Camping in the UK

It’s no surprise that in these changeable times many families are looking to stay in the UK for their summer breaks. Data shows that 2020 was one of the most popular years for camping in the UK ever, and with the continued uncertainty surrounding overseas travel, 2021 looks to be another bumper year for the staycation.

We’re really lucky in the UK as we are well provided for with thousands of campsites and there really is something for everyone. Gone are the days of leaky canvas tents which may or may not withstand a strong gale, these days there is a huge range of alternative accommodation.

Glamping sites have popped up across the UK, from Shephard’s huts to tree houses and yurts to tipis. After a busy day exploring you can now even return to your own private hot tub. All this has made the camping experience bearable even for that intolerant of roughing it.

Having spent many recent summers camping in France, the unpredictability of the British summer is a concern. Walks in the rain and getting ‘wrapped up’ isn’t the problem. The issue for me is the mud, the cold and attempting (and failing) to dry wet clothes or worse still a wet dog in a tent, it’s just not enjoyable. Don’t let anyone tell you it is. But, when the weather is good, there is nothing better than unzipping your tent to be greeted by the sun, sitting outside drinking a beer and being out late under the stars – it just makes you content and happy.

Purists remain well catered for, with many farmers taking advantage of the 28-day rule, or this year the 56 day rule, a form of permitted development allowing farmers to undertake in small scale camping. These sites are often quiet and genuinely rural affairs with basic facilities but with possibility of a homemade bacon rolls from the farmhouse for breakfast.

If you are a seasoned camper, you may have reached the stage where packing for your trip is a time consuming but panic free affair. If we are going camping for any length of time, we always tick things off from a checklist. Without doubt, you must invest time in researching your campsite, finding the right location can make (or break) your holiday.

Having visited well over 40 campsites, there has only ever been one where we arrived and then left without staying. The reason for this high success rate is knowing what we wanted and doing the research – I suggest for honest reviews from real people.

Knowing what equipment to take is important. Our advice would be to start basic and then spend more money if you enjoy the experience. We spent the first three years sitting on our £5 Tesco camping chairs, until we decided that we needed to upgrade and invested in our Outwell chairs – well worth the money – you sit on them a lot. We use inflatable camping mats, but again a very cheap alternative is the classic blowup airbed – don’t forget an electric pump.

It’s lovely to cook on a charcoal BBQ, but do you have the time and inclination to do this every night?  We have a Weber Q100 gas BBQ which is great, although not quite so good for toasting marshmallows.

Although hiring accommodation, including tents, is an option, it is considerably cheaper to purchase (maybe borrow) and pitch your own tent. With so many options on the market, it’s difficult to know what to go for. The size and type of tent depends how many are in your camping party and how often and where you are going to use it.

A pop up tent will work well for a festival but for a week in the lake district with the family you will want to consider something more robust. In recent years there has been a trend towards inflatable tents, however we have remained loyal to the steel pole variety. Again Outwell is our preferred make (they’re not paying me to write this!), as they offer reassuring quality and have always done us proud.

When you’re booking your campsite, you may be given the option of an electric hookup. The need for this depends on whether you have any electric appliances to plug in. Yes, it’s that obvious. Phone charging can be done in the car. If you can’t do without your morning cup of tea or coffee – then you need a hookup to plug in your kettle. However, if you’re having a cup of coffee then you may need milk, and that means a fridge.

In Europe fridges are usually available to rent, eventually we invested in our own fridge (Waeco U32 12V TE Cool Box) and after 7 years it’s still going strong. A fridge also comes in handy if you are cooking every night and don’t want a supermarket visit every day. Obviously, it can be used for beer and wine too – just saying.

Camping isn’t for everyone but for the last 7 years our summers holidays camping in France, the UK, Croatia and Italy have been some of the best ever. Yes, you may still have to do some cooking, and packing may be a chore, but for us the fun and friends we have met made it all worthwhile. North Yorkshire here we come.


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