This year, we were lucky enough to be provided with a family ticket to review Camp Bestival. We aren’t completely new to Family Festivals, however, this was certainly going to be the biggest and longest festival we had attended as a family. Here’s how we got on…
Camp Bestival takes place annually at Lulworth Castle in Dorset, set in the middle of beautiful countryside. As you drive towards Lulworth, you are advised to ‘switch off the sat nav’ as there are so many road closures and one way systems in place. It is relatively well sign posted, you just need to be aware of the car park you have been asked to head to as it is quite a walk between them if you end up on the wrong place!
As the first day for Camp Bestival fell on the hottest day of the year so far and we were aware that there may be a need to queue to get in, we decided to wait until mid-afternoon to head over (mindful that putting the tent up in the heat whist simultaneously needing to keep two kids out the head may be a challenge!). This worked well for us and after a short wait, we picked up our wrist bands and headed off to put the tent up. We use a Coleman Blackout Tent as our festival tent.
Once settled, we gave the kids a quick pasta meal before going out to explore the site. The Thursday is very much a ‘get set up’ day and so it is a good chance to explore the site without the crowds and get your bearings! It was then back to the tent to get some sleep and prepare for our first day at the festival!
Its worth getting hold of a programme, for £10, you got a branded CB bag, colouring book, programme and lanyard with a condensed programme of timings at each site. We checked this each evening and made a list of what we wanted to see. It’s worth having a rough plan to work to but also being mindful of what you absolutely don’t want to miss – you can easily get distracted as you walk across the site as there is so much going on!
Our first stop was the gigantic bouncy castle which was immediately spotted by the little one. There wasn’t much of a queue at this point so we happily waited for 10 minutes for his allotted 15 minute bouncing session – it’s worth keeping an eye on the queues as things do get busier as the weekend progresses so it’s best getting on stuff while you can, rather than promising you will do it later on in the weekend when there is a HUGE queue!
After this, we headed off to watch West End Kids in the Big Top before lunch. There is so much to do that we, at times, split up. We have a 5 year gap between our two and found that they wanted to do different things at different times so it was worth double teaming to ensure everyone was happy! After lunch, we discovered the Kids Talent Show – this was to become my daughter’s favourite thing at Camp Bestival. Children can present their own special skills and talents in front of an audience and a judge in order to win a family ticket to come back next year! Both children enjoyed watching others up on stage and it was a welcome hour out of the heat (with a beer!) for the adults. As the day went on, we spent time exploring the site and stalls (be warned, temptation is everywhere! We allowed our children one fairground ride per day and they coped with this relatively well) before a quick dinner at the tent and heading out into the evening. With the 4 year old snug in the wagon, he fell asleep and as he happily snoozed outside the tent where the Fat Boy Slim Appreciation Society set was taking place, I realised that they really do sleep through anything if they need to!
Taking it in turns to watch the little one, we explored more of the site and watch the trapeze act. We also discovered the Caravanserai Area. This was a lovely little set up which felt like you were stepping into another world! We loved listening to the live music in here and regretted not making it back into here on our final night! Definitely a place not to miss!
We headed back to the tent and snuggled the little one down then I headed out with the 9 year old to catch Jess Glynee – a real treat for her as this didn’t begin till gone 10pm! She happily then went off to bed listening to the music from the tent and slept soundly till morning.
The next day we again split up, Daddy headed off to a meet and greet with Wallace and Gromit and to watch SamSam the Bubbleman while we headed off to the Dress Like a Mum at a Festival event to take part in some craft activities as well as nail painting and glittering! After this, we met up to watch the 4 year olds festival highlight, Mister Maker and the Shapes followed by Mr Tumble. He absolutely loved this and couldn’t quite believe it was the real people on stage! Following this, we had a go on the Ferris Wheel, little ones chosen treat of the day, where we had a superb view over the festival (friends of ours did this at night time and said it was brilliant!). We then had lunch in the WI tent before heading over to watch the second day of the Kids Talent Show whilst eating much needed Snow Cones as we cooled down out the heat for an hour!
During the afternoon, I dragged my 9 year old off for some 80s nostalgia during the Sara Cox DJ set – this was one of my highlights and we have taught my daughter well as she recognised lots of the songs! The atmosphere in here was brilliant as there were so many families having fun and dancing to the music – something not to miss! After this, we again, headed back to the tent for some food and chill time before heading back out.
At this point, I managed to sneak out to go and watch Father of Daughters V Mother of Daughters, another highlight for me, where I spent another nostalgic hour dancing away and reliving my youth! I ended up next to Freckles Festival Nannies during this hour, who were looking after the children of FOD and MOD and we got chatting, this was a new service on offer for the first time and a great idea for those who want to escape the kids for an hour or so whilst at the festival.
Whilst I danced away, the others had headed off to Dingley Dell to play on the park away from the noise of the festival. This was a great find, our two needed the occasional time out from all the noise and sights and sounds and this was a great end to the day. After this, it was back to the tent to put the kids to bed whilst we enjoyed the sounds of Nile Rodgers and CHIC!
Our last day began with Newton Falkner and My Moozik – we love Newton Falkner’s music so we were interested to see what was going on. We listened to songs about breakfast and being kind to your friends during a set that reminded us a bit of the Wiggles! We then headed off to explore Spinney Hollow and the Wild Tribe Area.
Both Spinney Hollow and the Wild Tribe offers something very different to the rest of the festival. Here, there are lots of opportunities for the children to try out more traditional crafts and activities away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the festival. However, we found that most activities were booked up by Sunday morning so it’s worth heading over here on the Thurs/Fri to ensure that you book into the more popular activities such as shield and wand making.
While we were here, the little one chose to make a pirate necklace before we headed down the hill to explore the Wild Tribe. As you approach, your eyes are immediately drawn to the wooden structure being build and you can pay a couple of pounds for a hammer and nails to be able to add your own touch to the structure. Our kids absolutely loved this and were a little sad to hear that the structure would be set fire to on the Sunday night! So we took it in turns to supervise whilst grabbing some lunch. We both ate from an outdoor kitchen which provided meat roasted over an open fire and an amazing selection of fresh salads – this was a really welcome break from all the festival food we had consumed! After this, we headed back up the hill to watch another performance by SamSam the Bubbleman before heading back to the tent.
We chose to avoid the Monday morning chaos by taking our tent down on Sunday night. This suited us better as we had a long journey ahead of us so wanted to ensure we got off the site easily. It really didn’t take long to dismantle the tent so the kids had some down time while we packed up and it allowed us to happily head out into the festival for dinner before preparing to watch the fireworks.
The fireworks take place over the castle which makes for a spectacular backdrop. A themed story (linked to the Superhero theme of Camp Bestival this year) is projected onto the castle and the fireworks are spectacular and worth the wait! There was a great deal of talk and excitement over the fireworks so we made the decision to watch these before leaving the festival. Although they didn’t start till 10.30pm, they were over within 10-15 minutes allowing us to head back to the car and head out of the site with ease.
We loved our first experience of Camp Bestival. It was very different to family festivals we had previously experienced (for example Timber Festival 2019 and Just So 2018, which have a much slower pace to them) and we found that we were all shattered by the end – there is so much to do and no one wants to miss out on anything! It was also our first experience of a music festival with the kids and we found that we ended up missing out on most of the music acts in favour of other performances that the kids favoured, it really is worth checking out the programme to make sure you don’t miss anything you really want to see!
We would love to experience Camp Bestival again and feel this has given us a taste for something more adventurous. We also feel that this is a festival that will grow with our children as they get older and more tolerant of loud music and change of routine! Thanks Camp Bestival, see you in 2020!