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The UK’s Best Campsites.

What makes a great campsite for you?

Camping has always been a varied pursuit, but today the gulf between the weekend camper and the serious walker/climber needing a shelter seems to have further widened.

The exploits of the extreme guys would seem like a long way from pleasure for most of us. Bivouacking in a small shelter just big enough for one to climb into is a far cry from some of the uber tents that now grace the summer countryside. Many tents are huge and house so much furniture and equipment that the families seeking a cheap holiday have had to invest in new vehicles just to carry their gear.

Let’s not get carried away thinking about the tents for now, let’s concentrate on the sites.

For some the facilities are hugely important, perhaps something to entertain the children when the British weather does its worse. I’ve stayed at campsites in the Lakes that have been more like holiday camps, or small towns, where there was little need to leave the confines of the site until it was time to head back home. Here the joy for parents can be just getting some peace and quiet while the children make new friends and head off to have their own adventures.

For others such a concept is anathema, just finding a site that is away from it all and accommodating a few like-minded people is all they crave.

I’m not too bothered about having a café, shop, pool room or anything like that, but I can see the attraction for families. If there’s a good pub down the road, and somewhere to buy a pint of milk then I’m usually happy. Oh, and a good shower block, that you don’t have to feed with 50p pieces. Ah yes, clean toilets too please. There I was thinking I’m on the verge of being strong enough for wild camping, but actually a few creature comforts are needed to convince me that sleeping on the ground isn’t a punishment.

Who does it best?

It depends what you’re looking for.

Trevedra Farm, Cornwall

One of my all time favourite sites is in the far west of Cornwall. Trevedra Farm was for years a surfer’s secret, perched above one of the far west’s best beaches at Gwynver, it was quiet, but with a couple of decent toilet and shower blocks. Recently it has become more of a destination in itself and you need to book your pitch in advance for the summer. There’s a decent café selling good coffee, breakfasts and good fayre through the day and evening. But the main attraction is the view. Stand outside of your tent and marvel at the amazing blue of Cornwall in the sunshine. Its disadvantage is that the view comes at the cost of being exposed, and when the wind blows (which is most of the time down there) it howls across the site. I recommend Trevedra for families and surfers alike. It’s safe, clean and well run, just a bit too big, but hey, you can’t have it all.

Trevedra Farm

Trevedra Farm, Cornwall

Bivouac, North Yorkshire

For something completely different head north, way north, to the wonderfully named Bivouac, a stone’s through from Ripon in North Yorkshire, and even closer to the brewing town of Masham. Bivouac is more of a camping concept than what you’d usually expect from a site. It’s on the edge of the beautiful Yorkshire Dales where the hills are more gentle and rolling than further in, but if you want a serious walk then the big hills are not far away. You don’t even need a tent, and the joy of arriving without having to try to remember how to assemble your canvas home is attractive to me. They have shacks, yurts and a bunk barn, and the whole place is off grid. You can cook for yourself, or join the rest of the happy campers at the café for a great meal.

Bivouac

Bivouac, North Yorkshire

Glenbrittle, Isle of Skye

There are so many great sites across Britain, but few have left me more impressed than Glenbrittle, Carbost on the Isle of Skye. Any holiday on Skye is memorable, the sea is never far away, and the drama of the mountains, the Cullins, dropping from their soaring peaks right down to the sea is quite unforgettable.

The Glenbrittle site is a big one, yet somehow manages to feel intimate by pulling together little groups of a few tents. There is a shop here – but nothing else but nature. You remember all those facilities I spoke of above? Forget all that, this is about nature, the sea, the mountains, and getting away from it all. The nearest creature comforts are at a hotel about 15 miles (very long miles) away. If you get nervous not seeing a Starbucks in the last half an hour then this is not for you – except maybe as a detox from city life. Be sure to drink Talisker, the isle’s only whiskey and quite gentle, unlike its rugged surroundings.

glenbrittle-campsite

Glenbrittle, Isle of Skye

The huge growth in music and arts festivals has driven a market for better portable facilities, and these days any field can be transformed into a reasonably well equipped camp site in an afternoon, so there really is no excuse for some of the bad ones out there. But even the most basic can be amazing when the sun shines, and the cooking fire is burning.

Get out there and enjoy yourselves, take the air, and when you go please leave nothing behind other than the flattened grass from your weekend home.

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