We have just returned from our third year at Camp Bestival, a multi-award winning festival that combines an all-encompassing family festival experience with an action packed camping holiday. When we say we are off to a festival with children in tow, we get comments such as “Are you mad?”, “How do you cope?” and “Is it really suitable for children?”.
In answer to those questions; we are not mad, we get organised and yes, the event caters for children of all ages as it features a truly enormous kids’ area with a host of thrilling activities from soft play and circus skills to go-carts and glitter, plus, there are kids’ shows and performances on the Castle Stage and in the Big Top, daring antics to be had at the Freesports Park, and fairytale escapism in the Dingly Dell.
The campsite is set in the rolling Dorset hills of Lulworth and opened on Thursday morning. This year we made sure we arrived nice and early as all the good pitches on flat surfaces get snapped up very quickly; last year we arrived at 2 o’clock and ended up pitching on a hill which is no fun with small people in tow.
We found the perfect spot at the bottom of the purple camping area opposite a small wood that would help deflect some of the noise. Pitching a tent and keeping an eye on excited children can be a challenge but we found giving them all little jobs made them feel important and stopped them from wandering off.
We had our large Olpro Cocoon 8 tent, plus a smaller Field Candy Pacman tent for the teen and a Field Candy Sunshade and Teepee to give us some shade and somewhere for the kids to play. We also added a couple of windbreaks to seal off our area and stop people camping too close, although we should have added another as where you can see the kids standing in the picture below someone inconsiderately pitched a small two-man tent and the guy ropes blocked our access with the buggy and trolley so we had to lift them over.
Our tent has three rooms so the children had a bedroom each, we used the third for storage and we slept in the main area with Sebastian in his Graco Nimble Nook Travel Cot, which we also used as a playpen to stop him wandering off if we were busy making a cup of tea. Our other saviour of the weekend was our Outwell Transporter which we used to transport the heavy tent to and from the car and then pimped to use as a children’s wagon for the rest of the weekend. I lost count of the amount of times we were asked where it was from.
Because the festival is set amongst the stunning Dorset countryside you must be prepared to climb some pretty steep hills and it is hard work, especially as the weekend progresses. There is disable camping with easier, flatter access if you have mobility problems, but think of it as a workout and you will be fine and it is worth it for all the activities and shows they have on offer.
There is so much to see and do that it is impossible to see it all in the three days you get so it is important to get a brochure and circle the must see’s and do’s. For £10 you get a lanyard with the basic itinerary, a large brochure with the itinerary and interviews with the artists plus a children’s colouring book, pens and a canvas bag. Once you have your basic plan, just go with the flow as you will find random pop up parades, scrummy food in the Feast Collective and plenty of shaded area for children to do some crafting.
Most of the activities are free once you are inside but a turn on the Big Wheel will cost you £2.50 per person and this year there was a Llama agility course that cost £10 each. Some of the crafting activities such as making willow headdresses and a bow and arrow also cost extra and require booking in advance, although there were plenty of spaces when we checked. We did find that the Dingly Dell with the National Trust Tree Climbing and Fore Adventure Bushcraft did book up very quickly but they did book slots daily and I would recommend getting there at the opening time of 11am to ensure you get a slot.
The festival does get very busy so I would recommend the children wear some form of ID with your phone number on them in case they get lost, although I am happy to report that we haven’t lost anyone before. If they find the crowds overwhelming then the Dingly Dell and Lizzie’s Way is a lovely place to relax and get back to nature – there is even a small park with swings, slides and climbing frames to enjoy.
The other great thing about Camp Bestival is the theme’s and lots of families get involved and dress up. This years theme was Wild and we dressed up as the Gruffalo story and got many admiring glances as we wandered around. I would also advise that you take warm clothes as it can get especially chilly in the evening. This year temperatures dipped to just 3 degrees overnight and I wish I had packed some extra fleeces to wear. I shall be raiding Only Sports Gear UK for some warm tracksuits next year.
Of course there are also the acts too, with comedians, musicians and thespians too. Kian, our teen, loved Professor Green, Ella Eyre, Wretch 32, Ella Henderson and Clean Bandit, Hubby and I adored Kaiser Chiefs, Soul II Soul and Level 42 and the little ones got in on the fun with Mr Tumble, Dick n Dom and The Cat in the Hat who all performed on the main stage – do make sure your little ones go to the toilet well before their favourites come on stage though – there is nothing worse than getting a great spot, only for them to say those immortal words “Mum, I need a wee!”
Festivals notoriously go on until late at night and this is no different, with the headliners finishing at 11pm. It is surprising what children will sleep through and I realise that I have been doing it wrong for years as all mine fell asleep during the Kaiser Chiefs set. Ear defenders are a must and if you are planning on staying out late then glow sticks make it fun for the kids if they don’t have your taste in music.
Music does go on until around 3am and there are people walking back to their tents until that time too, chatting away, so I also recommend taking ear plugs for you too if you are easily woken. I have to admit we were all so shattered that we slept through most if it though.
We made the mistake of taking too much food with us last year which went to waste. This year we took breakfast in the form of pastries and some snacky bits like raisins, banana’s, crisps and cereal bars for the children but our main meals we ate onsite. There is the Feast Collective selling wonderful, slightly different foods – we had the most amazing curry wrap. For the kids there is everything from fish finger sandwiches and sweetcorn, to chicken strips, chips and burrito’s and it is all reasonably priced. We budgeted £40 per day for the six of us and came home with change.
Festivals with kids in tow are brilliant fun and full of memories that will stick with them forever!
Still not convinced, then check out my linky with posts from other families who have been to Camp Bestival!
Disclaimer: We were Camp Bestival Official Bloggers and were provided with tickets to attend free of charge. All opinions are our own.