Glamping it up in luxury and comfort at Leeds Castle
Having enjoyed – or not – a night under canvas in the New Forest and deciding they were no fans of traditional camping, and family tried it in style at Britain’s loveliest castle in Kent. Guess which they’ll be doing in future?
WHEN does camping become glamping? Is it staying in a big sturdy tent that has already been set up for you? Is it the introduction of a four-poster bed instead of a blow-up mattress? Or is it just simply getting a decent night's sleep under the stars?
The answer is all of the above at Leeds Castle in Kent, where you can spend a night in medieval glamping tents, as well as having two whole days to look around the historic side itself.
I had taken my wife and two daughters ‘proper' camping the week before in the New Forest and decided after a terrible night's sleep that staying in a tent was not for me. But after a stay at Leeds Castle, glamping, not camping, is much more up my street.
We arrived at Leeds Castle at about noon on the day of our stay so we could have a look at the medieval castle's finery before we checked into our glamping tent (which can be any time after 3pm on the day of arrival).
The package allows you both days either side of the sleepover into the castle grounds, so don't worry if you arrive slightly later, although I'd advise using both days fully.
After parking up we headed straight to the castle itself, which looked beautiful in the afternoon summer sun, enveloped by a lake upon which gondoliers were punting tourists around the main building.
The interior of the castle is just as impressive, with remnants from its first incarnation in the 1100s when it was built as a Norman stronghold, and was later a favourite residence of King Edward I before, in the 16th century, becoming home for Henry VIII's wife Catherine of Aragon.
Most rooms in the castle are in superb condition, many displaying furniture and fashion throughout the ages – from knight's armour right up to a boardroom which was used for the Northern Ireland peace talks of 2004.
There are audio guides available, but we were happy to wander round reading the informative snippets of text around the castle, while the children used treasure maps to spot items, keeping them interested throughout.
After the self-guided tour it was 3pm, so we decided to check in to our abode for the night and we were not disappointed by the tent's interior, which included a four-poster bed for the adults, with soft linen, pilllows and throws included (beats a blow-up bed hands-down), while the children's camping beds complete with warm sleeping bags were also very comfortable.
There were also chairs inside and outside the tent where you could relax with a cold drink in relative privacy from the other glampers.
There were clean toilets and showers a short walk from the glamping area, as well as kitchen equipment if you needed it, but we didn't as we were going to make full use of the several barbecues at the site.
It was bliss sitting next to a camp fire eating burgers, hot dogs and marshmallows, warmed on a camp fire as the sun went down, before retiring to the luxury tent, where we also made use of the wood burner to keep us toastie through the night.
After a blissful night's sleep we were welcomed by the delivery of breakfast, which needs to be ordered at an extra cost when booking. We were treated to bacon butties, coffee and hot chocolate, although you can also opt for the continental option.
Being fed, showered and packed up by 10am, we headed back into the castle grounds for the rest of the day and there was still plenty to see that we hadn't the day before.
There were peaceful gardens to walk around and a great maze with an underground grotto as the prize to visit at the centre. We were also impressed by the Dark Skies film shown inside a tent which gives an eye-opening account of the Battle of Agincourt.