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Camping, Bushcraft & Survival

Camping In Essex | Best Campsites and Glamping Spots In The County

Essex is slowly becoming the holiday spot we... er... always knew it would become. Check out these incredible camping spots available to book in the county this year. It's the only way

It’s safe to say that Essex isn’t known, first and foremost, for outdoor serenity and camping. We’re here to disprove any-and-all assumptions of the region though by running you through the best camping and glamping spots the county has to offer. Whether you’re looking for a seaside retreat at the beach or a jam-packed activity-based holiday, Essex will have you covered with its array of nice campsites and unique places to stay.

The county’s woodland runs for thousands of acres, providing the backdrop for some unforgettable summer days and the cosiest of summer nights. Keep an eye out for the best of Essex’s wildlife too, from the muntjac deer to the striking swoops of the Kingfisher, you’re bound to be amazed by what you see on a camping trip here.

Lee Valley Almost Wild Campsite

Go (almost) completely wild at this idyllic Lee Valley camp spot (Credit: Cool Camping)

Broxbourne

(BOOK HERE)

This appropriately named ‘Almost Wild’ campsite sits on an idyllic island between the Essex and Hertfordshire borders, offering a type of serenity you might not expect to find in East Anglia. Just 30 minutes from London’s Liverpool Street station sits a leafy canopy created by Lee Valley’s regional park, with an area that’s been left untamed to allow every visitor the chance to experience its natural beauty in style. The local pub’s just a canoe paddle away as well.

Basic facilities are provided (a composting toilet, cold water tap and a sink for washing up), but the rest is up to your imagination. You’ll get a helping hand in that department from the wild badgers, birds, muntjac, bats, and, with any luck, a sighting of Broxbourne’s favourite otter. If the sound of Lee Valley’s Almost Wild campsite has inspired you, start deciding whether you’ll want a riverside or woodland pitch. There are 17 pitches in total, with tents, hammocks and dogs allowed, but no motorhomes or caravans. It’s all about being (almost) wild here.

The Shepherds’ Hides

A peaceful Essex retreat surrounded by vineyards and strawberry fields. (Credit: Cool Camping)

Brightlingsea, Essex

(BOOK HERE)

Blending countryside and coastal views, the 55 acres of Essex’s Mill Farm makes the perfect spot for these two cosy abodes. One hide is tucked away pond-side, peacefully sat in a partially wooded enclave as the other hide overlooks Mill Farm’s newly planted vineyard. Strawberry fields find themselves woven into the farmland and are open to guests in the Summer months (for those of you fancying a Beatles-esque spin on reality). Campers are encouraged to explore the various trails leading from, towards and away from the farm.

As well as the fully restored circa-1831 tidal mill (the title track of the farm site, if you will), top bird watching spot Arlesford Creek is just a footpath away. Longer walks will take you to the busier parts of Essex’s coast, heading east for the arcades of Clacton-on-Sea and west for Mersea Island’s tranquil stony beaches.

Both hides are equipped with the same comforts; the bedrooms come with a king-sized bed and an en suite shower room, while the dining areas are neatly kitted with a compact kitchen space and wood burning stoves. If Brightlingsea’s Shepherds’ Hides sounds like the summer glamping spot for you, you’ll be greeted with a local goods basket as a welcoming gift for your custom. Once you’ve made your way through the goods, the shops of nearby towns of Brightlingsea and Thorrington will provide all the essentials for your stay, as well as a neat local pub (The Red Lion).

Essex Outdoors, Mersea

Essex is truly outdoors at this Mersea Island activity campsite (Credit: Essex Outdoors)

Mersea Island

(BOOK HERE)

High ropes, archery, obstacle courses, bushcraft and caving; if grabbing a helmet and diving into the deep end of outdoor activities is your thing, Mersea’s Essex Outdoors might be for you. Located on Essex’s treasured Mersea Island, this recreational campsite won’t leave you or your family at a loose end with its massive range of activities on offer. From kayaking to climbing, offroad biking to “aerial adventures”, you’re guaranteed to spend your days well here.

Open for family camping in the weeks of the school Summer holidays, groups have the choice of bringing their own camping equipment to the campsite or booking a family-sized ‘patrol’ style tent, provided by Essex Outdoors. Motorhomes and caravans aren’t allowed, so it’s back to basics at this West Mersea campsite.

Alternatively, if your family fancies a firmer roof over their heads, smaller wooden camping pods are available to book on site. Fitted with bunk beds, these pods are close to the modern onsite shower and bathroom facilities. With a range of accommodation options and activities pouring out of Mersea Island, Essex Outdoors Mersea could be the campsite for you this summer.

Layer Marney Tower

Glamp in style at these well-kept Tudor grounds in Essex (Credit: Layer Marney)

Layer Marney

(BOOK HERE)

Not quite Chelmsford, not quite Colchester, not quite anywhere; these Tudor palace grounds are well and truly in the sticks of Essex. Here, the well-kept gatehouse of Layer Marney Tower casts a cosy shadow on six rustic homely encampments provided by Feather Down. It’s maybe the perfect glamping site.

Built by a friend of Henry VIII’s, this Tudor palace and its grounds will transport you away from the buzz of suburban Essex and back to a simpler time where oil-lamp-lit tented cottages comfort you after days spent reconnecting with the best of English wildlife. The whole Layer Marney estate is open for guests to explore, with entrance to the tower included with the stay.

Don’t get carried away with the Tudor stuff, though. Well, you can if you want to – who are we to tell you what to do? We just think you should make the most of the en suite toilets, private showers, optional hot tubs, stocked-up kitchens, wood-burning stoves, barbeques, and fire pits. Take that, Henry VIII.

Moat Wood, Braintree

This off-grid solar powered vintage American schoolbus is an unlikely contender for the best glamping spot in Essex this year (Credit: Glampingly)
Who would’ve thought these were the interiors of a vintage American school bus? Not us. (Credit: Glampingly)

Braintree

(BOOK HERE)

If you’re looking for something a little more extravagant than the traditional camping and glamping spots on offer in this guide (or if going Tudor didn’t take your fancy), this converted vintage American school bus in the woodland of north Essex is well worth checking out. Retaining its instantly recognisable yellow exterior design, the hosts of this unique glamping spot have done a fancy job of kitting out this bus with no less than eight massive solar panels for all the energy you’ll need this summer. This off-grid spot in Braintree is surrounded by a massive private woodland estate that’s open for guests to explore for your daytime entertainment. By night, wrap up under the stars and get reminiscing about that time you thought about converting an American school bus yourself.

The bus itself sleeps up to six guests; featuring a king-size double bed, two single bunks and two single settee bunks. The hosts of the bus have allowed for extra camping space if it’s needed, but come on – get yourselves in the bus already. Water facilities are covered by an onboard toilet (which flushes) and a shower room. The least-Essex-looking bus in Essex is nicely kitted with a dining table, breakfast bar and a projector. Movie night anyone?

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