Many sites are off-limits to those without a vehicle, but there are plenty of small scenic sites in the UK and Europe that can be reached by bus and train.
North York Moors
Is there a more thunderously wonderful view from an English campsite than the one enjoyed from Park Farm? This tiny sloping triangle of grass on the edge of the North York Moors lords it over a sumptuous expanse of English countryside. It’s roughly 50 miles west to Tan Hill and the Dales and, on a clear day, you can see absolutely everything in between: a joyous swoop of fields, trees and yet more hills. The Cleveland Way passes across the 700-acre farm, making the campsite an ideal base from which to follow the long-distance footpath up to the Matterhorn-like Roseberry Topping and Captain Cook’s Monument on Easby Moor. Cooking-apple trees provide some shelter and shade (and pectin if the visit is timed right). And for those who prefer their tents made of sterner stuff than rip-stop nylon, there’s a fine stone camping barn with its own wood-burning stove, and a former byre with real beds. But that means missing the view…
Getting there Take the train to Kildale, on the line from Middlesbrough to Whitby. The campsite’s a bucolic mile’s walk from the station.
Llŷn Peninsula, Gwynedd
New for 2019, Bert’s Kitchen Garden, a family smallholding near Trefor village, offers direct access to the coastal path and comes with cracking views of a clutch of little mountains right next door. The camping meadow is kept blissfully vehicle-free and since there are just 14 pitches, it’s never crowded. Bert’s is a Greener Camping Club site, so there are “luxury” compost toilets and eco-friendly toiletries provided gratis. There’s also free tea, coffee and hot chocolate on tap; homemade cakes and local ice-cream for sale in the camp shop; and croissants and cakes served in the cafe. There are yoga sessions in the barn, and also daily meditation, reiki and aromatherapy massage on offer. And, of course, there’s a pop-up art gallery. What self-respecting campsite doesn’t have one of those nowadays?
Getting there From Pwllheli station, the northern terminus of the scenic Cambrian Coast Line, the hourly 12 bus will drop you at Trefor, a five-minute walk from the site.
• Tent and two people £26, additional adult £7.50, under-fives free, bertskitchengarden.com
Near Stranraer, Dumfries & Galloway
When inveterate campers Rob and Kath took over a remote and horribly overgrown three-acre spinney on the low hills of the North Rhins peninsula, they had a simple goal: to create a campsite that they themselves would want to visit. Many years later, the peaceful North Rhinns Camping is a lovely warren of secluded pitches carved out of the grove. There are great views on the western side and from the top of the campsite you can see the hills of Northern Ireland, 25 miles away. The nearby Aldouran Wetland Garden in Leswalt has a hide from which to watch birds and red squirrels. And ornithologists staying here will be thrilled to learn that large numbers of Britain’s smallest bird, the goldcrest, flit above the tents.
Getting there From Stranraer, the end of the line from Glasgow, take the 408 bus from Harbour Street to Leswalt, from where it’s a two-mile stroll up to the campsite.
According to friendly owner Elaine, campers have a tendency to arrive at The Buzzards, six miles from Leominster, full of plans for activities but then are so bewitched by their surroundings that they end up simply putting their feet up and unwinding. The little 20-tent field is protected by woodland and has a calming view up to a grassy hill. For those who seriously want to get away from it all, there’s a secluded pitch in the small disused quarry from which stone was hewn to build the farmhouse. Campers are encouraged to visit the 16-acre biodynamic smallholding and get to know the livestock – chickens, sheep and amiable Tamworth sows. But should you care to roam abroad, Croft Castle is just three miles away, while the 30-mile Mortimer Trail runs through nearby Aymestry.
Getting there Take a train to Leominster and then Lugg Valley Travel’s 496 bus to Mortimer’s Cross, from where it’s a five-minute walk to the campsite. Alternatively, Elaine can collect/drop off at Leominster station if arranged beforehand.
