Top 10 cool campsites in England and the Isle of Wight
Looking for somewhere different to camp in the UK this summer? Here are ten of our favourite pitches in England and the Isle of Wight, taken from the new Cool Camping guide
1. Housedean Farm
Brighton Road, Lewes, East
Slap bang in the heart of the peaceful, undulating East Sussex Downs lies Housedean Farm Sussex, a 900-acre family-run place. Being right on the doorstep of some of rural England’s loveliest scenery, this is a walker’s dream. Surrender to the irresistible draw of the South Downs Way and get walking. You won’t regret it.
After an exhilarating day exploring the winding trails, river valleys and Saxon churches of the South Downs Way you will no doubt be looking for a serene setting from which to watch the world go by. As luck would have it, Housedean Farm fits the bill perfectly.
What's allowed Families, groups (if pre-arranged and wellbehaved), dogs, horses – yes. Caravans – no. Amenities 26 large pitches, each with its own firepit, plus 2 bell tents and a shepherd’s hut. Kindling, firelighters, BBQs and bags of logs can be purchased on site. Mountain-bike hire available.
2. Deepdale Backpackers & Campers
Burnham Deepdale, Norfolk
Deepdale Backpackers & Campers has around 80 pitches and six tipis and yurts. The tipis are well-maintained and equipped with a cast-iron chimenea for heat, including kindling and fuel for the fire, foldaway chairs, a barbecue and a lantern. Sleeping in the round, with the wind whispering softly above you, is enchantment enough.
There’s often an enthusiastic programme of events at the farm, with everything from stargazing to cookery classes with local produce. There are also diversions a-plenty in and around Burnham Deepdale. You are so near to the sea here that an excursion to the water’s edge is a must, with wonderful beaches beckoning and great coastal walks in abundance.
What's allowed Tents, small campervans, dogs – yes. Caravans, big groups, young groups – no. Amenities The water is heated by solar panels, with an oil burner back-up. Along with an onsite camping shop there is a handy café next door. No campfires.
3. Downshay Farm
Haycrafts Lane, Swanage, Dorset
A trip to Downshay Farm is a little like embarking on a journey back in time. An ancient steam locomotive services the nearest train station to the campsite, huffing and puffing the six miles between Swanage and Norden. It’s a fitting way to arrive, aboard a relic from the bygone era of romantic and memorable travel.
The hospitable owners – who live in the large Victorian farmhouse – have struck gold with their location, near to the historically rich Jurassic coastline in one direction and stunning Corfe Castle in the other. This is a campsite with stately views; the castle perches on the Purbeck Hills looks spectacular shrouded in early morning mist.
What's allowed Tents, small campervans, caravans (in a separate field), well-behaved groups, dogs (on leads) – yes. Transit vans, motorbikes – no. Amenities Room for about 90 tents. The caravan field has 12 pitches (all with hook-ups) and a separate facilities block. BBQs and off-ground firebowls are okay.
4. Grange Farm Brighstone Bay
Brighstone Bay, Isle of Wight
Grange Farm is a lovely, unspoiled site situated in a beautiful part of the island. Two flat, grassy fields go right to the edge of the cliff and there’s an overflow field across the road, aptly christened the ‘Cool Camping Field’. You’ll need a sturdy tent to cope with the winds blowing across the top of these fields, but the reward is a panoramic view across the sea and an easy scramble down to the beach below.
It’s a family-run, family-friendly site left deliberately undeveloped. Kids will love its Noah’s Ark of farm animals, including alpacas, kune pigs, goats, water buffalo and a variety of poultry. Plus there is a play area for ball games and a children’s playground, with stepping stones and rope bridges.
What's allowed Tents, campervans, caravans, dogs (in caravans) – yes. Groups – sometimes, by arrangement. Amenities 2 fields with 60 pitches, most with hook-ups; extra Cool Camping Field only open for 28 days in July/August. Campfires allowed on the beach below.
5. Hooks House Farm
Whitby Road, Robin Hoods Bay, North Yorkshire
Robin Hoods Bay, near Whitby in North Yorkshire, is an area steeped in romance and intrigue. Its very name is a mystery: there’s nothing to link this place with the infamous green-clad hero of Sherwood Forest, but the name stands as an inexplicable suggestion of some legendary past.
The wide sweep of this bay is stunning and, at the friendly, family-run campsite at Hooks House Farm, high up on the hill above town, you couldn’t wish for a better vantage point. The first-rate views really make this site: from its grassy field sloping towards the sea you can watch the tide wash in and out over the whole sweep of shoreline, or gaze across a patchwork of sheep- and cow-dotted fields, woods, rolling hills and moors.
What's allowed Tents, campervans, caravans, dogs – yes. Groups – no. Amenities Pitches for 50 tents and 20 campervans/caravans spread out across a gently sloping field. A second field serves as a family play area. Clean but basic facilities. The owners, Jill and Gordon Halder, are famously attentive, ensuring that visitors have everything they need. No campfires.
