"Pier View Cottage - From the water it doesn't look too bad. Once on site it is pretty dire"
If you are looking for a campsite that is bang up to date with all the mod cons and facilities, Pier Cottage campsite is not for you. However, if you are after a campsite that is quirky, full of character, offers peace and tranquility, has stunning views, gives you the freedom to arrange your pitch the way you want it Pier Cottage campsite is one you may want to investigate.
The first thing I noticed when we pulled up to the entrance of Pier Cottage campsite is that there was no “wow” factor, like there was on other campsites we had used. At first site I felt a little disappointed because we had traveled such a long way, endured some unfortunate events and was looking forward so much to getting to the Lake District and when we got there we were confronted with something that wasn’t what I was hoping to see. The site looked a little tired and in need of some TLC, however I had seen and stayed at worse sites.
On arrival there was no greeting by the owners or a warden, this is something that was alien to us (we had always seen someone on arriving at other sites) so we were at a bit of a loss. The better half ran over to the office (which was closed) where there was a sign in the window with a list of names and the allocated pitch. There were no other instructions on where to pace the unit, where to place the awning or anything like that, again which I found strange.
The track leading to the pitches looked quite tight so the better half went looking for the pitch whilst I stayed with the van. With the pitch found it was time to have a quick look. Whilst the wow factor wasn’t there on arrival, it soon kicked in when I saw our lakeside pitch, and I instantly knew that we had made the right decision in booking the site. The views of the lake and the hills behind were breath taking and this was the sort of lakeside pitch I wanted, so I was not disappointed.
With regards to the pitches at Pier Cottage campsite, they seem to vary in size however they are all large with loads of room. Basically, you have your pitch and you can do what you want as long as you are in it. You can choose where you place your unit, what direction you want your unit, where you want your awning etc. etc. This type of arrangement was totally alien to us, and on all the other sites we had stayed on we were told where to park our unit, what side the door had to be on, where the awning could go, where we had to park the car (when we used out Conway Countryman of course) etc. etc. Being able to decide how to fill our pitch (and the owners actively encourage you to use the total pitch) was brilliant, although it does end up in a haphazard looking arrangement of caravans and motorhomes that doesn’t look neat and tidy. In fact, this ends up in a site that looks pretty messy and ramshackle, but I actually really like that and think it is part of this campsites charm, although it did take me a day or two to realise this but that’s because this type of campsite is totally out of my comfort zone.
"The facilities - basic, grubby and not up to snuff. I was not impressed at all"
I have to say the facilities aren’t the best at Pier Cottage campsite however it does have everything you need. The toilet/shower block comprises one urinal, one proper toilet and a single shower, which for a site of its size isn’t enough and there really needs to be more.
Next to the shower cubicle is a basin obviously for hand washing. When you’re taking a shower the only privacy you have is a pull across curtain, which is something I didn’t feel too comfortable about. No-one ever walked in (there is an etiquette and un written rule that if the curtain is pulled across you don’t enter) but knowing there is some random bloke standing at the sink having a shave whilst I am taking a shower I did find a little weird. The shower costs 40p (on an honesty box basis) and comprises a small electric shower that you can stand under for as long as you want. Once again, the shower wasn’t the best (it was all scaled up and water dribbled rather than spurted out) but it was hot and as long as I can wash the shampoo out of my hair that’s the main thing.
The toilet block is basic and the cleanliness isn’t the best I have come across either. For the first couple of days the cleanliness didn’t bother me, but by the third day coming out of the shower and standing barefoot on a wooden “draining” board that was gritty and mucky to dry off was kind of starting to annoy me a bit, and getting dressed with wet feet (which is what I had to do) really annoyed me.
There are loads of water taps around the site and there is one on every electric hook up point, so you don’t have to go far for water. Unfortunately, we didn’t appreciate this until we had set up the van, got it on chocks etc. and by that time the van was too far away to reach the tank with our 5m hose, and we had to use a water carrier and funnel. If we had a 25m hose (like we were going to buy) we would have had no problems at all.
There are waste water points, but there is no designated motorhome service point so emptying the waste involved filling a bucket and carrying it over to the drain. This was not too much of a problem, and something I am more than prepared to do (as I have on other campsites) but this is something you may want to consider if you have any mobility problems.
Access and getting to a site is important to me, and has been since I had a bad experience reaching a site that was in the back end of nowhere, down a narrow road (full of agricultural vehicles coming the other way), followed by a long dirt track full of bumps and potholes. Because of this experience access is something that I always consider before booking any site.
