Don’t just pitch up anywhere. We’ve got the unspoilt sites worth basing your UK holiday around
1 Treen Farm Campsite, Cornwall
With its shell-strewn sands, turquoise water and steep access path (which limits the crowds), Pedn Vounder is one of the West Country’s finest beaches. On the cliffs above, sheltered by old stone walls and scented gorse hedges, is Treen Farm. There are sea-view pitches, a shop selling all the essentials and a firepit in a lower field. Homemade takeaway food is brought to site at least three times a week and the popular Logan Rock Inn is a short walk down the lane. The site doesn’t take bookings, so you’ll need to arrive early.
From £22; treenfarmcampsite.com
2 Gear Farm, Cornwall
At this organic farm high above the Helford Estuary, you’ll wake to the sound of skylarks rather than Skype (there’s no wi-fi). This is simple meadow camping, with fresh drinking water and hot showers, and terrific sunset views. Spend your days exploring the tidal coves and secret inlets of the estuary, then swing by the Gear Farm Pasty Company, in the old barn across the lane, for pasties made with ingredients from the farm. Ready-pitched tents are available to hire, along with camping kitchens and airbeds.
£20; ready-pitched tents from £105 for three nights; campinghelfordriver.co.uk
3 Cockingford Farm, Devon
Widecombe-in-the-Moor is a lost-in-time sort of place on Dartmoor, with moorland ponies and a cute little village market. You’re staying less than a mile away, at Cockingford Farm campsite. It’s great for families, with a stream for paddling and ancient woodland to explore. Within easy reach are the Bronze Age village of Grimspound, Hound Tor, for a hike, and the River Dart, for a dip. Eggs and vegetables are available to buy from reception, and campfires are permitted. The wisteria-clad Rugglestone Inn, in Widecombe, is a worthy fall-back option if the clouds start to gather.
£18; 01364 621258
4 Loveland Camping, Devon
Creativity fills the six acres of this camping wonderland on Devon’s Hartland peninsula. The fashion-designer owners have created stylish, woodburner-warmed geodesic domes, kitted out with beds and projector screens. The place is big on sustainability — low-food-miles farm produce, sun-heated eco-showers and composting loos with views — and there are also tepees, yurts and a small area for tent camping. Stay over a Friday if you can: it’s woodfired-pizza night.
£30; pods from £150 per night; lovelandfarmcamping.co.uk
5 Tom’s Field, Dorset
The Isle of Purbeck has some of the best beaches and coastal walks in Dorset. You’re brilliantly placed for many of them at Tom’s Field, a camping institution near the village of Langton Matravers that has been welcoming campers for 60 years. It’s not one but several fields, with hot showers, a little shop and gourmet fry-ups. From the campsite, you can walk down to Dancing Ledge, a limestone shelf with a rock-hewn tidal swimming pool. Corfe Castle is a short drive away.
6 Knepp Wildland Safaris & Camping, West Sussex
At 3,500 acres, Knepp is one of the largest rewilding projects in Europe, with herds of wild ponies, deer, pigs and rare cattle breeds helping to drive the regeneration of the land. There’s conventional camping in a wildflower meadow on the edge of ancient woodland, or a selection of shepherd’s huts, bell tents with kingsize beds, yurts and tepees. The facilities are pretty eye-catching, too: as well as wetrooms with underfloor heating, there are open-air, hot-water showers and also a couple of al fresco baths. There are firepits and an on-site pond, so children under 12 are not permitted.
£60; see website for other prices; kneppsafaris.co.uk
7 Alde Garden, Suffolk
It’s almost a shame to bring your own tent to Alde Garden, in the heart of rustic Suffolk, given the variety of quirky options available in which to bed down. There’s a gypsy caravan, yurts, a bell tent, a converted 200-year-old redbrick stable, and the Hideout — a tiny cabin made from reclaimed materials hidden in the trees. There are free bikes for guests to borrow, garden trails to explore, ducks and hens to be fed and a pizza oven. The Sweffling White Horse is next door for a ploughman’s and traditional pub games, including bar billiards and shove ha’penny. The coast is an easy 20-minute drive away.
£15; see website for other prices; aldegarden.co.uk
8 High Sand Creek, Norfolk
This 100-pitch family campsite in the village of Stiffkey sits on the edge of a watery world of saltmarshes and muddy creeks. Seals lounge by the nearby shore, and you can also spot hen harriers and egrets. Facilities are fairly standard; the sunsets, across the marshes, anything but. The nearby Anchor Inn, at Morston, is one of the best gastropubs on the coast, while Wells-next-the-Sea, the Sunday Times 2016 beach of the year, is a few miles west.
£22; 01328 830235
9 Point Farm, Pembrokeshire
Point Farm’s immaculate, gently sloping pitches overlook the Blue Flag waters of Dale Bay in this quiet corner of Wales. There’s a path down to a tiny cove, while a five-minute walk through the woods brings you to the waterside village of Dale, with its popular pub and sailing school. There’s brilliant surfing and sunsets over at Westdale Bay, or head over to Marloes Sands for a driftwood campfire. A shepherd’s hut and firepits are available for hire.
10 Trellyn Woodland Camping, Pembrokeshire
Open fires aren’t so much permitted as encouraged (free firewood) at this tranquil spot, within striking distance of Abercastle Beach and village. There are just five secluded pitches dotted around the valley space, each perfect for a family or perhaps a small group. Free wi-fi, a woodfired sauna, and lobster and crab delivered direct to your tent from Abercastle are among the creature comforts available. For those not content with conventional canvas, there are hippie-chic family yurts, tepees and geo-domes. The Shed bistro in nearby Porthgain serves some of the best fish and chips in Wales.
