Effective camping is just a tiny bit like being part of a military operation, isn't it? You have to be prepared – ready to move and act on a moment's notice. Because good weather is too precious and too unpredictable for you to approach lackadaisically.
The smartest among us keep gear at the ready. Perhaps it is sitting by your door. And what you need now is a list of destinations: 15 of the best spots in the country where a family or individual can get away to enjoy those beautiful moments when everything is just perfect.
Some choices on this list are obvious, others a little left field. Some make perfect family getaways and others are geared toward more adventurous souls. The point here is that you have the list, that you are ready to implement a plan of action.
Check the reviews and one of the stranger titbits that comes up again and again is praise for the toilets – people love them. So, come for the loos stay for the views, apparently. And they are incredible views. Just beyond those seemingly docile rolling hills to the southwest are the peaks of Corn Du and Pen y Fan, the highest in South Wales. Far closer, running alongside the site, is the Monmouthshire Canal. The well-loved Royal Oak pub is just down the lane, the 377-mile Celtic Trail cycling route runs right past the site, and don't forget that Brecon Beacons is an International Dark-Sky Reserve.
If you're feeling adventurous, why not imagine yourself as a voyageur and go canoe camping? True, the Broads of eastern England are a little less wild than the Canadian wilderness, but the spirit is the same: it's just you, your kit, and your skills. The Broads Canoe Hire Association will provide you with a boat and a map of rough camping sites, but everything else is in your hands. Feel free to grow a beard and speak in a comedy Quebecois accent.
Wild camping is generally permitted in reasonable spots throughout Scotland, so the only issue is picking where to pitch your tent. Try a walk from the Linn of Dee that follows Glen Lui as far as Derry Lodge, an imposing but disused shooting lodge in a beautiful pinewood with great views of the Cairngorm mountains. It's a walk with open vistas and a wilderness feel, yet with the ease and safety of a clear vehicle track to follow.
Lightweight backpacking and sleeping wild on Dartmoor is a tremendous experience under clear skies. Backpack camping for one or two nights on the open land of Dartmoor is perfectly acceptable provided you choose your spot sensibly and don't pitch your tent on farmland, moorland enclosed by walls, flood plains, where you can be seen from the road, or on archaeological sites. That still leaves you with a lot of space to roam free. See an interactive map of wild camping spots
Speaking of camping beneath clear skies, one of the best places to take advantage of starlit evenings is Exmoor. The national park was the first place in Europe to be designated an International Dark-Sky Reserve, making it an ideal spot to take the family stargazing. A great base is Cloud Farm, an idyllic riverside campsite in the Doone Valley. And when the sun is up you can while away the hours splashing in the river or enjoy a long list of nearby rambling trails.
On the other end of the wild camping mentioned before is glamping, that wonderful 'outdoor' experience that some might suggest is not camping at all. After all, what exactly is camping? Where does the experience begin and end? When does it become something else? These are questions to ponder as you're lounging in the luxury of a yurt, sipping hot chocolate and warming yourself by a wood-burning stove. The surrounding countryside feels equally indulgent, nestled in a secluded valley along the River Derwent and providing a wealth of nearby walks that you'll brag about when/if you decide to return to civilisation.
If you're keen to keep your camping experience a little more on the wild side, however, Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park has teamed with Forestry Commission Scotland to establish a semi-formal site at Sallochy, on the east side of Loch Lomond. The site's 20 pitches of varying size all offer an incredible base from which to enjoy the loch and are priced well below what you'd expect to pay at a facility-rich site.
One of the most charming aspects of the New Forest is the existence of rights of 'commoning,' a practice that stretches back some 1,000 years or more. There are fascinating things to learn about commoning, but the omnipresence of ponies is one of its most famous by-products. Horses, deer, and the like are free to roam through much of the park and play a pivotal role in its biodiversity. What this means for campers at Roundhill is that visits from curious animals are entirely possible. Obviously, this is a thrilling experience for children (just remember not to feed the animals). And for parents there is the area's natural beauty and the simple joy of being away from a world in which ponies are normally fenced in.
Northumberland National Park recently became part of Europe's largest International Dark-Sky Reserve (making it the third UK national park to earn such an accolade, the other two being Exmoor and the Brecon Beacons). Such an accolade is evidence of Northumberland's enviable quiet. It is the place to go when you really want to get away from it all. But that doesn't mean leaving comfort behind. In the heart of Northumberland one can spend the night in a tipi, complete with open firepit. Again, it's not camping as our parents knew it, but it's certainly relaxing.
You could describe La Rosa Campsite as low impact, low energy and environmentally aware – or as romantic, kitsch and bohemian. One underpins the other, while both add up to an extraordinary moorland camping experience – think beautifully furnished vintage caravans, a compost loo in an old shepherd's hut and an open-air roll-top bath in the orchard. If Urban Outfitters made campsites they'd probably look a bit like this. Expect to be telling your friends about this place for a long time afterward.
Close to cafes, pubs and even a train station, Upper Booth Farm doesn't seem so very far away. But try using your mobile phone and you'll experience the faraway feeling that draws people to this environmentally-friendly farm close to the Pennine Way. Life takes on a slower, happier pace when texts, emails, and Twitter updates struggle to reach you. True, you won't be able to brag on Facebook about waking up to a breathtaking backdrop of surrounding hills Grindsbrook, Mam Tor, and Win Hill, but somehow that won't really upset you.
Welcome to your new favourite place in the world. It's got secluded camping pitches, tipis, yurts, and geo domes. It's got a woodfired oven for making your own pizza. Campfires are part of the fun and you can take bushcraft classes. But it's the location in particular that will have you doing a little happy dance. The campsite is located within an 80-acre farm that sits just a short walk from the coast and the tiny harbour village of Abercastle. And of course it is equally close to the Wales Coastal Path, which runs along the whole of Wales' 870 miles of coast.
The facilities at Tan Aeldroch aren't going to win any awards – there are no showers, for example – but the surroundings easily overcome such an inconvenience. This, after all, is the sort of camping you were imagining for your family when you bought the tent: clear streams, mountain air, and the joyful quiet of being far away from it all. Turn yourself in any direction and before you lies an adventurous walk: hours of exploring that will make you feel like an intrepid pioneer. And when you're craving a bit of civilisation, the pubs and handy visitor centres of Betws y Coed are not too far up the road.
Shepherds' caravans were a common sight across the South Downs from the 16th century through to the early part of the 20th century. Most were abandoned and rotted away after World War I, but a few have been rescued and lovingly restored to their former glory. There are a number of huts dotted throughout the park, with most providing a true glamping experience as well as providing close proximity to the quality local pubs that are so prolific in the South Downs.
As one of the most sparsely populated national parks, you don't have to go far in the Dales to feel you have got away from it all. Scattered stone-built villages nestle cosily in its gentle valleys, set against wild, expansive heather moorland tops. Rugged Arkengarthdale is the northernmost dale in Yorkshire Dales National Park and has just six settlements, including the wonderfully-named Booze and Raw. For more than 1,000 years lead was mined here but most of the mining structures have now disappeared and only a few spoil heaps remain. Tucked away in this corner of the park is Rukin's Campsite, which is consistently rated highly by families who visit.
Remember that the above are just some of the incredible spots you'll find among the 15 members of the UK's national parks family. To learn more about camping in the UK's national parks visit the national parks camping pages.