Carry on camping
The UK has rediscovered its love for camping, meaning there’s never been a better time to get reacquainted with nature. Travel editor Tristan Parker picks three campsites, all with something different to offer
When it comes down to it, there really is no better way of experiencing the British countryside than by camping. It lets you see glorious pockets of the UK up close and can give you access to places you wouldn’t otherwise find.
At a time when so many people need to cut costs, camping can offer a cheaper getaway than almost any alternative. A basic grass pitch on a campsite can be a welcome financial respite from expensive hotels. And activities can remain cheap and/or free if required. Most campsites will be within easy reach of hiking trails, national parks, woodland or beaches that can be enjoyed at little or no cost. Another advantage of camping is the sheer range of options available, so if you are keen to upgrade your trip and spend a little more, there’s no shortage of higher- end accommodation out there – from pre-pitched tents to spacious bell tents to plush cabins to luxuriously converted American school buses, there’s always a new camping experience to be had.
With that in mind, we’ve found three campsites from across the UK that offer all kinds of enhanced camping experiences, alongside tent-only pitches for when you need to keep it simple. Each is in a beautiful location and each has easy access to a huge range of outdoor excursions, historical sights, restaurants, pubs and other great activities to suit all budgets. You’re sure to leave each site a far happier camper than when you arrived.
Purple badger camping and fishing lakes
Set on the border of west Rutland and east Leicestershire, Purple Badger is nestled among towering trees and wildflower meadows, giving it a secluded, tranquil feel. There’s lots of open, car-free space for kids to roam, and a small number of tent pitches means it never gets too crowded. Each pitch has its own fire pit for toasting marshmallows, and bell tents are available if you want to upgrade. Or go a step further and book one of the super- cosy shepherd’s huts, each with bathroom, fridge, electric hob and wood burner. The campsite is also perfectly placed for exploring Rutland. There are no cities nearby, but with several pretty market towns and an abundance of wildlife, you certainly won’t miss them. A great resource for local information and more activities is discover-rutland.co.uk.
Purple Badger Camping & Fishing Lakes, Croxton Road, Beeby, Leicestershire LE7 3BH. Bookable through pitchup. com, from £125 per night for a shepherd’s hut, based on two people sharing. Grass tent pitches start from £35 per night for two adults.
This medieval church is Rutland’s most famous landmark and makes for a cinematic sight with its island-like setting that juts out into the water. It’s now deconsecrated and not open to the public, but the appeal is in seeing it from the outside, giving the impression that it is floating on water. Arrive at the right time (sunset is good) for a great photo opportunity.
You’ll find no turrets or drawbridges here; in fact, you might mistake Oakham Castle for an elaborate church. That’s because the single remaining structure is the castle’s Great Hall, one of Europe’s most impressive examples of domestic Norman architecture. Step inside this grand 12th-century structure and you’ll find a 230-strong collection of horseshoes decorating the walls, some the size of tyres. It stems from a tradition that visiting peers of the realm must donate a horseshoe to the Lord of the Manor. Elsewhere, there are 12th century sculptures, a cafe and activities for children.
HOP ON A BIKE
Cycling is a great way to experience Rutland, and a good place to start is at Rutland Water, one of Britain’s largest human-made lakes and a focal point for many activities and experiences. You’ll have 23 miles of traffic-free trails and 3,000 acres of countryside to explore at leisure. Grab a bike from the Whitwell branch of Rutland Cycling, on the north shore of the lake.
AQUA PARK RUTLAND
Make a splash at this huge water feature. It’s a great day out for families (kids from six), and features tons of obstacles to navigate around and clamber over, as well as slides, trampolines and climbing walls. Wetsuit hire is available on-site.
THE GRAINSTORE BREWERY
Visit to this buzzy brew pub to find out why it’s loved by locals. A 90-minute guided tour will show you the ropes and allow you to taste some signature beers. The Brewery Tap is open all day and hosts jazz and blues bands, plus comedy and quizzes. It’s also a popular spot for food.
