Cool Camping’s editor James Warner Smith shares his top ten camping and glamping sites for families in England, Scotland and Wales
1) Botany Camping
WHERE: Warminster, Wiltshire
WHY: Botany is a place to suit all families no matter your camping tastes. With regular camping spots, pre-pitched, furnished bell tents, family-sized showers and a laid-back, campfire-friendly vibe all helping to make Botany a hit. But, it's the local attraction that really helps Botany stand out.
Which is Longleat Safari Park. Home to over 500 species, as well as a steam railway, boat rides and a Postman Pat village - it's just three miles away (campers get 30% off tickets, while under-3s go free). It’s perhaps unsurprising, then, that each of Botany’s bell tents has a colourful safari theme. They make for an atmospheric stay after your day out in the wild.
WHEN: Open mid-February to mid-September
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2) Bleasdale Glamping
WHERE: Garstang, Lancashire
WHY: Set in a meadow on the Bleasdale Estate, overlooked by nose-like Fair Snape Fell, this collection of safari tents brings the utmost comfort to a traditional camping location. Children still have the benefit of trees to build dens in, streams to splash about in and acres of space to play, while parents have proper double beds, a kitchenette, and a dining area with high-chairs provided.
Cots can also be added to your booking, while bunk beds are perfect for older tots. Tents come complete with chic, Country Living-style décor, from the range stove to the chunky wooden beds, and windows look out on stunning Forest of Bowland scenery.
WHEN: Open March - October
3) Greenhillock Glamping
WHERE: Angus, Scotland
WHY: Facilities are fairly rustic at Greenhillock Glamping, but the space itself is a treasure-trove for a child’s imagination. There’s a bug-zone tent with basic equipment for pond-tipping and critter hunting, nature trails mown informally in the long grass and a special, child-sized tent – the ‘Art Shack’ – that’s kept brim-full of art and craft materials.
If you’re a parent that likes to keep your toddler mud and paint free, then this may not be the one but, for fun straight out of an Ariel advert, it ticks every box. Furnished bell tents provide glamping options, while all campers have access to a communal kitchen.
WHEN: Open mid-April- mid-Septmeber
4) Cotswold Farm Park
WHERE: Guiting Power, Gloucestershire
WHY: Made famous by TV presenter Adam Henson, this hands-on campsite, also known as Adam’s Farm, welcomes, campers and campervaners as well as having glamping accommodation too. The brand new ablutions block has family showers and baby changing areas in both the ladies and the gents, while the main welcome lodge has a lounge area with games for little ones.
The big attraction, of course, is bottle-feeding lambs, petting rare breed pigs, taking a tractor and trailer ride or exploring the adventure playground – all available on the Farm Park attached to the campsite. Wonderful Cotswolds views are just another welcome perk.
WHEN: Open 24th April - 29th October
Cotswold Farm Park
5) Ling’s Meadow
WHERE: Diss, Norfolk
WHY: Kids with fair hair may well get lost in the long, blonde grass that grows wild in this Norfolk meadow but stick to the meandering mown pathways and they’ll be fine! The tracks link up beautifully furnished bell tents, a painstakingly restored old shepherd’s hut and a blue ‘living van’ built by a local craftsman and perfect for a family of four.
All have additional options, such as a travel cot, for those with the youngest children, while the ample furnishings allow you to pack the bare minimum. A national cycle trail running just north of the campsite, so do bring your bikes along.
WHEN: Open May to end of September
6) Crows Nest Caravan Park
WHERE: Filey, North Yorkshire
WHY: This ‘tale of two campsites’ allows for rustic camping with plenty of fall-back facilities for parents. One half of the site is awash with holiday park facilities, like an indoor swimming pool, well-stocked shop and live entertainment.
However, venture to the ‘tent-only’ field and you’re rewarded with endless space, spectacular sea views and a far more casual atmosphere. The result is excellent baby changing areas and family showers but still a sense of back-to-basics camping as it should be. Pitch by the children’s playground for the best combination of space and child-friendly distractions.
WHEN: Open March - October
WHERE: Ceredigion, Wales
WHY: There are just a dozen pitches in the clover-and buttercup-covered meadows at Naturesbase - with two already taken up by pre-erected safari tents that afford the added luxury of laziness: just turn up and everything you need awaits.
