Planning a summer staycation?
Pack your bags, you're in the right place! Not everyone is ready to jet off to far-flung lands, so alternatively lots of families are opting for a slower pace of travel with a staycation right here in the UK! With the school holidays fast approaching it’s the perfect time to get inspired and book that family adventure you've all been waiting for!
Many of us missed out on trips abroad last year, but with lockdown gradually lifting across the country, we can feel the buzz of excitement spreading with everyone planning their summer breaks with family and friends.
We’ve teamed up with Cool Camping to create a staycation guide to help you plan your next trip to the great outdoors! Whether you enjoy being at one with the wonders of the wilderness or having creature comforts at hand is more your idea of heaven; we’re sure you’ll find the perfect match for you and your family at Cool Camping.
First time camping with the little ones? Give our 5 Tips for Camping with Kids blog a whiz!
About Cool Camping...
The Cool Camping concept was born in 2005 after travel writer Jonathan Knight and friends spent an idyllic weekend camping on a farm in South Wales. Wondering where to go next, Jonathan read endless camping directories but found nothing that genuinely picked out the best places to travel with the tent. What spawned was the nation’s best-loved camping guidebook series, including Cool Camping: Britain, Cool Camping: France and Cool Camping: Kids, each featuring a hand-picked selection of campsites and tips on what to do if it rains and where to find the nearest pub. Today, the same inspiration and information can be found on coolcamping.com, an online collection that remains dedicated to finding and recommending the very best independent campsites and glamping stays. Campers can search, compare and book their holidays in one easy place, leaving their own reviews and recommendations for fellow travellers and holidaymakers.
1) Norfolk: Wardley Hill
On the Norfolk-Suffolk border, just a 25-minute drive from the coast, Wardley Hill Campsite offers nature, seclusion and crackling campfires. Hidden amongst the wildflowers and long grasses, areas of mown grass provide practical camping space, large enough for family-sized tents plus a family game of French cricket. The facilities here are in keeping with the campsite's pared-back, partially wild approach, with composting toilets and a largely off-grid set up. Owners, Holly and Joe, have stand-up paddleboards to hire – collect them from the campsite or get dropped off right on the riverside. It’s these unique special touches that really make this site stand out, from the distinctive glamping options, such as the hammock hut and tree tents, to the secret wooded area accessed over a small stream, where you will find a pétanque pitch and a large, communal fire pit.
2) Central Scotland: Dam View
This family-sized safari lodge, sleeping up to six people, is set on a 100-acre farm within Scotland's unspoiled Gartmorn Dam Nature Reserve. The lodge is beautifully furnished with vintage leather sofas, antique furniture and a wood-burning stove keeping you cosy on those chilly nights. At the heart of the living space is a fully equipped kitchen and a stunning roll top bath – gaze out at gorgeous views over the adjacent reservoir whilst having a nice soak. With all that space it's surprising to think that Glasgow and Edinburgh are both just an hour’s drive away.
3) Cornwall: Bush Farm Campsite
Opened for the first time in 2020, Bush Farm’s 20 pitches pretty much sold out on their first day of advertising last spring. And rightfully so. Campers are let loose on the 200-acre farm with a map and the sensible advice to leave at least 50 yards between you and the next tent. This is low-key, off-grid camping - pitch up on the hill, down by the river or in among the trees and spend your whole holiday enjoying your surroundings undisturbed. Formerly a cattle farm, the Renfree family made the decision to rewild their land, planting 100 acres of wildflowers.
4) Pembrokeshire – Cwtch Woodland Camping
Taken from the Welsh word ‘Cwtch’ for ‘snug’ or ‘cuddle’, this cosy little spot has been recommended in Cool Camping guidebooks for years. It’s not hard to see why, with its prime location on the Daugleddau Estuary, one of Pembrokeshire's more overlooked coastal gems. Hidden within three acres of woodland, these romantic cabins feel totally lost among the trees, yet they’re a short stroll form the very best bits of the Pembrokeshire coast – Milford Haven, Marloes Sands, and Freshwater West. The low-impact site combines the wild camping experience with the luxury of a fully insulated cabin, with each Cwtch made by hand using locally milled, sustainably sourced timber.
