With summer pop-ups, nature, water-sports and foodie options, these sites with a twist will appeal to even the most reluctant campers.

campsites with a difference

For active people

Rock climbing, Shropshire
Wild Contentment is a small, off-grid campsite in a meadow at the far end of a dairy farm near Oswestry. There are a handful of pitches for tents, campervans or caravans, plus two bell tents and three “Beryls” – converted horse trailers with flushing toilets, showers and copper rolltop baths. The site, which is Greener Camping Club-certified, is a short walk from Llanymynech Rocks, and the owners have teamed up with a local climbing instructor to offer half-day climbing sessions (£50pp). New for 2023 are occasional activity weekends, with yoga, climbing and abseiling (the first is 13-14 May, from £105 a night). The whole site sleeps 46 and can be hired from £400 a night. Pitches from £20. wildcontentment.com

Mountain adventures, County Down
East Coast Adventure, in Knockbarragh valley just outside Rostrevor, runs activities in the mountains of Mourne and on Carlingford Lough. They include guided walks, mountain-bike coaching and wet river bouldering (also called gorge walking or ghyll scrambling). Onsite activities include a climbing tower and an archery area. Guests can stay in six basic glamping pods – BYO sleeping bag, pillow, food and toiletries (pods also have their own outdoor fire pits). There is also a communal pod with a fire pit, an outdoor kitchen hut and a toilet/shower block. The site is close to Newry, halfway between Belfast and Dublin on the east coast. Glamping pods for four £90 a night. eastcoastadventure.com

Lakeside, Cumbria
Park Foot camping and touring park has three camping fields on the banks of Ullswater, suitable for tents, caravans and motorhomes. The site has its own beach and boat launch, and campers can go paddleboarding, kayaking or wakesurfing (like wakeboarding, but without holding a rope – so even harder). There is a bar/restaurant and a shop, and raised barbecues are allowed, but not campfires. The site is a mile from Pooley Bridge at the northern end of the lake – the Ullswater steamers boats call there and at Glenridding, Aira Force and Howtown. Pitch for four from £30. parkfootullswater.co.uk

Watersport mecca, Nottinghamshire
Holme Pierrepont country park is the home of the National Water Sports Centre, as well as an eight-hectare (19-acre) campsite. There are pitches for tents, campervans and motorhomes, plus camping pods. It is the perfect place for an aquatic activity break, with white water rafting and tubing, a Total Wipeout-style inflatable obstacle course on the lagoon, paddleboarding and kayaking. Land-based activities include a high-ropes course and “combat archery” – a cross between archery, dodgeball and paintball. There are lots of cycling and walking routes in the 109-hectare park. Pitches for up to four from £28. nwscnotts.com

Wing foiling, Essex
Family-run Malting Farm, in Little Bentley, has a small glamping glade between a wildflower meadow and a stream. There are four bell tents with tea-light chandeliers, a fire pit and barbecue area with picnic benches, plus three cabins and two treehouses. The farm has a reservoir where guests can go swimming, fishing, paddleboarding and take wing-foiling lessons. After mastering the basics of this kite surfing/paddleboarding hybrid sport, it’s just 20 minutes’ drive to the nearest beaches to try it on the open water. From £120 a night for up to eight in two tents (tents are hired in pairs). maltingfarm.co.uk

Cycling, Norfolk
Clippesby Hall, a holiday park three miles from Acle in the Norfolk Broads, has eight camping areas, from secluded pitches in the woods to open lawns where children can play together. There is an onsite cycle hire centre, so guests can explore the trails around the park or the quiet lanes of the Broads. Other facilities include grass tennis courts, a mini golf course, an adventure play area with zipwires and a football pitch. The bar, kitchen and shop are open all day for breakfast baps, light lunches, afternoon cakes, evening pizzas and burgers, and Sunday roasts. Pitch for two from £25. clippesbyhall.com

Horse riding, Suffolk
Bardwell Manor Equestrian Centre near Bury St Edmunds has a small campsite with just five pitches for tents, caravans or motorhomes. It’s next to an orchard and surrounded by grazing horses. Campers can book riding lessons, from a half-hour beginner’s lesson in the school to an hour’s hack on village roads and bridleways. Keen riders can even bring their own horses for a holiday (from £18 a night for grazing). The site is a 25-minute walk from Ixworth village, which has pubs, shops and a café. Pitch for two from £18. bardwell-equestrian.co.uk

