The best exclusive-use campsites in Britain
Jonathan Knight, editor of the UK's best-selling camping guides coolcamping.co.uk, selects his top 10
Friday 13 June 2014
Few other holiday experiences bring people together like camping. Maybe it's the teamwork needed for pitching up and getting organised, or the "us-against-the-elements" camaraderie, heightened by the freshness of the invigorating country air. Whatever the reason, there's no doubt that bonding with your nearest and dearest is best done beside a crackling campfire, beneath a star-dotted night sky, with a cold beer in hand.
Unsurprisingly then, many of us now opt to mark a special occasion with a big camp-out. Birthdays, weddings, hen or stag dos, mini-festivals – whatever the occasion, the in-place is outside. Campsites and other venues are cottoning on to this trend and now offer exclusive hire of their sites for larger events and gatherings. Some even offer extras such as hog roasts, entertainment or group activities, including bushcraft or foraging. Best of all, with a site "takeover", you needn't worry about disturbing your neighbours into the wee small hours.
The cosy canvas abodes at Longlands are equally as picturesque as the site's natural surroundings. Five safari tents come wonderfully furnished with vintage leather sofas, luxurious linen and a blanket box filled with family-friendly games. Longlands barn can play host to parties of up to 30, with its gorgeous green oak tables weighing half a ton each. Welcoming owners Bella and Bugsie can provide all your meals and you won't have to worry about washing up, because cutlery, crockery and glassware are all taken care of.
Longlands (01271 882004; longlandsdevon.co.uk). Mid-week breaks (Monday-Friday) from £525 (per lodge); weekends (Friday-Monday) from £545. Barn hire £200.
This nomadic tented village, which pops up at various locations in East Sussex, offers campers a unique experience. The idea is to get a few friends together for your allotted weekend and then just arrive and enjoy the fun, with accommodation, activities and food all organised by the Tribal Fit team. Bushrangers, storytellers and chefs ensure everything moves along seamlessly, leaving you to enjoy some quality time with friends or family. Activities are tailored to the ages of the children and although parents are expected to accompany children, there is downtime too.
Tribal Fit (07788 836795; tribalfit.co.uk). All-inclusive weekend package: £3,490; Friday to Sunday; packages, not including food and activities, £1,800 to £2,400. Maximum 20 people.
This secret, shady glade near an old castle may sound like the stuff of legend, but Hop Pickers Wood is no fantasy. Guests will not be given the site's exact location until a reservation is made, but let's just say it's not far from Bodiam Castle, hidden about half a mile down a private track. There's a sheltered area with an open fire, which makes it ideal for communal gatherings – in fact, the whole tree-fringed site is perfect for groups seeking privacy and seclusion.
Hop Pickers Wood (01580 831 845; original-huts.co.uk/camping). Groups (of up to 30) can hire their own private area for £300 per night. Larger groups can also be accommodated.
Open year round, this is a rustic farm campsite on the edge of the Brecon Beacons. Mornings begin with a visit from a playful young cat and gentle chestnut horse before you rekindle the campfire and enjoy splendid views of the Usk Valley. Three pitches share a space ideal for small groups, while seven more are scattered in remote places, perfect for larger groups who still want a bit of individual space. Activities include a go on the owner's tennis-court-cum-croquet-lawn, a soak in the wood-fired sauna or a trip out to the Brecon Beacons National Park.
Middle Ninfa Farm (01873 854662; chapel-marketing.com/middleinfa). £6 per person. Bookings should be made well in advance.
Tucked away on the banks of the Daugleddau Estuary, this low-impact woodland site marries a wild, secluded camping experience with the luxury of a fully insulated cabin. There are surprisingly ample facilities (communal kitchen, hot shower, flush loo) considering it's off-grid and each of the three cabins easily sleeps a couple or family of four. Pretty coves, Norman castles and the rugged cliffs of the Pembrokeshire coast are within reach. Well-behaved hens and stags are also welcome.
Cwtch Camp (0752 5779 454; cwtchcamping.co.uk). Site hire varies between £200 to £320 per night, depending on numbers (maximum 14 people; minimum two-night stay).
The Meadow at Lleweni Parc is a car-free acre of blissfully tranquil riverside loveliness. It's in an isolated corner of an airfield and is only accessible via a woodland walk over a charming little bridge. It's the ideal setting for a surreptitious gathering. Wander around the corner and campers will find their very own flight school where you can try out gliders 3,000ft above the heather-hued hills of North Wales. Weddings, bouncy castles, hog roasts – The Meadow has hosted them all and the Lleweni Parc staff are on hand with a wealth of local knowledge and are happy to help you out.
Lleweni Parc (01745 812062; lleweniparc.co.uk). Flat rate for exclusive hire of the meadow: £200 per night.
Talton Lodge is the ultimate secret garden. This private hideaway is home to a combination of glamping options, including Mongolian yurts, a North American-inspired tepee, one orchard wagon and a tree house-boat, all set within a Victorian walled garden. The lodge also houses two giant event tepees, set in the wonderful seclusion of the original Talton House kitchen-garden. The tepees can seat up to 120 people and create a flexible space, which guests can transform to suit the occasion.
Talton Lodge (07962 273417; taltonlodge.co.uk). Groups of up to 28 with sole access to Talton Lodge start at £1,530 for a weekend.
If anywhere deserves the accolade "a walker's paradise", it's the Northumberland coast. Located at the heart of all these spectacular strolls is The Bells of Hemscott, a pop-up experience (runnning from the end of May until August) that combines the thrill of wild camping with a few choice camping comforts. Although some of the bell tents come furnished, Hemscott is well and truly an off-grid camping experience and the ideal venue for groups seeking to savour the great outdoors.
The Bells of Hemscott (01670 458647; thebellsofhemscott.co.uk). Bell tents and tepees from £50 per night (up to four people); wild(ish) camping from £3-£5 per pitch, depending on tent size.
If you want to take a group and disappear into the middle of nowhere there are few better places to go than Badrallach. Twenty pitches, hidden between bushes and behind rowan thickets, make up a campsite that's eight miles from the nearest road. Ideal for a crowd that wants acres of wild space for children to play hide and seek, walking groups aiming to take on the mighty An Teallach or paddlers hoping to explore Little Loch Broom and the surrounding coastline. You can also rent a gas-lit cottage, stay in a traditional bothy or rent an Airstream caravan.
Badrallach (01854 633281; badrallach.com). All 20 pitches for £300 per night.
Despite being less than an hour from Edinburgh, this luxury campsite has a remote feel accentuated by the final bumpy drive down a country track to the secluded location. Above an expansive sandy beach, seven luxury treehouses and seven safari tents are fitted with wood-burning stoves, modern, candle-lit en-suite toilets and comfortable beds. There's a real "Out of Africa" romance to the place and it's no surprise it's popular for weddings. Kids will love the bountiful play store and the characterful old boat that houses the campsite shop.
Harvest Moon (07785 394026; 07960 782246; 07817 968985; harvestmoonholidays.com). £3,465 for seven safari tents (four nights), £4,130 for seven tree houses (four nights). Extra wedding charges apply.
For more information and to book all the campsites featured above go to coolcamping.co.uk
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