Glamping's new wave: this year's hideouts are more luxurious than ever

Natalie Paris
Camping, but not as you know it - POLLYLOVEGROVE

When Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell published his Scouting for Boys in 1908, a night under canvas was about self-reliance and teamwork.

In the 20th century, only the Bible, the Koran and Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung sold more copies than the lieutenant-general’s tome, which was written to galvanise a “wasted generation” of Edwardian youngsters. But what would he make of an overnight in a converted train carriage, furnished with a super-king-size bed, reindeer skin rugs and a hot tub?

For camping has become glamping. In its first wave, this “glamorous camping” was a practical adaptation: a convenience in which a yurt in any field would do. But recently, it has evolved into something greater, offering five-star luxuries in the grounds of hotels or castles, or in some of Britain’s most remote and precious landscapes.

Ashwood Hut, complete with deep copper bathtub

The newest treehouses to let down their ladders in 2018 come with a similar price tag to a high-end hotel room, but perhaps that’s fair: they offer more space and feature wraparound balconies, free-standing copper bathtubs, underfloor heating, smart TVs and espresso machines.

Glamping is booming: in England, the number of overnight trips doubled between 2015 and 2016, rising from 160,000 trips to 325,000. Over the first three months of this year, the Cool Camping website reported a 50 per cent rise in glamping bookings, compared with the same period of 2017. Responding to this demand, the company has just launched a spin-off website called Glampingly (glampingly.co.uk), featuring a collection of more luxurious properties.

“Even five or six years ago, glamping was a niche industry but now it is almost a mainstream holiday option,” said Jonathan Knight, Cool Camping’s founder. “People are glamping rather than staying in an Airbnb or a self-catering cottage.”

Pitchup, a campsite booking website, also saw “dramatic increases” in its glamping bookings when comparing 2017 with the previous year, with “microlodges” up 114 per cent and “rent-a-tents” up 151 per cent.

TreWalter Treehouse: a far cry from your average tent Credit: Getty

The boom has paved the way for a second wave of high-end, architect-designed accommodation; dwellings that are sustainable and invoke an appreciation of nature. A cabin dug out from a hillside featured on Channel 4’s Grand Designs, while a number of treehouses appeared on George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces on the same channel. (The architect and presenter’s own Sky Den is available for overnight stays).

“People always want something interesting and new to do,” said Jonathan. “A double decker bus, a decommissioned plane; a hotel room is a hotel room but when you stay in a beautiful treehouse, handcrafted from the wood of the forest you are staying in, it is a unique experience.”

From this summer, glampers will be able to stay in a former slate mine in Snowdonia, in safari-style lodges. Their wet and windy mountainside location is not one that screams “pamper me” but the isolated spot does sit under some of Britain’s starriest skies – an altogether different sort of luxury.

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Camping purists may sneer, but this new wave of glamping should be celebrated. Eco-friendly structures are giving holidaymakers access to protected landscapes where hotels would never get permission to build.

It’s not only Snowdonia where you can see stars: you might also try Hesleyside Huts in Northumberland. Log cabins near wildlife-watching hides within nature reserves are common now, while Buck’s Coppice is a lakeside cabin that has been allowed in ancient woodland.

We also know that, as the number of traditional camping and caravanning trips is growing at the same time as the increase in glamping, overall, people are choosing to spend more time outdoors. Paul Jones, of the Camping and Caravanning Club, noted the “growth of camping in all its forms”, while suggesting that glamping is “here to stay”. “Glamping offers a great introduction to life under canvas for thousands of people each year,” he added.

Unexpectedly luxurious Credit: POLLYLOVEGROVE

But where do you draw the line? Don’t dishwashers and the ability to order in dinner mean that you are no longer really camping? If there is a line, no one seems bothered by it. “In the States, they think camping should only be under canvas,” said Jonathan. “But in the UK it is a different tale.”

With lots of generic “pods” available that are quick and easy for landowners to install, experts think that the less bespoke side of the industry could reach saturation point in the future.

