Want a cost-effective way to spend your night? Or just some peace and quiet? Then check out our guide to small sites and more across the UK
Fancy getting away from it all – or, at least, away from the “bright lights” of mainstream campsites? You can do it. In fact, there are literally thousands of opportunities out there across the whole of the UK – and that’s before you add in the likes of friendly pubs who might let you stop over in the corner of the car park, or landowners who are happy for you to pitch at the edge of a field.
But, is there such a thing as a “free pitch”? Arguably not. After all, if you’re stopping over for the night surely it’s reasonable to at least offer to “pay your way” – whether by eating or drinking at a hostelry, buying local produce, or even a simple donation to a local charity.
There are plenty of more formal small site offerings, of course, not least the thousands of certificated locations and sites that are authorised by the Caravan Club and Camping and Caravanning Club.
It’s all very different on mainland Europe, of course, where you get stopovers provided by aires de services camping-cars and informal overnights at vineyards, courtesy of France Passion – both with vast networks across France – as well as stellplätze in Germany, and various other forms of aires across Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Luxembourg, The Netherlands and more. But, that’s a story for another occasion.
However, the Motor Caravanners’ Club (dev.motorcaravanners.eu), which already offers a small network of its own certificated locations to its members, is currently campaigning for the UK to consider introducing aires to the UK.
Meanwhile, our sights – indeed, sites – are set on the UK and the low-cost alternatives to mainstream campsites.
- If you’re in any doubt, seek permission before you park up for the night.
- Make a note of your surroundings before you leave your vehicle. A torch just might come in handy if you’ve left your vehicle in daylight but are returning to it after dark.
- Always park with your habitation door facing any light.
- Make yourself aware of the Countryside Code – gov.uk/government/publications/the-countryside-code/the-countryside-code as well as variations of it for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Free stopovers at more than 600 pubs, farm shops, vineyards, breweries and more that operates with the support of FARMA (National Farmers’ Retail and Markets Association) and English Wine Producers.
It’s all based on information published in an annual guide that’s valid from March 1 to February 28, priced at £27.50.
Find out more at www.britstops.com
Certificated locations & sites
As operated by the Caravan Club. Some 2,500 small-scale campsites – often nothing more than just farmers’ fields – offering minimal facilities – and authorised to take up to five motorhome (and/or caravans) at any time.
Many provide more than just the basics. Over 900 locations provide toilet facilities, for example. Even more have some kind of hardstandings, as opposed to just grass.
As with certificated locations, the Camping and Caravanning Club’s network of more than 1,600 certificated sites starts with a minimum offering of a fresh water supply, toilet disposal point and rubbish disposal. One key difference is a significant proportion of certificated sites also accept tents as well as a maximum of five motorhomes/caravans.
And again, use of such sites is restricted to Club members only. Check out the Caravan Club and Camping and Caravanning Club websites for more information on certified locations and small sites.
This is the name of a scheme overseen by the Motor Caravanners’ Club in conjunction with the monthly magazine, Practical Motorhome. It comprises a selection of some 50 individual properties – anything ranging from pubs, to community centres, to informal camping areas – all offering overnight accommodation for motorhomers in their vehicles. You can stay for free at one of the Nightstop pubs, for example, if you buy a meal at the pub itself.
Facilities vary wildly, too. Nearly all provide fresh water, whilst some extend to mains hook-ups and toilets etc.
Find out more at www.practicalmotorhome.com/nightstops
Details are very patchy, but this is an attempt at an online listing of aires across the UK, divided into four categories – Aires Verified Service, Aires Parking Verified, Aires Verified on Highways and Aires Camping Verified
Find out more at www.ukaires.co.uk
A forum of motorhome owners sharing information on wild camping, and more.
Find out more at www.wildcamping.co.uk
Over to you…
We’d love to hear from you and read any tales of adventures you’ve had on any small sites, Britstops or nightstops, in the UK or abroad. Feel free to add your comments below.