In this extract from ‘Cool Camping Europe’, editor Jonathan Knight chooses his favourite sites near the continent’s lakes, rivers, reservoirs and waterfalls
From France’s Lake District to the wilds of Slovenia, staying in yurts, wooden caravans and treehouses, here are some of the best places to enjoy the great outdoors.
A family-run, family-friendly oasis, Müllerwiese is a small but perfectly formed operation that’s been running since 1972. On the edge of a picturesque German village called Enzklösterle, the area resembles nothing more than a large, pretty household garden, with around 75 pitches stretched along the River Enz. Away from the riverbanks, you can pitch in a grassy, car-free area, purely for tenters, or rent one of two log cabins edging the camping field. The Enz provides a gurgling soundtrack, fir trees offer shelter and facilities are appropriately modest but adequate, accompanied by a playground in the garden. Quaint Enzklösterle on the doorstep will keep you busy and the vast Black Forest all around will keep you busier still – visit the tourist office directly opposite the campsite to get started.
Location: Campsite Müllerwiese, Hirschtalstrasse 3, D-75337 Enzklösterle, Germany
Müllerwiese, Germany. (Credit: Cool Camping)
Quinta de Odelouca, Portugal
When it comes to waterside lounging in the Algarve, it’s usually a mad dash to the beach accompanied by a swarm of other British sun-seekers. Backtrack into the forested Serra de Monchique, the region’s mountain range, and it’s a totally different story. Above the coastal crowds, Quinta de Odelouca overlooks a tranquil river basin, gradually widening into a vast reservoir. Almost all of the 25 pitches come shaded by olive trees and the basic but clean sanitary facilities offer something for everyone – there’s a baby-changing room, disabled-friendly showers and a chemical disposal point for the caravanning community. There’s even a saltwater swimming pool, perfect for cooling off on summer afternoons. With high peaks puncturing the surroundings, the site is a perfect base to do some serious hiking or canoeing.
Location: Quinta de Odelouca, Vale Grande Baixo, Monte das Pitas, São Marcos da Serra, Portugal
Quinta de Odelouca. (Credit: Cool Camping)
Camping Val d’Or, Luxembourg
Luxembourg boasts a total area of just 999 square miles but, tucked in the valley of the Clerve River, Camping Val d’Or boasts perhaps the finest acreage of the lot. Spread around the riverbanks, the campsite is an oasis of greenery with the water at its heart. Shallow, rocky and gently flowing, the Clerve occupies children for hours and, while there is room to pitch along its edges, campers can also cross a wooden footbridge to more spacious pitches hidden behind tall hedges – best for peace and quiet. Not that the place is a riot at the best of times. The village of Enscherange has a population of 140 and it’s a five-minute drive to the nearest restaurant in Drauffelt. It’s an easy and scenic train journey to historic Luxembourg City, though, with day tickets costing just €4 (£3).
Location: Camping Val d’Or, Um Gaertchen 2, Luxembourg
Camping Cal d’Or. (Credit: Cool Camping)
Agricampeggio Madonna Di Pogi, Italy
Tuscany may not strike you as a secluded getaway – Pisa and pizza-seekers swamp the place in summer. Yet at the region’s eastern fringes, you can truly leave the beaten track. Nestled in the heart of the Val’d’Ambra, verdant hills stretch for miles around while inland lagoons puddle the valley floor. Comprising eight wooden “caravans” and five wooden “tent houses”, Agricampeggio Madonna di Pogi offers ingenious glamping accommodation fully furnished within so you can travel lightly and sleep deeply. When the weather’s nice, the private lake is perfect for a cooling dip or a spot of fishing in the shade of the cypress grove. Some of Italy’s most iconic Renaissance sights are easily reachable too: Florence, Siena and Arezzo are all within an hour’s drive.
Location: Agricampeggio Madonna Di Pogi, Via della Madonna, 52, Pogi AR, Italy
Camp Liza, Slovenia
It pays to bring along your own personal kayak to Slovenia’s Kamp Liza. With so many others lying around, without one you might feel a bit left out. The site offers access to two rivers: the emerald-green Soca and the clear, wild Koritnica, making it a serious boon for aqua aficionados. Surrounded by the peaks and pastures of the Bovec Valley, the campsite is a large, laid-back space with relatively basic facilities – there are lavatories, hot showers and disabled bathrooms, but they’re a bit limited. Groups are directed to the lower terrace, next to the burbling Soca; families gather in the central area, while tenters head to the farthest field. It’s a couple of kilometres to 800-year-old Bovec, a centre for adventure sports, with an array of cafés, shops and traditional restaurants, as well as a daily market.
Location: Kamp Liza, Vodenca 4, 5230 Bovec, Slovenia
Camp Liza. (Credit: Cool Camping)
Camping De Roos, The Netherlands
Meandering through the sprawling, grassy meadows of Camping De Roos, the River Vecht is the perfect centrepiece to nights under canvas. Many cycle here along the river’s towpath, a journey punctuated with a refreshing dunk to cool off en route. Upon arrival, campers truly are spoiled for choice with pleasant places to pitch up. An undulating space scattered with trees, bushes and winding paths, the site has an intimacy belying the wide variety of pitches. For something special, two designated trekkersvelden are tucked away amid the chunkier trees, exclusively reserved for anyone arriving by bike or on foot. Situated in an area of breathtaking natural beauty, preservation is a priority, with timed showers, recycling bins and an on-site shop chock-full of healthy foods, planet-friendly cleaning unguents and the most local of local produce.
