From RAF site to caravan park, best in Wales, where’s the new National Park, caravanning in France and other caravan news
Are you ready yet? Is the caravan still laid up for winter? Or have you given it a thorough spring cleaning ready for a new season of outings?
As your planning for those initial outings is underway, you might want to catch up on some of the latest news about caravans and caravanning in the year ahead.
Caravan site could be built on former RAF site near Bridgwater
New life could be breathed into the disused airfield once known as RAF Westonzoyland (now called Spring Way Farm), in mid-Somerset, thanks to plans submitted by the Caravan and Motorhome Club.
The local Bridgewater Mercury newspaper revealed that the Club has applied to transform the site into a park for touring caravans. It would offer 20 pitches on hardstanding created from locally quarried loose stone chippings.
The reception area, washrooms, and offices would be built by converting an old barn that currently sits on the site.
An additional feature of the proposed site is a large storage compound for more than 400 caravans where washdown facilities would be installed to let owners clean and hose down their caravans while in storage.
A decision on the proposed development plans is expected imminently.
The campsites and caravan parks named the best in Wales
Campsites in Wales have long been firm favourites with the caravanning community. But there are many to choose from and you might have wondered where you will find the best sites. A comprehensive survey by Wales Online recently will give you plenty of food for thought.
Citing the recent Camping and Glamping Awards, the news outlet identified Silver Fern Glamping, in Ceredigion, as the Best Newcomer and the Living Room Treehouses, in Powys, as offering the Most Unique Site.
Included among the regional winners of Best Campsite and Caravan Park and Campsite Awards were:
Best Caravan Park
- Erwlon Caravan and Camping Park, Carmarthenshire;
- Meadow Springs Country and Leisure Park, Powys;
- Abbey Farm Caravan and Camping, Denbighshire;
Best Family Campsite
- Folly Farm Holiday Park, Pembrokeshire;
- Cwmdu Campsite, Powys;
- Cae Lal, Gwynedd;
Best Campsite Awards
- Oaklea, Pembrokeshire;
- Cwmdu Campsite, Powys;
- Tros Y Waen Holiday Park, Gwynedd.
Search underway for England’s new National Park
On the 19th of January, the Camping and Caravanning Club reminded the readers that the government last year initiated a search for England’s next new National Park.
No decisions have yet been taken although candidates to become the eleventh English National Park are the current Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) – also known as National Landscapes – in the Cotswolds, Chilterns, Devon, and Dorset.
Scotland and Wales are also each slated to designate new National Parks – taking the total to sixteen such parks in the whole of the UK.
Understand the rules for caravans in France
As you are planning your touring caravan outings for the year ahead, you could well look forward to a trip or two across the Channel to France. In that case, our Guide to caravanning in France might provide a timely reminder of what that might bring.
The English-language newspaper, The Connexion, on the 25th of January also carried an update regarding some of the critical differences you will encounter when towing your caravan in France:
- the definition of a caravan determines where and for how long you can park a touring caravan – up to three months in any one year on a designated campsite;
- the weight of your caravan and its Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM) is as important in France as it is in the UK – and penalties are stiff if you exceed the permitted towing weight (on-the-spot fines of €135 for every 500kg that your caravan is overweight);
- except for especially large or heavy caravans, your UK driving licence is still valid for use in France;
- it goes without saying, of course, that no passengers are allowed in a caravan while it is under tow.
If you are planning to take your caravan to France, it will be prudent to check any last-minute changes to the rules on the eve of your departure.
How often has someone tried to convince you that the favourite destination in their caravan outings is a place that “has it all”?
Winchester is just that kind of city. With its captivating and unique blend of history, natural and architectural beauty, and many cultural delights, Winchester is high on the list of seasoned caravan enthusiasts for weekend breaks and even longer holidays.
Admirably situated in the heart of the county of Hampshire on England’s central south coast, Winchester is readily accessible by motorways from London, the Midlands, the South West, and practically any other part of the country.
So, let’s dip into some of the treats you might like to visit once you’ve arrived.
The towering spires of Winchester Cathedral – among the largest Gothic cathedrals in Northern Europe – hove into view well before you reach the city itself. But it’s the cathedral’s 900-year history that probably impresses most visitors to an iconic building that was founded in 1079 – and remodelled in Norman, Renaissance, and Gothic styles throughout the following five centuries.
