If you’re thinking of going to Camp Bestival or any family festival for that matter, but don’t know whether it’s worth the money or whether your family would enjoy it, then read on… It’s a warm Tuesday lunchtime and I’ve been home from my first ever Camp Bestival in Shropshire for 24 hours, and I’ve come down with what only can be described as post-bestival blues!
It is no exaggeration to say that this weekend at Camp Bestival was one of the most fun & memorable holidays that I have ever spent with my family. Our group had 4 kids (ages 6 to 13) a twenty-something, a thirty-something and a couple of forty-somethings, and every single one of us had the best time of our lives.
Camp Bestival has been around for many years, but this was the first time they brought the gig “up-north” (well, the midlands) to Weston Park in Shropshire. It’s about 2.5 hours drive from Harrogate although it took us slightly longer as we were towing a caravan.
The main festival is held over 3 full days (Friday to Sunday), although there are some activities on the Thursday as well. We had planned our trip so that we arrived Thursday mid-afternoon, giving us chance to set up camp and do a recce on Thursday evening. Day tickets were also available for those who didn’t want to camp over.
I suppose I’m a fairly experienced festival go-er myself, as my husband and I attend a weekend Download festival each year, however we have only ever been to one festival as a family 5 years ago. Looking back, we did have a great time, however that (much smaller) festival was primarily aimed at very young kids, and the music & entertainment for teens & adults took less of a priority. Bestival couldn’t have been more different- now, don’t get me wrong- there was SO MUCH for young kids, however they absolutely focus on entertainment for teens & tweens as well as some absolutely banging music on the main stage. We were treated to sets by Fatboy Slim (which felt like a bucket-list type gig for an eighties child like me!) Rag ‘N’ Bone Man, Heather Small, Becky Hill, Self Esteem, Sister Bliss from Faithless, Example, Sara Cox, Shed Seven, Scouting for Girls & even The Proclaimers (along with many many more!)
There was simply too much to do in a single weekend, I feel like we barely scratched the surface so we will definitely be back next year. In the meantime here are my top tips to help you enjoy Camp Bestival.
1. The site is quite large, our Campervans field was a 15 minute walk to the arena (although many of the tent fields were nearer) so wear comfy shoes!
2. Beg, borrow or steal a camping trolly if you can. Not only are these great for little kids & babies to hang out in, there is a “best decorated trolly” competition and the winner wins a free ticket for next year! Entry was fierce (think miniature Knaresborough bedrace type decorations!) You can also lug your camping equipment in it when you arrive & depart!
3. Bring shower kit- now I know some people hate festival facilities and prefer the “baby-wipe” cleansing for the weekend, but at Camp Bestival there really is no need- the showers were ace! Bright, clean & airy with plenty of hot water- I’d never had such festival luxury! There were queues in the morning, so I tended to shower last thing at night.
4. Give the loos a chance. I have to admit, I was fairly horrified at the “long drop” type camping loos when I first saw them. It’s incredibly rustic and the thought of them is pretty grim. Having said that I’m now a convert! They don’t smell a quarter as much as traditional porta loos, they are spacious (in case you have to go in with your child) there was always plenty of loo roll and hand sanitiser available (even in the arena) Finally, they are the environmentally friendly option- with no nasty chemicals in use, the waste is converted into a natural fertiliser.
5.Buy a programme lanyard– these are available in advance or from any merchandise shop onsite. There is SO MUCH going on across the festival that they are essential for planning your day.
6. Take some food with you. We took 3 pre-cooked evening meals with us as well as sandwich type stuff for picnics for lunch (you’re allowed to take your own food & drink into the arena- but no glass at all. I may or may not have decanted a bottle of pinot Grigio into a lucazade bottle ????) We were lucky to be staying in a caravan (There’s no electric hook up, but the fridge works on gas, so we could keep food cold) If you can’t do this, freeze meals in takeaway containers before you go (Chilli, curry, Bolognese etc) and you’ll be sorted for the first day or two.
7. Having said that, definitely try the food on-site– it’s delicious! We were particularly impressed with the Mexican Seoul Food ( I went back twice!) and the Beyou New Orleans style BBQ (I had a delicious cajun chicken & shrimp dish- yes- I did say that I chose shrimp at a festival and wasn’t even worried in the slightest- this was next-level food!)
8. Take clothing for all weather eventualities. We were very lucky that the sun was shining for most of the weekend, but sunscreen & hats were definitely required. You’ll need hoodies or other cosy-wear for evenings & of course a lightweight poncho & wellies just in case.
9. Take glitter, sequins, bright colours, crazy hair colours– basically anything goes! More is definitely more at Bestival! Even my “Rocker” husband got into the spirit & wore a glittery stetson topped with flower crown all day on the Sunday!
10. Take lightweight folding chairs (use the trolly to lug them about if you have one!) we found it really useful to set up a “base” for the day and then explore from there. If you’re fine on the floor then a picnic rug will do the job (my knee are far too creaky for that though!)
11. Take fancy dress– Saturday is traditionally fancy dress day and the costumes were phenomenal. Again, there is a prize up for grabs for the best one. I was very proud of my own buzzy bee theme. It worked really well for our group- we had loads of fun “swarming” other festival goers and was cheap & cheerful to make (Primark t-shirts, stitched on yellow stripes, bubble wrap wings and boppers from Amazon. The cost was about £7 per Bee!)
12. Take ear defenders for kids– if you like a dance like we do, you’ll be able to get close to the stage, but be warned – its LOUD! You can buy defenders for £5-£15 from Amazon and they are essential. I saw kids in trolly snoozing happily through Rag n Bone man, snuggled up with blankets & with ear defenders on.
13. Take swimwear- there’s a fabulous lake for a bit of wild swimming- be warned though it’s for over 8 years old (with parental supervision 1:1) and over 15 years for a child to swim without the parent in the water.
14. Take a solar phone charger if you can- if not, you can hire a charging locker on-site. Vodafone signal was great, but apparently other networks were struggling.
15. Explore the full site– there were areas that we didn’t even get to ( there was a whole retreat in the woods called “Slow Motion” that was offering family yoga sessions, ice baths, hot tubs that we never got to… )
16. Wander around & take in the side shows- one of my highlights was watching the Circus Raj.
17. Don’t take cash- the site is pretty much cashless. If your teens have a Go Henry card or similar this is ideal to allow them a bit of freedom.
18. Go into the smaller zones & tents– the main arena is great, but you get to discover the hidden gems in the smaller tents. My personal favourite was the Caravanserai area- this was a mini festival within the festival. I was great during the day, but came alive during the night (and also is where I bumped Ito the lovely Sara Cox & managed to get a cheeky selfie!)
19. If you’ve got younger kids, be sure to take in some of the main areas shows during the day time. There’s plenty of space to spread out & they will love seeing their heroes on stage. We saw Mr Tumble, Cosmic Kids Yoga, Mister Maker, Mr Motivator & Yolanda’s Band Jam- all of which were brilliant.
20. Stay until the very end– the fireworks set to music after the Sunday headliner were just magical!
At Mumbler we are incredibly grateful to have been gifted our tickets to attend Camp Bestival, however even if we had paid full price, we would have still considered this to be phenomenal value for money for a weekend jam-packed with entertainment for the whole family. There is so much included in the ticket price that you genuinely don’t have to spend loads of extra cash to have a great time at Bestival.