Isolation, quarantine and lockdowns may be the new norm, but one day, this pandemic will be gone and we'll be free. When that happens, I'm heading to the great outdoors, to remind myself of how beautiful the world is. I don't camp, but I do glamp, and these seven spectacular glamping sites in the UK, predominantly Wales, are top of my list.
Apple Camping – Pembrokeshire, Wales
This fresh, friendly glamping site in the Pembrokeshire countryside in Wales offers some of the most imaginative accommodation in the UK, including yurts, a log cabin called The Witche's Hat (I'm a little disturbed by that spelling), a converted Jetstar plane, and The Showman's Caravan. There's also the PAC MAN, a bright yellow geodesic dome that comes with giant bean bags, mood lamps and Pac Man and Space Invaders for those who want to stay in. The most recent addition to the eclecitc collection is the UFO, constructed by talented Tenby craftspeople – it’s a holiday home that's literally (or at least fictionally) out of this world. It features eight windows looking over lush green land, a gaming monitor for those 80s classics, and an escape hatch if it all gets too much.
Chapel Farm – Cornwall
This glamping site is on a peaceful ex-farm estate, with beautiful views over the Camel Estuary to Padstow. Set within Cornwall’s Camel Estuary Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, sailing boats, speedboats and jetskiers are frequent sights on the river throughout the day, and there’s often a stunning sunset come evening. Once the sun’s gone down, it’s the turn of the stars – there’s no street lighting, so (clouds permitting) there are often cracking views of the stars and planets overhead. The owner is a Shiatsu therapist and offers treatments for a small cost, perfect for a pampering break. Accommodation options include a Blue Moon touring caravan or summer bell tents.
Dundas Castle – Edinburgh
Just 15 minutes from Edinburgh’s city centre, Dundas Castle is the first Glampotel in Scotland, with a limited number of five-star glamping canvas cottages next to the loch of the 400-acre private estate that also houses the15th-Century Dundas Castle. Visitors can camp like kings in the spectacular countryside, where the land shifts from manicured lawns to flanks of mature trees and broad meadows stretching into the distance.
There are five glamping tents positioned on a wooded knoll away from the main castle building, with luxury double beds, ensuite bathrooms and a separate, fully equipped kitchenette, a barbecue and wood burning stove, a patio heater, and comfortable seating. My kind of camping.
Eco Retreats – Powys, Wales
It seems Wales is the place to be for glamping. Eco Retreats offers another bolt hole in the heart of the Welsh mountains, just south of Snowdonia National Park. Set on a working organic farm, Eco Retreats is an off-grid, Wi-Fi-free, sustainable tented camp with accommodation in yurts and tipis. It's a retreat in the true sense of the word. Each tipi is set in a private area – there are just five units spread over 50 acres so don't expect to socialise – and comes with a wood-fired al fresco bath, as well as a private shower with fresh water from a spring higher up the site. The yurts are well-equipped, with a wood-burning stove and cooking facilities, an eco-loo, and outside seating and campfire areas. There’s no electricity, so the living spaces feature rustic lanterns lit by candlelight.
Forest Garden Shovelstrode – Sussex
Forest Garden Shovelstrode is a woodland eco-retreat on the edge of Ashdown Forest, home of Winnie the Pooh. The accommodation is made up of traditional yurts and rustic log cabins that work for a romantic getaway, a family holiday or a group break. The site has been designed adopting the principles of permaculture, with eco-credentials including rainwater harvesting, solar power and food supplied for the café from the forest and vegetable gardens. Take one of the spectacular walks in this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and at night, cook over a campfire under the stars. Woodland craft courses, activities, therapies and treatments are also available.
Hidden Valley Yurts – South Wales
Hidden Valley Yurts was one of the first glamping sites in the UK when it was set up in 2008. It’s the perfect place to get back to nature, with five spacious yurts spread out along a field next to a stream (or there's a separate lakeside holiday home), in a hidden valley of 80 acres of meadow and woodland. A comfortable night’s sleep here is a certainty; the only noises are the babbling brook and birdsong. Step through one of the brightly coloured doors and you’ll find beds, chairs, lights, rugs, wall hangings and a wood-burning stove. You can chill on the private deck outside or while away evenings on the veranda of the communal kitchen. Other facilities include a boules piste, badminton net, campfire area, wood-burning pizza oven, and a chicken run where you can collect fresh eggs each day.
The Huts in the Hills – South Wales
Shepherd's huts are one of my favourite forms of glamping and the Huts in the Hills are in a special spot. Set in an idyllic and remote corner of the mountainside close to Hay Bluff in the midst of The Black Mountains, the huts are located beside a stream in a woodland clearing. There are three huts sleeping two, offered on an exclusive-use basis, with an optional extra sleeping hut tucked 50 yards away in the corner of a nearby field (ideal for hiding teenagers away). The site is off grid, with wind and solar energy, and firewood for cooking and heating. The Utility Hut, the hub of cooking and showering, has an Esse stove, fridge, washing up and cooking equipment and a hot-water shower room.
For another superb shepherd's hut (and llama trekking) experience, see The Merry Harriers.