6. Ninham Country Holidays
Ninham, Shanklin, Isle of Wight
Located on the southeast of the aptly nicknamed ‘Garden Isle’, Ninham Country Holidays is a campsite with a secluded rural feel, yet one that remains a short distance from one of the nicest resorts on the coast. With its functional new town and quaint, thatched old town, Shanklin has been a popular part of the Isle of Wight since tourism began here.
Campers have a choice between two fields: ‘Orchard’, the larger of the two with ultra-modern eco-facilities that do clever things with solar and rainwater-harvesting technologies (and which happen to include an extremely handy family room with specialist showers and a baby bath), and ‘Willow Brook’, with its own separate facilities that – although more basic – are functional and well kept.
What's allowed Tents, touring caravans, motorhomes – all welcome. Cyclists or guests arriving on foot and/or by public transport do not pay a pitch fee. Families and couples only; groups at management’s discretion. Amenities 2 camping areas separated by a wooded valley. Each field has separate facilities. There’s a laundry, heated swimming pool and a sports area with volleyball, badminton, petanque and table tennis. Recycling is obligatory.
7. Ocean Pitch
Moor Lane, Croyde, Devon
As new owners Benny and Lou are all too aware, surfers are an enthusiastic bunch (to put it mildly). Hours can pass as they scan the endless blue horizon for that elusive perfect wave. But Ocean Pitch is one of the few campsites in the area with direct beach views, meaning you can keep an eye on the surf and race down with your board just as the waves are breaking.
And if you’re not here for the surf, it’s just as great being able to wake up and see the ocean each morning before you cook your breakfast sausages. The stunning Croyde Bay provides a perfect canvas for this unparalleled campsite masterpiece, and the site is on the coastal path, so it’s easy to reach the neighbouring beaches on foot.
What's allowed Tents, campervans, well-behaved groups – yes. Caravans, dogs, stags, hens – no. Kids welcome but the owners prefer to limit the number of children on site, so check when booking. Amenities 50 spacious pitches. Room for small and medium sized tents. Large tents can be accommodated at the top of the campsite. Wi-Fi internet access, BBQ bricks, mobile phone charging at reception, cold drinks and snacks, friendly staff on site 24 hrs.
8. Pleasant Streams Farm
Lower Sticker, St Austell, Cornwall
Pleasant Streams Farm is indeed a pleasant field in which to pitch a tent. Campfires are encouraged, and often the cracklepop of the fire is the only noise of the evenings here. There is quite a lot to do on and around the site. There’s a lake in the centre, which not only attracts wildlife but also beckons you to hop in the rowing boat for an afternoon afloat; and there's a summerhouse with books and games for rainy days.
Most people who stray from the site do so by day, biking along the nearby Pentewan Valley Trail or hiring the campsite’s kayak and exploring the beautiful coast around Gorran Haven and Charlestown.
What's allowed Tents, campervans, caravans, groups – yes. Dogs – no. Amenities Space for 50 tent pitches in the main camping field. 3 electric hook-up pitches available (book in advance); 3 vintage caravans also available for rent. Campfires allowed.
9. The Meadows
Pentewan, St Austell, Cornwall
Nestled in the heart of the Pentewan Valley, where the St Austell River yields to the boundless blue of the Atlantic, The Meadows campsite is the traditional Cornish campsite of dreams – traditional, albeit with a little touch of luxury thrown in.
With its stunning seascapes and unparalleled access to the Pentewan Trail, the site’s enviable location means this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is yours to savour. It’s also just for adults (sorry kids). Friendly owners John and Lynn are the very embodiment of courtesy, welcoming tenters, glampers and caravanners with smiles and open arms.
What's allowed Small caravans, campervans and tents; motorhomes and large caravans (very limited pitches); small groups and dogs – yes. Kids – no. Large groups by prior arrangement. Amenities 40 pitches: 20 electric grass pitches and a further 20 informal camping pitches, and 2 vintage caravans.
10. WOWO (Wapsbourne Manor Farm)
Sheffield Park, East Sussex
Wapsbourne Manor Farm, or ‘Wowo’, as it’s affectionately known by a growing band of regulars, is a rare and beautiful thing – a great campsite within just two hours’ drive of London. It’s light on unnecessary rules and regulations and big on fun and freedom.
There’s always something fun going on during summer weekend evenings: soup suppers; pizza making; and plenty of mingling. Children’s entertainment is strictly of the old-school variety: climbing trees, swinging on tyres and making camps in the undergrowth. In fact, the entire 150- acre site is a huge, natural playground extending well beyond the four main camping areas. Saturday night is music night, with free camping for musicians in return for sing-songs around the fire.
What's allowed Tents, campervans, dogs – yes. Caravans, motorhomes, groups of unsupervised under-18s – no. Amenities 40 standard pitches, 8 ‘Tipi Trail’ woodland pitches, 4 yurts, 2 shepherd’s huts and 2 bell tents. A barn has a ping-pong table and piano; fridges and freezers; Wi-Fi; an honesty bookshelf; and laundry. Complimentary soup and fresh bread served on Saturday nights.
The 2nd edition of Cool Camping Britain is available from coolcamping.co.uk and priced at £16.95
All images courtesy Cool Camping. Main image: Couple with tent near seaside (Shutterstock)