Good camping is all about simple outdoor living, nestling up to nature and imbibing lungfuls of fresh air. Its perfect complement is wholesome and hearty food straight from the land. Increasingly campsites are enjoying a symbiotic relationship with local farm shops and gastro pubs.
“There are more decent pubs than ever in the countryside and more farms are spreading their wings and offering camping during the summer months, which gives farmers a ready-made market for their produce,” says Tess Carr, co-author of The Happy Campers (Bloomsbury, £14.99).
We pick out some of the best foodie campsites in the UK and serve up Britain’s first good food and camping trail which you can follow in about a week from Sussex to St David’s on the Welsh coast.
If you’ve worked up an appetite but don’t want to do the hunter-gatherer thing Blackberry Wood (01273 890 035; www.blackberrywood.com) campsite at the foot of the South Downs in Sussex is, according to the Cool Camping guide, the coolest site in Britain and only a 40-minute walk to The Jolly Sportsman in East Chillington, where you can expect to pay a lot more than your night’s pitch for dry-aged Angus rib-eye with garlic sauce and hand-cut chips. But it’s a real treat when you’re camping.
Feather Down Farm (01420 80804; www.featherdown.co.uk), near Alton in Hampshire, is one of a group of about ten farm’s across the UK which offers cosy-rustic camping with a ready-made pitch and, in this case, the owner’s ready-made organic meals; the likes of pork and cider and lamb tagine are made in “Anna’s Kitchen” using local farm ingredients. In each tent there is a wood-burning stove for old-fashioned cooking and a coffee grinder - coffee beans are on sale at the farm shop. The farmer’s recipe suggestions are on hand, too, such as beetroot with meatballs and nettle soup using ingredients from the farm shop.
Harrow Wood Farm (01425 672487) near Christchurch in Dorset is a peaceful site which has separate fields for caravans and tents. Its food connection is the nearby Three Tuns Inn (01425 672232; www.threetunsinn.com), a pretty thatched-roof dining pub that offers an innovative menu featuring local produce, such as wood pigeon wrapped in ham with watercress pesto. Not your typical camping fare. On summer afternoons, barbecues on the terrace offer steaks and fish kebabs.
Abbey Home Farm (01285 640441; www.theorganicfarmshop.co.uk), near Cirencester, Gloucester is an award-winning organic farm that sells its own vegetables and meat as well as offering carefully-selected produce from further afield. As well as a green and pleasant tent camping field there is an “eco-camp” where four yurts complete with cooking gear and compost loos are secreted in the woods. If, or rather when it’s wet, the farm’s laid-back café is warmed by a wood-chip boiler and serves simple seasonal rustic fare such as broad bean, feta and mint salad, split-pea and celeriac soup, and organic wines and beer. There are also cookery classes for teenagers in the Green Teaching Kitchen.
You won’t find yourself short of the main ingredients for breakfast or a ploughman’s lunch at Caerfai Farm (01437 720548; www.caerfai.co.uk), in Pembrokeshire, Wales, which is home to a cheesemaker of cheddar and caerphillys. Rise early to beat the queues outside the farm shop on a summer’s morning. Gather freshly baked bread and croissants, organic bacon and sausages, free-range eggs and farm-produced organic cheeses made with un-pasteurised milk. Take it back to the pitch and enjoy the sweeping coastal vista with your meal.
Further north, Low Wray is a National Trust campsite, near Ambleside, in the Lake District (www.lowwraycampsite.org.uk), with some idyllic pitches overlooking Lake Windemere. Ten minutes up the road at Barngates is the Drunken Duck Inn (www.drunkenduck.co.uk) where the friendly ambience and supreme views are trumped only by a menu rich in top-notch, locally-sourced produce and beer brewed on the premises. Be sure to book.
Plump langoustines from the Western Coast of Scotland may seem extravagant to campers, but the Wee Campsite at Dunrovin, in Wester Ross, (01520 722898) is only six miles from the Kishorn Seafood Bar (01520733240), which serves some of the freshest and most affordable seafood that you’re likely to find anywhere in the UK.