There's something about a campsite. Maybe it just conjures some good old-fashioned childhood nostalgia, but they hold a special place in my heart. Halcyon summer evenings with sun dappling through the trees, the sound of children playing and birds chirping, the air filled with the smell of BBQ's and campfires.
I adore being on a campsite or camping park. You stay out until the sun goes down, curl up with a blanket and a book, wake with the sun and spend 95% of your time outside. It offers a true (and literal) unplugging from our usual routines of working, tv binging and rushing around. If you're like me that is.
Here are the best UK campsites this year:
Heard of Everest Basecamp? Well Llyn Gwynant is pretty much Snowdon's basecamp. Nestled in a wooded valley next to Llyn Gwynant, a sandy-bottomed lake perfect for swimming and boating, the campsite couldn't be better placed for North Wales adventures. Hike up Snowdon straight from the site, take an early morning dip or explore nearby waterfalls.
At night as the sun dips over the hills and quiet falls on the valley, enjoy a tranquil campfire under the stars and a wood-fired Neapolitan pizza from the onsite Jones' Pizza Co.
Undoubtedly one of the most underrated spots in Cornwall, the stretch of coast between Penzance and Land's End is peppered with mediterranean-looking beaches. From the swirling turquoise lagoons of Pedn Vounder to the golden sands at Porthcurno, this is a corner of Cornwall you don't want to miss.
Smack in the middle of these two incredible beaches lies Treen Farm Campsite. A stunning little family-run campsite that has been going for 5 generations. The site is perched right on the cliffs with only one obstruction to the sea: a beautiful meadow full of Guernsey cows that provide the milk in the campsite shop.
They don't take bookings, so rock up early morning or mid-week for a pitch. A visit to the local Logan Rock Inn is a must, as is the infamous Minack Theatre, an open air theatre perched on the edge of the cliffs looking out to sea.
All the best campsites come with their own private swimming lake, right? This one certainly does. Nestled in a woodland valley that sprawls around a clear, spring water lake created from an old quarry, Cornish Tipi Holidays have created something really special here.
Their aim was to facilitate a back to basics 'return to real camping', with campfires actively encouraged and everything designed to have as little impact possible on the surrounding area.
Dotted across 20 acres of bluebell-laden meadows and oak trees, are several wild camping pitches and glamping areas that give a feeling of complete privacy or community depending on what you want. It is a truly captivating place, abundant in rabbits, dormice, wildflowers and ferns. You'll feel completely bathed in nature by the end of your trip.
The owners of the site describe their lake as a "true Swallows and Amazons" experience and we couldn't agree more. Family friendly and perfect for friends or couples. Jump off the jetty for a wild dip, potter about in a rowing boat, muck about in the canoes and fish for rainbow trout. With such outstanding natural beauty on the site, you'll never want to leave!
I came across this one in the South West Wild Guide, which never lets me down when looking for off-the-beaten track unheard of places. I'm not sure I would have booked it if it weren't for its description in the book.
The front of North More Farm campsite is unassuming, seemingly a site for static caravans, but drive through the first section of it and you come out onto an open headland for tents and camper vans. A grassy, undulating peninsula with 270 degree views of the ocean and some of the best North Devon sunsets going. The ground isn't the most even, but the views sure balance it out.
The site is right on the South West Coast Path, a 40 minute walk from surf beach Woolacombe and a 5 minute walk from the picturesque little village of Mortehoe, peppered with quaint shops, pubs and cafés.
South Devon is one of my favourite places on Earth. I love surfing, and the North Coast is great, but the white sand beaches, towering red granite cliffs and turquoise waters of South Devon get me every time. Karrageen Campsite is the ideal base for a South Devon adventure. 1 mile up from the beautiful Hope Cove, Karrageen sits in the valley overlooking the coast.
In the height of summer they have different street food vans every night, and the showers and toilets (fed by local spring water) are a slice of camping luxury. Ask to be in the top field for the best views, or the main field for shady, wooded seclusion.
Local adventure companies will deliver SUP's and canoes to the site for you to explore local coves and secluded beaches, or a hike along the coast path in either direction will take you to more turquoise bays than you can shake your walking poles at.
A quiet, family friendly site on some of the best National Trust land the UK has to offer. Run by the same family since 1969, Small Batch has not lost any of its idyllic, countryside charm. Nestled in greenery and right on the banks of a freshwater beck, this campsite is the ultimate slow-down getaway.
The local village, Church Stretton, was named "Little Switzerland" in late Victorian and Edwardian times, thanks to its quaint charm and undulating landscape.
The wild uplands of the Long Mynd are popular for runners, paragliders and walkers, as well as budding geologists who will enjoy some of the oldest rock formations in the country.
We're obsessed with this dreamy Norfolk campsite. Tucked away in the reeds of the tranquil Norfolk broads and its infamous open skies, Canal Camping know what nature lovers want out of a holiday.
Camp on the shores of the lazy river, meander downstream in a canoe, toast marshmallows over open campfires and stargaze to your heart's content.
Oh, and keep your eyes peeled for otters, warblers, damselflies and dragonflies. Explore the local Hickling and How Hill nature reserves or hop on your bike for a scenic tour of the Norfolk broads.
All the fun of 'wild camping' without the fear of being told to move on. The Secret Campsite in East Sussex is a car-free, wildlife abundant site for those looking to escape civilisation.
Situated across a meadow and an orchard full of greenery and wildflowers, each pitch is naturally screened from the others, meaning you'll feel totally alone, save for the butterflies floating by and the sounds of the birds. Solar-powered hot showers and firewood for campfires are available on site.
