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10 of the best campsites in England

Caroline Mills
·5-min read
 (National Trust Images/Chris Lac)
(National Trust Images/Chris Lac)

Good news for campers: according to the prime minister’s “roadmap” out of lockdown, “self-contained accommodation” can reopen from 12 April at the earliest in England.

Campsites and caravan parks should be able to reopen from this date (unless the roadmap changes in the interim), but only if holidaymakers aren’t sharing indoor facilities with other households.

Here are the best of the bunch.

North: Best for stargazing – Kielder Campsite

Kielder Campsite
Kielder Campsite

Few man-made attractions match up to nature’s ability to create the finest features. Kielder Water and Forest Park are different. Nature has grabbed the opportunity and made this entirely manufactured landscape one of her own.

This forest campsite that’s close to the northwest tip of the lake is three miles shy of the Scottish border. It’s enclosed by trees, yes, but there are still glimpses of moorland. Within the Northumberland International Dark Sky Park, night views are of another world. kieldercampsite.co.uk

Northwest: Best for scenery – Castlerigg Farm

Caroline Mills
Caroline Mills

For a decent campsite view, it doesn't get much better than Castlerigg Farm near Keswick. Tucked amid sheltering stone walls, the campsite sits on a Cumbrian fell, overlooking Derwentwater - and what feels like every other Cumbrian fell there is to see in the Lake District. castleriggfarm.com

Northeast: Best for water babes – Sleningford Watermill

Caroline Mills
Caroline Mills

You don’t have to be mad keen on canoeing to stay here, but it helps. The chances are, even if you had no intention of performing a barrel roll in the River Ure when you arrived, you’ll at least be dipping a big toe in before you leave. Plus there are fishing rights for anglers, too.

The riverside campsite is conservation-friendly; you'll pass by bug hotels, swathes of wildflowers and bird boxes aplenty on your way to your pitch. This is a little slice of North Yorkshire heaven. sleningfordwatermill.com

Midlands: Best for off-road cycling – Bank House Farm

Bank House Farm
Bank House Farm

While walkers and climbers roam the rugged High Peak, Bank House Farm sits beautifully amid the lesser-known Staffordshire section of the Peak District. The landscape is soothingly gentle; you’ll take a while to drink your tea while gawping at the views from the hilltop end of the campsite.

The diminutive River Manifold runs through the site, allowing alternative riverside pitches beyond wildflower-strewn banks. For safe cycling, the Manifold Way is an eight-mile cycle track that begins within a few yards of the campsite. bankhousefarmcamping.co.uk

West: Best for families – Rowlestone Court

Caroline Mills
Caroline Mills

In deepest, rural Herefordshire is Rowlestone Court. Here, blending in with the county’s famous black and white houses is the monochrome herd of Friesian cows owned by the Williams family. Award-winning ice cream is made from the milk, sold by the scoop on site.

Camping on the farm is back to basics – essentially a field – but it’s fabulous for kids. There’s a large play area, a host of ‘secret dens’ to escape parents and a Woodland Adventure Trail. rowlestoneicecreamco.uk

East: Best for arriving by canoe – Waterclose Meadows

National Trust Images/Chris Lac
National Trust Images/Chris Lac

As agricultural architecture goes, Houghton Mill in Cambridgeshire is as pleasing to the eye as any; the soft brick and black weather-boarded structure straddles the glistening Great Ouse. The mill is owned by The National Trust, as is the neighbouring riverside campsite, with campers that arrive by canoe receiving a discount.

There’s a natural feel that fits the ethos of the NT, with wilderness areas and pleasant riverside strolls. Late spring visitors have the added glory of cherry blossom to admire. nationaltrust.org.uk/holidays/waterclose-meadows-campsite

Southwest: Best for surf – Tristram

Caroline Mills
Caroline Mills

Never mind Surfin’ USA, the good vibrations are in Cornwall. Polzeath is renowned as a surfer’s paradise, including the HQ of one of the biggest surf schools, Surf’s Up.

Within a longboard length of the beach, in arguably the best position in the village, is Tristram. It may sound like the hip name of a surfer, but it’s actually a campsite that overlooks Polzeath’s wonderful beach. Only campervans and touring caravans are allowed here; tent campers stay at nearby sister site Southwinds. polzeathcamping.co.uk

Southwest: Best for heritage – Beacon Cottage Farm

Beacon Cottage Farm
Beacon Cottage Farm

Camping at Beacon Cottage is rather like staying in someone’s garden – Jane Sawle’s garden to be exact. The flowers are flawless, including the daffodils that sit atop a fine Cornish wall at the farmhouse entrance.

Equally flawless are the astonishing views of the St Agnes Heritage Coast and those of Wheal Coates, a former mine and a Unesco World Heritage Site. Stay in late summer and the colours of the coast, smothered in heather and wild broom, will drag you from your pitch for a respectably long stomp along the headland footpaths. beaconcottagefarmholidays.co.uk

Southeast: Best for English fizz – Tanner Farm Park

Caroline Mills
Caroline Mills

There’s plenty of space from which to select a socially-distanced pitch at this campsite, which sits surrounded by arable farmland amid the Kent Weald. It’s all rather Kentish - with attractive oast houses on site and apple orchards on the approach.

Within a couple of minutes’ drive is the Hush Heath Estate, which makes notable sparkling wines. Tours of the vineyard and tastings coupled with lunch are excellent. tannerfarmpark.co.uk

South: Best for forests – Denny Wood

Caroline Mills
Caroline Mills

Don’t be surprised to wake to the sound of grass-munching at Denny Wood, where New Forest ponies roam freely among campers. Denny Wood is one of several Camping in the Forest sites within the New Forest and is, in my humble opinion, the prettiest.

There’s an attractive mix of open, grassy glades and ancient, parkland-style woodland. And, without the trappings of ‘mod-cons’ (ie electric hook-ups or sanitation facilities), guests, who must arrive in a self-contained unit such as a campervan or caravan, can choose to pitch anywhere. Pick an ancient oak under which to slump with a good book. campingintheforest.co.uk

Caroline Mills is author of Cool Caravanning, The Camping Pocket Bible and, her latest book, published earlier in February, Camping Road Trips France & Germany: 30 adventures with your campervan, motorhome or tent.