Shell Island Campsite Review

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Michelle Hart from Tasty PR with a Hungry Hart visited Shell Island in Llanbedr, Gwynedd with mixed results.

Shell Island – A Stunning Site with Lots of Dirty Secrets

Shell Island suddenly seemed to be on everyone’s radar this summer so, having decided to stay local (ish) this year we headed off with the kids and the dogs for 10 days to what is described as Europe’s largest campsite.

Expectations were high having checked out the official website and on arrival we weren’t disappointed. Stunning scenery, beautiful location just north of Barmouth and amazing views of Snowdonia. The sun was shining, we found a magical pitch close to the huge sand dunes and all was good with the world.

But sadly Shell Island is not all it first seems. Certainly it is an amazing place. Huge, gorgeous beaches with fabulous rock pools for crabbing and giant sand dunes for rolling down. But so many site rules are simply not adhered to. Campers are not supposed to pitch within 20 metres of each other but within the first 24 hours we had four other tents within a 10 metre radius. Single sex groups are apparently banned – but the party boys in their Bench and McKenzie tops were everywhere, swigging their WKD. Dogs are supposed to be kept on leads – but our own little hounds took huge offence as plenty of other dogs came sniffing around our tent where they were happily tethered outside.

Shell Island takes dogs

Shell Island takes dogs

We took the kids bikes expecting them to be able to cycle around safely but with so many drivers ignoring the 20 miles per hour rule I just couldn’t let my 7 year old loose on his bike.

And then there’s the rubbish. Shoes or Crocs are a must for the kids when playing in the dunes, littered as they are with broken bottles, cans, dirty nappies and all manner of rubbish. Not only did the wardens show no signs of clearing up this hidden dirt, they also seemed happy to drive past the more obvious piles of bin bags, bottles (and in one case a completely abandoned camp) and abandoned barbecues which dirty, lazy campers had simply abandonded when packing up. This rubbish remained where it was for days on end.

How very sad that such a wonderful place is being ruined by thoughtless campers and lazy owners/wardens who simply don’t enforce their own rules meaning that an area of outstanding natural beauty is being slowly destroyed. What should and could be a truly magical experience for so many is being ruined by the few – and the owners who could and should do more to preserve the beauty of this magical place.

Will we return? We’d love to say yes – it has the potential to be an incredible site, but to be honest we doubt it. Old timers told us things were never this way before. Shell Island it seems has become Chav-on Sea.

Further Details

Shell Island is the biggest campsite in the UK and does not take bookings. Campers are admitted between 8am and 8pm (9pm on Fridays).

March – June Sept & October (excluding Whit week & Firework weekend)
Adult £6.00 per night – £35 adult weekly rate.

July & August (including Whit week & Firework weekend)
Adult: £7.00 per night -£40 per adult weekly rate
Child: £3.00 per night -£18 per child weekly rate (3-15 years old)
Dogs (max. 2): £2.00 each per night

Adult: £7.00 per night -£40 per adult weekly rate
Child: £3.00 per night -£18 per child weekly rate (3-15 years old)
Dogs (max. 2): £2.00 each per night
Boats on Trailers: £5.00 per night / £30 per Adult: £7.00 per night -£40 per adult weekly rateChild: £3.00 per night -£18 per child weekly rate (3-15 years old)

Tel: 01341 241453
http://www.shellisland.co.uk/

18 Comments

  • Reply September 3, 2009

    Nick Robinson

    That’s a real shame, but not unexpected given the layout of the (huge & extensive) site and the type of camper that the site seems to be aiming for with its on-site pub/disco/chav-centre.

    I expect that all the ‘nice’ campers who only know about Shell Island from the rather misleading Cool Camping guide will have been disappointed this summer.

    Having been to Shell Island for a daytrip, there’s no way we would have gone to this site for a family holiday. Let’s hope the chavs all stay there and leave the decent parts of Snowdonia to people who will appreciate it.

  • Reply September 3, 2009

    James

    @Nick Robinson Never visited personally but it is a real shame.

    The idea of a massive, semi-wild site is fantastic but I guess the scale of the site demands large amounts of business and unfortunately in this case it attracts campers of the lowest common denominator.

  • Reply September 22, 2009

    Andy

    My family visited Shell Island on two occasions in 2006. The first time off-peak and the site was beautiful. The second time during the peak season, and it sounded very much like the review above. Luckily there are a few nice sites around, our favourite being Caerddaniel: http://www.caerddaniel.co.uk/camping.html, but there are many many more.

