Come to England’s northern end for mountainside pitches and sandy, bird-rich shores.
For many, the northern county of Cumbria is indelibly linked to the Lake District National Park, a magnificent mountain landscape that takes up much of the region. But parts of the gentler Yorkshire Dales National Park also fall within Cumbria—as does the Eden Valley, the North Pennines, and a knockout sandy seaboard featuring the AONB and birdwatching destination of the Solway Coast. With some of the UK’s best walking, climbing, sailing, and cycling, visitors will find Cumbria the perfect outdoor holiday destination. Naturally, that means it’s an awesome place for camping too. The Lake District has the area’s best and most beloved campsites—use Kendal (southern lakes) and Penrith (northeastern lakes) as main transport links, and Keswick (northern lakes) as the other big park gateway. Sedbergh is well-positioned for exploring Cumbria’s Yorkshire Dales, and Carlisle for exploring the Solway Coast.
Britain’s most famous national park spills across much of Cumbria in a montage of lakes and mountains (or fells, as they’re locally known). Many campers come to canoe, kayak, sail or wild swim in the Lake District waters, while others come to walk the fells or conquer the highest peak in England, Scafell Pike. Countless hiking trails connect the striking scenery, where campsites are plentiful. Windermere’s train station makes an obvious starting point for adventure-seeking campers who should know that while wild camping is not technically permitted, it is generally tolerated for remote, one-night-only pitches.
Despite its name, Britain’s third-biggest national park has a sizable western chunk within Cumbria, especially since park boundaries were extended to include the Great Asby Scar plateau, the Howgill Fells, the serene River Lune valley, and the hikes therein. The terrain is mainly high, exposed moors given special character by their lush and diverse dales. Cumbria’s gateway towns, Sedbergh and Kirkby Stephen, have good camping—just head up Garsdale or Dentdale from Sedbergh to the prettiest dale, Swaledale.
Spreading from Carlisle along to Allonby Bay—with a break around Silloth—the coastal marshes and sandflats of the Solway Coast were designated an AONB for their exquisite vistas. They also make up an exceptional bird reserve, receiving the likes of barnacle geese, pink-footed geese, and skuas. Silloth is the key camping spot, with pitches at several caravan parks. Access the area on foot from Carlisle via the long-distance Hadrian’s Wall path, which terminates at Bowness-on-Solway.
Southern Cumbria’s share of Morecambe Bay includes a big dose of traditional seaside fun in the shape of the Arnside beach resort and the quiet (but beach-less) resort of Grange-over-Sands. The artsy market town of Ulverston and other charming old villages like Cartmel are also draws. While most of the bay is sandflats rather than accessible sandy beaches, its panoramas of wood- and marsh-rimmed shoreline are stunning landscapes for camping. Look for campsites south of Ulverston—including one overlooking a ruined priory.