Britain's most incredible luxury campsites

But glamping’s second wave has the wow factor and, as long as access to a patch of wilderness sets our cabins or treehouses apart from a hotel, experts believe we will carry on glamping.

“The concept of staying and being somewhere beautiful will always be popular and we believe that in modern life it has never been more important,” said Tom Dixon, managing director of glamping website Canopy & Stars.

Many glamping sites now organise activities designed to get us engaging with the natural world. And with more children out wildlife-watching, stargazing and whittling on holiday, perhaps Baden-Powell would approve.

Go feral on a group-glamp
25 second-wave glamping sites

Treetops

1. The Buzzardry, East Sussex

On the edge of the High Weald Area Of Natural Beauty, this hand-crafted treehouse has curved walls, cedar cladding and a spiral staircase. There is no roughing it, with two en suite bedrooms, a kitchen, a TV lounge, underfloor heating, log-burning stove and a copper bathtub. The terrace gives views across lakes and woods. There is also a tennis court.

From £204 a night; qualityunearthed.co.uk

The Buzzardry Credit: ACT-STUDIOS/MARCIN

2. Red Kite Tree Tents, Powys

Hang out above brambles, bracken and a brook in these two orb-shaped tents, strung high in the pine trees by unobtrusive metal wires. Like giant swallow’s nests, each human-sized cocoon sleeps two, with a wood burner inside casting its glow across the exposed wooden struts that form the shell. A hybrid of aluminium and steam-bent ash, the nests are reached via treetop walkways crafted from the forest’s own wood. And, with 80 acres, there’s plenty of it.

From £125 a night; glampingly.co.uk

3. Trewalter Treehouse, Powys

In the Brecon Beacons, this treehouse has a wraparound deck above the Llynfi river, a fire pit and private hot tub accessed by a swinging bridge. A romantic hideaway just for two, there is a hand-carved double bed and luxury linens, plus an en suite bathroom with a walk-in shower and a kitchen with a dishwasher and coffee machine. The owners provide the ingredients for a cooked breakfast.

From £189 a night; qualityunearthed.co.uk

Trewalter Treehouse Credit: POLLYLOVEGROVE

4. Sky Den, Northumberland

George Clarke’s treehouse blends the indoors with the outdoors, taking in everything from red squirrels in the trees to the sweeping river just below. The space is impressively versatile. The kitchen has foldaway furniture, glass doors open on to a balcony and a wet room is accessible from the deck. A circular viewpoint holds a wood-burning stove and the triangular roof of the loft can be opened up to reveal Northumberland’s Dark Sky Reserve.

From £300 for two nights; canopyandstars.co.uk

5. Redwood Treetop Cabin, Powys

This clever cabin-cum-treehouse is built into the top of a tall, steep slope, giving the setting of a canopy, despite being close to terra firma. Enormous windows and a balcony look out into the leaves. There’s a wood-burner, a king-size bed and a comfortable lounge area, though the shared kitchen is a stroll away. Borrow a book to read beneath the site’s giant namesake redwood or visit Norton Brook.

From £120 a night; glampingly.co.uk

Chic shacks

6. Ashwood Shepherd’s Hut, Worcestershire

The ruined mansion of Witley Court, two miles away, is visible over the hedgerows surrounding this rather stately hut. Inside, there’s a king-size bed with a chunky headboard dividing the sleeping space from the hand-crafted kitchen. The oak flooring ends where an en suite shower room begins, not that you need it. A deep copper bathtub is the hut’s piece de resistance.

From £125 a night; glampingly.co.uk

Ashwood Shepherd’s Hut

7. Heather Hut, Northumberland

Just a few minutes walk from Hesleyside Hall, these two shepherd’s huts sit in Capability Brown-designed gardens and are insulated with sheep’s wool. The modern interiors are light and airy, with electricity, shower, wood-burning stove, a double and fold-out bed, plus a telescope, for sitting outside by the campfire and gazing up into the Northumberland Dark Sky Park.

