England: home of Shakespeare, The Rolling Stones and - camping? Depending on who you believe, the father of the camping movement was English travel enthusiast Thomas Hiram Holding. As you would hope from the birthplace of canvas living, England is home to some of the most beautiful campsites in the world. Whether you want dramatic coastal scenery or the classic rolling green pastures, you won’t struggle to find a fabulous site for your adventure with Campsited.
Here’s your essential information for travelling to England for the first time.
- Excellent international and regional transport links make travel easy
- Cities are cosmopolitan, but second languages are not widely spoken in towns and villages - it’s best to bring a working knowledge of English
- You can bring your car from Europe and driving is on the left
- British Pound Sterling (£) is the currency of choice
- The weather can be changeable and it gets rainy - pack your camping gear accordingly
- 999 is the number for emergency services
Bring a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) with you
The people: friendly foodies who like a decent ale
England is a country of contrasts. Bustling cities filled with music and art are surrounded by quaint, quiet villages. Coast competes with countryside in a timeless battle of beauty. Cultures from across the world fill the streets. But one thing that unites England is a pride in the national heritage. As for day to day life? Well, you are never further than a short stroll from a warm, welcoming pub, where you will find the national stereotype of the bashful Englishman to be quite ill fitting. Especially if you know a thing or two about cricket, rugby or football - all of which are followed keenly. Food is a big thing too. You will find influences from all corners of the world - commonly Italy, Mexico and India - on restaurant menus. But trust us when we say that no trip to England is complete without visiting the coast and trying fresh fish and chips, piping hot. Delicious.
Size: the largest country in the UK - with plenty to see
At 550 miles from the southernmost point (Lizard Point, Cornwall) to the northernmost (Marshall Meadows, Northumberland), it’s fair to say England has too much to explore in one stay. In fact England’s size - 130,395 km2 - means you are spoilt for choice when it comes to deciding where to plonk your tent. The country is made up of 48 counties, each with its own unique identity, history and character. One of the geographic beauties of England is that you are never more than 70 miles (112 km) from the coast. And it’s well worth a visit. Believe us.
Getting here: road, sea and sky
The nearest major ferry ports to mainland Europe are Dover, Poole, Portsmouth and Plymouth - all of which are on the south coast. A crossing with Brittany Ferries from Cherbourg to Poole takes around four-and-a-half hours, while Calais to Dover takes just 90 minutes. Prices for two passengers and a carload of camping gear begin from around £50 (€70). The main ferry ports in the north of England are Liverpool, Hull and Newcastle.
The fastest route from France is the Eurotunnel. Advanced tickets begin from around €100 for a campervan. Smaller vehicles are cheaper. Flying is an option too. Bristol Airport and Exeter Airport are best if you visiting the south west, while the London airports (Gatwick, Heathrow, Stansted, London City and Luton) are easiest for the south east. Airports serving the midlands and the north of England include Birmingham Airport, Manchester Airport, Liverpool John Lennon Airport and Newcastle Airport. Compare flight prices at Skyscanner.
Getting around: beautiful drives and good transport links
Bringing your car or campervan? England is well connected via a network of motorways and main roads that criss-cross the country. The M5/M6 and the M1/A1(M) are the main arteries northwards from the south, while the M62 runs the width of the country in the north and the M4 does the same in the south. Of course, three lanes of relentless concrete can get a bit boring. If you are happy to sacrifice speed for scenery, opt for a more attractive route along England’s country roads.
No car? No problem. England has excellent bus and rail links, with dozens of major stations and hundreds of branchline stops all around the country - although you may need a taxi to reach the more remote campsites. National Rail and Traveline’s online journey planners will help you find the fastest and cheapest way to your destination - no matter where you are going.
Driving laws: the rules of the road
In England you drive on the left and pass on the right. There are no restrictions on bringing your left-hand drive car from Europe, as long as you are visiting for fewer than six months and have valid tax and insurance in your home country. Check your insurer covers you for driving in the UK.
Speeds and distances are measured in miles, rather than kilometres. TripAdvisor has some essential tips on understanding the many rules of the road. Finally, take your time. As with most countries, roads can be narrow and windy off the beaten track. Go steady out there.
Money: spending while you are in England
Need a bite to eat? Fancy a souvenir? Visiting a local attraction? The currency in England is the British Pound Sterling (GBP). Major credit and debit cards (such as Visa and MasterCard) are widely accepted - even in smaller towns and villages. ATMs (cash machines) are never far away, allowing you to withdraw cash without charge (although your card provider or bank may charge a small fee for accessing money abroad). Before you leave home, tell your bank that you are going on holiday. Some banks freeze debit/credit cards if they detect unusual activity - and withdrawing money hundreds of miles from home definitely qualifies.