£46 (minimum seven days); see website for other prices; trellyn.co.uk
11 Fforest, Ceredigion
Fforest Farm is definitely not one for the camping purist. Set above the dramatic Teifi River gorge, it has a selection of cabins with views across the water meadows to the sea, family domes equipped with kingsize beds, and bell tents. They all come with an outdoor kitchen and private deck. At the heart of the site is a large communal tepee, a tiny candlelit pub and a lodge serving seed-packed granola and sourdough breakfasts. If that’s not enough for you, Poppit and Mwnt sands are only a short drive away. And did we mention the woodland sauna?
Four-person domes from £100 per night (minimum two nights); coldatnight.co.uk
12 Penpont, Powys
Set around a grade I listed country house dating from 1666 on the banks of the Usk, this is a pretty, peaceful site that limits numbers to keep it that way. You’re free to camp where you choose, rather than being corralled into designated pitches. There’s wild swimming and catch-and- release fishing in the river, and an abundance of wildlife, from otters to kingfishers. Showers and loos are located in the stable block and the on-site organic farm shop sells vegetables and fruit from the walled gardens.
13 Llyn Gwynant Campsite, Gwynedd
This scenic site sits in a deep, craggy valley in the heart of Snowdonia National Park. It’s large, and busy at peak season, but the pitches are spread out so you don’t feel swamped, and there are decent facilities, including an appliance-charging service. There are Canadian canoes for hire (the campsite is on the banks of Gwynant lake) and swimming from the beach here. You won’t go hungry, either: breakfast is served until midday, woodfired pizzas until 9pm, and there are plenty of snacks on sale for powering you up those mountains.
14 Thistledown Farm, Gloucestershire
This family-friendly site is set on a 70-acre farm with far-reaching views over the Cotswolds. Choose from car-free pastures or an elderflower orchard. The excellent Fieldfare Cafe cooks flatbreads and lamb koftas in its clay oven, or why not take on board some of Thistledown’s campfire recipe ideas and cook something yourself. Arty Stroud and the secret lakes and gothic ruins of Woodchester Park are nearby.
From £29; thistledown.org.uk
15 Shallow Grange, Derbyshire
It’s out with the stags and hens, in with the sheep on this working farm in the Peak District that takes its peace very seriously indeed. Rowdy groups are not permitted, but if you’re after a low-carbon-footprint stay, with eco-friendly, solar-powered facilities, rainwater harvesting and some wonderful nature on your doorstep, this is the spot. Buxton is three miles away and there’s excellent mountain-biking in the surrounding dales, as well as walking on the Monsal railway trail.
16 Swinton Bivouac, North Yorkshire
Part of the 20,000-acre Swinton Estate on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales, Bivouac has six stylish woodland lodges, housing up to seven guests, offering rustic, electricity-free nights. In the meadow are luxury yurts — each with its own woodburner, private loo and shower — as well as a communal woodfired outdoor hot tub. A short walk away, the Bivouac Cafe serves everything from beef stew to homemade cakes and scones. Adjacent is Druid’s Temple, a Stonehenge knock-off folly built in the late 1700s by the estate owner William Danby.
Four-person lodges from £200 per night, B&B; swintonestate.com
17 Side Farm, Cumbria
There can be few campsites in the Lake District with better views than Side Farm: Helvellyn rises to the west, and the silvery expanse of Ullswater stretches away to the north. The site has its own beach and tiny tearoom, and is family-friendly. Busy in high season, this is a gem in quieter months, when it works as the perfect base for either messing about on the water, or stretching your legs in the surrounding fells. The adventurous will appreciate the proximity to Striding Edge, one of the best ridge scrambles in Britain.
18 Hoathwaite Campsite, Cumbria
This unspoilt National Trust-run campsite on the edge of Coniston Water is the i deal spot for living out your Swallows and Amazons fantasies. There’s direct access to the lake for those with kayaks or small sailing boats. You can venture out to Coniston along the lakeshore cycle path, or catch the boat from the jetty in Torver Common Wood. The site itself is predominantly tent camping, but to glamp it up, rent one of the Nordic-style tepees from Basecamp Tipi, which come equipped with stoves and sheepskins.
£19; tepees from £50 per night; nationaltrust.org.uk
19 Comrie Croft, Perthshire
Just an hour from Edinburgh, Comrie Croft is an eco destination with a farmstead and walking and biking trails. Wild camping, but with added facilities, is the ethos. Find a spot in the woods and listen out for owls and deer as you cook sausages and marshmallows (both on sale in the shop) on your campfire. Or trade up to a six-person Nordic kata tepee tent, with sheepskins, solar-powered lighting and a stove. Might be tricky, but if you arrive by bus, bike or foot you’ll get 10% off.
£24; kata tents from £99 per night; comriecroft.com
20 Cnip Grazing, Isle of Lewis
Open-access laws mean that you’re free to wild camp on any of Scotland’s world-class beaches. Sometimes, though, it’s nice to have the luxury of simple facilities (such as coin-operated showers) on hand, too. At the community-owned and run Traigh na Beirigh, an arc of white sand on the Isle of Lewis, tents, caravans and campervans can park on the machair grassland and inch right up to the sand. Feast on the hand-dived local scallops and remember to bring everything else. Fees are collected every evening.