• From £10 per pitch plus £1pp, thebuzzards.co.uk
Near Aviemore, Cairngorms
Just outside the village of Nethy Bridge, in a pine forest on the edge of the Cairngorms, is the Lazy Duck campsite – one of the smallest in the UK. It offers a space for “elemental living, personal reflection and a recharging of batteries”. Squads of red squirrels patrol the little glade that serves as a camping area, on which no more than four small tents are permitted. There are hammocks strung between trees and, with a chimenea and log seats to hand as well, it would be rude not to relax under the stars, having enjoyed the dry sauna and wood-fired hot tub first, of course. Over the past four decades, a range of rustic rental accommodation has appeared: a tiny mountain hut-style hostel, a woodman’s hut, a converted lambing bothy and a little lodge overlooking a stream, on which play the eponymous ducks.
Getting there Jump out at Carrbridge or Aviemore on the Perth to Inverness line. The 34 or 34X bus runs from outside the Cairngorm Hotel in Aviemore to Nethy Bridge in 20 minutes.
• £15 per tent and one person, £5 each additional camper, lazyduck.co.uk
Talk about the perfect location: Campsite Le Chenantier is not only on the edge of the Vanoise national park, it is also on the shores of Lake Sollières and in a traditional Haute Maurienne village to boot. There are enough sporting facilities on site to stage your own mini-Olympics: volleyball, football, badminton, table football, table tennis and pétanque, as well as the lake for a cooling dip. The Haute Maurienne is a wild place of forests, meadows, lakes and streams, and a broad range of flora and fauna. It all makes for great hiking country but there’s also via ferrata, mountain biking, speedriding the French Alps and paragliding on offer. The village contains some useful shops and a bar/restaurant, while bread, hot and cold drinks and ice-cream are sold on site. And if you want to leave the tent at home, there are yurts, tipis and cabins.
Getting there Take a direct TGV from Paris Gare de Lyon for the four-hour journey to Modane from where a bus will speed you to Sollières-Sardières.
• Pitch €5-€7.50 plus adult €4, child €2.50, yurts and cabins from €60-120 a night (weekly rates cheaper), camping-lechenantier.com
Hautes-Pyrénées Azun Nature, France
The Azun Nature campsite near Aucun (13 miles south of Lourdes) is in the remarkably attractive Val d’Azun, blending into its picturesque surroundings with trees, rocks and shrubs acting as the boundaries between its two dozen camping pitches. There are shower and toilet facilities for disabled campers and a refuge containing a small library. The campsite is also a certified sanctuary for birds: the owners can supply binoculars and guides on the local avian life, and also lay on organised ornithological walks in July and August. But where this little Eden really wins is with its unpretentious spa – a sauna is complemented by two spacious wooden hot tubs on a terrace outside from where you can watch the stars while you soak.
Getting there Before 4pm on the day before your arrival, ring the on-demand bus service (+33 4 68 80 80 80) to arrange the bus to pick you up from Argelès-Gazost-Cordée railway station and drop you at the campsite near Aucun (fare €1). The following day, simply take the train to Argelès-Gazost-Cordée.
• Tent and one adult from €9, additional adult €5, child (under seven) €3, camping-azun-nature.com
Near Interlaken, Switzerland
Perched high above Interlaken, with stunning the-hills-are-alive views, this has to be one of the most beautifully situated campsites in Europe. The Three Peaks – Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau – are just across the valley, and at over 1,000 metres above sea level, this is a great place to fill your lungs with mountain air. There’s plenty of sunshine too – Beatenberg is acknowledged as the sun terrace of the Berner Oberland. The village is home to little restaurants and a swimming pool, while further afield there’s the St Beatus hiking trail and tandem paragliding to try out. Camping-Ferien Wang has just 28 pitches, spread out over a prime slice of Swiss greensward, and in summer the local baker makes a daily delivery of bread fresh from the oven, so you might not want to leave at all.
Getting there Take the train to Interlaken West then board the 101 post bus for the climb up to Beatenberg. Jump out at the Lood stop and you’re just a few minutes’ walk from the campsite. Alternatively, take the 21 bus to Beatenbucht and complete your journey on the funicular railway.
