If you’d told me ten years ago that I’d ever seriously consider going camping then I would have assumed you’d been knocking back the sauce. As a Travel Editor who reviewed 5-star hotels for a living, I was used to the luxuries in life, but OH how time changes. No longer paid to do such things, which are now firmly out of my reach, and with a gaggle of children underfoot, I’ve started to think that – actually, camping, or to be more accurate, glamping might be alright. An adventure even. And considering that we actually slept in a tipi on our wedding night, two or even three nights would be quite fun. So, when I heard that a new book was coming out Cool Camping: Kids, listing the best, most beautiful family-friendly sites in the UK, I asked the Editor, James Warner Smith to share his top 5 places for sleeping under canvas this summer…
“Meandering mown paths connect the various pitches at this enchanting Norfolk campsite, lost amid long wild grasses. There are just six camping pitches on offer, though furnished bell tents, a lovingly restored shepherd’s hut and a beautiful blue ‘living van’, hand-built by a local carpenter, help boost the capacity to a maximum of 25 people. It makes for a peaceful but sociable campsite, where gathering around a campfire becomes routine. All visitors have use of a well-equipped kitchen and dining tent, while the glamping options feature the likes of wood-burners, double beds, blankets, rugs and more.”
Travel tip: National Cycle Network Route 13 or Regional Route 30 run just north of the campsite. Bikes are available to borrow and there’s a hose-down area when you return.
“Set back from the River Findhorn, in a mixture of woods and heathland, this seemingly remote campsite just north of the Cairngorms National Park is an adventure waiting to happen. Choose from wild camping pitches, simply-furnished bell tents or a cosy shepherd’s hut for two. A cleverly built dining and washing-up shelter, meanwhile, and cabins crafted from local wood, help blend excellent off-grid facilities into the trees. Just next door, the Ace Adventures Centre brings the experience to life, with a host of family-friendly activities from frisbee golf and fishing, to cliff-jumping and white-water rafting.
Travel tip: It’s two miles to the Logie Steading Estate, where there’s a cute café and well-stocked tourist information centre to help you get your bearings. Explore Logie House Gardens while you’re there.
Children can’t help but flourish in this wilder-than-wild campsite. Arranged around a spring-fed lake in a gorgeously overgrown old quarry, this laid-back North Cornwall refuge is an inspiring natural space. Hide and seek along the winding paths edged by tumbling blackberries and bright-yellow gorse is a must, as is boating on the lake or casting for fish to cook over your campfire. Amid the 20 acres, campers can pitch where they like, with everything from group-gathering space in a meadow to secluded clearings among the thicket available, while family-sized tipis – which gave the site its name – are also available to hire.
Travel tip: Bring bikes to cycle segments of the renowned Camel Trail, a converted, 16-mile railway line that poet, John Betjeman famously called ‘the best journey in England’.
“The New Forest may be vast but the essential characteristics are all perfectly parcelled up into Harry’s Field campsite. There’s an appropriately named old pub – The Foresters Arms – next door, cycle trails lead immediately from the gate and wild ponies graze the heathland across the track. Above all, though, this campsite has a fantastic family buzz, with 60 pitches available and campfires always popular. Guests are provided with an annotated map outlining the best walks and bike-rides in the area. And, if you do end up retreating to the beer garden next door, a pair of friendly ponies out front will entertain the kids for hours.
Travel tip: For a unique way to enjoy the famous New Forest trails, it’s just a short walk to Fir Tree Farm Riding Stables, where adults and children’s of all ages can be saddled up.
Few glamping sites manage to blend luxury with the back-to-basics camping ethos quite like Sloeberry Farm, four miles from Cardigan Bay. In one meadow, six classic, creamy bell tents are each fronted by deck chairs, a picnic table and a smouldering morning campfire, while in another a pair of green-canvas safari tents blend into the bushy hedgerows. The setting is rustic and charming; there’s a small, private lake alive with wildlife, meadows of long, lush grass and a tin-roofed old barn. Yet, inside the abodes, expect such comforts as king-sized beds, chesterfield sofas, log-burners, cooking facilities and more.
Travel tip: From the farm you can follow local footpaths to the coast – it’s about a three-mile walk down to Aberporth beach. Or drive first and join the coastal path just beside the beach.