From £200 for two nights; canopyandstars.co.uk

8. Buck’s Coppice, Dorset

With a suntrap wooden deck overlooking a private lake, this Scandi-style cabin sits among ancient woodland. The off-grid space draws its water from the lake, with solar power and gas taking care of lighting, cooking and water heating. Inside, there is a king-size bed and a sofa bed for children, a log burner and a sleek kitchen. Expect visiting bird life, maybe deer, wild boar and if you’re very lucky, otters.

From £435 for three nights; canopyandstars.co.uk

Buck’s Coppice, Dorset

9. Loch Katrine Eco Pods, Stirlingshire

Loch Katrine’s historic steamship company has just opened a camping and caravanning space. Those seeking luxury should opt for the insulated wooden pods in a private area, featuring compact kitchens, digital televisions and free Wi-Fi. The largest are fully en suite, with underfloor heating and views of the loch. Hike up Ben A’an from your doorstep, rent bikes or enjoy discounted steamship tours.

From £40 a night; glampingly.co.uk

10. Coastal Cabins, Devon

Ferns, daffodils and yellow flag irises hem the pond at this glamping site on Devon’s Hartland Peninsula. It’s home to 10 octagonal wooden cabins with interiors divided into three areas: a sleeping and living space, an en suite shower room and a modern kitchen. It’s just over a mile to cliff-top trails, with the nearest beach a touch further.

From £110 a night; glampingly.co.uk

11. The Shepherd’s Hut at Mill Granary, Co Durham

This striking hut has a traditionally wood-clad exterior, but inside is a built-in double bed with its own television and a marble-topped breakfast bar. The shower room feels similarly chic, separated by a frosted glass door. From your bed, a porthole window offers stargazing and views across the Tees Valley.

From £190 for two nights; glampingly.co.uk

Heather Hut Credit: WWW.NEILDENHAM.CO.UK

12. The Kingfisher Cabin, Pembrokeshire

Though close to the Daugleddau Estuary, this wood cabin floats on a tiny lake and can be accessed from the shore or by canoe. Inside, the curved roof is like an upturned hull, while, outside, the adventurous can dive off the deck for a swim. The open-plan living area has a modern kitchen and sofa beds (accompanying the main king-size bedroom), with bathroom facilities on-board, too.

From £120 a night; glampingly.co.uk

13. Huts at Snowdonia Glamping Holidays, Conwy

These two shepherd’s huts are so romantic they’ve coupled up: one provides the sleeping and living space, the other is an impressive washroom complete with a Finnish-style wood-burning sauna. Booked together they form a stylish and spacious stay within the national park, tastefully decorated with the finest North Wales woollens.

From £95 per night; glampingly.co.uk

14. The DugOut, Herefordshire

Featuring in an episode of Grand Designs, this hilltop hideaway is cut into the land around it, with a bedroom in built into a roundhouse at one end. With views across three counties, a turfed roof and a well-stocked bathtub library, it is a special place for a couple. In the evenings, enjoy the constant warmth from the Everhot stove, turn up the Sonos sound system or sit by the firepit in the garden. Woodworking and smallholding sessions are available.

From £350 for two nights; canopyandstars.co.uk

The DugOut

The new canvas

15. Domes at In The Stix, Rutland

Each dome, set in a grassy meadow, can accommodate six, with an entire mezzanine master bedroom and an adjacent kitchen cabin outside. Leather sofas, wood-burning stoves and en suite shower rooms maximise comfort, while outside is a private wood-fired hot tub. Nearby Rutland Water is a boon for birdwatchers, sailors and family cyclists alike.

From £650 a week; glampingly.co.uk

16. Safari tents at Middle Stone Farm, Somerset

It’s all about space here, not just around the 30-acre smallholding, home to sheep, pigs, alpacas and goats, but also in the safari tents. Separate bedrooms sleep up to six, with en suite shower rooms and an open-plan living area. Alongside the fridge-freezer and farmhouse-style sink is a wood-burner, relied upon for cooking and heating. There is a hot tub outside and it’s three miles to Exmoor National Park.

