Camping’s revival isn’t just about the money in people’s pockets; there are few better ways to get some fresh air and few more eco-friendly trips. The best campsites in the UK stretch from Scilly to Orkney, taking in New Forest ponies, bushcraft courses and ancient trails, and are fine options for a summer that’s due some sunshine.
How to plan a camping trip in the UK
There are several things to consider while planning your camping trip in the UK. First thought: the pesky British weather. Notoriously fickle, you'll want to plan for every eventuality. If it's hot, you'll need plenty of suncream and cool clothes. But even on the hottest days, the nights can get chilly, and you never know when the skies are going to open. Be sure to bring layers, a cosy jumper, a warm sleeping bag and a good waterproof.
There's a long list of camping essentials you'll want to pack, too. Besides your tent and your bedding (sleeping bag, pillow, sleeping mat), be sure to consider a table and camp chairs, portable chargers and batteries, a tent-repair kit and a windbreak. A good head torch is a worthy investment, too. Depending on the campsite and on your plans, if you're planning to cook your own food, you'll need a portable stove, cooking utensils and plates, bowls and cups. And don't forget a first-aid kit, hand sanitizer, travel towel and toiletries.
St Martin’s, Isles of Scilly
Scilly may be only a short hop from the mainland, but its islands feel a world away. St Martin’s has sandy beaches, gorgeous cliffs, Britain’s most westerly vineyard and gourmet food. Even better, this popular British campsite is only a short stroll from the awesome white sands.
What to see and do in the area: Aside from lounging on the beach and splashing in the sea, the Isles of Scilly have a lot going for them. There are five inhabited islands to explore, as well as countless uninhabited beauties that will make you feel like you're at the end of the world. From fabulous hikes to island hopping by boat, wildlife spotting and gorging on local delicacies, you'll be spoilt for choice. On St Martin's, paddle in the rock pools at St Lawrence's Bay, while a trip to one of its neighbouring islets – Nornour, Ganilly and Menawethan – will bring you up close to seal colonies.
Visit stmartinscampsite.co.uk for more information.
Cromwell Castle Tresco and Bryher, Isles of Scilly, Cornwall, UK © Neill Duggan/Shutterstock
With access to 220 square miles of thick woodland, not to mention those titular ponies, Roundhill, the New Forest’s best campsite, is understandably popular. But its size means it rarely feels crowded, and you can either venture into the woods on your own, or join the rangers’ guided walks. With toilets, showers, lots of space and the whole forest on your doorstep, this is one of the best campsites for kids.
What to see and do in the area: There's a marvellous collection of walking trails in the New Forest, whilst a dedicated cycle route offers miles of gorgeous woodland to explore on two wheels. Alternatively, visit the quaint villages of Lyndhurst, Beaulieu and Brockenhurst for a bite to eat or to peruse the local shops.
Visit campingintheforest.co.uk for more information.
Ponies in New Forest National Park © Henk Hennium/Shutterstock
Wowo Campsite, East Sussex
Offering some of the best camping in England, this idyllic former strawberry farm has become a fixture for many campers. Yurts and shepherd's huts are available at Wowo, campfires are encouraged and several fine farm shops are within strolling distance of this great British campsite. And there's entertainment for the kids, too.
What to see and do in the area: With a huge range of workshops on offer – from foraging to music and bushcraft – kids of all ages and persuasions will be able to while away the hours. Nearby, walking, cycling, fishing and horse riding are all possible, while you can kayak or canoe on the River Ouse.
Visit wowo.co.uk for more information.
Sheffield Park, East Sussex © Samib123/Shutterstock
Three Cliffs Bay, Gower Peninsula
If you fancy sleeping in the midst of one of the best panoramas in Britain, the spacious Welsh campsite of Three Cliffs Bay is your best bet. The pitches overlook a perfect beach, its sheltered sands encircled by a craggy headland, complete with natural arches, triangular peaks and a tranquil green valley. With camp pitches, caravan spots, glamping opportunities and even farm cottages to rent, there's something for everyone here.