• Tent from €11 plus adult €5.50, child (5-15) €3, under-fives €2, camping-wang.naturpur.ch
Fancy Venice but don’t care for the summer prices? Simply pack a tent and head for this recently opened campsite on the Cavallino-Treporti peninsula, a mere 40-minute ferry ride from La Serenissima’s bright lights and gondolas. Agricampeggio da Scarpa is a project of the farming/inn-keeping Scarpa family whose declared aim is “to combine love for the land with warm hospitality for tourists”. The fruits of their love for the land are on sale on site too. It’s 500 metres to a blue flag beach where the annual Beach on Fire firework display is held at the end of August. From the Punta Sabbioni pier that serves the campsite from Venice, there are also direct sailings to the islands of Burano and Murano, which makes for very easy day-tripping.
Getting there From the Venezia Santa Lucia railway station, head across town to the S Marco-S Zaccaria ‘A’ pier to take a Line 14 or 15 ferry for the 40-minute sailing to Punta Sabbioni. The campsite is a ¾-mile walk away.
• Tent from €12.50 plus adult from €5, young people (14-25) €4, child (2-13) €3, agricampeggiodascarpa.it
Valencia province, Spain
With cracking views of the medieval town of Bocairent, and a swimming pool and gardens with hammocks to lounge in, the peaceful little Villa Carmen Bocairent campsite in the Sierra Mariola mountains is something of a peach. It’s also set in an orchard of a country house whose apple, fig, pear and nut trees give ample shade when the temperature rises. And with numbers limited to just 16 campers, tranquility is more or less assured. Bocairent is a short walk away – it’s a town of small squares, cobbled streets and fountains with a selection of bars and restaurants serving traditional Valencian dishes. The town’s Las Danzas festival takes place from 23-27 August every year, with performances of centuries-old dances and rites in the main square late each evening, followed by a daytime procession on 28 August to honour Sant Agustí.
Getting there Take the train to Valencia and pick up the Valencia-Ontinyent-Banyeres bus for the 1¾-hour trip to Bocairent. Alternatively, take the train up to Ontinyent and join the same bus for a 20-minute journey. The campsite is a 10-minute walk away.
• Tent from €4.50 plus adult €6, child €4, zonadeacampada.es
Black Forest, Germany
Given its name, it’s pleasing to find that Busses Camping on the edge of the Black Forest is accessible from nearby Freiburg by bus (it’s actually named after Siegfried and Hannelore Busse, who opened the site in 1955). In a little under two acres it fits in ponds, a bright airy cafe serving up breakfast, coffee and homemade cakes, and modern facilities with full access for disabled campers. The site’s proximity to Freiburg makes a visit to the medieval city and its extraordinary gothic cathedral a must. A climb of the Schlossberg hill and the terrifying viewing tower at its summit is also in order. The self-styled Jewel of the Black Forest also has some fantastic cycle paths (and plenty of bike rental outlets), making it a very pleasant city to negotiate on two wheels.
Getting there From Freiburg-Littenweiler railway station take the no 17 bus for the 10-minute ride to Freiburg Kleintalstrasse, from where it’s a mile’s walk to the campsite. Alternatively, it’s a very pleasant three-mile woodland walk from the station.
• Tent and two adults €25, additional adult €8.50, child (3-12) €3.50, teenagers (13-17) €7, camping pod (sleeps two) €50, caravan (sleeps two-four) €65-85, camping-freiburg.com
Guarded by a castle and shoe-horned into a peaceful side-valley off the Rhine, long and thin Camping Park Rheineck, in Bad Breisig, juts into a thick forest. There’s a little shop and mini-cafe on site, and sheltered seating for campers in case the weather goes wrong. It’s eco-friendly too – all the campsite’s electricity comes from a hydro-scheme. The Rhine is just around the corner, making the campsite a good base for cruises along the river and hikes along the three main Rhineland trails: the Rheinburgenweg, Rheinsteig and Rotweinwanderweg. The path up to the viewing point at Reutersley starts right at the campsite too. Bad Breisig is a spa town of many festivals and food-related events; the 46th annual culinary festival takes place from 19-28 July this year. And if you fancy a summer party, the campsite is holding one on 17 August.
