Camp Bestival Dorset returned in full spirits, 29-31 May, after postponing the festival in 2020 due to COVID-19 and a tentative 2021 return.
Since then I’ve become a father for a second time so was keen to see if Camp Bestival is deserving of the numerous best family festival awards it has received since its debut in 2008.
I’ve never been to the event, which is the brainchild of Rob and Josie Da Bank and follows in the spiritual success of the original Bestival moniker, but now felt as good a time as any to embrace a new type of festival vibe suitable for all the family.
Below are a few of my top tips and observations for families and festival goers following my visit to the Dorset edition – they are also introducing a Shropshire leg in 2022 – at Lulworth Castle with my wife, 3.5 year old and 3 month old, on Friday 29 July 2022.
- Camp Bestival is very popular with parents and young children, if not exclusively catered for them. If you are not comfortable with this or prefer a more adult crowd then you probably need something else.
- It is physically hard to move around the main Castle Field music stage due to the number of buggies, camping chairs, mats, trollies, cool boxes and sleeping children! Tread carefully and keep movement to a minimum when an act has started.
- The camping area is separate to the arena; but there is no physical divide between the two (or guards checking) so you can bring your own drink and resources between the campsites and the stages.
- Camping is on a slope in places, so be prepared to pitch and sleep with your head facing uphill (and for things/people to roll down to one side!)
- Most of the children’s acts are on the main stage in the morning so don’t miss them! We arrived at 1pm and so missed the majority of the children’s TV acts.
- If you have very young children then breastfeeding respite and support is available from the NCT tent.
- For a long walk from the car park to the site – from yellow car park you will have to walk through the campsite to get to the arena.
- To find shaded areas. The site is set on mostly open fields.
- Bring ear defenders for small children; it’s loud even for kids areas.
- Bring sunscreen – there isn’t a lot of shaded areas save around the stalls’ shadows!
- For a dirty car on the dusty tracks on the way out.
- It’s card only payment for most stalls so your cash might not be accepted.
- It’s not cheap. On our day, on a budget, we spent – £15 day parking; £3.50 ice cream x 3; Face Paint £7, Henna £11; donation to toilets x 2 £2; £10 per meal (£24 for two wraps and chips); £9 Buddha bowl; £8 for two iced coffees; £4 for two cokes = £92.50
- If you are people or COVID-wary, then note that the tent areas (like Bollywood and the Big Top) often pack-out during the busiest acts and some of these don’t have side-access to get in.
Don't forget to...
- Bring a cart or similar for children and all their associated accessories and needs! Carts double-up as mobile beds for the most-knackered.
- Bring suitable shoes for long walks across the site and car parks.
- Use the WaterAid toilets for one of the cleanest toilet experiences on-site.
- Visit the areas behind the castle; more of a fun fair vibe in upper kids circle.
- Visit some comedy or alt-acts.
- Buy a programme asap – they sold out by Friday. It has the listings and maps on.
See and Do
Visit the festival’s iconic robot and get a selfie.
- Watch out for the travelling bands across the site, such as the Indian players.
- Get facepaint or henna.
- Visit some of the clothing, arts and crafts stalls in the Lower Kids Garden.
- Get a picture of the Castle and the nearby frames begging for you to stand underneath them.
- Visit the literature tent for your chance to meet a famous author and hear the stories behind the stories (plus rest!)
- What’s this? A DJ booth and a BBQ stand with air guitarists? The DJ BBQ hut is now pretty infamous and it’s easy to see why.
Despite only spending a short time at the festival (one day), it’s incredibly easy to see why Camp Bestival has earned the reputation as one of the UK’s best family festivals. It oozes appeal for ages spanning the generations, respecting that both kids and adults are likely to enjoy similar activities and festival acts together.
With the exception of the obvious festival expenses and busy footfall areas during moving in the daytime, I can whole-heartedly recommend Camp Bestival to other mums, dads and children (under 14, ideally) and can easily see why it continues to be deserving of its titles. Welcome back and long shall you continue Camp Bestival!
Have you been to Camp Bestival? What other family festivals do you recommend? Leave a comment below.