In search of an easily-reachable campsite near Bristol, Angharad Paull and her Bristol Brood test out a Glamping Pod at Andrewshayes Holiday Park in Devon. The stay was gifted by Andrewshayes in return for a review, but as always views are my own.
Campsite near Bristol – Andrewshayes Holiday Park
I’ll be honest, I’ve tended to shy away from camping with our two kids. As far as holiday options go, putting myself in a situation where I’m less comfortable, with a highly-increased possibility that I’ll lose even more daily sleep, has always put the fear in me.
But, camping is in my bones. I spent many summers being loaded up into a car, wedged in amongst French beer with my two brothers, every conceivable piece of camping equipment in tow. The freedom, the outdoor lifestyle and even the shower block etiquette are all ingrained somewhere in my soul. Rose-tinted perhaps, because of course at that age, all you have to do is be transported, often pyjama-clad, to your camping destination. It’s a bit of a different story for the adults in charge, who have to create a home under canvas, but it’s something I am keen for my own children to experience and look back on fondly one day. Camping is also at the cheaper end of the school holiday price spectrum and how I envisage we may spend lots of our future holidays. And hunkering down under the stars in a campsite near Bristol, just makes life a little bit easier for this Bristol brood.
Campsite near Bristol: Andrewshayes Glamping Pods
And while I have tried camping on a several occasions; with a baby; with my whole family (mum,dad, two brothers, husband and two kids in one tent!), and Eurocamping in a mobile home, our first proper solo camping trip will be this summer. So, when I was offered the chance for a free stay in one of Andrewshayes Glamping Pods in exchange for a review, I leapt at the chance. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to experience camping, with a bit of extra comfort and just enough rustic panache to get our heads around living in a confined space with our kiddos for a few days! No need to unpack, and set up a tent, blow up a lilo or dig out an extremely long extension cable, just rock up with bedding, a cooking stove and equipment (ok I failed on the pan front, but we managed!) and some food and drink and you’re away!
Plus, it looked like a totally idyllic spot – the site is in an area of outstanding natural beauty on the edge of the Blackdown Hills near Axminster in East Devon. For Bristolians, it’s within easy reach of the city (an hour and a half if you go via the M5, or just under two hours if you take the scenic back roads along the A37 to avoid potential holiday traffic), and therefore a really doable weekend away in the West Country.
We rolled into Andrewshayes Holiday Park around seven in the evening and got hold of a camp warden as reception was shut. He led us to the Glamping Pod that was to be our home for the early May Bank Holiday weekend. Being handed the keys to the Glamping Pod is like being made an honorary resident of Hobbiton – the wooden oval pod, with its miniature window, sits in a large patch of green, with its own garden path and outside decking area, complete with picnic table. There are three to choose from, each overlooking glorious rolling hills – a patchwork of varying shades of green and munching cows. Every pod has fenced-off sides to help provide enough privacy from your camping neighbours (although this slightly blocked out the evening sun on ours – remedied by sitting on the fence!)
Image – Glamping pods and glorious countryside at Andrewshayes, campsite near Bristol
Two lockable glass doors open into a clean, snug space that uses nifty seating/storage to create extra space. The sitting area has a side table for the kettle and the bedroom had two single pull out beds which slide out from underneath the double above (I’d highly recommend pulling them out as far as they will go to avoid bumped noggins in the night). There’s also a plug socket, lights and several hooks dotted about to hang your stuff on, although I’d have loved a little bedside shelf to place my morning tea/evening Line-of-Duty-accompanying wine on. The Glamping Pod was surprisingly toasty on what was quite a chilly weekend and it came with a little electric heater to take the edge of the cold mornings.
Arriving back to our pod on the second night, we were pleasantly surprised with the delivery of a disposable BBQ on our deck. This was perfect timing for our sausage baps, gigantic marshmallows (I don’t recommend before bedtime, turns out they’re not a great sleep aid for kiddos) and evening wine on our private deck.
From the pods it’s just a short stroll, scoot or cycle to the shower, toilet and launderette block, with hot showers, a couple of spacious family rooms, fridge freezer and microwave (super handy for warming milk bottles for our fussy youngest).
