Please note, we were incredibly excited to have won these tickets through a Camp Bestival random prize draw, and our review is not related to the competition. All words are our honest review. I’ve also included images which avoid other children’s faces – if you wish for me to remove any, please let me know.
Well, where do I start? It’s been two days since Camp Bestival finished and I’m still in a limbo of riding on the beautiful festival high and also still in desperate need to go into some kind of post-festival hibernation!
Words can’t quite describe how incredible Camp Bestival 2021 was, but I hope the words I do put together here can do the weekend justice – it was just fantastic.
It felt like we were transported into a whole different world for the weekend – a world of fun, music, magic, dancing and a mental escape that both me and my 6-year-old hope we will be able to visit again.
What is Camp Bestival?
Camp Bestival is an award-winning family festival that takes place in the grounds of Lulworth Castle, Dorset each summer.
Aimed at families, it is more than just a festival – it is a staycation, it is a family holiday, it is an experience that we are so excited to have experienced and it totally blew our minds.
Each year, Camp Bestival attracts some huge names in music to its multiple stages, alongside workshops, activities, a funfair and more, with family-friendly activities throughout the weekend for all ages to enjoy.
You can camp, glamp, rock up in your campervan or even stay locally, but everything you need for the whole weekend is on site and it is definitely an experience to remember for all the family.
Our Camp Bestival reflection
Here’s what happened, including all the ups, downs and roundabouts of visiting the festival on my own with a small child.
Arrival & Campsite
We arrived on the Thursday at around midday. The campsite had opened around 10am, so we hoped this would be a clearer time, but clearly we were wrong, and the last 3 miles took around an hour to get to the festival site.
We were in the yellow general camping and carpark, so I parked up and then battled with the trailer, the huge hill and a 6-year-old who had been in the car for far too long, to set up camp.
We camped along the barrier of the glamping area, alongside the fire lane, which was close to the entrance to the yellow campsite. As I was on my own with a small child, I thought it was better to have an easy-access route for us to come/go, but not a main path that thousands of people walk alongside.
It was a longer walk to the festival itself, but we found it relatively quiet and out of the way, which really suited us – plus slightly less distance to walk to the car.
I had no idea how much was going to happen on the Thursday – I just thought it would be setting up, chilling in the campsite and maybe a taster of some of the food vendors – how wrong was I?!
Even without the music and parts of the site still not yet open, Thursday was fantastic! Lily spent most of the time at the circus and totally fell in love with the diabolo!
We also managed to enjoy some of the funfair rides with much less queues than the rest of the weekend as well as walking straight onto the Biggest Bouncy Castle in the World – a total dream for Lily, I thought her eyes were going to pop out of her head when she saw it 🙂
The whole site was just huge, and it took me Thursday to get my bearings and work out where everything was around the site – I also took the opportunity to go through the programme and work out what we needed to see through the weekend, while Lily was totally lost in a circus workshop!
If this was just a taster of what was to come, we knew the rest of the weekend would be incredible!
Friday, for us, was sadly a total write-off thanks to Storm Evert. I’d been awake the entire night in the tent as the winds started getting stronger and stronger, until the tent sides were blowing on top of us.
I’d double pegged, spread the heavy loads around the edge, and thankfully we were lengthways to the wind, but even while we were still firmly on the ground, the poles were bending inwards onto themselves.
Lily managed to sleep through it until 5.30am when part of a gazebo and a camping sofa landed on the tent – and the winds were apparently still yet to peak!
The festival had announced they were going to delay the opening of the festival, so being on my own with a small child, I decided the safest option was to jump in the car and head to family nearby until the winds died down – plus, by this time, I was absolutely exhausted!
We were lucky as some of our neighbours’ tents were sadly totally flattened and others stayed in their tent all day to stop it blowing away, but I was definitely relieved to see ours still standing when we got back, with only a bit of TLC needed!
I’d like to thank the Camp Bestival team for offering support and shelter to anyone who needed it in the welfare tent, through the storms and beyond – your updates were fantastic too.
Saturday was a totally different story – the sun was shining and we embarked on one of the most fantastic festival days we’d ever experienced – and that was before Sunday had arrived!
We started the day with Cosmic Kids Yoga in the Big Top. Now, Cosmic Kids Yoga had played a massive part in helping us through lockdown, so Lily was super excited to join in “in REAL LIFE”!
As if that wasn’t enough, she then had the chance to meet Cosmic Kids’ Jaimie and was totally starstruck, saying over and over, “the REAL JAIMIE, in REAL LIFE”!! So thank you Jaimie for saying hi to the kids, and what a way to start the day.