Jane Austen landmarks
The Hampshire to the north east of the city is very much Jane Austen country and Winchester is where she died – with a final resting place in the cathedral itself.
The year 2025 marks 250 years since the birth of Jane Austen.
A walking trail through the city takes in the house on College Street where she once lived – and wrote the short poem Winchester at the Races – to the site in the cathedral where she was laid to rest at the tender age of just 41.
King Arthur, the Round Table, and King Alfred
Rightly proclaimed as “the greatest symbol of medieval mythology”, a 12th-century representation of the legendary gathering place for the knights of King Arthur’s Court the Round Table hangs in the Great Hall of Winchester Castle.
While you are tracking down the many landmarks of the medieval mythology of King Arthur, Winchester’s rich history reminds you that this is also the home of King Alfred the Great. At just 21 years of age, the young Alfred was crowned King of Wessex, with Winchester as his capital. He consolidated his kingdom to become the effective first king of England. You can pay your respects to him today by visiting his magnificent bronze statue erected in 1901 and proudly facing down the Broadway.
The unique history of Winchester features in the Cathedral, the mythology of King Arthur, and the legends of King Alfred. But it is also shaped by the long-established presence of one of England’s foremost public schools, Winchester College.
Founded in 1382 and occupying its present location since then, Winchester College is cited as the oldest continuously operating school in the country.
The school has an illustrious roll call of alumni, including Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. Perhaps best of all, however, is that parts of the College are open to the public – in particular, the museum and Treasury (housed in a magnificent medieval building) that house many of its most precious treasures.
Set on the edge of the rolling South Downs National Park, Winchester snuggles among some of the finest countryside in southern England. But you don’t even need to leave the city to appreciate some of those wonders of nature.
The scenic water meadows are accessed directly from the High Street and take you on a gentle stroll around some of the hidden secrets of the City. The trail follows the River Itchen. One of the best times to appreciate the walk – some 3.6 miles (5.8km) and which will typically take less than two hours – is through the gentle mists of early autumn. These are the scenes that inspired Keats’ poem To Autumn – and the famous reference to the “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”.
Markets, shopping, food, and drink
Best not to run away with the sense that Winchester is defined only by its history, culture, literature, nature, and countryside walks. It is also the modern, bustling, and vibrant county town and administrative centre for the county of Hampshire.
Winchester Market in the centre of the city is held every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, while a Hampshire Farmers Market is also held on the second and last Sunday of each month.
Throughout the city, you will find historic and atmospheric pubs, cosy cafes, and a whole array of restaurants and fine dining opportunities.
In short, Winchester offers a delightful blend of history, culture, natural beauty, and a vibrant atmosphere. Whether you’re interested in history, literature, or architecture, or simply enjoy exploring quintessentially English towns and cities, Winchester is sure to captivate your imagination.
Updated February 2024
- 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. 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.
Before we dive in, just a reminder that opening times and facilities etc. may change due to any ongoing Covid restrictions. So please do check directly with the venue and camp sites.
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 arranged around major themes such as Theme Park, Waterpark, CBeebies Land, Extraordinary Golf and the Alton Towers Dungeon. There is also an adult spa there too.
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;
- 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 over 30 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 over 30 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;
- 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.
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;
- Certified by the Camping and Caravanning Club, Willows Farm 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;
- 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.
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.
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 situated in Kirby Hill near Boroughbridge, and 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.
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;
- 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.
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;
- 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.
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 but 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;
- Jasmine 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).
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.
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.
The 2024 Caravan Camping & Motorhome Show, upgrade for Totnes caravan park, expansion plans for Cornish campsite, Swift deals
It’s the New Year and is time to showcase all that’s new in the world of caravanning! We take stock of the forthcoming improvement and expansion of selected campsites, eye some attractive discounts on brand-new trailers, and create a list of the best caravans that 2024 has to offer.
Let’s take a closer look at some of these exciting news headlines.
The 2024 Caravan, Camping, and Motorhome Show
A highlight for practically anyone with an interest in caravans and camping has to be the annual Caravan, Camping, and Motorhome Show. This year’s event opens from the 13th until the 18th of February – as usual under the spacious halls of the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) just outside Birmingham.
