Updated 3rd February 2017
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Alton Towers
- 3 Thorpe Park
- 4 Chessington
- 5 Drayton Manor
- 6 Legoland
- 7 Blackpool Pleasure Beach
- 8 Lightwater Valley
- 9 M & D’s Amusement Park
- 10 The Milky Way Adventure Park
- 11 Oakwood Theme Park
- 12 Wicksteed Park
- 13 Paultons Park
- 14 Flamingo Land
- 15 Landmark Forest Adventure Park
- 16 Special bonus park: Disneyland Paris
Britain’s theme parks are home to some of the best and some of the biggest in Europe says the country’s tourist authority, Visit Britain. If you want faster, bigger and better rides, therefore, you could do a lot worse than a trip that takes you to a different part of the country yet still only a stone’s throw or two away from your own doorstep.
As with many good ideas for trips away from home, though, finding a place to stay once you get there might be tiresome – not to say expensive – especially if you have one or two youngsters along with you on holiday or a few days break.
That is where you are likely to win hands down, of course if you are able to tow your caravan behind the car, pitch up at a nearby camp site, and make as many forays to and from the theme park as the fancy takes you.
This guide offers a tour through some of the country’s most notable theme parks, identifying not only where they are and what they have to offer, but also identifying some of the caravan sites within easy striking distance of each park.
Alton, Staffordshire, England
Since its opening at the beginning of the 1980’s the theme park at Alton Towers has grown in size, added still further attractions and become perhaps the best known of all the UK’s parks.
It is situated on an extensive site – now including a water park in addition to the rides – set in the Staffordshire countryside, easily accessible from either the M1 or M6 motorways.
Perhaps best known for its innovation when it comes to the rides – and roller coasters in particular – Alton Towers is arranged around ten major themes, each given a distinctive name: Cloud Cuckoo Land, Forbidden Valley, Gloomy Wood, Towers Street, Katanga Canyon, Dark Forest, Adventure Land, X-Sector, CBeebies Land, and Mutiny Bay, in addition to the historic Gardens and Tower.
Places to stay
- The Star, a Camping and Caravanning Club site, in Alton itself, has a bus stop right outside and a short ride from there to Alton Towers – there are pitches for 195 caravans;
- Also just half a mile outside the village of Alton, and 2 miles from the theme park itself, is the much smaller Lower Micklin Touring Park, with 10 hard standing and 5 grass pitches;
- Occupying 16 acres on the edge of the Peak District National Park, Hales Hall Caravan and Camping Park offers the best of both worlds – the relaxation of a country setting with views over the old market town of Cheadle yet still only a 10 minute drive away from Alton Towers;
- Described as being only a few minutes’ drive (3 miles) from Alton Towers is the Cross Inn pub and caravan site – in addition to hardstanding pitches for your caravan, the onsite pub boasts a carvery and extensive menu for those times when your own galley seems like just too much work;
- All grass pitches are offered at New Broom Camping and Caravan Site where its two acres offer probably more basic accommodation for you and your caravan, yet still just four and a half miles from Alton Towers.
Chertsey and Staines, Surrey, England
Thorpe Park Resort – to give it its formal name – is only 20 miles from the capital and access from junctions 11 and 13 of the London orbital M25.
In the midst of an otherwise completely built-up conurbation, Thorpe Park’s advertising slogan is “an island like no other”. It opened in 1979 and is currently under the same ownership as Alton Towers.
Thorpe Park currently boasts a total of 27 rides – seven of them roller coasters and five of them water splashes.
Places to stay
- At the Camping and Caravanning Club Site Chertsey you are spoilt for choice when it comes to theme parks – not only Thorpe Park, but also Legoland and Chessington are all within just a stone’s throw away;
It may be just a 30 minute train journey from central London, yet the location beside a peaceful stretch of the River Thames gives it a calm and relaxing ambience;
It is a large site, too, with around 150 pitches, so you are more likely to be successful when making a booking;
- The Caravan Club’s Crystal Palace Site is, of course, even closer to central London – yet set in pleasantly leafy surroundings nonetheless – and within easy striking distance to Thorpe Park;
The site has a total of 89 pitches, 60 of them on hard standing;
- Just a 30 minute drive away (about 20 miles) from Thorpe Park is the small family run caravan site of Amerden Caravan and Camping Site on the banks of the Thames at Dorney Reach, Maidenhead.
