12 campsites near hidden UK treasures
See more of the country by visiting these lesser-known spots of undiscovered Britain! And, stay in the best, local campsites.
Words by Claire Tupholme
1. Discover Porth Wen Brickworks, Isle of Anglesey
Porth Wen is a disused Victorian brickworks and beach located on the north coast of Anglesey, that can be viewed from the Anglesey Coastal Path.
There’s a gateway that marks the start of the path to the coast, situated on a minor road that leaves the A5025 roughly 1.8 miles out of Bull Bay. You can find limited spaces to park on the verges of the minor road.
When I first discovered this place, I was so excited — two of my favourite things in one place — the coast and abandoned buildings. The brickworks make for a stunning view, with the beach and sea behind.
Access to the buildings is not permitted as the brickworks are privately owned and could be unsafe, but you can wander down to the small harbour and shingle beach (take care as the path is steep in places) or just view these intriguing derelict buildings from above.
Penrhyn Bay Caravan Park
Llanfwrog, Isle of Anglesey LL65 4YG
T 01407 730496
Open 14 March to 31 October
Price from £25 (2 adults, pitch, electric)
Penrhyn Bay is set within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with direct access to a sandy beach.
Most of the pitches are fully serviced and set on grass, with a few hardstanding pitches. Facilities on site include toilets, showers and a licensed shop.
For leisure there is a heated indoor pool, play area, all-weather tennis court, slipway, games room and football pitch.
2. Discover Tyneham Village, Dorset
There’s possibly a theme building this month — more abandoned places. This time the Dorset village of Tyneham, where time stopped in 1943.
The village was evacuated in December 1943 during World War II when it was requisitioned by the Ministry of Defence to use as a firing range for training troops. 225 people had to leave the village believing that one day they could return; however, this never happened.
Today the village is still used by the MoD but public access is allowed on weekends and certain dates during the summer (see dorsetcouncil.gov.uk/lulworth-range-walks for a full list of open dates).
You can still see some original buildings and read about what life was like living here.
The last resident to leave the village left this note on the church door: “Please treat the church and houses with care; we have given up our homes where many of us lived for generations to help win the war to keep men free. We shall return one day and thank you for treating the village kindly.”
Corfe Castle Camping & Caravanning Club Site
Bucknowle, Dorset BH20 5PQ
T 01929 480280
Open 28 February to 1 November
Price from £17.30 (2 adults, pitch, electric)
Situated at the foot of the Purbeck Hills, in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and just a five-mile drive to the car park for visiting Tyneham village.
The site offers a mixture of grass and hardstanding pitches with electric, with some pitches located under the trees. There’s a site shop, toilets, showers and an abundance of wildlife to be seen.
3. Discover Loch Awe, Argyll & Bute
A name like Loch Awe carries with it pressure to be all that and more. And this 24-mile long freshwater loch to the south-east of Oban does not disappoint and is more often overlooked for the more famous Loch Lomond and Loch Ness.
There are various castle ruins, the impressive St Conan’s Kirk (church), and the shores are fringed with conifer forest and old oakwoods. Wildlife to look out for here includes red deer, red squirrels and golden eagles.
The ruins of Kilchurn Castle are definitely worthy of exploration, too. There’s a nice walk leading from the A85 where there is plenty of parking.
Upon reaching the castle ruins you can ascend one of the turrets and climb to the top of the keep for magnificent views both down the loch and up towards the peak of Ben Lui.
Oban Camping & Caravanning Club Site
Argyll, Argyll & Bute PA37 1SG
T 01631 720348
Open 1 April to 26 November
Price from £12.30 (2 adults, pitch, electric)
Enjoying a secluded location, this Club site is hidden within a Victorian walled vegetable garden next to Forestry Commission woodland.
There are 75 pitches with electric on grass or hardstanding. There are also toilets, showers, a shop and dog walk.
Opposite the site is a marina with a small beach and Oban is 13 miles south. Loch Awe is a 30 to 40-minute drive away.