Petruth paddocks, Somerset
This relaxed and friendly site angles itself as the ideal place to escape urban life and wind down. It’s located in a particularly scenic part of the West Country – in the village of Cheddar and on the edge of the Mendip Hills – so neither of those things should be difficult. Standard pitches are reasonably priced, or you could go for power or a hardstand if you’re bringing a caravan or campervan. If you prefer glamping, there are bell tents, shepherd’s huts, bowtop wagons and an American school bus converted into luxury accommodation for up to six people. Whatever you chose, the good news is you’ll have the countless charms of Somerset on your doorstep.
WOOKEY HOLE CAVES
This complex of limestone caverns can be navigated through a series of chambers like the Witch’s Kitchen and Cathedral Chamber. Daring individuals can go deeper via a Wild Wookey experience, involving abseiling and crawling. Non-cave-related fun includes adventure golf, a 4D cinema and an extensive play area for kids.
GLASTONBURY AND GLASTONBURY TOR
Glastonbury is not just about a gargantuan music festival. It’s an artsy, historic place with a lovely high street. Once you’ve taken in the town, take a trip out to Glastonbury Tor. A tower on this 158m-high hill is all that’s left of the 14th-century Church of St Michael. The walk is bracing but the views across Somerset are fantastic.
As Petruth Paddocks straddles the edge of this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, it’d be a mighty shame not to explore it. The terrain is made up of gorges, steep hills, grasslands and clusters of rugged rockfaces, and the area is a haven for wildlife and nature. There are also many picturesque villages scattered around its 200sq km.
The loft glamping and camping, Moray, Scotland
For a unique campsite experience, try pitching up on a 388-acre family farm that grows barley for the local whisky trade. But despite the wonderful USP, this is no novelty stay. The Loft – set on the edge of the village of Kinloss – is an extensive and professionally run site with accommodation for all. There are electric and non-electric grass pitches in the Wilderness Campsite that are suitable for tents and campervans, and a sizeable selection of luxurious glamping options, including ensuite wigwam pods and sheiling cabins with hot tubs, meaning you can still take an alfresco dip in the chilliest of Scottish weather. There are also traditional wigwam pods with shared facilities and electric pitches for motorhomes. The site is also packed with activities, including hiking and nature trails and a fairy trail for smaller legs, plus it’s close to the Moray coast.
The Loft Glamping & Camping, East Grange Farm, Kinloss, Moray IV36 2UD. theloft.co.uk
Being in Moray, you’re in premium whisky territory, so a visit to a local distillery is a must. One of the nearest and best is Benromach, which offers a choice of tours. Or try the Malt Whisky Trail.
This Georgian mansion was built as the chief seat for the Earl of Fife. It was later used as a hotel, sanitorium and prisoner of war camp in the Second World War. After falling into ruin, it was opened as a gallery in the 90s and is still a great place to see art.
Around 200 bottlenose dolphins call the Moray Firth home. There are a number of viewing hotspots, with Chanonry Point one of the best, alongside Fort George and Burghead.
For an easy day trip, head east to Elgin, Moray’s largest town. It’s an attractive place with several key historical attractions, top of which is the 13th-century Elgin Cathedral.
Top tips for hassle-free camping
Check the weather well in advance and keep checking up to (and including) the day of travel. Bad weather may mean you need to reinforce a standard tent, but it will also determine a few of your planned activities, whatever your accommodation.
EXTRAS AND ESSENTIALS
If you’re glamping or staying in enhanced accommodation, check what is included. Some luxury stays require you to bring your own towels, bedding and crockery.
MAP OUT MEALS
Almost all camping stays require some degree of cooking, so plan meals and bring ingredients with you in case shops at your site don’t have what you need.
Camping gear can be expensive, so if you’re planning a trip far in advance, try to buy equipment out of season when sales are on.
Bring torches! These will always come in useful, particularly if you’re in any kind of tent.
Bring extra blankets if you’re in a tent, no matter what tog your sleeping bag may be. Similarly, even glamping pods and cabins can get cold, and bringing extra bedding never hurts. An eye mask and ear plugs can also be invaluable in getting a solid night’s sleep.
PACK LIKE A PRO
Load your car strategically before you leave. This means packing so that the first things you’ll need when you arrive at the campsite are readily available and not buried deep within the boot.