Part 1 - Wales
The month of March sees the start of Spring and for many, the start of the UK caravan season too. The covers come off and your caravan may be seeing it's first airing since October or November. It's time to blow off the cobwebs.
March also hosts the national days of Wales and Ireland, St David's Day on 1st March and St. Patrick's day on 17th March. Specialised Covers are celebrating the start of the caravan season and marking these two national days by sharing this list of some of the best caravan touring sites in Wales and Ireland.
Part 1 deals with Wales and we'll be publishing the list of our top sites in Ireland next week.
The list of sites is based on personal recommendations and also some considerable research of reviews available on the internet but if you've been to any of the sites mentioned and feel we've got it wrong, please do let us know.
In September last year, President Barack Obama praised the country's "extraordinary beauty, wonderful people and great hospitality" and vowed to encourage people in the United States to visit Wales. Don't let that put you off though...
The world famous Rough Guides voted Wales the 'Best Place in the World to Visit 2014' which is quite an accolade and given that Wales is right on our doorstep, you'd do well to hitch up and get yourself there to see what all the fuss is about. Here are some wonderful places to pitch up on your travels.
1. Llwyn Ffynnon Caravan Park - Pwllheli
This one is a real gem of a caravan and camp site. with 60 level pitches, all with electric hook-up, Llwyn Ffynnon is ideally situated for exploring the whole of North Wales, in the middle of the beautiful Llyn Peninsula. The relative remoteness of the peninsula has kept the area largely unspoiled and the picture postcard scenery has ensured its enduring popularity as a tourist destination.
The site is only a 5 minute drive from Pwllheli but is still remote enough to be quiet and peaceful and a 10 minute drive in any direction will take you to breathtaking views and beaches. The pitches have ample room between them and many are shielded by trees and foliage, adding to the peaceful feel of the place. There's plenty of room for manoeuvering even the largest of caravans and motorhomes, so you shouldn't face any problems getting pitched.
This is a family run park with strong emphasis on a friendly atmosphere and relaxation. The owners take a huge amount of pride in giving a warm welcome and can't do enough to make your stay run smoothly. The warmth exuded by the owners seems infectious and you'll usually find your fellow campers and caravanners are equally prepared to muck in and offer help wherever they can and you'll want to come back to Llwyn Ffynnon again and again.
There's no shortage of amenities on site. Camp fires and barbecues are permitted (a must in our book!) and in case you don't want to bring your own, they can provide fire pits and firewood for you. There is a fully stocked fishing lake on the site too, with the fishing included in the price of your pitch. There isn't a shop within the grounds of the park but there's garage and a local shop just a couple of minutes drive away and an Asda five minutes down the road in Pwllheli for you stock up on supplies should you need to. Although there isn't a shop, the owner's mum runs a hot food van on site and the range of food available is amazing, from fresh lobster to the famous 'Beast Burger', made from local Welsh black beef. There are chickens free roaming around the whole site and you can buy their extremely tasty eggs on a donation basis.
As you'd expect, the shower and toilet blocks are of a very high standard and immaculately clean, as well as being well maintained. The shower cubicles are roomy and there's even a wet room and baby changing facilities. The whole block has central heating and there's a separate hot shower for dogs! How's that for exclusive. Dogs are welcome throughout the site and, a rarity, there's no extra cost for bringing your pooch with you.
Whether you're just a couple or you want to take three generations of the whole family with you, you'd struggle to find a more welcoming and accommodating camp site anywhere in North Wales. Give Llwyn Ffynnon a visit, you won't regret it. In fact you'll probably end up extending your stay.
2. The Old Station Caravan Park, New Radnor, Powys
Mid Wales this time and the scenery is no less stunning than that on the Llyn Peninsula. Rolling hills and green fields are the order of the day and much of the village of New Radnor is surrounded by considerable remains of the medieval town walls, especially visible to the South-West. The Motte or mound of the original Norman castle still dominates the village to this day. Mid Wales boasts superb scenery and the Old Station Caravan Park is the perfect location to set camp for exploring all of the locality. In particular, it is very well sited for walkers, with a wealth of trails and paths to explore nearby.
As the name suggests, the park is set on the site of the old railway station and the village of New Radnor plays host to the best local facilities you will need, such as local shop and the Radnor Arms pub. They only have a small tourer area on the site so make sure you call in advance but there is a choice of hard standing or grass pitches with optional electric hook ups.
The Old Station Caravan Park has been in existence since 1966 and has always been run by the same family, with the latest generation, Libby and John, being in charge of the operation since 2004. The couple couldn't be more helpful and as with Llwyn Ffynnon, they take huge pride in their park and providing a warm welcome to campers and caravanners alike, nothing is too much trouble.
There's a wide variety of things to keep you entertained in the locality, if sitting with your feet up isn't for you. The locally renowned and remarkably named waterfall, Water-Break-It's-Neck, is as picturesque as you could hope for and pretty much right on the doorstep of the caravan park. You could end your journey at the waterfall if you're only after a short walk but the landmark is situated in the larger area of Warren Wood, named after the resident rabbit population, and if you wanted to make a day of it, the wood offers a multitude of paths with rewarding views of the Elan Valley, Brecon Beacons and Black Mountains, if you go high enough. Libby and John at the caravan park will be more than happy to recommend the best walking in the area.
