It might be the start of all the fun and excitement of your next caravan holiday – or it could prove a disaster. Choosing the right caravan site for you and your family is likely to make all the difference between success and failure, heaven and hell.
The perfect campsite is likely to be an extremely elusive find. Caravan owners tend to be a pretty special group of individuals, so choosing a campsite for your caravan is likely to reflect that huge range of personal tastes, holiday locations and the kind of atmosphere that different sites may have.
There are nevertheless a few tips which may help it easier for you to make the choice from the huge range of sites in this country and abroad. We’ll even suggest a few of the caravan sites in this country that are open all the year round.
Choosing the right campsite is likely to be a question of choosing the campsite that best suits you – and your family’s – particular wishes.
Home or away
Probably one of the biggest attractions of towing a caravan is having your own home on the move. With a fully-equipped caravan and a suitable towing vehicle, it really is the open road, leading to wherever you may choose.
But that open road may still keep you reasonably close to home – if you are new to the whole adventure of caravanning or simply choosing not to travel too far, for instance. On the other hand, a short hop across the channel may open the doorway to more different and more distant fields anew.
A small collection of islands they may be, but the British Isles hold plenty of contrasts and variety to attract seasoned caravanners year in and year out. The Caravan Club has a large searchable database, organised by the various regions throughout the UK, of approved campsites.
If you are more adventurous at heart and want to see more far flung places, you might want to take your caravan abroad with you. Thanks to it being an island, Britain is a gateway for a surprising number of offshore destinations – as the Camping and Caravanning Club points out, for example, ferries from the UK serve Orkney and Shetland, and the Channel Islands and further afield to Ireland, Belgium, Denmark, Holland, France, and Spain.
To tour or not to tour
You may be towing a touring caravan, but that does not mean that you need to stay on the road every day if you choose not to.
It all comes back to that carefree freedom that caravanning offers – decide to stay more or less in one place and you have with you all the comforts of your own second home; decide to spend more of your time touring and you still have that home to retire to at the end of each and every day.
Deciding whether you want more of the one than other may be one of the key tips to choosing a campsite for your caravan – or, indeed, a whole sequence of campsites.
Activities and events
If you like to combine holidays in your caravan with a variety of activities and events it clearly makes sense to base your choice of campsite on one that offers easy access to your chosen activities and pastimes.
Walking and cycling may be among the most popular activities for those visiting the countryside or coast in this country and in Europe.
Some guides, for example, make particular point of selecting campsites that offer the ideal springboard for exploring the countryside in the UK from bases in some of the most beautiful locations the country has to offer.
One such guide is published by the National Trust, which highlights a whole range of activities from walking and cycling, to running and climbing, canoeing and surfing – and even something called geocaching (a type of GPS-driven treasure hunt).
Caravanning has a way of bringing together a host of elements that make it ideal for a family holiday. Some sites make it their business to be especially family-friendly and it is these that you may want to look at in the first instance.
Choosing a campsite, therefore, may be oriented towards exactly the kind of holiday your family may be looking for:
- choose a traditional bucket and spade adventure for the tinier tots; or
- a sports and adventure activity fest for slightly older children;
- organise your holiday to take in a few historical and educationally rewarding visits; or
- simply kick back and enjoy a few days away with the children whatever their age.
The website Pitchup.com lists nearly 2,500 family-friendly campsites throughout the UK and Ireland that have been particularly recommended by other families and the searchable database allows you to choose between sites according to the ages of your children or the activities in which they may be interested. Netmums.com offers a similar listing, together with some helpful tips for those new to camping and caravanning with children.
Getting away from it all
Does all the talk of activities, adventure, and excited children tend to put you off the whole idea of caravanning?
If so, your choice of a campsite for a caravan is likely to be dictated by your ability to escape the madding crowd for a little piece of the bucolic English countryside you might almost call your own.
There are, indeed, a number of such campsites – making the focus of their attraction the fact that they are small (many with room for no more than five touring caravans) and tucked away in the quieter corners of the countryside.
Small campsites such as those recommended by the appropriately named website Small Campsites or the small, handpicked Certified Locations reserved for members of the Caravan Club are specifically intended to provide peace, quiet and a relaxed atmosphere in a rural setting.
When choosing a campsite for your caravan, therefore, it may be helpful to return to very first principles by recognising that the campsite of choice is just that – your choice. That personal choice is likely to depend on a host of factors, such as whether you are looking for a holiday in this country or in Europe, whether you want a touring holiday or one that involves rather less travelling, whether you want access to activities and adventure, or a holiday for the family – or simply the chance to get away from it all and enjoy a little peace and quiet.
Our Caravanning for Adults guide details some of the quieter places you may wish to visit.
Open all year-round sites for caravanners
It seems that the caravanning season if often over before it even got started. As the seasons blend into Autumn’s mists and mellow fruitfulness, that doesn’t stop us hardy caravanners who enjoy a trip the whole year-round, however.
And the growing number of campsites that remain open 12 months of the year make Autumn and Winter caravanning every bit a delight as it is in the balmier days of Spring and Summer.
So, here is our brief round-up of just some of those all-year-round sites you might want to visit.
South of England
The more temperate climate of the South of England makes touring with your caravan a perfectly reasonable prospect at any time of the year – even in mid-January.
The Caravan and Motorhome Club’s site at Brighton is just two miles from the bustling town itself and nestled in a quiet fold of the beautiful South Downs. It’s likely to prove the perfect spot for touring the whole of the southeast of the country.
With a total of 212 pitches (129 of which are on hard standing) to choose from, the winter months are, of course, likely to be the quietest.
If you want to enjoy the truly rugged landscapes of North Wales during the Autumn and Winter, you’ll find Plas Farm Caravan Park open all the year-round.
All touring caravan pitches are on hard standing and have electric hook-up, allowing you to choose between standard, premier, and super standards of luxury.
For exploring, try the inviting North Wales coastline or head west into the majesty of Snowdonia National Park.
The Peak District is beautiful at any time of year, so take advantage of the all-seasons opening times at Lickpenny Caravan Park, in the heart of the Derbyshire Dales, overlooking the village of Tansley, with both Matlock and Bakewell nearby.
The 16-acre site has hard standing pitches for all its visiting touring caravans – and the washroom blocks are fully heated to keep you warm and snug even in the height of winter.
North of England
There are so many scenic spots to visit in the North of England – with the Northumberland coast to the east and the Lake District to the west probably the most travelled.
So, why not make a change and head towards the historic city of Chester? Just 12 miles away, you’ll find Elm Cottage Touring Park is open all year round and a handy base for exploring the whole of this part of England. Oulton Park Motor Racing Circuit is just a mile along the road.
All 35 touring pitches are on hard standing and supplied with a 10amp electric hook-up.
Take a trip north of the border to visit Scotland’s magnificent capital. Edinburgh is much more than its famous festival in the summertime. For a special Yuletide, why not visit its many Christmas markets – and stay on for probably one of the nest New Year’s Eve parties you’re likely to encounter.
Linwater Caravan Park is perfectly situated for those wanting to explore the city at their leisure. It is just 4 miles away from the Ingliston Park & Ride scheme, where you can hop on one of the regular trams into the heart of Edinburgh.
We hope these tips and destination ideas have proved useful in your search for the right camping and caravanning site for you. Happy caravanning!