Tiny Campsites guide of Great Britain by Dixe Wills – review

May 13, 2010 by  

If the new Tiny Campsite guide by Dixe Wills doesn’t inspire to to head for the hills, valleys and farmers’ fields of England to pitch your lightweight tent and burn bangers over the camp fire, then nothing will.  Is there anything better than pitching your tent in a patch of meadow or a leafy glade and then waking up to birdsong and a view of the Great British Countryside? Dixe Wills doesn’t think so and to prove the point he’s written a guide to the Tiny Campsites of Great Britain. You can choose from 75 sites from all over the UK and all under an acre in size.

Park Farm Campsite from Tiny Campsites

Park Farm Campsite from Tiny Campsites

This kind of camping has nothing to do with the rows of caravans, huge tents complete with satallite TV or any level of laid on entertainment, and it’s more back to nature than glamping and more down to earth than cool. This is about getting away from it all and enjoying the great British outdoors.

Little Wenfork Campsite from Tiny Campsites

Little Wenfork Campsite from Tiny Campsites

I met Dixe when we were both staying at Trerickett Mill last summer in Wales, a glorious example of the tiny camping ideal with an old cider orchard to pitch your tent in complete with free range ducks and chickens as well as a charming stone bunkhouse and B & B in the old Mill House. (for those like me who enjoy the great outdoors but find the unpredictable British weather a bit of a challenge.

Through nearby woodland we found a place where the mill stream deepened into a swimming place with an icy plunge pool that made us all squeal. (I use the royal we here, you understand, you won’t catch me in an icy mountain stream but the kids loved it) Afterwards we warmed up by drinking hot chocolate and mugs of tea beside the campfire in an old oil drum that had been thoughtfully provided.

Dixie was doing a tour by bike of the Welsh campsites to include in his Tiny Campsites Guide and was carrying his tent and everything else with him – ah the simple life of a lightweight camper!

But back to the Tiny Campsites guide ….

Porthllisky Farm Campsite from Tiny Campsites

Porthllisky Farm Campsite from Tiny Campsites

Some guidebooks are heavy on facts, symbols and stars but when you read them you’re left wondering what it’s actually like to stay there – but not this one. Tiny Campsites draws you a pen picture of the place, what it feels like to stay there and any interesting characters you might meet.

As Dixe writes freelance for the Guardian, my weekend paper of choice for inspirational travel writing, each of the descriptions had me wanting to pack my camping gear and set forth immediately. In my imagination I was already listening out for the tawny owls in the woods, watching the sun set behind the church tower and picking sun-warmed strawberries at the neighbouring fruit farm.

For those of you who like to get your facts straight, don’t worry that this is one of those coffee table books full of pretty pictures (although it has a few of those) and not much else of substance. The useful information’s not lacking as each tiny campsite in the guide has a page of contact details, where to stock up on provisions and how to get there by public transport if possible.

If you’re an itchy footed traveller like me, you may be thinking that this rural idyll is all very well but what are you going to do when you get there? The Tiny Campsites guide has that covered too, as Dixe has identified the best local pub for a cosy pint or an home cooked evening meal and a couple of local attractions that you might enjoy if you’re interested in more than just dozing in the shade of an old apple tree. And as Dixe is an avowed eco-traveller who avoids plane travel at all costs, you can be sure that it’s possible to get to all the campsites by bike or public transport, as that’s how Dixe arrived himself.

Balmeanach Campsite from Tiny Campsites

Balmeanach Campsite from Tiny Campsites

I could definitely see myself using this guide to go cycle-touring for a few days or perhaps hiking from campsite to campsite. Or you could just use it to locate charming little campsites away from the crowds to base yourself and see a bit of the surrounding countryside. As well as listing the campsites in sections and on a map by region, there are thoughtful lists of the sites that would be especially suitable in different categories, such as those for kids, near the sea or adults only.

To give you the flavour, I asked Dixe to hand-pick a few of his favourites for you and here they are. You can enjoy a bit of his delightful prose (that’s why he’s a professional travel writer and I’m a part-time blogger).

Great Tiny Campsite for Kids

Little Wenfork, Launceston, Cornwall – in an area of outstanding natural beauty, with views of the hills and Tamar valley, this campsite borders an allotment with ducks, chickens and some Gloucestershire Old Pigs who love having their head scratched.

Great Tiny Campsite by the coast

Porthllisky Farm, Pembrokeshire, Wales  (Tel 01437 720377) – Close to Britain’s smallest city of St Davids yet the only sound is the odd seagull and the sighing sea. The site’s a short walk from a small harbour with a summer cafe and is right on the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path for cliff top walks.

