Many campsites talk a good environmentally friendly game, but few put it into practice quite as well as Gimme Shelter, situated amid the meadows and hills just a few miles from the Forth Bridge. Recycling is practised religiously, there are no showers or hot water, and toilets are of the sawdust-composting variety – not trendy off-the- peg numbers but, like most things here, self-built and brilliantly improvised. Rainwater is collected in various systems, including an old wine barrel, while a woodburner has been made from an old toolbox and a rejuvenated gas bottle. Rat-race escapees Chris and Yvonne Barley may have been dubbed hippies a decade ago, but today many Gimme Shelter devotees proclaim them visionaries.
Over the years, Chris and Yvonne have managed to extend the property to include a couple of cottages and, ultimately, the hilly woodland that forms the campsite. Gimme Shelter’s DIY style is undeniably impressive, from the handcarved wooden furniture that adorns every pitch to the funky but solid ‘camping shack’ made of oak and fir beams salvaged from the nearby dockyard, which boasts a large living space and two balconies that are ideal for sundowners.
It’s all surprisingly quiet and secluded given its position in prime commuting territory for Edinburgh. Admittedly you can just hear the M90 from some of the pitches, but elsewhere it’s the Pinkerton Burn tumbling through the site that makes the most noise.
The camping fields, like the site itself, give away the Barleys’ tastes in music – choose between ‘Strawberry Fields’ and ‘Rising Sun’. In the site’s upper pitches, out in the open and exposed to the blistering Fife sun, there’s drinking water available in containers. Then in the lower pitches, which tend to be secluded arbours within the shade of all the trees, there’s cold-running mains water. All have their own campfires and are set amid rich woodland. And it’s such a mazy wood, with some of the pitches accessible only through narrow grassy strips fringed with encroaching woodland, that there’s a real feeling of safety and seclusion, making it great for kids. Unless they’re planning to machete their way through the woodland, the only way out is past their parents’ tent.
Gimme Shelter’s other stab at glamping is a brilliantly reinvented caravan: it does give shelter, but very much in the Gimme Shelter style, where less is definitely more.
When it’s time to go exploring away from the site, Inverkeithing is less than a half-hour train ride from Edinburgh across the famous Forth Rail Bridge. Or if you fancy something a little less busy, take a trip up the Fife Coastal Road. And if you want to go the whole hog, you can swing back through Dunfermline, another of Scotland’s former capitals and proud birthplace of Andrew Carnegie, once the world’s wealthiest man, and indeed, Gordon Brown.
(info supplied by the campsite)
Woodland camping 10 miles North of Edinburgh, in Fife near Inverkeithing and Dunfermline. Camp fires. Tubs of wood available £6 (foraging not allowed.)
We cannot take pets, large one night party groups, campervans, motorhomes.
Suitable for families, couples, or a single person.
Rustic limited facilities:- Feature compost toilets. Cold water (no showers). We no longer have a food shop, microwave, kettle, fridge or WiFi, just back to pure woodland camping.
£6p.p.p.n. Car entry £6. Visitors £3 per £3 car.
2nd night concession, children, babies, toddlers half price. Cars free.
Also for hire Classic caravan, Off grid camping shack.and 4 metre bell tent.
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Just email E.T.A & departure preference. Also how many people, ( + any visitors) cars, berth size of tent & if you want a campfire/tub of wood. We're eager to see you!offers
Shack and classic caravan - 2nd night half price.
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Proper woodland camping with real wood fires.
Woodland and meadow pitches, all with campfire.
Tents, groups – yes. Caravans, campervans, big groups, dogs, young groups – no.
Campfires allowed. 24 pitches, though the number varies as some can be knocked out by the weather. No hook-ups. Cold water but no showers (though there are some available at a nearby leisure centre). Fire-starting essentials are available to buy, and there’s communal fridge space and use of a microwave and kettle. It can get muddy in wet weather though Chris and Yvonne have laid strips of an old tennis court down as paths to make life easier.
Two new additions to the site include the off-grid camping shacks (sleeping 4) and fully-equipped classic 2 berth Castlton caravan. There are various facilities areas around the site but they’re pretty basic compost toilets with no showers. Drinking water is available. Down at the gallery there’s a fridge-freezer and free wi-fi.
Wee ones love Deep Sea World (01383 411880) just down the road, and a string of beaches to the east. Alternatively, head by train into Edinburgh or hop off before at Dalmen, (or drive over the Forth Bridge), to explore historic South Queensferry. Hopetoun House (0131 331 2451; www.hopetoun.co.uk) on the suburb’s outskirts is renowned as ‘Scotland’s Versailles’. See the famous pandas at Edinburgh Zoo (10 miles away). Burn some rubber at Knockhill (01383 723337), Scotland's National Motorsports Centre.
If it rains
Given that the site has no showers, take a trip to the Beacon Centre (01592 583383) swimming baths at Burntisland. It’s a good opportunity to have a wash but there are flumes and a wave machine as well.
Food & Drink
Inverkeithing is within walking distance for basic supplies, but is not great for eating out. The Wee Restaurant (01383 616263; www.theweerestaurant.co.uk) in North Queensferry is superb, with creative cooking and fresh local produce. The Albert Hotel (01383 413562) in the same village does decent food and has a bar said to be a favourite of local writer Iain Banks. If in Dunfermline, try Reubens Cafe Deli (01383 739071). You'll find great fish & chips 2 miles away at Dalgety Bay Fish Bar (01383 821599).
Go and sample the real ales at the Burgh Arms (01383 410384) on the High Street in Inverkeithing. It’s traditional in the sense of having live music, a darts board and a pretty standard but keenly priced meal menu (lunches only).
£6 per person (all ages) per night; £6 per car for first night only, subsequent nights half price for children andunder-2s
Visitors £3 each plus £3 a car
There are frequent trains and buses to Inverkeithing from Edinburgh but it’s a mile’s walk to the site from the station.