Here in the U.K., camping is rapidly becoming the staycation of choice.
Camping is generally a much cheaper option than flying or driving abroad; there are hundreds of stunning locations to visit right here at home, and, provided that you have the right gear, a camping holiday is brilliant fun for all the family, including the dog!
In this guide, I take a look at the four different types of camping that are available and popular in the U.K. so that you can decide which might suit you best.
1 – Campsite Camping
Photograph of The Caravanning and Camping Club Site at Cannock Chase.
Campsite camping is generally the first kind of camping experience that people think of when this kind of holiday is mentioned, and it is by far the most popular choice.
So, campsite camping, as you might guess from the name, involves hiring a pitch on a campsite for a set period of time. Pitches of different sizes are available, so you can take a holiday with your family, friends, as a couple, or just go solo with your dog, which is my preferred option.
The pitch that you rent is your own space for the duration of your trip, although you will have other campers all around you, so if you’re looking for solitude and peace and quiet, campsite camping might not appeal to you.
Most campsites have electric hook-ups (EHU) so that you can use low-wattage appliances if you want to. Although you do have to pay extra for that, I always book a site with an EHU so that I can fire up my laptop and work from my tent in the evenings and on rainy days.
The usual on-site facilities provided by campsites, including flushing toilets, hot showers, dishwashing areas, and laundry facilities. Some sites have kiddies’ playgrounds, entertainment, and a small shop offering groceries and camping essentials, which is handy if you forget something vital.
As a solo female camper, being on a reputable campsite provides additional security, both for myself, my dog, and my belongings. You do feel as though you are in a safer environment which helps you to sleep a little easier at night.
The big downside of campsite camping for me is that sites usually have a long list of rules, especially surrounding dogs. Some family sites won’t allow large groups and may specify the size of the tent you can use. Often, evening curfews are in place, which can leave you feeling that you need to keep an eye on your watch if you go off-site in the evening, especially if something unexpected happens and you get delayed.
- Thousands of sites to choose from
- Toilets, showers, and electricity hook-ups provided
- Added security
- Some sites have evening curfews in place
- Most sites have lots of rules, especially around dogs and BBQs
- Family-oriented sites can be very busy and noisy
2 – Festival Camping
If you’re into music and you love the idea of rocking the Glastonbury experience, you might want to try festival camping.
Festival camps are much more freestyle than camping campsites. Often, the sites are not split into definitive pitches, so you need to get there early to get a good one. Although that can be very attractive for some, for me, there are two big problems with festival camping.
Firstly, I wouldn’t be able to take my dog with me. Secondly, the car park is always nowhere near the actual pitches, so I would have to lug all my gear across the festival site to the campsite, and then find a pitch. Of course, if you’re planning on going alone or with one friend, you could take a small, popup tent and travel extra-light, which would make life easier.
Each festival has its own set of rules surrounding the size of tents that are permitted. Also, many festival camping sites don’t allow gas cookers and other potentially flammable equipment. Note that if your kit falls outside the rules, it will probably be confiscated.
The festival campsites usually offer Portaloo toilet facilities, although these are generally well-used and not the most fragrant of conveniences by the end of a weekend or week! Generally, there are no showers or washing facilities at festival campsites, so you must be prepared to wash in a bucket, go the baby wipes route, or be happy to get back to nature and not wash at all for the duration of your trip!
If you don’t want to bother with the hassle of storing and cooking food, most festivals do have on-site catering vans, beer tents, and the like, so you won’t starve.
- Plenty of on-site entertainment
- Catering facilities on-site
- Portaloo facilities available
- Super-relaxed festival vibe
- Pitches cannot be reserved in advance
- Pitch sites are usually located some distance from the carpark
- No showers or flushing loos on-site
- Lots of rules around what gear you can take on-site
- No electric hook-ups
3 – Wild Camping
Photograph of my tent set-up when wild camping and hiking The Gritstone Trail
As the name suggests, wild camping is all about getting right back to nature and freestyling it in the wilderness. If you prefer your own company and you’re happy to carry everything that you need in a rucksack, wild camping could be a wonderfully cathartic experience that you’ll love.
