How to Find the Best Dog-Friendly Campsites

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With thanks to our guest blogger Vicki Smith: Website / Facebook / Instagram

Our dog, Ella, loves our campervan more than anywhere else in the world. If we pick up the van key, she runs straight to the front door for fear of being left behind; she’s at her absolute happiest on the road, with her ears flapping in the wind.

So naturally if we plan a trip away in our campervan, Ella’s an important factor in that plan. We’ve discovered some excellent dog-friendly campsites since Ella came into our lives and, perhaps more importantly, we’ve learnt what it is that makes a campsite truly ‘dog-friendly’ for us.

This is what we look for…

Actually Allow Dogs

This might seem obvious, but we’ve been caught out a few times by the assumption that a campsite will welcome Ella with open arms, only to be told “no dogs allowed.” Call us naïve but before we had a dog of our own, it had never crossed our minds that some campsites wouldn’t allow dogs.

These are few and far between, but it’s definitely worth learning from our mistakes and checking in advance. Most of the major booking sites, such as Cool Camping and Pitchup, have a filter that can be applied to weed out any non-dog-friendly sites. A lot of campsites will also state on their website whether or not they allow dogs, and failing that, you can always phone ahead to ask.

Close to Good Dog Walking Spots

One thing I love about life with Ella is that it forces us to explore our immediate surroundings. Nearly all campsites operate a ‘dogs on leads’ policy (which is certainly for the best!). But our hound is an active one who needs to be let loose at least a couple of times a day, so this means finding a safe space to do so.

Fortunately, campsites and the wilderness tend to go hand-in-hand and we always seem to discover some hidden gem a stone’s throw from our camp.

Before we book a campsite we look at Google Maps to get the lay of the land. We look for woodland or rivers or common ground with footpaths marked. A lot of campsites are situated on or next to farmland, so we also check we can keep Ella away from livestock or crops when she’s off the lead.

Dog-Friendly Local Attractions

It’s worth checking if local attractions and activities are dog-friendly, as well as any pubs, cafes and restaurants that you might want to visit.

This is particularly important if you’re going on a beach holiday in Devon or Cornwall. You could spend ages carefully pinpointing the perfect campsite next to a beautiful beach, only to learn that your dog isn’t allowed on that beach.

In our experience, it’s worth checking beforehand, otherwise your itinerary might get thrown out of the window. And on the flipside, you could also be pleasantly surprised. We managed to rent a canoe to take Ella down the River Wye recently, which I never would have assumed to be on the cards!

Shady Pitches

Finally, something that’s always a huge plus in our opinion (but a bit hard to come by) is a campsite with shady pitches. Being able to park up in a shady spot makes it that little bit more comfortable for Ella (and for us, if we fancy a lie in!)

It’s worth asking about this. Many campsites will be accommodating where possible and reserve you a shady pitch if they have one.

Our Top 5 Dog Friendly Campsites

So, with this in mind, here are our top 5 dog-friendly campsites across England and Wales. They don’t all tick every box, but they are all sites we’d return to with Ella…

1. Lee Meadow Farm Campsite, near Woolacombe, North Devon

A relaxed and spacious campsite near the North Devon coast. Dogs on leads are welcome, but this is a working farm so be cautious around livestock. The campsite is really friendly with good facilities and a fantastic farm shop onsite. It’s also close to Woolacombe beach, which is dog friendly (except for a very small section) and there are endless dunes to explore there.

If your dog needs to blow off some steam before breakfast… walk towards the campsite entrance and you’ll see a small track on your right. Walk down this track (away from the road) and it’ll eventually lead you over a bridge and into tranquil woodland. We didn’t see another soul in there!

2. Bays Brown Farm Campsite, Lake District

A big, open site in the heart of the Lakes with a relaxed feel and no marked pitches. There are countless wild swimming spots in the area and there’s a nearby village a short woodland walk away. The pub and café that we went into in the village were both dog-friendly and there’s so much to explore in the area. The only thing to be wary of in the Lake District is the possible presence of blue-green algae in some lakes. It can be incredibly dangerous to dogs (and not great for humans either) so look out for it before taking a dip. There’s loads of info about what to look for on Gov.uk

If your dog needs to blow off some steam before breakfast… walk towards the bridge at the campsite entrance and head into the woods from there. There’s a path running alongside the stream that just keeps going and going!

3. Bridge Farm, near Glastonbury, Somerset

A cheap and cheerful campsite on a working farm. Dogs on a lead are welcome, though again it is a working farm. What we love about this site is how informal it is. It’s basically just a field with a “park wherever you like” arrangement. It’s close to Glastonbury (a town that, as we discovered, LOVES dogs – Ella has never received so much attention). So, handy for a walk up the Tor and it’s also close to an excellent wild swimming spot in West Lydford.

If your dog needs to blow off some steam before breakfast… turn right onto the road and after a couple of minutes you’ll reach a footpath on your right. This is the start of a network of paths cutting their way between farmland. Be aware that there’s sometimes livestock in the fields nearest the road.

4. Celtic Camping, Pembrokeshire

This big, open clifftop campsite is one of our all-time favourites. We discovered it a few years back when looking for somewhere to descend with a big group of friends. We wanted to be able to light a campfire, have a couple of drinks and generally not worry about being a nuisance to anyone else. Celtic Camping turned out to be the perfect spot for this – there’s loads of space where everyone can keep out of each other’s way and there are great coastal walks right from the campsite. The sea view is also spectacular! And if you need to access civilisation, St David’s is a short drive away.

If your dog needs to blow off some steam before breakfast… walk towards the sea and pick up the coastal path in either direction. Then just keep on going!

5. Bickerton Poacher, Cheshire

This one’s a bit of a wild card… it’s basically a country pub on the border of North Wales with a small campsite attached to it. We stumbled across this place when a planned trip to Snowdonia got weathered off and we decided to stay on lower ground instead. The pub is traditional and cosy, with good food, and it’s truly dog-friendly, serving dog beer and dog sausages! The campsite pitches are reasonably priced with everything you need. Even though it was a departure from our original plan, we found this to be a great base for exploring the North East corner of Wales.

If your dog needs to blow off some steam before breakfast… walk left out of the carpark onto the main road. Walk for about 30 yards and you’ll see a gate on your right with a footpath leading up a hill. Follow that footpath up into the woods then keep exploring until you’ve had enough!

Want to book a holiday with your pooch (or other pet!)? See our pet-friendly campervans for hire here.

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