Syke Farm Camping Ground, Buttermere
Syke Farm is tucked away in a quiet Lake District valley to the south-west of Keswick in the tiny hamlet of Buttermere. This is an unpretentious, no-frills campsite with an unapologetically back-to-basics approach. Facilities are fairly basic – there’s no reception or shop, and the only source of provisions is the farmhouse in the village offering eggs and milk. The remote location and scant facilities almost makes it feel like you’ve stumbled upon a bygone era – but spend a few days relaxing in Buttermere, gazing into the bubbling beck and eating too many locally made ice-creams, and you’ll begin to understand exactly why this campsite is so well-loved.
• Syke Farm Camping Ground, 01768 770222. Adults ?7, children ?3 per night. Cars free
The first thing that meets you on arrival is the pond, often full of children playing on tyre rafts – it makes a perfect focal point for kids to get to know each other. Nearby, a cool playground has everything adventurous young daredevils desire including zip wires, climbing frames and tyre-rope swings. And there’s an added extra: the campsite sits along the route of the Ravenglass and Eskdale steam railway line – an excellent way to arrive if you’re coming by public transport. Campfires are permitted, with bags of logs, kindling and firelighters sold on site.
• Fisherground campsite, 01946 723349. Adults ?6, children ?3, vehicles ?2.50, dogs ?1 per night.
Chapel House Farm campsite may be a simple little place, but the view is astonishing, thanks to its position in a single open field in the beautiful valley of Borrowdale. Cars are banished to the car park, which seems completely fitting in such a pure, pristine location; lugging your kit a short distance to the camping area is a small price to pay for that special Lakeland serenity. Borrowdale is ringed by the high fells, but the wooded valley also offers miles of stress-free river and lake-side strolling, making this one of the most appealing locations in the Lake District.
• Chapel House Farm, 01768 777256. Adults ?6, children ?3 per night
If you’re all “laked-out” and find yourself yearning for some good old dry land, then the lake-free Langdale valley is where you’ll find it. Sitting serenely in the heart of the valley is Baysbrown Farm, which looks out over three generously sized camping fields. There are no designated pitches here; just rock up and find a suitable corner to call home. The site lies beneath the humbling rocks of Crinkle Crags, Bowfell and the Langdale Pikes, giving a sense of scale rarely found in the Lakes. Peering out from your tent each morning at the mist-shrouded peaks is worth the pitch fee alone.
• Baysbrown Farm, Great Langdale, 01539 437150. Adults ?4, children ?2 per night. Under-fives free
One of the finest views in the Lake District can be enjoyed by standing in the shadow of Helvellyn and looking out across Ullswater’s valley. Being able to relish such scenes from your tent just adds to the experience, making Gillside Farm a great place to pitch. Rabbits and sheep roam unfettered and unfazed on this working farm, so don’t be surprised to be woken by the sound of sheep snacking on the tasty grass around your tent. Head to the farmhouse each morning to stock up on fresh milk and eggs, or visit the small hut down by the walking track for a hearty English breakfast. With its picturesque views and easy access to water and walking, Gillside Farm is low-key camping at its finest.
• Gillside Farm, 01768 482346. Pitch ?1, plus adults ?7, children ?3 and vehicle ?1 per night
Accessible only via ferry (or a mile-and-a-half low-tide walk over the sands from Walney Island), Piel Island’s 52 acres is home to one medieval castle, one pub, one brief terrace of Victorian houses, some grassland, a population of “four, sometimes five” and a beach. The view from the island stretches all the way from the Lake District hills across Morecambe Bay, and along the Fylde Coast to Blackpool Tower. While camping is allowed almost anywhere on the island, the “official” campsite is in a slight dip and is further protected by shrubs, which help divert the Atlantic winds. Walk back across to Walney Island during low tide to explore two nature reserves and the largest colony of lesser black-backed and herring gulls in Europe.
• Piel Island campsite, 07516 453784. Camping must be pre-booked (prices quoted when booking)
Set in a wooded glen at the head of the Great Langdale valley lies this glorious campsite, surrounded by impressive peaks and slopes on all sides. It’s a typical National Trust campsite: well-organised, efficiently run, and set in some of England’s finest scenery. As you would expect, the walking from here is first-class, with many visitors here to conquer the Langdale Pikes, the triumvirate of peaks that dominate the skyline. For something a bit less challenging, grab a map from reception which outlines four easy walks around the valley. Or you could just walk to the pub – there are three within 10 minutes’ walk from the site.
• Great Langdale National Trust Campsite, 015394 63862. Pitches from ?8 (includes one tent, one adult and one car), extra adults ?5, children ?2.50, dogs ?1.50
The Eden Valley is Cumbria’s forgotten secret. While the Lake District grabs all the attention, this glacial valley on the eastern side of the M6 slips quietly past the hordes of tourists. The campsite at Kirkoswald is home to just six simple pitches, two on a raised area and four down among the trees. Just up the road from the main site is a very private wild camping spot, which can be reserved by private arrangement. But it’s the semi-secret walled garden that’s the place to be as the sun settles. The lush sandstone of the farm buildings glows pink, and Eden Valley will seem like a secret you’ll want to keep.
• Eden Valley campsite, 01768 898342. Adults ?8, children ?1 per night
Thirlspot Farm near Keswick feels like it might just be the perfect campsite. One reason for this is its location, surrounded by gorgeous English greenery and mighty mountains. Helvellyn, the third-highest peak in England, stands high and proud right behind the campsite and there are several different ways to its summit from the site, each challenging but manageable. Aside from its scenic credentials, Thirlspot also come up trumps in the “proximity-to-pub” stakes too, with one of the Lake District’s finest traditional coaching inns, the King’s Head (01768 772393), being directly next door. As we said, perfect.
• Thirlspot Farm, 01768 772551. Adults ?6, children ?3, cars ?2, dogs ?1 per night
Hidden in a quiet corner of the Lake District national park, Gill Head Farm offers space for tents and caravans, as well as B&B accommodation and six timber camping pods. The main camping meadow has spectacular views of Blencathra, a ridge of six separate fell tops stretching down the valley to Keswick. The owners have been thoughtful enough to arrange regular on-site activities, games, and bushcraft courses, as well as a log cabin (with TV lounge and undercover barbecue area) for communal get-togethers and wet-weather relaxation. But Ullswater is less than a 10-minute drive away, so you can head to the Lakes where a wealth of hiking, biking, ghyll scrambling and water-based activities await.
• Gill Head Farm campsite, 017687 79652. Adults/children ?7.50–8.50 per night, camping pods from ?30 per night
Know of any other brilliant campsites in the Lake District and Cumbria? Add your recommendation in the comments below