In the U.K., wild camping is only legal in certain areas of the Dartmoor National Park and in Scotland. So, if you plan on pitching your tent anywhere else in Britain or Ireland, you will need to ask the permission of the landowner before you do so.
The idea of wild camping is that you pitch up a small inconspicuous 1 or 2-man tent late in the evening, sleep, and then pack-up and leave again the next morning. You do not pitch a 6-man tent, complete with inflatable sofas, and stay for a week!
Before you set off for your adventure in the countryside, do some online research and plan your trip. I also suggest that you check out online communities where you can ask other wild camping enthusiasts for their recommendations for suitable locations.
Unfortunately, wild camping has garnered a rather tarnished reputation of late thanks to thoughtless and irresponsible people pitching illegally and leaving litter and mess behind, which poses a threat to livestock and the environment. So, if you do try wild camping, you must leave nothing behind. Take your rubbish with you, including food waste, and leave the place looking exactly as you found it.
Although the image of sitting by a campfire watching the sun setting is a romantic one, don’t light fires, which could present a serious safety risk, especially during hot weather when the grass is very dry. Also, if you take your dog with you, ensure that you can keep him/her under control at all times, especially if you’re camping close to livestock or crops, game birds, and nesting wild bird species.
- Peace and quiet away from crowds
- Getting back to nature
- No campsite rules and total flexibility
- Illegal in many areas
- Carparking can be problematic
- No on-site washing or toilet facilities
- No on-site power hook-ups
4 – Glamping
Photograph of a camping pod.
If you like the idea of staying in the countryside and enjoying the experience of camping, but you don’t fancy “roughing it,” glamping could be for you.
Essentially, glamping involves booking a pre-pitched site, so you don’t have the hassle or expense of taking and pitching your own tent.
You can choose a yurt, teepee, bell tent, treehouse, eco-pod, shepherd’s hut, or even a safari tent for a quirky twist on the glamping experience. Some sites have multiple pitches, whereas others have only one or two small shepherd’s cottages. So, you can choose to go with the crowd or enjoy peace and solitude.
When you go glamping, you can expect to enjoy the creature comforts of a B&B or hotel but surrounded by the Great Outdoors and with the simplicity and nostalgia of a traditional camping experience. Essentially, you can forget about leaky groundsheets, camping stoves that won’t light, and wrestling with tent poles in a howling gale.
Your lodging usually contains a bed, cooking facilities, a form of heating, and washing facilities as a bare minimum. Many offerings have a comfy indoor seating area, complete with a log burner and a kitchen. Usually, you get electricity and free wi-fi. Most glamping accommodation also has a loo and shower facility, either inside the lodging or in a self-contained unit outside.
To complete the authentic camping experience, you usually get a firepit, barbecue, and outside seating, all set amid cracking views and peaceful countryside or even within a pebble’s throw of a beach.
- Luxurious accommodation and excellent facilities
- Electricity and often a free wi-fi connection
- No tent pitching required
- No expensive gear required
- Choose from solitude or a community setup
- Expensive compared with other forms of camping
- Generally, not dog-friendly
- Quite strict rules usually apply to glamping sites
Which one is for you?
Whatever your preference, there’s a camping experience to suit you.
If you like the idea of freestyle camping away from the madding crowds, then wild camping is probably your bag. However, if you prefer the comfort of a few other folks around you and you want proper loos and showers, then campsite camping could be the way to go.
Music lovers and bohemians who don’t mind roughing it and going with the flow tend to go for festival camping. But if you like your creature comforts in a camping-style setting, glamping is definitely the best option for you.
For me personally, I enjoy a mix of campsite camping and wild camping. What’s your favorite camping experience? Let me know in the comments box below!