Reviewed by Amy Adeliyi
Wow, what an experience, not only braving camping on my own with my four children but at one of the biggest family festivals in the UK, Camp Bestival.
Camp Bestival has been running since 2008 and has won several awards, the festival is situated in the large grounds of Lulworth Estate in Dorset.
We arrived on the Thursday to set up camp, not fully researching the location of Bestival we were quite surprised as to how hilly it was. You are advised to turn your SAT NAV off as you get nearer to the site as you then need to follow the directions to the coloured car park assigned to you in your confirmation email. We were assigned Yellow Carpark for general weekend camping. This was quite a journey round the site until eventually we came to the yellow sign. Be prepared to pay for parking as you enter the car park (field) as this is not included in the ticket price. Advanced parking tickets could be purchased online at a reduced rate of £20 or £25 on entrance.
The carpark is on a large hill so you need to make sure your handbrake is fully functioning! This was when the fun began. You cannot drive to the site you wish to set up camp, so instead need to transport your camping gear on foot down the large hill through security then up another large hill and as far along the yellow campsite that you are able to go to choose your pitch. We chose a spot not far from the carpark and close to the first toilet block (in preparation for nightly trips to the toilet with my 3 year old). There was the option to hire a trolley (£50 deposit and £5 per half hour used) or if you were really flush could hire the Festaxi to load up your gear and transport you and your gear to the site you had chosen to pitch up (at an additional cost of £10 for up to 5 people). We opted for using the pushchair and managed to get all our things down to the campsite in 3 trips.
There was entertainment in some of the arenas on the Thursday night but we decided after a few games of cards that an early night was needed in preparation for the festival the next day.
I have to say that I wasn’t looking forward to the toilets, and unfortunately rightly so, there seemed to be a real lack of toilets in the campsite, with toilet roll and antibacterial gel running out on the Thursday evening. We also had the queue for the toilets stretching up the hill to outside our tent, which enabled us to gauge when we could join the queue!
I wasn’t aware that the general public would enter through the general campsite and walk through to get to and from the festival. I did find this a strange set up as this did not feel particularly safe especially late at night. I would prefer that the camping areas were separate to the general public/day visitors as there was no need for the campsite to be used as a thoroughfare.
The festival arenas were huge, the farmers market was oddly placed in the camping areas again, but had fresh produce that could either be brought and cooked at your tent or ready to eat from the stalls. As you walked up the large hill to get the festival site (Upper Magic Meadow), you had the first of many large circus tents (The Big Top) with food stalls and activity tents dotted around the first section. But this was the tip of the iceberg, you literally could walk around all day and then notice a new section you had missed. There was so much activity, so many things to see and do.
My eldest (15 years old) said it was the best place for food and particularly enjoyed the Duck Fat Chips, Cheese toasties and Fudge. My 8 year old loved the giant corn on the cob stand, making short work of an entire corn on the cob. I would say that the prices were typical for a festival, a little overpriced but not unexpected at a closed event. There was a large array of food stalls and I think that you would struggle to not find something you fancied.
We managed to catch a few shows on the Friday and Saturday, from the ‘Theatre Tots present Mrs Pardon’s pirates’, ‘The Rajasthan Heritage Brass Band’, ‘Dinosaur world Live’, The most bizarre ‘Insect Circus’, HRVY, and Fearne Cottons DJs set, Dick and Dom, ‘Rascals Rave’, ‘Gareth P Jones: Ninja Alien Pirate Party’ to name a few. The kids loved going around and joining in the various activities on offer, their highlights being LEGO building, colouring in the cBeebies tent, getting messy in the science tent with Gloop, building a cardboard box pirate ship, and playing in the sand pits.
I have to say a stand out stall was the BA tent, with fantastic free face painters, and the cockpit karaoke was a real hit with my children. The nice cold towels were a welcome relief in the Hot Sun on the Friday, the staff were also so welcoming and friendly to both parents and children.
We didn’t stay late for the main acts, as we had spent the entire day at the festival and were all flagging by the evening. However, could hear Rick Astley from the relative comfort of our tent.
Unfortunately, the Friday night was not the best experience with the tent coming in on us from the very early hours, due to the high winds and our location on the relative flat section of the top of a hill. Which meant a few grumpy children and mummy due to lack of sleep (apart from my 3 year old who managed to sleep through the whole night). Although the rain had stopped by the morning, the wind was still very strong. We checked the weather forecast and it showed an awful picture for Saturday evening and Sunday all day. So we made the decision to pack up camp and drive home after staying as long as we could during the day on Saturday.
This seems to have been a wise decision, as campers and general public were unable to access the arenas until 12:30 and then the performances were all cancelled due to the extreme weather conditions. This obviously was a difficult decision for the organisers but safety for all was paramount. The organisers have also issued statements regarding their refund policy for those affected by Sunday’s cancellations.
Overall, I would say Camp Bestival was a fantastic experience, with so many free activities for children to take part in, if you can avoid the selling of children’s goodie bags on some stalls and the extra payments for the funfair rides and bouncy castle. It’s given us an insight into the festival experience and we would maybe look at smaller festivals in future, as the sheer size of Camp Bestival was a little overwhelming. I think we can definitely say we are not a camping family and if we were to come again, would look at booking local hotels/B&B’s for the home comforts. Although you can purchase upgrades in addition to your tickets for Boutique camping & hotel packages but they were a little out of our price range.
The weekend tickets (which include general camping) for our family cost:
Adult weekend ticket : £197.50, Age 13 to 17 weekend ticket £125, Age 5 to 9 weekend ticket £45 x2, Age 4 & under weekend ticket £15 Totalling = £427.50.
Camp Bestival returns 25-28 July 2019. For more information or to book tickets visit www.campbestival.net.