Bar parking lots are now camping’s best kept secret

Bar parking lots are now camping’s best kept secret

camping uk pub parking holiday travel travel free stays campervans uk 2022

camping uk pub parking holiday travel travel free stays campervans uk 2022

Ask any campervan owner what attracts them and the word “freedom” will likely come up. Freedom to roam, hop in the van with the blink of an eye, and park in all sorts of places for a night before moving on to the next place. When it comes to where you park your van for the night, however, everyone has a different preference. Some like a campground with a dedicated field. Others prefer to find a secluded spot to spend the night – without having to pay or answer to anyone.

But there’s also what some might see as a middle ground, which I’ve embraced in recent years – pub parking. Take a quick look at any campervan forum or social media group and you’ll easily find a flurry of boozers welcoming campervanners with open arms.

The format differs, as do the facilities, with some charging an overnight fee, and others just wanting you to pay for dinner or a couple of drinks in exchange for a parking space. Some provide a toilet that you can access all night and even an electrical connection. Others are more akin to wild camping, hoping you’ll be independent while you’re there.

camping uk pub parking holiday travel travel free stays campervans uk 2022

camping uk pub parking holiday travel travel free stays campervans uk 2022

Either way, they helped me create great memories: the Hogmanay celebration in a pub on the bank of Loch Lomond, where I staggered back to the van after a night of watching the New Year; the time I woke up to glorious views of a valley at the Swinside Inn near Keswick in the Lake District.

After a frosty day in Cairngorms, I found refuge at The Old Bridge Inn in Aviemore, delighted to find I could stay in the parking lot. Another favorite was the Royal Oak in Hurdlow in the Peak District, where their offering is a hybrid of pub-stop and campground, with facilities and several grassy fields, providing a great base for walking or cycling in nearby Tissington or High Peak. Trails.

Then there was an overnight stay at the Tan Hill Inn, the tallest pub in Britain. There you can enjoy the pub’s food, drink and entertainment, but also feast on a tapestry of stars – undisturbed by any light pollution – before ascending to the vast expanse of the Yorkshire Dales the next morning.

camping uk pub parking holiday travel travel free stays campervans uk 2022 - Hasselblad H4D

camping uk pub parking holiday travel travel free stays campervans uk 2022 – Hasselblad H4D

I am far from the only convert. Solo traveler Jo Hodson, 38, who lives and works in her own house on wheels, is another. “I tend to opt for pubs when I need simple layovers for one night at a time in different places,” she said. “Or when I’m arriving in a new area and haven’t stocked my van with food for main meals. I prefer pub stops to camp engagement in these settings simply because it is more efficient and allows for more spontaneity.”

A quick shout in a Facebook group for a pub stop generates a flurry of responses. Regular user Claire Lawton describes them as “win-win situations for everyone”, saying: “Using a pub stopover gives us the ability to stay closer to the route we are traveling on. They are also generally easier to book.”

For some, the beauty of pub stops is being able to get closer to towns and cities or certain landmarks. Sandy Knight, who tries to use a few pub stops on each trip, said: “We found pubs to be so friendly, and often in places we probably wouldn’t see. It’s really nice to relax, have a meal – and we can both have a drink without worrying about driving.”

camping uk pub parking holiday travel travel free stays campervans uk 2022 - Getty

camping uk pub parking holiday travel travel free stays campervans uk 2022 – Getty

For Ian Gill, the key is to remember that pub stops are not camping trips. “I see so many people complaining about the lack of facilities, but they are doing you a favor by letting you pull into the parking lot. Why do they need to upgrade their facility to an occasional van or two?”

Steve Turner also sees the benefit for owners and proprietors, as well as those who use pub stops. “My family has members who worked in the bar trade and I’ve seen firsthand the damage that has been done not just recently but over the last 30 years,” he said. “Pub stops are a great way for publicans to rebuild their trade again. It’s also a great way to get food and drink without having to worry about driving, and it’s a great way to meet like-minded people.”

The best British pubs that welcome campervanners

The Fountain Inn, West Sussex

This site in Ashurst, West Sussex, allows people to camp for free in its large car park, just asking them to enjoy food and drink in the 16th century country pub, which was once the site of Laurence Olivier and was also used as a venue for the music video for Sir Paul McCartney’s Wonderful Christmas Time. (01403 710219; fontashurst.pub).

camping uk pub parking holiday travel travel free stays campervans uk 2022

camping uk pub parking holiday travel travel free stays campervans uk 2022

The Tan Hill Inn, Yorkshire Dales

Britain’s tallest pub made global headlines when its staff and customers, including parking lot campervan owners, were covered in snow for several days in November 2021. “We love campervans,” said co-owner Andrew Hields. “What’s not to love about them? People park and have fun at our place listening to live bands, eating and drinking. We charge a nominal £10 to take care of cleaning bathrooms and other areas – we donate the rest to charity.” (01833 533007; tanhillinn.com).

The Red Lion, Warwickshire

This drink in Hunningham, Warwickshire, has recently started offering pub stops so people can wake up in their riverside location next to the River Leam, as well as enjoy a meal and a few drinks. Owner Richard Merand said: “People asked, so I decided to give it a try. It’s bringing in people from all over and putting us on the map.” (01926 632715; redlionhunningham.co.uk).

camping uk pub parking holiday travel travel free stays campervans uk 2022

camping uk pub parking holiday travel travel free stays campervans uk 2022

The Ladybower Inn, Peak District

Found in the picturesque Peak District, this is a popular choice with motorhome and campervan owners. “We really love sharing our superb scenery and hospitality with the campervan community,” said owner Shaun White. “They benefit from free parking and the opportunity to enjoy our fine beers and homemade food while staying in one of the most beautiful places in the country.” (01433 651 241; ladybowerinn.co.uk).

This article is kept up to date with the latest information.

Which pub parking lots do you think are a good place to camp? Tell us in the comments section below

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