Thinking of heading abroad next summer? The experts at coolcamping.com share their favourite independent French campsites to book before it’s too late
It’s never too early to dream about summer camping holidays and, when it comes to the best independently-run little campsites, we’ve learnt the hard way that busy dates and bank holidays have a knack of filling up fast. So, to help you bag those early bird ferry deals and secure a sought-after pitch, we’ve asked the experts at coolcamping.com for their favourite campsites in France for 2018. From the riverbanks of the Dordogne to the mountains of the Pyrénées, these small-scale campsites are some of the best in the country – booking far in advance is highly recommended…
Paddling, boating, swimming and building sandcastles from the soft river sand is what takes up all your time at this delightful riverside campsite in the Perigord-Limousin natural park. There are ample other distractions – boules, badminton, volleyball and table tennis to name a few – while around 40 tent pitches spread across the grassy, terraced meadow above the waters. The grand-looking town of Jumilhac-le-Grand, complete with 15th century chateau, is a short walk away and plays host to a fascinating gold mining museum. Back at camp, meanwhile, you can search for it yourself with gold panning activities available just down river.
Set beside a privately-owned nature reserve that houses various species of orchids, birds and butterflies, La Serre has less than 50 camping pitches but spreads across a vast space with private pockets and sheltered patches at every turn. Regular camping is accompanied by cabins, safari tents and a treehouse-like cabin on stilts, while facilities include a swimming pool and large children’s play area. The campsite also runs a small eco museum telling the history of local agriculture and hosts farmer’s markets during the summer. Footpaths weave into the woods and wild grasses of the surroundings, while a short drive south transforms the scenery from picturesque foothills to a great mountainous playground: the Pyrénées.
Overlooking the River Ardeche (though up a steep slope and sheltered among the trees), this established campsite has a real wooded, wilderness feel. Tents are scattered among the trees and fully furnished yurts and safari tents are available to rent, while a playground, paddling pool and pizzeria occupy a large clearing in the middle. Facilities are excellent – including eco-friendly toiletries in the washrooms and local produce in reception – though the short scramble down to the river is the campsite’s greatest asset. Swimming, canoeing and kayaking amid the jaw-dropping limestone scenery is hard to top (local canoe rental can be arranged at the campsite reception).
Open meadow spaces, large clearings or small hidey-holes in the dense woodland, wherever you’d like to pitch your tent or park your campervan, this family-run campsite has a suitable spot, along with a handful of glamping options for those flying in without the kit. On the grounds of an 18th-century estate just south of Grenoble, facilities include a swimming pool, volleyball pitch, mountain bike rental and free Wi-Fi, while a timber-clad bar-café provides fresh bread and croissants each morning and table d’hôte dinners at night.
There are just 20 pitches at this eco-friendly campsite, accompanied by a naturally filtering salt-water swimming pool and a small stream for children to play in. Treasure hunts and nature workshops run throughout summer, while on-site produce from the walnut trees and honeybees are sold in a tiny shop. The local voir verte cycle way – an old railway line that has since been rejuvenated – lets you cycle into Périgord Limousin natural park (with an activity centre in Bussière-Galant for ziplining and treetop games), while donkey rides back at camp occupy little ones in the afternoons.
Based on their leading guidebooks, the Cool Camping website now offers an online collection of the very best camping and glamping sites in the UK and Europe. Discover their full collection of campsites in France here.