4. Discover Trentham Gardens/Hawkstone Park, West Midlands
Two of my favourite discoveries in England lie just 45 minutes apart in the West Midlands counties of Staffordshire and Shropshire.
The first is Trentham Gardens, a beautiful estate with Italian gardens, a floral labyrinth and a mile-long Capability Brown-designed lake.
The reason I love Trentham is for the fairies. No, I haven’t lost my mind. The 21 fairies at Trentham are stunning wire creations of various sizes dotted around the lake, woodland and gardens, and you have to go on a search to find them!
The other place I want to mention appeals to my child-like sense of adventure and discovery.
Set in 100 acres of parkland, Hawkstone Park Follies is a range of dramatic and rugged sandstone hills that include caves, towers and bridges.
Throughout history, follies have been added and there are paths leading here, there and everywhere, both up to the top of the hills, through passages and down underground. A day spent here is enjoyable for both kids and adults alike.
Beaconsfield Holiday Park
Upper Battlefield, Shrewsbury, Shropshire SY4 4AA
T 01939 210370
Open All year
Price from £23 (2 adults, pitch, electric)
Nestling in the Shropshire countryside this site is just two miles from Shrewsbury.
Beaconsfield is an adults-only site with a choice of electric grass pitches or fully serviced hardstandings. Site facilities include toilets, showers, a coffee shop, restaurant, indoor pool and fishing.
Hawkstone Park Follies is 15 minutes’ drive and the Trentham Estate is 50 minutes by car.
5. Discover The Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye
A Scottish local tells me that the Fairy Pools on the Isle of Skye are not as unknown as they used to be, thanks to enthusiastic journalists like me telling the world about them through the medium of print.
However, when I visited Skye in early March there weren’t many people about and these stunning pools of crystal clear water were still glistening beautifully in the early spring sunshine.
Located at Glenbrittle, the Fairy Pools are stunning rock pools of spring water fed by a series of waterfalls from the Cuillin mountains.
Free to visit all year round, there is a car park off the single track road that leads to Glenbrittle from Carbost.
The walking route there and back is a total of approx 1½ miles. You reach the largest waterfall first but if you explore further up the path there are many smaller pools. With a backdrop of the stunning mountain range, this is some awe-inspiring scenery.
Glenbrittle Campsite & Café
Glenbrittle, Isle of Skye IV47 8TA
T 01478 640404
Open 1 April to 30 September
Price from £26 (2 adults, pitch, electric)
This site features 120 pitches spread across a field and down towards the beach at Loch Brittle. The site has a shower block, shop, laundry and café.
There are 36 hardstanding pitches with electric. It’s a four-mile drive to the car park for the Fairy Pools or if you feel like stretching the legs you could walk there.
6. Discover The Flower Fields, Worcestershire
The Real Flower Petal Confetti Co has been offering real flower petal confetti since 1997. On the Wyke Manor Estate near Pershore a huge field of flowers blooms each summer.
Consisting of delphiniums and cornflowers, the fields in bloom are a sight to behold and each year in June, visitors can come and walk through the fields to view this colourful spectacle.
The Confetti Flower Field is only open for 10 days each year due to how long the plants flower for and the fact that they need harvesting for confetti.
The opening time of the field is weather dependent so keep an eye on social media or the company’s website for exact 2020 opening dates.
Winchcombe Camping & Caravanning Club Site
Brooklands Farm, Alderton, Gloucestershire GL20 8NX
T 01242 620259
Open 5 March to 4 January
Price from £17.30 (2 adults, pitch, electric)
Set in the heart of the Cotswolds, this Club site is adjacent to the 42-mile Winchcombe Way walking route and has a fishing lake.
There are grass and hardstanding pitches with electric, along with toilets, showers, a games room and dog walk.
The site shop stocks local produce from dairies, butchers and bakers. Winchcombe Club site is a 25-minute drive from the Confetti Flower Field.
7. Discover Bakewell, Derbyshire
Do you know your Bakewell pudding from your Bakewell tart? And how about a cherry Bakewell?