From £110 a night; glampingly.co.uk

17. Glampotel Dundas Castle, Edinburgh

Ten miles west of Edinburgh Castle, 15th-century Dundas may be less famous but its 500-acre estate offers the perfect base for glamping. The Glampotel glade comprises five-bell-tent-style lodges with double beds, wood burners and en suite shower shacks. Outside, each has a barbecue terrace with views of the castle’s private loch. Guests can explore the grounds or hop on a regular shuttle bus to Edinburgh city centre.

From £160 a night; glampingly.co.uk

Britain's best coastal campsites

Upcycled

18. The Chickenshed, Monmouthshire

The Chickenshed sleeps eight in an open-plan, red cedar, glass and stainless-steel structure, looking onto the Wye Valley. Outside there are two private acres and woodland. It’s impressive but homely too, with the cabin’s agricultural roots, like its corrugated roof, and wooden cladding, clearly visible.

From £1,200 for four nights; canopyandstars.co.uk

19. The Goods Shed Showman’s Wagon, Kent

On the edge of the Kent Downs, this restored Thirties showman’s wagon presides over an orchard shared with chickens and sheep. The traditional interior still features original gaslight fittings and a log-fuelled range, dark wood and patterned windows. From tuning the antique radio to boiling a heavy kettle on the hotplate, simple old-world pleasures occupy your time.

The Goods Shed Showman’s Wagon

£125 for the first night then £100 a night; glampingly.co.uk

20. The Ark, Dorset

This rare, cedar-clad vintage caravan retains many of its original Forties fittings, including art deco drawers, restored cupboards and wooden floorboards. Alongside the main sleeping area – retro fabrics and accessories, of course – is a well-equipped but compact kitchen, where the award-winning local bakery that runs the glampsite, Honeybuns, ensures a hearty breakfast hamper awaits. Nearby Sherbourne is one of Dorset’s prettiest towns.

From £105 a night; glampingly.co.uk

21. Brooks Vintage Horsebox Glamping, Herefordshire

Each a different size, this trio of Seventies Bedford horseboxes offers an unusual alternative to rooms in the Georgian hotel next door. Complete with a tiled bathroom, tea set and minibar, they meet the hotel standard but with the added fun of climbing a ladder to your snug bed above the cab. Floor-to-ceiling windows replace the rear ramp-door. Breakfast is served in the hotel proper.

From £99 a night; glampingly.co.uk

22. The Holicopter at Blackberry Wood, Sussex

In an established woodland campsite in the South Downs sits a 1965, ex-Royal Navy, Wessex helicopter. Inside, blue-grey camouflage bedecks the sofas and curtains, you can sit in the original cockpit and warning signs: “DANGER: Do not alight helicopter”, still adorn the walls. It’s a short walk to the shared washroom and the kitchen area is in an accompanying nearby cabin.

From £55 a night; glampingly.co.uk

23. The Train at Nirvana, Devon

Close to the Exmoor National Park, Nirvana is an exclusive-use site that takes glamping to a higher plane, with a converted train carriage, a 20-person Finnish barbecue hut and a private airstrip offering flights over the Exmouth valley. The stylishly converted train carriage has a king-size bed, while the barbecue hut is adorned with reindeer rugs, candles and fairy lights. There is also a fully equipped kitchen, shower hut and hot tub.

From £99 a night; qualityunearthed.co.uk

The Train at Nirvana

Oddities

24. Spodnic, Pembrokeshire

Complete with a rotating double bed, space-blanket-lined walls and steps up to a Perspex “cockpit” for stargazing, this other-worldly abode was the brainchild of a local craftsman. There are astronauts’ helmets, lava lamps and ray guns on the bunk beds. The nearby kitchen shack is rustic but has everything you need (including a Dalek). Pick vegetables, feed chickens or take off on local footpaths – it’s five miles to the harbour at Saundersfoot.

From £80 a night; glampingly.co.uk

25. Humble Bee, Devon

Act like the queen bee in this giant beehive built just for two. The doors can be folded back to take in views of the woodland or there is an outdoor bath to soak in. Inside are thick furs, a day-bed for lounging and a king-size bed that appears suspended in the ceiling. The light filtering through the honeycomb feature wall gives the hive a sultry, honeyed glow.

From £120 a night; canopyandstars.co.uk