Kingston upon Thames, Surrey, England
Practically everyone knows it simply as Chessington, but its full title is Chessington World of Adventures Resort and, so, has a somewhat better ring about the thrills on offer.
It lies just 12 miles southwest of central London in the borough of Kingston upon Thames. Although currently under the same ownership (Merlin Entertainments) as both Alton Towers and Thorpe Park, it has a somewhat longer history, opening first as a zoo in 1931.
The adventure park opened in 1987 and was to all intents and purposes the very first theme park in the country. Today, it boasts a total of 33 rides – four of which are roller coasters and two water splashes.
Places to stay
- The Camping and Caravanning Club’s site at Walton on Thames is one of the oldest to bear the Club’s name and Chessington can be reached in just 40 minutes or so by bus – a distance of just over six miles;
- The club also has a site at East Horsley in Surrey, which is around 12 miles from Chessington or 43 minutes by train and bus – with some 130 pitches, the site is open from the end of March until the beginning of November;
- Head out towards Lingfield in the Surrey countryside and you are still only around 25 miles (a 36-minute drive) from Chessington at Long Acres Caravan and Camping Park – a family run site with both hard standing and grass pitches;
- It may be small – only 5 pitches – but Willow Tree Farm Campsite is only a four-mile drive away from the Chessington World of Adventure;
- A similarly small site – again, only 5 pitches – is in Cobham, Surrey, at the Woodlands Court Farm Certified Site, a distance of around six miles from Chessington.
Tamworth, Staffordshire, England
Drayton Manor is a theme park near Tamworth in Staffordshire, situated in a massive 280-acre site which was once the estate of Drayton Manor, in a village called Drayton Bassett.
It is estimated that around a million and a half people visit the theme park every year and it has a number of unique rides – the only stood-up roller coaster in Europe, for instance – and the five-sided drop tower called Apocalypse.
The park is fully open from the middle of March until the beginning of November, but also has occasional open days from late November until the end of January.
Places to stay
- You are unlikely to get your caravan much closer to the theme park than the Camping and Caravanning Club’s site at Drayton Manor – it is right next door, and offers 90 pitches, both hardstanding and grass, with and without electric hook-ups;
- Ashdene Farm Certified Site is a small, but equally well-placed site in Drayton Bassett for touring caravans;
- Certified by the Camping and Caravanning Club, Willows Farm can accommodate only 5 touring caravans at a time, but is conveniently placed in nearby Tamworth, a mere stone’s throw from the theme park at Drayton Manor.
Windsor, Berkshire. England
Legoland can be found just outside the royal town of Windsor in Berkshire.
The park is themed, of course, around the building toy for children and was opened in 1996 on the site of the former Windsor Safari Park. When it opened it was second only to its original home, Lego Billund, in Denmark.
In terms of visitor numbers Legoland at Windsor – which attracts more than two million a year – is second only to Alton Towers and is designed to attract children between the ages of 2 and 12 in particular.
Places to stay
- Practically on the banks of the Thames, Hurley Riverside Park caravan and camping site is just 11 miles from Legoland and merits a listing on the official website of the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead;
- Scotlands House is a caravan site specially selected and certified by the Camping and Caravanning Club in its category of privately run sites accommodating no more than five caravans in quiet and peaceful setting – it is nevertheless only a 10 minute drive from Legoland;
- A further possibility, still in the Windsor area, is another family run site for up to five caravans at the Queen’s Acre Caravan and Campsite;
- Legoland is open all the year round, of course, so you might also want to choose a caravan site that stays open just as long – your choice might be Newtonside Orchard campsite, in nearby Old Windsor, just five miles away from the theme park.
Blackpool Pleasure Beach
Blackpool, Lancashire, England
Amusement parks tend not to come more traditional or with such an illustrious history as Blackpool Pleasure Beach, situated on the appropriately named Ocean Boulevard in Blackpool, Lancashire.
It is billed as the country’s most famous theme park and carried away first place in 2014’s Top 10 Amusement Parks awarded by TripAdvisor. According to the website Wikipedia, it is the most popular tourist destination in the country, attracting an estimated five and a half million visitors a year.
