Camping in the winter is not quite as strange as it sounds. In fact, once you've been camping in the chillier months, you might realise that there is nothing more brilliant to get you into the festive spirit than sleeping in the great outdoors. And I'll tell you why all you naysayers. Glamping in the UK has recently levelled up to completely epic proportions, and there are now winter glamping sites so wonderful and so magical you'll wonder why you didn't do it years ago. I'm not talking frozen tent poles and arctic grade sleeping bags here. I'm talking wooden huts deep in the forest with handmade kingsized beds, wood-burners and outdoor saunas. I'm talking geodomes with underfloor heating, star gazing windows and copper roll top baths. I'm talking treehouses with wood fired hot tubs, log fires and a private balconies with views out across the frosty wilderness. Can this Narnia exist in the UK? Well yes it can actually, turkish delight, hot chocolate and all if you want to go the whole hog. When you've woken up completely immersed in nature, cooked breakfast on an open fire, walked through crisp woodland and then returned to your hideaway to stargaze from a hot tub, life might not ever be quite the same again. Make this festive season one to remember and book a winter camping break you will never forget.
Up in the trees, with panoramic views across the stunning Malvern Hills, sit two eye-poppingly beautiful treehouses; the extraordinary sort of abode you think can only possibly exist in some other world that you will never be a part of. Well let me tell you, this other world is actually the north Cotswolds, they do exist, and you can treat yourself to some of this otherworldly magic by booking either of these treehouses as soon as possible. These beautifully crafted treehouses are a veritable box of Christmas delights, with indoor wood-burners, vast, throw-strewn beds, large balconies with hot tubs (and the view!), roll top baths and fairy lights galore. As you can imagine, they are popular anytime of year, but there is something about falling snow across the fields, the crisp morning view from the balcony and the deliciousness of a wood fired hot tub on a chilly, starry night that can only be fully appreciated in the wintery months. If you are too late for a December break, book for January or February to take the edge of that gloomy post-Christmas lull. Treats aren't just for Christmas.
picture credit: Bredon Hill Treehouses
Wooton Park pods, a collection of beautiful and very luxurious camping pods offer the sort of luxury you'd expect in a boutique hotel room, but with the gravity defying bonus of being 11 foot up in a tree and completely surrounded by nature. The pods overlook rolling green fields with horses, goats, and alpacas grazing and chickens roam freely too. It's gorgeous. For those of us who don't want to be Tarzan and Jane, there are also other pods on ground level, just as lovely and nestled into woodland. Many of the pods have private hot tubs, so there is no excuse whatsoever to stick to the summer for this one, you'll be warm and happy any time of year. And another fantastic reason stay in the winter and get fully into the festive vibe is that Wooton Park is not too far away from Birmingham, home to the biggest (allegedly) authentic German Christmas Market outside Germany or Austria. Ja Bitte! Think food stalls of epic proportions selling bratwurst, gingerbread, stollen and brezels and gallons of gluhwien or hot chocolate to keep you warm on a crisp winters evening; there are also a huge array of handmade crafts and toys, glassware, leather and allsorts -perfect for some christmas gifts with a difference.
You actually do feel like you are part of a pretty wonderful secret when you arrive here in the heart of mid-Wales. With three beautiful yurts all tucked away in the Welsh hills, you can leave your stresses, your worries and your thermal underwear at the door. Even in winter there is no need to be cold when you're camping out in these glamping marvels. Cosy and sumptuous, all of the snug yurts have huge double beds, wood-burners and thick dressing gowns to keep you toasty warm. They are also equipped with lanterns and candles, logs for the wood-burner and festooned with bunting and twinkling lights, making things pretty and festive on a wintery evening. They are gorgeous. With your own facilities and a private outdoor hot tub, you can spend days walking through the Welsh countryside and evenings stargazing from the tub. Life doesn't get any better.
For those who manage to bag one of these incredible shepherds huts, Christmas will be very merry indeed. One sleeps two and the the other sleeps four (more suitable for families) and both have all all the jingle bells and whistles you could possibly want. Underfloor heating and a wood-burning stove keep you lovely and warm indoors, and a fire pit, BBQ and pizza oven outside on your private seating area mean marshmallows around the campfire and stargazing are on the menu outdoors. Each hut has its own huge hot tub within springing distance of your front doorstep, and, in addition to this, a rather lovely barrel sauna is available (shared with the other hut so you book your slot) for that full Scandi experience. Located on the edge of the gorgeous Blackdown Hills - an Area of Outstanding Natural Beaty - Dreamhuts Retreat also has an enviable location, being in close distance of some of Devons prettiest coastline. Bracing beach walks or a sea swim (bring a winter wetsuit unless you are a)brave or b)David Walliams) down at one of the nearby beaches on the English Riviera are an excellent way to spend a morning. And if you want to catch up on some last minute Christmas shopping, head over to Exeter and pick up some festive fare at the lovely Cathedral Christmas market. Its free of charge, you don't need to book, and you will find a veritable treasure trove of Christmas delights for foodies as well as lots of local crafts, jewellery and gifts. I feel festive just thinking about it.
