Thursday, 21 August 2014

Happy Campers!

"Was there a club house?" my soon-to-be sister-in-law asked of our recent stay at a campsite in Pembrokeshire.

Our summer holiday this year needed to be dirt cheap. And the first rule of dirt cheap camping is to avoid sites with lots of facilities. Which we did. So no - no club houses.

We're huge fans of the Cool Camping books and website. They've never let us down when it comes to locating amazing campsites in stunning locations, and this year was no exception. Their recommendations often include small sites and the more quirky. (All our own judgement here - I'm not being paid or sponsored to mention them).

After rejecting a couple of Cool campsites further west into Pembrokeshire on the grounds of cost, we decided upon Skrinkle Bay Campsite. 

Photo swiped from Cool Camping's picture of the campsite
- that's not our tent.

Near the village of Manorbier, a few miles west of Tenby, it's a cliff top site, with spectacular views of the coastline and the ocean. And all this comes at a price of £8 per night for a small tent, or £10 for a large tent, regardless of the number of occupants. Although camp fires are allowed, the other facilities are few and far between: three loos, a 'cool' shower (appropriately enough for a Cool Camping campsite!) and a water tap. Definitely no club house. And absolutely no wi-fi. At the tail end of Hurricane Bertha, not many campers either. Fantastic! All the more room for the kids to fly the kite and play football.

Church Doors beach with the little Shoestrings
frolicking in the waves if you look very closely

And for much of the time we had the nearest beach, Church Doors (which is a few minutes walk down the cliff) all to ourselves.

The 'Church Doors' rock formation - wow!
At high tide you can swim through the doors

It was our first visit to this area of Wales and we loved it. There are beautiful beaches (as well as Church Doors and Skrinkle Haven, we visited Tenby, and on the way home, Pendine Sands) and coastal walks along the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path. This kept us fully entertained for most of our visit.

For a slight variation on the theme of beaches we visited Caldey Island. I would like to think that the kids will remember all the things we learned about the Cistercian (Trappist) monastery (which owns the island) and the fascinating history, however I suspect that the highlight was the return boat trip at low tide, which featured a ride on an amphibious vehicle for part of the journey.

The Italinate Cistercian monastery on
Caldey built in the early 20th century
The joy of camping, especially shoestring camping, is that it's always a reminder of how little we really need to be happy. Agreed, the beautiful landscape and the relaxed, holiday mindset all help, but in the short term no-one missed hot water, fancy food or the internet. Seeing how the Cistercian monks on Caldey live a simple life of vegetarian food, study, prayer and work in the community, only served to emphasise the value of a simple life. It's continually a challenge, but we came back inspired to keep everyday life at home simple whenever we can.

Other top tips for a successful dirt cheap camping holiday
  • Keep travel costs down - don't venture too far from home. (We're lucky - for us the Severn bridge is not far; as soon as we're over it we're in a different country and it feels as if we are miles away from home!)
  • Acquire camping stuff second-hand. A lot of our gear is second-hand, including our tent (see a picture of our leaky tent here in last year's camping blog post!). And now is a good time to look for stuff in the sales, ready for next year.
  • Borrow stuff. Most people's camping kit sits around doing nothing for most of the time. This year we borrowed a top box for the car from our neighbours. And when we were at the campsite someone left their camping chairs by the bin when they left the site so we borrowed those too!
  • Our trip was from early Monday to late Friday, so although it felt like nearly a whole week it was actually only four nights. A tenner each for nearly a week's accommodation! Not bad!
  • Keep the catering simple - we had a hearty camping breakfast, a light lunch of sandwiches or rolls and usually pasta in the evening. 
  • Apart from the Caldey Island trip, by picking a location with lots of natural interest, we didn't need to pay for any other days out.
  • Ignore the weather forecast - we nearly bottled out of the whole trip when we looked at the weather forecast for our week, but it turned out to be one of the driest (although also the blusteriest) holidays we have had.
  • Good old fashioned games are lots of fun. Battle ships was the game of this holiday.
  • You're never too old for a bucket and spade. Nearly-14-year-old Daughter begged us for a bucket and spade in Tenby, which provided, perhaps not hours, but many minutes of fun!
  • Don't be completely miserly - make sure to budget for the odd ice cream, milkshake or cup of coffee!
Any other tips for frugal camping? Have you been camping this summer - any great locations to share?


  1. I came to your blog via Frugal Queen. So glad you had a great holiday. We live in Pembrokeshire so can understand why you had such a great time. The trip to Caldey is great, especially on a fine day. You can also now visit St Catherine's Island, just off the town beach in Tenby. Lots of lovely beaches and walks for all the family. You certainly found a wonderful camp site. I might tell my family about this one! Ann x

  2. Hi Ann, thanks for visiting the blog! Lucky you to live in Pembrokeshire! We saw St Catherine's Island when we were in Tenby but not having visited it this time means we've got a great reason to come back! I loved Caldey - we weren't there at the right time for a service but I would love to hear the monks chanting another time. The camp site is great if you don't mind not having many creature comforts. You can also camp nearby at the Manorbier Youth Hostel which would offer more things like hot showers and hot meals! For us, we liked the simple camp site and the location is simply amazing.

  3. What a pretty area you visited. I think one of the things I enjoy most about camping is a slow wake up to a big breakfast.. A skillet of sausage, eggs, potatoes, and cheese is our favorite when we're camping.

    1. We worked our way through various combinations of beans, eggs, mushrooms, bacon and sausages for breakfast. Yum! :-)

  4. We love Pembrokeshire, but have ended up near Newport (near Fishguard not the big one) since having children. Another clifftop campsite with limited facilities but with a cliff path down to 'their' cove...our 14 year old was as happy as the younger ones too :)
    If your holiday is near a harbour, a few quid on a crabbing line and some bait provides hours of fun too. We took ours to Swanage this year and the adult friends we went with spent a lot of time 'helping' whilst the kids paddled on the causeway!

    My husband went to Tenby a lot as a child but we've only been back once since we've been together. I can see it being added to the family 'to-do' list!

    1. Will have to check out Newport - sounds good.We have 'crabbed' before in Devon and agree, it was good fun! I liked Tenby a lot - definitely worth a visit.

  5. Eleven years ago we went camping in Cornwall and it cost us £9 per night. We later moved onto Dorset where they wanted £15 per night! I remember them telling us it was because it was in Dorset rather Cornwall and they had a full electric site. It didn't matter to us as we just had a car and a tent!

    1. I wonder why there would be a price difference between Dorset and Cornwall! If anything I would have thought Cornwall would command higher prices than Dorset...And I agree we don't need electric hook up so prefer to go where there is none and it's cheaper!

  6. We got stuck on Caldy Island for 4 extra hours! Freezing- the boat had broken down.
    IF you dont use electric then you shouldn't be charged the same as people who do. Bad practice.