For centuries, travellers have sought shelter in yurts, tents and make-shift wooden structures. Thankfully, the options for temporary accommodation have improved since then, but camping remains one of the most thrilling ways to enjoy the great outdoors.
Even better, it’s affordable too – with most tent pitches costing less than £20 per night – crucial when you’ve a family in tow. And as the weather starts to improve with spring underway, the idea of sleeping under canvas is also more appealing.
Book into one of these sites to find out for yourself.
Knepp Estate, near Horsham, West Sussex
If an African safari feels way too far from economic reach, a weekend at one of Europe’s largest rewilding habitats is a great alternative and much easier to get to. Wild ponies, cattle and deer roam the 3,500-acre Knepp Estate, where accommodation includes shepherd’s huts, bell tents with views of ancient woodland and wildflower meadows.
For a greater level of comfort than sleeping under canvas, there’s also a treehouse made from sustainably sourced oak, chestnut and Douglas fir, built around a mature oak tree in a secluded part of the forest for an even more away from it all experience in style.
Join a guided safari to learn about the rewilding project at the Estate, searching for beavers, bats, foxes and owls, or try wild swimming in a pond accessed by a deck of stairs.
Camping facilities include a shop, breakfast baskets, cafe, glamping kitchen, giant pizza ovens, showers and a drying room.
How: Tent pitches from £20 per night; shepherd’s huts (sleeps two) from £265 for two nights; treehouse (sleeps two) from £410 for two nights. Visit knepp.co.uk
Castle Ward Caravan Park, County Down, Ireland
Wake up in a Game of Thrones fantasyland by staying at this campsite not far from the original set used for Winterfell in the HBO hit series. Overlooking Strangford Lough in County Down, tents can be pitched in a choice of woodland, parkland and landscaped gardens. The site is also within easy reach of many hiking trails for those keen to explore the area on foot.
If you don’t fancy setting up a campfire to cook on, the pubs and restaurants of Strangford village are only a 15-minute walk away.
How: Tent pitches from £18 per person, pods from £61. Visit nationaltrust.org.uk/holidays/
Brownsea Island, Dorset
Early scouts and girl guides honed their outdoor skills on this wildlife-filled island off the Dorset coast. Visitors usually come for a day trip, but once the last boat has departed, there’s an opportunity to stay on and sleep overnight in this campsite overlooking the Purbeck Hills.
Wake up early to watch red squirrels scurrying through the treetops or catch a glimpse of Sika deer slinking through the woodland. Spend days exploring the lagoon, lakes and reedbeds – which are rich in birdlife – or simply spend days lazing around on the beach and swimming in the sea.
Although it’s a bit of a trek to reach the site – located on the south side of the island – a basic campsite shop and cooking facilities will help lighten your load so you don’t have to carry essentials.
How: Pitches from £28 a night; bell tents from £115 a night. Visit nationaltrust.org.uk/holidays
Grange Farm, Brighstone, Isle of Wight
When a campsite scores points with locals too, you know it must be good. Set on a cliff-top overlooking the English Channel, this family-run set-up has everything: tent pitches, electric hook ups, static caravans and cottages. Part of a farm, it’s also populated by Kunekune pigs, goats, micro pigs, rare breed sheep, horses, water buffalo and donkeys.
It’s an easy stroll to a sandy Brighstone beach, part of a coastline where dinosaur fossils have been found, and where conditions are also suitable for surfing. Considered an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Brightone Bay also has plenty of scenic walking trails – while a lack of light pollution means stars shine brightly at night, making it ideal for stargazing.
How: Pitches from £9.50 per night. Visit grangefarmcamping.co.uk
Woodhill Park, East Runton, Norfolk
Norfolk recently played a starring role in Sir David Attenborough’s Wild Isles series, showcasing the variety of wildlife the area has to offer. This cliff-top campsite is ideally located to experience great sightings.
A CoastHopper bus service offers trips to Blakeney to see seals, while plenty of butterflies and birds flutter through the site’s grounds. The Norfolk Coastal Path, stretching 84 miles from Hunstanton and Hopton-on-Sea, is also close by, making it a great stop off point for those walking the route.
How: Pitches from £15.65 per night (based on two adults). Visit woodhill-park.com