Spread across 250 acres in the Mendip Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, not far from, Bristol and Weston-super-Mare, Mendip Activity Centre is the largest, independently-owned, outdoor activity provider in the South West. There are over 20 activities to choose from, all led by fully-qualified instructors. Since 2020, Mendip Basecamp campsite, has run alongside the activity centre, providing thrilling adventure holidays to families and family groups.
Given that my main mission in life is getting my feral – sorry, spirited – children out of the house by 10am and running them wild in open space to wear them out (a bit like dogs), when I was offered a gifted weekend stay at Basecamp at Mendip Activity Centre last summer, I jumped at the chance.
Visitors aged four and upwards can take part in an array of adventurous activities, and my kids poured over the website, eagerly picking which ones they wanted to try. For ease (as I knew my two year old would want to join in, and be furious that he couldn’t), my two daughters and I decided to make it a girls camping weekend.
As soon as the school year was out, we hopped in the car and kicked the summer holidays off to an excellent start.
About Mendip Activity Centre Camping
Mendip Basecamp family campsite, as it is today, really came into being as a result of the 2020 Coronavirus lockdown. The team made the decision to open the campsite to the public – it had previously only been accessible to schools and children’s groups beforehand – to try and claw back some of the income that had vanished overnight due to pandemic restrictions. Since then, over 100,000 visitors have stayed and the off-grid family adventure camp is rapidly growing a reputation for being one of the best activity campsites in the UK.
Mendip Basecamp is the ideal base for adventurous campers looking to explore the Mendip Hills. But, to be honest, families who come to stay here, do so to get stuck into the adventuresome activities on offer which includes, but is not limited to:
Mendip campsite and accommodation
A fairly steep, rocky track leads up to the campsite, a vast field surrounded by ancient woodland. We manage to time our stay with one of the wettest weekends of all time, although on arrival, the skies are dry and festival flags are flapping in the breeze.
The sounds of playing children drift across the air and I’m transported back to the many camping trips I was taken on as a child and that feeling of freedom and seemingly-endless open space.
Check-in at the Pavilion, a white marquee tent (which doubles as a camping shop, pop-up cafe (for breakfast rolls, pastries, coffee), communal ice block freezer, small toddler play zone and phone charging area, is quick and easy. As it’s early evening though and I have two kids in tow, I was thankful not to have the hassle of setting up a tent on my own – we’ve been booked into one of the nomadic bell tents (after our original glamphouse safari tent was damaged in summer 2023’s storms). Other bookable accommodation options include bunk rooms, located near the Mendip Lodge.
For those that do choose to pitch their own tents, there are no specified pitches, just choose your camping spot, park beside your tent and settle in. There’s no check-out time for campers (it’s 10am for those in ready-made accommodation), so you can leave whenever you are ready.
The Nomadic Bell tent
There are several nomadic bell tens on site, which sleep up to six people and come with camp mattresses and a picnic bench. You just need your own sleeping bags, pillows and outdoor cooking equipment (or eat in Mendip Lodge – which is what we did).
The tents are set-up, ready and waiting for their prospective tenants and we found it warm, dry and cosy, which is impressive given the amount of rain it had to withstand during our stay! Check in is from 4pm and check out by 10am.
Whether you’re camping or glamping, you can also a fire pit for your stay from the camp shop (ingeniously repurposed from an old washing machine drum). They require a fully refundable £10 card deposit and you can purchase firewood, S’more kits and magic powder to change the colour of the flames (very exciting!) onsite.
Our lack of tent erecting meant we could head straight for our booked tobogganing session, a scenic 10-minute, well-marked (by buddhist prayer flags by day and fairy lights by night) stroll downhill through the wood from our tent.
Sitting in the evening sunshine while music played, watching the girls zoom down, then run back up the slope (it’s an excellent energy burner!) giggling with excitement was a great way to celebrate an emotional end to the school year and a lovely way to spend some one-on-one time with my little ladies. Adults can have a go too, I was just sitting out as I’d had two back surgeries a few months before.
Mendip camping facilities
Although off-grid, there are flushing toilets, hot showers and washing-up blocks, a giant sandpit (‘Sandhenge’), an Alpine Lounge (open all year-round), and Mendip Lodge (open from May) pub and cider garden.
Food here is for fuel – nothing fancy, which goes down well with the kids. There are several dining options available if you don’t fancy cooking at your tent:
Pop-up pavilion cafe
The camp cafe is open every day for hot breakfast rolls, fresh croissants, barista coffee, ice cream and soft drinks and our shop is always open for all the essentials and plenty of treats
The campsite pop-up cafe is open every day for hot breakfast rolls, fresh croissants, barista coffee, ice cream and soft drinks. The camp shop also stocks local burgers, sausages, bread, milk and cheese plus other essentials.
At Mendip Lodge, Pieminster pies, stone-baked pizzas, pub grub and basket meals are the order of the day. The loaded fries with beans and cheese was declared excellent by my fussy eater. Lunch and dinner are served until 8pm on weekdays, 9pm on Friday and Saturday.
Outside benches, placed beside the canopy of a repurposed parachute and roaring firepit, make Mendip Lodge a lovely space for al fresco diners. In summer there is live music to tap along to, while you sip your local cider (Thatchers, obvs as it’s just round the corner), Butcombe or Bristo; Beer Factory beer.
