Camping Inspiration: 15 great places to camp in the UK's National Parks
There are 15 National Parks in the UK stretching from the very south all the way up to Scotland, so whether you’re planning a weekend break or a longer tour, we’ve got the park for you.
Yes, it’s a bit of a trek if you live down south but why not make the road trip to the one of the most spectacular National Parks in the UK? There’s a small chance you might see the Northern Lights (saving yourself a few quid on the airfare to Iceland) and a big chance you’ll spot some of the most exciting animals you could wish to see roaming in the wild landscape. It would be true to say that redheads are pretty rare these days but not in this part of the world – from Highland Cattle to Red Squirrels by way of Red Deer, it’s gorgeously ginger. Go in autumn to make the most of the rich golden and bronze hues.
GLENMORE CAMPSITE CAMPING IN THE FOREST
Aviemore, Inverness-shire PH22 1QU
You might not associate this area with beaches but you’re just a short walk from the banks of Loch Morlich so pack a flask and a bacon sandwich and head there to watch the sunrise.
The Lakes, as its name suggests, is a very watery place and in the summer, you can’t move for tourists. In fact, you’d have a job booking a hotel which is why you’re smart and own a tent. As the number three highest peak in the UK, Scafell Pike is naturally on most walker’s to do list but in a recent poll of Britain’s Favourite Walks (presented by Camping & Caravanning Club president, Julia Bradbury) it was Helvellyn that took the number one spot. Forgotten your walking boots? Ullswater is home to the famous Ullswater Steamers where, in spring, you’ll see Wordsworth’s daffodils on the west shore. For souvenirs that might just make it home, the Grasmere Gingerbread Shop wins hands down.
BRAITHEWAITE FOLD CAMPING & CARAVANNING CLUB SITE
Glebe Road, Bowness-on-Windermere, Cumbria LA23 3HB
Those who stay here have a prime spot slap bang in the middle of the National Park with direct access to Lake Windermere.
Covering an auspicious 555 square miles (measured by a patient person surely?) including parts of Derbyshire, Cheshire, Staffordshire and Yorkshire, the Peak District offers plenty of places for walking and pint-supping. Many associate this National Park with millstones and it’s easy to see why – they were produced in this area as early as the 13th century and were used to grind corn and other foodstuffs so you see, it’s always been a foodie destination. Want a true slice of it? Head to Bakewell to sample the traditional Bakewell Pudding. That’s right, it’s a pudding not a tart. Sorry, Mr Kipling.
UPPER HURST FARM
Hulme End, Hartington, Derbyshire SK17 0HH
Upper Hurst Farm is an eco-site that offers spacious pitches and a tranquil environment in which to relax.
It might not have sky-touching peaks, but its glorious rolling hills and chalky cliffs immortalised in the work of artist Eric Ravilious more than make up for it. Walks here can be as leisurely or as strenuous as you choose but they absolutely must end at a pub. Or you could just begin with lunch at the pub and see how you get on. We love the Shepherd & Dog for its rural charm and its location at the foot of Devil’s Dyke. Brighton is just a short hop away if you fancy a stroll through its fashionable lanes but for star spotting, stay in the country and look up to the sky – in 2016, the park was given status as an International Dark Sky Reserve.
GRAFFHAM CAMPING & CARAVANNING CLUB
Great Bury, Graffham, Petworth, West Sussex, GU28 0QF
Posh Petworth is just down the road if you fancy a light supper or glass of wine but why not enjoy the secluded pitches and enjoy the views?
The mighty beast that is Snowdon draws crowds from around the world to clamber up to its summit and drink in the glorious views (apparently you can see Ireland although it’s always cloudy when we are up there) but Snowdonia National Park isn’t just about Snowdon. For one thing, there’s plenty more mountains to enjoy – some 90 peaks in fact and then there’s the lakes but let’s take it down a pace. We love the pretty village of Beddgelert situated in the heart of the park with its traditional old pubs, unexpected pizzeria (also catering for vegans) and the clear waters of the Aberglaslyn river that flow through its core. CK
CAE DU CAMPSITE
Beddgelert, Gwynedd, North Wales LL55 4NE
This popular site is within walking distance of Beddgelert. Expect epic mountain views and clean air aplenty!
