Camping is cool
Pack your tent and head for the countryside this Easter – camping has become cool
Cast aside any preconceptions of camping being the preserve of pensioners and hippies for in recent years this type of holiday has undergone a renaissance and shaken off its boy scouts and budget holiday image. Thanks, in part, to celebrity campers such as Sienna Miller, Jodie Kidd, Kate Moss, Jamie Oliver et al camping is now cool and it’s hip to be seen erecting a tent.
With the advent of the Easter holidays, CD Traveller has teamed up with Rough Guides to give you the low-down on three of Britain’s best campsites. Regardless of whether you’re a hiker or a hedonist, a first timer or a family, there’s a site out there for you. Happy camping!
BEST FOR FIRST TIMERS
Pine seated loos, flower-bordered pitches and trim lawns make this Devon site a decidedly civilised one.
It may sit on a hundred acre farm on the northern flanks of Dartmoor, but at South Breazle you won’t be camping with the great unwashed. Indeed with just 25 super size pitches laid out around a trim lawn, this is a rather exclusive little canvas and congregation. Each neat, flower-bordered pitch has its own placard – “The Rook”, “Deer’s Corner” and “Hedgehog Burrow” to name a few – echoing the site’s wildlife-rich surroundings. The amenities, meanwhile, make it feel more like a private leisure club than a country campsite, with power showers, hair dryers and pine seated loos in spotless, pastel tiled bathrooms.
You don’t have to trek the ten miles to Okehampton for decent grub: pick fresh herbs to season pork, beef, salad leaves and eggs bought fresh from the farm. You’re only a couple of miles from Bratton Clovelly, where the Clovelly Inn serves a selection of real ales and reasonably priced food, and Roadford Lake, where you can dine at Lakeside and go windsurfing, sailing, angling or kayaking. The lake also has its own, much bigger campsite; but why cramp your camping style when you can bag a super-size “Hedgehog Burrow” down the lane?
South Breazle Holidays, Bratton Clovelly, Okehampton, Devon, EX20 4JS
Pitches and price: 15 pitches with hook-ups (most hard standing) and 10 tent pitches. £11.50-18 per pitch (tent/caravan and 2 adults). Backpackers (without a car) £4.50-6.50.
Facilities: Home-from-home amenities block with power showers and loos, disabled bathroom and baby-changing. Indoor utility room with washing up sinks, washing machine. Free Wi-Fi. Shop, information point.
Restrictions: No dogs. No campfires. Quiet after 10pm.
Getting there: Leave the A30 at Stowford Cross and follow sign for Roadford Lake. Turn right to Bratton Clovelly, take the second left to Germansweek and South Breazle is along the first farm lane on the right.
BEST FOR FAMILIES
Atmospheric showcaves, fibreglass dinosaurs and real rheas in the Brecon Beacons.
Don’t be put off that Dan-yr-Ogof touts itself as a theme park and not a campsite. This relaxed, well maintained establishment in the central Brecon Beacons might just be the most child friendly site in south Wales. Campers are scattered around several levels beside a toy farm and playbarn on the other side of the park, a respectable distance from its premier attractions. When the last day-tripper heads home, having explored three impressive show caves and a park chockfull of fibreglass dinosaurs, you’ll have a minor safari park all to yourself. Not even the Playstation generation can resist the sight of a rhea strutting past their tent at breakfast.
But, framed by peaks and linked by a path to the Black Mountain, Dan-yr-Ogof is as much a destination for trail-junkies as families. On-site facilities include boot racks and drying rooms alongside baby-changing facilities, and pitches range from motor home “super-pitches” to a tiny riverside clearing in a copse. Local eating and drinking options include the solid Gywn Arms boozer over the road, and, three miles south in Pen-y-Cae, classy pub restaurant Pen Y Cae Inn and family local The Ancient Briton.
Dan-yr-Ogof, nr Abercraf, Upper Swansea Valley, SA19 1GJ
Pitches & price: 30 tent pitches (5 with hook ups) 30 hard standing pitches (all with hook ups). Adults £6, children £4, caravans/motor homes minimum £15.
Facilities: Heated amenities block with toilets, basins, showers (including sit down shower) and baby changing facilities in both male and female loos, disabled toilet and shower, heated washing-up and drying room.
Restrictions: No campfires. No young single-sex groups. Dogs permitted (on leads).
Getting there: As a major tourist attraction, Dan-yr-Ogof is well signposted on major routes. On the A4067 from Swansea, go through Abercraf then Craig-y-Nos – the park is a mile north on the left, and the campsite is on the right at the end of the drive. The Neath-Brecon bus stops outside.
BEST FOR FOODIES
Abbey Home Farm
Gloucestershire’s organic wonderland even has a resident cheese maker.
Some campsites create a feeling of genuine inspiration. Others instil a sense of escapism as soon as you’ve hammered in that last peg. Somehow Abbey Home Farm manages to do both, even though neither its facilities (minimal) nor its location (within earshot of an A-road in westerly winds) really impress.
But on this Cotswold farm, just east of Circencester, the inspiration comes in the form of green ethics and integrity, and the escapism from being surrounded by nothing but fields. Oh, and the food helps, too. The 1800 acre farm, one of the country’s leading organic food producers, has a multi-award-winning shop (Tues-Sat 9am-5pm, Sun 11am-4pm) selling its wonderland of succulent meats, gorgeous greens, juicy fruits and deliciously crumbly cheeses – try the Dancy’s Fancy. Food miles don’t come lower than this. In fact, there’s no need to cook at all. A licensed cafe (same hours as shop) produces farm-grown veggie meals and the finest Sunday roast for miles around – reservations are a must.
If the food is one reason to come, the purity of the pitches is another. The environmental awareness of Hilary and Will Chester-Master’s farming practices also shapes the camping areas. Whether on the principal site, with lovely views across the wheat fields, or nestled into a four-pitch glade near a composting loo and a groups-only green field, this is minimal-impact natural camping where lighting at night is of the stellar variety. Even a four-yurt eco-camp in a woodland clearing, or a single yurt and magical shack by a pond, the latter pair in a quiet corner near the farmstead, are laudably simple; foam mattresses, wood burners, composting loos and peace.
Most campers spend their days on long farm rambles to meet the locals – roe deer, foxes, badgers, hares, buzzards and the domestic livestock. Others sign up to workshops run serveral times a month (check the website): from basket-weaving to bush craft, and cookery to cheese-making with the farm’s master cheese maker. Extra features like these make Abbey Home not just a campsite but a destination in its own right. Warmed by campfires and a feel-good-glow, everything is on hand to simply, utterly chill out.
You couldn’t ask for much more of a campsite than that.
Abbey Home Farm, Burford Road, Cirencester, Gloucestershire, GL7 5HF
Pitches & price: 35 pitches (15 in groups-only field), adults £4, children £1. Yurts for 4 or 5, £40-75 (min 2 nights), shack for 2, £45 (min 2 nights, adults only).
Facilities: Showers, composting toilets in other areas; 4-yurt camp has composting loos and fire water-heater; single yurt and shack have gas stove, shared shower, toilet and basin.
Restrictions: No dogs. Campfires permitted in braziers (£5 hire) and designated areas. No large motor homes or caravans; campervans permitted. Arrive during shop hours unless by prior arrangement. All rubbish must be removed.
Open: Easter-Oct, shack year round.
Getting there: From the A417-A429 junction two miles east of Cirencester, take the B4425 and turn left following the “organic shop” signs.
For more cool campsite in Britain, check out The Rough Guide To Camping in Britain (£16.99, Rough Guides, www.roughguides.com)