Everyone’s idea of the perfect campsite is very different. One person’s idea of heaven is another’s idea of hell and getting it wrong will make for interesting stories afterward but may result in a complete sense of humor failure at the time. The UK offers an incredible choice and it is almost certain that somewhere out there is your ideal campsite waiting to be discovered. So, how do you go about finding that little gem? Before you even start trawling the many resources and campsite listings, you need to ask yourself a few questions. Knowing what you don’t want is every bit as important as knowing what you do.
What are You Looking for?
Are you seeking peace and quiet or somewhere lively with accessible entertainment options? This is an incredibly important question and may make or break your trip. And don’t just take words and descriptions at face value. ‘Quiet’ and ‘lively’ are two words very open to glaringly different interpretations. Ensure that a campsite described as quiet and secluded can quantify exactly what they mean by that. If you have come from central London then a campsite close to the main road with traffic roaring past may not particularly bother you but would be awful if you had dreamed of waking to the dawn chorus. Transversely, ‘on-site entertainment’ may mean two fruit machines and a karaoke evening once a week. Play it safe and check.
What Facilities are Essential to You?
campsites come in all shapes and sizes, from a farmer’s field to huge holiday parks. You may want something a bit smaller and more personal but this sometimes may mean compromising on facilities available. If you absolutely and positively can’t get through a week without using your hair-dryer, then you need to be certain that using a hair-dryer is possible at your chosen site. What about the laundry? Shower facilities? A swimming pool? An on-site shop? If you are totally self-sufficient and happy to rough it a bit then these things won’t matter but if you are expecting some home comforts then make sure the campsite caters to them.
Beach-side, Mountains, Forest, or Close to Towns?
What surroundings are you looking for? Do you want to be far away from everything or close to shopping and tourist attractions? Perhaps you want the best of both worlds? If you can’t decide between one environment or another, you may be lucky enough to find a campsite that offers one or more of them.
For some people, a holiday isn’t complete without being by the sea. Again, check carefully with this. ‘Close to beautiful beaches’ can mean many things. ‘Close’, as in five steps and you’re there? Or ‘Close’ as in ‘only a ten-mile drive’? Or ‘close’ if you don’t mind a half-day hike over the dunes?
A great starting point, and something which really helps narrow down the options, is deciding which area of the country you want to be in. It is very rare to find an area completely bereft of campsites even in the middle of a moor or the wilds of the Outer Hebrides.
Getting Down to the Nitty-Gritty
Once you have answered these vital questions, you can start getting down to finer details:
- Do you need the camp to be child friendly? If so, are there any obvious environmental hazards such as a lake or a cliff edge nearby? Is there a large open area for your children to play on or a playground? Is it a very quiet site that is inappropriate for children wanting to play and yell?
- What about privacy? Are the pitches separate and secluded or is it one big area?
- Are you considering taking the family pooch? Lots of campsites will allow this but many won’t and you will quite possibly be charged for it.
- Consider your need for shelter. If you are considering an area that is exposed to winds then be sure that the campsite offers shelter in the way of shrubs and walls for example or that the equipment you are taking can withstand a bit of a blow.
- If you are planning a trip longer than a few days the chances are you will need to top up on provisions. What, if anything, are the nearby options?
You may well have your own set of campsite ‘must-haves’ and if so make a list to be sure you have covered them all. Holidays are precious things and a bit of careful planning, especially where there are young children involved, will make a dream holiday much more likely.
Where to Find campsite choices
Once you have fully compiled your list then you can start looking for that perfect campsite. You may end up having to compromise on one or two of the less important issues but the chances are, with so much choice, you will be able to find something that exactly matches all your listed criteria. Especially if you are prepared to be patient and put in time and effort.
The Internet is a wonderful resource for campsites. Just type in ‘campsite’ and the name of your chosen area into a search engine and you will be given many, if not hundreds, of options. Try ukcampsite.co.uk for a good starting point as a campsite finder. Most sites over a certain size will almost certainly have their own website and availability checks and booking is often available on-line. Area tourism websites will often have huge amounts of details on local campsites.
If you are looking for something basic, quiet, and very cheap then consider joining the Camping and Caravanning Club who offer members exclusive access to ‘certificated’ sites. These small sites will allow only five caravans/ motorhomes and limited tents at any one time on a site. Annual club membership is £37 and a week-long holiday for a family could cost as little as £35. Members get issued with a huge brochure if they so wish to cover every single one of their affiliated campsites in the UK.
The British Holiday Park Association (BHPA) has vast details of campsites too.
If you are still unsure as to whether a campsite fulfills a particular item on your must-have list then ring the campsite to clarify. Don’t be scared of asking too many questions. If you only get vague answers then you can be fairly sure that the campsite won’t suit. Ask about rules and campsite policies to get a good overview of the atmosphere of the site. Some sites have beautiful settings and are perfect in every way but are run like a military camp which doesn’t make for a restful holiday.
Everybody’s perfect campsite is out there somewhere and all that is needed to find it is a little homework, patience, and a bit of luck.