As if that wasn’t enough, she also managed a real life Duggee Hug from Hey Duggee in the CBeebies Hub, before a dance class with Girl Talk magazine, which was a great hit!
Saturday was also ‘dress up day’ with this year’s theme of Camp Bestival Goes to the Movies, so it was fantastic to see all the amazing outfits from groups of friends and families throughout the day.
We finally caught some of the action on the main Castle Stage, including Mr Tumble, who had his own interpreter with him to make it as inclusive as possible. He was so passionate and enthusiastic, the audience were loving him as much as he was clearly loving back on stage too.
We also saw Heather Small whose voice is just so incredible, sending those amazing festival tingles down your spine – even without knowing who she was, Lily loved dancing through the set while in the castle grounds.
If that wasn’t enough, Friday was also our first experience with the Science Tent. We not only sat on the lawn enjoying the science shows, but also loved the amazing activities in the tent with The Creation Station, which was also a great way to give her some ‘quieter time’ away from all the action for a while, including making a balancing snake, a maize maze and more.
There was so much happening in every corner of the festival, it was fantastic to wander around between acts, catch parts of other acts and enjoy all the feels of being able to enjoy so much entertainment and so many workshops, among the stunning castle grounds.
The giant sandpit was a huge hit with Lily, she spent hours using her imagination in the sandpit across the weekend – and a great opportunity for me to have a brief sit-down with a coffee too!
After some churros by the castle and then marshmallow toasting back in the tent, Lily went to sleep a happy girl after such a fun day of singing, dancing, workshops and more.
The evening and nighttime saw some amazing headline acts, that although I wish I could have seen, it was great to hear them from the campsite while Lily slept, and it meant so much that she had an incredible day – that’s also one of the many beauties of Camp Bestival – you can do as much or as little as you or the kids would like, as there is always something to enjoy.
As if we hadn’t already had the most amazing weekends (minus Friday, but we won’t mention that again!!), it was the Sunday that was the cherry on the top.
We started with a beautiful coffee from the Wild Tribe area, while watching a group of people cook an amazing breakfast over the campfire, then at around 9am, we made our way to the Greatest Tent on Earth in the Lower Kids Garden.
I’d promised Lily she could get her face painted, but the queue had always been so long, so this was the perfect time to go with so few people there – a great tip if you have little ones wanting their faces painted without having to wait.
Lily then joined in with Superhero Training – any day that starts with coffee and superhero training is always going to be a good one! It was so much fun and all the kids were super engaged throughout the workshop, plus it was a lovely way for them to talk about feelings without even realising it.
She also had the chance to meet one of her heroes, Chase from Paw Patrol – what a morning, and it wasn’t even lunchtime yet!
We had a lovely time together on the Sunday, wasting hours enjoying some bubble play, fairground rides, circus tricks and watching some of the trapeze acts, more science workshops, as well as checking out the silent disco, and a few more of the yummy food trucks too.
On the main stage, we were very excited to see the incredible Andy and the Odd Socks perform, with so much energy and enthusiasm, and so much to sing along to, after which Lily was singing their lyrics ‘the kids are united, they will never be divided’ on repeat, which (as cheesy as it sounds) really was quite emotional after such a crazy year.
I admit, I caved in to being solo with Lily, and I popped her into a drop off session with the Freckles Nannies in the afternoon so I could get the tent down and all our kit back up the huge hill to the car – by this time we were in the White car park, and Lily had already done the morning hike with me and the first load of stuff, so it was fantastic to book her in and she loved the company of other people and other children, doing loads of activities in their tent.
The timeslots for the Freckles Nannies were booked up for most of the weekend, so I do recommend booking in quickly if you want to make the most of them!
They were so friendly and Lily loved her time with them – even if I felt initially guilty dropping her off with them, in the end I knew it was the right thing to get the last of the camping gear up the hill!
It was just an amazing day and we were sad for us that this was the last day, however at only just 6-years-old, she wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the fantastic headline acts and fireworks to end the weekend that night, so we reluctantly did the hike back to the car for the last time.
Obviously, toilets aren’t the best at festivals, but it was lovely to see these were all compostable toilets, which were a much better experience than a portaloo.
By the end of the weekend, they really smelled terrible, but I’d still rather the compostable ones than portaloos – and the child-sized ones were fantastic. The toilet roll was well stocked throughout the weekend too and there were plenty of toilet areas around both the campsite and festival site so you didn’t need to walk far. There was also a Changing Places accessible toilet on the festival site.
We also went through two bottles of hand sanitiser through the weekend on top of the site sanitiser!
