By James at Cool Camping
It is National Camping Month – the sun is out, the birds are singing, what an excellent time to pack up your Muck Boots and experience nature. James at Cool Camping shares his top campsites with us.
This family-run smallholding on the edge of Cranborne Chase has a wonderful stream running through it, filling a small fishing lake at the heart of the campsite. There are just five or six pitches in total, individually mown into the wildflower meadow and each adorned with a picnic table and campfire pit. Meet the British Lop pigs and Hereford cattle or take a walk on local footpaths, with National Trust-owned Melbury Beacon across the other side of the valley and Fontmell Down just beyond.
In the grounds of Lowther Castle, five miles south of Penrith, this pop-up campsite is created by the team behind Kendal Calling music festival and lends a fun, laid-back atmosphere to camping in the hills. There’s a bar, a wood-fired pizza café and you can choose to stay in a luxury glamping tents if you don’t fancy camping, but the place is also designed as a real basecamp for activities, with footpaths on the doorstep, Ullswater down the road and wild swimming in the nearby River Lowther.
On the banks of the River Rother, three miles from the cobbled lanes and antique shops of Rye, this brand-new campsite has around 20 pitches and a wild and natural feel. There are rustic bucket showers where you pre-heat water over your campfire and the campsite ‘shop’ is inside an old horsebox. For fun on the river, kayaks and paddleboards are available, but it’s not far to the coast, too, with Camber Sands less than 15 minutes away.
This shifting campsite, created by a team that usually provides music festival accommodation, has moved from its popular location in Somerset last year to a new home in the stately parkland of Bedfordshire's Turvey House. Children will adore splashing in the River Great Ouse, which winds its way around the perimeter of the meadow, and there are great street-food offerings on site, along with daily activities and workshops, centered around the communal well-being yurt. The camping area is vehicle free – great for families – and there are also luxury tipis available for hire.
Inside a wide meander on the River Wye, this basic but hugely popular campsite is best known for its pebble river beach and excellent canoe access. You can bring your own vessel or arrange canoe hire through the campsite, with local companies offering convenient one-way trips that let you idle downstream and return by minibus. It’s an easy two-mile walk (or float) to the book town of Hay-on-Wye, where you can nose at old maps and novels in famous shops like Richard Booth’s, or head south into the Brecon Beacons National Park for hiking and biking options.
Don’t forget to pack your wellies!