Review: BritStops Motorhome Stopover Guide0
Everyone loves a bargain, don’t they? It doesn’t get more bargainous than being able to stay overnight for free in some of the UK’s most scenic locations, does it? That’s where BritStops comes in. Working on the same lines as the France Passion scheme, Britstops is a unique guide to free stopover locations throughout Britain. We thought we’d take a look inside…
The book’s format is very similar to that of the France Passion guide – I guess they’re both conveniently shaped to fit in the glove box. The France Passion scheme has literally thousands of sites listed so by necessity, the information in it is much more compact, making it quite hard to digest. Not so with the BritStops guide – each listing is afforded its own page, and there is plenty of space for a decent description of the venue, as well as a really easy to use pictorial guide to the features of each venue. One of the best things about the BritStops guide is that it is big rig friendly…too many guides just pretend that large motorhomes and RVs simply don’t exist, but BritStops has a clear sign indicating which venues can accept vans longer than 30 feet.
The venues themselves are a mix of country pubs, farm shops, farms and vineyards, as well as a few other more esoteric locations. There’s a ski centre in Scotland, a manor house in Sussex and a rugby club in Wales. Many of the farm-based stopovers offer the opportunity to admire cows, sheep or even alpacas in a field next to the stopover pitch…and all for free! Of course, if you happen to enjoy a pint or a pub meal, or buy some farm produce (or even an alpaca!), then the venue hosts would be delighted, and you’ll have that warm fuzzy glow that comes from supporting a local community and a small business. That’s the spirit behind the BritStops scheme – in return for a free stopover, you can (but you’re not compelled to) buy something from the host, if they have something to offer.
Anyway, back to the guide… It’s laid out clearly and logically with a simple map of the geographic regions on the inside cover. From there, you can nip straight to the colour-coded section for the region you’re interested in. Here another map pinpoints the locations of all the stopovers in that region. Pick the stopover closest to where you want to go, and then just hop to the relevant page to get the low-down.
There are quite a few reasons why schemes like BritStops are a good idea. I’ve already touched on the idea of supporting local and rural businesses. I could see us using BritStops to enable us to have more weekends away in the van…if we don’t have to pay campsite fees, then there’s really no excuse, is there? Also, whenever we visit friends or relatives, if there isn’t a decent campsite nearby, we often end up staying on a site that we wouldn’t ordinarily choose. With BritStops to hand, we’ll have more choices and could potentially stay a lot closer to the folks we’re visiting. And of course, if you’re staying at a pub, you can always invite all those friends and family over for a pub meal…not quite so easy on a campsite when the weather is poor! BritStops also comes into its own at this time of year, for those of us who like to get out in the van all year round. With many campsites closing for winter over the next few weeks, the choices of where to stay are shrinking rapidly. Since pubs (and their car parks) don’t close for winter, BritStops can fill that gap, with the majority of the sites listed being open all year round.
Don’t think that you will be slumming it if you stay at a Britstops stopover – whilst some sites are simply a parking place in the car park, others offer many of the facilities you’d expect from a campsite, such as hookups, wifi, water and a motorhome service point! Of course, you should always check the listing carefully before turning up, to ensure you will find the facilities you need.
BritStops costs £25 a year. For that, you get the annual guide, plus a sticker to put in your windscreen to show you’re a member of the scheme. You also get a year’s worth of email updates, so you hear about new venues throughout the year. Since £25 is the typical cost for 1-2 nights on a campsite or certificated location, a Britstops membership could pay for itself in one weekend away.
Ideally, I’d have liked to have written this review whilst stopping over at a BritStops location. If you follow us on Twitter, you’ll know that we are currently without a van. Our search continues and we positively live on eBay Motorhomes section, but alas, for now, our camping trips are on hold. As soon as we find our new van, we’ll be off to try out the van and the BritStops guide in earnest. Watch this space!