Location: Camping De Roos, Beerzerweg 10, 7736 PJ Beerze-Ommen, the Netherlands
Camping de Roos. (Credit: Cool Camping)
Camping Milin Kerhé, France
On and around the Brittany coastline there is no shortage of camping destinations but Camping Milin Kerhé stands out from the pack. Not many sites can boast such an idyllic setting: pristine terraced fields hugged by dappled woodland with a salmon-rich river meandering languidly through. The general laid-back air of the place is mirrored in the camping options on offer. Tents, campervans and motorhomes are all welcome, while hanging tents slung up in the woodlands are pre-arranged for campers travelling light. It’s echoed too in the varied activities, from volleyball and boules to kayaking on the majestic Trieux or following nature trails along its banks. Campfires are very much encouraged and riverside picnic tables are set up for family barbecues. If you do decide to leave, the beaches of the coast are a mere 30 minutes away.
Location: Camping de Milin Kerhé Rue du Moulin 22200 Pabu
Camping Milin Kerhé. (Credit: Cool Camping)
Lima Escape, Portugal
On the western edge of Peneda-Gerês National Park, the appropriately huge Lima Escape (capacity for 400 campers) seems to maintain an intimate atmosphere while still showing off the park’s vast natural beauty. Pitching up in mixed woods of oak and pine, campers can rest near a babbling stream that snakes along one edge, or pick a point overlooking the open Rio Lima, resembling more a long, slim lake than a river. Two tepees, two bell tents and two tree houses are the summation of their glamping options and poach the best views on the site, each with their own wooden terraces. Ramblers and mountain bikers will love the surroundings. Peneda-Gerês is spread across four dramatic granite peaks, and is especially popular in late spring when its wild flower-lined trails are in full bloom.
Location: Lima Escape, Lugar de Igreja, 4980-312 Entre Ambos-os-Rios, Ponte da Barca – Viana do Castelo, Portugal
Forest Days, Spain
Four fully furnished bell tents, raised on wooden platforms are the sole accommodation in this Pyrenean glamping site, each separated from one another to provide space and seclusion. Inside, super king-size beds are accompanied by bedside tables made out of enormous round logs, while outside, guests have their own vista-viewing dining space and a hammock for relaxing. Venture down the track and a pleasant walk reveals the majestic Vall d’Ora River, where an old, disused lock has become a re-wilding waterfall, with pools on either side perfect for swimming. Off-site, the traditional Spanish town of Solsona boasts a well-preserved centre, complete with towering Catalonian cathedral and a cluster of good eateries. Alternatively, head to Panta de Sant Ponc, a vast lake that’s ideal for kayaking and cycling on the perimeter route.
Location: Forest Days, Navès, 25286, Solsonès, Lleida, Catalunya, Spain
Forest Days. (Credit: Cool Camping)
Lo Stambecco, Italy
On the Italian side of the Mont Blanc Massif, Lo Stambecco is a campsite popular with walking types and anyone with an eye for stunning views. Directly opposite its grassy slopes is a steep shoulder of mountain – the silhouette for setting suns – while rumbling through the valley below, a gushing river of glacial melt water. Dips (and sips) are not recommended, though – your extremities wouldn’t thank you for the exposure. On the edge of the tiny village of Valnontey, the campsite is a popular stopover on one of the great Alpine walks – the Alta Via from Champorcher to Courmayeur – and has a variety of pitches, some on the open grass, others venturing into the pine cover that engulfs much of the hill. Facilities are good and there is a cosy bar and reading area with a selection of board games.
Location: Camping Lo Stambecco, Valnontey, Cogne, Val d’Aosta, Italy
La Ribière Sud, France
Known as France’s Lake District, Périgord-Limousin Regional Park is dotted with sparkly bodies of open water – some with natural beaches perfect for wild swimming and many with countryside cycle routes. In the park’s north-easterly corner (on the site of a former tree nursery) La Ribière Sud boasts 22 acres of woodland and meadows. Run by two English expats, Ann and Harry, the site’s centrepiece is a wonderfully painted, genuine Mongolian yurt with a refined, gipsy-chic interior and wooden struts delicately illustrated by the hands of nomadic craftsmen. The giant bed and welcoming candlelight is difficult to turn down, but you don’t have to stay in here if you’ve brought your own canvas – there are plenty of pitches in the shade of the towering poplars outside, all with electricity.
Location: La Ribière Sud, Haute-Vienne, Limousin, Limoges, Chalus, France
La Ribière Sud. (Credit: Cool Camping)
Camping Lagos de Somiedo, Spain
High up in the quiet and unspoilt Spanish village of Lago, Camping Lagos de Somiedo is a compact campsite by the side of a stream. Cars are confined to an entrance car park, so the camping area is free of clutter. For extra seclusion, there’s a private patch of grass across the water, accessed by a rickety wooden bridge. Facilities are basic but clean; a rustic wash-block has showers and lavatories, and outside washing-up sinks, while elsewhere, there’s a small bar and a “mini-farm” with animals and a quaint old water mill. Within a Unesco Biosphere Reserve, the area boasts some of Europe’s most rare and exciting wildlife, from birds of prey to the Cantabrian brown bear.
Location: Camping Lagos de Somiedo, Valle de Lago, Somiedo, 33840, Asturias, Spain
‘Cool Camping Europe’ is available at coolcamping.co.uk