Premium

A pitch and a pint: 20 great British campsites with a pub nearby

Two people around a camp fire
From Hampshire to the Highlands: 20 of the best campsites Credit: Jay Williams

This article has an estimated read time of 14 minutes 

I have tried to be a hunter-gatherer camper. You know, the fleece-wearing Bear Grylls type – ­tutoring little ’uns how to arrange campfire kindling in tepee form, whilst rustling up the perfect paella. But fleeces make me itch, and the less said about my ­paella the better.

For me, the attraction of camping in Britain lies partly in the pub. Cornwall, Pembrokeshire, the Lake District – eating local, timeless dishes in these destinations is an integral part of the travel experience. Elsewhere, though, the drink’s the appeal – the characterful old bars of the Highlands, Norfolk and Yorkshire overflow with history and legend.

The tipping point arrived one chilly evening at Smithy Fields Campsite in the Peak District; the distant sound of clinking glass and laughter from The George – a lovely 400-year-old coach house – proved too tempting. Three pints, one slow-cooked Derby­shire lamb, and a Bakewell pudding later, I decided camping and pubs went together like, well, three pints, one slow-cooked Derbyshire lamb, and a Bakewell pudding.

If heaven exists, let it be like the Bridge Inn’s beer garden in Herefordshire; with a small footbridge covered by weeping willows, and a tinkling river below. All within a 30-second walk of the pub’s camping field. Another favourite is Clachaig Inn (near Red Squirrel campsite) – a historic Highland drinking den with a sign banning “Hawkers and Campbells”. After a day tackling Glencoe, there’s nothing more satisfying than a single-malt in front of the fire.

'camping and pubs go together like beer and crisps' Credit: Lorne Campbell

Therapeutic qualities aside, the other benefits of a campsite local should not be underestimated. Not only can you travel light, but shelter is afforded when the weather turns, and you will be supporting a rural economy. But most of all, a night spent in a good pub is the best way to get to know the locals.

So, here I raise a glass to some of the UK’s finest campsites, all within staggering distance of a great boozer. These are sort of watering holes where you’ll pop in for a quick half and find yourself, quite unexpectedly, settling in a cosy corner for the whole day. Just make sure you remember the way back to camp...

By Andrew Day

20 best campsites with nearby pubs

1. The Secret Campsite, Lewes, East Sussex

The Secret Campsite near Lewes Credit: Christopher Pledger

Grab a wheelbarrow, load up your gear and follow the grassy path to the car-free camping meadow: a safe, sprawling space encircled by ancient hornbeam and oak trees. Walk for 20 minutes along the dismantled railway line (linking the campsite to the village of Barcombe), and you are rewarded with The Royal Oak – a handsome pub with original features and a roaring open fire.

Adults £20, children (3-16 yrs) £10, under-3s free (Brickyard Farm, Cooksbridge N8 4TD; thesecretcampsite.co.uk)

Olivia Walmsley visited The Secret Campsite last weekend... 

After an easy 90-minute drive from humid, overcast east London, Jonny and I arrived at dusk, gulping in great lungfuls of the crisp evening air as we unpacked the car. 

Our home for the first night was the Gridshell (which looked straight out of George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces – in fact, the designer, whose studio is on site, has appeared on that very programme). A green pod-like structure on a wooden platform with space for extra tents in front, the pitch is surrounded by tall grasses, flowers, trees (some shaped into an elegant arch over a wooden picnic table) and terrifically triffid-like cardoons. Tim Bullen, the owner, is passionate about encouraging wildlife on the site; and the planting has been designed for that purpose. So, you’ll share the spacious 18-pitch site – each area secluded from other groups – with giant crested newts, adders, slow worms and nightingales. 

Olivia and Jonny in the garden of The Royal Oak pub in in Barcombe

The next morning, we left the Gridshell (equipped with beds and lights) and pitched our tent (not so well equipped; we’d forgotten torches) in a private patch of meadow and went exploring. We’d planned a fry-up over the campfire, but as the mercury nudged the 80s opted to change tack. Our destination instead was The Royal Oak (harveys.org.uk/pub/royal-oak), just revamped with its own skittles lane – good fun if the weather turns on you, I imagine. Our ploughman’s lunches were generous: great doorsteps of local cheddar and nutty Mayfield and a mildish Brighton Blue, ham from a nearby farm, good bread and chutneys. Perfect fuel for a walk and a dip in the river at nearby Barcombe Mills. 

