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Panoramic mountain views and great hiking action right in the middle of the Lakes

Sykeside is one of those campsites that are all about the views. Situated in the midst and mists of the Lake District’s Dovedale valley and surrounded by the fells of Dove Crag, Hart Crag and Fairfield, it offers glorious mountain panoramas wherever you decide to pitch. Not only that, the Lakes themselves are enticingly close by, with unsung Brothers Water a short walk away and serpentine Ullswater four miles further away down the road.

Innumerable campers have been spilling into Sykeside’s friendly embrace for over 35 years now. The current owners have been running the place for more than a decade and know a thing or two about how to make things run efficiently. The valley campsite is hidden away down a private drive below the roadside Brotherswater Inn, and is fastidiously cared for, with neatly trimmed and well-nourished grass. If it sounds too manicured, one look up at the encircling fells puts everything into perspective. There’s still a reassuringly natural, outdoorsy vibe and, as tent pitches are unmarked, campers can choose their very own patch of grass on which to throw up their canvas when they arrive.

The best place to pitch is on the terrace on the left-hand side of the site. As it’s higher up it gives better views and stays relatively dry all year round (it’s the only part of the site open to tents in the winter months), and as you can’t take cars up the bank it’s often quieter there in summer (a word of warning, though: it’s very occasionally reserved for the use of a school group.) Otherwise, you’ll be able to park where you pitch – though after heavy rain they prefer to keep cars off the grass.

There’s a wider-than-usual range of facilities, though the showers are shared with walkers, small groups and families using the on-site bunkhouse. There’s a well-stocked shop at reception and – best of all – the campsite Barn End Bar (weekends and school holidays only). When the bar’s not open you only have to walk up the drive to the Brotherswater Inn, a quintessential Lake District pub that offers decent grub, draught beer and B&B accommodation for any non-tenters. Energetic kids get the use 
of an entire spare field (except during lambing season), allowing plenty of space for running around and football games.

There are excellent hiking routes starting straight from the site, from easy strolls around Brotherswater – which is a relatively small and unknown lake, yet a favourite of Dorothy Wordsworth, no less – to more challenging ascents up the likes of Fairfield, Helvellyn and High Street. It’s also easy to pick up the Fairfield Horseshoe ridge walk, ramble to Priest’s Hole cave, or amble all the way to Ambleside. The road outside the site, meanwhile, goes in two directions – three miles up, to the top of Kirkstone Pass (where you can enjoy a pint or an afternoon tea at the agreeable inn there), or three miles down, to the lake at Ullswater. Here, you’ll be able to catch a steamer from Glenridding to Howtown or Pooley Bridge, and then stroll back along the lakeshore – secure in the knowledge that, most weekends at least, you can recuperate later with your very own onsite, 100-yard pub crawl, from the Barn End Bar to the Brotherswater Inn.

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