  • Reply September 22, 2009

    James

    Thanks for the recommendation Andy. Caerddaniel looks like a nice alternative.

  • Reply June 5, 2011

    Michael

    Just returned from there after following the recommendation in Cool Camping For Kids. Such a shame that it attracts the underclass of society. Wouldn’t let our kids out of our sight for a second with all the souped up Corsas speeding round the site. Happy hardcore music pumped out well into the early hours from tents nearby whilst Shameless families waltzed around exhibiting their tattoo covered beer guts (that’s just the females). The Shell Island red sticker that attaches to your car windscreen seems to be a badge of honour and most of the mad drivers that go up and down the narrow coast roads seem to display this. I didn’t think I was pompous before I came here but I will happily remain pompous if it helps me avoid such low life in the future. Shame because the setting is awesome and it has so much potential.

  • Reply June 20, 2011

    Paul Mathews

    Have to agree with you, having been a regular at Shell Island for many years it has unfortunately become a victim of it’s own success. What was once a fantastic, relatively quiet and peaceful site (mainly due to it’s size) has become far too well known and now attracts a pretty unsavoury crowd who are only up for a cheap party session and not interested in genuine camping at all. Have to say I don’t think the owners have done much to discourage it either! Profits over principles it would seem.

  • Reply June 21, 2011

    Campr

    It really is a shame that Shell Island has gone this way. Does anyone have recommendations for sites that will provide this kind of experience?

  • Reply June 21, 2011

    Jennie

    Oh gosh and I was looking to revisit childhood campsites this year, I have fond memories of camping there when I was a kid, perhaps they better stay fond memories now. I certainly won’t be going if its gone down hill so much as I have read.

  • Reply June 21, 2011

    Becky

    I was only there last week and had to come home early as thoughtless people were playing music till 03.00!!! The warden did come round and tell the individuals but they turned it back on when he had gone. Apart from that it is still a great place and seems to have its own weather.

  • Reply June 21, 2011

    Campr

    @jennie and @beckie Going on the comments on our Facebook wall it sounds like if you pick the right time (mid-week or low season) it can still be a great place to camp.

  • Reply November 5, 2011

    unhappy camper

    What should have been a great weekend was actually a nightmare. I’ve posted a copy of the letter I sent to the owners rather than write it all down again. Incidentally I have still not received a response from the owners. Draw your own conclusions…

    16/8/11

    Dear Mr xxxxx

    Official Complaint – Do Not Ignore

    I write to complain about the way my friends and I were treated by your security staff on Friday night 5/8/11.

    I arrived in my car at around 9pm. I had one friend with me in the car and we were meeting up with a group of people already staying at your campsite. A man who later claimed to be Head of Security told me that you were not letting in any more people. I told him that I had driven for 3 hours to get here but his response to this was simply “So?” By this time, my girlfriend had arrived at the gate and explained to the guard that I was here to stay with them and as they already had a pitch, it would not make any difference. He said that it was not pitches but head-count that was the issue. She asked if I could still come in to have a drink with them before leaving. He said that would be OK but I would have to park at the other end of the causeway. He told me I couldn’t park there overnight or I’d have my car towed away.

    This is the point where it all went very wrong. I said, “Come on mate, of course you can let me in!”. Your guard immediately became very aggressive and started shouting at me “How can I let you in? Are you telling me what I can and can’t do?” He was trying to get his face right up to my window and my girlfriend actually had to stand in front of him to stop him getting to me! My girlfriend (who has had an SIA licence) asked for the guard’s name and badge number but he refused to give it. He was extremely irate by this point, telling her to F*** off back to her tent or he’d throw her off the island and telling me that I couldn’t even come in the bar now. This situation was getting completely out of hand so I drove away from the gatehouse and waited for my girlfriend to come over to me. We agreed that I should drive off the site to avoid any further trouble whilst we all decided what to do. I waited in a car park that was way off the site, past the military base and over the level crossing. We reluctantly decided that I would have to leave but that my girlfriend and her son would walk down to collect the provisions I had brought for them. In itself, this is a horrible situation to put somebody in. I was tired after the drive and your guards effectively told me to drive for another 3 hours. This is hardly conducive to road safety. While we were waiting, your guards came at least twice in their pick-up truck down to where we were waiting in the car. This is way beyond their remit. They should surely be protecting the site, not driving off-site to intimidate people. On their second journey, they parked directly behind my car and sat there for almost 5 minutes before driving off. If this isn’t trying to incite trouble, I don’t know what is. I had not come to cause trouble so I stayed in my car with the doors locked.