Awake to the dawn chorus, pick up a picnic from the local farm shop or wander the streets of the historic town of Lewes. Malling Down nature reserve is nearby too, offering acres of natural grasslands, wildlife and greenery.
A gorgeous, family friendly and off-grid site on the South Downs in West Sussex, created by ex-city dwellers Griff and Stella. Griff and Stella know about switching off. They worked in London for years before buying a farm in West Sussex and creating a new, nature-driven life for themselves.
With hot showers, composting loos and wood-fired meals available from Thursday to Sunday (think fresh grilled fish, bacon sandwiches and salads), this is a really special spot to wind down.
What's more, the site is on an area of 'dark sky preserve' which essentially means there's very little light pollution, so expect some of the clearest starry skies you've ever seen.
Explore the infamous South Downs Way, just off the track from the campsite, curl up with a book and enjoy the sound of the birds or explore local National Trust Sites.
Perched on the Heritage Coast cliffs above the picturesque little fishing village of Robin Hood's Bay, the finish point of the infamous Coast to Coast Walk, is Hooks House Farm.
It's a small, back to basics site on a family-run working farm with incredible sweeping views of the bay and great sunsets to boot.
A 10 minute walk through a field will take you to the village fo Robin Hood's Bay, a quaint little village full of independent shops, cafes and bars. Dalby forest, Whitby and the stunning North York Moors open moorland are all on your doorstep to explore here too.
Waterside House Campsite must be one of the best placed campsites in the UK. A family-run site perched on the shores of Lake Ullswater in the heart of the Lake District National Park.
Waterside House boasts tipis and glamping pods to hire, on site canoe and SUP rental and 360 degree views of the mountains and a lake. Run by a lovely family who want you to see the best of Cumbria, Waterside House won't disappoint.
Try your hand at wake surfing with Ullswater Wake and Surf, swim in the lake, explore the local fells of Dale Head, Place Fell and Hellvellyn and explore the quaint pubs in Patterdale village. This is a seriously underrated corner of the Lake District and will be a little quieter than Ambleside or Windermere, but with way better and bigger hills to climb.
Park right on the shores of Loch Dunvegan and pitch your tent at Kinloch Campsite, just minutes away from the traditional highland village of Dunvegan.
Kinloch Campsite couldn't be a better place to explore Skye and feel like you're on the teetering edges of the land. This family friendly campsite is popular with NC 500 adventurers looking for a chilled out diversion.
Brave cold water swimmers will enjoy a dip metres from their tent, as do seals and the occasional porpoise! Explore the famous Macleod Tables and other surrounding mountains, take a trip to Dunvegan Castle, meet the local highland cows and check out Skye's oldest bakery in Dunvegan.
Just down the road from popular tourist town Tenby, lies the quiet, often secluded Monkstone beach, and perched right above it is Trevayne Farm. Trevayne is a working permaculture farm run by energetic young farmers who also run occasional pop up workshops and food festivals.
Their Monkstone and Tenby fields have uninterrupted views of the sea and a 15 minute walk though the wooded headland will take you down to the beach.
Explore Tenby to the west or Saundersfoot to the west, either way you'll be treated to a myriad of stunning Pembrokeshire bays and undulating coast path scenes.
The first state forest park, established back in 1955, Tollymore has been attracting people from all over the world ever since. Sitting snugly in the middle of the Mourne Mountains and in an area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB), Tollymore is a fantastic place for a forest retreat.
Hike, horse-ride or enjoy the good mountain bike trails around the 630 hectares of forestry, the earliest trees of which were planted back in the 1700's. The forest is bursting with historical bridges and barns which have most recently been used as a filming location for the haunted forest 'north of the Wall' in the infamous Game of Throne series.
Honest answer? All over! The UK is home to some of the most amazing campsites, and we've only covered 14. A lot of campsites in Europe tend to be resort-style sites, with permanent caravans, pools and adventure parks.
Don't get us wrong, those are great fun with kids, but we much prefer a quaint little site with great views and heaps of adventure. If you have any more suggestions for our list, be sure to drop us a message.
Not legally, no, unless you're in Scotland or on Dartmoor, in Devon. Wild camping is only permitted in other parts of the UK if you have permission from the landowner, though these rules are sometimes overlooked if where you're camping is truly in the middle of nowhere, away from livestock and footpaths, and you are able to leave no trace.
Have a read of our wild camping guide if you're interested in trying it out.
Some campsites allow it, and other don't. So the simple answer is that you should always check with wherever you're staying.
Sometimes they just require you to stand your firepit off the ground, and other have designated fire areas. If it's an important part of your camping trip, make sure you do your research first!
It's completely different for everyone. For some electric hook up is a must, whereas for others nice shower and toilet facilities with hot water are the priority so you can leave the camping toilet at home. If you want to have a camp fire, make sure they're allowed or that the site has a designated fire spot. Going with your family? Check there's a play park, fun attractions for the kids nearby and changing facilities.
It's always useful if you find a site with an onsite shop too, for those morning croissants and emergency pints of milk. I always ask about the pitches too, are they private or are they in tight rows? Are they in the sun or the shade? Think about what you want form your camping holiday and do the research beforehand.
Think about what activities you'll want to do while you're there. Do you want somewhere with opportunities for hiking, paddle boarding, mountain biking etc?
No, a lot of places will take all of them, and usually they have different fields for each, but some are tent only and some motorhome only. Often they will accept a small campervan. So make sure you do your research first and think about what you want. Remember a pitch for a family tent will usually cost more than pitching a small backpacking tent.
Some sites that accept caravans and motorhomes are big sprawling complexes with swimming pools, and restaurants which isn't necessarily every tent camper's bag. If you want to get out into the wild, look for small, basic fields where you can properly be out in nature.