Best of British: Campsites

BY Fiona Hicks

1st Jan 2015 Travel

Best of British: Campsites

From lush landscapes to luxury amenities, why not get back to nature in these scenic spots? Fiona Hicks takes us on a guided tour of Britain's very best campsites. 

Cleadale, Inner Hebrides

cleadale inner hebrides

J.R.R. Tolkien holidayed on the Isle of Eigg, and it’s reasonable to suspect that his jaunts here provided inspiration for the epic Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Jagged cliff faces, majestic hills, and rolling terrain all come tougher to create the sort of landscape that can only be carved by time. It’s at once breath-taking, beautiful and a little bit intimidating—the sort of nature that really puts you in your place. 

The camping on offer here is, unsurprisingly, “wild”. The pitches lie at the bottom of a cliff and aren’t exactly flat—and the main toilet on offer is a compost one—but they come with staggering views.

Look west and you’ll see the Isle of Rum, the Outer Hebrides and the Atlantic Ocean stretching out into the distance—not to mention extraordinary sunsets. You might even catch sight of Gollum. 


Shell Island, Gwynedd

shell islnd

Covering an impressive 300 acres, this is supposedly Europe’s largest camping site. It certainly has enough facilities to keep the masses happy, with a supermarket, gift shop, and restaurant all offering their wares.

Such is its popularity that there’s never a lack of new friends to meet—and you can even arrange to meet them in the Tavern Bar on site. 

Don’t let this commercial element deter you, however, as it also provides a good old dose of the countryside. Many of the pitches overlook Cardigan Bay and Snowdonia National Park, and there are three easily accessible beaches: one with large sand dunes for running up and down, another that’s perfect for dinghies, and a quieter one that often plays host to sunbathers.

What’s more, as the name suggests, the rocky foreshore stops shells from being washed away—so you can’t help but find a sea-made souvenir to take home. 


Hooks House Farm, Yorkshire 

hooks house farm

There are two great draws of this north Yorkshire locale. Firstly, the vista. The pitches are positioned on a gently sloping hill, which creates a wonderful vantage point over the entire sweep of Robin Hood’s Bay. Look the other way and you’re treated to the sight of moors, woods and many contented-looking cows.

The second part of the appeal is the open and welcoming vibe. “We are a small, friendly, family-run campsite on a working farm,” says business partner Joanne Harrison, “and there has been camping of some form at Hooks House for over 80 years.”

It’s true that there’s no entertainment on offer, but neither is there a long list of rules, which convene to create a very relaxed atmosphere.

Facilities are simple but—in keeping with the site’s civilised air— there is a communal kettle to make that all-important cup of tea. “It’s also within half a mile from the pretty village of Robin Hood's Bay,” says Joanne.


The Secret Campsite, East Sussex

the secret campsite

This beautiful area of woodland meadow is nothing if not tranquil. The site is resolutely tents-only, wildlife is deliberately cultivated and owners Tim and Lisa Bullen are keen to welcome families (rather than enormous party-inclined groups).

“Most of our campers are looking to escape their everyday lives for a couple of nights,” explains Tim. “While here they want to encounter lots of wildlife, cook over a campfire, enjoy the dawn chorus and see the stars at night. Most of them are keen to put down their phones and connect with the family and friends they have come with.” 

Pitches are secluded (and large), and each comes with a genuine campfire pit. It doesn’t make punishment of its simplicity, however, as there are also free hot showers and loos.

What’s more, campers can opt to spend a night of two in The Tree Tent—a giant, spherical structure suspended between three oak trees. 


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