    It was now around 10pm. I knew that my friends would not make it back on time, as the tide would be coming in around 11pm. I decided that I would have to drive back up to meet them. I pre-empted that your paid thugs would attack us so I set my phone to record what was being said. I am glad I did because what happened next was unbelievable. Three of your guards were waiting in their truck, near the military base. As I pulled up, I could clearly see that your guards had parked in the middle of the road (oblivious to the fact that there was traffic trying to pass and the road carries a 60mph speed limit) and all three had jumped out of their vehicle to intimidate my girlfriend and her 17-year-old son. There was a lot of shouting from both parties and I went over to try to calm things down. By now, it was obvious that these hooligans were not looking to prevent trouble but were actually trying to cause it. On the recording you can clearly hear me trying to calmly explain to the head guard (it was at this point that he made this claim), that this could have all been prevented if he’d just let me in to start with. There were acres of space and no harm would have been done. He seemed to have calmed down by this point but his two associates were revelling in threatening, goading and abusing us. They were telling my girlfriend that she’d have to “pack her F***ing stuff and get off the island tonight”. They were telling her that I couldn’t help her so she’d have to do it on foot. I told one of the guards that this was completely unreasonable and you can hear me saying to him “Can you stop swearing at us please mate?” His response to this was “I’ll f***ing swear if I f***ing like. This is my f***ing island and I want you off it so F you”. He should be ashamed of himself to use this kind of language in front of a woman. How would he have felt if I’d spoken to him like that in front of his girlfriend? I think we both know what the answer to that is. You can hear my girlfriend asking why they have left the premises, which they are supposed to be guarding. One of the guards say’s “We’re on a tea break”. When I asked the same question to the head guard, he said, “Rick told me to follow your Golf and Rick…and Louise have all got my back.” There are two other names mentioned which are not audible on the recording. You can hear my girlfriend asking to see the guards’ badges. You can hear the head guard saying “You look with your eyes, not your hands”. This was repeated 3 times. What he was actually doing was holding a card about 2 feet from her in the dark. Each time she tried to take hold of the badge to look at it he pulled it away and said the aforementioned. You can hear one of the guards say, “There’s only one way in and out of this island and if you try anything we’ll be waiting for you”. The head guard is even heard threatening her son, saying “What are you gonna do, little boy?” At this point the guard was poking the boy in the chest and there are 4 witnesses to this assault. We decided that we were not going to get anywhere and had to face the reality of a 3 hour drive back to Manchester in the middle of the night. As we walked away, you can hear one of the guards say “Enjoy sleeping in your car mate” and they were all laughing.

    There are a number of issues here and I hope that we can sort this matter out without me having to take it any further.

    Firstly, there was ample space for us to drive in and spend a night with our friends. We would have been sleeping in tents that were already there and I fail to see how “head-count” makes any difference. Your website gives reference to people sitting in the aisles at the cinema, but this would have hardly been the case as you had acres of space available. You could have comfortably accommodated another 200 people with ease. We are peaceful, family people, not a large group of lads. It was dangerous for me to drive back after having just completed a 3-hour drive. Indeed my girlfriend had to do some of the driving as I was beginning to fall asleep at the wheel.

    Secondly, there is absolutely no way that a security guard should become aggressive towards a member of the public. These guards appeared to take delight in being “hard men” and using threatening behaviour. A young boy was assaulted by one of these thugs in this attack and this is a criminal offence.

    Thirdly, once we were off your land then they had done their jobs. They came after us looking for trouble and intentionally intimidating us. This is crossing the line in anybody’s book, not least the SIA’s.

    Fourthly, it is totally irresponsible to remove a woman and her teenage son from a campsite in the middle of the night and leave them potentially in the middle of nowhere. Security staff are referred to as “Customer Protection Officers” by the SIA and as such have a Duty of Care towards ALL members of the public and this duty was flagrantly ignored.

