We have just got back from Camp Bestial 2018 and all I can say is wow! What an incredible family festival and what an experience. I’m so excited to write this review today, although I’m so sad that the festival is over for another year.
I have wanted to go to Camp Bestival for years now! It has been at the top of my ‘family bucket list’ for a long, long time. This year we finally got to go. Funnily enough we actually almost made it to last years event. We even had our tickets booked! Sadly though, we realised that the dates clashed with my best friends wedding and we had to forgo our place last minute.
This year, I was determined to make it to Camp Bestival 2018 no matter what. I can’t tell you how thrilled we were when we then became official ‘Camp Bestival‘ ambassadors earlier this year. For the past few months we’ve been counting down the days and its been so hard to contain our excitement.
If you’ve never heard of Camp Bestival before then you need to read this post and also head to their website. Camp Bestival typically falls on the last weekend of July every year. It is hosted at the beautiful Lulworth Castle in Dorset and it is the BEST festival for families with kids of all ages.
I have to say, this years festival was incredible. I couldn’t get over how big the arena was and just how much was on offer for kids. We could have stayed for a whole week and we still would have found things we hadn’t done yet.
A Heatwave, A Storm and The Best Family Festival
Readers of Life Unexpected will know that my fiancee Aitan is currently undergoing chemotherapy (I shared our cancer story recently). He was absolutely gutted he had to miss out on joining us this year but he encouraged me to still go and I cannot tell you how much I needed that respite. Being a full time worker, carer, Mum and being pregnant…to say its been a rocky few months would be an understatement.
Instead of Aitan, we headed to the festival with Vicky and Oliver and honestly, it was so lovely getting to go with another Mum and another kid Evie’s age.
We were also so lucky to get to experience gorgeous sunshine for two days of the festival. We happened to go at the tail end of a heatwave, which previous Camp Bestival goers were also super happy about, as last year it apparently rained every day.
Unfortunately the three day festival did have to be cut short this year though. On the Saturday night the storms rolled in, signalling the end of the heatwave. The high winds and rains ended up becoming too wild and dangerous for the festival to remain open and they did cause widespread damage on Sunday.
Despite this, the majority of people still had the best time and we still managed to enjoy Thursday, Friday and Saturday of the festival.
Here’s a video of our highlights of the festival, followed by our Camp Bestival 2018 review…
We were so nervous about camping with two four year olds for the first time. In reality, it was actually so easy! We took the lazy (clever) option and decided to get ‘pre-pitched’ tents. The best thing about Camp Bestival is all their camping options. You can either bring your own and pitch where you like for free, or you can upgrade and pay extra for more convenient camping options.
You can get either pre-pitched tents, or you can go in ‘Boutique Camping’. Boutique Camping is home to tipis, yurts, gypsy caravans, a boutique camping hotel, plus much much more! We’re definitely eyeing up Boutique Camping for next year. But, this year we were so happy with pre-pitched.
It was such a convenient service. You simply arrived and you were shown to your tent. If you wanted to, you could add in extras such as mattresses and sleeping bags, but we decided to bring our own.
Another great thing about pre-pitched is that it’s so secure. It’s under 24/7 security watch and only ‘pre-pitched’ families are allowed into that section. Within the pre-pitched area there are a lot of portaloos that are constantly kept clean. There were nice showers, there was an area in reception where you could store valuables and the best bit for us? The ‘getting ready room’. They had a cabin full of mirrors, hair dryers, plugs to charge your phone and straighteners!
As someone who has camped a lot and been to a lot of festivals, I can say that this felt so luxury compared to what I’ve experienced in the past. Also, with kids in tow it was so nice to have these little added luxuries.
Although pre-pitched was completely sold out (and in fact they kept adding tents over the course of the weekend), it didn’t ever feel crowded, loud or busy. We didn’t have to ever queue for showers, fight for mirror space, wait for charging ports or queue for the loos. It was the best decision we could have made!
We had one ‘two person’ tent each and we camped right next to each other. The tents were really roomy and to be honest we could have fit two adults and one kid in each. Plus, we still would have had room for our things.
We took lots of camping equipment with us. We bought dinner for one of the nights and breakfast for every morning. It was so lovely waking up every day and getting to have breakfast outside and both the kids loved it!