I’d also massively recommend the WaterAid’s Good Loos, which are not only eco-friendly composting toilets, but they are cleaned between uses by the very friendly volunteers, alongside some bean bags and mirrors too.
Being on my own with Lily, I also found it a safe place to go to the toilets too, as it was an enclosed space, so I could leave her safely on the beanbags outside the toilet while I popped in – well worth the small donation for an amazing cause.
Food and drink
There were plenty of free drinking water stations throughout the festival site and campsite – so remember to bring your own bottle for refilling.
Although it was expensive and some of the queues were long, the food and drink choices were great and you had something for everyone’s tastebuds or dietary requirements.
We found heading up to the Wild Tribe or the stall next to the Upper Kids Garden was the best place for a coffee fix in the morning, as the campsite stalls had longer queues.
There were options for fresh fruit, granola pots, breakfast rolls or cooked breakfasts for the morning, and then plenty of options for the rest of the day, sweet and savoury, including fresh crepes, ice cream or churros for sweet treats, or pizza, Shawarma, toasties, curry, chips and more, whether you wanted something basic or more adventurous.
The amazing DJ BBQ was back with his amazing setup as well as DJ sets to get the crowds moving, there were plenty of bar areas around the site, and you were spoiled for choice on food options.
The festival team has introduced various accessibility options to help support those who need a more accessible festival.
You can read these here, however it was great to see they had introduced a mobile Changing Places toilet in both the accessible campsite and arena, accessible viewing areas across the festival site, and a quieter campsite with its own shuttle.
For full accessibility information, click here.
Before the festival, we all had to provide a Covid pass with either two vaccinations or negative LFT, which you then needed to show whenever you reentered the site.
There were extra notices for the Sunday for reentering the site from the carpark, and you could also get free boxes of tests either by the entrance or in the festival site too.
Although we were around thousands of people, we were able to keep ourselves away from others, in clearer areas at the main stage, on our own tent or well spaced out during workshops and other activities. With everything mainly outdoors, this was easy to do if you wanted to, and since we were visiting family afterwards, we also took extra tests to make sure all was fine.
There were sanitiser stations around all toilet areas, but we were equipped with two bottles that we managed to get through over the weekend!
It was fantastic the festival could still go ahead, and then you could then do what you felt comfortable to do as a family.
My words of what we experienced have only scratched the surface of what there was to do at Camp Bestival.
We could drop into the Literary Institute to listen to authors, belly-laugh at comedy, dance in the beautiful Bollywood area, and you can even get married in the inflatable church, not to mention the spontaneous performances across the site, bubble fun, spin classes, yoga, meditation, music and more throughout the weekend.
Camp Bestival really is for everyone, young and old, to be able to dance like noone is watching or dance like everyone is watching – whatever you want to do, be and feel, you can at Camp Bestival.
There are facilities and activities for every child and adult, from a newborn baby upwards, whether you want a sensory activity, live music, workshop or some kind of group exercise for body or mind.
There are campsites for all tastes and budgets, from the standard camping through to luxury glamping options, or you can hold out for the day tickets release too. One day, I definitely dream of saving up for the glamping option!
The cost for the weekend may put many off, but Camp Bestival is more than just a festival – it is a family holiday where memories are made, entertainment is on hand all weekend, in a fun and safe environment.
Yes, there are ups and downs when it comes to camping with the family, but Camp Bestival has everything on hand to give you a memorable, fun family weekend away, with everything you need on site to give kids of all ages and abilities a truly special staycation.
Families go back to Camp Bestival year on year, but whether you’re a regular or first-timer, you’ll be sure to get the Camp Bestival bug and never want it to end.
Yes, we were sleep-deprived, yes, we were looking forward to a clean, hot shower, and yes, we were happy not to have to hike the huge hill to the carpark again, but I wouldn’t have changed this weekend for the world – it just blew our minds.
I can’t thank Rob Da Bank and the Camp Bestival team for working so hard to make this happen – you made the worlds of thousands of people of all ages such a brighter place this weekend, and even more so after such a crazy 2020-21.
Camp Bestival is a whole new level of magic, with memories that will last forever, for every generation there. We hadn’t even left the site when Lily asked if we could go back again, and I hope more than anything I’ll get to bring her back to experience this incredible festival once again.
Tips for visiting Camp Bestival
Regular Camp Bestival goers will probably know better than me, but I hope this helps anyone looking for advice from a first timer!
- Bring a trolley or hire one for your trip if you’re staying in the main campsite – it is the easiest way to get your stuff to/from the carpark to the campsite up/down the huge hill.