For nature lovers

Rewilding, West Sussex
The campsite on the 1,400-hectare Knepp Estate – one of the biggest rewilding projects in Europe – is a wildflower meadow on the edge of ancient woodland. Each pitch has its own upcycled fire pit and barbecue grill, and campers share the hot showers, open-air baths, camp kitchen and pizza oven. There is a wild swimming pond and glamping options, too (bell tents, yurts, shepherd’s huts and tree houses). There are 16 miles of walks, with five tree viewing platforms and a bird hide overlooking Knepp Lake, and guests can book a safari to view the free-roaming deer, ponies, pigs and cattle; endangered nightingales and turtle doves; various owl species; 13 kinds of bat and the UK’s biggest population of purple emperor butterflies. From £20 a night. knepp.co.uk

Yurts, North Yorkshire
Swallowtails, a glampsite near Pickering on the edge of the North York Moors, has yurts and bell tents. They all have proper beds, wood-burners and fridges; yurts also have skylights for stargazing and en suite toilet sheds. All have a hob in a covered arbour, a barbecue and a fire pit, plus indoor and outdoor seating and hammocks. During school holidays, there are nature-led art workshops for children and pizza-making nights (both twice a week). Adults can book yoga classes, massage and hot tub sessions. From £110, sleeps five. swallowtailholidays.co.uk

Clifftop camping, Carmarthenshire
Thorning Farm, a clifftop family-run farm near Tenby, right on the Wales Coast Path, has diversified into camping and glamping. Each tent pitch sleeps six and has its own compost toilet, a fire pit with a grill for cooking and a picnic table. There are also campervan pitches and geodesic domes, and a farm shop. The fields around the camping areas have been left wild and are now a habitat for bats, barn owls and other wildlife. The site is certified by the Greener Camping Club. Campers have panoramic views over Caldey Island and the coast, including seven-mile Pendine Sands, and are within walking distance of Marros and Morfa Bychan beaches. Pitches from £18, reduced rates for coast path walkers and cyclists on route 4. thorningfarmglamping.co.uk

For foodies

Vineyard, East Sussex
Tillingham, a 28-hectare vineyard and farm near Rye in East Sussex, has two luxury bell tents with views over vines, woodland and hills. They have king-sized beds, wood-burners and toilets, plus their own shower rooms with Haeckels toiletries. The onsite wine bar serves cheese and charcuterie from noon till nine every day, woodfired pizzas are rustled up in the Dutch barn and the restaurant runs a four-course garden menu in the evenings, serving homegrown and farmed produce, and fish from Rye harbour. There is also a set lunch on Fridays and Saturdays, and a feasting menu on Sundays. Vineyard tours include tastings of four natural, biodynamic wines (£35). Bell tent from £170 B&B. tillingham.com

Forage and feast, Monmouthshire
Penhein Glamping, a family-run farm and glampsite near Chepstow, has eight Persian tents to stay in, with wood-burners, kitchens and loo pods. There is a tuck shop selling local produce including Penhein honey, and a pantry stocked with homemade meals that can be heated on the stove or fire pit. Couples can book a Persian woodland banquet or a fire pit fine-dining experience; groups can opt for a hog roast or hire a horsebox cocktail bar. There are food-based activities, too, from foraging (for gin botanicals, mushrooms and more) to campfire cookery classes. Food aside, new activities this year range from birdsong safaris to axe throwing. From £295 for two nights, sleeps five. penhein.co.uk

Cider farm, Dorset
On the (adults-only) Dorset Nectar cider farm near Bridport, campers pitch tents among 3,000 apple trees. Each tent is in its own row of trees, about five metres wide and 45 metres long, so there’s plenty of room for private cooking (fire pits are available), but there’s also a cider garden with a communal barbecue and pizza oven. Food trucks visit at weekends, and there’s a shop selling local produce. Best of all is the tasting room, which serves at least 12 types of homemade cider. Visitors can tour the farm on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Footpaths lead to the River Brit, there is a pub half a mile away and it is a 15-minute drive to West Bay beach. Pitch £16pp. dorsetnectar.co.uk

