Summer 2020 became the most significant revival of the staycation that we haven’t seen since the ’70s and culminated in the rebirth of camping in the UK, which has thankfully continued to surge in popularity. The many attractions to camping, as many of our customers know, are stepping out of your van, unzipping your tent and breathing that fresh countryside/beach air in, sitting by the fire at midnight trying to align the stars, and spending quality time with friends and family in the great outdoors.
We didn’t even realize ourselves, but since lockdown in the summer of 2020 and most of 2021, the UK office of our online store Northern Hikers has been spoilt with exploring all the UK camping locations has to offer.
Voila – start reading our guide on the 10 must-visit destinations for camping in the UK!
Gill Head Farm, Cumbria
Renown for: experience escapism
If you are looking to find somewhere in the Lake District that is a bit of a hidden cove and not many know of – bingo, here you are! At first, you are met at a working farm beneath Blencathra, which feels like a run-of-the-mill family camping spot. But, ask for the ‘Hidden Field,’ You will be guided over a bridge into a hidden area with overgrown trees. Talk about being led into an Aladdin’s Cave, with a waterfall, wildlife, and scenic views. You will enjoy it.
This place would be perfect, around a firepit and a few cold beverages in the evening.
Visit at www.gillheadfarm.co.uk
Image Credit: Cool Camping
Canal Camping, Norfolk
Renown for: stepping back into nature
We often think of the English canals as boring, but this part of Norfolk Broads is entirely different. It’s perfect for the family and picture-perfect for your Instagram followers. You will often see hired motorboats that are set along its banks. It’s a relatively new plot for off-grid camping that boasts so much, as you can see from the photo below.
Visit at www.canalcamping.co.uk
Cilrath Wood Camping, Pembrokeshire
Renown for: breathtaking natural beauty spot
A remote destination grouped around an 18th-century farmhouse very close to Narberth with a hay meadow setting, vast woodland, and large ponds to explore. When you set your feet outside, you feel a true sense of remoteness and distance from the hustle and bustle of Saundersfoot and Amroth Beach, which are both not too far if you fancy a change!
Visit at www.cilrathwoodcamping.co.uk
Abbey Home Farm, Gloucestershire
Renown for: fresh air that feels amazing
The open camping area at this organic Cotswolds farm has been here for many years, with public showers recently built, but it doesn’t take away from the ethos of 1600s living. Many visitors still opt to heat water over the fire and wash using a basin.
Wood scavenging is allowed here for any man wanting to be a true man. The most exciting part is getting fresh water from the borehole. Step back in time and enjoy the authentic wilderness experience at Abbey Home Farm.
This is the perfect location to lay down one of our air mattresses and gaze at the stars with the wildflowers all around you at night!
Image Credit: Cool Camping
Bert’s Kitchen Garden, Wales
Renown for: total immersion in the natural world
Most say Ireland is the greenest place they have ever been, but step back and see a close competitor in Llyn Peninsula, surrounded by beautiful woodland and panoramic views of the mountainside if you fancy a hike.
The campsite name derived from their family campervan, Bert, which traveled the world and, once it was retired, converted into the current café for all luxuries to be consumed when fed up with striking up the BBQ.
Visit at www.bertskitchengarden.com
Birds & Bees, Suffolk
Renown for: harking back to simpler times
What used to be a dairy farm now feels like a safe habitat for nature to do its things; wildflowers surround the woodland area, and convert holding pens that once held bulls had become free showers. Nearly all of the landscape has been left untouched, with a pathway made for hikers and children to dander down. If you’re an avid birdwatcher, you’re in for a treat with RSPB Minsmere nearby.
Visit at www.birdsandbeescampsite.co.uk
Finchingfield Camping, Essex
Renown for: wildflower space and open lavender pathways
There is more to Essex than Range Rovers, blondie girls with Louis Vuitton, and Love Island; its answer is Finchingfield Camping site! Our question is… why haven’t they done a TV show on that yet?
