15 years of the big one and Camp Bestival pulled out all the stops for their big birthday bash. The UK’s mother of all family festivals, Camp Bestival Dorset offers a non-stop action-packed festival adventure wrapped up in a huge family camping holiday. Happy Birthday, Camp Bestival!
Arrival, Camping and the site
Let’s start by saying, Camp Bestival is massive. The Dorset site is superb. Beautiful (even in the rain), and full of corners to explore so it’s impossible to get bored, whatever your age. It really is a family holiday and offers an unforgettable weekend for kids.
We arrived around 2pm on Thursday to get set up early. Dutifully we followed the ‘all traffic’ signs rather than our common sense and local knowledge from so many previous holidays in the Lulworth area. It really is a special area and well worth an extended night or two in Dorset but we’d recommend doing that before rather than after when everyone is a little tired and cranky! Due to some rain in the week the site was wet and together with a caravan incident we ended up pretty much stationary in traffic for well over 3 hours. Luckily we were in a campervan so the kids could keep themselves busy.
By 6pm we pulled into the live-in vehicle field. Quickly setting up, we headed into the festival to join the fun. Thursday is a settling in day, so we hadn’t missed much and managed to catch a little of festival kids’ favourites Junior Jungle who are guaranteed to make any arrival stress float away.
More and more families choose to arrive on Thursday and extend their stay. More on camping options and upgrades below.
Camp Bestival deliver an array of acts for all kind of tastes with firm favourites returning year after year. Many of our most enjoyable performances were on the smaller stages in the brilliant Caravanserai which is a ramshackle maze of old caravans and unusual stages and seating areas made from vintage funfair parts. DJ Chris Tofu and Camp Bestival’s very own Rob Da Bank got the party in full swing for our family with everyone jumping around to a classic set on Thursday evening.
Celebrations continued all weekend on the fantastic HMS Camp Bestival stage with some epic performances including Gok Wan DJing dangling high above the stage in a giant heart. Cirque Bijou stole the show and absolutely inspired our circus kids to practice more so they can perform at festivals in future. Another of the top DJ sets was delivered by Dick & Dom‘s family rave. Then David Rodigan taking us on a Sunday reggae journey in Bollywood. This is the main Dance music tent, beautifully decorated and a magnet for teenagers, including ours, who gathered and filled the front end with high energy all weekend.
All ages are welcomed at Camp Bestival and parents tended to gather with smaller kids to the rear or outside the Bollywood tent. Everyone gels along nicely and it’s a good party vibe. Friday night was a really late one as we absolutely had to watch the full Bollywood set of D&B legend Roni Size.
The Castle Stage is overlooked by Lulworth Castle itself which was the backdrop for a Sunday firework finale and projection show. Sadly, the mud beat us and we missed it. Concerned about getting the van out of the wet field we bailed early. Making it home around 11 to watch the pictures shared on social media appear – it looked totally ace. Our highlight here was Mr Maker and Utah Saints mash-up. Who thought of that?!
Hard to put it all in a paragraph so we’ll let the pictures do the talking. Traditional crafts available for adults and older kids are amazing with experts in pretty much anything your heart desires to learn. The area was a lot less hectic than the main kids fields behind the castle where you can easily find yourself all weekend if you don’t drag little ones away. They really would spend all day running between the free activities here. Circus, skateboarding, storytelling, crafts, science and the Big Top theatre shows.
New this year was a brilliant roller disco. We also caught the daredevil Wheel Of Death display. Wow!
We had moments of brilliant sunshine but a fair amount of English showers so found ourselves often darting undercover and indulging in good food. Our favourite place to eat was the food hall in the kids fields. You couldn’t pass without the smell of the open-fire smokehouse cooking tempting you in. Yum! Other favs – the mac n cheese to die for, excellent calamari, and delicious Indonesian curry.
Camp Bestival pride itself on delivering a high-quality event and facilities are plentiful and well looked after. Security is well briefed to be friendly and not intimidating like some events. Even though this is a huge festival for little ones, we have no doubt that lost kids or welfare/first aid issues are dealt with promptly. It’s a safe space for all aged kids without it feeling too controlled for teenagers to still have fun.
Upgrades & everything else
A holiday at Camp Bestival isn’t cheap. It’s really worth planning your camping trip properly if you aren’t on an unlimited budget. Read some of our feeding your family at festivals tips. Also, pack things like face paint, bubbles and other surprises to entertain or distract little ones when temptation hits. Manage your kids’ expectations and work out together what treats they can have over the weekend. For example, 1 ride a day and let them choose. Things like funfair rides, craft workshops, ice creams and churros (they are really good!) all add up. There’s so much to do that is included in the Camp Bestival tickets, you just need to plan a little. This really is Willy Wonka land!
If you can afford it or are making Camp Bestival your summer holiday then consider the vast array of upgrades on offer to make camping easier or more comfortable. You can opt for gorgeous pre-erected glamping accommodation, allocated camping pitches (your own equipment but allocated closer space), or backstage camping (doesn’t get any closer and includes some pretty splendid luxury additions). Or, plenty of families just opt for day tickets and go for a full 12-hour blowout visit. A great way to dip your toes if you aren’t 100% sure if you could do the full weekend.
However you decide to visit, we can recommend giving your kids a Camp Bestival experience at least once in their childhood. Hands down better than any trip to Disneyland. These guys really know how to entertain the family and we can’t wait to be back in the world of Camp Bestival dreams.