This is a truly wonderful one. Glamping with a real difference here and, as the conker creators say themselves: seriously pushing the boundaries of construction. The conkers - as they are known - are round, space age pods; cosy and brilliantly designed, perched in a secluded part of the Cambrian mountains in Wales with porthole windows looking out over the wilderness. Mirroring the copper and green tones of the hills and heather, the stunning Earth Conker shimmers like a beautiful bauble, and through the door its extraordinary design continues with a superb kingsize bed that transforms into modular furniture, a kitchenette (including mini fridge) and everything you need for a wild but luxurious stay. Outside is a steel-screened shower cubicle and - ingeniously - a hand made pizza oven where you can whip up your own pizzas; they'll even provide the dough and yeast. The Moon Conker is wilder still - situated in a hidden glade, next to a babbling brook and completely off grid, so if you want a detox from the outside world, this is the place. In this utopia, try an outdoor bathing experience with a difference: crank water from your stream, heat it in the Ghillie Kettle and enjoy bathing under the stars - in two, outdoor, side by side baths. And breathe.....
Just six miles from Aviemore - Scotlands winter playground for skiing and all things snow - you will find (or maybe not - it feels a whole world away) the Lazy Duck; an off-grid eco haven away from anything technic and hectic and nestled in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park. Here you are invited to appreciate everything that is wonderful about the great outdoors, and you can lay your weary head in one of their beautiful, unique and very luxurious eco huts, a safari tent or - if you are with a bigger group - the wooden Lookout eco hostel. There is so much to do in this wonderful part of the Scotland, but whether your day is busy or lazy, you can spend your evenings relaxing by the fire, in the wood fired hot tub or infrared sauna. There is also a wellbeing studio situated at the edge of the forest offering yoga and massage as well as incredible views. This place is good for the soul. In the colder months, the lodges have fairytale qualities, so hunker down and enjoy feeling a million miles from anywhere and camping out in one of the most stunning parts of the UK.
Down a woodland road and along a forest track, you'd be forgiven for thinking that you were disappearing into the middle of nowhere. You know that something spectacular is coming and frankly, you won't be disappointed. Swathed in the magical woodlands of Mabie, miles from anywhere, with just the sounds of nature are all around you, this gem - the Marthrown of Mabie - is based in the very heart of the Mabie Forest in South West Scotland. Here they offer pretty awesome and unusual types of accommodation - glamping yurts, a tipi, a bunkhouse as well as camping too. It is a great place for groups. The crowning glory - the famous Celtic Roundhouse, a fantastically reconstructed Iron Age roundhouse - is also available to stay the night in, and has as the owners put it "five star Iron Age facilities" in the form of a loo, a hot shower and a sheltered cooking area (although you can also get catering if you would like). It's a great wedding venue and a great place to come in a gang - there is an excellent low ropes course and brilliant mountain biking and walking. It is something very, very different. And in terms of weather, well, the more wintery it is then the more atmospheric this place is. Imagine on the dark evenings with the Mabie Forest all around you, trees rustling, fires glowing and - of course - the authentic Finnish sauna and hot tub to spring in to when things get nippy. This wilderness is not to be missed.
Home to three large and seriously luxury safari tents with bags of space, private kitchens bathrooms and hot tubs, these gorgeous tents at Rackery Retreat are bedecked in full Christmas regalia over the festive season, so if you don't leave here feeling full of Christmas cheer, chances are nothing will work. Just outside Chester near the lovely village of Burton on the North Wales border, Rackery Retreats offer a special wintery glamping experience with four poster beds (and tree house beds) cosy dressing gowns, log fires, roll top baths and private hot tubs. Frankly, it's stretching the word camping to its very limits, but never fear, there is no doubt that you are, with nature doing the full immersive wraparound and fields and woodland as far as the eye can see. There are lovely add-ons available here too, such as a delicious afternoon tea delivered to your tent, and they even offer beauty treatments from a local therapist so you can destress and unwind in the comfort of your own tent. After a day exploring the roman city of Chester or doing some Christmas shopping, your safari tent at Rackery Retreat is the perfect place to lie back and relax.
Just six miles away from the charming town of Ludlow - this year boasting one of the best medieval Christmas markets in the country - you will find an oasis like no other. Woodland Escapes, nestled in 45 acres of Shropshires gorgeous countryside, is a magical retreat at any time of year, but come a-camping here at Christmas or the winter months and you are in for a real treat. Choose from a range of luxury glamping accommodation which include a star gazing treehouse, space age looking geodomes offering a true immersed-in-nature experience and a larger more contemporary mountain lodge with views over six counties. All these gorgeous glamping treats are furnished to the highest standard and are warm and cosy, even on the chilliest of evenings. To put the icing on the Christmas cake, there is also a private Scandinavian wood fired hot tub for each of the glamping properties. A truly beautiful hideaway to brighten up those gloomy winter months.
Bell tents, a very quirky tiny house, a wooden wagon and a truck (a huge converted horse box) are all on offer here, making for some very unique - and equally boutique - accommodation at this wonderful glamping site deep in the enchanting woodlands of Sussex. It is a beautiful place, offering a calm retreat away from the world, a place to reconnect with nature and a place to unwind....and as for coming here in the winter - well, its perfect. How about this: a Wild Spa. Somewhere you can relax under a canopy of trees in a wood fired hot tub, then hop into a traditional wood fired barrel sauna and book in for a a massage in their heated treatment space. This is forest bathing at its very best. The owners here at The Enchanted Glade have a genuine care and love for the environment and nature, but also their guests and nearby small businesses too (locally sourced delicious food is available in hampers and the furniture and pottery used is all from local craftspeople or upcyled). They support local conservation projects and all the glamping homes are off grid, ecologically sustainable and it is wonderful for winter camping. It is a place to warm the heart as well and the mind and body. A very special place.
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