So, you fancy a few nights away camping with the kids, but your expectations seem to surpass the reality of what’s on offer? Unfortunately, perfect campsites are a bit like mythical creatures…they don’t exist. Or do they?
Firstly, it must, of course, be family friendly. Maybe it has a small adventure play park and pitches located only around the edges of the fields to encourage kite flying, boules and games of catch. However, you also want a beach close by for some family paddling, kayaking or SUPing. Oh, and it definitely needs to allow camp fires – that’s an absolute must – how else will you toast those marshmallows? Should you and your family wish to escape further though, there needs to be plenty on offer within a short distance to keep you all occupied. And lastly, you want truly jaw-dropping scenery and surroundings. You’d be forgiven for thinking that this campsite, like a minotaur, unicorn or rocking horse poo, is just a step too far, a thing of camping fantasy. But you’d be wrong!
Aberafon, located on the Llyn Penisula in north Wales, about 10 miles south of Caernarfon, should be on everyone’s UK camping bucket list. Sandwiched between the sea, that it proudly looks across, and the mountains behind, that offer a spectacular backdrop, you will struggle to find a more aesthetically pleasing base for your family camping adventures anywhere.
Okay, its position does mean that, from time to time, the area suffers from windy conditions. But few coastal sites manage to escape this issue. Furthermore, to reach Aberafon, you have to descend down a steep, narrow lane. If you’re towing a trailer or in a campervan, extra caution needs to be taken as even the passing spots are pretty tight. But, on the other hand, sites of this beauty are rarely located, Travelodge style, at the side of a convenient dual carriageway. There are also all manner of spiders, moths, beetles and the like, (yes, even in the toilets and shower block) for you to either embrace or avoid. But, come on, you’re in the great outdoors; if bugs bother you, maybe you should have exited the dual carriageway at the Travelodge. My point is, if you want the massive rewards that this site offers, you have to live a little. Nobody wins a race they did not enter!
We booked a sea view pitch (£48 for three nights) and, on arrival, were given a choice of two to check out. We gambled and went for the pitch right on the front. When I say right on the front, there is a literally just a fence (more than capable of stopping inquisitive critters) that separates you from the beach. However, there are also sheltered pitches available, located in the back fields in amongst the trees and bushes, for people not wanting to be as exposed during periods of bad weather. Booking ahead (using their online availability and booking system) during busy periods is essential. During our stay a few fellow campers had enquired about extending their holiday by an extra night or two (it really is that sort of place) but to no avail. The site was full!
The largely pebble Aberafon beach that we looked onto also has small patches of sand, particularly welcome if, like us, you have very young children. It is also perfect for exploring the many rock pools that form making it home to many crabs and other sea creatures. The beach also has a slipway for anyone wishing to take boats or kayaks to venture round this beautiful coastline, which certainly attracts more outdoor and adventurous families. Lastly, beach fires are permitted, with the onsite shop selling bags of wood and marshmallows, setting you up for a perfect evening sunset.
The mountains located to the rear of the Aberafon site are also well worthy of exploration and, packed up with the toddler on my back, we spent an afternoon conquering them and trying to spot our now miniscule bell tent. There is no need to drive out in order to find a trail to hike, you simply walk straight out of the site and cross the road to pick up the first way-marked path up to Gyrn Goch, a steep hike with amazing views of the peninsula and across to Anglesey being your reward.
The facilities onsite are very good and clean which, when you bear in mind the location and type of adventurous people and families it attracts, is no mean feat. The shower rooms and toilets have everything from wetsuits, sea water and sand to an array of local bugs traipsing through them, so the owners do a brilliant job in their upkeep. We had toilets, drinking water and washing up facilities located at the top of our field, which was really handy for our nearly 3 year old and his peanut sized bladder. The showers are located just a two minute walk away, adjacent to the babbling brook and resident family of ducks, and cost 20p for 3 minutes.
A friendlier set of owners you’d struggle to meet. As a teacher, who is notoriously bad with names, I was impressed that after one brief meeting, the owner had managed to remember the names of our children and always made a point of asking them about their day and adventures. They were also a willing source of local knowledge giving me the low down on the various hiking routes available from the campsite. Nothing was too much trouble. A further nice touch was that on the Wednesday evening they had arranged for a wood-fired pizza company to come onto site and set up their oven in the top field. This certainly went down well with campers.
If your jaw ever tires of gawping at the wonderful scenery at Aberafon, there’s a great collection of days out all within a short drive. Caernarfon, and its famous castle, is only about 20 minutes away in one direction, while the seaside town of Porthmadog and the architecturally amazing Portmeirion are only about 20 minutes away in the other direction. If you crave even more adventure, you’re also on the doorstep of Snowdonia National Park. With its endless walking, hiking, climbing and paddling opportunities, and its picturesque towns and local legends, such as Beddgelert, you’d struggle to be better placed for exploring this particular part of north Wales.
All in all, if you’re an active, adventurous family that embraces the outdoors then Aberafon could just be your unicorn. It offers so much in such a small, non-commercialised package, while the views alone are worthy of adding it to your camping bucket list.