Unfortunately we did have to leave the festival a night and day early due to the weather, as I mentioned above. The Thursday night was such a lovely calm, peaceful night. On Friday night however the rain and winds picked up. Although we still managed to sleep semi-ok, we read on the weather reports that it was nothing compared to what was arriving on Saturday night. 50mph winds were on the way. But, more about that later.
If you’ve never been camping with your kids before, do check out my ‘Ultimate Family Camping Packing Checklist‘.
Camp Bestival opened the campsites on Thursday morning at 10am. We arrived about 3pm in the afternoon and checking in was so easy. The queues weren’t bad at all. Security was extra tight this year though and they did go through all your luggage. But, for the safety of a family festival, we seriously didn’t mind.
We also loved that the festival opened parts of the main arena on Thursday, as well as some of the food stalls and rides. It was really lovely to get to unpack and then straight away start exploring.
As soon as we checked into our tent and ate dinner, we headed off to the main arena. We spent the first hour exploring and couldn’t get over how many food options there were. We also loved how creative some of the areas of the festival were.
Spinney Hollow looked like a lot of fun. It was a whole area dedicated to crafting and making. You could make anything from ‘wands’, to ‘wagons’, ‘head dresses’, ‘bows’ and so much more.
You did have to pre-book these workshops, but they looked so worth it. It’s definitely something I’ll be doing next year and I wish I’d booked some of these in time for this year!
Another really cool area, just inside the main arena, was Caravanserai. This was more like an ‘interactive’ art installation. It was an area full of gypsy caravans and old fairground rides, that had cleverly been put together to make its own zone. We later found out that this area was hoe to weird and wonderful circus acts and soul, funk and ska djs.
The inside stage was such a cool area for kids to play (and climb) and the caravans around the outsides make great places to sit with your family and eat your food as they’d been made into little ‘table areas’.
It was so unique. After exploring Caravanserai, we headed to a really cool tent that I completely forgot to take a picture of. This was a ‘postcard’ tent with a postbox. Your kids could buy a postcard, either paper or wooden. Then they could decorate it with the stamps, crayons and pens provided and once it was complete, they could address it and post it off in the red post box. This was such a fun idea and we did end up sending a postcard home to Aitan, who was really gutted he was missing out on the festival.
After sending off our postcards we headed to the fairground. Mostly due to the nagging of our kids. The fair had quite a few different rides. There were swing boats, a ferris wheel, a swing carousel and a weird ride where you had to try and get over a moving bridge. This latter one made my pregnant tummy feel very, very weird!
The fair was also home to ‘The Worlds Biggest Bouncy Castle’. You could imagine our kids excitement when they saw this. Not to mention every other child there.
We were gutted that adults couldn’t have a turn (you had to wait a week until Bestival). But, one thing we did love was that they put kids on of the same height/age range. This meant extra waiting around for ago, just while you waited for kids that were similar ages. But, safety wise I thought this was good. I can’t tell you the amount of times my little one has accidentally got bashed or knocked down by bigger kids.
Unfortunately none of our kids age were queueing on Thursday night. This meant we did have to wait till Friday morning for them to have a go, but this did make a good bribing point come bed time. They went to sleep so fast!
Friday – Camp Bestival 2018
The first thing we did on Friday was go and get a ‘traditional’ photo in front of the ‘I love Camp Bestival’ sign. I think this is a Camp Bestival right of passage, although lots of people were complaining because apparently the sign is usually like the ‘Hollywood’ sign and is normally the whole name. None of the kids cared though and they all still loved climbing on it and posing for pictures.
After that we grabbed a refillable bottle from ‘Frank Water’. Dotted around the festival site were several ‘Frank Water’ stands. They’d refill your bottle with fresh cold water whenever you needed to after you paid a one off small payment to them, or after you bought one of their bottles.
This was in an attempt to cut down on ‘plastic’ bottles of water being bought which we thought was a really great idea.
It wouldn’t be a festival without getting glittery and covered in face paint. Our next stop was a ‘makeover’ tent so we could get our faces ‘festival ready’ for the day. One thing I really loved about Camp Bestival was that there was face painting stands everywhere, but none of them were expensive and some of them were even free!