The next day it rained, for hours. So after a soggy fry-up under a dripping awning, we took refuge at the cosy Five Bells pub, a 45-minute walk away. We returned to London with a cardoon to plant (thanks, Tim!), and renewed gratitude for the great British pub.

2. Great Langdale Campsite, Cumbria

Our writer visited Great Langdale Credit: Lorne Campbell

Peering out from your tent each morning at the mist-shrouded Langdales is worth the pitch fee alone. Eight miles from Ambleside, this is a typical National Trust location: well-organised, efficiently run, and with just the right facilities. Great Langdale also comes up trumps in the “proximity-to-pub” stakes, too. Sticklebarn Tavern, New Dungeon Ghyll and Old Dungeon Ghyll provide fuel for ramblers, and are all within a 10-minute walk. 

Pitches £10-26 (including one adult, one tent, and vehicle). Extra adults £6, children 5-15 £3, under-5s free (Great Langdale, Ambleside LA22 9JU; nationaltrust.org.uk/holidays/great-langdale-campsite-lake-district)

Tom Ough visited Great Langdale this month...

There are three things that should be off-limits to drunk people, and those are, in ascending order of severity, driving, texting exes, and assembling tents. My God. Putting up a tent is fiddly enough as it is. When you’re drunk, the experience is a nylon nightmare.

I dread to think how my night would have gone if I’d had to go through that. I’d been on a walk in the north-west part of the Lake District, and with the day fading into early evening, had arrived at a campsite in Great Langdale. Fringed by trees and surrounded by craggy fells, it would have been a beautiful place to enjoy the last few hours of daylight. But I wouldn’t know, because I went to the pub.

One of the views near Sticklebarn pub, Cumbria Credit: Lorne Campbell

So I guess the decision for Great Langdale’s would-be camper, arriving after a walk, is thus: a) proactively construct the tent, a process which, as discussed, sucks; b) swing back your foot and wallop that can 1,200 yards down the road, which is the exact distance between the campsite and closest pub.

It’s called Sticklebarn, and it’s a rustic former farm building that’s now a busy and scenic National Trust pub. It has a hearty food menu and a voluminous drinks selection. It’s ideal for walkers who, like me, feel a great sense of post-hike entitlement to a cold lager and a hot meal. It’s so ideal I suspect many a traveller has deferred their tent assembly to come here, have a few pints, and then stumble back to the darkened campsite to find, with horror, that their tent is still deep within its bag.

I’d wangled a princely wooden sleeping pod, so all I had to do on returning to the campsite that evening was noisily and clumsily unlock the door and unroll my sleeping bag. So my lessons is this: just go to the pub and leave the rest to the professionals. Unlik e your tent, you’ll be in good hands.

3. Ashbourne Woods, Devon

Fox-Leonard visited Ashbourne Woods Credit: Jay Williams

Choose from pre-erected bell tents, pods or pitch your own tent on this secluded woodland site flanking Dartmoor. Set across 68 acres, it’s a back-to-nature experience: rabbits, deer, badgers, foxes, hedgehogs and owls are among the cast. Facilities are pretty simple (showers, lavatories and coin-operated washing machines) and campfires aren’t so much permitted as encouraged. A 10-minute walk leads to The Church House Inn – one of England’s oldest pubs. Beams hang above antique furniture and fires flicker in fireplaces that seem to demand a spit-mounted pig.

Semi-wild pitches £19, extra children 3-13 £4, under-3s free. Bell tents from £35 per night, pods £45 (Ashbourne Farm, Rattery TQ10 9JZ; ashbournewoods.com)

Boudicca Fox-Leonard visited in June...

Swigging from a bottle of Sainsbury’s champagne, I watched guiltily as my boyfriend Harry squinted through the smoke to tend the campfire. Arriving at Ashbourne Woods in Devon had been so easy. We’d been allowed to drive right up to our gipsy wagon, nestled into its own woodland glade. With no heavy bags to carry or tents to pitch, I’d been the Devil making work for Harry’s idle hands. 

