Camping is a word that can often drive fear into the bowels of even the most strong of stomach. Glory Be! then, that somewhere along the line (no idea when) someone brilliant came up with the idea of Glamping. It's camping but not as we know it. No more grappling with guide ropes, cooking sausages in the dark or weeing into a Tupperware in the middle of the night; this is the most stylish way of getting back to nature.
Take this quick quiz: do you like a) 4am dawn starts and b) soggy sleeping mats? If you answered "no" to both these questions, glamping is for you. So, it's goodbye to ramming the roof-rack full of ripped canvas, crockery and portable stoves, and hello to sheepskin covered sofas, fridges, roll-topped baths and four-poster beds! Yes really! Here are my favourites within a two hour drive of London......
Situated at the foot of the South Downs National Park, Blackberry Wood offers high quality and quirky glamping set in clearings in the middle of beautiful woodland . You can choose to stay in (wait for it) a Fire Engine, a Holiday Bus, a Gypsy Caravan, a Helicopter, a curvey cabin or a fairytale style-treehouse. The entire place is a glorious swaddle of hand crafted wood, streams, glades, fire pits, campfires and back to nature wholesomeness. Want to go? You had me at helicopter.
Best bit: This little slice of eco-friendly paradise in the Sussex woodlands is an experience none of the family will forget. A place of true memory making....
Adhurst Yurts are located near Petersfield and on the edge of 100 acres of beautiful ancient woodland, wild flowers aplenty. The yurts themselves are really something rather special - one has en-suite roll top bath, all have double beds and camp beds (with proper linen) to sleep the whole family, wood-burners and a safari kitchen. Dogs are very welcome, and the distance from the road means it is super safe for nippers and hounds alike. They are off-grid here, and no electricity makes it as dark and magical as it can possibly be; in their own words, a "stylish, healthy and ecologically conscious holiday".
Best bit: the winding, wildlife-filled woodland paths and rope swing over the River Rother in the valley below. An Enid Blyton experience if ever there was...
Home Farm glamping prides itself on being London's nearest glamping site; probably depends if you're a South of the river-er or North, but either way it's not far to get to. In fact, they're just at the northern end of the Jubilee line. Once you're there, London will be the last thing on your mind as you immerse yourself in the glorious 150 acres of fields and woodland and settle into your beautifully decorated Mongolian yurt or bell tent.
Best bit: you don't even have to think about food. They have an on-site catering company happy to prepare cooked breakfasts, evening meals, hampers and afternoon tea, all served in a pop-up tent. If you do feel like you want to prod something on an open flame, never fear, BBQ meal boxes are also available. Result.
Nestled in the Chiltern hills and two miles north of the riverside town of Marlow, Shillingridge offer luxury safari tent-style glamping lodges which sleep up to 6 people very, very comfortably indeed. They only have two lodges here (so if you book both you have the place to yourself) but they are magnificent in every way. Both are identical and have a double bedroom, a twin room, double cabin bed, sofas, a rustic kitchen, wood-burner and dining table. Outside you can find a BBQ, camp fire area and lots of board games to keep everyone entertained out on the deck. They'll even organise a spa treatment or a pilates lesson for you (while the kids are collecting the fresh hens eggs for breakfast). It's just all too wonderful for words......
Best bit: It's unlikely you'll ever want to leave the bathroom. Each lodge has a free-standing roll top bath; if you open the rear door you can have a semi-alfresco (but completely private) woodland bath.
This lovely, eco-friendly site in the Surrey Hills (an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty no less) is home to six traditional yurts and two bells tents. Surrey Hills Yurts is on a working farm so the kids can meet the cows, pigs and chickens.
Here you can wake up to nature and glorious views on your doorstep without having to give up any luxuries; your outdoor home has a king sized bed, table and chairs and a wood-burner with a stack of logs to keep you all toasty warm. A well stocked kitchen and toilet block (with eco friendly products) is a short walk from your yurt. They want a low impact on the environment here, so no electricity on site; each yurt is decorated with lanterns and fairy lights which makes night time rather special.
Best bit: They love supporting local businesses; delicious hampers of products from nearby farm shops can be ordered, and they will also arrange things to do: cooking lessons on the open fire, foraging, yoga, art classes or guided walks.
Swallowtail Hill is set in 40 acres of wildflower meadows and woodland in the picturesque Sussex countryside, close to the medieval town of Rye. For 25 years, the owners have run the land as a protected conservation project, and the traditional fields, ancient woodland and old hedgerow encourage biodiversity and create a stunning, colourful landscape. Nestled in amongst this are a variety of charming off-grid dwellings: cabins on wheels, timber-clad cottages and roundhouses, all privately secluded from the other for a complete "away from it all" feeling. Light a fire, watch the wildlife, enjoy the silence. And breathe......
Best bit: It's the little things that make it special; dutch ovens, wind-up radios, campfire popcorn makers (yes!) and blue-tooth speakers are all available for loan.
Now this one is a little bit different. Available only for exclusive hire, this beautiful six acres of woodland hideaway is part of the National Trust woodland in Surrey and is right in the heart of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is the ideal place for a large group or family get-together and this is one you won't forget. Seven shepherds huts, all bedecked with comfy beds and vintage decor can sleep a total of 22 people, with larger huts for families. The huts are neighbourly without being intrusive and each is set in its own glade.
The camp fire area is set up beautifully and surrounded by hammocks, seats and fairy lights; a BBQ, pizza oven and "over the campfire" grill are provided to make sure all manner of group cooking is possible. If the weather is drizzly, never fear, head to the covered straw bale lodge and light up the wood-burner for a cosy sheltered evening.
Best bit: WooHoo there's a zip-wire! Ok, that might not be everyones best bit....how about serving dinner right in the middle of the forest, on rustic tables and chairs with twinkling fairy lights covering the branches. Now that's what I call a memorable get-together.
This is a brilliant one for the kids. Leeds Castle in Kent now offers a different kind of accommodation in the grounds and it looks a lot of fun for those who want to be a Knight for the....well...night. It's not the back to nature, run wild through the bluebells and get your own eggs for breakfast type affair, but it's flipping good fun. Each mini-medieval tent looks like a Knights jousting pavilion, and inside has an oak four poster bed, camp beds for the children and a wood-burner to keep warm as well as plenty of blankets and throws. Meals can be prepared on the open fire in the glamping area, or if you don't want to cook, head up to the Castle Restaurant for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Best bit: Your booking here also includes access to Leeds Castle, grounds and attractions so you will never be stuck for something to do!
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