Campsite near Bristol: about Andrewshayes Holiday Park
Andrewshayes Holiday Park is a family business that has been going for 60 years. The grandparents of our lovely host Clare opened the site on their farm following the war to supplement their income and put signs out on the road to encourage campers. Today, lots of the family members live onsite and help out with the day-to-day running of the park. Located just 6 miles from Seaton and 8.5 miles from Lyme Regis, the campsite makes a great spot to explore Britain’s spectacular Jurassic coastline and Blackdown Hills.
The site is geared up for families with a large, heated indoor swimming pool, childrens’ playground (perfectly positioned next to tables in front of the bar for your evening sundowner while they play), toddler soft play area and arcade-style games room. There’s an onsite shop should you need to pick up any essentials, otherwise the restaurant serves pizzas, slushies, fish and chips and burgers which can be eaten in or taken away. It also does a booming bingo night – the Sunday we were there it was packed with bingo-loving campers keen to tick off their Legs Eleven!
For those with pooches in tow, you’ll find a dog-friendly walking area with sweeping countryside views, however animals are not allowed in the Glamping Pods. Not to worry though if you like the look of the site but want to bring a woofa, or if you’re after a bit more luxury during your stay, Andrewshayes has pitches for touring caravans, motorhomes, mobile homes (some with hot tub) and are currently in the process of adding some luxury static caravans to the site, which will hopefully be ready by this summer.
Glamping at Andrewshayes – final thoughts on this campsite near Bristol
Living in Bristol, I’m always hearing people asking for a family-friendly campsite near Bristol. Being under two hours away from the city, close to the coast with an onsite pool, playground and gorgeous countryside views, it’s the perfect weekend getaway for families with kids. For those nervous to camp under canvas with their offspring, a Glamping Pod is a great way to have a go at camping, without fully committing to the less-popular side of it – e.g putting a tent up and down. The creature comforts that exist in the pod offer a little bit of luxury and our kids absolutely loved it – I heard from my youngest’s nursery that she’d initiated a camping pod game to play with her friends, meaning the experience really struck a chord, which is exactly what I wanted to happen! There’s so much to do in the area, I wouldn’t hesitate to go back. If you’re looking for a campsite near Bristol, the West Country or close to the seaside – I can heartily recommend Andrewshayes.
Things to do in Devon near Andrewshayes Holiday Park
Day 1 (evening arrival)
Dinner and drinks (they serve Salcombe Gin – big tick in my book) at the onsite restaurant while kids play in the park.
Morning: Seaton seafront for brunch
Just a 15-minute drive away from Andrewshayes Holiday Park is the seaside town of Seaton, an unflashy place with a long stretch of pebbled beach and a white-cliffed bay that was dazzling in the sunshine. I’d read about The Hideaway Cafe on Flipflopsorwellies.com (owner Clare’s blog which features tons of stuff to do in the local area), so we gave that a whirl for brunch. It’s aptly named – tucked away in the nook of a cliff behind a line of pretty coloured seaside huts, you don’t know it’s there until you stumble across it. Inside is homely and modern, with goodies to buy alongside a tempting array of cakes, plus items like eggs and avocado toast, bacon sarnies and full English on the menu. If the weather is good, go for one of the outside tables for a spectacular view and a beach to let the kids loose while you keep a watchful eye.
Afternoon: Seaton Tramway
A short walk away (opposite East Devon’s cheapest car park!) is Seaton Tramway. For those that have been lucky enough to encounter Franschhoek’s Wine Tram, it looks almost identical (although there is less vino involved). It’s a really fun one to do with kiddos – a double decker electric tram, it has all the airs and old-fashioned graces of travel from another time, the so-called ‘Golden Age of travel’. We started off on the bottom floor, whose wide-open sides make you feel close to the action as you – I want to say whizz, but it’s slower than that – meander through three miles of beautiful countryside, along the Axe Valley. There’s a mid-way stop at Colyford, where you’ll find a pub, visit the village or walk along the river to Colyton, or stay on board, spotting dinosaurs all the way to Colyton. At the station there’s a kids’ playground to entertain the little’uns while you wait for a return tram (roughly every 20 minutes). I highly recommend the top deck – up an extremely narrow flight of steps, it’s surprisingly warmer up there in the sunshine even on a blowy day then it is in the shadowed lower carriage. There’s an ingenious way of flipping the wooden seats so you can face who you choose and of course, you’ve got the panoramic views. Look out for the pink tram – by far the cutest and most appealing to my neon-loving nature. They also do a Polar Express tram at Christmas and a special pirate tram!
