The days of basic accommodation in the UK are over. Well, if you want them to be. Personally, I am still perfectly fine with a basic campsite or a good old, sturdy self-catering cottage, thank you very much. But Glamping has gone quite jaw dropping in recent years, and the poor, hard-done by kids arrive at campsites rolling their eyes and muttering "oh no, not another Mongolian Yurt." What! Does nothing excite them these days? In my youth I got a rush of blood to the head if my holiday cottage had a snazzy patio and a Juliet balcony. Anyway, I suppose you can't blame them. Campsite owners are taking it to the next level these days, and glamping accommodation has gone extreme to say the least. And it is awesome. So, if you are planning your family holiday for 2021 and you fancy something a bit different - burrowing into a Hobbit Hole, kipping in a Fire Engine or waking up in a cave house for example - read on and get those young jaws back on the floor again....
Close to Tenby in the glorious district of Pembrokeshire, aliens have landed, abandoned ship and run off gibbering into the Welsh hills - leaving their craft available to book and stay the night in. They had good taste these little green men; the spaceship sleeps four comfortably, has an outdoor hexagonal cooking pod, tables and chairs, gaming equipment for space invaders (obvs), and there is a glass dome on the top for stargazing. You can also enjoy some extraordinary extras: a night time laser display in the sky, remote control retracting stairs at the entrance and of course! - a smoke machine to recreate the full lunar landing experience. Who are these people? I love them!
Calling all Lord of the Rings fans! This beautifully designed slice of Middle Earth in the North York Moors, not far from the seaside towns of Whitby and Staithes (which I'm sure Bilbo would have preferred to Mordoor), offers guests the chance to sleep, eat and dwell in a hobbit inspired grass-roofed house, with circular doors, cabin beds and a rather plush bathroom. The owners have really brought the Hobbit story to life, with a cosy living room full of Hobbiton trinkets, a TV with all of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit DVD's to watch and goblets and oversized tankards in the kitchen to celebrate your Middle Earth banquet. The Hobbit Hole is very private, with its own fenced garden, and is situated on a working farm with chickens roaming and goats and ponies in the paddocks beyond. A real treat for families who have read the Tolkien books but also magical for those who haven't.
The lovely Olive is a vintage Dublin double decker bus parked up in a pretty field with wonderful views, on the outskirts of the charming village of Branshott in Hampshire. Being a bus with two floors, there is an excellent amount of space here; downstairs there is a fully equipped kitchen, a dining area, wood burning stove, a shower and separate toilet. Up the original stairs and you are on the Penthouse level; a large open plan area are that can sleep up to 5 and includes a lounge area with fantastic views across the countryside. Outside, Olive has her very own private paddock for you all to gad about in, with a barbeque and fire pit for marshmallow toasting and hearty sing-songs. If you do ever want to leave this dreamy location, the coast is nearby with lots of family friendly things to see and do. Olive is a real one-off, and a very different place to stay while you explore Sussex.
No shocks here that The Rockhouse Retreat was featured on Channel 4's Grand Designs. It was formerly a hand sculpted cave dwelling for over 750 years, built into a sandstone cliff and this extraordinary place has to be seen to be believed. After several months of painstaking restoration by the owner, the result is an enchanting cave dwelling, with underfloor heating, hot running water, mood LED lighting, animal print throws and luxury furnishings. There is nothing cold and bat-like about this cave. Located among three acres of beautifully secluded Worcestershire woodland and surrounded by fields, streams, wildflowers and ancient trees, this is the place to leave behind the stresses of everyday life and escape to somewhere wonderful. Nothing has been forgotten here; the outdoor terrace is spacious and has plenty of room for barbecuing, al fresco dining or sitting around campfire. Watch the sun go down around the fire pit before heading back into your cave and crawling into the luxury king sized bed. Magic.