What to see and do in the area: Lovely, sandy Three Cliffs Bay (10-min walk) is dog-friendly, and patrolled by life guards on summer weekends and holidays. With easy access to the Wales coastal path – and a free walking guide on arrival – hikers are in luck. Surfers, meanwhile, should venture to Llangennith, a 15-min drive, to catch some breaks. Camping in Wales never felt better.
Visit threecliffsbay.com for more information.
Three Cliffs Bay, Gower Peninsula, South Wales © Billy Stock/Shutterstock
Foxholes Castle Camping, Shropshire
Less than two miles from the Welsh border, Foxholes is a great base for several walks, including the Shropshire Way and Offa’s Dyke, although you don’t have to move from this well-ordered site (based around an eccentric 1930s mansion) to immerse yourself in the area: the views from the hilltop on which it sits stretch for almost 360 degrees. If you're looking for caravan sites in the UK, look no further – there's space for tourers, too.
What to see and do in the area: Aside from the epic walking opportunities, the lovely town of Bishops Castle is just a 10-minute wander away, with a welcoming host of pubs, restaurants and two breweries.
Visit foxholes-castle.co.uk for more information
Shropshire view © paul blakeway/Shutterstock
Both the drive here – either a winding route along the Highlands’ spectacular west coast or precipitous single-track through a mountain pass – and the lack of mobile-phone reception underline Applecross’s isolation. But that doesn’t mean it’s unwelcoming: with a family-run pub, a good restaurant, several festivals and walking and kayaking opportunities, this stunningly wild corner of Scotland is well worth a visit.
What to see and do in the area: While many people who come to Applecross spend their time gorging on the fresh local produce, there's plenty of opportunity to stretch your legs with more active pursuits. Aside from sea canoeing and kayaking, there's fishing, hiking and wildlife spotting. And that's before we come to windsurfing, kite surfing and sailing.
Visit applecross.uk.com/campsite for more information.
View from Applecross © Pass grafxart/Shutterstock
Comrie Croft Eco Camping, Perthshire
Set in rolling hills on the Highlands’ edge, Comrie Croft is defined by community spirit – without a doubt, it's one of the best campsites in the UK. Its focus is on sustainability, while there are bike classes and "Wild Wednesdays" to get excited about, too. Kids stay at a knock-down rate.
What to see and do in the area: Lovers of the great outdoors won't be disappointed. This is a mountain biking and hiking paradise, and you can take local workshops in bushcraft, survival and archery. Whitewater rafting and high ropes among the trees are opportunities for the brave of heart.
Visit www.comriecroft.com for more information.
Mountains of Perthshire across fields and trees in the highlands of Scotland © James McDowall/Shutterstock
Chalmersquoy, Westray, Orkney
You can camp on Shetland, but the scouring wind will scare off all but the most resilient camper, meaning that if you want to get right up north, this friendly British campsite is probably your best bet. That said, there's a B&B on-site, too, for those who prefer their creature comforts. Nearby are seastacks, great populations of seabirds, a castle and a chippie selling all manner of unusual, boat-fresh fish.
What to see and do in the area: The beaches, coastline and cliffs by Chalmersquoy are unforgettable, while a local bird reserve and two nearby castles provide additional draws.
Visit chalmersquotwestray.co.uk for more information.
Westray Island on the Orkney islands © ChrisNoe/Shutterstock
If you are planning to travel, visit our up-to-date article with the latest news on Corona virus and travel here. And check out how to make sure that your travel insurance covers Corona virus.
Are you inspired by our list of the best campsites in the UK? If you're thinking of a trip on British shores, we can help! Try our tailor-made travel service and get a fully customized trip planned by a local expert.
This page contains affiliate links; all recommendations are editorially independent.
Top image © Socialtruant/Shutterstock