5) Gwynedd – Graig Wen
Situated in the south-west corner of the Snowdonia National Park, among some 45 acres of its own wild woods and meadows, and with amazing views over the Mawddach Estuary, Graig Wen hosts happy campers and ample wildlife alike. It’s not surprising then that it has won the Green Snowdonia Award for ‘Most Sustainable Campsite’. At the heart of the campsite’s success is its owners’ paired passion to constantly improve the site while preserving its wild nature. To accompany their small collection of touring pitches, Sarah and John have a growing glamping offering. This includes two yurts they hand built from ash trees found on the land, and a romantic shepherd’s hut for two. Viewing benches overlooking the Mawddach Estuary offer the best seat in the house come sunset – especially given Snowdonia’s ‘International Dark Sky Reserve’ status – and a simple camp shop stocks local ales and other essentials.
6) Lake District: Quiet Site
Offering camping pitches, hobbit hole cabins and glamping belle tents and pods, The Quiet Site has something for everyone.
First opening over 50 years ago, this eco-friendly campsite is home to the UK's first zero-waste campsite shop and a great pub, housed inside a 17th-century barn with low beams, open fires, trinkets adorning the walls and furnishings made from old whiskey barrels. A side room has games like table tennis and air hockey, yoga or group events and, though it doesn’t serve food, they have their very own ‘Quiet Pint’ ale. The site overlooks Ullswater Lake and, on arrival all guests are given a handcrafted local walking guide with routes to suit all family members and interests.
7) Isle of Arran: Runnach Arran
If you’re looking for a remote retreat, then Arran is unquestionably ideal. Taking the ferry across to the Isle of Arran, you’ll drive south to this hidden hamlet to find just three yurts, each accompanied by a private bathroom. It's a 15-minute walk to Torrylinn Beach, a vast sandy space when the tide is out, with excellent views across to Ailsa Craig in the distance – a volcanic island mined for its rare type of blue granite that lays claim to two thirds of the entire world's curling stones. With ducks and hens wandering freely and a forest garden in the early stages of growth, there’s plenty on site to keep you busy, while off-site farm tracks lead you quickly into Kilmory Parish with its homely pub and local creamery.
8) Highlands: Ace Hideaways
Ace Hideaways is the place to head to for an adrenaline-pumping, heart-thumping adventure. Just a short stroll from the River Findhorn, you can canoe, kayak, raft, or simply plunge in on one of their cliff-jumping sessions. Meanwhile, the quiet woodland setting back at camp offers peace and serenity, with off-grid glamping accommodation and basic camping pitches enclosed in elegant, mature trees that create a cocoon of silence as they reach across to each other above you. You'll be surprised just how many creatures will frequent the campsite – a welcome sign of just how subtle and eco-friendly the whole place is.
9) Ireland: Portsalon Luxury Camping
Portsalon offers luxury glamping in the heart of Donegal, with Ireland's best beach, Ballymastocker, in reach. There are five yurts with proper beds and wood-burning stoves and the facilities put most hotels to shame, with hot, wet-room showers, and flushing toilets housed in a separate building. Helen and Sean kindly offers guests some of the lovely organic produce they grow with free-range eggs available daily, and Portsalon Golf Course is just a putt away if you fancy giving Rory McIlroy a run for his money.
10) Powys - Red Kite Estate
At the foot of the Elenydd Plateau, within a remote stretch of the Cambrian mountains, sits the 80 wooded acres of The Red Kite Estate. Set in this stunning wilderness are some truly unique glamping structures, from the copper-clad, contemporary ‘Conker’ to the rustic, ‘Dragon’s Egg’ tree tent high up among the pine trees. If you’re looking for maximum comfort, opt for the Conker, which is brimming with all mod-cons, such as LED colour lighting, Bluetooth speakers, high-tech heating and a bespoke double bed. The real draw here though is the location: enjoy treetop views from your Scandi-style shower as red kites swoop above or head straight out into the wilderness to explore.
Looking for more inspiration?
Get your hands on some handy books from the UK camping experts at Cool Camping! Their best-selling guides to camping in England, Scotland, Wales, Britain and Europe have been a favourite for campers for over a decade, helping readers find the best independent campsites. Titles, like Glamping Getaways, also help avid glampers find the most luxurious under-canvas accommodation in Britain, while Almost Wild Camping is the perfect guide for hardy campers who prefer to shower under a waterfall and escape to truly remote camping locations. Whether you're a family camper with a copy of Cool Camping: Kids or a beach bum campervanning your way around Cornwall with a battered edition of Cool Camping: Coast, they hope their guidebooks help you find that special place to pitch in the sun.