Camp it Up
The idea of camping only ever seems to provoke extreme reactions, doesn’t it? It’s either sheer horror at the thought of a night under canvas, or giddy excitement, mixed with a bit of rose-tinted nostalgia, imagining evenings sitting around the barbie and sinking a few glasses of rose (with not a spider-ridden shower in sight). Wherever you sit on the pitch, the good news is that there are so many great campsites around Devon, that are geared up for hardcore campers and glampers alike. With Spring (and Easter) on the way, here is a carefully curated selection of some of the best ones out there.
The hidden one:
Beryl’s Campsite, near Beeson, near Kingsbridge, South Devon
I love that the only way to spot that you’ve made it to Beryl’s is apparently a tiny, handmade sign in a flowerbed; that and the fact that the locals know it only as ‘the one run by Beryl’. This is the campsite that those in the know choose to pitch up at. And the camping is the kind that we think of when we imagine sleeping under canvas. Hidden away near Beeson village and Kingsbridge in the South Hams and surrounded by beaches and rolling hills, the 29 pitches are spread out and individual, so you can earmark one if you’re a fan of shade (we do get sun, you know!), or want a killer view out to Start Bay. Facilities are basic compared to some all-singing glamping spots, but absolutely fine, just as hardcore campers expect; this is really just a lovely, rustic and peaceful base from which to explore the rest of Devon around you.
For family and mates get-togethers (and that surfing trip you’ve always talked about)
Ocean Pitch Campsite,Croyde
Apart from the fact that this is a great people-watching* (*surfer perving) spot, Ocean Pitch is the closest campsite to one of the best beaches in the country, Croyde bay. You’re right on the South West Coastal Path too for decent clifftop walks. Camp or glamp, it’s your choice here. Choose to pitch your own tent, sleep in a classic Volkswagen Campervan or, new this year, opt for a luxury glamping pod, perched at the top of the campsite. Whatever you go for, you’re well catered for, with a snack shack, very decent facilities and, of course, access to a surfboard (and a teacher if you need one to cling on to). Now, where does one find a flattering wetsuit?
Trill Farm, nr Axminster, East Devon
This one has “adventure” written all over it; take that and do with it what you will! On an organic farm, near the Devon/Dorset border, the campsite is only available to hire exclusively to groups, with a minimum of ten campers, so if you can gather the troops you’ll have the place all to yourselves. The facilities are rustic, consisting of two open barns for storing your stuff, cooking and eating, a fire pit, compost loos and open air showers and sinks with solar powered water pumped from the spring (yes, that does mean it’s potluck whether you get a hot shower!). But my, you’re in for a treat if you can get over living the “good life”.
Trill Farm was bought in 2008 by Romy Fraser, the founder of Neal’s Yard Remedies and transformed into an education centre and community of small enterprises, including a vegetable garden, the produce of which is sold to the likes of River Cottage (which is nearby, if you find yourself really craving a cappuccino and a hot meal). When you book, you can order a £10 box of veg and salad to be waiting for you. You can add home-reared lamb joints, chipolatas and spicy merguez sausages, eggs and preserves too if you like. And you’re welcome to help yourself to the berries and fruits growing wild all over the farm. You can take a farm tour, feed the animals, do some gardening, or cooking and, for the chest-beating types, book a bushcraft course. This one’s a completely immersive experience, for those keen to switch off and unplug for a bit; but don’t worry, there are some amazing coolboxes out there for wine.
For the glampers (I’m sure there are loads and, yes, I’m one of them):
Longlands, Combe Martin, North Devon
Now we’re talking. A boutique hotel with canvas sides (and a flipping Chesterfield sofa!) is how the five luxe safari lodges at this idyllic little spot have been described. In a secret valley overlooking the North Devon Coast, just twenty minutes’ drive from what is officially the Best Beach in Britain, you’re sort of on to a winner already and that’s before you’ve even clapped eyes on your digs. Each lodge sleeps up to six plus two dogs and comes fully equipped with everything you could possibly need, from firewood to fizz, coffee to conditioner, lemons to loo roll. The idea of snuggling down under the White Company linen, while the wood burning stove kicks out toasty warmth, listening to a babbling stream – even rain pattering on the canvas – is hugely appealing. And since you’ll wake free of that horrible gritty-eyed feeling that normally comes with camping, you’ll want to go out and explore the seventeen acres on your doorstep, which includes a well-stocked boating lake for fishing and boats named Oxford and Cambridge for boat races. If only somebody else would offer to do the cooking and they’d be on to a winner. Oh wait… ok, sign me up.
For the romantic glampers
Airstream 1234, Nr Dartmouth, South Devon
One thing you won’t need to pack is a mirror. Have you seen this great big shiny beast? If Don Draper did camping, this would be his pad of choice. Built in 1956 and once owned by a member of Wally Byam’s Caravanners Club (the founder of Airstream trailers, since you asked), there are still stickers on the windows from 1961. It might look retro, but there ain’t nothing old-school about the mod-cons inside. For all the vintage charm, this little beauty, which sleeps two, has been restored to 21st century standards. Egyptian cotton, walnut kitchen with dishwasher (there is a camping God), sound system and flatscreen tv, power shower, underfloor heating, air conditioning, you name it, it’s all in there. Oh, and the pub in the gorgeous riverside village of Dittisham is only a mile away. Now, if only Don Draper were inside, naked and…oh, sorry, I said that out loud, didn’t I?