," says Rod. "A superbly organised camping complex with direct beach access, it has a very extensive range of amenities, including nine bars and seven restaurants, and it's close to Venice." The campsite, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2005, stretches on to the peninsula of Cavallino, faces the sea and has a private beach more than a kilometre long.
Where: Camping Union Lido Vacanze, 30013 Cavallino, Italy (00 39 0412575111; www.unionlido.com)
When: 1 May-30 Sept
How much: pitch from €7.80, adults from €4.60, children free in low season, from €4.10 mid-season
25. COSTANOA COASTAL LODGE AND CAMP, CALIFORNIA, USA
"Costanoa is a beautifully tranquil eco-hideaway where you can totally escape from the bustle of San Francisco, an hour north on Highway 1," says Jonathan. "The tent bungalows look like English beach huts, made from canvas with a wooden frame holding them all together. Facilities are at separate comfort stations, where you'll find a sauna and an outdoor fireplace. There is also an outdoor hot tub available". Of course.
Where: Costanoa Coastal Lodge and Camp, 2001 Rossi Road at Hwy 1, Pescadero CA 94060 (00 1 650 879 1100; www.costanoa.com)
When: all year How much: tent bungalows from £55 per night
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