Campsites where kids can roam free!
Beddgelert Campsite, Beddgelert, Gwynedd
If you're a family with a dog, you can't beat Beddgelert. Not only is it very dog-friendly, but from this summer they come free. Though bang in the centre of the forest, you're only a five-minute walk to Beddgelert village, complete with a homemade ice-cream shop. The site itself has a kids' playground, a well-stocked shop and an information room that's full of ideas about what to do during your visit. For many families staying here a visit to Mount Snowdon is a must, and a trip on the Welsh Highland Railway, which has a stop at the campsite, is a fun way to spend an afternoon. There's also Go Ape nearby at Dolgellau, and the Sygun copper mine up the Gwynant valley.
You can't stay here without making a visit to the nearby monument to Gelert, faithful hound of medieval Welsh Prince Llewelyn the Great. The monument marks the spot where Gelert is buried; the legend is that the prince killed his dog in error, fearing the animal had killed his infant son. The hound had in fact fought off a wolf to save the child ... but Llewellyn didn't discover this until it was too late.
Open all year; £8.50-£23.50 per pitch per night (two adults plus vehicle), £1.75-£3.50 per child (5-15) per night; 0845 1308224
Arthur's Field Treloan, Cornwall.
One of Britain's best-known family campsites, and deservedly so, Arthur's Field is named after the farmer who originally owned the land, and who opened it up to campers (don't be confused by the website, which uses the site's alternative name, Treloan Coastal Holidays). Families flock to the site, perched on the Roseland peninsula, all year round, but especially during the summer. Every morning, campsite owner Debs rings a bell at the top of the field so that children can scamper up and collect eggs and feed the animals with her; they keep pigs, guinea pigs, chickens and rabbits. That sets the tone for this creative campsite, which makes little ones in particular feel welcome. Arts workshops are alsop popular here, in everything from willow work to charcoal cooking. Wednesday evenings are a big tradition, with gatherings around the campfire for storytelling, songs, poetry and a communal barbecue. Treloan also runs foraged feasts, where campers go on expeditions with a wild food expert and collect food for a banquet that evening. There are three secluded beaches within walking distance; and for a longer day out, you can do the one-hour scenic coastal path to a place called Place, from where you can get the foot-ferry to St Mawes.
Open all year; £13.50-£21.50 per pitch per night (two adults plus vehicle), £3.50 per child (over 4) per night; 01872 580989
Cornish Tipi Holidays, Kew, Cornwall
Each pre-erected tepee at this site near the north Cornish coast is more than 18ft high, so you won't spend your holiday crawling around on hands and knees. The tents are also fitted out with groundsheets, rugs and a lantern, as well as kitchen equipment, cool box and camping stove – you just need to bring your own sleeping bags. With 40 tepees scattered around a wooded 16-acre site, there's plenty of space for families to spread out and enjoy the adventure. This was the first commercial tepee site in Britain, and it is still perhaps the best; at its heart is the crystal-blue lake of Tregildran's quarry, which is ideal for swimming and boating or catching trout, which can then be cooked on a campfire outside your tent.
From £435 a week for a large tepee sleeping four. Near St Kew, Cornwall (01208 880781; www.cornishtipiholidays.co.uk)
Burnbake Corfe Castle, Dorset
Burnbake is devoted to good, old-fashioned fun. The big draw is the woods that surround the site, where children often disappear for hours on end, discovering the joys of swinging on ropes and building dens. Top-of-primary kids in particular have a ball here, living a Swallows and Amazons existence while you chill out round your campfire (off-the- ground fires only), beer in hand. There's an excellent shop on site and a yurt pizza outlet in high season all of you will relish. The beautiful three-mile-long beach at Studland Bay is close at hand, and Swanage has lots of old-fashioned seaside activities including putting, tennis and bowls, and a couple of great fish-and-chip shops.
Apr–Sep; £8-£10 per pitch per night (1 adult plus vehicle), £2-£4.50 per extra adult, £1-£2 per child (3-16) per night; 01929 480570
Red Shoot Camping Park New Forest, Hampshire
Red Shoot is steeped in family life: the present owner, Jaqui Oldfield, is the third generation of her family to run the business. She also has children of her own, so she understands the needs of families. It's a big site – 100 pitches, 46 with electric hook-up – but the joy of this north-western part of the New Forest is that, even in mid-summer, you can walk five minutes from the site and find yourself in a secluded spot that could be miles from anyone. There's a great play area with a fireman's pole and rope and swing bridges, and a well-stocked shop to keep energy levels up. Next door to the site, and closely connected to it, is the Red Shoot Inn which specialises, as you'd imagine, in serving families. Plus, the area positively groans with wonderful days out: Marwell Zoo, Monkey World, Liberty's Raptor and Reptile Centre and the New Forest Water park are all within striking distance.
Mar–Oct; £15-£25 per pitch per night (two adults plus vehicle), £4 per child (3-15) per night; 01425 473789
Pencelli Castle Caravan and Camping Park,Brecon Beacons, Wales.