You can browse the five bustling halls to your heart’s content or use the exhibition as a literal one-stop shop for all your caravanning or motorhome needs – from the latest launches of trailers, vehicles, and accessories galore.
Caravan park upgrade approved for year-round use
Thanks to recently approved upgrades and improvements to the Caravan and Motorhome club site at Totnes, this popular caravan park can now open for a full 12 months of the year.
According to a report by the BBC on the 30th of December, South Hams District Council approved the conversion of the present grass pitches to 47 all-weather pitches for caravans and motorhomes – each pitch with its own water and electric hook-up.
The park’s washrooms and facilities will also be refurbished – with energy-saving solar panels installed on the roof of the block.
Bid to expand campsite in Cornwall with 40 caravan pitches
Meanwhile in neighbouring Cornwall, plans are afoot to upgrade the Higher Penderleath Caravan and Camp Site into a rebranded “resort” and an extension of the present facilities to incorporate 40 year-round pitches for touring caravans.
According to the local newspaper, the Falmouth Packet on the 27th of December, the established campsite near St Ives has been in operation for a number of years but now needs refurbishments that will bring it into the 21st century.
The site’s owners insist that modernisation and expansion can take place in a way that remains in keeping with the surrounding landscape of the area.
New adventures await with Swift
Best act soon to take advantage of the New Year offer from caravan manufacturers Swift!
In deals that remain open until the last day of January – and only while stocks last – Swift is offering the following discounts and deals on new caravans:
- £1,000 off the price of the luxurious, 8ft-wide Elegance Grande;
- £1,000 off both Challenger Exclusive and Challenger Grande Exclusive caravans, together with the inclusion of attractive additional accessories (available at selected dealerships only);
- £750 off Challenger SE and Challenger Grande SE caravans;
- £500 off the perennial family favourites – the Sprite, Sprite Compact and Sprite Grande;
- a free RVA2 awning (worth £795) with your purchase of the compact, “crossover” caravan, the Basecamp.
Practical Caravan reveals its best caravans for 2024
Choosing your next caravan can be fraught with indecision and more than a degree of nervousness. To help dispel some of those worries, in its edition of the 20th of December, Practical Caravan offered thumbnail reviews of what it considers the best seven caravans for the coming year:
- Swift Challenger Exclusive 580 – for its excellent specification;
- Bailey Phoenix GT75 762 – admirably adaptable to suit any family;
- Coachman Laser Xtra 665 – for the comfort of its long single beds;
- La Mancelle Fantaisy 360 CL – a generous payload of 442kg and lots of kit;
- Coachman Laser Xcel 850 – spaciousness includes a well-equipped kitchen;
- Xplore 304 – great value for money; and
- Knaus Yaseo 500DK – for its space-saving ingenuity.
Practical Caravan has made a start with these suggestions though you will probably want to create your own wish list of candidates.
Updated January 2024
Introduction: why buy a touring caravan?
There are many reasons for buying a touring caravan – here are just a few of them:
- perhaps the first reason many people give is the simple freedom of being able to travel to holiday in any place you choose at any time staycations are certainly more popular than ever;
- a tourer gives you the chance to explore and discover different parts of the UK or abroad; it gives you the flexibility of enjoying your holidays in a different place each time – unlike a static caravan or second home;
- you are able to pack up and go at a moment’s notice, with a spontaneous decision – even if it is a day or two just locally;
- because many touring caravan sites are in picturesque locations, you might get to enjoy stunning scenery right on your doorstep;
- there is the chance to meet new people from neighbouring caravans or those on the same campsite;
- it may be a sociable way to take a holiday with a group of friends or family, knowing that you are all able to sit around with a glass or two of wine with your meals, without anyone having to drive home afterwards;
- the Camping and Caravanning Club – and several other associations for touring caravan owners – frequently hold rallies and other events in different parts of country, where you may compare notes, swap stories, and make friends with like-minded souls;
- towing your home away from home with you is typically much cheaper than paying for a hotel or bed and breakfast – allowing you to pursue your interests, hobbies or sports around the country;
- the initial cost of a new or second-hand touring caravan is generally considered to be an affordable investment;
- there is a wide range of different makes, sizes and models to choose from;
- the return on your investment of course depends on how often you use it, but a touring caravan is more or less permanently ready to hitch up to your car to go;
- rates for storing your touring caravan when it is not in use may be considered to be reasonable and affordable – and may give you the peace of mind of it being kept safe and secure; or you may even be able to keep the caravan parked on your own driveway – provided it is not being used for living in and provided your property has no restrictive covenants preventing such a use of your driveway or garden.
