camping,  Outdoor recreation

Outdoor holidays are packed with discontent – The National

IF you want to be a happy camper, head for Fort William. It’s been revealed that the best places for family camping in the UK is the Argyllshire town and its surrounding area.

Experts at Go Outdoors have researched the best spots for family-friendly camping, based on factors such as the percentage of campsites with kids’ playgrounds and campsites ideal for young children.

Fort William ranked first in their list, with an overall family camping score of 8. 93/10.

They looked at all the available campsites in the area and found that 87% are ideal for older children and 73% are ideal for younger children. In total 13% had a kids’ playground.

Top of my list for family-friendly camping would be not being blown out to sea.

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The very thought of camping under canvas brings me out in a cold sweat after our one and only attempt at a family tenting trip on Mull.

It was the Easter holidays, and we’d been over-optimistic about the weather. When we (mum, dad, boy and dog) arrived at the – extremely coastal – campsite at Craignure, our expedition got off to a bad start. No mallet. Well, Dad thought Mum had packed it and Mum thought Dad had packed it. Dog and boy looked on in wonder in our ineptitude.

A kind fellow camper lent us one and soon we had our brand-new tent erected. Then we played cards. And dominoes. And chess. And cards again. Jings, time passes slowly below canvas. Meanwhile, the weather was getting angry. By bedtime, it was blowing a gale.

As the wind and rain raged, Mum and son managed to sleep blissfully through the nocturnal drama as tent pegs pinged out in rapid succession. Just as well we had a mallet with us. Hmmm. A big stone proved a poor substitute. A particular high point was when anxious dog’s bladder got the better of him… all over Dad’s sleeping bag.

When day finally broke, we packed up before we were blown into the Sound of Mull. Our tent remains in a shed, never to see the light, or lashing rain, ever again.

We didn’t abandon camping completely. But we wimped out and did nice sunny camping in caravans on the Continent.

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Though the weather was kinder, these holidays were not without their drama.

I note that the Go Outdooors research took into account the availability of a children’s playground in their criteria.

Such facilities sound great … in theory. Great fun, except when son takes a header from the climbing frame, banging his head on every rung on the way down.

This unfortunate event took place on day one of a fortnight camping (for wimps) in Italy. Happily, he bounced well and there was no serious harm done. But he had a big, grazed, swollen forehead, which meant Bash Street Boy couldn’t swim for a week.

On the plus side, we spent the days availing ourselves of the local train station, which took us to all sorts of lovely places all of us probably wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

In these towns, there was always the nonna on hand to look accusingly at these incompetent parents and mutter: “Povero bambino. ”

The “poor baby” has been soon back in the pool. Yet camping is definitely happier without playparks.

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