We have just got back from a lovely 2 nights camping at the Boe Rigg campsite in Bellingham Northumberland. It was our first camping trip in 2020 and our first time camping during Coronavirus so I wanted to tell you about our experience.
At first, we were considering going wild camping so we could social distance as much as possible but Papa Ginge was a little worried about it and we were struggling to find wild camping spots where we could pitch responsibly and near our car as with kids you need a lot more gear.
A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post about places where you can go ‘wild-ish’ camping near North East England. We decided to book at one of the sites I mentioned in the post, the Boe Rigg. This is how we found the Boe Rigg campsite, what we did in the nearby area during our stay and what we spent in total.
The Boe Rigg
The Boe Rigg is an unusual little complex situated next to the charming little village of Bellingham on the edge of the Northumberland National Park. The Boe Rigg tagline is ‘more than just a campsite’ because whilst it pitches itself as ‘Northumberland’s wildest camping’ it also has a lovely bar and restaurant on site, as well as some apartments and rooms.
The site itself is bordered by a field of sheep and a field of cows, as well as picturesque views. At the entrance to the site there is a little pond with a variety of birds and ducks with cute little houses on it. My kids loved watching the ducklings who came up really close to the fence.
We chose a pitch at the back end of the field next to the cows to try and stay away from people as much as possible. We loved sitting outside our tent on a night with our campfire toasting marshmallows and watching the cows. The wildlife and the views made the site. We watched a massive hare bound past our tent one morning, much to everyone’s excitement.
We had paid for a pitch for the Sunday and Monday night. We arrived at around 12.30. There were no restrictions as to when you could arrive or leave. However, as we were arriving on a sunday when its common for people to be leaving they recommended arriving between 12-1. The site had plenty of capacity though so I don’t think it’s an issue.
All the staff we dealt with at the Boe Rigg were really friendly, down to earth and helpful. Nothing was too much of a hassle for them and they liked to have a joke on. Even when they had knocked off for the night on Sunday they helped me carry a fire-pit and wood to our tent.
The Boe Rigg toilets and showers
The Boe Rigg campsite does have toilets and showers. They are in the same room, 3 showers and 3 toilets (per sex). It was meant to be only 3 in at a time but sometimes people just seemed to ignore that. It was hard to tell how many were in until you were in. There was no ventilation in there which isn’t ideal right now. They were cleaned once a day at 9.45-10.45am and on the last day they weren’t finished when they were meant to be so we had to use the toilet in the restaurant. I’d say the toilets could be cleaner. They weren’t bad but they were a little rough around the edges. Normally I wouldn’t mind but obviously Coronavirus has us all more paranoid about hygiene. They did have hand sanitizer, soap and cleaning wipes in there to use though.
Does the Boe Rigg have decent internet connection?
This depends on what network you are on. There is zero connection at all on o2 there. Connection on EE/Virgin is good. The restaurant does have Cloud connection if your tent is close enough to access it but you have to create a Sky account to access it which we couldn’t be bothered with.
The Boe Rigg campsite atmosphere
The campsite is advertised as being a ‘quiet site’ and the booking terms and conditions say that quiet hours must be respected between 10:00 p.m. and 8 a.m and that radio, music and TV players must be kept at a low volume. Car doors and boots must be closed quietly.
However, we had some very noisy neighbours on the Sunday night who were being ridiculously inconsiderate until nearly 1am and the ‘quiet site’ policy wasn’t adhered to or policed at all. They had music playing loudly and were drunk and shouting constantly which was frustrating as one of the reasons we chose the site was because we wanted somewhere quieter. On our second night, the site was quieter apart from someone (who I assume must have been a staff member) driving something around the site and opening and shutting gates at 3am. I did wonder what all that was about.
Other than this the site was quite relaxed and chilled out and we did enjoy our time there.
The Boe Rigg restaurant and pub
The restaurant on site is a real bonus. There is a lovely terrace outside where the tables are a decent distance from each other and it is covered above so even if the weather isn’t perfect you can still eat outdoors which I know a lot of people are preferring right now due to it reducing coronavirus risks. The food itself was great.
We only ate one meal there. Papa Ginge ordered the Boe burger (£9.95), Arlo ordered the pepperoni pizza (£8.50), Lena got a cheese and tomato pizza (£8.50) and we got some cheesy chips (£3). I picked at everyone’s as I knew they would leave lots. Everyone’s food was tasty and I think the restaurant and being able to get take away for your tent is a real asset to the site. Papa Ginge also got a pint of Coors (£3.50) and I got a half pint of Carling dark fruits £1.65). Our total bill came to £35.10.
We had leftovers to take back to the tent – they gave us a pizza box to box up what was left. The bar and restaurant are open from 8am until 10pm (except on a Sunday when they close at 4.30pm).
Fires and BBQs at the Boe Rigg
You are allowed campfires at the Boe Rigg campsite. You can hire a fire pit from reception for £20 deposit which is returnable. It cost me £11 to buy some logs and kindling from reception. I would recommend taking some firestarters or lighter fuel though as it was hard to get them going. The fire pits come with a grill you can put on top if you want a bbq too. We grilled some sausages on there. Our favourite memories from our trip was toasting marshmallows on the campfire each night. Even if my 5 year old managed to get so much gooey marshmallow in her hair that I had to cut chunks out of it!