This meticulously run site is a real treat for children and adults. Thoughtful touches include a bike and boot-wash for guests to clean up after an outing to the nearby Brecon Beacons. There are several fields for children to run around in, and a good playground, plus a nature trail through a deer enclosure and around the vintage farm machinery. The heated washrooms make staying here as comfortable as camping can be, and there is a well-stocked shop.
Adults from £7.50 a night, children £4. Brecon Beacons, Wales. 01874 665451; www.pencelli-castle.co.uk
Gwithian Farm,Hayle, Cornwall
It's only a 10-minute walk through the dunes to the beach from Gwithian Farm, which is a big part of why it's such a hit with families. You can be messing about on the beach by day, and listening to the waves crash on the sand from your tent by night. And there's lots more too: a family-friendly pub directly opposite, a pretty village alongside, and goats and guinea pigs to feed. Visitors give a big thumbs-up to the family bath and shower rooms, and to the cream teas served in the garden of the thatched farmhouse. For evenings when you don't want to cook, a mobile chippy calls in three nights a week and a curry van makes a visit on another evening. A slice of the easy life.
Apr–Oct; £12-£20.50 per night (two adults plus vehicle), £5 per extra adult per night, £2 per child (3-17) per night; 01736 753127
Kelling Heath Weybourne, Norfolk
To the cognoscenti, Kelling Heath is Center Parcs at a fraction of the price: a safe, sprawling space surrounded by miles of woodland and heathland trails, with outdoor and indoor swimming pools and bars and restaurants onsite. There's also a rich programme of kids' events including den-making workshops, junk modelling and storytelling walks. You can hire bikes, play tennis, go fishing and try your hand at archery – and new in 2011 for kids and adults are photography, art, pottery and dance workshops. For stressed-out parents in need of a bit of rest and relaxation, there's a health and fitness club onsite. The North Norfolk steam railway goes through the site (Kelling Heath even has its own stop), and Amazona Zoo in Cromer – with jaguars, otters, spider monkeys and flamingos – is a must.
Feb–Dec; £18-£32.30 per pitch per night; 01263 588181
Forgewood Camping Danegate, Kent
For families who like to go camping as a big group with other families, Forgewood is perfect. There 100 pitches spread over a massive area, so it never feels overcrowded. You're able to park your vehicle alongside your tent (especially good if you're travelling with small kids and a car full of clobber. The site is adjacent to a 300-acre country estate with its own deer park, lake and Victorian follies – so once you've got yourself there, you don't need to venture offsite at all. New this year is an expanded menu in the barn restaurant. For those who do want to explore further afield, though, there's lots to do: Ashdown Forest (home of Pooh Bear's 100-Acre Wood), Bewl Water Outdoor Centre (for cycling, walking and watersports) and a climb up Harrison's Rocks.
Apr–Oct; £12.50 per adult per night/family rate: £10 per adult and £5 per child (3-15) per night; 0772 0290229
Polgreen Camping St Mawgan, Cornwall
If you're after a tiny campsite tucked away down a country lane, with just a handful of other families and virtually everything you need right there waiting for you, Polgreen is the place to go. Situated on the north Cornish coast, it's a 20-minute walk to the beach (complete with surf hire and cafe), and accommodation is in capacious bell tents, with new, five-metre tents for the 2011 season. Polgreen only opened two summers ago, and it's very much an add-on to a working farm – you can tour the lakes to hear all about fish farming, and help feed the pigs. It's open only for a month at the height of summer – check the website for details. As well as your family bell tent, which comes with cooking equipment, there's a communal tent with a sofa, and barbecues with canopies in case of rain. For days out, explore the National Trust beach at Bedruthan Steps, the aquarium at Newquay, the Eden Project or Watergate Bay.
Open Jul–Aug only; from £120 for three nights + £18 per adult (over 12) per night, £10 per child per night, babies free.
Glen brittle,Isle of Skye
If you can make it to the Isle of Skye, and then on down eight miles of single-track road from Carbost, you will be rewarded by this remotest of remote sites just a stone's throw from a long sheltered beach, where the waters are safe enough for even toddlers to paddle. Facilities are basic, but you can collect mussels at low tide and fires are allowed on the beach, which makes for a perfect evening barbecue under inky skies punctured by silver stars. The Black Cuillin hills are nearby for walking and if the weather smiles on you, this truly wild space can provide a magical family holiday.
Adults £5 a night, children £3.50. Isle of Skye 01478 640404; www.dunvegancastle.com
Jerusalem Farm Booth, West Yorkshire
If you're looking for a place where the kids can hang loose, build dens, get close to nature and learn about birds and plants, you won't beat Jerusalem Farm. Nestled in one of the most picturesque wooded valleys in the Pennines, it is an excellent base for cycle rides and country walks. There's a riding school nearby, as well as an adventure playground – but this isn't a site with a huge amount of infrastructure. Rather, it is simply a beautiful place without lots of frills for families who relish roughing it a bit. And if they do happen to tire of the outdoors, nearby Halifax is the home of Britain's first dedicated (and very interactive) children's museum, Eureka, with gadgets and gizmos galore.
