By Rhonda Carrier
Campsites have moved on since the grey, drippy places many of us remember from our youth: some include quirky accommodation in the likes of yurts, tipis, luxurious motorhomes, showmen’s wagons and/or replica iron-age roundhouses… The list is seemingly endless.
Yet kids still love relatively straightforward sites and good old-fashioned tents. The following sites are all in beautiful and sometimes remote situations, are clean and friendly and have places for children to run wild in the great outdoors.
This lovely, family- and eco-friendly site on the north Norfolk coast gets very busy in summer, when there’s a minimum 7-night stay, for good reason – the community feel is very welcoming. Charming and slightly eccentric, it’s a somehow very English place popular with VW owners. If the weather turns, or if you just need a bit more sleep, there are also tipis, ensuite private rooms or dorms. A shower-block provides welcome hot water and there's a small café selling great food if you've burnt all your breakfast sausages come Sunday morning.
In the manicured grounds of a small, rather odd-looking manor, this award-winning site is like a self-contained little village and has everything a family could possibly want – and more. Given that it has 100 pitches, an outdoor pool, grass tennis courts, mini-golf, self-catering cottages, pine lodges and a family pub, you might assume it’s as quiet and peaceful as a night on the hard shoulder of the A12, but somehow the owner has incorporated all those facilities into the grounds of his family home while retaining its unique, relaxed character. If you can tear yourself away from all the fun, there are the Norfolk Broads to explore by boat or on foot, and miles of open countryside.
The Orchard Campsite
There are lots of reasons to come here, but the most compelling is that the UFO landings said to have taken place just up the road, in Rendlesham Forest, in 1980. To celebrate this, The Orchard holds a yearly Alien Encounter Weekend (in September), though campers spend the rest of the year hopefully peering through the trees at any unusual lights. Situated just two hours from London in a mixture of apple orchard and paddock, the site allows open fires and even provides wood – so don’t forget to bring marshmallows (an ice-cream van frequently visits the site too). As well as a safe play area on the garden, there are regular glowstick scavenge for younger visitors, who can use them to creates lanterns, bangles and so on (handy for locating them in the dark!). Nearby attractions are Southwold, Sutton Hoo (great for kids studying the Anglo-Saxons) and Orford Ness nature reserve.
This gem has arguably the most beautiful location of all the sites on this page – set on the North Devon coast, it has views over the Bristol Channel, and there are pretty little villages and coves around every corner. It’s a place for pottering about and exploring, and if your children finally get bored of the beaches, Watermouth Castle theme park is just behind the campsite. The site has a shop selling organic milk, bacon and eggs, cheese, ham, local meat, ice-creams, homemade cakes and more.
Set on an attractive curve of the coast, this site looks out over Channel waters and chalky crags, giving campers the chance to spot France in clear weather. The Warren beach, below, can be sand, shingle or both, depending on its mood and the tide; it offers rock-pooling, fossil-hunting and sea-fishing to suit even the most active children. The campsite is operated by the Camping & Caravanning Club, so standards are high. It may not be the best site in a gale (though there are some sheltered, hidden-away spots), but in the sun, with the Channel laid out before you, you’ll feel on top of the world.
Hooks House Farm
The gently sloping camping field at Hooks House Farm is possibly the best place to enjoy the magnificent views of Robin Hood’s Bay, one of Yorkshire’s most dramatic stretches of coast. If you tire of watching the tide washing in and out over the sweep of rocky beach, it’s a short stroll to Bay Town, an old smugglers’ haunt where ancient fishermen’s cottages cling to a near-vertical slope as the cliff drops down to a little fishing harbour at the water’s edge. The vibe at this top-notch family-run site is peaceful, relaxed and low-key; it’s perfect for the more self-reliant family who enjoy off-the-beaten-track type camping.
Check out the best campsites in Wales, the best no-bookings campsites and our hand-picked family camping holidays and holiday parks including our expert tips on camping with kids.