Tiny Campsite with Great views

Balmeanach Park, Isle of Mull, Scotland – Set in Fishnish forest, this is the place to spot eagles, otters and seals, enjoy the signposted forest walks and the shoreline of the Sound of Mull as well as a spot of drama at the theatre at Tobermory.

Great Tiny campsite for walkers

Foxhole Bottom Campsite from Tiny Campsites

Foxhole Bottom Campsite from Tiny Campsites

Foxhole Bottom, Seaford, East Sussex – (no sniggering at the back) This site is set in a country park on the bumpy South Downs with a snaking river sliding off into the sea,  a shingle beach, a wetland reserve for birds and those national treasures, the Seven Sisters cliffs. There’s a camping barn too and a small discount if you arrive on foot or by bike.

Great tiny campsite for campfires

Park Farm, Whitby, Yorkshire – The campsite is a tiny soft-cheese-triangle of sloping grassland bordered on two sides by a low dry-stone wall, with a hawthorn hedge on the third. A few apple trees give additional shelter and the site is on a farm with interesting cattle breeds. Captain Cook as born in these parts an you can walk up to the Captain Cook monument on Easby Moor for the stunning views.

Since the Tiny Campsites guide arrived it’s barely been out of my husband’s grasp as he dreams of some corner of a farmer’s field that will be forever England. He used to be in the army you know and loves all that outdoorsy, boys-own stuff – gathering wood for the campfire and dabbling in the streams. Me, I’m a little more adverse to being rained on, but after reading this Tiny Campsites Guide even I’m ready to be converted to the joys of an uncrowded patch of meadow or woodland, fresh air and marshmallows roasted over the campfire.

If you’re already ready to get on your bike with your lightweight tent, you can buy Tiny Campsites from Punk Publishing at Tinycampsites.co.uk, order it at your local bookshop ISBM: 978-1-90688-906-7 or head over to Amazon.co.uk without even leaving the comfort of your laptop. Price is £10.95

If you get a copy, do see if you can spot the photo of the princesses on Page 13!

Photo Credits: All photos copyright Dixe Wills

More great Camping articles

Camping in sunshine and showers – on the Gower in Wales
A Fairy Tale of camping in mid-Wales
Camping at Cala Gonone – in Sardinia

Read more travel articles at Travel Blog Home

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24 Comments on "Tiny Campsites guide of Great Britain by Dixe Wills – review"

  1. Michael on Fri, 14th May 2010 6:47 am 

    Just brought my tent to UK last weekend but don’t know where to go, so this sounds like the perfect place to start exploring the British Isles with a tent and a backpack 🙂
    .-= Michael´s last blog ..400 cyclists in tweed =-.

  2. annmucc on Fri, 14th May 2010 6:56 am 

    Uhh – camping! My boyfriend is starting to suggest that we do it sometime this summer. He doesn’t think I’m interested, but if I get the book maybe he’ll believe me more when I say I am 😛
    .-= annmucc´s last blog ..Research Blog =-.

  3. Heather Cowper on Fri, 14th May 2010 7:50 am 

    @ Michael – you’ll be spoilt for choice, there’s a campsite here for everyone.

    @ Ann I love the idea of camping but maybe a bit lukewarm on the reality – best solution I’ve found is to look for a site that maybe has a camping barn as well as the campsite like Trerickett Mill and then everyone is happy.

  4. Ross Corbett on Fri, 14th May 2010 2:56 pm 

    Shropshire is a beautiful place to camp. I’m heading there next week, without the tent this time though.

    The only problem with camping i find though is trying to pack the tent away the same as it was before. For instance i have one of those 4 second pop up tents, great for putting up but for the last year i have been trying to get it back in its bag. Time to give up maybe 🙂

  5. arlene on Sat, 15th May 2010 1:50 am 

    Brings me back to my old camping days. Haven’t done that in years. Makes me sorry I gave away my tent. It had a screened “porch” and everything. 🙂 But I kind of like your idea of the Trerickett Mill with its options.
    .-= arlene´s last blog ..Travel Tip of the Week – Order Out of Chaos =-.

  6. Heather Cowper on Sat, 15th May 2010 9:43 am 

    @Ross – I’ve had worse problems than not getting the tent back in the bag – howling gales for instance.

    @ Arlene – Yup these days I’m definitely looking for a camp site with b & b or camping barn options

  7. Barbara at Hole in the Donut Travels on Sun, 16th May 2010 3:35 pm 

    Well, since I’m from the US and not the UK, please don’t enter me in the contest, but I just couldn’t resist saying that this sounds like an absolutely wonderful book! Now if the author would just come over the pond and create one for us Yanks it would be perfect!
    .-= Barbara at Hole in the Donut Travels´s last blog ..San Miguel de Allende, Just What is All the Hoopla About? =-.

