Starry Skies 2018 Review

There is always a risk in returning to something you’ve loved. Could Starry Skies 2018 live up to our memories from two years ago? Our children are that little bit older (and with one more than last time they now out number us). So could we still find that same magical escape from the world at Starry Skies’ new site?

Starry Skies 2018
Starry Skies hasn’t moved far. It’s now just over the border into Wales, near the town of Usk. It’s perhaps not quite as pretty as the old location but it’s woodland area is gorgeous. There are gnarled old trees, little valleys and big grassy spaces to explore. A new site could mean a whole heap of teething problems. But It was clear, even before we arrived, that we were in experienced hands. An email the day before gave clear directions to avoid a tricky bend, a steward at the gate even had tips for negotiating the slight hill on the drive in.


Two years ago we had a long wait in the car to get on site. We were all ready with lunch boxes this time, but instead sailed straight up that hill and into the carpark. The lack of queue was probably because you can no longer drive right up to the campsite to unload your gear. There was a trailer service picking up peoples bags and taking them to the campsite. But this was, unsurprisingly, very busy when we arrived. So we loaded up our buggy and carried our gear ourselves. This was no worse than most other festivals and there were a good number of wheelbarrows around to help out.

Starry Skies 2018 view from tent
Not a bad view from our tent

The camping fields themselves left us spoilt for choice. You could pitch up right by the activity tents but we opted to go a little further away into a lovely green field looking down into a valley. We had plenty of space to put up our six man tent, awning and event shelter. With Starry Skies running for five days it was great to be able to spread out and get comfy. Although the camper van field looked like it was a little more crowded.

Starry Skies 2018 Bigtopmania


If three small children and a tent in a field sounds like hard work, here’s the strange thing: Starry Skies gave us grown ups the most relaxing break we’ve had in a while. There was so much for the kids to do that our problem wasn’t wondering how to keep them happy, it was helping them choose.

Starry Skies 2018 Woodland Tribe
The Woodland Tribe helped the kids build a giant pirate ship. Even quite little kids were able to get involved hammering and sawing bits of wood

Evelyn (9) was old enough to go to a lot of things on her own. She absolutely loved the drama workshop “play in a day”. Run by Jo from Storycycler. This was actually 90 minutes a day for three days and during that time the kids devised and rehearsed a play. On Saturday they performed for the festival. Evelyn and Martha (5) both loved forest school, with different age groups having their own areas in the woods.

Starry Skies 2018

But the undoubted highlight was the famous Starry Skies giant slide. I challenge you to find anything more fun than dozens of children, a giant tarpaulin, and gallons of (eco) washing up liquid on the side of a hill. The girls spent about an hour repeatedly running up the hill and sliding back down, covered in soap. It looked like joyous chaos, although it was all carefully and quietly watched over by the stewards. Us grown ups just got to sit back in the sun and watch our delighted children thoroughly wear themselves out.

Starry Skies 2018 water slide

Even better, all the outdoor exhaustion meant that Martha, who hasn’t had a nap in years, crawled into the tent with her baby sister and promptly fell asleep for two hours. With her big sister at forest school Mum and Dad actually got a bit of child free time together.

Our youngest camper, 15 month old Ada, was a bit too little to join in with the slide, but she had a great time in the under fives play tent and watching the regular bubble shows. She even got interested in the Bigtopmania circus show. In the evening the baby bath tent provided lovely bubbly tubs of warm water and a quiet spot for stories and unwinding.

Starry Skies 2018 bubbles

She wasn’t the only one able to have a good wash though. There were plenty of showers and all the toilets had sinks. There were water taps and more sinks on the campsite. The toilets were provided by LooWatt and proved to be a great source of fascination to the kids (ok and the adults). They used a waterless system where everything gets bagged up and taken away to be used as fuel.

Starry Skies 2018 wheelie bin amplifier
This bin recorded and looped noises and singing from passing children


There were a few food stalls on site. This year they were all in a barn which proved handy when the weather got worse. There was pizza, ice cream, a stall selling vegan bowlfood and kebabs and another van with a menu that changed each day including paella and chicken tagine. There was also a bar and a camp shop. Though this seemed to stock only quite expensive organic products (I could find many kinds of milk but none of them from a cow). It’s great that alternative tastes and diets were catered for but a few cheap basics would have been good too. While it would be possible to keep everyone fed just from what was on site,  it would get very expensive very quickly. We did a run to a supermarket 20 minutes away to stock up and cooked most of our meals ourselves. 

Starry Skies 2018 singing around the campfire
Singing around the campfire

In the evenings we let the older girls go off to watch a movie in the cinema tent while we took the little one to sing songs around the communal campfire. Then we all went back to the tent together to turn our little BBQ into a firepit. We toasted marshmallows and shared our favourite bits of the day. Even getting them to bed was no hassle after a long day of running, climbing and playing in the fresh air.

On the last full day the weather turned to rain and wind. Most of the tent campers packed up early. This staggered exit meant that by the time we were packing up on Sunday morning there was no problem flagging down a pick up to carry all our stuff right back to our car. For a wet pack up it was surprisingly easy.

Starry Skies 2018 covered in soap!
Evelyn has never been so happy to be covered in soap

Starry Skies’ motto is: Where Kids Roam Free. For my city kids who rarely do anything unattended it was a joy to be able to go to a show or just play in the woods without constant supervision. For us grown ups it was wonderful to see them challenged by new experiences, delighted by jugglers or acrobatic yoga classes or just grinning wildly as they slipped down a hill. They even allowed us to join in with them sometimes.

Starry Skies 2018 Big Top Mania

Starry Skies 2018 more than lived up to our experience two years ago. It was every bit as magical and we left with some family memories we will treasure for years. I think I might even like the new site even more than the old one.

Starry Skies 2019 has a lot to live up to – but I’m pretty sure it will manage it.

Starry Skies 2018 mud kitchen
As happy as a Unicorn in a mud kitchen