The 50 Best: Camping sites (1-25), The Independent

The 50 Best: Camping sites (1-25), The Independent

From down to earth to the lap of luxury, there is a wealth of open-air practices on suggest – especially in the UK. Andrea Oates presents the experts’ guide

  • Sunday 25 June 2006 23:00 BST

The Independent Travel

1. THREE CLIFFS BAY, GOWER

The major attraction of this site is its spectacular position, which offers panoramic views of the Gower coastline. “The beach is lightly, if steeply, accessible from the site, and it’s never packed because there isn’t a car park fairly close enough for the typical moto-sapiens,” says Andy.

Two. TURNER HALL FARM, CUMBRIA

This puny, basic site lies in the Duddon Valley, the most beautiful part of one of the Lake District’s least developed areas. “Walk off the site in any direction and it won’t be long before a hill comes under foot,” says Andy. “From the highest ground in England, to the loveliest sea stroll by the Duddon, this is one of the greatest places on the planet to take your boots. Basic facilities, but who cares?”

Trio. BRIGHOUSE BAY, DUMFRIES AND GALLOWAY

Situated at the head of the Solway Firth and surrounded by 1,200 acres of excellent walking country, Brighouse Bay is set in a quiet, secluded peninsula, with magnificent views over the Irish Sea. The award-winning holiday park offers a swimming pool, toddlers’ pool, games room, ten-pin bowling, playground, toddlers’ corner, bar, bistro, family room and function suite.

Four. LE VAL DE CANTOBRE, AVEYRON, FRANCE

The Grands Causses Regional Park encompasses some of France’s most spectacular landscapes, including the Gorges du Tarn. This park campsite, in the grounds of a medieval farmhouse, has pitches arranged on terraces looking down the valley, and there is a utter activity programme available.

Five. FOUR SEASONS TENTED CAMP, GOLDEN TRIANGLE, THAILAND

“This is top-notch Four Seasons pampering, in canvas cabins with recycled-teak floors and en-suite “exotic rain” showers,” says Jonathan. “You can get there only by chauffeured sea boat, but once you’ve arrived, you can learn how to rail your own elephant to get around the jungle – certainly an eco-friendly alternative to a 4×4!”

6. THE WARREN, FOLKESTONE, KENT

“A lovely little find with tremendous views over the ocean,” says Jonathan. Situated at the top of the famous white cliffs that open up inbetween Dover and Folkestone, the main section of the site is open to the weather, but there are little hideaways tucked in among the trees, including a secluded “honeymoon pitch”, which has just enough space for one tent.

7. GWERN GOF ISAF FARM, CONWY

“Scenery of the very tall, very rocky multiplicity soars skywards from the edges of the site wherever you cast your amazed stare,” says Andy. Gwern Gof Isaf is situated on a traditional north Wales hill farm at the bottom of the looming Tryfan peak. Set in the heart of the mountains, it is a fine base for walking or climbing the surrounding peaks of the Glyders and the Carneddau. The National Mountaineering Centre at Plas-y-Brenin is only three miles away.

8. VALE OF PICKERING CARAVAN PARK, NORTH YORKSHIRE

“This 15-acre site, surrounded by beautiful countryside, is one of the very best family caravan parks in the country,” according to Steve. “There is a good-size playing field for football and other games, and a superb children’s play area. The luxury toilet and wash facilities are of an exceptionally high standard and are kept immaculately clean.”

9. CASTEL CAMPING LE TY NADAN, BRITTANY

The campsite is in a superb setting amongst wooded countryside on a 60-acre, riverside estate. “A massive range of activities is on suggest on, and near to, this site in south Finisterre, including canoeing, railing, fishing and climbing,” says Rod. “The fresh indoor pool sophisticated is outstanding.” Pitches are spacious, each being separated by hedges for peace and privacy.

Ten. LONGITUDE 131 O , CENTRAL AUSTRALIA

“The palatial tents in the middle of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in Australia are essentially deluxe hotel rooms under a fabric roof,” says Jonathan. “Even the electrified blinds are operated by a nifty bedside switch. But the reason for coming all this way is to love the spiritual practice of sunrise at Uluru from the convenience of your kingsize bed. A ideal marriage of luxury and landscape.”

11. BAY VIEW FARM, CORNWALL

From your pitch right on the hilltop you can look out over the Cornish coast to west Looe and St George’s Island. “A glorious view and good facilities are the features of this puny site,” says Jonathan. Children will love the site proprietor’s Shire horses in the adjacent field, and the picturesque fishing village of Polperro is just around the corner.

12. SYKE FARM, CUMBRIA

“For visible scenic multitude, Buttermere is one of the most appealing places in the Lakes, and it’s tempting just to get your chair out and sit on the site admiring the scenery,” says Andy. “So be strong, lace up those boots and get among it”. The site lies on the edge of the village, where two excellent pubs suggest refuelling opportunities for worn-out walkers, and it is a brief walk to the lake from which this valley gets its name.

13. TREVORNICK HOLIDAY PARK, CORNWALL

“A fine family destination with everything to keep the family amused,” says Steve. A brief walk takes you to the glorious Hollywell Bay beach, with safe swimming and surfing. A funfair and crazy golf can be found nearby, and on-site facilities include a large children’s escapade play area, a swimming pool, bars, restaurants and golf. Pre-erected luxury Eurotents are also available to hire.