My own were feeling a bit gnarled from a day climbing on Dartmoor. Type 2 fun: the sort where it only feels like fun in hindsight. 

Camping is the essence of Type 2 fun for me; burnt food, late-night walks to have a wee, backache in the morning. Climbers have a reputation for being “dirt bags”, but if I’ve been hanging from a wall by my finger tips for most of the day, then a chilled glass of wine and a proper meal doesn’t seem like the height of decadence.

So news that the Church House Inn in the village of Rattery was a decent pub with less than a 10-minute approach, made this tired climber happy. 

Church House Inn - one of England's oldest pubs Credit: Jay Williams

We crossed a tree lined meadow, through a rickety gate and turned left until we spotted the church spire. The main Grade II* listed longhouse of the Church House Inn dates back to 1028 and the recently refurbished restaurant makes the most of the aged oak interiors. The bar retains an egalitarian air; packed with chatty locals.

We sat in the garden with a bottle of Viognier. Sadly, it seemed to have spent as much time outdoors as we had. I dropped ice cubes into my glass, and scoured the menu for veggie options (I know). A baked camembert to share and a veggie rogan josh and spinach and ricotta ravioli would have to beat a tin of baked beans back at the ranch.  

Every last scrap of the fine food brought out to us was eaten while we drained the last drops of sun from the sky. And as we meandered back to our wagon, the wine having done its work, if you’d asked me, “What Type of fun?”, one would have won.

4. Fallow Fields Camping, Kent

Fallow Fields Camping

Pitches at this spot, a 10-minute drive from the historic town of Sandwich, are nestled between apple, pear and cherry trees. Yoga and bushcraft lessons are on offer; and they’ll take you coastal foraging under the White Cliffs of Dover. Facilities are basic – lavatories, showers and fire pits to hire – and there’s a small shop. Like many village pubs with bedrooms, The Five Bells (one mile away in Eastry) is now more B&B, but at its heart remains a traditional inn. Landlady Mary encompasses the true spirit of a welcoming host, even driving tipsy tenters back to Fallow Fields.

Weekend camping (2-night minimum) adults from £9, children (3-17 yrs) £6, under-3s free (Selson Farm, Drainless Road CT13 0EA; fallowfieldscamping.com)

5. Wold Farm Campsite,  East Riding of Yorkshire

Wold Farm Campsite

 Green fields tumbling down to isolated beaches await at this farm campsite. Bag a sea-view pitch enjoying views over sheep-filled fields to both Flamborough lighthouses – ideally on a night with a full moon. Take the campsite’s private footpath to the chalk cliffs – turn left for RSPB Bempton Cliffs and its fabulous sea birds (puffins, gannets and skuas), or right for the caves and rock pools at Thornwick Bay. Given the site’s remote location, there are a surprising number of pubs nearby. Try The Seabirds Inn, in Flamborough – a well-regarded local serving excellent fish and chips.

Pitches from £16. Additional adults £6, children 3-15 £3 (Bempton Lane, Flamborough YO15 1AT;  woldfarmcampsite.com)

6. Alde Garden, Suffolk

Alde Garden  Credit: Craig Girling

What was once a derelict pub garden is now an eco-friendly campsite, with ducks to feed and a brilliant jungle shower in the trees. Choose from bell tents or a restored gipsy wagon, or grab one of just four tent pitches under the apple trees. The family-run site offers its own off-licence service from the Camra award-winning Sweffling White Horse – a rare pub without a bar. Ring at the back door and pick up local cider to enjoy by the campfire.

Single pitches £18 per night, doubles £29, glamping from £135 for 2 nights (Low Road, Sweffling IP17 2BB; aldegarden.co.uk)

7. Dunes at Whitesands Camping, Pembrokeshire

Dunes at Whitesands Camping

Set back from Whitesands Bay – a popular surfing beach – Dunes is what estate agents would call “prime location”. But with just 15 pitches set in five acres of long wild grass (each with its own picnic table and firepit) competition is fierce, so book ahead. It’s a pleasant 30-minute walk to St Davids, where, in the shadow of the 12th-century cathedral, you’ll find The Bishops – a Welsh boozer, serving local lobster, crab and mackerel.