Places to stay
- Blackpool South is a Caravan Club site about five miles due east of the Pleasure Beach – it offers a total of 95 pitches, all on hardstanding;
- Kneps Farm Holiday Park is 7 miles from Blackpool and 2 miles from the coast at Cleverleys – it is a family owned and run caravan site aiming to offer peace and quiet, with all pitches on level hard standing, all with electric hook-ups;
- Eastham Hall Caravan Park is less than 5 miles from Blackpool in the seaside town of Lytham St Annes, where this caravan park is open from the 1st of March to the 1st of December – it offers 28 nightly touring pitches for caravans (13 of which are described as “super pitches” with your own personal water tap and a 16 amp electrical hook-up, whilst the 15 standard pitches have a 10 amp electrical supply).
Ripon, North Yorkshire, England
If you are after one of Europe’s firsts, you might want to visit Lightwater Valley theme park in North Yorkshire for the The Ultimate – the continent’s longest roller coaster ride.
The park can be found at North Stainley in North Yorkshire and is, in fact, one of the country’s longest established venues which opened as long ago as 1969. Today it has more than 40 rides and incorporates a novel “Angry Birds” park, falconry centre, shopping village and restaurant.
It boasts more than half a million visitors a year.
Places to stay
- Riverside Meadows Holiday Park is situated just outside the historic city of Ripon in the Yorkshire Dales, on the banks of the River Ure and a little more than four miles away from the Lightwater Valley theme park – it is one of the Flower of May sites in Yorkshire and offers fully serviced pitches, most of which are on hardstanding;
- If you are happy to travel a little further – 40 miles or so in this case – you might enjoy the rugged scenery of Rosedale Abbey on the North York Moors, at another Flower of May site, Rosedale Abbey Touring Caravan Park, before setting off on your day trip to the theme park;
- The two-acre Bluebell Caravan Park is licensed by the local authority but also listed by the Camping and Caravanning Club – situated in Kirby Hill near Boroughbridge, the site is but a short distance from the theme park at Lightwater Valley
M & D’s Amusement Park
Strathclyde Country Park, Motherwell, Scotland
“M & D’s is Scotland’s theme park” goes the advertising tagline – and with good reason too. It boasts more than 40 rides, including five roller coasters, two water splashes, a covered reptile house called Amazonia, ten-pin bowling, a theatre and an amusement arcade.
The roller coasters go by the names of:
- Runaway Mine Train;
- Big Apple; and
M & D’s is near Motherwell, in North Lanarkshire and is open from March until October.
Places to stay
- Only three miles away is the Caravan Club’s Strathclyde Country Park which has 107 pitches, all of hard standing and 12 of which are fully serviced – the park is close to Strathclyde Loch and is open all the year round;
- Blair Drummond Caravan Park may be some 25 miles away but is also conveniently situated for the town of Stirling, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park – the eight and a half acre site has 90 pitches;
- At a similar distance of just over 25 miles is The Woods Caravan Park, near Alva in Clackmannanshire – set in 14 acres of a landscaped site in central Scotland, there are 10 fully serviced pitches;
- The Camping and Caravanning Club has a site at Milarrochy Bay on the eastern shore of Loch Lomond, some 26 miles or so from M & D’s theme park – the site has 150 pitches and is also handily located for day trips into the city of Glasgow.
The Milky Way Adventure Park
Clovelly, Bideford, Devon, England
The Milky Way Adventure Park is situated in North Devon, between Bude (15 miles) in one direction and Bideford (10 Miles) in the other.
The Cosmic Typhoon is Devon’s biggest and fastest roller coaster, but the park also features displays by birds of prey and ferrets, together with a farm and country enclosure.