The site caters perfectly for children, with a rubber-stamp nature trail to follow, a willow den, animals to feed, a mini football pitch and streams to hop across; while an open-all hours play-barn wards off any wet-weather worries. For parents, life is made easier with a family-sized wet-room and a baby-changing station, plus children cook the dinner for you -when campsite owner Gyles’ runs hands-on pizza nights around the clay oven.
WHEN: Open 21st July - 2nd Septmeber
8) Comrie Croft
WHERE: Perthshire, Scotland
WHY: An excellent café and shop, chickens to feed, picnic areas and off-road cycle routes for tots up to teens… Comrie Croft has enough going on that you may never need to leave. They take tents, but they’ve also got Norwegian katas – tipi-like abodes in the trees - complete with a wood burning stove and a large sleeping area strewn with animal skins. They’re ideal for families, who can share the one ginormous, cosy bed.
During school holidays the place has a real buzz, so expect to make plenty of new friends. And, if you do manage to leave? The Auchingarrich Wildlife Park, just soft of Comrie, is a top family attraction.
WHEN: Open all year
9) Ruthern Valley
WHERE: Bodmin, Cornwall
WHY: After a nice day on the beach at Polzeath or Rock, surrounded by surfers and Sloanes, Ruthern Valley is a wonderfully hidden escape in Cornwall’s countryside interior.
Humming with wildlife, this beguiling little mixture of woodland and meadows, has a convenient location, with the wild delights of Land’s End an hour or so away, and Bodmin Moor nearby, it's the perfect place for stomping around with children, regaling them with heady stories about smugglers and highwaymen.
There’s a good playground, ample wildlife and a range of glamping options also available. Crabbing off the quay in Padstow is a must too (as is some local fish and chips!)
WHEN: Open all year
10) Top Of The Woods
WHERE: Pembrokeshire, West Wales
WHY: The 1950s Dutch barn at Top of the Woods is the key hangout spot for families. Along with games and hammocks, there is a freezer for ice-packs and a microwave for baby food, plus Wi-Fi if you need it. The rest of your time is more about connecting with nature.
On site activities include, bushcraft, fireside storytelling and special events during school holidays, while one meadow is left entirely free for children to play games in. The 30 camping pitches are accompanied by a range of glamping options: The large safari tents are particularly good for families, but it's new ‘Pioneer Tents’, with an early American settler-vibe, add extra character.
WHEN: Open Spring Bank Holiday weekend until end-September
Top Of The Woods
6 Top Tips for camping success from Cool Camping
• When it comes to site selection, remember that pre-warned is pre-armed. Find out what facilities are available beforehand. We all have different tastes, and so do our children, and while some kids will love the lack of boundaries of the more basic campsites, others will respond positively to facilities and spanking-clean showers.Try to arrive at your site in plenty of time so that your kids have time to orientate themselves and explore the surroundings before nightfall.
• Pitching a tent in the dark while trying to placate hungry kids isn’t the best start to your holiday and it also stops them getting spooked by camping in an unknown setting.
•We all know the Great British weather can make or break any camping holiday. A bit of pre-trip research goes a long way. Be sure to check the forecast before you leave and, if it’s looking grim, gem up on local museums, castles, activity centres, swimming pools and cinemas. Once you’re there this extra bit of research will have been time well spent.
Packing a football or rounders bat means you’ve always got a game handy for your children to occupy themselves with.
• Board games and cards are useful for wet weather, but fiddly little counters and pieces will quickly get lost. Wink murder is much simpler and it doesn’t cost a penny.
• If your sleeping tent is capacious, why not take along an etra ‘pup’ tent for paying in, especially if your children are small? It can become a base for games and means that muddy children don’t sit on top of their lovely dry, clean bedding. It also gives them a sense of having their own space and can easily become a Wendy house, space rocket or magic castle depending on what mood they’re in. If you don’t already have something suitable, you can buy basic, pop-up tents from as little as £25.
• School holidays are the busiest time for all campsites, so be sure to book in advance, especially for small, independent sites. Almost all campsites take bookings over the phone during regular working hours or you can visit the Cool Camping website where you can select dates and search specifically for those campsites that still have space available. So while you may be busy telling the kids to put down the iPad or turn of their phone, the digital world is good for one thing - getting a site booked early.
Thanks to James Warner Smith, Editor and author of Cool Camping: Kids (Ed3) out now (£16.95)