by David Jones
Camping is no longer an excuse to eat bad food. As culinary tastes across Britain have become more sophisticated, so too has eating at camp become an important part of a camping holiday. Few campers will now settle for baked beans from a tin. They want to enjoy fish from today's catch, or tender lamb from the very farm on which they're pitching their tent. And they'll come equipped with gas burners, barbecues - perhaps even their best cutlery and candelabra - to make sure the camping meal is as delicious and memorable as possible.
Camping is the perfect opportunity to enjoy some of the best, freshest local produce. If you're not already camping on a farm with zero-food miles meat and vegetables, the chances are there will be a farm shop or artisan producer nearby. Be sure to find out about the local specialties on offer - from West Country asparagus to Brixham crab; Scottish mackerel to Gower salt marsh lamb; Wild mushrooms in East Sussex to Gloucestershire cheese. Stock up, cook what you can at camp and take the rest home. Such freshness, quality and richness of flavour is hard to find on your regular supermarket shelves.
Campsites across the UK have started to tune in to the requirements of the more culinary camper. Such innovations include a communal weekend cook-up at Wowo, gourmet breakfast hampers delivered to your tent at Broad Meadow House, a programme of planting edible flowers for campers to use in their campfire cooking at the Secret Campsite, and tasty hampers for glampers at Long Valley Yurts. Yes, good food is now on the menu at more UK campsites than ever.
So grab yourself a copy of the Cool Camping Cookbook for some inspiration for what to cook, and let's raise a glass to toast our selection of the best foodie campsites in the UK. Bon appetit!
The UK's best culinary campsites
Hop Pickers Wood East Sussex
With the world-renowned Lighthouse Bakery School across the road and an orchard that supplies apples to a certain Mr Magner, Quarry Farm is something of a foodie haven. But if you go down to the woods today, you're in for an even bigger surprise. For the enchanting Sussex Weald is bursting with some amazing edibles – you just have to know where to look. Thankfully, help is at hand from Fergus Drennan – foraging expert and supplier to the nearby Michelin starred restaurant, The Curlew. With wild herbs and fungi to be found, an educational day's foraging is topped off by cooking your quarry back at camp. Ask Hop Pickers Wood about foraging courses and the Lighthouse Bakery School when you book.
Koa Tree Camp Devon
Though new kids on the block they may be, Koa Tree Camp are leading the way in terms of sustainable luxury camping. Through their very own volunteer-run community shop, this North Devon glampsite will sell 100% fairtrade organic fruit and veg from the 30 acre farm's market garden and orchard. A series of culinary courses are planned for the summer, featuring guest chefs from the South West cooking the best in seasonal dishes. They'll even guide you through the finer points of alfresco cookery so you can master the art of the open fire Dutch oven. Book your place soon, as these slots are filling up fast!
There are campfires and then there are Naturesbase campfires. Affable hosts Gyles and Alison know the restorative powers of a roaring fire, a good sing-song, a spot of star gazing and maybe a ghost story or two. But throw into the mix proper homemade pizzas, sizzling away in a clay oven and now we're really cooking. Kids (even the fussy ones) will love kneading the dough and lashing their irregular bases with sweet tomato sauce and gooey Welsh cheese. While the bigger kids (aka the grown ups) can relax fireside with a slice and a glass of red. Now that's amore...
Dernwood Farm Wild Camping East Sussex
Don't be fooled by the luxurious safari and bell tents or the quiet tranquility of this ancient coppice clearing. For Dernwood is very much a working farm, producing beef, pork and lamb from their pedigree livestock. But it's the little touches that will excite the food-loving camper, including a welcome pack of fresh organic eggs, choosing your own 21 day-aged farm-reared steak upon arrival or ordering a Beef Bourguignon for delivery to your tent! Dernwood also run a popular 'adopt-a-piglet' scheme, which instills a healthy understanding of food provenance in children as they care for the pig "from birth to bacon".
huntstile organic Somerset
Huntstile's green-minded guv'nors, Lizzie and John, are passionate purveyors of home-grown grub. With over 650 acres of organic land, Hunstile grows it all from veg and soft fruit to wheat, oats, and barley; as well as medicinal crops for companies like Neal’s Yard. Beef is produced from their herd of British white cattle, and there are chickens galore, for eggs aplenty. While a leisurely cream-tea can be enjoyed in the quaint little cafe, the more hands-on foodie can partake in courses on bee keeping and sausage making.
royal oak Derbyshire
A Peak District hike can be a strenuous affair, to put it mildly. Thankfully, this North Derbyshire pub-side site has just the ticket to give you all the sustenance you need to hit the slopes – massive pies! The pies at the Royal Oak are something of a local legend. So big are these award-winning behemoths of baking, you might be inclined to camp in them. Besides their monster pies, the Royal Oak does a great line in wholesome pub grub, fry ups and Sunday roasts. The local brews aren't too shabby either. Word of caution: after all that ale and pastry, a little breather is advisable before setting off on your trek.
syke farm Cumbria
At first glance, you mightn't think Syke Farm has anything particularly special to offer. Well, nothing apart from informal pitches beside tranquil Mill Beck, views of the mighty High Snockrigg and the idyllic Cumbrian village of Buttermere just a stone's throw away. But while this unashamedly unadorned Lakeland campsite is light on facilities, campers (and locals) flock to Syke Farm's tea room to sample the delights of their homemade Buttermere Ayrshire ice-cream. Made fresh every day with milk courtesy of the farm's herd of Ayrshire cows, ravenous ramblers can indulge in such exotic concoctions as honey and ginger, strawberry and cracked black pepper and, the cream of the crop, deliciously indulgent vanilla.
harvest moon holidays, lochhouses farm east lothian
The icy waters along the East Lothian Coast are positively teeming with all manner of delicacies of the deep. Your helpful hosts will source the freshest crab and lobster for you (perfect for throwing together with a chilli and tomato linguine) while proudly saluting their turnips and prize-winning 'tatties (East Lothian champs 2006, don't you know). Be sure to head down to North Berwick harbour's famous Lobster Shack for some Shetland rope grown mussels served with crusty bread.
Had a memorable meal at camp? Consider yourself the Michel Roux of the campfire stew? We'd love to hear about your favourite camping recipes – Tweet us with your images and stories. We'll be awarding copies of The Cool Camping Cookbook and Taste Britain to our favourite ones!