Camping from £30 per night, children 5-15 £4, under-5s free (Craig-Y-Mor, St Davids SA62 6PT; dunesatwhitesands.co.uk)

8. Red Squirrel Campsite, Argyll & Bute

British landscape doesn't get much more beautiful than Glencoe Credit:  Getty Images /Ulrike Schmitt-Hartmann

Dwarfed by towering peaks, this 20-acre site is a great base to explore Glencoe. Follow the overgrown trail to the end of the campsite and you can pitch on an isolated island. Weary walkers flock to the Clachaig Inn – a legendary pub with a sign at the door banning “Hawkers and Campbells”. Order Stornoway black pudding washed down with single-malt whisky, and plan your next adventure. Muddy boots welcome.

Adults £12.50, children (under 12) £2 (Glencoe, Argyll PH49 4HX; redsquirrelcampsite.co.uk)

9. Moor View, Somerset

Sitting atop the Mendip Hills with far-reaching views over the Somerset Levels and Glastonbury Tor, the four bell tents feature proper double beds with sprung mattresses, vintage storage trunks and a wood-burning stove. Outside is a large hammock, the perfect spot for stargazing. The stone-built Queen Victoria in Priddy is a 10-minute walk away, and combines good food with a homely vibe. 

£90 per night, children 2-15 £10 (Pelting Drove, Priddy BA5 3BA; moorview.camp)

10The Bridge Inn, Herefordshire

The Bridge Inn

Set on the banks of Escley Brook near the Brecon Beacons, this is a pretty, peaceful site. There are camper van pitches by the riverside, two-man spots on a grassy terrace and, for families, the top terrace – a sunny circle bounded by trees. Campers descend on the adjacent 16th-century pub via a footbridge lined with weeping willows (journey time: approximately 30 seconds). The menu changes regularly: try the Escley-side pie. On warmer days nab a seat outside and sip your Butty Bach to the sound of the river. 

Adults £10, under-12s £5 (The Bridge Inn, Michaelchurch Escley HR2 0JW; thebridgeinnmichaelchurch.co. uk)

11. Farrs Meadow, Dorset

Farrs Meadow

The emphasis at Farrs Meadow, overlooking the Stour Valley, is on tent camping (apart from a few shepherd’s huts and yurts for the squeamish). There’s a strong eco vibe: the camping meadow is car-free and facilities include piping-hot showers and composting loos installed in upcycled horseboxes, and cattle troughs converted into washing-up sinks. Wild swimming in the Stour river makes this a special destination. It’s a 10-minute stroll to the National Trust-owned Vine Inn, a tiny pub in a former bakery.

£25 per night, including one tent and two campers (Cowgrove Road, Wimborne Minster BH21 4EL; farrsmeadow.co.uk)

12. Abberton Shepherds Hut, Worcestershire

If tent camping isn’t your look, try the Hut. Sitting in a private corner of a 260-acre working farm, this green- painted hut was constructed from a single ash tree that blew down. Walk through the stable door into a beautifully designed interior, featuring redwood floors and a handcrafted kitchen with Belfast sink, hob and fridge. Guests can strike out to the The Old Bull; a half-timbered affair that inspired “The Bull” in The Archers. Order a cider, then gawp at the huge Thirties-style inglenook and photographs signed by cast members.

£100 per night. Additional children 1-16 £10 per night (Manor Farm, Pershore WR10 2NR; abbertonshepherdshut.co.uk)

13. Smithy Fields Camping, Derbyshire

There’s no Wi-Fi and limited phone signal, but you’re here for the scenery. Hillsides littered with stately homes and drystone walls beckon, and the Dovedale Valley is easily reached. The village of Alstonefield is 100 yards away. The George, an 18th-century coaching house, epitomises fine dining. 

