"View through the trees" and "View to the beach"
First off I have to say that my wife and I prefer the quieter, smaller and adults’ only campsites so Cliff House would not normally be a campsite we would ever contemplate staying at. Cliff Hose campsite is a large commercial campsite with loads of pitches, all the facilities you could ever need (electric hook up, heated toilet/shower block, indoor washing up room, outdoor washing up facilities, launderette, restaurant, shop, bar etc.) and it caters for kids. Cliff House campsite accepts touring motor homes, caravans and tents but there are also static caravans, lodges, Euro tents and pods available for hire too. This campsite is at the other end of the spectrum to the types of campsite we prefer to use it’s not even funny.
You’re probably asking the question “why did you stay at Cliff House campsite?” and you have every reason too. Basically, we had a week of annual leave left to take and November was the only month available and we wanted a campsite that was on the beach and not too far from home. Cliff House was one of the very few campsites open during the winter months, and it was the only one on the beach and within a reasonable drive from home – so we booked it. Being November I had an inkling it wouldn’t be too busy and since the kids were at school (yes – I double checked with my sister to make sure my nephew wasn’t on half term break) there wouldn’t be any screaming kids to put up with, well not during the week that is.
Access to Cliff House Campsite isn’t too bad, and whilst there are some narrow roads with low overhanging trees to contend with (which is to be expected) there is nothing to horrendous. I always worry about campsites “out in the sticks” that access is going to be tight (because of the fun and games I had with the motor home in the Lake District) but I had no problems at all.
Arriving at the campsite it is easy to see this is a large concern and what I would consider a “professionally” run and managed commercial campsite. Everything is laid out as it should, there are signs all over the place (including excess Health & Safety type signs), and there were lots of people around working (cleaners, grounds staff, bar staff etc.) It was pretty much as I expected. Reporting to reception we booked in, got the pitch number and drove to find the pitch.
Driving through the site I was impressed with how pretty and attractive it was, but given it was November, the trees were shedding their leaves, the autumn golds and browns were at their best and there was some winter sunshine too there was no way the site could look ugly. Autumn is my favourite season, I love the colours of autumn and being on a site with plenty of deciduous trees accentuated it all. What made the site even more appealing to me was the lack of other units. There was the odd caravan dotted around (many of which were seasonal), and few other motor homes (three of which never moved or even had anyone staying in them during our entire week’s stay) and campervans but, the site was pretty much empty.
Our allocated pitch was overlooking the sea but directly under an oak tree (which was still dropping acorns) and even though it was a stunning pitch in a quiet and secluded area we asked to move to an alternative pitch the following day. After looking at the roof of the motor home I could see a few dinks and dents where falling acorns had damaged it (which really p***d me off) and enough was enough. The second pitch we chose was close to the reception area (and the bar, restaurant, toilets, showers, kid’s playground etc.) but we had no choice as the other pitches we could choose were surrounded by horse chestnut trees, and whilst most of the conkers were on the ground I didn’t want to run the risk of any stray ones striking the motor home. Even the pitch we chose had some horse chestnut trees around it, but parking the motor home right at the front of the pitch as far over to the right as possible meant we could get it far enough away from any overhanging branches. If you decide to stay at Cliff House campsite during the autumn and when the acorns and conkers are still falling from the trees you need to consider this when booking and request a pitch away from the trees (of which there aren’t many), unless you don’t mind the roof of your unit getting dented that is.
During our stay the site was mainly peaceful and very quiet and gave the perfect opportunity to chill out and relax whilst enjoying the stunning autumn colours. I say mainly peaceful because there were times every day when some of the staff were shunting the seasonal caravans around with their tractors, one of which (a very old, small red Massey) was very noisy. I can’t really whinge about this because the blokes had to do their job, I’m sure they did it as quickly as they could and it didn’t take that long really.
The facilities are top notch and I have no cause to complain or whinge at all. The toilet/shower blocks are modern, clean and also heated (I have never stayed at a site with a heated shower/toilet block before so this was a new experience for me – and I loved it). The blocks were cleaned every day without fail (even though there were hardly any guests and barely used) and they exceeded my expectations. It is obvious that cleanliness is a big deal with this campsite and the staff do an excellent job at making sure everything is spotlessly clean and nice to use. I have stayed at some campsites where the facilities were cleaned to an acceptable standard, however this appears not to be the case at this campsite because everything was cleaned to a very high standard during our stay.
Since I write my reviews predominantly for motor home owners I should point out that Cliff House has a motor home service point with space to actually get the motor home far enough over the drain to simply pull the plug and let the waste water flow. It’s a pretty good job this was the case because I forgot to replace the foldable bucket we use to clear the waste water I broke during our trip out to the Lake District.
There are loads of touring pitches at Cliff House campsite and whilst they are all large and spacious, and also the distance apart they should be, they are on top of each other and it looks like a site where they stack in as many as possible, but then most campsites do this – after all, they are a business and want to make as much money as possible and you have to get as many people in as you can to do this. Looking at how all the pitches are laid out I know for a fact I wouldn’t want to stay at this campsite when it is full. For example, the pitch we stayed on had other pitches all around it – which is something I don’t like, and this is why we go to smaller campsites.
One of the highlights during the stay at Cliff House was having a badger scuttle across in front of me on a nightly trip to the toilet block. Other than a few looking a bit worse for wear on the side of the road I have never seen a badger in the wild, so to witness one of these fantastic creatures was awesome. During the week we also spotted other wildlife, including squirrels running around fighting/playing, foraging and hiding their spoils, cock pheasants strutting around with their hens, cock pheasants having battles over territory, and many different species of birds. I can’t comment on whether Cliff House is such a haven for wildlife during the summer months, but it seems to be over the autumn/winter months.
The cost of our stay at Cliff House was £14.50 per night, which is the winter rate. This is an all in cost and whilst we didn’t take an awning, take any dogs, take additional people or have an additional car we wouldn’t have had to pay anymore if we did. The winter rate is exceptional value for money and, as far as the cost of campsites goes very cheap. When we found Cliff House on the internet I did check out spring and summer tariffs, and the cost per night in busier times is very expensive and more than double the cost of the winter rate (if you have all the “extras” of course). How Cliff House compares to other large commercial sites I can’t comment – as I have already said we don’t stay on large commercial sites. The (what I consider extortionate) busy periods cost is irrelevant to me because I would never stay at this site, or any site like this during busy periods.
Cliff House site is on the cliffs and access to the beach is via some (steep – as you’d expect) steps. Dunwich beach isn’t the most photogenic or attractive East Anglian beaches I have been to, but it does provide some entertainment. The fishing right near the steps appears to be quite good (everyday there were anglers there with bags of whiting and dabs), and a fifteen minute walk will take you to a National Trust site where there are heathland walks and a bird reserve. If you head inland from Cliff House there are plenty of other walks around Dunwich Wood, Dunwich Heath and Mount Pleasant Farm. Minsmere Nature reserve is a couple of miles further on, and if you are in to some road cycling there are plenty of quiet country roads around the wood and heathland as well.
Cliff House campsite in autumn/early winter is fantastic and I highly recommend a visit. Even if the weather is such you can’t get out and enjoy the beach, the nature reserves, the cycle rides or the woodland and heathland walks I enjoyed just sitting in the rear lounge of the van admiring the autumn colours on site and watching the local wildlife do their thing.
The stay at Cliff House has opened my eyes and changed my attitude towards large, commercial family campsites. Whilst I won’t go to these sites during the peak times I will definitely consider them for an autumn/winter break when the kids are at school and the parents have put the caravan/motor home/tent away until the following year.