  8. John Ryan on Sun, 16th May 2010 8:12 pm 

    I have been reading the articles on the guardian and I an that impressed I’ve ordered it off of amazon. This is a treat! Truely inspired me to do more camping this year. Just hope no-one asks to borrow the book down at the scouts they will need to wait atleast ril next year before I let go of it!

  9. Hayley Williams on Sun, 16th May 2010 10:10 pm 

    I’ve just had my first camping experience in glastonbury and absolutely loved it, i’ve read other reviews for this book and your one has cemented it firmly in my head that these are the sort of campsites i want to venture through!
    So fingers crossed from me!

  10. Heather Cowper on Sun, 16th May 2010 10:17 pm 

    @ John – you’re right, these are just the sort of places that brings back memories of being a scout – the natual spaces & camp fires.
    @ Hayley – you’ll find the campsites mentioned in this guide a lot less crowded than Glastonbury – with only a handful of campers at each place, you won’t have any problem finding your way back to your tent.

  11. Hayley Williams on Mon, 17th May 2010 9:48 am 

    Hello, it wasn’t glastonbury festival, it was glastonbury itself (Old Oaks – would recommend to anyone!) it was really chilled out and relaxing and on the grounds of a working farm, so yes, a handful of campers and being able to find my tent is a massive selling point 🙂

  12. Heather Cowper on Mon, 17th May 2010 8:16 pm 

    @ Hayley Haha – I did wonder if that’s what you meant after I wrote that. With the summer coming I must have festivals on the brain.

  13. Claire on Fri, 21st May 2010 5:52 am 

    The campsites look cool. Here in the Philippines, being an archipelago in the ring of fire, most campers put up their tents in the beaches, if not in the mountains. I haven’t tried it yet though.
    .-= Claire´s last blog ..First-time I captured the sun setting =-.

  14. Jo on Fri, 4th Jun 2010 7:47 pm 

    Hi, can you believe this is the first time i’ve ever read a blog or commented on anything! But, i had to. I have two gorgeous little children (even if i say so myself!) and am dying to take them on their first camping trip. I somehow stumbled across this website which is brilliant. Hilarious! This book sounds perfect for me. Something to encourage my husband and get us out there. THANKYOU!

  15. mark on Mon, 21st Jun 2010 10:31 pm 

    I DEFINITELY dont do camping. I like home comforts and 4* hotels. But…. a serendipitous chancing of the new girlfriend saying shes rather go camping with her kids and mine than canal boating at 5pm this sunday past and then at 7pm a friend raving about the book having just returned from a “tiny site” in Devon makes me want to discover a new facet to my personality.

    Can i have a free book and enough cider to make the bumpiest of pitches seem like a bed fit for a king.

  16. Heather Cowper on Tue, 22nd Jun 2010 9:16 pm 

    @ Mark – Glad to see everyone’s feeling so inspired – sadly the giveaway has been now given away so you may have to fork out and buy the book.

  17. 10 Tiny campsites and eco-travel - interview with Dixe Wills - podcast | Heather on her travels on Mon, 12th Jul 2010 9:10 pm 

    […] of slow travel and the things that make the campsites in this guide so special. You can read my review of the Tiny Campsite guide and hear Dixe’s tips and resources for those who want to travel in an environmentally friendly […]

  18. Amber Phillips on Tue, 13th Jul 2010 2:03 am 

    camping outdoors is one of my favorite, it is quite relaxing to be with friends.,.”

  19. Youth Sleeping Bags on Fri, 1st Oct 2010 4:17 pm 

    Wow, you make camping in the English countryside look pretty fantastic. I live in Montana, in the US, and our camping scenery is quite a bit different. 😉

  20. Heather Cowper on Sun, 3rd Oct 2010 9:29 pm 

    @ Youth sleeping bags – The English countryside is green and lush for a reason, which is why I’m not such an avid camper as Dixe, although my husband is happy with just a tarp and waterproof bivvie bag in the dampest of weather!

  21. Mohammed Hughes on Sun, 10th Oct 2010 4:56 pm 

    i used to do camping, i really love to camp overnight over some unfamiliar but cool places`~*

  22. Camping in Cookham – Part 1 « Rantings from Afar on Sun, 15th May 2011 9:48 pm 

    […] of years he has been hinting that we should go out of London and camp in the great outdoors. On winning a book about Tiny Campsites, which is all about campsites under an acre in size around the […]

  23. smith on Wed, 20th Jul 2011 1:00 pm 

    awesome! i was looking this for ages…
    Thanks for sharing

  24. Ernest Weathersby on Mon, 14th Mar 2016 12:34 pm 

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Tiny Campsites guide of Great Britain and seeing the photos.You make me want to go there.

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