This Summer we were lucky enough to go to BOTH Camp Bestival Dorset and Camp Bestival Shropshire and since we got home lots of people (by my standards) have been asking whether we preferred Camp Bestival Dorset or Camp Bestival Shropshire and which we would recommend.
The simple answer is that we absolutely LOVED THEM BOTH. Both Camp Bestival Dorset and Camp Bestival Shropshire are exactly what they say they are; family friendly festivals with fabulous food, amazing activities and acts, and a really safe and inclusive vibe at both of them.
Our experiences of both were quite different for several reasons; it was just me and the girls in a camper for the weekend at Camp Bestival Dorset where as we all visited Camp Bestival Shropshire with friends too.
Is Camp Bestival Dorset better than Camp Bestival Shropshire?
Camp Bestival Dorset is held earlier in the Summer; July 25-28 2024 at Lulworth Castle.
Travelling from the North West this is obviously quite a trek but it is so worth it and you could opt to holiday locally either side of the festival to avoid the traffic and experience the gorgeous surrounds as you are unlikely to leave the site once you’ve set up.
Camp Bestival Dorset is definitely the larger of the two fesitvals. It is the original and it is GLORIOUS. Views of the sea from the carousel and the castle backdrop was just perfect.
The site at Camp Bestival Dorset is large but not intimidatingly so and there were throngs of kids and teenagers roaming around the site without close adult supervision. It felt like a place that families started going to 15 years ago which had become a home from home and parents felt safe allowing their kids a bit of freedom and that was so lovely to see 😊 This is where coming as a group really has it’s merits- you can set up at the main stage early doors and take it in turns to head off to the various talks, activities and stalls whilst others stay and keep the space so that the kids always have somewhere to return to knowing someone will be there from the gang. There were lots of multi-generational families and groups of mates experiencing Camp Bestival Dorset together which I think- if you have the right family or pick the right mates- is the ideal way to do it.
Is Camp Bestival Shropshire better than Camp Bestival Dorset?
Camp Bestival Shropshire is mid August; 15th-18th with Early bird tickets going on sale on Friday 29th Sept.
Camp Bestival Shropshire on the other hand felt like more of the families were at the younger end of the spectrum- there seemed to be more babes in arms and toddlers in carts so hopefully the Bestival cycle is beginning again for a whole new generation. 😊
I follow Father Of Daughters who confirmed that his family has been raised at Camp Bestival Dorset and I am sure that giving your kids experiences like that offers at least a crumb of comfort when at 16 they want to head off to their first festival sans famillie…They understand the toilet situation, they know how crowded things can be by the stage etc so hopefully they will be a little more prepared and less likely to lose their heads. Knowledge and experience are power.
For me personally the best whole experience was Camp Bestival Shropshire. The wild swimming was a dream- it was the absolute best being able to get up, walk over the wobbly bridge and slide into the lake in the sunshine. Doing it with Adam and the girls was magic and a memory I’ll treasure forever.
Camp Bestival Shropshire felt as though it had some teeny teething problems – there some issues around queuing times for free activities and all gates to site opening at the same time for example where as Camp Bestival Dorset felt like a very well oiled machine.
Both sites have a really good variety of accommodation options; camping, glamping, campervans and caravans but I didn’t find comparing the options that easy on the site so have a look before the tickets are released so you know what you want and what you’re getting for your money.
We opted for glamping at Camp Bestival Shropshire so we didn’t have to set up or take down the tent but went for the basic package so we still needed to take bedding etc- you can go all out and have electricity, bedding, the works but the price changes accordingly. The glamping area at Camp Bestival Shropshire is located really close to the VIP parking and offers access to showers, flushing toilets, areas for washing up and benches for eating etc. It also had a pamper area which has hair driers, straighteners and make up stations…I don’t bother with most of that stuff at home but the girls loved in and I think that will only become more important in the years to come!!
And that’s the thing isn’t it? All of these activities and memories and experiences are a part of the bitter sweet experience of parenting; the holding on whilst letting go. The hardest and best job you’ll ever do.
