15 December 2022
Camping is an inexpensive way to holiday in the UK with your children. There are hundreds of campsites across the UK that vary in price and facilities ranging from grassed tent pitches with a shower block to catered glamping pods on sites with neighbouring attractions.
But is there a way to take your children on a camping holiday for free?
Firstly it is important to note that, what is known as free camping where you pitch up a tent anywhere outside of a designated campsite, is illegal in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. But this is with the exception of Dartmoor.
In some areas of Dartmoor, it is legal to pitch up a tent and camp for a maximum of two nights if it is part of your walking route. You must only camp in these areas, which can be seen on an interactive camping map that you can find on the Dartmoor website. If you stay in these zones with your children you must make sure you have camped at least 100m away from any road where you can’t be seen and you must not leave any trace of your visit.
It is also legal to wild camp in most areas in Scotland. However, due to overuse, areas such as The Trossachs National Park and Loch Lomond now have wild camping bylaws which prohibit wild camping unless part of a designated campsite. On the VisitScotland website, you will find a list of recommended areas in Scotland to get the best wild camping experience.
There are several campsites in the UK that offer an ‘almost - wild’ camping experience where you and the kids can pitch up a tent on the edge of the camping zone. If you are looking for a one to two night immersive camping experience where the kids can really connect with nature then these pitches will be perfect.
Known for its mountain bike trails Tackeroo Campsite is set deep within woodlands. This campsite is as close to wild camping as you will get as there are no facilities on-site, meaning you will need to bring your own chemical toilet to camp here. Although not free, it is relatively cheap with a pitch for 8 people costing around £20 in low season.
If you want an almost wild camping experience with a view then Sweet Hill Farm in Dorset is the place to go. This family-friendly campsite only offers 60 pitches, but each has a perfect view of the sea and you can choose where in that field you want to pitch your tent. The facilities are sparse, with only a compost toilet and cold water taps available. To set up camp here it will cost around £30 for a pitch that sleeps 6 people.
Wild Camping Cornwall offers the perfect almost wild camping experience if you and your family want privacy. There are only 4 pitches available and all are spaced out so you truly feel like it is just you alone with nature when you camp here. An added bonus to this camping experience is the fire pit. Each pitch comes with a fire pit and a bag of logs on entry so you can sit around the fire with the kids and gaze at the stars. This campsite is only open from July to September.
Don't forget that you can always set up a tent in your own garden, or a friend of relative's garden. This may be a good way to get young children used to the idea of sleeping in a tent.