Britains best campsites to visit in 2017
Yes, this is a bit of a bold statement, there are over 8,000 campsites in the UK – how can I say which one is the best?
Ok, I will be honest I haven’t visited all 8,000 – not even close. However, I have visited quite a few over the years. I tried to work out how many for this article but lost count. I know I can tally up the foreign camping trips, but lost count at the UK ones.
But I do believe I have camped at if not the best campsite in Britain it’s got to be in the top 10. It is truly phenomenal.
The only downside to the campsite is if you have young children (under 4ish) it might not be the best campsite.
So I have decided to cover what I think is the best camp site by breaking down the best camps into different categories.
Best Campsites for young children.
This was quite difficult for me, I do have two young children (two boys, one four and the other just one). They love camping, but because they are fairly young it means we have been to only a dozen or so family campsites and I couldn’t narrow it down to one so I decided to include two.
The first one is a Haven site. Haven is a great place to take the family camping. There are loads of things to do if it’s raining and let’s be honest it happens a lot in the UK. Plus there is great evening entertainment to keep the children excited and quite a few places to eat just in case you don’t fancy cooking.
I do love cooking by the tent – it makes me feel all manly. Standing out in the rain, while the family sit inside the tent is what camping is all about in the UK but, back to the actual review of the site.
While Haven does have quite a few campsites up and down the country – my favourite for the family is Golden Sands in Lincolnshire. It’s by the sea and has some amazing views, a big field to camp on (and if you go out of season when the kids are at school the field can be nearly empty giving the kids plenty of room to run around in).
You can take a gentle walk into Mablethorpe or catch the bus, meaning you can go explore a bit further. If you want to go a little further – then there are some great seaside resorts just up the road.
The other campsite in the ‘Best for children’ category is Gwithian Farm in Cornwall. It’s just seven miles away from St Ives and this is probably what swings it for me. I have some great childhood memories from St Ives holidays, but the site itself is amazing, just a short walk over the dunes and you arrive at the beach (short walk umm ok ten minutes-ish, but it’s not far and if you can make it an adventure with the little children.)
Dogs are allowed and there are the normal shower and wash facilities. What’s great is if you have spent all day on the beach sometimes you don’t want to cook, a chip van visits three days a week and a mobile curry van on another night. We went during school holiday so not sure if the vans come out of season.
After you have spent all day on the beach, you can head to the local family friendly pub to relax. If the sound of the ocean helps you get to sleep – then this is a place to go because you are so close to the beach you can hear the waves crashing onto the shore. The campsite isn’t open all year so make sure you check opening dates if you think you are going to visit this wonderful campsite.
Best campsite for Older kids
Ok, this is a bit difficult as firstly my child are young, but we sometimes go camping with the wife’s sister and her older children so have visited a few. Also, older kids tend to want to go further afield.
I can remember a wonderful family holiday camping at a Eurocamp park in France, but as this article is all about UK sites I will not include that.
Located in the New Forest, this site has everything you could image. Both indoor and outdoor (season depending) swimming pools, plus a lot of other outdoor activities that the kids can get involved in – most do come with a charge and aren’t included in your holiday costs – but the kids can be left on their own and learn a new skill.
You aren’t too far from Bournemouth and all that has to offer. The site is called Sandy Balls Holiday Village.
Best campsite for Couples
This was tricky, I and the wife did a lot of camping before we had kids, we loved to get away as much as possible. Again I was going to have to pick two, but one of them recently stopped taking tents and just caters to motorhomes.
So, in the end, the decision was pretty easy. We have stayed at this site a few times – we don’t tend to go back to the same sites often, as I said above there are over 8,000 places to camp so we want to see as many as possible – but this site is fairly close so we can either jump on the train or drive and be there within an hour or so.
The site is in the middle of the Peak District, meaning there are plenty of walking opportunities available. Whether you want a gentle stroll up Jacob’s ladder (I’ve even seen a guy walking up this in a suit including suit shoes – not your typical walking gear) or you fancy a bit more a challenge their loads of opportunities.
