Five of the best alternative camping sites

From an open-air bed in Devon to a peaceful retreat by the coast in Wales.

The Heath Robinson of glamping

Tim Johnson, owner of Blackberry Wood in East Sussex, “is to glamping what Heath Robinson was to industrial design”, says The Sunday Times. The former’s greatest creation so far is the Piggledy Tree House (above), a £200,000 fantasy in a wild wood at the foot of the South Downs National Park, with two double beds, a fitted kitchen and a terrace overlooking the site. “If that option is too trippy,” book the Helicopter, a converted 1965 Wessex search and rescue chopper. It can accommodate up to four people and has a fridge, gas hob and heating. You can also stay in the 1964 Routemaster double-decker “Holiday Bus”, which has been fitted with a downstairs kitchen. Other quirky options include a fire engine named Angus and the Scandi-style “Curvy Cabin”. 

£245 for Piggledy, blackberrywood.com

A bed under the stars in Devon

© Canopy & Stars

Doze off in the open air – with a nearby tent for backup © Canopy & Stars

With demand soaring for camping holidays and festivals called off this year due to coronavirus, tipis and bell tents across the land are being repurposed for pop-up glamping sites, says Dixe Wills in The Guardian. Southcombe Barn, just outside Widecombe-in-the-Moor in the southeast of Dartmoor National Park, Devon, is one such spot. In the grounds of the house that Canopy & Stars’s founder Tom Dixon shares with his wife, the boughs of a felled eucalyptus have been fashioned into the frame of an alfresco bed. For this summer only, the Midsummer Meadow Bed “is open to guests keen to dispense with canvas and doze off in the open air”. A nearby bell tent stands ready as an emergency back-up with a double bed, sofa and a bottle of wine. The bathroom is a converted woodworking shop about a minute’s walk away, while in the former barn there is a kettle and, unexpectedly, an art gallery. 

£145 a night B&B, canopyandstars.co.uk

Midland glamping in wooden wigwams

© Wigwam Holidays

A particularly scenic spot for wigwam glamping © Wigwam Holidays

“More like timber pods than traditional wigwams – and all the warmer for it – wigwam cabins have tiny kitchenettes, modern bathrooms and electricity,” says Natalie Paris in The Daily Telegraph. They are a testament to the growing popularity of glamping and they can now be found at more than 80 sites across Britain. Practical rather than pretty, they often come with a dining table that transforms into a sleeping area. That means they are well-suited for people happy to do without fuss or frills. Charnwood Forest, near Leicester in the East Midlands, is “a particularly scenic spot, with fire pits, a wildlife hide and a pond fringed with reeds”. 

From £160 for two nights, wigwamholidays.com/charnwood-forest

A haven of peace on the coast near Abersoch

© Alamy

© Alamy

“Coastal campsites often have quirks of their own – the best ones are smaller, slightly off the beaten track and offer limited facilities, to enable you to fully enjoy the expanse of wild space on offer,” says Jacob Little in Spectator Life. Nant Y Big, in northwest Wales, is a great example. Although lockdown restrictions mean campsites in this part of the world will open slightly later than in England (hopefully from 25 July), it will be worth the wait. Perched above Porth Ceiriad beach on the Llyn Peninsula near Abersoch, there’s lots of space here, “so the camping is low-density and the isolation is intoxicating”. The campsite is a haven of peace and quiet, so there’s no music allowed and no noise after 11pm, and it is only a 15-minute walk to the beautiful sands at the bottom of the cliffs.

£10 per adult, nantybig.co.uk

Awaken to the sound of lions roaring in Doncaster

Camp close to the lions and take an out-of hours safari tour © Yorkshire Wildlife Park

Camp close to the lions and take an out-of hours safari tour © Yorkshire Wildlife Park

Yorkshire Wildlife Park in Doncaster has launched its “Roar and Snore” camping area, allowing families to pitch their tents just outside the entrance to the park, says Kara Godfrey in The Sun. That means lucky campers will be able to wake to the sound of lions roaring in the morning. You will need to bring your own tent, but food facilities at the site include a pizzeria and a breakfast wagon. There are also washrooms and showers available. Tickets to the park are discounted for campers and “if you fancy some alone time with the animals, you can even book an out-of-hours safari tour, taking place an hour before or after the park opens”. 

Camping pitches are available for up to six people per pitch. From £50, £40 for additional nights. See yorkshirewildlifepark.com

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