When the sun’s out and the weather’s fine, there’s no place quite like the Great British seaside. So far this year, we’ve been treated to the prime conditions for surfing, sunbathing and sandcastle building and, as an island nation, there’s no shortage of good beaches to choose from. For a real summer break, however, we know that the best way to enjoy the coast is to take the tent along, find a seaside campsite and set ourselves up for a long weekend beside the big blue. To help find the best locations, we talked to James Warner Smith, editor of Cool Camping: Coast and asked for his pick of the ultimate seaside stays…
Set just back from the renowned Pembrokeshire Coast Path, this back-to-basics farm campsite is the very definition of rustic. The entrance is just a gap in the fence and there are no buildings, save for a tiny old barn that houses a toilet block with fresh-water taps and cold, outdoor showers. Simplicity is the site’s appeal, though. Campfires are permitted, you can pitch wherever you like and the renowned surf and sand of Whitesands Bay is within walking distance. Head down the lane for picture-perfect views of Ramsey Island or wander back inland to the UK’s smallest city, St Davids.
Families reign supreme at eco-friendly Cerenety Campsite on the outskirts of Bude in North Cornwall. There’s heaps of space for kids to run wild in the seven grassy acres, while orphaned lambs and inquisitive alpacas add some extra company. Solar power, composting toilets and the use of recycled materials throughout allow for conscientious camping, while there’s a pick-your-own permaculture garden for the freshest seasonal veg. It’s a two-minute stroll to Bude Canal, which you can follow to Summerleaze Beach and the town’s tidal swimming pool, or join the South West Coast Path for an even longer trek.
You can’t camp much closer to the North Sea than at Hemscott Hill Farm in the dunes of Northumberland. Abutting seven-mile-long Druridge Bay, tent pitches are just feet from the sandy beach, where the crash of the waves sooth you to sleep and, on the windiest days, sea spray might even dampen your canvas. Minimal facilities is the price you pay for such a wild and natural location – compost toilets, cold showers and a washing-up sink is about all you’ll get – but for proper seaside camping it’s tough to top.
If it’s empty beaches and a truly secluded coastline you’re after, the far-flung Orkney Islands can’t be beat. Those willing to make the journey are rewarded with jaw-dropping sunsets, exquisite stargazing and bird-watching like nowhere on the mainland, while the villages are homely and tourist-friendly, with sea kayaking trips available. Set atop a hill on South Ronaldsay Island, family-run Wheems Farm Campsite has sea views and a no-fuss feel. There’s room for around 20 tents or campervans and small campfires are permitted. The nearest pristine sandy beach is a five-minute short stroll away.
Country pubs, wild ponies, woodland adventures… the New Forest National Park isn't known for its coastline but tucked on its south-eastern edge this newly opened campsite will make you wonder why. Views across the Solent are spectacular – watch sailing boats and ferries make their way to the Isle of Wight – and the beach itself is great for families. Facilities pop-up for the summer only, so are relatively minimal, but neighbouring Lepe Country Park has a good playground and a beachside café that acts as a de facto campsite shop. Bring bikes to make the most of the national park’s car-free trails.
Looking for a beach getaway this year? Complete your kit list with the best camping equipment from our latest range.
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Cool Camping: Coast
Cool Camping's new guide has over 80 of the U.K.'s best independent campsites from all over the U.K. and all within 1-mile of the coast. Pick up your copy today and start planning your next beach break.
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