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TRAVEL

15 of Britain’s best almost-wild, off-grid campsites

Who needs showers? We pick sites with few frills but wilderness aplenty from the new Almost Wild Camping guide

Cleadale, Inner Hebrides

The pitches aren’t the flattest, there are two composting loos and water comes from a well, but the setting is far wilder than the facilities at this remote campsite (which is also known as Eigg Organics) below an amphitheatre of sheer, volcanic cliffs on the Isle of Eigg. You can’t bring your own car but you can rent bikes or hitch a lift across the island to the tiny croft where the campsite is found. There are two white sand beaches within a 15-minute walk; one, the lovely Singing Sands, has natural arches, caves and waterfalls to explore, and campers enjoy sunsets over the jagged Isle of Rum in summer.
April–Oct, a pitch and two people from £14 a night

Vallis Veg, Somerset

Vallis Veg

Just off the East Mendip Way, 15 or so camping pitches are dispersed among young tree plantations at this vegetable farm a mile west of Frome. Pitches are less wild than they initially seem – most have been flattened out and wood chippings have been laid to improve drainage – but there’s no hot water and showers come in the form of a wood hut with a bucket. Polytunnels brim with tomatoes in summer (excess is sold to campers) and it’s a 25-minute stroll to Frome’s market and pubs. Follow a riverside trail in the opposite direction to discover a ruined 19th-century ironworks, complete with ivy-clad pumping stations and crumbling workers’ huts.
May–Oct, a pitch and two people from £18 a night

Gill Head Farm, Lake District

Gill Head Farm campsite

Caravans, tents, a washblock and reception – when you arrive at this Lakeland farm between Keswick and Penrith you’re met with all the campsite staples. Ask to pitch in the secret meadow, though, and you’re directed to a hidden dell, over an old railway bridge and down a narrow track. There’s space for just five pitches but it’s not uncommon to have it to yourself out of summer. A trek to the loo is the price for such splendid isolation, and Troutbeck, which babbles down a waterfall and past the meadow, is the easiest place to refill your water vessels. It’s five miles to Ullswater, Aira Force waterfall or the top of Blencathra.
May–Nov, a pitch and two people from £25 a night

Fire & Stars, Leicestershire

Fire and Stars campsite

There are 10 clearings in this 19-hectare (47-acre) wood – which makes up part of the National Forest – where you can stay in tents or hammocks. Money generated from campers goes into the upkeep of the wood, which is not surprising, given there can’t be much cost to running the facilities; there are portable toilets dotted around and the 18th-century pub across the road has showers campers can use for a fee, but there’s little else besides, including no mains water. Footpaths stripe the surrounding area, including the Ivanhoe Way and the National Forest Way, and it’s five miles to English Heritage-owned Ashby de la Zouch castle.
Open all year, a pitch and family of 4 from £40 a night, a night

Beech Estate, East Sussex

Beech Estate campsite
Beech Estate campsite

There are more than 50 pitches among the hornbeam and silver birch trees, but with 240 hectares at your disposal it’s easy to find a spot out of earshot. The Faraway pitches are the wildest – you’ll have to walk further from the entrance, but there’s a clearing with compost loos and basic bucket showers nearby. There’s no reason to return to your car – den building and campfires are encouraged and three pubs are within walking distance – but if you do, you’re well-placed in 1066 country, with historic Battle a couple of miles down the road, and Hastings a few miles beyond.
May–Oct, a pitch and two people from £41 a night

Abbey Home Farm, Cotswolds

Abbey Home Farm campsite, Cotswolds

Abbey Home, a mile outside Cirencester, is best known for its homely cafe and farm shop but it has an unsung campsite too. Cars are not permitted in the meadow, which is an open, sociable space with sweeping views (as well as composting toilets and gas-powered showers). For real seclusion, wilder campers head to the aptly named Magical Glade, set in a young wood a mile from the rest of the campsite. It has room for just three small tents and there’s no shower, but you can forage wood for the campfire and water comes from the farm’s borehole.
May–Sept, a pitch and two people from £16 a night

Bush Farm, Cornwall

Bush Farm campsite

A map of 80-hectare Bush Farm helps you navigate past the main camping meadow (a handful of pitches near the farmyard showers and toilets) and out on rough tracks to wilder terrain. A hilltop spot with south-facing views, a patch beside the River Lynher, a sunken enclave in a spinney of oak and beech … If you can get there, you can camp there. The river’s ideal for a splash in hot weather, but it’s a 20-minute drive to the south coast and Whitsand Bay for beach days and 25 minutes to Looe and Plymouth. Join nearby Tamar Trails for daylong canoe safaris.
Open all year, a pitch and two people from £20 a night

Smugglers Cove Boatyard, Snowdonia

Smugglers Cove campsite

A former slate works and quay, Smugglers Cove has just a handful of tiny camping pitches secreted along a footpath beside the Dyfi estuary and makes use of the boatyard’s old toilet and shower facilities. The view from the tent is ever changing: at low tide, campers look out at mud flats dotted with lapwings, redshanks and other waders; at high tide, water laps metres from the campfire as boats to and fro in front of the nature reserve opposite. It’s a three-mile walk to the artsy harbour town of Aberdyfi, and the Tarren mountains of south Snowdonia start on the doorstep.
April–Nov, a pitch and two people from £20 a night