If you take a trip to the pretty Peak District town of Bakewell you can sample all three!
But don’t insult the locals by asking for a Bakewell tart. While this shortcrust pastry delight is probably more well-known than the puff pastry pudding, the Bakewell Pudding was invented in the town, a result of a fortunate culinary mishap.
There are several shops in the town claiming the puddings they make are crafted using the original recipe from the 1860s. I feel the only way to know for sure whose is best is to sample one pudding from each!
After eating all that food you’ll be pleased to know that Bakewell is also a great destination for walkers. The town nestles up to the River Wye and access is easy for many walks through the Peak District.
The town itself has a host of independent shops, markets, old stone buildings and a medieval five-arched stone bridge.
Greenhills Holiday Park
Crowhill Lane, Bakewell, Derbyshire DE45 1PX
T 01629 813052
Open 1 February to 30 November
Price From £25 (2 adults, pitch, electric)
Greenhills Holiday Park is situated just a one-mile walk from Bakewell. Set in 12 acres the park has 140 hardstandings with electric hook-up and views across the countryside.
There’s a modern, heated amenity building with showers and a laundry, a small shop, a clubhouse and play area.
8. Discover The Vale of the White Horse, Oxfordshire
Less tourist-filled than its Cotswolds’ neighbour, the Vale of White Horse is on the Oxfordshire/Wiltshire border and offers a collection of charming small towns and villages.
The Vale is named after the Uffington White Horse, a chalk figure carved into the hills. For ease there’s a car park off the B4507 near Woolstone and a good walk that takes in the horse.
Of the many towns and villages, we recommend Faringdon and Abingdon-on-Thames. Faringdon’s visitor centre is full of locally produced crafts and there’s a selection of independent shops.
Look out for the public artworks of hares, part of the Cotswold AONB Hare Trail. Also, here is Faringdon Folly, a unique and unusual 100-ft tall tower.
In Abingdon, you’ll find the mighty Thames and can walk the Thames Path or hire a boat. If you happen to visit when a royal occasion is then watch out for the 4,000 currant buns that are traditionally thrown from the top of County Hall in celebration. There’s even a museum where you can see a collection of previously thrown buns!
Lincoln Farm Park
High Street, Standlake, Witney OX29 7RH
T 01865 300239
Open February to November
Price from £19.30 (2 adults, pitch, electric)
Set in nine acres of landscaped grounds in the village of Standlake, a short drive from Oxford and the Cotswolds. There are standard pitches with electric, or fully serviced pitches and all pitches are hardstanding.
The facilities include family bathrooms, two swimming pools and Jacuzzis, a sauna, steam room, gym, a games room and play area. It is under half an hour’s drive to Faringdon, Abingdon and the Uffington White Horse.
9. Discover Crosby Beach, Merseyside
I love being at the beach. Especially in the evening just as the sun is going down. The sound of the waves crashing, vast expanses of sand to wander along, lost in your thoughts.
One unique beach I’ve visited is at Crosby, near Liverpool. As well as the usual sand and sea, this beach is now the permanent home to ‘Another Place’, an art installation by Anthony Gormley (of 'Angel of the North' fame).
There are 100 life-sized iron men situated here, cast from the artist’s own body. Positioned at various places on the beach, depending on when you visit some may be almost submerged, other paddling and some untouched by the waves. As the sun sets and the shadows take over, this can be both an eerie and mesmerising sight.
While you’re in the area, don’t forget to travel 10 miles further up the coast to Formby, where you’ll find sand dunes backed by pine woods, ponds and lakes. Here, too, you’ll find one of the few red squirrel colonies in England.
Willowbank Holiday Home & Touring Park
Coastal Road, Ainsdale, Southport PR8 3ST
T 01704 571566
Open 14 February to 31 January
Price from £18.15 (2 adults, pitch, electric)
Just five miles from the centre of Southport and within walking distance of the National Trust nature reserve and coastline is Willowbank Holiday Home and Touring Park.