Places to stay
This being Devon, there is no shortage of sites for touring caravans, so the following are just a very few that you might want to consider when visiting the Milky Way Adventure Park:
- One such is Watermouth Cove Holiday Park, just over 30 miles from the theme park – it has recently installed all weather pitches for touring caravans that include electrical hook-up, TV, personal water tap and grey water waste;
- Just 25 miles away from the theme park, you can also enjoy the rugged pleasure of Exmoor from the Blackcock Inn Caravan Park and Campsite at South Moulton – it is open all the year round and offers 65 pitches, 30 of which are on hard standing;
- Just outside Bude, and an easy striking distance of just 15 miles, you can find the Wooda Farm Holiday Park – in addition to its hard standing and grass pitches, the site also offers both covered and open storage facilities for your touring caravan when it is not in use;
- Some 30 miles or so from the theme park, between Ilfracombe & Braunton, is Hidden Valley, a park offering four different types of pitch for touring caravans, all of which are all weather, supplied with a 16 amp electrical hook-up and on hard standing.
Oakwood Theme Park
Narberth, Pembrokeshire, Wales
Located near Narberth in Pembrokeshire, Wales, is the Oakwood Theme Park which started life in the late 1980s as a small, family-run park with quite limited facilities. Since then it has grown into a major theme park, with a reputation for new and imaginative rides that attract nearly half a million visitors a year.
The park is just off the A40, about mid-way between St Clears and Haverfordwest.
Places to stay
- On the road between Narberth and Tenby, only a few miles from Oakwood, is Croft Holiday Park – it offers both hard and grass pitches, electric hook-ups and grassed areas in between;
- Situated just a mile or so from Narberth is the Noble Court Holiday Park – pitches for touring caravans are within 40 acres of rolling countryside, including a coarse fishing lake;
- Woodland Vale Holiday Park is also just a mile or so from Narberth – pitches are on grass and hard standing, each with its own electrical hook-up;
- The Old Vicarage Holiday Park is close to Tenby, just nine miles or so south of Oakwood – it is open from the 1st of March until early January and can accommodate caravans over 17 feet long by prior arrangement.
Kettering, Northamptonshire, England
Wicksteed Park is said to be the second oldest amusement park in Britain, having been opened in 1921, the result of a bequest by Northampton factory owner Charles Wicksteed.
Since its humble beginnings with little more than a handful of swings for children, the theme park now boasts a total of 26 major rides, including three roller coasters and four water splashes.
The park is located near Kettering in Northamptonshire.
Places to stay
- Wicksteed Park is one of the few theme parks to incorporate a caravan site within its estate so you have nothing but a short walk to start enjoying the rides – pitches are on grass and since you are actually staying on the site, it is easy to qualify for discounted entry to the theme park with a “second day” wristband;
- The Caravan Club’s Top Lodge site in Corby is just seven miles away from Kettering – it is open from March until October, has pitches for 85 caravans (35 on hard standing) and, unusually, has no toilet block on the site;
- Slightly further afield in the south of the county, between Milton Keynes and the county capital, about 40 miles from Wicksteed, is the small but tranquil Ekeney House for touring caravans;
- Grendon Lakes is also near to Northampton (some 12 miles or so from Wicksteed Park), a 30-acre site split into three main areas, and part of a 150-acre amenity, set amidst no less than 12 different lakes.
Romsey, Hampshire, England
A place for all the family, Paultons Park, is a part of a 140-acre estate in the village of Ower, near Romsey, Hampshire.
It has around 60 rides and attractions, a small zoo of around 80 birds and animals, but perhaps its main claim to fame is that it is home to the favourite children’s TV character Peppa Pig.
Although first opened in 1983, it has since grown in size, with new rides and attractions being added almost every year.
Places to stay
- Just as the name suggests, Paultons Campsite is bit a short walk to the main gates of Paultons Park – accredited by the Camping and Caravanning Club, it is purposely restricted to just five touring caravans;
- Also very nearby, in the same village of Ower is Green Pastures Farm, a caravan site which is open from mid-March until the end of October and has the added advantage of being within easy striking distance of the New Forest National Park;
- Only five miles away from Paultons Park and nearer to the market town of Romsey is Hill Farm Caravan Park, set in 11 acres of rolling Hampshire countryside – the owners emphasise that the site has few facilities for keeping children entertained and that is some distance for teenagers looking for any nightlife;
- If you are looking to base your holiday in the New Forest itself, Long Meadow Campsite in Brockenhurst also gives you the option of a short drive of less than 10 miles to Paultons Park.
Malton, North Yorkshire, England
As the name suggests, Flamingo Land began life – in 1959 – essentially as a zoo. The entire park now spans 375 acres and offers a total of 52 rides – nine of which are roller coasters and two water splashes.