My socials over the summer were chokka block with festivals all over the UK with different themes, different price points, sizes and locations so there really is something for everyone. Foodies, Thespians, families of all ages and interests so have a good look and consider how much you can afford, how far you want to travel and how long you you can cope with camping and other people and take it from there…it might need a spreadsheet but wherever you choose, here are some top tips:
Top Tips for either Camp Bestival:
We also have another post stuffed full of tips for Camp Bestival here.
Hire a locker:
This allows you to charge your phones, cameras etc over night and keep items like car keys etc safe. It was something like £40 for the whole period and that will serve a family comfortably.
Stock up on food.
Take plenty of food. Unless you want to take out a second mortgage it’s not realistic to get every meal from a stall (although you easily could; The quality and variety was fantastic) Depending on your set up you can take breakfast biscuits or cereals, fruit, snack bars etc. There are stalls for essentials on site but in Camp Bestival Shropshire that was IN the arena which wasn’t that helpful as you can’t get in until 9am- hopefully they’ll amend this for next year.
Have a plan.
Have a really good look at the line up and activities before you go and decide what you want to prioritise.
The free activities are really fabulous- Camp Bestival Shropshire we went wild swimming daily as well as tree climbing and there was also paddle boarding, yoga etc but they do book up quicky. You have to book on the day and the list opens at 9am so unless you’re on the ball you’ll miss out. Decide who’s going to take one for the team in advance and set an alarm.
**you’ll need all kids full names and dates of birth to sign up so if you’re in a group make sure you have a list of these. Also, some only allow you to sign up 4 kids (Sorry Waltons) so you may need 2 adults to queue depending on numbers.**
Also- check ratios for things like water sports to avoid disappointment.
The Camp Bestival App allows you to set reminders so you don’t miss out on the kids roller disco or the Yoga
Have a base:
If you are festivalling in a group, find a spot and set up camp early in the day.
This means that there is a recognised point for any lost child or adult to return to and means that you have got a good vantage point for the main acts later in the day. The closer to the stage you are the tighter things will be; we loved being around half way back where there was space for chairs and room for dancing. And don’t forget to make friends with the neighbours- drinks get spilt, kids get cranky- you’ll want to have earned some brownie points early on!
Accept that kids will get tired and need down time.
Being on your feet in the sun for 10 hours is knackering for adults. Think how full on the experience is for the kids and plan accordingly. It is serious sensory overload with lots to see, loud music and lots of people. You might want a slower start to the day or a mid afternoon nap or you might need to accept that one of you might need to head back to the van or tent before the last act…. Figure out what your must sees are and work back from there. Trying to belt out all the lyrics to Loaded with a crying kid on your sunburnt shoulders will take the shine off!! You have been warned.
Bestival is DRESS UP CENTRAL. Nothing is too big, too bold, too brash or out of bounds. Get creative, go wild and unleash your inner child. I thought we’d done ok with our efforts but honestly- some families truly turn it up to 11 and it is an absolute spectacle so get involved. Check out charity shops, vintage stores and ebay for some fantastic finds. Our rules were:
Charity shops, already owned or loaned and no one can spend over £20… the theme is different each year so check it out in advance and look at their socials for inspiration.
LEARN TO BRAID and take your own glitter and tattoos:
Getting your hair done at a festival is a no brainer. It means you don’t need to wash or brush it for 4 days and it fits the vibe perfectly but at north of £30 per head – more to add colours and glitter- you are looking at £120 for a family do!
Get yourself on YouTube, teach yourself some festival looks in advance and spend the money you save on food, rides and activities.
If the cost of a family festival is a bit much consider volunteering.
Fesivals couldn’t run without volunteers and all of the larger ones have recognised volunteer registers which you can sign up for which often includes free or discounted tickets in exchange for a certain number of hours worked. If you have a specialist skill even better eg water safety/life guard or yoga practitioner.
Have a look on their websites and if it’s not obvious drop them a line.
So; that’s that for another year but we had an absolute BLAST at both Bestivals and I can not wait to go back.
Bare feet, arms in the air dancing with my family whilst they don’t cringe at everything I do is a memory I’ll treasure forever.
Karen Beddow founded Mini Travellers in 2014 while doing what she loves most...going on holiday!
Mini Travellers is for parents looking for holiday ideas, destination reviews, days out and things to do with the kids. We also have family travel tips, activity ideas and all other things family holiday related. Take a look at some of our latest reviews for holidays and day trips in the UK.