If you've ever wondered what it would be like to sleep in a helicopter then wonder no more; up in Stirling, the owners of this campsite have transformed a huge Sea King into your accommodation for the night. The stunning interior has been beautifully furnished with two double pull-out beds and a quirky single bed in the tail of the helicopter, plus a kitchen, bathroom and cockpit seating area. Next to the site there is a play park and a mountain biking track. But the absolute BEST BIT of this entire thing is that the legendary owners have kept the original dashboard, roof panel switches and foot pedals in the cockpit, so you can actually see the helicopter as it once was and pretend to fly it, whoop! I feel like shouting a lot of Top Gun quotes (I know its the wrong aircraft but come on). Tower, this is Ghost Rider requesting a fly-by....
My first thoughts about these incredible tree houses in the heart of the Welsh mountains was something along the lines of "Five Go Mad in Machynlleth", but I fear these gorgeous dwellings are far too luxurious for the likes of Anne, Julian and co, and Timmy would be frankly baffled by the swing bridges. All the same, the values are there: embrace the simple pleasures of eating, sleeping and living in the middle of a secret wooded valley, surrounded by streams and wildflowers. The setting is quite breathtaking. Blending seamlessly into the woodlands, these six treehouses are well insulated and cosy thanks to a wood burning stove which heats both the treehouse and spring water for the shower. There is an ensuite at 30 feet - wow. It also has a kitchen, double bed, fold down bunk beds and lanterns and candles only to light the way. I'll leave it to George to round it off....
This treehouse has been so beautifully designed, and is so sensitive to the surrounding landscape, it has virtually become part of it. What a beautiful piece of architecture. Brilliant. George Clark, George's Amazing Spaces
An absolute winner for fire-engine obsessed children and just anyone who loves a campsite with a difference, the gang at Blackberry Wood in Sussex are onto something fabulous here. Nestled into the woodland is a proper, big old-fashioned Fire Engine, with all the bells and whistles (and hoses presumably) and it is your home for the night, sleeping 4/5 people comfortably. The vehicle is fully heated and has its own kitchen - with fire engine themed handles and curtains - and dining area inside, and campfire pit and BBQ outside. The beautiful surrounding countryside feels a million miles from anywhere, yet the campsite is just 7 miles from Brighton, making it a great location for a family holiday. That's if you can get your kids to leave the front seat of the fire engine.....
All Aboard! For a night away with a difference how about staying in one of these two converted railway carriages, located in the heart of Shropshire's stunning Ironbridge Gorge and surrounded by beautiful woodland and wildflower meadows. Rural and remote outside but luxurious and modern on the inside, these carriages have been refurbished to the very highest standard, with ensuite bedrooms, whirlpool baths, contemporary kitchens and state of the art TV's and appliances. The Fat Controller would be beside himself.
This is an absolute corker. Anyone can stay in a gypsy caravan these days....but how many people can actually go travelling in one? Well, that is just what these lovely people at Wanderlust in Cumbria are offering: a chance to be pulled along winding country lanes in the Eden Valley (by a proper, wise old carthorse - none of this snooty pony nonsense) in a beautiful gypsy wagon. Stop for the night at one of their secluded campsites where you can paddle in streams, cook on an open fire and immerse yourself in nature, before heading to bed in your gorgeous old fashioned wagon. Wake up to the sound of birdsong, the smell of cornflowers, saddle up (figuratively) and set off on your journey again. Now that is what I call a proper adventure.
The actual name for these gorgeous baubles, gently swinging from the boughs on the edge of Lake Windemere in Cumbria, is tree tents, but that makes them sound far too ordinary. These sphere shaped canvas pods are suspended in the trees and are equipped with beds for three, a wood burning stove and LED lighting. You access this magical bedroom via a stepped ladder which leads onto a platform where you can sit and take in the glorious views through the canopy of leaves before heading to bed and being rocked to sleep by the breeze. Bliss.
These are strange times, so please check each company individually for opening dates and Covid-19 restrictions.
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