Camping is one of life’s great dividers: you either love it or you HATE it. If you fall within the former group, you’ll know that camping can be liberating, empowering and the perfect antidote to the stress of modern life. But what happens when get your kids into the mix? Family camping for the first time can feel like a (terrifying) leap into the unknown, but if you get it right it can be a fun holiday that is brilliantly inexpensive way and memorable – in the best possible sense.
When planning your trip, make sure that the campsite is family-friendly and that you have a sectioned tent big enough to give plenty of room for organising your equipment, and ultimately preserve your sanity. And remember, the kids will be so excited about sleeping in a tent, cooking outside and exploring the site, you won’t need lists of activities to keep them occupied.
Here are six of the best family-friendly places for genuinely happy camping...
Coombe View Farm, Devon
Just one mile from the unspoilt coastal village of Branscombe, this East Devon camp site is nestled within sloping lush green fields and has a distinctly relaxed and family-friendly atmosphere. It's an easy stroll to the beach, and the farm is home to a menagerie of wildlife, including Exmoor ponies and Kune Kune pigs. When you’re not on the coast, or marvelling at the local flora and fauna, the Mason's Arms pub in Branscombe provides the perfect retreat. <em><a href="http://www.branscombe-camping.co.uk">Coombe View Farm</a>, 01297 680218; pitches from £16 a night for a family of four.</em>
Comrie Croft, Perthshire
This site is adored by plenty of campers who come back again and again for the unpretentious vibe. Nestled into the south-facing foothills of a 3000ft mountain on the edge of the Highlands, the Croft’s camping philosophy is simple: wild camping in unspoilt surroundings, but decent facilities and (crucially) hot showers. You can buy marshmallows and sausages from the site shop for your campfire and the surrounding woodland provides the perfect natural playground and great for exploring. Other family-friend activities include nature trails, bike rides, fishing and fruit picking. Comrie Croft also has five Swedish kata tents are the ultimate back-to-nature camping experience without the hardship. <em><a href="http://www.comriecroft.com">Comrie Croft,</a> 01764 670140; adults £7-£9 per night children under 16 £3.50-£4.50</em>
Caffyns Farm, Exmoor
Spread over a 160-acre mix of secluded and open fields, the Caffyns Farm campsite sits pretty on one of the most stunning coastal landscapes that Exmoor has to offer. There’s riding from the farm’s own stables or you can hire bikes and camp fires are allowed, complete with panoramic views of Lee Bay. The site boasts nine main fields, three of which are perfect for family camping as they are close to all facilities, well sheltered, and completely enclosed, giving the kids ample room to play so that you can relax. And for 2013 there are water standpipes in the fields and as well as electric hook-ups. <em><a href="http://www.exmoorcoastholidays.co.uk">Caffyns Farm</a>; 01598 753967 </em>
Jerusalem Farm, West Yorkshire
Want to get right back to nature? How about a natural reserve at Luddenden Valley in the heart of the Pennine Yorkshire? This is a place where the kids can go wild – in every sense of the word. They can build dens, learn a little about birds and plants, and it’s also the perfect base for cycling and country walks. Jerusalem Farm is the place for families who want to spend their nights under canvas nestled amongst some of England’s most spectacular landscapes. Whatever time you choose to climb into your sleeping bag, you can be assured that you'll fall asleep to the crackle of open fires and woken by the chirping of birdsong. <a href="http://www.ukcampsite.co.uk/sites/details.asp?revid=4336">Jerusalem Farm</a>, 01422 883246; £6 per adult per night, £4 per child (5-15)
Cornish Tipi Holidays, Cornwall
While die-hard canvas dwellers might consider it cheating, these pre-erected tipis are just the job if you're an inexperienced camper keen to give it a go with the family for the first time. The site near St Kew in Cornwall is set around an old quarry, with clusters of tipis dotted amongst 16 acres of idyllic Cornish countryside, and a deep lake ready to that you can explore by boat or even swim in. Life is also made easier because so much of the equipment is provided, with everything from groundsheets to glossy magazine-worthy Turkish rugs and lanterns, as well as kitchen equipment, a cool box and camping stove. In fact all you need to bring is your sleeping bags and a sense of adventure. <em> <a href="http://www.cornishtipiholidays.co.uk">Cornish Tipi Holidays</a>, 01208 880781; from £485 a week for mid-sized tipi (sleeps two adults,and two young children) </em>
Porth Joke, Cornwall
An excellent name for an excellent campsite. “For a young family who want a simple seaside holiday in totally unspoilt surroundings and with nothing more than the sea, sand and surf to fill their days, then Porth Joke cannot be bettered,” writes <a href="http://www.coolcamping.co.uk/"><em>Cool Camping</em></a>. “The beach at Porth Joke has good surf, clean sand, is completely undeveloped and is never packed. Perfect.” We can’t argue. This is seaside camping at its very best, and while you are only a stone’s throw (or more accurately four miles) from the surfing metropolis that is Newquay, you’d never ever know it. <a href="http://www.treagomill.co.uk">Porth Joke</a>, 01637 830213; Adults £7.50-9.50 per night; children under 14 £4.50.