Camping and campfires
the ultimate guide
When you return to your tent after a day outdoors and dusk is drawing in, is there anything more magical than the glow of a campfire to see you through the evening? The moment the heap of wood in front of you crackles and creaks into life, the best part of any camping holiday can begin. Before long, you’re wrapped in a blanket watching sparks and glowing ash float languidly up into the starry sky above, as your cheeks glow with the heat of the blaze.
Spending time together in front of a campfire is an undeniably wholesome activity – gazing at a fire will fill you with sense of wellbeing that staring at EastEnders just never will. Trust me.
We don’t often admit it (especially not to our children), but making fire is FUN, cooking on a fire is FUN and just sitting by a fire with your friends or family is BIG FUN. Luckily, if all of this is done with a modicum of common sense and in an appropriate location (as in - a campsite in Wales, and not - next to brandy-soaked Uncle Sid), then fires really can be good clean fun for all.
Luckily, campsite owners are responding to this demand and you can now find more campsites in the UK allowing and encouraging campfires than ever before. Not only that, many will provide you with the necessary equipment and might even help you to get a blaze going if you're a first-timer. But follow our campfire tips below, and you shouldn't have any problems lighting up. And when you're ready to go, check out our full list of campsites with campfires .
- Location, location, location! This is of utmost importance if you don’t want a forest fire on your hands (you don’t). Steer clear of overhanging branches and dry undergrowth. Firm, bare earth is best, or if your campsite has fire pits or braziers then make sure to use these. Also ensure that your fire is a safe distance from your tents.
- Your fuel and fire-starting equipment MUST be dry. Keep your matches in a Ziploc bag and store logs out of the rain.
- Start small. You can’t expect half a tree trunk to catch alight by waving a match under it. Either use firelighters and kindling, or very dry leaves or newspaper, then twigs, then kindling. Sheep’s wool makes for great natural tinder.
- Assemble a ball of tinder, then arrange your twigs or kindling around it in a tipi formation. This allows oxygen to circulate and gives the fire structure.
- Light the tinder in a few places. It should catch easily and begin to burn the kindling. A bit of gentle blowing might help at this stage.
- When the kindling is burning well, slowly add larger pieces of wood.
- BE PATIENT. If you get excited and pile on a ton of massive logs, the fire will probably go out. Feed the fire slowly and give it some love.
- TA DA! Your blaze will burn like a dream for the whole evening, providing light, warmth and entertainment for your camp.
- Remember, if you start a fire, you also have to put it out. Never abandon a lit or smouldering fire. Let it die down, then rake it around and douse it with water. If it continues to smoke, shovel some earth on top.
So that's it - easy! Please note, some campsites that do allow campfires insist that you only have them in designated fire-pits, or off the ground (in braziers), so it's always worth checking the rules.
Below are just a few of our favourite campfire-warmed campsites, or go straight to our full list of campsites that allow fires.
karma farm eco campsite, cambridgeshire
In keeping with the rustic vibe, proper open campfires are permitted at this riverside retreat. Wood is available from the farm's own surplus stock.
Wowo, East Sussex
Campfires are not just allowed here, they’re positively encouraged! The Wowo team don’t think a camping holiday is complete without one, and we’re inclined to agree. Keep your eyes peeled for the firewood delivery man, who trundles round every evening.
Trellyn Woodland, Pembrokeshire
Each pitch clearing is carved out of the woodland and furnished with picnic table, campfire area and field kitchen. This setup is totally geared towards creating unforgettable campfire cuisine. Firewood is free and you can even get involved in a family bush-craft workshop.
Nestle next to the lakes and among the grasses at this beautiful site. Most pitches have a fire pit, or you can borrow a brazier for free. Riversidelakes also provides a logs, matches and firelighter delivery service come sundown for a small charge. This may well include a very special glowstick delivery for the kids if you’re lucky.
Hole Station, Devon
Form a symbiotic relationship with the trees all around you at Hole Station, where all the firewood is gathered from trees coppiced and pollarded on site to give young oaks more light and space to grow. Hand-chopped logs, kindling and firelighters are bundled together in a handy kit for you to collect every evening.
fisherground campsite, lake District
Campfires are very much a part of any stay at this family-friendly campsite, with bags of logs complete with kindling and firelighters sold onsite each evening. Owner Mike takes a ‘We like you to succeed’ approach – just don’t forget to pack the marshmallows.
Lickisto Blackhouse, Isle of Harris
Spark up a crackler on the shores of Loch Brunabhal at this wonderfully welcoming site. Lickisto Blackhouse is a stunning oasis amid the lunar landscape of Harris, and if you’re not cosying up by your fire on the beach, you’ll be snugging down by the nightly blaze in the communal blackhouse.
the wood life, Exeter
There are plenty of opportunities for a roaring fire at this luxurious glamping getaway. There’s the obligatory fire pit (complete with hanging BBQ grill), Dutch oven for tasty smokey chillies and a wood burner in the tent, which has an oven on one side. The hot water system is wood powered too, so you need to light a fire to have a shower!