Lovelane Caravans, Roskilly's Organic Farm, Helston
Fans of retro will be in their element in Lovelane's period caravans, restored to their former glory and equipped with nostalgic touches such as thimble-like gold-rimmed cups from the Queen's coronation, a Goblin Teasmaid or a hand-embroidered tablecloth.
The campsite is a short stroll or bike ride to Roskilly's farm – famous for its ice-cream – where you can watch cows being milked, and try trifle, clotted cream and apple crumble flavours in the courtyard cafe. The farm is one of many great family days out from the campsite – two great beaches are within walking distance: Coverack Cove and the black sands of Godrevy Cove.
The caravans and, new this year, the Hippie Bus, an old Ford bus that sleeps up to five, are set in a small meadow around an open fire pit. A washblock provides bath, toilets and a shower cubicle with constant hot water. More romantically, in the absence of electricity, paraffin lamps and candles provide light – and of course, on a cloud-free night, the star-studded sky.
• 07825 813808, lovelanecaravans.com. Two-berth caravans from ?180-?245 for three nights or ?275-?340 per week; Hippie Bus and Italian Job Bus (both sleep five) ?280-?330 for three nights or ?355-?475 per week. Pitches: seven caravans/buses. Open March-September
As you might expect of a National Trust-run site, the grounds of Highertown – a working farm half a mile from the south-east coast – are impeccably maintained, the facilities housed in a smart, pine-panelled extension to the handsome granite barn. Posters on water consumption and solar power hint at the site's gently green agenda, but visitors suffer no great hardship.
The campsite comprises just one lush field, in the shadow of an old granite church tower, with views across peaceful fields full of grazing cattle. A 15-minute walk through woodland leads to the secluded, shingle beach at Lansallos Cove. Sheltered on both sides by stacks of rocks, the sparkling waters resemble a huge natural swimming pool.
There is no nearby restaurant, so think about packing a decent camping kitchen and taking packed lunches for walks.
• 01208 265211, nationaltrust.org.uk/holidays/camping. Adults ?4-?5 ?2-?2.50 for 2-12s. Pitches: 16 tents, three caravans/ motorhomes (size restrictions apply). Open Easter-late October
Treen is a friendly site consisting of two fields perched just a few hundred yards from the cliffs. As a result, big sea views fill your line of sight. The facilities are basic but perfectly adequate and clean, and given the site's relative isolation, the superb shop is a real bonus.
There are walks galore, and two fantastic beaches: Pedn Vounder (pictured) – a popular naturist spot – and Porthcurno. On our last visit, the sound of La Traviata at the nearby open-air Minack Theatre was wafting across the cliffs as we sank a jug of Tribute ale (available to take away from the local pub).
• 07598 469322, treenfarmcampsite.co.uk. Tents ?2.50-?4, campervan ?3-?4, car ?1. Adult ?4.50, child ?2-?3. Pitches: up to 100 tents/campervans. No caravans/motorhomes. Open 30 March - 30 September
With 40 tipis set discreetly amid 16 acres of wooded valley surrounding a lake, this place offers a different kind of camping experience. Winding tracks lead through diverse micro-habitats: there's marsh, meadow, woodland, rocky outcrop, scrub and the long, narrow, crystal-clear lake, where you can swim, fish or go boating (kayaks and lifejackets are provided).
Combine this with the physical pleasures of chopping your own logs and cooking on an open fire, and you may feel you're having a Ray Mears moment, albeit one where flushing toilets and hot showers are never more than a short stroll away. It is camping, however, not a hotel under canvas: you'll need to bring your own mattresses and bedding. Include a torch too as there's no on-site electricity.
Note that in addition to the tipi fee, you pay ?50 "headage" per person (over-4s) on week-long bookings, so costs can mount up.
• 01208 880781, cornishtipiholidays.co.uk. Three nights from ?195-?250 for a medium tipi (sleeps two-three), ?250-?350 for a large (sleeps four) or ?790-?1,100 (sleeps seven). Private site premium ?20-?70. Pitches: 40 tipis. Open April-October
Gwithian Farm Campsite, Gwithian,
A world away from the cuteness and crowds of St Ives, Gwithian beach is an altogether more elemental spot, pounded by some of Cornwall's most consistent surf. The campsite itself paints a bucolic picture. A thatched farmhouse, home to friendly owners Clair and Mike Hancock, greets guests at the entrance and the site has views of the village church and the gentle slopes of the countryside.
The site provides the sort of cut-above facilities that usually involve braving a large, expensive holiday park: a state-of-the-art shower block, fresh local fish from the visiting fishmonger's van; free phone-charging points; a plethora of child-friendly features; extremely large pitches; and a noise ban after 10.30pm.
The Red River Inn (01736 753223, red-river-inn.com), 40 yards from the site, serves real ales and good renditions of pub classics. The village's hip hangout, the Sandsifter (01736 757809, sandsiftercornwall.com) attracts locals year-round for tasty food, a well-stocked bar, late licence, and DJs and music events in the summer.