The list of reasons is by no means exhaustive and you may have some others of your own. Whether buying for the first time, or even as a seasoned caravanner buying second hand, however, the actual purchase of the trailer that is likely to suit your and your family’s needs may present a bewildering array of possibilities.
What make and model, for example, is likely to fit the bill? Even when you have homed in on a particular possibility, to what aspects might you pay special attention and consideration? How about the car that you intend to use for towing your tourer – will it be up to the job? And what are some of the most appropriate ways of protecting and looking after your investment?
This Guide will give you some pointers on all of the above, helping you narrow down your choice.
The good news is that there is a huge range of different tourers from which to choose – the less good news, perhaps, is that it may prove quite bewildering choosing the particular make and model that best suits you and your family’s needs, requirements and interests.
It may seem obvious, but this may be the most important rule to keep in mind – you are looking for the tourer that suits your own purposes. However new, imaginative and tastefully designed is the model you are being shown, there is little point in buying it if it fails to meet you and your family’s hopes and expectations.
So, what are likely to be some of the key considerations in making your choice?
The size of tourer you are likely to need is typically determined by the maximum number of people you expect it to sleep – in other words, the number of berths.
This, in turn, is likely to determine the length of the caravan needed to accommodate that number of people. The length might also determine the level of amenities that may be incorporated. In its guide to buying a touring caravan, for example, the Caravan Club points out that in order to make room for its own toilet facilities, the modern caravan needs to be longer than 10ft (3m).
As important as the overall length is the way in which the designers have made optimum use of the space. The layout – and sometimes this is more imaginative and ingenious than others – may make all the difference and may even mean that you may be able to shave off a few feet from the overall length.
The weight of your tourer is likely to be determined by its length and the manufacturer’s choice of construction materials.
Although the weight is going to determine the size and power of the vehicle needed to tow your caravan, bear in mind that this weight might be multiplied several times over if you have packed a lot of kit into it. This is termed the payload allowance and in caravans manufactured since 1999, your caravan’s documentation needs to state the European Standard maximum permissible laden mass (MTPLM).
You may have noticed that some tourers have twin axles rather than the standard single axle. These are likely to be reserved for only the largest caravans which need to support an especially heavy laden weight. In almost every other instance, however, a single axle is perfectly acceptable and makes handling considerably easier.
Principal considerations as far as internal amenities are concerned are likely to focus mainly on the kitchen, shower and loo. The extent to which they are equipped is, of course, largely a matter of taste – and the depth of your pocket – but remember, too, that they all add weight to the trailer you are going to be towing.
The above considerations may already have pointed you in the direction of certain makes and models of tourer. You may already have formed a preference for one manufacturer over another simply through word of mouth or examples you may have seen elsewhere.
When choosing a make, it might be worth reminding yourself once again that the best one is going to be the one that is most appropriate to the individual needs and expectations of you and your family.
Given the relatively long list of considerations that may go into choosing your touring caravan, it may be a good idea to try to test drive a few models and persuade the vendors to let you take a weekend break or two in any of those you are thinking of buying.
Things to check when looking at a caravan
Things you might want to check when looking at any caravan you are thinking of buying are likely to depend on whether it is new or second hand – if it is new, the list may be somewhat shorter or the inspection rather less rigorous than if you are buying second hand.