Things to do near the Boe Rigg campsite
As we were doing this camping trip while we still needed to social distance due to Coronavirus we were looking for activities that we could do outdoors, mostly staying away from other people.
After we had pitched the tent on Sunday, we wanted something close by to do. The Boe Rigg is right next to Hareshaw Linn waterfall trail. About a 5-minute drive and a free car park. You can’t book and it doesn’t cost anything, you just walk through the gates. It was well signposted. It’s a 3-mile trail that crosses the river by bridge several times and ends with a waterfall.
My kids are 5 and 8 and they did find the trail quite tiring but they have been cooped up in the house for the past few months of lockdown so have probably lost a bit of fitness. They did it though with only a few carries for my littlest. It took us 2.5 hours. It’s uphill a lot on the way there and therefore mostly downhill and quicker on the way back. The kids enjoyed collecting sticks and playing ‘pooh sticks’ on the bridges on the way.
It was very busy, too busy for the narrow trail path and social distancing. We spent a lot of our time stopping and trying to find somewhere to step aside to let people pass. That did spoil the experience a little bit. I would say if you arrive and the car park is full then maybe try again a different time. That aside though it was a beautiful trail and I’m pleased we experienced it together as a family.
Kielder Forest is a 10 minute drive from the Boe Rigg at its nearest point. However, the forest is massive so it depends which part you want to go to. We wanted to go do the Zog/Stick Man/Gruffalo kids trail so we drove about 25 minutes from the Boe Rigg to the Kielder Castle car park where you can find that trail and the Minotaur maze. It cost £5 to park at Kielder for the whole day.
The kids’ trail was a bit more chilled than the Hareshaw Linn trail we did the day before. The kids were more engaged as they were enjoying looking for the wooden characters and signs. Sadly the Castle itself and the cafe were closed due to Covid-19 restrictions.
However, there was still plenty for us to do during our visit and there are plenty of places you can have a picnic, including specific picnic tables, including one accessible picnic table that I saw. I could have killed for a cuppa and cake after our trail though, that cafe could have come in real handy! It was much easier to social distance at Kielder than it was at Hareshaw Linn. Their toilets were open too, they were only allowing one person/group in at a time and you moved a cone outside to let people know it was occupied.
Kielder Forest is massive and you could stay at the Boe Rigg several times just making visits to various parts of the Forest. We plan to do just this.
Other places near the Boe Rigg that are on our list to visit next time:
Thank you to Sam from North East Family Fun and to my lovely followers who recommended places in the area for during our stay, including:
- Visit more sections of Kielder Forest. Including Calvert Kielder and their adventure activity packages.
- Carriages Tearooms in Bellingham is a lovely little cafe in an old train. They do afternoon teas that look lovely.
- It is a dark sky area, in the later summer months you can let the kids stay up late and do some stargazing.
- Bellingham is only half an hour from Hexham where there are loads of nice restaurants
- Approximately 20 mins away is Chesters Roman Fort near this is Riverside Kitchen at Chollerford which apparently does ‘absolutely lush food to takeaway and loads of outdoor seating’ according to one of my readers
- The nearby Pheasant Inn Restaurant has good trip advisor reviews and outdoor tables.
- Sycamore Gap is a half-hour drive. You could walk the gap and a bit of Hadrian’s wall and see the famous tree.
- Jedburgh Harestanes is just under an hours drive away. Situated in the heart of the Scottish Borders, Harestanes is a unique rural setting to unwind or an ideal base to explore the Teviot Valley. Whether taking in the scenery on one of their walks, savouring a home-baked treat in the café, indulging in a little retail therapy or running around our recently refurbished play park – Harestanes offers something for everyone.
Total cost of our 2 day trip at the Boe Rigg
We spent £56 for our camping spot for 2 adults and 2 kids for 2 nights with electric hook up. On our first day, we spent only £11 on the firewood and kindling. Hareshaw Linn was free.
On day 2 we spent £5 on parking costs at Kielder Castle. Then we spent £35.10 on tea at the restaurant which we ate outside. Papa Ginge spent £13.10 in the local Co-op in Bellingham on our last night buying treats (muffins, Belgian buns, sweets) and sausages to BBQ. We also spent £3 on light fluid at the local country shop.
In total on this trip, we spent £123.20 as a family of 4. This is not including the food that we brought with us and petrol costs (about 1/4 tank of fuel) which would probably take the cost up to about £150 or £37.50 per person per day total but we would have been eating that food if we had stayed at home regardless.
Would we go back to the Boe Rigg campsite?
Definitely, and we actually hardly ever agree on places we will return to. It felt laid back and chilled. The prices are reasonable and the scenery is stunning. There is plenty to do in the local area to keep you entertained for a few visits. The staff were canny and helpful. It’s a nice bridge between a ‘proper campsite’ and wild camping. The restaurant is a real asset to the site, we couldn’t fault the food at all. They are one of the few campsites that I’ve seen this year that haven’t put their prices up considerably which is credit to them. They still seem to have availability throughout the summer which is also rare right now. We look forward to returning to the Boe Rigg which is indeed more than just a campsite.
We are still looking for other campsites to visit this summer so let me know where your favourite sites are in the comments!
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