It’s never too damp to camp

Moaning about the rain might be a national hobby, but why not be original and embrace our soggy weather instead? This week’s guest blog by camping guru Stephen Neale (author of the forthcoming guidebook Camping by Water) shows you how to do exactly that, and make the most of our amazing watery locations in any weather (but especially the rain).

Flights abroad are almost back in vogue. The wettest April on record followed by a miserable May bank holiday means camping and canvas suddenly seem about as exciting as hard boiled eggs and ironing. But there’s still a chance to make the most of a holiday at home. Beat the rain…by staying wet.

The UK waterways, lakes and coast have fascinated me since I was a kid. I got talking to a canoeist one day. ‘Imagine this,’ he said. ‘Slide the canoe onto the river from next to your tent. Jump into the sea from the bonnet of your motorhome. Or throw a fishing line into the lake from your caravan pitch.’

Fun on the water in warm wetsuits has a unique appeal in Europe’s unsettled weather zone, because it doesn’t matter if the heavens open. No bad weather – just bad clothes. Investing in wet gear is priority number one for clean, inland and coastal waters, which can remain cold all year round.  Good wetsuits cost less than £250 and last for years.

All of my own favourite campsites sit right next to lakes, rivers, beaches and canals. Go invest in quality wetgear and waterproofs, forget about the weather, and enjoy.

Here are five great waterside sites (from the small to the large) to visit this year, whatever the weather.

1) Tiny campsite with just five pitches

Caravan Club CL, Traigh Camping CL, Traigh Golf Course, Arisaig, Inverness-shire, Highlands PH39 4NT. Tel: 01687 450645

Next to a Highlands golf course, the views over Eigg and Rum, and the Cuillins of Skye, are worth the modest pitch fee alone. The white, sandy beach stretches way beyond the Traigh cove. The clear waters are great for snorkelling and are warmed by the Gulf Stream.

2) Small site without power

Rushbanks Farm, River Stour, Bures Road, Wissington, Suffolk CO6 4NA. Tel: 01206 26235

For the wild swimmers with a passion for back to nature. If you’re willing to share the River Stour with canoes, lily pads and swans, everyone gets along just fine.

3) Medium-sized site with power

Bosworth Water Trust, Nunneaton, Warwickshire CV13 6PD. Tel: 01455 291876

Bosworth is a rare lakeside site, with its own small beach. Sailing, fishing, swimming, canoes, kayaks and windsurfing are all available, with equipment to hire. Kids love the adventure playground and feeding the giant carp.

4) Large campsite with power

Coniston Hall Camping Site, Coniston Water, Haws Bank, Cumbria LA21 8AS Tel: 01539 441223

Coniston Hall is a working farm looking out across the lake, and here you can camp in the shadow of the Fells. Fishing, swimming, snorkeling and boating are available directly from the campsite shore. Twenty pound pike and perch are most commonly caught on lures and spinners from small boats or kayaks. The site shop sells a few basics.

5) Biggest campsite by water with power

Shell Island Camp Site, Shell Island, Llanbedr, Gwynedd LL45 2PJ. Tel: 01341 241453

The UK’s largest campsite is an island on the north edge of Cardigan Bay. Choose to launch your own craft, or swim from one of three bathing beaches. The main beach stretches six miles to Barmouth, and has some of Wales’ highest dunes. This is a great site for sailing, and for kids who want to while away the hours crabbing.

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Camping by Water by Stephen Neale is being published by Adlard Coles Nautical in March 2013. For more info now, visit Stephen’s website or listen to him on BBC Lincolnshire here.