Apr–Sep; £5 per adult per night, £3 per child (5-15); 01422 883246
Ardgartan Arrochar, Dunbartonshire
If you have older kids in search of an adrenaline high, this place has it all: watersports, mountain biking and several munros (mountains over 3,000 ft). While the teens are off gallivanting, younger ones can wander the edges of Loch Long or spend all day crab fishing. There's a children's play park on the site, and a cafe that does a brisk trade in bedtime hot chocolate. Kids also enjoy the wildlife – birds and dragonflies are a speciality – but beware the midges. Insect repellent is a must, and can be bought in the onsite shop.
Open all year; £11.50-£25.50 per night per pitch (2 adults plus vehicle), £4-£6 per extra adult per night, £2-£3.50 per child per night ; 01301 702293
Treloan Coastal Holidays,Truro, Cornwall
Situated just above the fishing village of Portscatho on the Roseland Peninsula, this site, also known as Arthur's Field, was formerly run by the inspirational Victor Barry, who harvested his crops using shire horses and vintage farm machinery. It is now in the safe hands of Debbie and Peter Walker, who run it with the same family-friendly ethos, organising get-together suppers twice a week. The sea is within walking distance, the South West coast path runs nearby and there are great swimming spots at nearby Treloan Cove and Peter's Splosh – both much quieter than the madness of Polzeath and Padstow. For children there's a little petting farm with rabbits and chickens to feed, and you can catch the ferry from nearby Place to St Mawes and on to Falmouth for more off-site fun.
Truro, Cornwall (01872 580989; www.coastalfarmholidays.co.uk). Pitches from £13 a night.
Coombe View Farm, Branscombe, Devon
The beach at Branscombe is long and pebbly and perfect for stone-skimming and swimming. It is about a mile and a half down the road from this campsite, which occupies a pretty spot above the Jurassic coast of East Devon. Children are welcome to play in the surrounding fields that aren't occupied by cows and ponies, and they can gather kindling for campfires in nearby woodland. It's a mellow and unpretentious site, with a cricket pitch in the middle where families gather for impromptu games. The excellent Mason's Arms pub in Branscombe is a reliable retreat when you tire of burned burgers. ;
Pitches from £16 a night for a family of four. www.branscombe-camping.co.uk) (01297 680218)
Britchcombe Farm,Farringdon, Oxfordshire
Just below the mysterious White Horse chalked on to the hills at Uffington, this lovely site is a favourite with Druids at the summer solstice. For the rest of the summer it's a place for families to enjoy a spot of rural escapism in one of the loveliest parts of Oxfordshire. The site is run by the formidable Marcella Seymour, who delivers bags of kindling and logs from her Land Rover every evening. This is low-impact camping at its best. Children love the wide open spaces of the fields, and parents love the fact that they can drink a bottle of wine around a real campfire without encountering ludicrous health and safety rules.
Adults £6 a night, children £3. 01367 820667
Rosedale Abbey Country Caravan Park,North Yorkshire
With ropeswings over the nearby river, this site in the North York Moors National Park is a great spot for children who enjoy the challenges of dam-building, tree-climbing and stone-jumping. It's on the banks of the river in a valley surrounded by sweeping moorland. As well as the natural playground there's a large playing field for ball games and a play area with monkey bars and outdoor table tennis. The chocolate-box village of Rosedale is a couple of minutes' walk away, with a fuggy tea room for ice-cream and cakes.
Pitches from £14 a night 01751 417272; www.flowerofmay.com
Barn Farm, Near Matlock, Derbyshire
This site is popular with families as well as ramblers and school groups, who come to explore the footpaths leading into the Peak District. There is plenty of space for exploring on-site too, and an abundance of wildlife, including badgers and deer. It's also a good spot for keen ornithologists, with nuthatches, dippers and peregrine falcons regularly sighted. There is a games room with table football, air hockey and a pool to keep children amused, and Matlock Bath, with its cable car ride and caverns, is only three miles away.
Adults from £7.50 a night, children £3.75. 01629 650245; www.barnfarmcamping.com
The Green Caravan Park,Wentnor, Shropshire
Karen Donohue's family has been running this 15-acre site in the Onny Valley for 21 years, and numerous guests return again and again. The East Onny river runs through it, shallow and gentle enough for younger children to enjoy paddling, and there are little bridges for playing Pooh sticks. Offa's Dyke National Trail is close by and the valley itself lies between the heather-clad Long Mynd and the more dramatic rocky outcrops of the Stiperstones Ridge – great walking country.
£14 a night for a family of four 01588 650605; www.greencaravanpark.co.uk
Campsites collated from: http://www.theguardian.com/travel/2011/apr/16/10-best-family-campsites Joanna Moorhead http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/activityandadventure/5323968/Ten-of-the-UKs-best-family-friendly-campsites.html Clover Stroud