It’s National Parks Week! And to help you get out and enjoy the nation’s breathing spaces, we asked the folks from coolcamping.com for their pick of the national parks’ best campsites.
Famed for their natural beauty, Britain’s national parks are best appreciated by getting in among the undergrowth, breathing in the fresh country air and soaking up every inch of the scenery. So it’s no surprise that these revered places, from the North York Moors to the South Downs, are some of the most memorable places to go camping. To help you immerse yourself in the UK’s most famous locations, we’ve asked James Warner Smith from coolcamping.com to pick his very favourite national park campsites…
From great open clearings, to hidden pitches tucked behind mighty, fallen trees, this camping nirvana on the edge of Devon’s Dartmoor is a joy. There are 25 ‘wild camping’ pitches in total, while grass and hard-standings closer to reception allow for more run-of-the-mill camping and caravanning. Roaming into the trees is the real treasure of the place though. A woodland wonderland, it has stone-ring firepits at every wild camping pitch, while den building, tree climbing and wildlife watching are a must. And, though Dartmoor may be on your doorstep, you’re not too far from the south coast either.
What makes a perfect Snowdonia campsite? Quiet farm location? Nearby beach? Local pub? Friendly owners who like campfires, children and dogs? Gwerniago Farm has all of the above and more. Located in the pretty Dovey Valley, it’s a long-established site with decent facilities and ample space. There’s a large main field, divided by the natural boundaries of a ginormous oak tree and rocky outcrop, while all around the mountains of south Snowdonia climb away towards the clouds. The coast is also at hand, with the beach and little harbour at Aberdyfi less than a 15 minute’s by car.
Often overlooked in favour of more remote national parks, the South Downs is a treasure trove for camping and wonderfully accessible for Londoners. 900-acre Housedean Farm has been running a traditional, tent-only campsite here for years, with a handy location beside a bus stop and within walking distance of the train. The South Downs Way runs directly through the farm (walkers are in their element) and there’s glamping accommodation for those hiking light. Housedean have stuck to their roots and created a campsite that doesn’t pretend to be anything it’s not – this is a genuine working farm and that’s just the way we like it.
In the North Lakes, not far from Ullswater, Gill Head Farm is a tale of two campsites. On arrival, you can turn into the main, expansive camping meadow, with views across the fields to mighty Blencathra – an awesome presence and constant reminder of the Lake District’s beauty. Alternatively, follow a tarmac trail to a secret spot at the back of the farm, where a private, streamside meadow has room for about five or six pitches. This small hollow has no mountain views but is unquestionably one of the most secluded spots in the Lake District and a haven for quiet campers.
Between Bungay and Beccles, this pretty, 20-pitch campsite edging the Broads is only a few years old but already has a band of loyal, returning campers. Right by the Norfolk-Suffolk border it offers the perfect gateway into the watery world of the national park, with tent pitches hewn into the long wild grass connected via mown pathways. Children are particularly in their element, hopping across a tiny stream to play hide and seek in the trees, and there is a range of glamping options. It’s just under a mile to the River Waveney. Hire canoes or dinghies nearby to make the most of your stay.
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. You can book all of the campsites above and more on coolcamping.com