Types of campsites
Campsites come in all shapes and sizes and the choice can be awesome. Here we introduce some different types and explain how you can find some good ones.
Club Sites – simply the best
The Camping and Caravanning Club has more than a hundred of the best sites in the UK. The Club’s network of sites covers the entire British Isles from Inverewe Gardens in the Highlands of Scotland to Sennen Cove near Lands End in Cornwall and from St David’s in Wales to Suffolk’s Kessingland and Delamont Country Park in Northern Ireland. Most Club Sites have full facilities – including toilets, shower and laundry facilities – and the Club’s Holiday Site Managers have a reputation second to none when it comes to keeping those facilities clean and in tip-top condition.
You can book a pitch at a Club Site through the National Contact Centre (call 0845 130 7633) or by contacting your chosen site direct. Club members can also take advantage of an online booking system. You can also book ahead to your next Club Site when you stay at another.
Look and book UK campsites
Certificated Sites - small sites with something special
The Club has about 1,300 small campsites all over UK, exclusively for Club members.
These Certificates Sites (or CSs) can accommodate up to five caravans and motorhomes and most also welcome tents. CSs are not normally sophisticated sites. All that is required is sufficient space, a clean drinking water supply, dustbins for the disposal of dry rubbish and a point (often under a simple manhole cover) where chemical toilets can be emptied.
You’ll find some CSs tucked behind pubs, in vineyards and beside small museums. They are regularly inspected by Club volunteers to make sure they continue to adhere to our high standards. And there’s also an annual competition where members vote for their Best CS of the year.
Find Certificated Sites with our online campsite directory
Camping in the Forest – Woodland camping at its best
The Camping and Caravanning Club has formed a joint enterprise with the Forestry Commission to form Camping in the Forest, which offers more than 20 beautiful campsites in Britain’s forests and woodlands.
These campsites are some of the most beautifully located anywhere in the UK. If you’re looking for a real chance to get back to nature, to camp in the heart of Britain’s countryside, then try out a Camping in the Forest site.
Temporary Holiday Sites (THSs) – Great value camping
Unique to the Camping and Caravanning Club, Temporary Holiday Sites (THSs) are campsites hosted by members for members.
The Club has many groups, some based locally (known as District Associations), others covering larger areas (Regions) and some supporting members with specific interests (Special Interest Sections).
Many of these groups run THSs, often lasting a few weeks. They can be in places where a campsite may not normally be permitted (in a National Park, for example) or close to a special event (like the Edinburgh Tattoo or Bristol Balloon Festival).
Wherever they are held, these sites offer incredible value camping. Where else could you stay on a site by the beach in Cornwall for less than £15 in high season? You need to be a Club member to stay at a THS, but once you’ve joined you’re welcome to pitch up at any of them.
Find out more about Temporary Holiday Sites
Club member? Search for THSs using O&A Online (you will need to login to access it)
Commmercial campsites – so many to choose
There are thousands of commercial campsites in Britain. They range from huge holiday camps to delightful small, quiet sites in beautiful locations. Which kind you choose is very much a personal decision. Do you want a bar? A restaurant? A club for entertainment in the evening? A swimming pool? If the answer to these kinds of question is ‘yes’, then you will probably pick one of the larger chains of caravan parks. At the other end of the scale you can find, for instance, a tiny site on an otherwise uninhabited Scottish island where drinking water comes from a spring and the ferry calls every Tuesday. The choice is yours!
The Camping and Caravanning Club produces a comprehensive campsite guide – known as Your Big Sites Book– that includes about 2,500 commercial Listed Sites. These are not officially recommended by the Club, but Club volunteers visit each of them to ensure they meet basic health and safety standards for campsites before their first listing.
Find Listed Sites in our online campsite directory
Many of the bigger sites will carry star ratings – five ticks, four roses, three thistles, two stars, one pennant … you’ll recognise the style. Sometimes these gradings can be confusing. Most are based on the campsite’s facilities rather than how well they, or indeed you, are looked after. So a small site with no swimming pool may never be able to achieve five stars, even if the owners or wardens have made it the perfect holiday spot, while a large, badly-run, holiday park can still boast five stars, however hideous the holiday experience.
Over the years you’ll find your own favourite sites and in our experience there are many factors more important than star ratings when it comes to judging a site.
Sites that don’t last forever
Farmers and other landowners will often establish a campsite for a brief period when demand for camping is high. This demand may be seasonal or it may be more closely related to a local event. A traction engine rally, for instance, or a carnival or village fête and these can give an excellent opportunity to camp in otherwise unexploited locations.
For short stays in high season these small unregulated sites meet a real demand. Find yourself a riverside pitch behind a quaint country pub. What could be nicer, and if it only lasts a few weeks in mid summer, so what? Just enjoy.
Wild camping – is it allowed?
In Sweden everyone has the right to walk in the countryside and also to camp where they like, within reason (Allemansträtten). We view things differently here in Britain. Some people take the risk and in lesser-populated parts of the country you may well get away with it, but it’s not to be recommended.
The law says you may not camp in England, Wales or Northern Ireland without the landowner's permission, with one exception. Wild camping is permitted in parts of the Dartmoor National Park.
In Scotland things are quite different and as part of Scotland's land access legislation you can camp on most unenclosed land.
But with any wild camping comes responsibilities and the basic principal of ‘leave no trace’ applies.
If you want to try wild camping in other countries, check out the legislation before you go. In most places it isn’t allowed and local police often take a dim view of foreign tourists abusing their hospitality.
For many people their first taste of camping will be at a rock festival or some other kind of outdoor music gathering. Thousands head for the Glastonbury Festival every year, bringing with them basic camping gear, a caravan or motorhome.
A simple two person tent, a couple of sleeping mats, two sleeping bags, a lantern and a stove can all be purchased for the price of one night in a half-decent hotel. After the event you’ve got the camping kit to keep for future use – and probably plenty of ideas on how to make your stay better next time…
Everything we’ve said about the various kinds of UK campsite here is generally reflected in Europe. France, for example, has hundreds of small farm sites and many vineyards and local cheese makers will have a few pitches for visiting campers, particularly those keen to sample and buy local produce. Some European sites are huge. The largest Italian campsites can have several thousand pitches and that style of camping has reached some new destinations growing in popularity with campers such as Croatia. The large French campsites, often based in popular coastal resorts, can offer huge and exotic swimming pool complexes, fine restaurant dining, supermarket shopping and just about everything else a camper needs for the holiday of a lifetime.
Today it’s easy to find a great campsite overseas. Contact Carefree, the Club’s international travel service, and its friendly advisors can help you through the maze of ferries, insurance and campsites.
Find out more about camping abroad with Carefree
Look & Book campsites
Look & Book campsites
Now that you've seen a selection of types of campsites, why not visit our online campsite directory to find the best campsites on offer - the ideal opportunity for you to demonstrate your expertise with your family, and to find the best campsites across the country and beyond.