I’ve been to many festivals before and usually you pay between £7 and £15 to have your hair and face done, but I didn’t see any stall charging about £5 and most were under.
After face painting we headed to an area I’ve heard so much about from other Camp Bestival bloggers who have visited in the past:
Lizzie’s Way/The Dingly Dell
Lizzie’s Way is hidden in the woods and I’ve seen so many people say they’ve somehow missed this in previous years. Mostly because the Camp Bestival site is so huge and also because it’s slightly off the Camp Bestival map and you have to go searching for it.
The woodland setting was so magical though and we got there just in time for its opening on the first day. It looked so cute! They’d set up tipis so kids could enjoy some quiet time and recharge inside them with a book.
They also had a mudpie station, a mudpie cafe, potion making (with water and more mud), a treasure digging area, a fancy dress station, a stage with instruments all made out of wood and a crafts area where they were doing workshops with kids all day long.
This was my favourite area of the whole festival, although my daughter did decide she was anti getting messy for a change, so refused to make any of the mud pies.
Digging For Treasure and Fancy Dress
She did enjoy digging for treasure though and she honestly could have spent hours doing this.
The little areas were all so well thought out and it was such a great spot for kids just to come and be kids and get as messy and creative as they liked.
We loved the ‘selfie’ stand in Lizzie’s Way. Next to it was a box full of dressing up clothes. It was a fun little area for kids and grown ups to get in the festival mood and just be a bit silly.
Although my moody, grumpy toddler did take some coaxing into dressing up. She got so upset when after half an hour of digging we told her it was time to move on.
Lizzie’s Way was also right next to a big park, which was great for parents wanting to take a bit of respite. Also within the woods was an area where kids could climb trees, build dens, go on nature walks and so much more. Lots of these activities you had to pre-book but from what I’ve heard it was more than worth it.
On the other side of Lizzie’s Way was ‘Slow Motion’. This was more an area for grown ups to come and chill out. Here you could have an astrology reading (which I did and it was so interesting). There was also a pamper van, gong baths and an area where kids and grown ups of all ages could do yoga.
This was such a peaceful, lovely area to keep coming back to, to escape the mayhem of the festival. I wish I actually took some photos of that area. It was lovely.
Lower Kids Garden
Other than Lizzie’s Way, our favourite place out of the whole festival to hang out was the ‘Lower Kids Garden’. This area was so perfect for our two four year olds and there were loads of activities here that catered for their age range.
Aside from a few more fair ground rides, such as a helter skelter and a carousel, there was so many fun things to do in this zone. There was ‘Soft Play’ for younger kids, the ‘Make Space’ where you could go and make some crafts, the ‘Lol Surprise’ tent where kids could have a makeover and get a ‘Lol’ toy, a science tent where you could watch performances and take part in science experiments, an Insect Museum and Circus, a spot where you could play with circus toys and also the Cbeebies Magazine tent.
Cbeebies Magazine Tent
Our two loved the Cbeebies tent and they took part in a ‘pirate hat’ making activity. It was free and open to all kids. You could just come in as you pleased and get creative.
Everything was supplied for you and also, throughout the day, there were special guest appearances from characters such as ‘Hey Duggee’.
All of the craft activities in all the kids tents were free. I thought that was so lovely and honestly, there was so much entertainment you literally could not do it all.
The best part is that there was something for all ages, from little babies right up to teenagers and grown ups too.
We spent a little while in the Cbeebies tent making hats. After you made your hat you could then go and pose on the ‘Cbeebies pirate ship’ before you set sail for the rest of your day at the festival.
The weather was honestly so hot by now, most people had started to take shade in the tents, so all the make spaces got super busy. We had a carousel ride to try and cool off a bit and then headed into the ‘Greatest Tent On Earth’ to watch a show.
We stumbled in while ZSL’s ‘Gruesome Nature Live’ was on and it captivated both kids and grown ups too. I loved that all the shows in this tent repeated throughout the course of the weekend. They were all perfect shows for our kids age but it meant we could always pop back if we’d missed something.
Strategic Nap Time
After a jam packed Friday morning we tried to take the kids back to camp for a ‘strategic nap’. They were both getting a bit teasy and we knew we wanted to stay out late into the evening.
