While summer camps have been around for more than a century in the USA, their popularity in the UK has only started rising over the last four decades. Summer, however, is as popular with kids in the UK as it is anywhere. With nearly two months off during the hottest time of the year, attending a camp is a great way for children to get outside and enjoy the fresh air, learn new skills and mingle with kids outside their immediate circle. It’s a growing experience that will make them better people one day, with brighter memories of their school holidays. This month we decided to take a look at 10 of the best facilities around the UK, covering a wide range of camp “types”, from drama schools and fun weeks to water sporting and prestigious camps.
Essential Travel Exclusive: For more information about what camp types are available, the benefits of letting your child attend a summer camp and where they should go, follow the link to our interview with Carrie Fleming from www.campexperts.co.uk.
Best For: Teens
Camp Beaumont is a summer camp institution in the UK, having been around for over 30 years. Using a balance of physical activities (in water and on land), games and team building exercises, the overall goal is give campers a “chance to build confidence, boost self-esteem and learn useful skills along the way.” ‘The House!’ is a unique concept to Camp Beaumont, specifically aimed at kids between 16 and 17 who want a fun holiday and a taste of independence. The package is a week-long party that includes watersports, quad biking, climbing, high ropes and plenty of socialising. As fun and exciting as it is, though, Camp Beaumont only employs trained staff members who are fully committed to safety 100% of the time. ‘The House’ is available at three locations across the UK: Colomendy Valley, Grosenvor Hall and The Island.
Best For: Watersports
Wickedly Wonderful is the children’s equivalent of a five-star hotel with an open bar every night. It’s located on the West Sussex coast where your kids can fall in love with water.
Sailing camps are Monday to Friday and Instruction is given by qualified RYA sailors in Laser Picos. All abilities are catered for, from beginner to being the next budding Olympic winner! Learn the basics of water, tides and winds or polish your racing technique all wrapped in the Wickedly Wonderful staple of fun and laughter. The children will spend the morning and afternoon sailing and in the evenings will then enjoy campfires at the beach and other fun activities. And our multi-activity includes kayaking, boogie boarding, sailing and a boat trip to the sand dunes.
Catherine Scholes, Camp Director
Best For: Academics
Oxford Summer Academy
The Oxford Summer Academy is a specialised program for 16-19 year olds who want a taste of life at one of the world’s most prestigious universities. Activities range from morning tutorials (in the classrooms they’ll be sitting in one day), to afternoon electives that are designed to broaden students’ understanding of what they’ll be studying and how to excel in their chosen fields. Candidates are lectured by Oxford graduates and graduates from other prestigious institutions, who can impart practical wisdom gained from their personal experiences. Cultural and historical excursions – around Oxford and beyond – are also there to balance out the theoretical learning kids will be doing. All in all, it’s a great opportunity to learn more and to mingle with prospective classmates, which is a must for any teenager thinking about applying.
Best For: All Round
XUK is the brand name for a number of specialised camp experiences that cater for kids from ages 3-17, covering all personality types. Within the three main focuses on Sport, Art and Drama, you’ll find a range of tailored camps that will suit your kids and give them one of the finest holidays of their lives. The Bernstein brothers, founders and directors of XUK, use their family-business ethos to create an environment that is cosy, welcoming, fun, convenient for parents and most importantly safe - ”safety will always underpin everything we do”.
Best For: Adventure
Ardmay House, Long Loch, Scotland
Ardmay House is the sort of adventure camp that makes adults jealous. Located on the shore of Loch Long, a gorgeous set-up on the west coast of Scotland, campers are presented with Lord Of The Rings type settings to branch out and try new things. With activities like canoeing, climbing, beach art, fashion shows, karaoke and Quiz nights, kids are brought closer to nature and their peers in a fun, safe environment. The accommodation is in a refurbished Victorian fishing lodge – a wonderful space for their imaginations to take flight.
