There are few things in life as satisfying as sitting around a campfire gazing into the flames while enjoying good company. However, these days it’s often difficult to find a campsite that allows fires, either in a firepit or on a nearby beach. To accompany my recent review of the Top 10 Campsites in Scotland here are 10 great sites that that also allow campfires (tended by responsible campers).
Campfires speak to our primeval instincts. Nothing beats getting back to nature, building your own fire and using it for warmth and cooking. You can gaze for hours, trance-like, into an open fire. And food somehow tastes better with that wood-smoked aroma (even the burnt bits !). Fires are often communal, encouraging good conversation or a good old sing-song.
However, having a campfire is a privilege and brings with it a responsibility to conserve the environment and maintain safety at all times. Open fires can easily spell danger and sometimes people do stupid things when around a fire. Most importantly:
- choose a sensible location, ideally on the the site of a previous fire (such as a fire pit) or on bare soil, away from overhanging trees, dry grass, tents and vehicles;
- build the fire in a contained area such as a barrel, BBQ or pit surrounded by rocks;
- only use dead wood you find on the ground – don’t chop down live trees (green wood won’t burn easily anyway);
- extinguish the fire with plenty water once you leave it (embers can stay hot for hours and be fanned by winds), and have water or sand at the ready in case the fire gets out of hand;
- never use flammable liquids (such as petol) to light a fire, or throw aerosols or gas canisters into a fire;
- never leave a fire unattended.
Unsurprisingly, given the risks, many campsites are extremely wary of campfires on their property. The last thing they want is large areas of scorched earth or nearby trees being ripped down and used as firewood. So please view open fires on or near campsites as a privilege and behave safely and responsibly.
OK, lecture over. So where to go ? There appear to be around 40 to 50 campsites across Scotland that allow campfires. I’ve listed 10 of the better campsites below from longer lists that are available (see ‘Further reading’ below), many of which are in beach or loch-side locations.
10. Glenbrittle Campsite, Skye
This is a basic site near to the beach at the southern end of Glenbrittle. Don’t expect too many facilities – but do expect fabulous views and sunsets. A walker’s paradise at the base of the Cuillin Hills and just a few miles from the Fairy Pools, one of the better wild swimming locations in the UK.
9. Port Ban Holiday Park, Kintyre
The owners call Port Ban “a wee taste of heaven on the West Coast” and I would agree. It’s situated at Kilberry on the Kintyre peninsular with amazing views west towards the Paps of Jura. It’s well organised with play equipment and a sandy beach, giving a very safe, family-oriented atmosphere. There’s a shop, cafe and restaurant on site but also, don’t miss the chance to eat out at the nearby Kilberry Inn, famed for its bar meals.
8. Caolasnacon Caravan and Camping Park, Loch Leven
On the shore of Loch Leven and close to the Mamores and Glencoe, Caolasnacon is great for kayakers as well as mountaineers – as well as a whole host of other activities. It’s well located for wildlife spotting, with resident golden eagles nearby.
7. Seal Shore, Arran
Right on the southern tip, Seal Shore is a peaceful spot with a good view towards the volcanic plug of Ailsa Craig visible to the south. We enjoyed the walk along the beach here (good for campfires). Don’t miss Goatfell, Arran’s castles and other attractions, and the fantastic cheeses and ice cream at nearby Isle of Arran Dairies.
6. Rubha Phoil Eco Camping, Skye
A working permaculture farm with eco-campsite on a wooded peninsular just near the Armadale Pier ferry point on Skye. There are two beaches right beside the site but some pitches now have fire pits too. Well positioned for walks and trails, fishing and wildlife spotting.
5. Invercaimbe Caravan and Campsite, Arisaig
Right beside the white sands of Morar, Invercaimbe boasts stunning views out to Eigg, Rhum and Skye. The beaches are shallow and relatively calm, perfect for swimming and kayaking, and there are boat trips out to the islands (Eigg, Rhum, Muck and Canna) from nearby Arisaig.
4. Comrie Croft, Perthshire
Comrie Croft is an eco-campsite near the Perthshire village of Comrie, an hour from Edinburgh and Glasgow. It has a mix of accommodation: a farmhouse, steading, eco-camping (both in the birch woodland and in two meadows) and in katas (wigwams). You’ll not find any caravans here. It’s a laid-back environment and perfectly situated for cycling, walking and just lazing around.
3. Fidden Farm, Mull
There are several excellent sites in Scotland that boast very little in the way of ‘official’ amenities – don’t expect much more than basic washing facilities – but this is more than compensated by spectacular scenery. Fidden Farm, right at the western end of the Isle of Mull just near the ferry terminal for Iona, is a perfect example. Stay when the sun’s shining and you will probably have the glorious white sand beach all to yourself to play on. (Conversely, when it’s wet or windy – or both – you’ll need to make your own entertainment !). A new washblock was being constructed when we last stayed here a couple of years ago. Just watch out for the sheep dogs if you have young children though; they’re working farm dogs and not used to kids (ie they can and do bite).
2. Balloch O’Dee, Dumfries and Galloway
Balloch O’Dee campsite is relatively new, found in a small working farm near Newton Stewart in Dumfries and Galloway. The owners have put a lot of care and attention into creating a relaxing, high quality environment complete with with superb (candle lit) washing facilities, fire pits and bothy. It’s only 15 minutes from the beach, with mountain biking, fishing and the Galloway Dark Sky Park (the UK’s first such park) within an easy distance.
1. Red Squirrel, Glencoe
If you like the idea of informal camping where you simply choose a pitch for your tent in among the trees or along the side of a stream then you’ll like Red Squirrel. Set in the heart of historic Glencoe, with towering mountains all around, this campsite is definitely on tourist route to Fort William and the Islands. This is one of the few sites that allows open fires in certain locations. It’s also staggering distance back along the road from the legendary Clachaig Inn (stone floors, wooden tables, open fires and over 200 malt whiskies and real ales).