Caravan Talk has published a helpful checklist for those about to buy a caravan and the points raised may be useful whether you are buying new or second hand:
- ask to look at it in static mode, set up on site just as you might find it pitched during your holiday;
- check the documentation that comes with it – including proof of ownership or the vendor’s authority to sell;
- check the age of the caravan against that declared in any documentation provided by the Central Registration and Identification Scheme (CRiS), the national register for caravan owners, together with any plates or other coding that might indicate the year of manufacture;
- the more documentation you can be shown about the caravan’s history the better. The original handbook and service log, for example, may give a fair clue to it having been looked after by any previous owners;
- when making your external inspection, you are likely to be looking for scratches, bents and other broken surfaces;
- it is also worth taking a close look at all the sealants, taking into account that oil-based sealants may be expected to last 5 years, acrylic 10 years and silicone-based sealants 20 years;
- outside fittings, such as windows, handles, wheels, lights, towing hitch and electrical connections, also need to be inspected carefully;
- the tyres – what are their condition and how old are they?
Chassis and towing gear
- these may prove expensive features to repair, so it repays to check the chassis especially carefully for any signs of corrosion or buckling – bearing in mind that over-enthusiastic use of under-seal might be hiding problems;
- make sure that the hitch moves freely and that the jockey wheel moves freely up and down;
- test the handbrake to make sure that it works effectively;
- on the inside, the principal enemy is likely to be damp in the walls and floor;
- this is the first stage of a rot that may eventually lead to the structure simply falling apart;
- a tell-tale sign is a pervading smell that may mask a host of potential health hazards;
Doors and windows
- just as you did on the outside, check doors and windows are watertight, their hinges are secure and that they open, close and lock properly;
- check any roof vents from the inside and pay attention to any problems causing condensation to form on the inner surfaces of double-glazed windows;
Gas and electrics
- appliances and supply lines need to be thoroughly checked in order to prevent potentially fatal fires or gassing of occupants in future; and
- finally, check all of the fitted equipment, including any fires, water heaters, fridges, cookers and microwaves.
Matching your caravan to your car
Now that you might have your heart firmly set on a particular caravan, you need to match the caravan to your car (or the one you intend to buy) to ensure it is up to the job of towing it. You also need to take into account the rather complicated rules about the weight of the trailer you may tow on your current driving licence.
Your driving licence
The rules are set out on the official government website and changed in December 2021.
The caravan and car combination
Please refer to the new rules coming in to force as described above.
The RAC also has a useful guide to working out towing capacity.
Having settled on the appropriate balance between caravan and towing vehicle, you might also want to ensure that you have fitted to your car the appropriate mirrors to enable you to negotiate all of the hazards you are likely to encounter.
You can read our helpful guide on towing mirrors for more information.
Protecting your caravan
Having found the caravan to satisfy your dreams, matched the car to tow it, spent a fair amount of time and effort to buy it – not to mention the cost of your investment – you probably want to make sure that you are able to protect it the best that you are able.
On this score, one of the most effective means of protection is likely to be tourer insurance.
It might be tempting to think, for example, that the motor insurance you have already arranged for your car is going to cover the risk of loss or damage to any caravan the car is towing.
In reality, your motor insurance is likely to extend only to third party damage caused by your caravan and not to the caravan itself. For the latter, you are likely to need purpose-designed touring caravan insurance. It tends to be a specialist form of insurance about which you might want to consult specialist providers – such as ourselves at Cover4Caravans.
Touring caravans are a special form of insurance risk not only because of the potential for damage to the trailer itself, but also because of the risk of theft of such a mobile piece of property and because of the risk of theft of its contents. Both risks may be covered by the appropriate form of insurance.
Although insurance may be in place, there are still measures you may take to mitigate the risks of loss or damage.
Many insurers, for example, may insist that whenever the caravan is left unattended that a hitchlock is used (if it is still hitched to the towing vehicle) or wheel clamps fitted (if it is not).
Other sensible precautions include paying careful attention to such obvious weak points as windows and doors, by ensuring that they are properly secured when you are away from your caravan for even a short period of time.
For further information, read our Guide to Caravan Storage and Security.
An increasingly widely used security measure is the installation within your caravan of a tracking device. It is purposely unobtrusive and typically hidden within the structure of your caravan, but constantly reports its whereabouts to a central control room – an invaluable service if ever the caravan might be stolen.
When storing your caravan, note that we will provide up to 20% off the cost of your cover if your tourer is stored at a CaSSOA-approved site.
While this is only a brief guide to the considerations you need to make when buying a tourer, we hope it has helped given you some food for thought. Don’t forget to check the rest of our website for further hints and tips.