Camping in the U.K.
Camping and campgrounds are a cheap way to spend the night while traveling
Camping is how my family and I spent much of our traveling time the first two years I lived in Europe, hobnobbing with the types of Europeans who had ditched minibars for camp stores, and traded pillow mints for tent poles.
Granted, we actually did most of our camping in a hippie-orange VW pop-top campervan (I got the moldy pop-top), not in a pup tent, though as a Boy Scout over there I did have my share of trips in the woods.
Some of my favorite European memories came from camping, whether it was watching a meteor shower from the banks of the Thames (up-river from the bright lights of London), battling a German-speaking washing machine in Northern Italy (turned out to be a dryer, so our clothes camp out very warm, unwashed, yet full of soap powder), or taking in the sunset panorama of Florence from a plateau in the Oltrarno where we had arrived early enough to secure one of the sites along the front edge of the vast parking lot of a campground known as Campeggio Michelangelo (sadly, closed in 2014).
The experience of camping in Europe
Camping is a heck of a lot cheaper than a hotel, especially these days, and you also get to make friends with all sorts of interesting Europeans (and by "interesting," I mean that German women campers often wander around topless).
But beyond the ogling, it truly is a chance to hang out in a totally non-touristy context with some bona fide Europeans, sharing travel advice along with your pickled wieners, making plans together to take a short hike in the Black Forest next morning, and just generally trying not to stare at the exposed chest of the wife of your new friend Gunther.
It also allows you to get well off the beaten path—perfect for walks in the Lake District or Cotswolds.
Are there campgrounds in major cities?
While there are loads of European campgrounds out in the sticks for the get-back-to-nature crowd, there are also plenty of places to pitch your tent in and around the major cities, usually right near a public transit stop.
There are even half a dozen campgrounds in Greater London within the M25 ring road.
That said, by their very nature most campgrounds tend to be on the edges of cities, so expect a healthy 30-45 minute bus or Underground ride into the heart of the action—though there are some exceptions closer in to the center.
How much do campgrounds in the U.K. cost?
Camping in Britain is pretty darn cheap (the biggest attraction, really).
It generally costs anywhere from £15 to £35 for two people and a tent or small motorhome (higher in the heights of summer), sometimes a wee bit more if you want full hookups or a larger RV. (And some fancier campground with lots of facilities can charge £40 to £80 per night.)
Keep in mind when you're perusing prices that there are often separate charges per person, plus for the site itself, plus for the tent, plus for the car, so that £9 per person lead price you see one the site ends up ringing in more around £45.
Also note that some have a two-night minimum, and weekly rentals are almost always cheaper.
Many also offer simple cabins or trailers to rent to those who do not have tents.
How to find campgrounds in the U.K.
The local tourist office always keeps a list of area campgrounds.
There is an obscene number of camping-related sites all around the U.K. and Europe. Below is a decent sampling.
Also in Lodging options:
- British Bed and Breakfasts★★★
- Apartments (rental flats)★★★
- Farm stays and agritourism★★★
- Aparthotels in Britain★★☆
- Castle hotels★★☆
- Cottages & villa rentals★★☆
- Hostels in the U.K.★☆☆
- University dorms in the U.K.★☆☆
- Stay for free| Free