When you think of the New Forest, you’ll no doubt conjure up wild ponies roaming free in the heather and gorze-studded landscape. Years ago, the area was the hunting ground for William the Conqueror who, as we know enjoyed showing off to his friends and bumping off some poor old deer for dinner. Alas, today the wildlife enjoy a little more freedom and a lot less killing and it’s become a top spot for photographers wanting to capture this epic landscape. One of the key attractions in the area is the New Forest Wildlife Park – it’s home to all manner of beautiful beasts and you can even wander among the wallabies!
RED SHOOT CAMPING PARK
Linwood, Near Ringwood BH24 3QT
A family-friendly site with over 100 grass pitches and the Red Shoot Inn right next door for good food and drink.
Look within the landscape down at you feet and in the air and you’ll see plants you won’t find anywhere else. In the whole world. There are two species of whitebeam tree for a start and then there’s the rare Heath Fritillary Butterfly which is sadly in decline. It would be easy to get lost in the large open moorland and its scale certainly puts us humans in our place. Horse riders will love it here and surely exploring on horseback has to be the best way to do it and if you’ve never tried it before, Exmoor is the perfect place to give it a go.
HALSE FARM CARAVAN AND CAMPING
Halse Farm, Winsford, Exmoor, Somerset TA24 7JL
Expect wonderful views and fantastic hosts and this wild, open campsite within easy reach of fantastic pubs.
Stephen Spielberg is a fan of Dartmoor and after filming War Horse there he declared: ‘Never before, in my long and eclectic career, been gifted with such an abundance of natural beauty as I experienced filming War Horse on Dartmoor.” And that’s pretty high praise! Cyclists are particularly welcome here with some stunning off road routes including the 11-mile Granite Way following the old train line between Okehampton and Lydford. And you can’t come this far without visiting Dartmoor Zoo, the inspiration for We Bought A Zoo starring Matt Damon. Sadly, he’s probably back home by now.
RIVER DART COUNTRY PARK
Ashburton, Devon TQ13 7NP
This popular site is a family favourite with plenty of activities for kids and grown ups alike with plenty of on site watersports.
In 2016, the park grew by a whopping 24% taking the area it covers up to 841 square miles and it is home to three epic peaks – Ingleborough, Pen-y-Ghent and Whernside which some crazy fools tackle in just 24 hours. OK, so that’s you? You start off and we will meet you at the end. In a cosy pub. Geocaching is a popular family activity in this park and with so many miles to cover, that means that little legs will need a big sleep once you’re back at the tent! It’s a win-win really.
WOODNOOK CARAVAN PARK
Skirethorns, Threshfield, Skipton BD23 5NU
This Wharfedale Campsite is set in six acres of woodland and ideal for campers with dogs or children or both!
Visit the Brecon Beacons for stunning scenery, outdoor pursuits and stargazing - the National Park became an International Dark Sky Reserve in 2013. The National Showcaves Centre for Wales guides you through three cave systems, passing stalactites and stalagmites while learning the history of the subterranean tunnels. There are life-size dinosaur models outside and a gold rush attraction for kids. Nearby is the Wales Ape and Monkey Sanctuary, and there are glorious drives to lakes and mountains. The Brecon Mountain Railway is popular. Take a steam train to Ponsticill Reservoir where you can walk around the lake or explore the village.
PENCELLI CASTLE CARAVAN AND CAMPING PARK
Pencelli, Brecon, Powys, LD3 7LX
This family run campsite is spread across three fields with plenty of hard-standing pitches, heated toilet blocks with shower rooms, a laundrette, a dishwashing room, a shop, wi-fi, and a drying room.
The Norfolk and Suffolk Broads are great for leisurely strolls and boat trips. Horsey Windpump, 12 miles north of Great Yarmouth, is a charming heritage attraction with a dramatic history. It's survived floods, a lightning strike, partial collapse, and violent storms over the past 100 years. It's scheduled to reopen this summer following restoration work. Enjoy wildlife boat trips down Horsey Mere, or a gentle riverside walk. Alternatively, visit Oulton Broad with its pretty park, children's playground, boating pool, cafes, and museum. Join a Waveney Marshlands Cruise through the rushes, and look out for speedboat racing in the summer.