Weather: bring weatherproof gear
There’s a reason the weather is one of the main topics of conversation in England. It’s temperamental, hard to predict and extremely changeable. Sunny skies can turn to pouring rain in a snap, so pack waterproof camping gear. That’s not to say your trip will be a washout. English summers can be delightful, with pleasant temperatures above 20˚C common. Shorts and t-shirt? Too right! Spring and autumn are cooler - usually between 4˚C to 14˚C. It can get particularly chilly overnight, especially under clear skies. All the more reason to grab your favourite chunky knits and get cosy! Who’s for a nice hot cocoa?
Landscape: endless epic scenery
Our number one tip for visiting England? Don’t forget your camera. The epic scenery of The Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales is famous for good reason. And that’s just the start. England’s ten national parks account for 10% of the land area, meaning you are never far from your own private piece of paradise. There are also 33 designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Follow historic canals through pretty villages. Explore a symphony of autumn colour in dense forests. Or marvel at 5,581 miles of coastline that reveals not just jaw-dropping beauty, but a dark history of shipwrecks and smuggling. Fan of the sea and sand? Take your pick from hundreds of golden-sanded beaches. There’s something for everyone, from moor to shore.
Shops and supermarkets: the essentials are easy to find
You won’t struggle to find places to stock up on water, food supplies and other campsite essentials. There are numerous supermarkets in most towns and cities - such as Lidl, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and ASDA - many of which are open 24-hours.
Tipping: a little means a lot
Taking a night off from campfire cuisine? You won’t regret it! If you are heading for a local restaurant, it’s customary to leave a 10-15% tip at the end of your meal. Though less common, many people tip the same amount for taxis. Tipping at bars and pubs for your drinks isn’t necessary.
Law enforcement, accidents and emergencies: dial 999
If something unexpected happens during your visit, you can reach the emergency services by dialling 999. Mobile coverage is good in England, though can be patchy in remote areas - and they are often the areas that are most enjoyable to explore. Play it safe and brush up on your first aid skills before you leave. Carry a first aid kit on your outdoor pursuits. And if you are venturing into the unknown, don’t go it alone.
Healthcare: bring your EHIC
The UK has reciprocal healthcare agreements with a range of foreign countries, including all members of the EU as well as Australia and New Zealand. It means you can access free medical attention on the NHS if you need unexpected treatment - whether you’ve tripped on a guy rope and hurt your wrist or it’s something more serious. The important thing to note is that help is never far away. And the standard of medical care is among the best in the world. If you are coming from the EU, you can save a lot of (potential) time and hassle by bringing a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). It’s small, free and easy to carry with your bank cards.
Telecommunications: bringing your mobile phone
Your mobile phone should connect automatically to a local network, without any additional costs. But beware. Data roaming charges can add up fast when you are abroad. Prevent a nasty surprise on your next bill by asking your network about foreign data roaming charges before you leave. Too expensive to connect? Most pubs, restaurants and cafés offer free wi-fi. The dialling code for England is +44.
Camping culture: oodles of choice
England is camping crazy. It’s practically a national pastime. As such you won’t struggle to find somewhere special to park the camper. How do you know it will be up to scratch? Accreditation schemes are run by Visit England and The AA, who give campsites a rating from 1 to 5 after an unannounced visit from an inspector. Scores are determined by standards of customer care and hospitality, toilet facilities, access to hot water, park landscaping and more. (A detailed breakdown of scoring criteria is available here) Keen to stay somewhere green as well as clean? Keep your eyes peeled for the Green Tourism certification.
Most major commercially-owned campsites have some kind of accreditation, but don’t be alarmed if you have your heart set on a site that doesn’t. Some of the wilder, more remote campsites are unvisited by inspectors - but put you within a stone’s throw of some of the finest scenery England can offer. It usually boils down to the level of facilities you are looking for. And if you hate going without home comforts, glamping is definitely the way to go. The glamping movement has taken off massively in England, with a selection of fabulous sites in most counties. Camping season generally runs from spring to autumn, but some campsites are open all year round.
What are you waiting for?
Whether you want a romantic break with your special someone or a treat for the kids, a surfing sojourn or a hiking holiday, England has a spectacular variety of campsites. And you can find your perfect place on Campsited. A stone’s throw from the best local pubs or wild and remote - it’s your call. All we will say is that there’s no finer way to experience the true beauty of England’s great outdoors.
If there is any additional information you would find helpful in this or any of our future essentials guides be sure to drop us a line and let us know. We'd love to hear from you.