|2011 Edition Cover|
Call me a cynic, but whenever I pick up any type of guidebook reviewing the service industry I just assume that every entry will have been paid for and thus biased.
So, it was quite refreshing to read, right upfront, that every entry (and there are 600) in this guide to Britain & Ireland is an independent review and no payment is accepted for inclusion. That was a good start.
I’ve toured countries with a camping guidebook before, so I know that what is important is a good set of maps, divided into regions, with a little information on each and then a list of campsites within. And voila, that’s exactly what this book does. They appear to know what they’re doing – but then they’ve been doing it for 40 years so I suppose that they should.
I chose to use the guide to book a campsite where I’ll be staying in November, near Kendal in the Lake District. So, flick to the region map on P9 (actually, if I’m being gripey I’d say move this to inside-front-cover please) and determine that Cumbria has its own section coloured Orange. It takes but a moment to flick to the Orange section where you’ve got a nice page of area information, and then a more local map. What I like then is that each region’s section is listed alphabetically, so it’s very easy to flick through to Kendal rather than have to find an individual page reference.
The book lists two sites near Kendal, each with VERY comprehensive details on how to find them (OS Refs, GPS data and addresses) and a few short paragraphs of description. For example:
“Close to the M6 motorway, Waters Edge makes an ideal stop-over. However it also well worth a longer stay, being centrally situated for visiting the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales. Surrounded by farmland the park is long and narrow, with one road running down the centre and the pitches on either side. There 26 level touring pitches, all with hardstanding. These are open and a little on the small side. At each end of the park there are 6 privately owned caravan holiday homes. There are no play areas for children, and parents of young children would need to be vigilant here, as there is a well signed but unfenced fast flowing stream.”
“Yes… but do they allow tents?”
What I found surprisingly lacking in a lot of the reviews was an up-front explanation of whether each site was better suited for tent, caravan or motorhome, and this is my only criticism of the book. Some sort of quick reference icons perhaps would work, but certainly in my 2010 edition there aren’t any, so you have to fully read each description before discovering whether they’ll accept you or not. Not so much of a problem if you have time to delve deep into the book, but it can lead to the occasional dead-end.
The production values of the guide are excellent. It’s well laid out, easy to read and solidly made. Definitely the kind of book that I’d have on a shelf (or in the car) somewhere for reference. One nice feature is that each review has a link to a website where customers can leave their own reviews of sites.
Alan Rogers do a large number of campsite guidebooks for Europe, as well as some specialist books like “Naturist Camping” and their newly released “101 Best…” sites for “Golf”, “Fishing”, “Outdoor activities” and more, which look excellent. I’m looking forward to the “101 best sites for camping with your dog” which is being released in November.
SUMMARY: Very well written and easy to use guidebook to 600 of the UK’s best campsites for tent, caravan and motorhome – perfect for keeping in the car or on a shelf somewhere. This isn’t the book for you if you like camping in deserted fields – these reviews are of ‘proper’ sites with decent facilities which meet the publisher’s standards for entry. Only one criticism, and that’s that it could do with a quick-reference for whether or not each site is suitable or not for tents/caravans/motorhomes.
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