London Road, Kessingland, Suffolk NR33 7PQ
01502 50 70 30
This site near Oulton Broad has 425 pitches. It's well located for the Broads, Africa Alive animal park, Pleasurewood Hills Theme Park, and Great Yarmouth. It has a children's play area, communal barbecue, and washrooms with showers.
LOCH LOMOND & THE TROSSACHS
Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park is great for outdoor activities such as kayaking, trekking or gentle walks. Loch Lomond is 24 miles long, surrounded by hills and mountains. Take in stunning views from the shore, admire reflections in the water, take a boat ride, or dine on the banks of this glorious lake. Continue through the Trossachs National Park, taking in the stunning scenery. The A83 towards Inveraray leads to 'Rest and Be Thankful' with breathtaking views. Look out for red deer, red squirrels, and birds of prey. There are oak woodlands, scenic cycle trails, and walking routes through rolling countryside.
MILARROCHY BAY CAMPING AND CARAVANNING CLUB SITE
Milarrochy Bay, Balmaha, Nr Drymen G63 0AL
Milarrochy Bay Camping and Caravanning Club Site is located on the east shore of Loch Lomond. Non-members are welcome. The site has toilets and showers, electric hook-up and grass pitches for tents.
The Pembrokeshire Coast is a gorgeous stretch of countryside that encompasses popular holiday destinations including Tenby, Milford Haven and Fishguard. Near Tenby you'll find Carew Castle and Tidal Mill, while Milford Haven has a pretty harbour and museum. Nearby Little Haven has good beaches and surfing. Travel north to Fishguard to see Castell Henllys Iron Age Fort, or take a wildlife cruise from St David's to the tiny islands of Ramsey, Grassholm, Skomer and Skokholm: you might spot puffins, gannets, porpoises, dolphins or whales. Keen walkers can follow the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path for great views. You'll also find watersports and restaurants.
CAERFAI BAY CARAVAN AND TENT PARK
St Davids, Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, SA62 6QT
This site has two tent camping fields, with beautiful views overlooking the Pembrokeshire coast. Facilities include toilet blocks with free hot showers, dishwashing, laundrette, an information room and a dog walking area.
Northumberland National Park is characterised by beautiful countryside, forest, lakes, rivers and waterfalls. Explore the woodlands at Kielder Forest Park or go for a stroll around Kielder Water. The North Tyne River snakes through the landscape, passing pretty cottages and the Pennine Way, which crosses the river in the south. There are nature reserves where you may see red squirrels, wading birds, and fish in the clear rivers and streams. Hadrian's Wall runs through the south of the National Park, so you can visit Housestead's Roman Fort, Crag Lough, or Steel Rig, a pretty lake in a former quarry. SK
SPRINGHILL FARM CAMPSITE
Springhill Farm, Seahouses, Northumberland NE68 7UR
This site boasts great great views across rolling countryside towards the sea and Farne Islands Spectacular Bamburgh Castle is a couple of miles to the north and the Cheviot Hills are a short jaunt to the west. And of course you have Northumberland’s amazing (and usually empty) beaches on your doorstep.
NORTH YORK MOORS
The North Yorkshire Moors are great for walking and exploring, but there's also plenty to do in the towns and villages. Travel up the coast towards the seaside town of Whitby and you'll reach the Hole of Horcum, a deep valley set in an enchanting landscape. Nearby Whitby has connections to Bram Stoker and his novel Dracula, an impressive ruined abbey, a famous fish and chip shop, a Captain Cook Museum, and music weekends! Travel into the countryside on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, which runs from Whitby through the moors. You might recognise some locations from their appearances in Harry Potter or Heartbeat!
Cross Lane, Snainton, North Yorkshire YO13 9BE
Located near the Yorkshire coast between Scarborough and Pickering, Jasmine Park is a hidden gem. It’s a family-friendly campsite with two immaculately-kept camping fields and an excellent kids’ playground. It’s perfectly located to explore the sandy beaches and the rest of the National Park.