Quick stop: Lyme Bay Winery
Just a short drive away from the campsite, on the way to Seaton, our well-trained, eagle eyes spotted the sign for Lyme Bay Winery and Distillery. Located inside a nicely-clad warehouse at the end of Shute village. I highly recommend stopping by to pick up some locally-crafted goodies from the shop. We went for Lyme Bay white wine (Sandbar) and the gin, of course.
Evening: campsite chill-out
Swim in the campsite pool followed by BBQ at pod…
Morning: Lyme Regis
Lyme’s wiggling, hilly roads are packed with cafes, little seaside shops and the odd pub. If the sun is shining, get there early to find parking as this quaint English coastal town definitely knows how to pull the crowds on a warm day. As well as the shops, one of the big draws is the sandy beach – located near the Harbour wall, and don’t worry if you forget your beach kit, there’s plenty of places to pick up a bucket and spade. A popular paddle boarding spot, you’ll see plenty of people pumping up their boards to take them for a spin on a flat, waveless sea. If you’d rather stay on dry land, the wall makes a nice stroll out to sea to look back at the town and boats.
Food-wise they’re a number of places I’d recommend. For sea views, al fresco eating (indoor is also an option) and sun on your face, The Lyme Bay to the left of the big anchor on the seafront serves up a banging brunch. The Eggs Royale with chunky salmon and Maple syrup bacon pancakes were lip-smackingly good.
The Town Mill Bakery is a breakfast experience. Long tables are laid out for customers to sit down in a friendly environment, and it’s all about tucking in. Big pots of jam and butter sit on the tables so you can dig in and get lathering those slices of toast, pastries and the like – kids love it.
We didn’t get to nibble their wares this time around, but my sights for next time are highly set on HIX Oyster and Fish House which overlooks the sandier end of the beach from its hillside perch. With big windows making the most of the view, an outside decking area with tables to tuck into fresh seafood on, and rocking a general rustic-chic seaside vibe, it looks like a special spot for lunch.
Afternoon: soft play and arcade at park, more swimming!
Evening: Local pub – Tuckers Arms
Walk or drive the mile to the pretty local village pub, The Tuckers Arms, all thatched, beamed and olde worlde inside, it ticks all the boxes for country pub. We didn’t make it this time around, but it’s definitely on the list for next time!
Morning: Fossil hunting in Charmouth
I can’t remember going to Charmouth as a kid, but I certainly remember the excitement of fossil hunting along the Jurassic Coast. It’s amazing to think that people still regularly discover the ancient markings of creatures that existed so many millions of years ago. After a (very average) bacon and sausage bap at the cafe next to the beach we headed off in search of fossils of our own. “Your eyes are your best tool” we were told, and scanned the pebbles along the beach for signs of something dinosaur-ish…with success! Albeit it was just an imprint of an ammonite, but still we were happy. To take a look at some seriously impressive finds, check out Charmouth Fossils shops near the car park on the beach; a treasure trove of glittering gemstones, magnificent dino remains, crystals and the like, it took everything within our power to persuade our kiddos they didn’t need to buy everything in the shop. Luckily, to distract them, just above, on the first floor, is the family-friendly Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre, where you can uncover fossils hiding in sand, view Attenborough’s Sea Dragon, have a go at various fossil-related activities and show your beach findings to experts to analyse.
Community breakfast in Dalwood (once a month)
As we were tidying up, Clare invited us along to a community breakfast in the village of Dalwood. This lovely-sounding event takes place once a month and welcomes all for a fry-up.
- For tons of suggestions for things to do in the area, fabulous walks, family days out, travel ideas, festivals and more in the West Country check out flipflopsorwellies.co.uk
- If you like exploring Devon, you might also like my post on family-friendly things to do near Kingswear
Do you have a favourite campsite near Bristol – comment below, I’m going to try as many as I can!