    Fifthly, none of the guards would give their names or badge numbers. This is clearly in contravention to SIA rules, which state “Any SIA licence holder must display the licence clearly at all times whilst on duty” and “Any SIA licence holder must give their name and licence number to any other person who has reasonable grounds to request it”. If your guards are SIA licensed (it would be an offence for them not to be), then they have broken so many rules that they really should have their licences revoked. They are certainly not allowed to leave their premises to intimidate members of the public and neither are they allowed to use foul language (this is an arrestable offence). If you asked them to go and find my car then this also implicates you in this very serious matter. It has since come to my attention that 61 people were thrown off the island on the night in question. This tells me that your guards enjoy bullying people and if they get a reaction from anybody then they simply throw them off the island.

    I took time off work to make this trip. During this time, I would have earned £120. The fuel cost for the trip was £60. Not to mention the distress caused to my friends and I. My girlfriend has been coming to Shell Island for years and she was in tears for most of the journey home. What should have been a really pleasant day was turned into a nightmare and I trust that we will be compensated accordingly. Being in a remote location does not give you the right to act outside of the law.

    I hope that we can reach a satisfactory resolution to this matter. If not then I will not hesitate to contact the police, the SIA, the OFT and the press, both here in Manchester and your local press. I will also post a review and copy of this letter on every relevant website.

    I offer my thanks in anticipation of a swift and satisfactory response and I look forward to finding out the names and badge numbers of the three guards involved in this incident.

    Yours sincerely

    • Reply May 31, 2012

      vid clarke

      Hi all :)
      I have been a camper of shell island now, for 20 years and i am now only 26. I have been there at least once a year since. Although i do understand the above comments regarding the “chavs” etc,(as they are actually something i have noticed myself over the past few years) i also know that if you dont say anything, nothing gets done :( the british culture is one that likes to complain but actually to the right people which i fully understand. i have myself got back from shell island today (May 31st 2012) and unfortunately when leaving the bar after a few beers in the sun, there was a group of lads alone that had been in the bar previously shouting abuse across the car park towards me and my girlfriend. i instantly walk to the gatehouse to report the behaviour and the gatekeeper (still sounds geeky to say) literally ran to the security radio and within minutes, we watched the group being escorted from the site.
      i realise that this only one persons view but i have every faith in the shell island staff and owners for the running of the nicest campsite around :)
      Sorry to have rambled on but this is somewhere i will defend till the end :D
      Vid Clarke

  • Reply March 8, 2012

    Gav

    That is a real shame.

    Shell Island has been a favorite of ours for years. We go about once a year, but avoid high season.
    We have noticed a change in the place over the last 3 years. Compared to how it used to be the booking in has been setup to take high numbers, and the prices have gone up. Rubbish has got worse and we did notice the party groups last time, but fortunately they weren’t near us.
    We tend to find an area away from most in one of the few tree clearings. No one can pitch by us. We also often take our own loo and pitch far away from the facilities where the crowds are.

  • Reply May 31, 2012

    vid clarke

    P.s Pre-booking is now available :)

  • Reply May 19, 2013

    michelle

    Oh my god what is wrong with all these nosy parkers, can;t stand people having fun on ‘holiday’ get a life or go somewhere else! or better still stay at home moaning about your neighbors or anybody else you love having a pop at!

    • Reply May 19, 2013

      mark

      sounds like the people complaining are stiffs/ geeks/bores and don’t know how to have fun.Top tip for having fun=stop paying so much attention to everyone else, maybe letting your own hair down will do the trick[ that's if you have got any]

  • Reply June 11, 2013

    Iain Hobson

    So apparently wearing a Bench top means your out to make trouble. I enjoy camping with my mates, usually in a group of 7 or 8, most of us are teachers in our late 20′s but put us all together and put a bottle of beer in ours hands and people think we’re offensive, we could be as quiet as mice but people would still moan. You should maybe concentrate on having your own fun instead of worrying about others.

  • Reply July 17, 2013

    Zak

    Hello all

    Me and friends this weekend are planning a trip to shell island for a friends birthday. There are a mix of lads and girls (most of which couples), aged 23-26. As we have to wait for a vehicle to get there me and 2 friends (all of us male) won’t be able to make it to the site until later than the other guys and girls. As it states on their site there will be no single sex groups on site I am a little concerned we will be turned away after a 3+ hour drive. May I point out that we are going for a relaxing weekend hopefully in a secluded camping area.. Not the ‘Shameless’ type I have saw people mention often about

    Does anyone know if I’ll have any problems? Or anything I can do to solve it

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