By Explorer Linda Haden
Commune with Nature in Lavish Settings
Camping has long been seen as a dour, economical option for cash-strapped travelling hippies and other liberal types. Soggy sleeping bags, muddy boots and unappetising meals have become the hallmarks of a stereotypical British summer camping holiday, which in this day of modern conveniences (and considering the rather changeable British weather) makes it particularly unappealing to most individuals.
However, this notion has now been turned on its head, with a number of innovative accommodation providers up and down the British Isles turning their once gritty and grotty campsites into bastions of five-star glitz.
The premise of this new breed of ‘glamping’ sites is fairly simple – those averse to getting their feet wet can now enjoy the outdoors in sumptuous, comfortable settings. This flourishing accommodation segment is now well entrenched into the psyche of the British travelling public, offering semi-adventurous travellers a mind-boggling myriad of swanky alternatives, including Mongolians yurts, shepherd’s huts, safari tents, tepees, caravans and even treehouses.
When booking your next flight or holiday to the UK, why not consider one of the following stylish, unconventional accommodation options instead of a bog-standard hotel? The enchanting and mystical British countryside and coast awaits.
Go Wild at Knepp Safaris, West Sussex
Scene: The primary highlight of this full-scale attraction are its guided safaris, which ramble through the site’s sprawling 3500 acres. Here, Exmoor ponies, Longhorn cattle, Tamworth pigs and red and fallow deer wallow within its green, verdant environs.
Sleep: There are four accommodation options to choose from in this untamed corner of Southern England – bell tents, shepherd’s huts, yurts and tipis. Lay your head on soft feather pillows and snuggle under comfy down duvets beneath the romantic, soft lighting of hurricane lamps as you drift off to sleep, listening intently to the sounds of nature around you. Keeping to the eco-friendly theme, all furniture used in the accommodation offerings are made from upcycled pieces. Please note, only children over 12 are welcome.
What we love: This is the English countryside at its stunning best and staying here is a truly unique and memorable experience. Knepp Safaris is situated just a leisurely three-hour drive from London on the picturesque A24.
Knepp Safari’s Tent 2 tented accommodation | Image credit: Knepp Safaris
Get Groovy at Atlantic Surf Pods, Cornwall
Scene: A secluded and peaceful retreat on Cornish farmland.
Sleep: The curvy wooden cabins, complete with underfloor heating and cushy king-size beds, are spread out across green, undulating lawns. Each cabin comes with its own decked porch, gas barbecue-oven and a nifty wet room featuring a heated shower and flushing toilet. Definitely no sharing here!
What we love: The golden sands and crystal blue waters of Summerleaze Beach is a few minutes’ walk away and it’s approximately just an hour’s drive to quaint Padstow, the world-renowned base for celebrity chef Rick Stein’s exquisite collection of seafood restaurants and cafes.
Retro Rambling with Mad Dogs and Vintage Vans, Herefordshire
Scene: An eco-escapade for those who love all things kitsch, smack bang in the leafy Forest of Dean.
Sleep: Four aged vans, dating from the 1930s to 1960s, were given a new lease of life with a lick of Farrow & Ball paint and generous wads of vintage fabric. The ‘Gertie’ van is the epitome of boho chic, while ‘Elsie’ features a whimsical 1950s interior. ‘Monty’, on the other hand, boasts a masculine, rustic vibe, while the site’s newest addition, ‘Sybil’, exudes a stoic air, reflecting its 1940s roots.
What we love: Authentic fabrics, gas lights, wireless radios, tea sets and cocktail cabinets adorn each van, allowing you to recreate and experience the joys of much simpler times. The attention to detail is second to none.
Arriving at the retro Mad Dogs and Vintage Vans, Herefordshire. | Image Credit: Mad Dogs and Vintage Vans
Explore All and Yonder with Yurts at Full Circle, Lake District
Scene: Majestic vistas of the Rydal Beck river and its surrounding landscape of ancient trees.
Sleep: Handcrafted in Mongolia, each yurt is decked in traditional symbols and colours, with a wood-burning stove perched right in the centre. Well insulated against the elements, the yurts are warm and cosy, even in the harshest winters.
What we love: It’s far away from the maddening tourist crowds that often swamp the Lake District. If the utter isolation starts to get to you, take a leisurely 30-minute stroll to the charming town of Ambleside (or five minutes if you jump in a car).
Take a Trip to the Treehouse at Harptree Court
Image Credit: Harptree Court
Scene: Calming views of the woods and lake within the tranquil confines of the Harptree Court Country House Estate. Live out your Downtown Abbey dream.
Sleep: Made entirely and lovingly by hand, this gorgeous treehouse is filled to the brim with beautiful objects. Soak your weary body in the copper bath, or simply admire the views from the verandah. It comes with a plush king-size bed, a fully equipped kitchen and a spacious living area with a wood-burning stove; a perfect hideaway.
What we love: It’s a gloriously luxurious bolthole right on nature’s doorstep. The enigmatic city of Bath, with its clutch of attractions and thermal spas, is a mere 25-minute drive away.