In early 2016 my running club went for a fell run around Jacobs ladder – it should have been a nice steady 7-mile run. Well, it decided to snow the previous day, so there was a lot less running than planned in the waist high snow and a lot more, snowball fights, jumping and generally just messing around, but it’s one of the most enjoyable away days I’ve done with the club.
The campsite is called is Fieldhead Campsite and as mentioned earlier you can take a train to Sheffield and then get a local service to Edale (some Manchester to Sheffield trains do stop at Edale, but these are infrequent). You can check train times at National Rail. Once off the train, it is probably a five-minute walk, you do pass a great pub in case you need a rest, they are very welcoming to walkers and dogs, so don’t worry about muddy boots.
The Peak District National Authority actually own and run the campsite and the visitor centre is right onsite. There are several small fields on the site. Dogs are more than welcome and you can usually spot a few people doing their Duke of Edinburgh Award.
They have a small section for kids to play – but I wouldn’t call the facilities a kids playground and I probably wouldn’t say it was 100% kid safe for a young child as there is a small stream running through it. It can get very busy even through non-school holidays especially with Duke of Edinburgh hikers and school parties so I always recommend pre-booking.
Best Campsite for group of lads/ladies going camping
There are quite a few campsites up and down the country which don’t allow large groups or groups of the same sex. So before booking anywhere please check.
In my early 20’s I used to go away with 3 or 4 lads up and down the country hiking new places. We did sometimes struggle to find places to camp even though we have caused no issues and respected other campers and the camp site.
However, my favourite group site was Llyn Gwynant in Snowdonia and what a campsite it is. They do allow groups but have strict rules and a deposit is required.
However, it’s an amazing site with stunning views and facilities. They even allow campfires which are amazing, nothing like a tough climb up Snowdon, followed by a campfire and a few beers (remember respect other campers and keep the noise down). The only downside to the site for families and individuals is there is no pre-booking. It is strictly first come, first served and the site can get very busy during the summer months, but the views and walking opportunities make up for it.
Snowdon isn’t too far away and there is even a train to take you to the top and back down if you don’t fancy walking it. There are several routes up to the top with differing degrees of difficulty.
I will admit that I didn’t take the hardest route even marines during training die on this route. I took the second hardest route, well I say route we made it up as we went along – but it involved a bit of hard climbing and a bit of scrambling but I was fit back then and really enjoyed it.
However getting to the top and seeing a guy in a neck brace kind of took the edge of the achievement – but we made it. There is even a café at the top, it was being built the last time I went up there, but from walkers, I know apparently it’s pretty good food. This train and café probably explain why Snowdon is more dangerous than climbing Everest. The mountains are dangerous places to be, the weather can turn quickly and it can take longer than planned to summit this mountain, so make sure you are prepared.
Best campsite for hiking
Ok, I am going to say something here which in England and Wales is illegal, but is ok under certain circumstances in Scotland – but the best places to camp when hiking is wild camping.
One of my favourite examples is when I used to work for Millets, we left after the shift finished at 5:30 and headed for the Lake District, we got there around 7 ish if I remember rightly and parked the car in a lay-by and headed for the hills.
It was mid-summer and we had walked to around 10 ish when the sun was setting. We set up camp and cooked our tea and had a few beers. We followed the rule of wild camping and stayed away from paths and took everything with us, but we were about half a mile from the summit. The view the next morning was amazing and the summit was empty when we got to the top. Everyone else had a full day of walking to go and we passed them as we came back down.
So my favourite site is not an actual site, but the open fields and hills of the countryside. Remember to follow the rules and, as its technically illegal, we wouldn’t recommend doing it in England or Wales.
Best campsite for taking your dog
I will be honest, I didn’t pick this choice. I had to speak with one of our writers who writes all about camping with your dog. He asked for a few days to narrow it down, but again he couldn’t narrow it down to just one and as I had already picked two I couldn’t say no to him.