- Merchandise queues are quite long at the start of the weekend and many of the popular items can be sold out by mid-festival, so if you have your eye on something, then make sure you get it at the start.
- Be prepared if you’re arriving at the campsite by car on the first day to be sat in traffic queues near the festival site.
- Bring plenty of hand sanitiser – this was the first festival I never needed our own toilet roll, as they were well stocked throughout!
- If you need some quiet time throughout the weekend, there are areas on the festival site such as sensory tents or colouring activities to give some time-out without having to head back to the tent as well as lovely activities in the Science Tent including LEGO and the Creation Station team.
- The Freckles Nannies were amazing and great for supporting with childcare, whether you needed time to set up the tent, 1-2-1 time with a sibling, or just time for you. They did get booked up quickly, so make sure you book if you need them!
- Queues for the funfair rides and bouncy castle can build throughout the weekend, so get there on the Thursday or early each day. Also the same for face painting!
- Accessibility information can be found here.
- There is a General Store on site for if you have forgotten anything for the campsite, as well as supplies for babies and children.
- Kids’ ear defenders are great for loud tents or near the main stage.
- Prepare for every weather condition – sun cream, rain coats, wellies, extra tent pegs, hats, etc etc 🙂
- We find our camping toilet is amazing for festivals – we only use it at night, but it saves late night campsite toilet trips with kids, plus I can’t leave her in the tent on her own to pop to the toilets either when she is asleep. In the high winds, it was even more useful as we didn’t need to leave the tent!
- Bring your water bottles to refill on site.
- Have fun and go with the flow – it really is fantastic.
Tickets for Camp Bestival 2022 go on sale at 10am Friday 6th August 2021. For more information, 2022 announcements and tickets, click here.
Click here for our top family-friendly festivals
Click here for our family festival camping essentials
Click here for tips on festival camping with the family
Click here for our family camping checklist
Click here for our camping hacks
If you’re visiting Dorset, why not check out our top 5 free things to do in Weymouth with the family?
15 Comments Add yours
Thanks for the review. Are most of the kids activities inc in the tix price? Or are most things extra money on top?
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Hi Daisy, once you’re inside, you only really need to pay for food and the fairground 🙂 Everything else was included in the price, and you didn’t really need to book onto anything, just turn up to the different stages or activities. We spent hours doing crafts and the circus tricks, and all of those were included 🙂 I hope that helps! Thanks for checking out our review 🙂
Just wanted to tell you that I like reading your content. Thanks for sharing your experiences. I love reading all about your adventures with Lily,
Thank you for your kind words 🙂
Came across this and it was helpful thanks. Attended this year’s festival and it was great with a few caveats:
1) The prices for food and drink this year 2022 was really outrageous. £6 a beer, £8 for cider, £10 for a small cocktail plus £1.50 on top for a cup unless you carry one around with you. £8 for a crepe, £15 for a burger and chips, a latte and breakfast baguette – £20!!
2) for a family festival I thought the sound levels at the main stage and big top were outrageously loud. I measured 95-105db on my iPhone from the back of the castle field for some of the performers. It was 95db standing outside the big top. Hearing loss is a growing epidemic and to see young kids standing at the front in there and right down the front of the castle stage sort of breaks my heart because they will almost certainly be unknowingly accumulating major damage at those levels within 15-20mins. Really not sure why it has to be chest thumpingly loud to have a good time.
Everything else was pretty spot on, best festival I’ve been to by a mile, safe, friendly and good vibes.
Not sure why you’d bother paying for more expensive camping options having seen them first hand. It’s really not that big a site and to pay a another £300-500 to have a tent set up for you is the height of laziness unless you really don’t have any gear. The VIP bar looked rubbish – side view and rammed with people so a total waste of cash.
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Hi David, thanks for your message and glad you had a great time. I totally noticed the price difference between this year and last – I know prices of fuel and supplies are more expensive for stall holders this year, but it was noticeably different. I definitely spent a lot more, and that’s including the fact we brought most of our own food and only shared one hot meal from a trader a day between the 2 of us, eg a toastie or pizza. As for the sound, we didn’t go down the front this year but I still made sure L wore her ear defenders as I’m sure my ears have been ruined from years of gigs and festivals without caring as a teen about my ears – I don’t want that for Lily either! We are off to Shropshire in a couple of weekends time so it will be interesting to see if prices are the same or not. I totally agree about the price of upgrading camping – it doesn’t make sense to me, but if people want to pay it and can afford to pay it then I guess it’s their choice – for just my daughter and I, it wouldn’t be affordable at all anyway! Thanks again and glad you had a great time too 😀