It was also so hot outside and the heat wasn’t doing anything good for their moods. As sweet as they look in these pictures, I have to admit, this was the HARDEST thing we had to do. Trying to get two, tired and teasy toddlers who don’t nap anymore to nap.
It took us over an hour to finally get them nodded off to sleep (and a lot of bribes). But, it was more than worth it because they woke full of energy again and ready to explore.
The sun disappeared for the evening but that didn’t stop the fun. We popped over to the ‘Bear’ tent where we bought some healthy ‘Bear’ snacks and where got to make a ‘Bear’ rainbow on the board outside.
After this we stumbled across some more ‘photo opp’ points. Plus, some more free activities. The best thing about this festival, was that it was so big, you constantly stumbled into something new and fun.
This was so many free activities. At one point we stopped outside the ‘British Airways’ tent where they had ‘Cockpit Karaoke. We weren’t brave enough to this, but we did play with their giant jenga that was on the floor outside the tent.
All of these free little activities dotted around were always such a welcome break for us and many other families. Mostly because the arena was so huge! Little stop offs to do activities like this, really broke up the day and helped make going from one area to another, a lot easier for little legs.
More Fun At The Lower Kids Garden
After a few stop offs, we headed back to the Lower Kids Garden. There was a pirate ship sand pit and some free circus toys for kids to play with here. This was such a fun area just to ‘be’ while we waited for some of the shows that we wanted to see.
Simple things like someone making giant bubbles that kids could chase, made everyone around so happy. We couldn’t get over, just how kid friendly the festival was.
Shows At The BigTop Mania
After a lot of play time we headed to the ‘BigTop Mania’ to watch some shows. The ‘Treehouse Theare Co’ were performing. They had an interactive sing song for the kids to get involved in. This was a lot of fun.
They did classic songs, like the hokey cokey. They got the kids up and moving and they entertained them for a long, long time.
After the show was finished we stumbled into the parade. I’ve got more of the parade on the ‘highlights video’ above. The costumes were amazing! It was such a great atmosphere around the parade too.
After the parade the kids were exhausted, so we decided to head back early and get some shut eye.
Saturday – Camp Bestival 2018
Saturday was another really hot day, although we didn’t get much sleep because in the night heavy rain had poured down and the winds had picked up. Luckily it only lasted an hour or so, but wow is heavy rain even louder when you’re just in a little tent.
We headed into the arena as soon as we’d finished breakfast. We wanted to take part in the ‘Lol Surprise’ largest unboxing World Guinness Book Of Records attempt. Unfortunately we weren’t the only ones who had made it there early and the queue was so long, organisers told us it was unlikely we’d make it in. So, instead we headed off to the ‘Greatest Tent On Earth’ to try and catch ‘Peppa Pig’.
If you do go to Camp Bestival and want to take part in any of their world record attempts, we highly recommend you get their super, super early to avoid disappointment!
On the way to meet Peppa Pig we posed for a few more pictures. There were so many cool structures dotted about the festival, such as the ‘Love Bot’ giant robot, a giant rainbow and ‘The Observatory’.
The Observatory was great to climb and get a good viewpoint over the festival. You could also go inside the tower and turn the roof around so you got differing view points of the sky.
I have to admit though, it was so much better to climb this when it was empty. It was so rusty and rickety that being up there with at least forty other people did make me feel a little bit queasy.
Meeting Peppa Pig
After a few little stop offs we arrived at the ‘Greatest Tent On Earth’. It was only 9am, so it was still pretty much empty in the tent. This was such a good thing! Peppa Pig was going to be doing meet and greets within the next half an hour and we were feeling confident that the kids might get to see him.
We’d actually tried to meet Peter Rabbit the day before but the queue had gotten so long in seconds, that we’d missed out on the chance. Each character only stays for half an hour, so they can’t meet everyone. But, they did make several appearances throughout the day, so you could come back if you’d missed out.
We were really lucky to get to be at the front of the queue on this occasion and the kids were so thrilled to get to meet their favourite pig. It’s funny how much they believe it’s the real thing and both of them were beaming after.