Getting there Take the train to Bad Breisig on the line south from Bonn. The campsite is a few minutes’ walk from the station.
• Tent €3.50-€5 plus adult €6, child (6-16) €3.50. Pod for one €10, for two €15, camping-rheineck.de
On the edge of a wood, by one of Lake Råvarpen’s sandy beaches, sits the small, idyllic Högsbyns Fritidscenter campsite. For those keen on exploring Råvarpen’s tiny islands, the owners rent out kayaks, canoes or rowing boats. Those who prefer dry land can check out the neighbouring nature reserve with its bronze age rock carvings. Or hike along one of the many footpaths, including the Dalsland Pilgrim Trail. Urban life of sorts comes in the shape of Dals Långed, a small town three miles away, which has some shops and art galleries. But loafing by the tent gazing out over the wide expanse of water may seem a much better idea.
Getting there Catch the train from Gothenburg to Bengtsfors or Mellerud. From either of these, take the (summer only) DVVJ train all the way to Högsbyn.
• Two adults and a child (under-17) from £14, kayak £21 a day, canoe/rowing boat £25, hogsbynsfritidscenter.se
Tjörn island, southern Sweden
Tjörn is Sweden’s sixth largest island and a playground for the inhabitants of Gothenburg. It’s connected to the mainland via a bridge, which means the frequent direct bus from the city can speed over to the small Hav & Logi Skärhamn campsite on the west coast of the island in just 75 minutes. Hav & Logi is set below the outcropping rocks for which the area is renowned and the sea is just a 500-metre walk away. You can rent bikes at the reception and take a coastal ride along cycle paths or visit the Nordic Watercolour Museum to see how artists have been inspired by the scenery. Although the campsite is popular with campervanners, those with tents are given the nicest pitches closest to the surrounding greenery. For luxury-huggers, the site also has some fancy holiday lets and a hostel.
Getting there Catch the Tjörn Express bus from the Nils Ericson Bus Terminal in Gothenburg – next to the central railway station – and jump out at Röavallen just outside the campsite.
• Tent from £16 a day, cycle hire £13 per day, havologi.se
Near Zagreb, Croatia
Set beneath the walls of a ruined medieval town a few miles west of Zagreb, the Etno Kuća campsite at Klake village, near Samobor, is part of a family-run farm. It’s surrounded by pleasingly rustic wooden housing. It all gives the campsite the feel of a hideaway – remarkably so given its location close to the capital. Being on the edge of the Žumberak-Samoborsko Gorje nature park, campers have easy access to a number of sumptuous hiking paths as well as a bike trail. There’s also a small local heritage museum on the site and a super-cheap attic apartment (sleeps two).
Getting there Take the 151, 156 or 162 bus for the half-hour trip from Črnomerec in Zagreb to Samobor. From there, the 142 bus takes 10 minutes to get to Klake, a short walk from the campsite.
• Tent £4 plus adult £7, child (7-12) £3, etno-kuca.hr
It says something for Camping Pelinos, a tranquil little garden campsite, that when its young Dutch owners (Rémy, Esther and Samuel) happened upon it back in 2010 while on a campervan tour of Europe, they liked it so much they bought it. They run a cute little alfresco bar, and there’s a bijou swimming pool amid lush vegetation with views of the woodland beyond. Each morning, you can buy eggs laid by the resident hens and freshly baked bread. The village of Pelinos is typical of the area and worth a wander around, while medieval Tomar is just four miles away. The riverside town was once the headquarters of the Knights Templar and its monastery is a Unesco world heritage site. It also hosts a weekly Romany market and has a plethora of good value restaurants and bars to check out.
