We’ve all heard the call of the wild this summer. From the moment tourist accommodation was cleared to reopen from July 4, our lockdown-weary brains fired up with thoughts of finding an idyllic patch of countryside in which to run free and reawaken our numbed senses. For very good reason, glamping has become this summer’s most sensible holiday plan.
While a nation yearns for freedom, there has never been a better time to embrace the space and stylishly curated outdoor living that glamping offers. Camping offers space, too, but glamping lets you kick off your shoes and relax as soon as you arrive, filling your days with nothing but fresh air and exploration.
Glamping also lets you treat yourself – perhaps with money saved by forgoing flights abroad – to indulgences ordinary campers can only dream of. Extras such as private hot tubs, copper baths and waterside terraces are now as likely to be found on a glamping site as in a five-star hotel.
Glamping sites set log cabins, yurts and shepherd’s huts far apart, to create a feeling of privacy and being alone in the wild. Helpful, now that social distancing is all the rage.
Happily, it is also likely that the magical feeling of communing with nature will be magnified this summer, with glamping sites limiting guest numbers in order to comply with government guidelines.
The vast majority of sites are adopting safety measures that include portioning off communal areas to facilitate social distancing; adding handwashing stations; deep-cleaning lavatories; and sanitising communal furniture.
In addition, the best ones promise to go the extra mile. Campwell, which has handcrafted huts in the woods of Wiltshire, is telling visitors which local restaurants are open for takeaway. Other camps offer contact-free check-in.
Some sites have gone above and beyond the Government-required cleaning measures. Hot tubs in the Wild Spa at Coastal Cabins, in Devon, will be sanitised, refilled and reheated daily after a single family’s use.
Amber’s Bell Tents, pre-erected in various locations around England, have a dedicated lavatory each and are already at least 10m apart. “There’s no risk of hearing your neighbours snoring,” Amber, the owner, said. Despite all the rules, she did not think her guests would be put off visiting. “The space here creates a great opportunity for socially distanced gatherings, which people are desperate for,” she added.
Those booking a break need to be quick about it, as sites have been flooded with enquiries. Each is unique, but generally, if you would like a private kitchen and bathroom, try to bag a cabin, lodge or hut. Yurts and bell tents are more likely to have shared facilities – not that this is a problem, as the Government has declared these are fine as long as they are cleaned regularly.
We have selected 15 sites here that offer beautiful, back-to-nature experiences in England, while uncertainty remains about the closure of sites with shared facilities in Scotland and Wales. All have new safety measures in place and – at the time of going to press – availability at weekends in August.
Swinton Bivouac, North Yorkshire
Bid farewell to the modern world at one of the electricity-free lodges and yurts at this environmentally friendly camp on the 20,000-acre Swinton Estate. All heating comes from wood burners fuelled with forestry waste. The handsome, larch-clad lodges are secluded in woodland and can sleep up to seven, while the yurts all sit in a meadow, sleep five and have fire pits and access to a communal kitchen. A mountain bike trail winds through the woods and there is a Druid temple to visit, with the Yorkshire Dales further afield.
Stay safe: the barn café must be pre-booked and cash will no longer be accepted
Long Valley Yurts, Lake District
Magnificent Turkmen-style yurts are offered by this company at four scenic locations in the Lake District – Coniston, Ullswater, Windermere and Keswick – and one in the Peak District, at Bakewell. Some are set on working farms, others have views across dramatic valleys. All the yurts feature log burners with a hotplate for cooking on, gas hobs, futon beds, Moroccan rugs, fairy lights and a games chest. Lavatories are shared.
Stay safe: local food produce will be available, reducing the need for supermarket trips
Wigwam Holidays, Leicestershire
More like timber pods than traditional wigwams – and all the warmer for it – Wigwam cabins have tiny kitchenettes, modern bathrooms and electricity. A testament to the growing popularity of glamping, they can now be found at more than 80 sites across the UK. They are practical rather than pretty, with a dining table that transforms into a sleeping area, so will suit people happy to do without fuss or frills. There are a number of locations, but Charnwood Forest, in the Midlands, is a particularly scenic spot, with fire pits, a wildlife hide and a pond fringed with reeds.
Stay safe: cabins are deep-cleaned
Walcot Hall, Shropshire
Set within the 30-acre estate of an ivy-clad country pile, the glamping options at Walcot Hall are wonderfully varied and spread about, and therefore suited to those who like a ramble. Choose from the spacious, tastefully furnished yurts, the shepherds’ huts or the smart showmen’s caravans. One yurt even overlooks its own natural swimming pool and comes with a rowing boat. Go for a wander around the arboretum or beside the lake, visit the estate pub or go for a hike at Offa’s Dyke, nearby.
Stay safe: it is easy to isolate but expect a shared kitchen and lavatories
Brook House Woods, Herefordshire
A red goji berry, strung up between trees, makes for a striking home in a bluebell wood. Goji has a glass roof to enable stargazing from the bed below it. There is a log burner too, and decking with views of the Malvern Hills. Goji has access to a camp kitchen, bathroom, fire pit and pizza oven – shared with a Hobbit Hut. Elsewhere on this site are luxurious treehouses – one with a rolltop bath on the veranda. A secret woodland cinema using Bluetooth headphones is new for the summer.