His first recommendation was Dunstan Hill Camping and Caravaning Club site in Northumberland. It’s very close to the coast, meaning you can take the dog for a long walk along the beach. There is a campsite with the same name in Wales – so make sure if you’re typing the name into your sat nav you type in the right address – otherwise, you could be hundreds of miles away from where you are meant to be camping.
There are lots of old castles and fortifications nearby making ideal dog walking routes, taking in some of our wonderful histories and enjoying a nice stroll.
His second one is Riversidelakes in Dorset. This site, as well as allowing dogs, allows campfires. It has state of the art facilities and has some great pub nearby. If you like to fish, don’t forget to take your rods as this site even has a couple of fishing lakes, so you and your best friend can spend all day sat around the lakes, enjoying the sun and trying to catch a fish or two.
I have to admit everyone I have asked that has visited this site has given it 5 stars, while it’s not super child friendly, I’ve been told the entrance is down some country lanes and a bit dangerous for walking down, but there is plenty do onsite and a country park just down the road – I think I might venture down south for a long weekend to see what everyone is raving about.
We have done a round up of the 7 campsites to visit with your dog in 2017 which might be worth checking out.
Overall our favourite campsite
So the one you have been waiting for, which in my opinion is the best campsite that I have visited.
It was a clear favourite if I am honest and recommend this place to anyone wanting to try a new campsite. Depending on where you live, even for me that lives in Yorkshire, it’s a good 6 or 7-hour drive for me, but when you get there it’s amazing.
As you travel up north the scenery becomes amazing especially once you have crossed the Scottish border (don’t forget to stop for something to eat in Gretna Green – it’s a wonderful little place and has some nice restaurants and a good little shopping centre to break up the journey). Once you pass Glasgow the scenery just becomes amazing, out of this world stunning – I’ve visited quite a few amazing places all across the globe but these views are some of the best I have ever seen. I can’t write the words to describe the scenery, it has to be seen to be believed.
The site you’re heading for is just on the outskirts of Fort William and is called Glen Nevis Campsite.
The site is situated in the foothills of Ben Nevis and I will come back to this in a minute. The site is about a 10-20 minute walk from Fort William so means you can have a nice stroll into town, walk around a few camping shops and maybe indulge in a local beer or two and then a nice stroll back to your campsite.
The campsite itself has some wonderful facilities as you would expect, great day walking routes and children’s play area – but the best thing about the site has to be the views. Just as the route up to the campsite I cannot even do them justice with words so I won’t bother.
The other great thing about the site is you are right at the start of a path up Ben Nevis, you can literally walk out of the site, across the road and through a gate in the fence and you are on a path up Ben Nevis.
Kenny made a great comment about Glen Nevis Campsite “This campsite is the best at night when its pitch black you still see walkers coming down Ben Nevis” and we have to agree with him, especially in April / May and September time when the nights get darker earlier you can see headlights all over the mountain. Actually, we have to agree with Kirk too – the views from the top of Ben Nevis are well worth a few days of sore legs.
The only downside and I am talking about this from experience, the notice board about climbing Ben Nevis is in Fort William. The day we climbed it there have been warnings not to climb the mountain that day due to avalanches and dangerous snow on top. We didn’t know as we had just set off from the campsite – we did wonder why it was so quite on the climb up – but as we went in April we just assumed it was because it wasn’t school holidays and that many people hadn’t ventured up to Scotland yet.
In hindsight, it was because there was a warning not to go up we only found out once we had been to the summit and back down, we went into Fort William for a pint or two to celebrate.
Just so you know, the majority of people reach the summit of Britain’s tallest peak only to find cloud cover and don’t really get to see anything. We, however, got a clear sky at the top and could see for miles, if I didn’t know different I would have said I was in the French Alps.
Most of the camping is on fields and is on a first come first served basis and it does get busy. If you are wanting to go and I would recommend it, but they will take some booking so might be worth a call before you head up.
So there you have it, mine and my colleagues guide to the best campsites in Britain, and those that you should visit in 2017.
Leave your comments below to let us know which is your favourite site and why.