Camping is cheap, good for the soul and gives easy access to spectacular coast and countryside. Britain is dotted with thousands of campsites, many with comfortable ‘glamping’ options as well. Here’s eight of the very best, taking in Scottish islands, Yorkshire fells and Suffolk sand dunes.
Best for… Beautiful beaches: Treen Farm, Cornwall
Way down in West Cornwall, where England tapers to a point and plunges into the Atlantic, is the wonderful campsite of Treen Farm. Family-run for three generations, it’s long been a favourite for hardy backpackers and rock climbers, as well as the more relaxed bucket-and-spade brigade.
Nearby is the South West Coast Path, which you can follow for hundreds of miles, or take a much shorter walk to the beautiful beaches at Porthcurno. Other nearby attractions include the balancing boulder of Logan Rock and the Minack open-air auditorium, where the ocean makes a suitably dramatic backdrop.
Treen, St Levan, Penzance, Cornwall; late March to late October; treenfarmcampsite.co.uk
Best for… Rambling and cycling: Kettlewell, Yorkshire Dales
In the heart of the Yorkshire Dales sits the tiny village of Kettlewell, with a range of facilities that belies its size: three pubs, a restaurant, a shop and an ice-cream parlour, plus the excellent Kettlewell Camping. On the edge of the village, surrounded by traditional dry-stone walls, this site offers great views of the surrounding fells (hillsides) and furnished bell tents if you don’t have your own, or just want a touch of luxury. For ramblers, there are lovely paths through fields and wildflower meadows along Wharfedale or Littondale, while road cyclists can retrace the route of the Tour de France, which passed though Kettlewell when it visited Yorkshire in 2014.
Conistone Road, Kettlewell, North Yorkshire; mid-March to late October; kettlewellcamping.co.uk
Best for… That edge of the world feeling: Port a Bhaigh, Northwest Scotland
In Scotland’s wild northwest, the lochs cut deep inland and the mountains come down to the coast, then continue out to sea as islands. Set in this otherworldly landscape is Port a Bhaigh Campsite, slap bang on the shore and surrounded by grand peaks. From the site, walkers can stroll along the beach, or tackle a mountain such as nearby Stac Pollaidh (‘Stack Polly’), while sailors and kayakers can launch from the tiny harbour. Then everyone can round off the day with a drink on the deck of the nearby Am Fuaran Bar, overlooking the frequently sun-kissed Summer Isles.
Altandhu, near Achiltibuie, Ullapool; all year; portabhaigh.co.uk
Best for… Clifftop views: Three Cliffs Bay, South Wales
A tranquil landscape of rolling hills, sand dunes and salt grass, the Gower Peninsula protrudes from the South Wales coastline just a short distance (though it feels like a million miles) from Swansea. Three Cliffs Bay Campsite enjoys a stunning location high above the beach, with an inspiring vista across the sands to the eponymous cliffs, looking for all the world like a set of pyramids. When you get tired of the sea view, you can get in amongst the waves: the Gower’s beaches are famous for surfing, while dry-land activities include hiking and pony-trekking.
North Hills Farm, Penmaen, Swansea; late March to late October; threecliffsbay.com
Best for… Island life: Seal Shore, Arran
The island of Arran is often dubbed ‘Scotland in miniature’, thanks to its northern mountains, southern hills and central dividing glen. It also gives a taste of Scottish island life just a short ferry ride from the mainland. On the coast road between Lamlash and Lagg is idyllic Seal Shore Camping Site, offering a private beach and views across the sea to Ireland. Palm trees thrive in the garden thanks to the warm waters of the Gulf Stream. If sleeping under canvas gets too much, you can go for a cosy wooden camping pod or gypsy caravan.
Kildonan, Isle of Arran, Ayrshire; early March to late October; campingarran.com
Best for… Family freedom: Roundhill, Hampshire
Visitors to Britain love the name New Forest; this area, now a national park, was established as a hunting ground in 1079 so it’s actually rather old, and there aren’t that many trees. The patches of woodland are interspersed with vast swathes of heather, gorse and grassland, giving the forest some big-sky vistas and a great feeling of openness. This sense of space continues at Roundhill Campsite, a perennial family favourite, where the grass is nibbled bowling-green short by local semi-wild ponies, and the surrounding traffic-free trails and service roads are perfect for junior bike rides.
Beaulieu Road, Brockenhurst; early April to late September; campingintheforest.co.uk
Best for… Mountain activities: Great Langdale, Lake District
The Lake District is England’s foremost mountain area, where long lakes and deep valleys radiate from the central peaks like spokes on a wheel. Great Langdale Campsite is at the head of one of these valleys, meaning instant access to the high ground for walkers and a ready supply of tracks and byways for mountain bikers. The site is run by the National Trust, the organisation that protects the local landscape, so your fees go to a good cause. And for all you glampers out there, if you don’t have your own tent, you can hire a wooden camping pod complete with heating (ideal after a winter hike or rainy bike ride), or check into a yurt or tipi.
Great Langdale, near Ambleside, Cumbria ; all year; nationaltrust.org.uk
Best for… Simple exclusivity: Walberswick, Suffolk
A well-kept secret for years, and now under new management, the tiny campsite on Walberswick Beach offers peace, privacy, a beautiful location – and very little else. You pitch your tent among some beach huts, walk 10m through the dunes, and the waves are lapping against your toes. Facilities are limited to a fresh water tap; there are public loos in the village, a shop, and a couple of excellent (though often busy) pubs. Nearby attractions include the charming seaside resort of Southwold, famous for its grand pier and an iconic lighthouse that rises above the houses in the town centre.
Walberswick Beach, Walberswick, Southwold, Suffolk; late July and August; hawwoodfarm.co.uk
The Camping and Caravan Club (campingandcaravanningclub.co.uk) has a directory of over 2000 campsites across the UK. There are useful websites for Forestry Commission campsites (campingintheforest.co.uk) and for camping in protected landscapes and other special locations (nationaltrust.org.uk).