"On route to our pitch. No wow factor here. It is a bit of an ugly site up close"
The ease of access to Pier Cottage campsite depends entirely whether you stick to the A roads or venture off on to the single track unclassified roads. If use a satnav, and in particular a TomTom, you will find that “Jane” (or whatever voice you have) will take you off the A roads and on to some very small roads. Whilst these roads are pretty and picturesque, they are not ideal for a campervan, motor home or caravan – unless you like a challenge and having to deal with locals who refuse to move over and crowd their way through. Our journey to Pier Cottage campsite was fine until Jane took us off the A590 and down said backroads, in the last part of the journey was utter hell and the worst experience I have had in the Accordo 120 to date. If you stay on the A roads (like we did when we left Pier Cottage campsite) the journey there and back is much easier, much more motor home friendly and a lot more pleasurable.
The drive way from the road to Pier Cottage campsite is small and single track, and since there aren’t any passing places whatsoever and drops down each side of the road I am so pleased I didn’t come across a caravan (or motorhome for that matter) leaving the site – I really have no idea what would happen since you can’t take the vehicle off road! There is a sign in the office block window saying to make sure there is nothing coming down the drive as you leave the site (you can see right to the to the road – if you’re thinking the drive must be short then, I can assure you it isn’t) but there is nothing at the other end saying if you can see a vehicle coming down the drive to wait for it as there are no passing places. I am stunned the drive hasn’t been altered to include at least one passing place, but if it has worked all this time I assume there is no need to change it.
During our stay we saw the owner’s daughter once, and that was purely by accident. Whilst some people like to be left alone when they go to campsites I like to see the owner/warden and get a verbal list of rules. I like to be told/shown where the facilities are, where the waste disposal drains are, where chemical disposal point is, where the bins are etc. but a Pier Cottage we didn’t get any of this. It was basically turn up, pitch up, sort yourself out and find everything yourself.
Now time for the important bit, the cost. At £23 per night for the last week in September (excluding electricity) Pier Cottage isn’t cheap and when you look at it on a value for money basis it is not good value for money at all. I have stayed on many campsites where the cost has been £18 - £20 per night all in, i.e. including electricity and showers. These sites have been immaculate (and had the wow factor), they were pot hole (and puddle free), had clearly designated pitches, washing up facilities (which I have now realised is very important), had wardens on hand (or the owner on hand), had clearly marked watEr/chemical toilet disposal points, motor home service points (although I admit not all of them……. Taking all of this in to consideration Pier Cottage campsite is damn expensive and, in my opinion severely over-priced. To charge £23 per night (and I should point out that was the low season rate – high season is £24 per night) Pier Cottage needs to significantly up its game and sort out some important issues.
The only saving grace for Pier Cottage campsite is they charge fairly for electricity. Our seven night stay cost £5.20, but then given we were only running the fridge, watching a bit of TV (less than 10 hours for the entire week – the ten channels we found were dire and TV is utter crap at the moment) boiling the kettle (for hot drinks and to wash up) and to run the lights at night I think this is fair. We cooked using just gas (and didn’t use the electric hot plate, the oven or the microwave) and we washed up using water from the kettle and didn’t even bother turning on the water heater. The cloud and rain meant temperatures were high so we didn’t need to use the heating (or a fan heater) either. Thinking about it, we used hardly any electricity at all so maybe £5.20 isn’t such a bargain after all.
All in all (including showers and electricity) Pier Cottage campsite cost us £26 per night, which given the state of the site and the facilities, is damn expensive. It is also worth pointing out again that we barely used the electricity, so if you are a heavy user or actually use all the appliances (and the water heater) in your caravan or motor home it is likely to cost considerably more. Value for money? I think not. Conned in Coniston? Yep – I would agree with this.
Now on to the biggies “Would I stay at Pier Cottage campsite again and would I recommend Pier Cottage Campsite?”
If I come to the Lake District again (at the moment I have no intention of coming back since I never warmed to the place and there are so many other places I want to get to in the motor home before return visits) and wanted to stay on Lake Coniston I would consider Pier Cottage campsite, although I wouldn’t stay for more than a couple of nights. If the site got a (much needed) re-fit and the driveways were filled, the toilets and showers improved etc. I could be persuaded to stay another full week, but I couldn’t if it remains in its current state.
Would I recommend Pier Cottage? This is a difficult one. It is a site that many people love (I met someone who has stayed on the site and appears to have been on every pitch – he keeps on coming back) and a site a few people I know would drive to, find their pitch and immediately drive away again to find another site. If toilets/showers are important to you (and I know they are for many people) you would not stick the site for one night, let alone several. If you are fine with basic facilities Pier Cottage campsite may be suitable. If you are proper outdoors type person who like cycling, hiking, kayaking, great views and aren’t bothered about basic facilities Pier Cottage campsite is going to be right up your street.