The park is five minutes by car to Formby and a 20-minute drive to Crosby. There are 79 electric pitches and facilities include showers, toilets, a laundry and dog exercise area.
10. Discover The Hartland Coast, Devon
Travel further south-west from the popular Devon towns of Barnstaple and Bideford and you’ll discover that north Devon is a collection of small villages and hamlets at the coast. One of the more rugged and wild spots to explore is the Hartland Peninsula.
The pretty village of Hartland has a few shops and a café and if you carry further on to the coast you’ll reach the Quay. This is barren coast here and the cliff formations are stunning.
There’s a car park at the Quay, a pub and a small hotel. You can pick up the South West Coast Path here and, depending on how far you want to walk, can head north for the lighthouse and stunning views at Hartland Point (three miles).
To give the feet a rest take a drive to Bideford where there’s a harbour running boat trips in the main season (end March to end October) to Lundy Island. 12 miles off the coast, this is a whole different world, with a population of less than 30 and only a pub, shop and 23 holiday properties. You’ll get proper solitude here, and the chance to see puffins and seals.
Hartland Caravan & Camping Park
Fore Street, Hartland, Bideford, Devon EX39 6AD
T 01237 441876
Open 1 March to 31 October
Price from £19.50 (2 adults, pitch, electric)
Being situated on the peninsula means this area boasts stunning scenery and a choice of coastal walks. There are flat and slightly sloping meadows sheltered by Devon hedges.
There are pitches with electric, a fully equipped shower block, a laundry and a fishing pond. A five-minute walk leads to the village where there is a general store, pubs and a coffee shop.
11. Discover Blue Lake, Gwynedd
It would seem I like my secret places on private property, maybe I like a sense of danger.
You can, however, find Blue Lake near Fairbourne in Snowdonia National Park, you just visit at your own risk. Blue Lake is what remains of an 1867 slate quarry flooded in an attempt to turn it into a reservoir. I assume it is so-named due to the stunning blue-turquoise colour of the water here.
Hidden away with no signs pointing to its location, these days the lake can only be viewed from above, since the land owner has closed the tunnel to the lake due to excessive littering by visitors.
The start of the walk to the quarry leads from Fordd Panteinion, off the A493. There are parking spaces opposite Einion House B&B. The footpath up through the quarry is signposted on the right-hand side, approximately 500 metres along Fordd Panteinion.
Hendre Mynach Touring Caravan & Camping Park
Llanaber Road, Barmouth, Gwynedd LL42 1YR
T 01341 280262
Open 1 March to 9 January
Price from £19 (2 adults, pitch, electric)
This site is a 35-minute drive from Fairbourne due to having to travel around the Mawddach Estuary rather than being able to drive over it. This high-quality site is worth the effort, though, and includes hardstanding and grass pitches with electric. There’s also a shop and play area and the beach and Barmouth are a short walk away.
12. Discover Settle, North Yorkshire
Settle is a bustling market town framed by the stunning countryside of the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
The town is full of independent shops, cafés and restaurants including the wonderfully named Ye Olde Naked Man Café and possibly the smallest art gallery in the world — Gallery on the Green — which showcases local artwork inside a traditional red telephone box.
There’s also a Grade II Victorian theatre with a wide programme of shows and events.
For exploring outside of Settle, Castlebergh limestone crag overlooks the town and the 70m-high curving cliff of Malham Cove is just a 20-minute drive.
If you’d rather let someone else do the driving, then you can take a train ride on one of the best railway lines in England. The Settle to Carlisle line travels over Victorian viaducts, through narrow tunnels and includes the highest station in England.
Settle, North Yorkshire BD24 9LX
T 01729 822387
Open 1 March to mid-January
Price from £26 (2 adults, pitch, electric)
Set within the Yorkshire Dales, Langcliffe Park is just one mile from Settle town centre. The park is a haven of tranquillity and offers pitches with electric hook-ups.
The facilities include toilets, showers, laundry, play area and disabled facilities. The Forest of Bowland and the Lake District are within an hour’s drive