For a festival vibe

Music and food, Hertfordshire
Home Farm’s glamping meadow on the 60-hectare Aldenham Estate is just a 10-minute taxi ride from a Thameslink station and the most northerly stops on the Jubilee and Northern tube lines. Guests stay in a dozen bell tents and yurts with their own outdoor seating, fire pits and barbecues, and can take part in lots of events and activities. New events at the site this year include a “wild writing” workshop with eco poet Helen Moore, plus watercolour workshops, bat walks and rewilding days. The mini festival series At Home Farm returns for a third year, with live music and comedy on the woodland stage, woodfired feasts hosted by guest chefs in the meadow, and a visiting vintage circus. From £100 a night for four. homefarmglamping.com

Weekends only, Worcestershire
Out To Grass, a countryside campsite near the Malvern Hills 12 miles west of Worcester, is open only on select weekends in the summer for family-friendly, festival-style events. They range from the Something Different music festival in May to a solstice celebration in June and stargazing in August. The final happening is August Bank Holiday Shenanigans, with live music, storytelling, street food, massage and more. Visitors can choose to camp or book a bell pod. The site is also available for private hire from May to September. The Major’s Arms, which has a beer garden with a great view, is a stroll away across fields. From £30pp for two nights. outtograss.com

Summer pop-ups, Norfolk and Hampshire
The Caravan and Motorhome Club, which has been running two pop-up campsites for touring vehicles for the past two summers, is opening them to tents this year. The sites are in the grounds of Holkham Hall in Norfolk and the Beaulieu Estate in Hampshire. Campers will have the benefit of discounted entry to Beaulieu, where attractions include the National Motor Museum, and Holkham. Both sites have supersized family-and-friends pitches, which two tents can share. There will be events such as food festivals on selected weekends. From £39 for two at Beaulieu, 4-31 July, and from £41 at Holkham, 11 July to 17 September.

For groups

Walkers’ retreat, Firle, East Sussex
This year The Fold, a campsite on the Firle Estate near Lewes, is available only as an exclusive hire for groups of up to 70: campers can pitch their own tents or book bell tents. The site isn’t accessible by car so guests park in a nearby car park and ferry their kit in wheelbarrows. There are hammocks, campfires and a sheltered seating area, plus hot showers, compost toilets and drinking water piped from a borehole. The site is on the South Downs Way, with two pubs in walking distance. The Field at Firle is set to open later this year for normal camping, too. £15pppn, with a minimum spend of £900, which covers up to 30 people for two nights. woodfire.co.uk

Off-grid, Isle of Wight
Eco-friendly Camp Wight is on a family farm in the west of the island, two miles from Yarmouth. It has about 30 plots in meadows, woodland copses and under oak trees. Campers can pitch their own tents or hire a hammock, tent, tensile tent or geodesic dome. There are fire pits to rent (upcycled from washing-machine drums), compost toilets and solar-powered showers. The site is unlit, to facilitate stargazing, so a head torch is handy. It is a five-minute walk to the pub and a mile to the nearest shop. Guests can book individually or hire the whole site. From £20 a night for two adults and two children (£5 discount for car-free travellers), or from £1,000 a night for exclusive hire, sleeps 130. campwight.co.uk

Yoga and sauna, Pembrokeshire
This Kip Hideaways glampsite comprises a clutch of cabins in woodland. There are three sleeping cabins, a kitchen cabin stocked with homemade Welshcakes and local Barti rum (made with seaweed), a yoga studio, a woodfired sauna, a bell tent with children’s games and a campfire. Guests can order breakfast and barbecue hampers, as the nearest pubs, shops and restaurants are three miles away. Westfield Pill nature reserve, a habitat for otters, is within walking distance, and it is a short drive to Pembrokeshire beaches and market towns such as Narberth. From £295 a night, sleeps eight. kiphideaways.com

Camp and cook, Herefordshire
Up to 10 people can pitch tents in Maggie’s Field near the village of Staunton-on-Wye. This exclusive-use campsite backs on to an orchard and a nature reserve. Parts have been set aside for wildflowers, brambles and self-seeding blackthorn and hawthorn and additional trees, including sweet chestnuts and field maples, have been planted. Facilities include a compost loo, washstand, cook hut and canopied trestle table; there is also a fire pit, a barbecue and a tree swing in a great oak. It is a four-minute drive to the River Wye and the site is within 10 miles of Hereford and Hay-on-Wye. From £90 a night for five, plus £20 for each additional camper up to 10. maggiesfield.camp

(Article source: The Guardian)

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