Written by: Fiona Denton
You’ve got permission to leave work early, the weather forecast is hot and sunny and your sleeping bags are rolled: You’re going camping this weekend, and nothing is going to stop you. Even the slightly damp tent you stuffed away at the end of last year made it through the winter okay with no holes or mould. Surely it’s an omen…
Fed up with crowded camping?
But remember last year? Every campsite you visited was horrifically overcrowded – a gauntlet of criss-crossing guy wires, queues for the showers, toilets like Glastonbury, and the local shop was sold out of sausage and eggs. You tried to escape from it all by climbing a few peaks, but the hills were alive with the sound of crinkling waterproofs and hundreds of other tourists, which slightly defeated the object of getting away from it all.
Camping is the ultimate way to enjoy the great outdoors and it’s as cheap as a well-deserved fish supper at the end of a long day’s hiking. If you’ve never tried it before, make sure you pack decent sleeping bags, air mattresses, cooking supplies, and hiking gear. You can escape the city life from around £10 a night, but first you’ve got to find somewhere to go.
A quick glance at a map of the United Kingdom reveals a sprawling patchwork of seemingly-empty countryside, but where are those hidden holiday gems? Read on to find out about five stunning and secretive weekend camping spots that you will want to keep to yourself:
Middle Ninfa, Abergavenny, Monmouthshire.
This is one of Britain’s leading small campsites, but you can also stay in a cosy bunkhouse if a night under the canvas isn’t for you. Situated on a sprawling 23 acre farm, this beautiful campsite nestles in a rugged historic landscape, and is rated number 3 by the Tiny Campsite Guide. Punt down the river on a wobbly coracle boat, or take part in a willow-weaving workshop.
The Buzzards, Kingsland, Hertfordshire
This rustic smallholding is spread over 16 acres, and there’s plenty to do from the bluebell wood in spring, to the badger hide and the waterside walks at the mere. The campsite is small and sheltered, and there are several cats about, so dog owners beware. A highlight has to be the tiny disused quarry, which is big enough to pitch just one tent.
A personal favourite of ours, the Beddgelert valley was carved by a glacier in the last ice age, and the campsite nestles by a rushing river at the bottom of this dramatic gorge. The trees are alive with unusual and relatively-tame birds such as woodpeckers and nuthatches, who can be lured outside your tent with a few crumbs of bread. If you’re really lucky, you may see an otter or kingfisher, and ospreys nest several miles away. Gorgeous Beddgellert village is a mile away, and has several decent pubs, restaurants, and gift shops. Long sandy beaches are a few miles’ drive, as are ancient Norman castles and outstanding mountain walks. Don’t forget to check out the grave of Gelert, allegedly a dog slaughtered accidentally by Prince Llewellyn the Great. The grave is actually a tourist trap, and the dog never existed, but it still makes an interesting story to tell the kids.
Aldridge Hill Campsite, New Forest
Get back to nature and sleep alongside roaming cattle and ponies (who can give you quite a startle in the night). This place is an astronomer’s haven because the skies are so dark, so take a telescope or binoculars if you have them. A short drive away is the town of Brocklehurst, where you’ll find all shops and services you need.
Ravenglass Club, The Lakes
Ravenglass is a stunning site which is on the western edge of the Lake District, and was once part of a large estate. Pitch your canvas in 6 acres of mature woodland, and don’t forget your fishing rod as Ravenglass village is a Mecca for those who enjoy casting a reel. At time of press, this well-equipped campsite held a four-star Visit Britain Award.
So, hopefully we’ve inspired you to get out and get away from it all. A few nights at a secluded campsite can hit all your reset buttons, providing the weather holds out and the drive back isn’t too tortuous. And here’s my final tip for a good night’s sleep when camping: EARPLUGS. The birds start early in the summer, plus the sound of zips and giggling kids will ping your eyes open before dawn. Happy camping!Ravenglass club