Graig Wen, Snowdonia

Graig Wen campsite

It’s a tale of two campsites at Graig Wen. The “conventional” touring site beside an old slate-cutting mill versus a patchwork of meadows edging the Mawddach estuary. Leave the formality of the first, via a steep wooded track, to the expansiveness of the second, where just 18 car-free pitches are scattered, the most secluded perched on a high bluff. Footpaths lead up to the 893-metre summit of Cadair Idris or down to the Mawddach Trail, a popular cycle route leading six miles east to the shops of Dolgellau or three miles west to Barmouth beach.
Open all year but lower fields from May–Sept only, a pitch and two people from £16 a night

Cilrath Wood, Pembrokeshire

Cilrath Wood campsite

A mile from the nearest road, down a tunnel of hedgerows, lies Cilrath Wood, which first opened to campers in 2020. The farmhouse dates from the 18th century but the ancient woodland and hay meadow are as old as time. The owners’ Land Rover – also of an impressive vintage – can help shift belongings to your pitch or you can grab a wheelbarrow from the shed, alongside maps, games and logs for the campfire. Pitches are individually mown into the meadow but the quietest spots are in the wood, where a brook tumbles down to a pond and an old quarry forms a quiet dell. It’s a 20-minute drive to the beaches at Saundersfoot and Amroth, and two miles to amenities in Narberth.
May–Oct, a pitch and two people from £30 a night

Into the Sticks, Pembrokeshire

Into The Sticks campsite

Much of this nine-hectare smallholding beside the Western Cleddau River is a designated site of special scientific interest, but more than half has been set aside for campers, though they rarely number more than 25 at any time. Generous pitches are spread around a site that mixes woods, meadows and marshes and has particularly secluded spots for those with hammocks. Facilities are surprisingly good – hot showers, toilets, a kitchen space and a barn with sofas and games – and there’s a nature trail to explore. And, though the campsite feels off the beaten track, there’s a treasure trove of beaches within a 20-minute drive, including Abercastle, Abereiddy and Newgale.
Open all year, a pitch and two people from £35 a night

Pytingwyn Lane, Brecon Beacons

Pytingwyn Lane campsite

There’s been an informal campsite in this riverside dell for years now but it’s wild enough not to feature on any maps, and it has remained pretty much unchanged since the day it opened. Don’t expect a shower and there’s only one composting loo. But campers rarely number more than 15 and you can hang hammocks in the light woodland that covers half the space. An easy five-mile circular loop takes you up to the top of Pen-y-crug, an iron age hill fort overlooking the Usk valley with views of Pen y fan, then down to the charming town of Brecon and back beside the River Honddu.
May–September, a pitch and two people from £24 a night

Ace Hideaways, Moray

Ace Hideaways campsite

In the lesser-known hinterland between the Cairngorms and the coast, Ace Hideaways is an adventure centre cum campsite where “wild” means different things to different people. Adrenaline seekers come for the white-water rafting, gorge walking and cliff jumping along the nearby River Findhorn, but the off-grid woodland campsite is quiet enough to find peace and seclusion too. The mix of pine, larch and birch isn’t too dense, so there’s ample daylight and excellent stargazing, and quiet campers can look out for red squirrels and deer. Get your bearings at Logie Steading visitor centre, two miles away, or walk the trail in nearby Darnaway forest for glimpses of the turbulent gorge.
April–Oct, a pitch and two people from £18 a night

Dall Cottage, Perthshire

Dall Cottage Camping

Take off your socks, roll up your trousers and wade through the River Garry. It’s the only way to reach this tiny campsite on the southern edge of the Cairngorms, with views of adjacent Munros, including A’ Bhuidheanach Bheag and Beinn Dearg. Campsite owner Tabitha can give a lift in her four-wheel-drive if she’s around, but campers have occasionally been stranded on the other side. It’s a fine place to be marooned, though. There are four pitches, composting loos and a hot shower, and if you don’t fancy the biggest mountains, Loch Errochty and Tay forest park are within hiking distance to the south.
April–Sept, a pitch and two people from £30 a night

Long Beach Campsite, Highlands

Long Beach Campsite

With no roads in or out, an 18-mile hike over mountains or a seven-mile sea crossing, Long Beach can claim to be the remotest campsite in Britain. The Knoydart peninsula is known as Scotland’s last great wilderness, a brooding landscape of Munros and dramatic glens, of which 6,800 hectares is owned by a charitable trust, including the ranger-run campsite on the shores of Loch Nevis. There’s a composting loo, UV-filtered drinking water and a log cabin offering protection from the wind, which funnels between two formidable mountains behind the beach. On calmer days, though, it’s a memorable place to swim, with the southern tip of Skye on the horizon.
Open all year, a pitch and two people from £10 a night

www.theguardian.com

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