The Alpine Lounge
The Alpine Lounge, has ski lodge vibes and is located beside the dry ski slope, meaning you can tuck into pizza while snowboarders and skiers whoosh past you.
Weekdays is more of a snack menu, with things like paninis, breakfast rolls and pizzas on offer, while weekends add on dirty fries and kids’ meals (hot dog/chicken goujons with chips).
Things to do at Mendip Activity Centre camping
There are over 20 activities on offer at Mendip Activity Centre (see above list) and choosing what we were going to try was really exciting. Try self-led frisbee golf, to orienteering, axe throwing, nerf gun battles, abseiling, caving, bushcraft and survival skills, kayaking, canoeing, raft building and more.
We eventually settled on tobogganing, rock climbing, paddleboarding, skiing and archery. All the sessions we had booked were private, which was less daunting than a big group activity for the girls ,and also meant my youngest daughter could try a ski lesson (the minimum age is eight for this otherwise).
While most activities take place on site, the basecamp’s own private limestone rocksports quarry is a 20-minute walk or short drive away, and there is a separate watersports site, 15-minutes drive away.
Activities take place come rain or shine, although in our case, this was very much more on the non-stop torrential rain side of things. Despite the weather though, the girls (aged 9 and 7 at the time) nailed their first ever outdoor rock climbing lesson, zipping up and down the rock faces in the pouring rain. I couldn’t believe how many times they managed to reach the chains at the top, although, I shouldn’t have been surprised, they have both been monkey ninjas since birth.
The instructors were so friendly, helpful and accommodating with the girls various random climbing requests (to be bunny hopped, or ‘dragged’ up the wall).
After two hours (plus the walk down), we were absolutely frozen and soaked by the end and with paddleboarding booked later that afternoon in more of the same weather, I’m sad to say we actually pulled out of this activity as the weather was horrific. Next time! It’s worth noting, you don’t get your money back if you do this.
The dry ski slope lesson was slightly less soggy and was a great introduction to skiing. I’d been a bit nervous for them as I’ve only ever skied on snow and wasn’t sure how’d they’d manage on a dry ski slope. Again the instructor was friendly and understanding when my younger daughter was having a wobble, frustrated that it hadn’t clicked straight away. Meanwhile, my other daughter was well away and really got the basics down very quickly. They now have their progress saved on the system should we return for more skiing sessions in future.
I loved that the girls got to try so many different activities and they had their eye on many more. The instructors were so friendly and helpful which made the whole experience extra enjoyable.
As well as the bookable paid-for activities at Mendip Basecamp, there are a number of free things to do onsite to keep you entertained. Look out for details on treasure hunts, circus skills events, festival nights with balloon modelling, face painting and glitter, nature craft and visits from the infamous yeti!
Things to do near Mendip Basecamp
- A 15-minute drive away is England’s longest gorge, Cheddar Gorge. There are some great walks, breathtaking views above ground, as well as spectacular rock formations and ancient cathedral-like caverns below at family-friendly attraction, Cheddar Gorge and Caves.
- It’s not just the iconic landscape that puts Cheddar on the map: this is of course where the world famous cheese comes from. You can still see the traditional method of cheddar cheese-making at the Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company.
- Cycle Cliff Road (B3135) through the Gorge – stage six of the 2011 Tour of Britain. Or, for a gentler cycling route, five minutes from the site you’ll find the traffic-free Strawberry Line Path, which is great for a family bike ride.
- Pop in to the charming market town of Axbridge, just 10-minutes away. With its medieval town square and local farmer’s market, it’s a picturesque spot with history going back to the time of Viking invaders.
- Nip over to Thatcher’s Cider to pick up supplies from the farm shop, take a tour or eat at The Railway Inn at Sandford.
- For longer day trips out, there are many beautiful places to explore in the West Country. Spend a day in Glastonbury, head to the beach in nearby Weston-super-Mare, get an urban fix in buzzing Bristol, get to know North Somerset, or visit these fabulous attractions in the wider Somerset area.
Getting to Mendip Basecamp
Mendip Basecamp is located within the grounds of Mendip Activity Centre.
Mendip Activity Centre, Lyncombe Drive, Churchill, BS25 5PQ.
Follow signs up the drive, keeping to the right rather than entering the main car park on the left. After a hairpin bend, you will go under the ski slope bridge. Continue driving past Mendip Lodge, then follow the signs to Mendip Basecamp which will take you up the hill, up a track to the camping field.
Basecamp check in takes place in the huge white marquee in the middle of the field, the Pavilion.
Click here for a Google maps link.
You can find more information about getting to Mendip Activity Centre and Basecamp and their various sites using different modes of transport on their directions page.
I’m slightly gutted we had SUCH horrendous weather when we visited Mendip Basecamp, however, the fact that I’m still singing its praises despite the never-ending rain, just shows what a wonderful place this is.
The camp is the perfect spot for big groups of families looking for an active, outdoorsy getaway. The sessions here are a worthy match for even the most energetic of kids, and it’s great family bonding time with grownups and children taking on new challenges together.
I’d love to go back when my youngest is older, with a big group of friends and make the most of everything they’ve got on offer. If you and your brood like fun-packed days full of action and exercise in beautiful surroundings, you’ll have a blast here.