Getting there It’s a two-hour train ride from Lisbon Santa Apolonia to Tomar from where the 584 or 5841 bus will drop you at Casal das Aboboreiras, a five-minute walk from the campsite.
• Tent from €4.75 plus adult €5, child (2-12) from €2.70, campingpelinos.com
County Galway, Ireland
Unlikely though it may sound, one of the most westerly isles off the coast of Ireland is easy to reach by public transport. The beautiful six-square-mile Inishbofin island more than repays the journey, too. Its population of around 180 supports a pub and a restaurant, and the Inishbofin Island Hostel with a smashing little campsite attached. After taking in the views of the Connemara mountains on the mainland, head off to one of the many sandy beaches, do a bit of scuba diving, or hire a bike and go off on a seal-spotting expedition. All three hotels and the pub on the island host live Irish folk music sessions. And for those who want an upgrade on a tent, there are some very smart camping pods for hire.
Getting there From Dublin, take the direct train to Galway City then hop on the coach to Cleggan Pier from where the ferry sails to Inishbofin. The campsite is a 10-minute walk from the jetty.
• Adult €14pp, child (under-12) €6, pod €50 a night, inishbofin-hostel.ie
Near Olsztyn, north-east Poland
Angels are said to watch over tourists in these parts, though that’s probably just an excuse so that they get to hang out here too. Set in the River Pisa valley on a little peninsula jutting out into Lake Pisz, the Camping Tumiany forms a small part of a larger complex that includes 10 wooden cabins and a campsite restaurant serving regional cuisine, with an emphasis on fish dishes. Lovers of the outdoors are rather spoilt here – besides lakeside hikes and horse riding, there are kayaks, canoes and bicycles for hire on site. It means campers can take advantage of Tumiany’s location on the kayaking trail of the Pisa, Dadaj and Łyna rivers, and the plentiful local cycle paths. For the less energetic, a private sandy beach and lake cruises offer opportunities for lounging.
Getting there Take the frequent Express Bus from Olsztyn towards Mrągowo and after 30 minutes alight at the Kromerowo bus stop, from where it’s a pleasant rural walk to the campsite.
• Tent £3-4 plus adult £3, child (3-11) £2, camping-tumiany.pl
It’s unusual enough to find a campsite in the middle of a town, but to find one in such a prime spot on the banks of a river is a double bonus. The small River Camp Aganovac sits beside a bridge over the Buna. It’s shaded by willows and the river is on hand for a cooling dip (it stays chilled even in the height of summer). A kitchen is provided for campers, though there’s a good selection of restaurants in town, which also has an early Ottoman Dervish house and a medieval hamam to visit. For a longer walk, the Blagaj Fort (locally called Stjepan grad) is a 40-minute stroll away and provides fantastic views of the Buna and Neretva valleys.
Getting there Take the train to Mostar and then the 10, 11 or 12 bus from Spanish Square near the eastern bus station to Blagaj.
• Tent and two people €10, tent and four people €13, rent-a-tent and three people €15, camping-blagaj.com
Near Tilburg, The Netherlands
If you have young children who love farm animals, small rural farm-based Mini-camping Pergama LandJuweel by Haaren town could be for you. Kids can get up close and personal with chickens, turkeys, ducks, guinea pigs and rabbits, and help to curl maize and feed it to the calves. There are excellent facilities for those with disabilities; go-karts and a tractor to ride; and bikes to rent to explore the surrounding countryside. The owners are also rather sweetly obsessed with hot air balloons and will gladly arrange a flight over Het Groene Woud (The Green Forest). The quirkiness continues back on the ground with a dog school – so if you enjoy watching our canine friends going through their paces, you’re in for a treat (as are they, probably, if they behave themselves).
Getting there From Herogenbosch Centraal railway station take the hourly 140 bus to Haaren. The campsite is a five-minute walk away.
• Tent and one person €12, additional adult €4.50, child (under 10) €3.50, pergama.nl