Flamingo Land is located near Malton, on the A64, in North Yorkshire.
Places to stay
Close to both the historic city of York and the majesty of the North York Moors, Flamingo Land attracts a number of caravanners to surrounding campsites which include:
- Flamingo Land has their own Holiday Village with a touring field, toilet blocks, electricity pitches, supermarket and laundrette.
- In the village of Slingsby, near Malton (and therefore Flamingo Land) is the Robin Hood Caravan and Camping Park – there are both grassed and hard standing pitches, all of which have water, electric and waste water disposal;
- Vale of Pickering Caravan Park is close to Pickering itself and, so, only one and a half miles from Flamingo Land, as well as the Moors and the coastal resorts of Scarborough and Bridlington – the site’s all weather pitches can be pre-booked and allocated when making a reservation;
- Six hard standing and six grassed pitches may be found at York Meadows Caravan Park, which just as the name suggests is close to the city of York, but still only 16 miles or so from Flamingo Land;
- Jasmin Park is a caravan site located between Pickering and the coast at Scarborough, so only 20 miles or so from Flamingo Land – the all weather gravel pitches are all fully serviced and described as “super pitches”.
Landmark Forest Adventure Park
Carrbridge, Inverness-shire, Scotland
Landmark Forest Adventure Park is within the boundaries of the Cairngorm National Park in Scotland, near to the ski resort of Aviemore.
It offers a range of attractions – for the young, and not so young – such as a trail for “Wee Monkeys”, a Wild Water Coaster, Tarzan Trail, Ropeworx, and Lost Labyrinth to name but a few.
The park opened in 2010.
Places to stay
The rugged beauty of the Cairngorms naturally attracts more than its fair share of caravanners, whose needs are especially well met by sites such as:
- Set in the heart of the Scottish Highlands, the 10-acre Auchnahillin Holiday Park has 45 touring pitches – it is located about 30 miles from the Landmark Forest park;
- Glenmore Campsite is also in the heart of the Cairngorms, near to Aviemore and little more than a five mile drive to Landmark Forest – it offers a huge total of more than 200 pitches for caravans )on both hard standing and grass) and tents;
- Grantown Caravan Club Park is in the Highland’s Speyside and located around 15 miles from the Landmark Forest Adventure Park – pitches are on grass or hard standing and have a 10 amp electrical hook-up and TV.
Special bonus park: Disneyland Paris
Quite right! It is not a British theme park, but Disneyland Paris is still readily accessible after a short hop across the Channel and the name alone still proves a huge draw.
Places to stay
In fact, there are two connected parks – Disneyland Park (which opened in 1992) and the Walt Disney Studios Park (which opened in 2002). In terms of visitor numbers it is the second biggest Disney park in the world, attracting an estimated number of more than 15 million. It is the most visited theme park in the whole of Europe.
The original park has all the attractions and entertainment that have come to be associated with the Disney name, from thrilling, vertiginous rides to real life cartoon characters, across five different and equally magical “lands”. Just as the name suggests, the Studios focuses more on the continuing film making history of Disney.
Disneyland Paris is situated in the new town of Marne-la-Vallée, about 20 miles east of Paris.
Places to stay
- Campsite Caravaning des 4 Vents is just a 15 minute drive from Disneyland (entrance tickets are for sale onsite) and is set in the quiet rural location of Crécecoeur-en-Brie – pitches are large grassed areas;
- A similar distance away, and also on the Ile de France is L’International de Jablines – there are 150 pitches, each with a 10 amp electrical supply and waste water disposal point;
- A 25-minute drive from Disneyland Paris is the caravan site Camping Les Etangs Fleuris, which aims to offer some peace and calm after a hectic day at the theme park – there are shaded and sunlit pitches, each with a 10 amp electrical supply and water.
As big a surprise as the sheer number of theme parks in the UK (allowing for a bonus one near Paris) is the range, standard and choice of places to stay nearby in your touring caravan.
Hopefully, this guide has helped to identify just what goes to make each theme park unique, how it fits into the surrounding countryside and has given a flavour of the amenities and facilities you are likely to find at the many caravan sites mentioned.