Stay safe: check in over the telephone
Feather Down, Essex
Feather Down was one of the first companies to take glamping to farms and its successful formula has seen locations spring up across the UK. Don’t be put off by the amount of canvas on show; its canvas lodges are huge and have all the furnishings of a rustic home, albeit one where you can tie back the flaps and let nature in. Expect fire pits and hot tubs, too. The site at Layer Marney Tower, in Essex, has availability and is close to a tall Tudor gatehouse. Mersea Island, with its oyster shacks and pastel-hued beach huts, is a 20-minute drive away.
Stay safe: one-in, one-out policy
Wardley Hill, Norfolk
This environmentally friendly site near Bungay Castle offers those it jokingly describes as “too posh to pitch” some unusual accommodation options. Stargazer tents are pre-erected for dreamers wishing to stare up at the night sky, tiny huts come equipped with hammocks, and suspended tents stretch between tree trunks above the woodland floor. Standard bell tents and shepherd huts are available too, a short walk from wildflower meadows, a campfire area and a stream. Stand-up paddleboards can be rented and taken down the River Waveney.
Stay safe: guest numbers reduced; cleaning stations added
Amber’s Bell Tents, Norfolk
Amber’s traditional tents feature across five sites, three of them in the grounds of historic halls. The romantic bell tents erected at each site are made cosy with ethnic rugs, wooden crates, tree-stump stools, lanterns and bunting. At the Hoveton Estate in Norfolk, children can play safely in fenced-off woodland and go pond- dipping.
Stay safe: fogging machines will be used to clean tents
Elmley Nature Reserve, Kent
Birds and wildlife draw people to this island of salt marshes and mudflats, a national nature reserve in the Thames. Come to gaze at big skies, lapwings and marsh harriers from one of the site’s individually designed huts and cabins. Some have wraparound windows for lazy wildlife-spotting, others have reclaimed furniture or an outdoor shower. Ideal for a digital detox or just a few days of peace and quiet, the huts are fairly isolated and each has its own cooking and toileting facilities, though soft furnishings have been removed unless they are requested. Five bell tents are also available, set in woodland or a field.
Stay safe: self check-in and out
Down at Cherry Wood, campers delight in an eco-friendly, rewilding experience that feels remote, despite the site being less than 20 minutes from Bath and Chippenham. The location of each simple cabin and yurt has been carefully thought out, while the shared kitchen, treehouse showers and rope bridges add to the feeling of living in a woodland village. A nearby lake is a serene spot for swimming and canoeing. There is midweek availability left in August, but sister site, The Farm Camp, is 15 minutes away and has weekend availability in yurts.
Stay safe: guests are being asked to strip their beds before departing
Crafty Camping, Dorset
One of the original glamping sites and still one of the best, Crafty Camping’s showpiece is a grand treehouse that, along with yurts and a shepherd’s hut, is hidden in a dense wood. The treehouse was built around an old oak tree and won an architectural award from RIBA. Windows frame the surrounding branches, while the deck features a pizza oven, a barbecue, hammocks and a hot tub. Inside stands a gorgeous copper bath. The campsite has been operating a self check-in and out policy for 10 years now.
Stay safe: all dwellings will be self-contained by August. Saunas are closed
Cloud Nine, Dorset
Expect a civilised, festival-like atmosphere at this pop-up, August-only site, based in the beautiful, sprawling grounds of St Giles House. Bell tents and tepees are kitted out in a modern boutique style and offer different levels of comfort. All include inflatable mattresses, door mats, an LED lantern, a private shower and lavatory. What sets the site apart are the organised activities planned. All promise to be Covid-friendly and include lake kayaking, yoga, horse riding, fun for kids, wilderness workshops and even a silent disco.
Stay safe: groups accepted, but social distancing applies
Coastal Cabins, Devon
Hexagonal cabins bring a fresh, Cape Cod feel to a field near Bideford. Painted in pastel colours, with whitewashed interiors and white window frames, they make a change from the natural wood cabins found on most glamping sites. Marine stripes adorn the king-size beds and there are en suite bathrooms and kitchenettes in every cabin. Each comes with its own decking, plus there is a barbecue cabin, a fishing lake and hot tubs. The village of Hartland and the coast are within easy walking distance.
Stay safe: a fogging machine has been bought, along with extra wheelbarrows for luggage
Berridon Farm Cabins, Devon
With just five cabins occupying a bucolic spot in an eight-acre field near Bude, there is ample space for social distancing at this farm site. Hot tubs remain closed for now but each homely cabin has its own lavatory – two have their own showers. Amenities also include stoves, barbecues and fire pits and occasional, quirky extras, like a vintage coffee grinder. Surfing beaches are a short drive away and children can visit the goats.
Stay safe: app with information on self check-ins
Cornish Tipi Holidays, Cornwall
Set in 20 picturesque acres that include a swimming lake in an old quarry, this wooded site contains tipis of varying sizes in both sociable and secluded locations. Guests have been recreating the North American nomad experience in a highly sustainable fashion here since the mid-1990s. The tipis are simply furnished, solid structures, with timber poles reaching up more than 18ft high. Turkish rugs, candle lanterns, coolboxes, camp stoves and all your kitchen essentials are found inside. Camp fires are encouraged and there is a popular café on site.
Stay safe: hand sanitiser by the lake, so oars and boats stay clean