The site itself, although small, has up-to-date facilities and amenities that put many a larger park to shame. There's a modern, spotlessly clean toilet and shower block with dressing areas with disabled access throughout and the showers are free to use. There's also a utility room with laundry, washing up facilities and an ever useful freezer at your disposal. The site also has a small onsite shop, selling the daily essentials and OS maps.
If mid Wales is on your itinerary, we cannot recommend The Old Station Caravan Park at New Radnor highly enough. Oh, keep your eyes open for the sign on your approach to the park or you'll miss it and have to turn your rig around.
3. Kennexstone Camping and Touring Park, Gower Peninsula, Glamorgan.
The Gower Peninsula in Glamorgan is a tiny area, just 16 by 7 miles across and juts into the Bristol Channel just beyond Swansea. Its small stature hides a multitude of attractions and accolades though. Most notably, it was the first locale in the UK to be awarded 'Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty' status. The site, tucked away in the North West corner of the peninsula, is for lovers of peace and quiet, so if you're after a place for late night revelry and shenanigans, look elsewhere. If you're after incredibly beautiful scenery, a wealth of wildlife, beaches aplenty and tranquility, then this is the site for you.
Situated in amongst a working organic farm, Kennexstone has an increasingly rare non-commercial feel to it and that is very much befitting of the impression you get from the owners, David and Emma, who seem to have a policy of putting the quality of their guests' stay over profit. It's a refreshing approach and all the better for it. The site is set back from the main road and covers an impressive 10 acres. Most pitches are level and have electric hook ups.
There's plenty to do on Gower so you'll be able to take your pick from a range of activities to suit your energy levels. There are 20 beaches within easy reach of the caravan site with some of them being extremely popular with the surfing community. If you're not prepared to drop in and hang 10, whatever that means, the beaches are some of the most beautiful in Britain, with nearby Rhossili in particular having been awarded praise from the media, including 'The supermodel of British beaches' by the Independent and 'The UK's no. 1 dog-friendly beach' by the Times. If you're suited to a more gentle pace (we are), why not explore some of Gower's historic sites. The area has a rich history stretching back to the Neolithic period and Arthur's Stone is one of the most impressive monuments of that time anywhere in the UK. The 25 ton stone has been a tourist attraction for over half a millennium and you have to see it to truly appreciate the feat of engineering it must have been to balance that boulder on the shoulders of the smaller stones.
As with all the other sites featured here, Kennexstone has impeccable facilities including a great amenities block with toilets and free showers, separate disabled facilities, a washing up and laundry room, baby changing area and even somewhere to rinse out your wet-suit and surfboard. There's a shop on site selling all the camping essentials as well as pretty much everything else you could possibly need from barbecues to kites for the kids. In addition to the on-site shop, there's an ice cream van that makes regular visits in the evenings and even a couple of mobile shops that drop in from time to time. You won't be short of anything you need during your stay.
The superb staff and intensely beautiful surroundings and natural habitat make Kennexstone our top choice for the area. Please do consider stopping off here if your ramblings take you this way. The site opens for the season on April 1st.
4. Celtic Camping, St. David's, Pembrokeshire
It would be churlish of us to feature the best camp sites in Wales and not at least tip our hat to Pembrokeshire. Known across the world for it's incredible beauty and coastal scenery, Pembrokeshire is home to Britain's only coastal National Park and is the perfect touring caravan holiday destination. If you have never visited, turn off your computer right now, hook up the 'van and hit the road.
St. David's, situated in the heart of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, is the UK's smallest city. It was awarded city status by Queen Elizabeth II due to the presence of it's cathedral but in reality is a picturesque little village, surrounded by spectacular coastal scenery and renowned for it's beauty and abundance of wildlife. Situated 4 miles outside St. David's you'll find Celtic Camping.
Now, it's only fair to tell you straight away that Celtic Camping specialises in group accommodation and actively encourages school groups to their bunk house accommodation, so if groups of well behaved kids is going to put you off, please look elsewhere. The rest of the site is set in 250 acres of National Trust farm land and the focus here is to allow you freedom of choice to pitch where you like. If you want an electric hook up then you will have to pitch up accordingly but if you don't, the entire site has no boundaries so feel free to find your own little private corner of Pembrokeshire. Wide open space is the order of the day.
At Celtic Camping, the focus is very much on a relaxed, fun and friendly atmosphere. There is a real sense of freedom so once again a warning, If you need immaculately landscaped grounds with full of hardstanding caravan pitches, rules about noise, kites and balls, this probably isn't the site for you. But if you're ok with the relaxed atmosphere, they allow open fires and barbecues wherever you want to have them and the coastal views are simply breathtaking, with direct access from the park to the Pembrokeshire Coastal National Park. The chance to see the sun setting over the ocean is not to be missed and after the sun goes down, the lack of light pollution makes for a spectacular night sky.
You're probably getting the theme by now but amenities are vitally important when you're camping and as with all the others on the list, the amenities here are superb. There's a large, clean toilet and free shower block and all the other facilities you would hope for and expect including a drier and free use of the freezer. Although possibly not for everyone, the location of this park and the relaxed atmosphere ensure a place on our list of top sites in Wales for Celtic Camping. We're not alone either, it was the winner of 'Best Campsite' in the Pembrokeshire Tourist Board Awards in 2013.
Check in with us next week for our top 4 sites in Ireland.