When we go camping each year, we don’t slum it. We don’t go glamping either but we have certain criteria for the campsites. Let’s face it, we’re a load of mums with our kids (and sometimes a couple of dads), but we want a bit of an easy life and we certainly want to be able to have a good shower.
So the campsites need to have:
- Nice toilet and shower blocks (ideally family showers for those of us with younger children)
- Pitches with electric hook up
- Be near enough to the sea – living in the middle of the country means the kids rarely see the sea, so body boarding options are a must
We don’t ask for that much. Although being able to park next to or near enough the tent is good, and having a high probability of being pitched near each other are also a big sellers. The latter isn’t something that most campsites can guarantee, although last year’s at Warcombe Farm campsite did give us specific pitches when we booked so we were all in the same area which was mostly empty until other campers arrived a few days in. But for family groups it really does make a difference because it means parents with younger children don’t have to lie in the dark when their kids go to sleep at 8 while all the others are up by another tent in a big group while the older children run around until 10.
After a year camping at Weymouth and then Woolacombe, we went for the 3 Ws and booked Three Cliffs Bay campsite in Wales. The Gower peninsula to be precise. After we booked so many people told me how beautiful Three Cliffs Bay was, and that the campsite was nice and right on the cliff, I was optimistic that it would be a great place to stay.
My only concerns were the weather and the sea. My only 2 experiences of camping in Wales have not been great. The first admittedly was in February and there was snow on the ground for some of our trip. The second was in Barmouth and it rained a lot. So much that our tent at Woodcraft Folk camp got flooded and we had to cram in with other kids. But we’d had 2 years of fantastic weather for the first week of the summer holidays so I was hopeful we’d get dry weather again.
The sea was a worry because everywhere I read online was telling me that around Three Cliffs Bay there was advice to stay out of the water due to strong currents. The kids were going to be disappointed if they couldn’t body board so we were looking out for other beaches further away just in case.
Thankfully on arrival at Three Cliffs Bay campsite, the second was no longer a worry. The guys in the campsite shop told us that there are now lifeguards and that when the tide is out it’s fine between the flags. Phew.
The campsite has all mod cons as expected. It’s a fairly new set up although the campsite’s been around for years (we got chatting to someone there who’d returned for the first time to camp since childhood when it was very different to the modern facilities there are now). We all arrived just before 12 and could park in the car park until registration was open. Registration was simple, just drive down the single track lane to the warden’s hut then they would direct us to a pitch.
There were 6 tents for our group, and 2 people were running late than planned. Because we arrived on the Monday after weekend arrivals, we couldn’t be put together. They managed to get us a 3 together, then a 2 and a 1 across and down a bit. Luckily then a campervan next to us moved so our 1 could fit in there. It’s always such a shame when 2 or 1 tent end up further away because it’s harder to make sure they’re included with meal times and just general chat. But we tried to ensure they were brought over or we headed over there for the fire pit together in the evening.
The campsite is split into 2 fields. To the right has the sea views, right up to the cliff edge, and without electricity for tents. It’s also where the caravans and motorhomes go. The left field where we were has the electric points and the glamping yurts. The campsite also has a few nice looking holiday cottages too.
Once we were pitched, the wardens brought round the picnic benches and fire pits we’d booked. I always think it’s handy booking a picnic table because then you can use your own fold up table for cooking on.
There are toilets and laundry room up near reception and the shop, but otherwise there’s only 1 toilet and shower block. It’s made so each door has 4 rooms with toilets and showers in, probably 16-20 in the block. At most times of the day this was fine, but morning or evening if you just wanted the toilet quite often everything would be full so you’d have to wait because everyone was having showers. It’s worked better in other campsites where you have some toilets that are just toilets, and then shower blocks with toilets and sinks in too. Also, because we weren’t too far into the field it meant the walk to the toilets wasn’t too bad, but if we’d been at one end or the other, it would have been quite a trek.
The showers are motion activated which took a bit of on off when the timer ran off, but were decent showers and warm enough. The wet rooms were always clean when we went in as well.
The water taps were at the toilet/shower blocks too so similarly it was a long trek to get water. We’ve always stayed in campsites with a few water taps in various areas around the campsite.
The weirdest thing was the bins. When you register they give you a bin bag for your rubbish. Fine. But what you don’t realise is that there are no bins round the campsite (except for cold bbqs to go in by the showers). The only bins are up by the shop, again that’s quite a walk trekking huge rubbish bags. What is bad, is that they have a great recycling area with different bins for everything, but everyone just takes a week or few days worth of rubbish in one bag to the bin area, and don’t recycle anything. It might be more work for them to have a bin area in each field, but they’d certainly get more people recycling that way, and people wouldn’t sit with rubbish in or just outside their tents for a week before chucking it out.
We didn’t eat in the café, but they do serve some basic food and drinks, and ice creams were a popular choice. The shop has plenty of camping bits and pieces if you’ve forgotten anything, as well as the usual souvenirs, beach gear and toys. The kids loved spending money in there. Foam rocket launchers being the choice for the boys, although there were a few arguments over who’d picked up whose.
With the wind and rain we were pleased we didn’t have a sea view cliff top pitch. It must have been really scary for them camping there. But the view of the bay from that part of the campsite is stunning.
We walked up to the viewpoint a couple of evenings. The first, the tide was fully in – the river and stepping stones we’d previously crossed were covered, with only the beach dunes walk back up to the campsite accessible. We could also see over to Pennard Castle ruins. Jet-skiers were having fun that first time we headed there.
The next time we went and some people ate a late tea of pizza overlooking the cliff. There are a couple of picnic benches up at the viewpoint but it was so windy during our week, sitting on the grass was less worrying than letting the children be blown off!
If you’re looking for a campsite with a swimming pool and pop-up evening entertainment, Three Cliffs Bay isn’t the campsite for you.
There isn’t even a playground which I was a little concerned about because in previous years the children have enjoy playing football with other kids, and enjoyed the playground equipment. But this didn’t seem to matter because there was lots of green space with tents around the edge of the field and then down the middle. Other children had brought along football goals and badminton nets, so there were lots of children out playing football each day. The younger ones were happy enough playing tractors – the joys of having three 6 year olds who all have the same interests.
All in all, Three Cliffs Bay campsite is a great place to holiday. If the weather had been kinder it would have been pretty much perfect for what we were looking for, ignoring the little niggles over the toilets and bins. But you can’t beat being able to walk a couple of minutes and see views like this over the bay.
Where have you stayed and would recommend in Wales for camping? What do you look for in a campsite?