14. PLAYA MONTROIG CAMPING RESORT, TARRAGONA, SPAIN

“Set in its own tropical gardens with an excellent location next to a fine, sandy beach, this site boasts slew of top-quality amenities and entertainment, and its Tam-Tam eco-park is superb for children,” says Rod. As well as the phat woodland area, there are play areas, and a large open-air theatre hosting performaces by clowns and magic and puppet shows.

15. COTTAR’S 1920S MARA SAFARI CAMP, KENYA

“If you ever secretly wish you’d been around in the olden days, when the world was undiscovered and unexplored, and everyone packed their clothes in trunks, then head off to Cottar’s 1920s Camp,” says Jonathan. ” Ideally placed for game-spotting in the Masai Mara and Serengeti, this luxury tented camp is furnished with original safari antiques. Each pristine white canvas tent has its own ensuite dressing room and bathroom, finish with luxury Twenties shower.”

16. AYR HOLIDAY PARK, CORNWALL

Fantastic views across Porthmeor Bay to the rocky headland, known as the Island, not to mention “the best toilets in the entire of England,” according to Jonathan, ideal for first-time campers worried about rickety old loos. Albeit the site is just a few minutes’ walk from the attractions of St Ives, with its sandy beaches, elegant bars and cafes, and fish and chip shops, it retains a peaceful atmosphere.

17. BURROWHAYES FARM, SOMERSET

This is situated beside the Horner Water in the glorious Horner Valley, with a view of Dunkery Beacon. “You can either let your own gams carry you onto Exmoor from here, or hire one of the horses that live on-site to take you up there,” says Andy. “You need never cover your own tracks in a week of wondrous walking. The site also has top-notch facilities.”

Eighteen. FISHERGROUND CAMPSITE, CUMBRIA

This Lake District site, right in the heart of Eskdale, caters mainly for families and groups with children. “This indeed is a children’s paradise, with rafts on the pond, a tree house, a zip wire, Tarzan ropes, and an escapade course,” says Steve. “Campfires are permitted and the site also has direct access to a station on the fantastic Ravenglass &, Eskdale Miniature Steam Railway.”

Nineteen. FERIENPARADIES NATTERER SEE, AUSTRIA

This site is situated in unspoilt, picturesque surroundings in the Alps near Innsbruck. “A beautiful Tyrolean mountain site that celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2004,” says Rod. “An excellent location around two lakes, with a very broad range of activities on suggest, including curling, tobogganing and langlauf.”

20. OBEROI VANYAVILAS, INDIA

“Staying in a tent right next to a tiger reserve might sound a bit rash, but the Oberoi Vanyavilas pulls it off in amazing style,” says Jonathan. “The tents have four-poster beds, marble bathrooms, and gold-thread-embroidered silk canopies. Each has a walled garden, and there’s even a spa set around the lake to unwind in after a hard-day’s tiger-spotting in the adjacent Ranthambore Tiger Reserve. I’ve checked the separating wall and can vouch for its sturdiness!”

21. TROYTOWN FARM, ISLES OF SCILLY

“This is just a lovely place in the remotest part of St Agnes, the most remote of the Isles of Scilly,” says Jonathan. “It’s right at the water’s edge and has a fantastic edge-of-the-world feel to it. The campsite is not accessible from the road, so a tractor picks up you and your camping equipment. However, it’s not too remote to be walking distance from the only pub.

22. BLACKBERRY WOOD, EAST SUSSEX

“Just off the South Downs Way, this is Cool Camping’s No 1 campsite,” says Jonathan. “Set in glorious woodland, each pitch has its own little clearing with logs to sit on, and a fireplace where you can make a real fire, get cosy and toast your marshmallows.” The site is also Ten minutes’ walk from one of the nicest gastropubs in the south of England, the Jolly Sportsman.

23. BOSWORTH WATER TRUST, WARWICKSHIRE

“This is a lovely family site located next to large lakes, suggesting fishing, sailing and windsurfing,” according to Steve. There is a large children’s play area and slew of open space for games. Some pitches are right next to the water and ideal for those keen on fishing. For fishing widows (or widowers), there is also a fully licensed cafe bar with panoramic views over the lake.

24. CAMPING UNION LIDO VACANZE, VENETO, ITALY

“This is one of Europe’s largest and very best sites,” says Rod. “A superbly organised camping sophisticated with direct beach access, it has a very extensive range of amenities, including nine bars and seven restaurants, and it’s close to Venice.” The campsite, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2005, spreads on to the peninsula of Cavallino, faces the sea and has a private beach more than a kilometre long.

25. COSTANOA COASTAL LODGE AND CAMP, CALIFORNIA, USA

“Costanoa is a beautifully tranquil eco-hideaway where you can totally escape from the bustle of San Francisco, an hour north on Highway 1,” says Jonathan. “The tent bungalows look like English beach huts, made from canvas with a wooden framework holding them all together. Facilities are at separate convenience stations, where you’ll find a sauna and an outdoor fireplace. There is also an outdoor hot bathtub available”. Of course.

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