Cut your sprigs when pitching your campsite if it’s in season, or roll around over the wildflowers – no one will mind. Since the wildflowers have been allowed to grow in their natural habitat, it provides a natural aura of privacy you don’t get at other campsites.
If you can imagine a 5-star campsite – this is pretty much Essex in a field. Each tent has its firepit, BBQ grill, and haystack sofas. There is plenty of entertainment for the whole family, with the village only a mile away offering live music in the summer, three pubs, and three tearooms.
Visit at www.finchingfieldcamping.co.uk
Lee Valley Almost Wild Campsite, Herts
Renown for: experiment survival skills in the wild
Are you fed up with the hustle and bustle of London? Yeah, we are sometimes, or I should say, nearly every rush hour at our local organic food market. So, if you are from London, you will be glad to hear Lee Valley is much closer than you may think!
Hop on the train, and you can be in Hertfordshire’s Lee Valley within an hour. There are many amenities on-site such as compostable loos, a cold water tap, solar-powered lights, and an offering of 17 pitches.
After that, it’s entirely up to you. Enjoy late-night campfires, relax in a hammock, brush up on your bushcraft skills, foraging, and more. The River Lee rambles amidst this tranquil place where you can sail or kayak, and once you’ve had enough of that, who can say no to a pint at the Fish and Eels pub? You will see some wildlife in the river bush, including bats and deer. And yes, you’re not that far out of sight from the Shard!
Image Credit: Cool Camping
Amber’s Bell Tents – Norfolk, Shropshire, Worcestershire
Renown for: family holiday memories are made here
Amber Sykes started her vintage-style collection of bell tents in free-wheeling rural Norfolk after sweet-talking the owners of two country estates into loaning her a meadow or two, adding strings of bunting, mapping out wild swimming and fruit picking, sourcing bike hire and hampers, and sparking summer-long adventures of hide-and-seek, den building, and bushcraft lessons. Meanwhile, her husband Shaun learned impressive new skills by crafting sauna huts to be wood-fired up by guests for slow-burn sessions.
In 2019 Amber set her sights a little further, adding four more campsites with a similar ethos: another two on her home turf of Norfolk (one near Bewilderwood, for those in the know), one on a Worcestershire pick-your-own farm, and one just over the border in Shropshire. I’m very fond of Amber’s original outpost on Lord Walpole’s Mannington Hall estate, with its allotment and Jacobean pile, but have the Hopton Court site in mind for later this year – hidden in woodland with tree tunnels and dells cleared for the tents, all of which have ‘en suite’ loos, and the wild Shropshire Hills nearby for walks.
Visit at www.ambersbelltents.co.uk
Camping Unplugged, South-east England
Renown for: a rewind in time
There’s something special about camping in the trees. The leaves and forest floor muffle the sound, so it feels like you have the greenwood to yourself; the light is falling between branches; the exhilaration of exploring, losing, and finding the way again. Some will have vivid memories of Forgewood, an East Sussex encampment on the Eridge Estate (now hosts the Black Deer music festival).
I went for a birthday gathering some years back, and remember pumpkin-bright faces around the fire, ember wisps spiraling upwards, fallen timber being brought back with hunter-gatherer pride – all the atmosphere of a festival without a single music stage. Sadly, Forgewood is no more, but the Camping Unplugged founders have hammered in tent pegs on various other aristocratic estates around southeast England.
The ethos is the same: stripped-back camping with the chance to build a campfire (safely) where you see fit, rather than in a designated firepit. They’ve set up the True Camping Club as a rootsy antidote to glamping, celebrating the freedom of pitching your canvas world amid the trees with bags of space for running around and ditching the smartphone. It’s a great leveler – co-founder John Allison says he gets many banking types here, keen to switch off, while half of London’s top schools decamp here.
Please look at his sites at Inwood at Farleigh Wallop near Basingstoke, and the more established Abbotstone, near Winchester. As Allison says: ‘When you’re in the trees, you wouldn’t know you’re anywhere near civilization.’
Visit at www.campingunplugged.com