Here is a list of my own personal favourite, natural campsites. By natural I mean rolling hills, sand dunes, sea views, tree clearings… and of course open fires. No heated pools and numbered pitches here.
Exmoor coast holidays – Devon
My favourite local site, Exmoor coast holidays sits in the moor on the doorstep of Lynton and Lynmouth one of North Devon’s most breathtaking towns noted for its unspoilt rugged landscape, jagged rocks, sheer cliffs and far reaching sea views over to Cardiff and Port Talbot.
The campsite itself boasts over 100 acres to choose from many with sea views. The campsite has a distinctly laid back vibe, if you want to book and reserve your spot your out of luck – you cant, just turn up on the day, have word in the shop or knock on the farm house door.
Open fires are actively encouraged with piles of rocks scattered around the site to keep them under control. Located on the site is a riding stable from which you can head straight out onto the moor for some tranquil and challenging rides. For a campsite with such a rustic appeal you would expect the facilities to be rather standard however this is not the case, they are exceptional. Fridges to store whatever you have caught that day for bbq and showers far better than the one I have at home.
The best bit about this site however is that it is open year round, I often take a tipi here on a crisp winter day and have a whole corner of the site all to myself. All in all a great site, Considering this is my local site that I use more than any other I feel bad for putting it as only my 5th favourite, but there are some real corkers coming up.
Fidden Farm – Isle of Mull
This a stunning site, a complete pain to get to but when you arrive and pitch up a little nook surrounded by white sand, seals and sea birds its definitely worth the trek. As the island of Iona sits to the West you don’t get the fetch from the Atlantic so the sea when we were there was really calm and great for swimming. We took our snorkels and found the water around the Island (especially to the East) crystal clear with some fantastic reefs to explore.
Although there were cars on the Island, a lot of people (especially visitors) didn’t have one so the Island is really geared up for walking with a huge variety of footpaths. We didn’t have a car so particularly enjoyed the slower pace of everybody walking everywhere, we would often join other campers on their way to the pub for the evening (Keel row, great friendly pub) The walk home from the pub was spectacular, the lack of light pollution results in one of the most spectacular night skies I had seen for a long time. All in all, the slower pace of life, laid back campsite and breath taking nature makes this a site I would definitely like to return to, the only thing putting me off is the one thousand or two mile drive.
Inwood Camping – Hampshire
I rarely camp in this part of the country as I tend to stick to the coasts. We had a tipi booking for a 21st birthday party near Basingstoke and needed a place to stay for the night, we ended up staying 5.
This is a fairytale campsite. You drive down dirt tracks that fork in all directions to find the perfect spot, what that spot is depends on preference as this a hugely varied site. You could choose to hike through the undergrowth to find a little patch just big enough to squeeze a little tent into, or take one of the many tracks and stumble across a giant clearing of meadow or yellow grassland. We choose one of the many clearings and had it all to ourselves, flanked from all sides by fir and larch trees you could imagine you were thousands of miles from anywhere.
In our clearing we arranged some straw bales that had been placed there around an open fire (fire wood stacked at the front of the site) and pitched a bell tent overlooking it.
From our base it was an excellent place to explore, we found poppy fields, chairs in trees accessed by a ladder to sit and muse in, wood carvings of bears and snakes hammocks slung between the trees and fires already laid with homemade tree stump seating. A firm favourite and one I hope to return to soon.
Henry’s campsite – Cornwall
By its own admission Henry’s campsite is ‘strange but wonderful’ and its certainly lives up to expectation. The website pretty much sums up what this site is all about, instead of the usual panoramic shot of tents and the scenery on the front page of this website are cartoons of angry looking fish and Amazonian wood carvings. Nothing in this site is what it seems and it attracts some fantastic people. When I was here I was complemented on my aura and was offered a gong bath (I declined as I know what they are and they are not very relaxing) It’s a fairly small site but absolutely beautiful.
Corridors of wild flowers, slate steps up to wooden huts with cushions just to relax on, wooden walk ways over streams, palm trees, fish sellers, amphitheatre fire pits, suns playing the guitar, pink flamingos, ‘canuking beavers’ and if you take a look over a wall there will almost certainly be a duck or pig relaxing the other side of it. This site is pure madness and I love it.
Shell Island – Gwynedd
The daddy of the them all. At 450 acres with 300 acres available for camping this is not only the largest campsite in the UK, but also the largest campsite in Europe. Being a tidal island it is cut off at high tide but just adds to the drama of the place. On first appearance the cafeteria style restaurant and bingo bar doesn’t give as good impression but if you drive past all of that for many miles, double tarmacked roads turn into single roads, into stone roads into dirt tracks you will find yourself in the middle of a vast expanse of sand dunes. Where you choose to pitch is up to you, everybody has their secret spots, left past the green dust bins, right past the medium sized sand dune that looks like an ant hill (but not the one with the tuft of grass on top), past the rock that looks like David Milliband, down a bank, through the foliage and carry on for 400 metres and you’re there.
And that’s only half the site, if you choose to go right at the entrance instead of left you’ll find yourself in an area of green fields which feels like a completely different site altogether.
You can stay here for 6 weeks (which many people do during the school holidays) and still find new places to explore. The islands great for fishing, great for swimming, great for playing guitars around an open fire safe in the knowledge the next camp is 500 metres away. It’s just a fantastic site all round, it’s also the campsite I used to go to for many weeks as a whipper so due to fond memories recent and past it gets the number one spot on my list.