• 01736 753127, gwithianfarm.co.uk. From ?14-?27 for 2 people, ?5 extra adult, ?2 extra child, dogs ?1. Pitches: 60 tents, 40 caravans, 20 motorhomes. Open April-September
Beacon Cottage Farm, St Agnes
Cornwall is hardly short of campsites offering sea views, but this one takes the promise of panoramic vistas to the extreme. Perched on the lower slopes of the St Agnes Beacon (one of the highest points in west Cornwall) just yards from the cliffs, Beacon Cottage Farm has uninterrupted views across miles of dramatic coastline. The fact that it happens to be a superbly run and blissfully uncommercialised site makes for an embarrassment of camping riches. This is a working beef and arable farm with around 80 cows and some 300 acres, and the cluster of the pretty farmhouse and outhouses form the hub of the campsite.
The elevated position has its drawbacks. Mild winds can be thoroughly invigorating in a commune-with-nature sort of way. But in a storm or westerly winds, a sturdy tent and expert pegging are essential. The landscaped paddocks at the back of the site (book ahead) are more sheltered.
• 01872 552347, beaconcottagefarmholidays.co.uk. Camping ?15-?22 for 2 people, ?4.50 extra adult. Cottages ?300-?780 per week. Pitches: 70 tents/caravans/motorhomes. Two cottages (sleeping four). Campsite open Easter-September
The area around the Roseland peninsula is wildly romantic and largely untouched. The merging of river estuaries, protected from the relentless Atlantic swell by the vast granite bulk of the Lizard peninsula, has created a magical landscape: silent wooded creeks, secluded beaches and rolling hills that drop gently into the sea. At their very brink is Treloan's campsite – just a field's breadth away from the open sea.
The pitches are generous and all have sea views, save perhaps those up against the hedge at the bottom. Alternatively, there are two new accommodation options: a yurt, equipped with futon and pot-bellied stove, and the "honeycomb snug" – a tiny wooden house, also with its own stove.
• 01872 580989, coastalfarmholidays.co.uk. Camping ?13.50-?21.50 for two, ?4.50 extra adult, ?3.50 extra child, three-bedroom mobile homes (sleep up to nine) ?275-?630 per week, snug (sleeps two) ?35-?50, yurt (sleeps three) ?45-?55. Pitches 65 tents/caravans, seven mobile homes, one snug, one yurt. Open all year (yurt April-September)
Set well back off an already sleepy road, this six-acre family-run campsite with sea views, a basic shower block and a small shop, is an ideal base for exploring the exceptional beauty of the Lizard peninsula, whose coast is dotted with secret coves, deserted sandy stretches and dramatic outcrops.
A 20-minute saunter through fields and woodland leads you to blue flag Kennack Sands (pictured), perfect for rock-pooling, family bathing and beginner waves. This is also where you can connect to a particularly lovely stretch of the South West Coast Path.
• 01326 290040, namparracampsite.co.uk. From ?12-?15 for up to two adults and three children, ?2 extra adult, ?1 extra child, dogs free. Pitches: 48 tents, eight caravans, eight motorhomes. Open Easter-November
Bodmin Moor might not be as big or as awesome as Dartmoor, but it has ample drama to stir even the most jaded of travellers, and there is no better way to experience the primitive beauty of the moor than under canvas – waking up to birdsong, hiking during the day and building a campfire in the evening (it is one of the few sites that allows guests to build campfires; and the farm sells its own produce.)
South Penquite is a Soil Association-certified organic farm, set amid open moorland, whose friendly owners have set aside two grassy fields for camping.
In contrast to the unruly surrounding scenery, South Penquite's facilities are the height of camping chic. The verandah-wrapped pine shower block is heated by solar power, and the enormous shower cubicles are in a league of their own. Once out of your smart shower, though, you'll need wellies. One of the great pleasures of South Penquite is that it is a working farm, with real-life mud and a variety of poultry pottering about the grounds, including chickens, turkeys, geese and ducks.
Those wanting more headroom and some basic home comforts can hire one of the four yurts, furnished with wood-burning stoves, lamps, sofas, cookers, and with a table and chairs outside.
• 01208 850491,southpenquite.co.uk. Camping ?7-?8 adults, ?3.50-?4 child. Small yurt (sleeps two) from ?240-?300 for one week, large yurt (sleep up to six) ?300-?380. Pitches: 40 tents/motorhomes (no caravans). Four yurts. Open May-October
At the end of a back street just above the harbour, a couple of tiny fields command fabulous sea views out to a headland sporting the golden flash of a wheat field. And, given that a maximum of a dozen campers are allowed on the site, there's never a crush. But whether you stay in one of the site's three deluxe tents or bring your own, you must order a Broad Meadow breakfast – brought to you in a basket with a freshly-made smoothie.
• 01726 76636, broadmeadowhouse.com. From ?9 (with own tent), 2-12s ?4.50; deluxe tents from ?20pp including breakfast (two-night minimum), 2-12s from ?16. Pitches: space for a maximum of 12 guests. Open May-September
• All entries written by Ismay Atkins and taken from the Time Out Camping guide (timeout.com), except Lovelane Caravans, taken from Time Out Devon and Cornwall, and Broad Meadow House, taken from Tiny Campsites a guide to Britain's smaller campsites by Dixe Wills
Know any other great campsites in Cornwall? Add your recommendation in the comments below or to Been there