Small pitches £20 per night, large £25. Pitch includes electric, 2 adults, one vehicle (Lode Lane, DE6 2FY; smithyfieldscamping.com)

The campsite is within easy reach of Dovedale Valley Credit:  Getty Images Contributor/Alan Copson

14. Granary Barn Camping, Cornwall

Easy-going owner Tom is hospitality personified and lives on site. There’s an informal attitude to pitches: three fields offer ample space. From the campsite you can cycle to Skinners brewery in Porthleven, or try The Ship Inn – a 17th-century pub offering sea views and amazing sunsets that’s worth the one-hour trek. In fact, it’s so close to the coast that in winter waves can crash over the roof.

Low/high season camping £3/£7 per person (Nantrisack Farm, Helston TR13 0AE; cornwall-backpackers.co.uk)

15. Sango Sands, Highlands

The viewing platform on the cliffs above Sango Sands Credit: Andy Stothert

You’re free to wild camp on any of Scotland’s white-sand beaches, but if you want something less hardcore, Sango Sands offers wild views with added facilities. Brilliantly placed on cliffs above a Blue Flag beach, this 10-acre camping institution offers flat fields for tents, while caravans and campervans can inch right up to the Atlantic. There are several lavatory blocks, hot showers and the site’s Oasis bar is an obvious choice for food.

Adults £9, first child 5-15 £6, second child £3, under-5s free. £4 for electric (Durness, Sutherland IV27 4PZ; sangosands.com)

16. Dot’s Camping, Hampshire

You have to get in on the action quick at Dot’s Camping – it is only open for a few weekends in July and August. Slung across a flat field by the River Avon, and trimming the western edge of the New Forest, Dot’s boasts a stellar location. This is not the place for round-the-clock entertainment – so no music after dark – and facilities are low-key. Days begin with croissants and filtered coffee brought to site, and campers receive a 10 per cent discount from the Dutch-gabled Bat & Ball pub down the road.

£27 per night, inc one tent, two adults and a vehicle. Children 2-15 £3 (Woodgreen Rd, Breamore SP6 2AE;  www.dotscamping.co.uk)

17. Troytown Farm Campsite, Isles of Scilly

The view from Porth Conger is almost Mediterranean Credit: Shutterstock/Neil Duggan

One of England’s most thrilling sites. With sweeping views of the Atlantic, the site has its own sandy beach. It’s based on a working dairy farm, so the homemade ice cream is a must. The other of life’s necessities is available by the pint at The Turks Head, the island’s only pub, overlooking Porth Conger bay, it might just be the UK’s best beer garden view.

Adults £10.25, children 1-4 £5.75, under-1s free (St Agnes, Isles of Scilly TR22 0PL; troytown.co.uk)

18. Canal Camping, Norfolk

Canal Camping

At the northern tip of the Norfolk Broads, there’s a private canal so you can hire a Canadian canoe (£50 per day) and set off, looking for swans, kingfishers, and elusive otters. Simple, tent-only meadow camping, with hot showers and fresh drinking water. A 15-minute walk, the Cross Keys serves everything from baby back ribs with chips to Sunday roasts and banoffee waffles. 

Adults £12, children 3-5 £6, under-3s free (Honing Road, North Walsham NR28 9PL; canalcamping.co.uk)

19. Fforest, Pembrokeshire

Fforest Camping in Pembrokeshire Credit: Jay Williams

It is all about outdoor living at Fforest Farm, a few miles outside of Cardigan. Bell tents, Kata cabins – half tents, half cabins – and a cluster of geodomes with outdoor kitchens and private Japanese “onsen” are all on offer. Spend days river swimming or kayaking, before drinks at Y Bwthyn; a 200-year-old former stone-and-slate farmworker’s cottage, now a tiny pub.

Six-night festival camping for 2 adults £610. Onsen geodomes from £344 for two nights (The Lodge, Cilgerran SA43 2TB; www.coldatnight.co.uk)

20. Cotswolds Camping at Holycombe, Warwickshire

In a field where a Norman castle once stood. There are lavatories, hot showers and a camping kitchen, but the clinchers are the stone circle and labyrinth – a nod to the site’s impressive history. The Norman Knight (a 15-minute walk), is a classic Cotswold pub.

Adults £10, children 12-18 £5, no children under-12 (Whichford, Warwickshire CV36 5PH; cotswoldscamping.com)