Best For: Drama
Cambridge School for Visual and Performing Arts
The Cambridge School for Visual and Performing Arts offer a summer course that is open to all levels of acting experience. The one requirement kids need is a desire to learn and develop their skills. Classes are fairly intense for young scholars (up 35-40 hours per week), but if your children are serious about a career in acting it is an entirely worthwhile experience. Lectures are given by seasoned professionals who offer their practical experience in different acting disciplines – from musical theatre to acting. The course lasts for two weeks, with week one being all about a performance that will be executed during week two, so your young thespians will get a chance to put their learning into practice. There is also a 3-term Drama Foundation program for experienced actors who are looking for something longer and more serious, which is an excellent platform for getting into drama schools later on.
Best For: Creative Technologies
Uppingham Summer School, Uppingham
The Uppingham Summer School offers an impressive variety of summer courses – from arts and crafts, to theatre (with a new ‘Glee Week’ that is certain to get fans excited), cookery and sports. It was their Creative Technologies Powerhouse that caught our eye when researching camps for this article. The course covers everything from iPhone app and design, to computer game design, animation, film-making, AI and robot design and Music Technology. It’s basically a course that takes them through the most exciting technology within the modern media. It’s an amazing environment for kids to learn and grow in. The Uppingham School explains the course’s goal well on their website:
The Creative Technologies Powerhouse vision is to empower and inspire course participants to express themselves through digital media; experimenting with, learning about and manipulating digital artefact – thereby discovering the infinite possibilities that creative technologies have to offer.
Best For: Horse Riding
Wellington Riding is a full package: it is British-Horse-Society approved and highly reputable, so parents can rest assured of their children being instructed and looked after by trained professionals. And it’s based on a magnificent estate in Hampshire, where clean air and gorgeous riding terrain are in free supply. The residential riding holidays are open to all ages and experiences levels, from beginners to advanced riders who want to hone their dressage and jumping skills – even if you have your own horse and want to bring him or her along for a holiday.
Best For: Cultural Experience
Learn and Experience, Yorkshire
Learn and Experience focuses on giving kids from the UK and abroad a chance to interact and have a good time with one another – an experience that makes them “grow as individuals”. With half the campers coming from abroad, it’s a golden opportunity for curious kids to put their geography classes into practice without having to leave the country. The camp offers a host of in and outdoor activities that will stimulate their minds and keep them off the couch over the summer. “We are a small company and strive for quality in everything we do. We really understand how much trust parents are putting in us with their children and take this responsibility very seriously… safety and welfare is our highest concern. Our caring staff are chosen for their ability to work with children, and most importantly, to understand children".
Best For: First Time Campers
Mill On The Brue – Bruton, Somerset
First time campers are often nervous about what they can expect at a summer camp: will I fit in, will I have fun, what will the people in charge be like? And Mill On The Brue is the perfect place to settle their nerves. They offer single day experiences, which give first timers a nice taster before committing to a week there. Kids are broken up into manageable groups of 12 (at the most), allowing them to make the most of the six daily activities on offer. It’s a family run business with highly trained support staff, so first-time camper parents can also relax.
We have always believed in developing the individual and the team - using the outdoors in an appropriate manner with children and adults has produced some startling and lasting results. Confidence building, achievement, self worth, understanding of self and others is positive testament to the power of the outdoors.
Tricia Rawlingson Plant
A bit of history: Mill On The Brue has a history that spans back to 1982, when founders Tony and Tricia Rawlingson Plant started the summer camp in partnership with Gants Mill. After purchasing Trendle Farm in 1990 and going solo, Tony and Tricia moved headquarters to a new venue and took the summer camp to another level – the magnificent piece of land you see today is the direct result of their blood, sweat and tears.
Clayton is a comfortable traveller, having grown up in a small city that was far away from everything. He spent lots of time in the car as a child, driving up and down the coast of South Africa on surfing trips with his family. After studying abroad in the United States and spending a year working in London, he moved to Cape Town, where he completed a Master's Degree in Creative Writing. He now works as a freelance writer for various travel, surfing and action sports publications.