The Greatest Tent On Earth
We stayed in this tent for a little while after meeting Peppa.
The first show on was a show we really wanted to see; ‘SamSam Bubbleman’s Giant Bubble Show’. Sam is a world record breaking ‘bubbleologist’ and travels the world making bubbles and selling bubbles and toys in his ‘bubble shop’.
The show was so impressive and although I didn’t get many good pictures, the whole audience loved it. Definitely check out my ‘video’ at the top of this post for more footage of his show. It really was spectacular. He somehow managed to put bubbles inside bubbles. He made bubbles in different shapes, he put people inside bubbles…it was just fantastic.
After the show we did some more exploring. We managed to catch ‘Mr Tumble’ on the main stage and fill our tummies full of more festival food.
Then we headed back to the ‘Upper Kids Garden’ to catch some more shows and to explore more of this area. The Upper Kids Garden was home to a toddler play area, a baby chill out zone, the literary tent and so much more.
We loved spending our time around the ‘BigTop Mania tents where there were loads of circus toys and bikes for kids to play with as well as lots of fun shows and performances.
The ‘BigTop Mania’ Tent
We spend Saturday afternoon in the BigTop Mania tent. This time we watched the ‘Big Foots Clown Show’ which the kids found hilarious! Every face in the crowd had a smile on.
When they finished we played outside and waited around for the ‘Treehouse Theatre Companies’ next performance. This was when the heavens decided to open up and the winds seriously picked up. At this point we also starting hearing from family and friends back home who were checking in on us. They’d experienced the worst thunder and lightning and storms in years and said there were more to come.
Exploring A Rainy and Windy Camp Bestival
We quickly checked the weather forecast (and felt thankful we’d packed wet weather gear just in case) and saw that 50 mph winds and heavy rain was on the way for us too. The heatwave we’d had for the past two days dissipated scarily quickly. After watching the ‘Treehouse Theatre Company’, Vicky and Oliver headed back to camp for a rest.
Evie and I mooched around some more before getting caught in a huge rain storm. We took shelter in the delicious ‘The Feast Collective’ tent where we stopped for some lunch. We were just so impressed by all the food choices available at Camp Bestival. You really could get anything from Japanese, to Greek, African, Vegan, Italian…the list goes on. I settled for a ‘Sushi Burrito’ which was amazing!
An Inflatable Church and The British Weather
After finishing our dinner Evie and I headed for the Inflatable Church to see what it was all about. Inside was a disco where you could have a little boogie. It was such a fun atmosphere. Next door you could also dress up so you could come to the church in a wacky ensemble.
While we were dancing, the rain showers outside were getting heavier and heavier. We saw lots of people dive into the Bollywood tent next door (a tent I’m still gutted we didn’t get to try out – apparently they had talent shows and Dj’s and it was a fun place to hang out).
Peeping outside the inflatable church, we saw a little break in the clouds and took this chance to make the run back to camp to check in on Vicky and Oliver.
The walk back to the camp showed us that the winds were causing lots of disruption around the site. The scary thing was, the winds were nowhere near as strong as they were going to be, so we made a really sad decision to pack up and drive home.
Shutting A Day Early
We were gutted to have to leave a day early, but in the end we were so glad we did. As soon as we arrived home a video popped up on twitter showing us how strong and crazy the winds had gotten. On Sunday morning we woke up to hear that the festival had had to make the hard decision to close a day early due to the extreme weather. The videos and pictures that followed of the camps were so crazy! I’m talking tents blowing away, fencing falling down, portaloo’s blown over…it was tragic and luckily a lot of people had left and no one was hurt.
It was such a shame that Camp Bestival had to shut a day early. We were so lucky to get to experience a two day heatwave though and our festival was certainly not spoilt. There were so many areas we didn’t get to try out properly like the ‘Bollywood Tent’, ‘Spinney Hollow’ and ‘HMS Camp Bestival’.
That just means one thing though…we have to go back next year! I can’t wait to see how much bigger and better the festival gets and even if it doesn’t change, it’s still going to be the most perfect family festival.
If you’re umming and ahhing about whether to go to Camp Bestival, you need to go! If you still need persuading, check out my post ‘50 Things To Do At Camp Bestival‘.