Tree tents, bee­hives, or a ‘holi­copter’? It’s what­ever you fancy

The Sunday Telegraph - Travel - - Front Page -

When Robert Stephen­son Smyth BadenPow­ell pub­lished his Scout­ing for Boys in 1908, a night un­der can­vas was about self-re­liance and teamwork. In the 20th cen­tury, only the Bi­ble, the Ko­ran and Quo­ta­tions from Chair­man Mao Tse-tung sold more copies than the lieu­tenant-gen­eral’s tome, which was writ­ten to gal­vanise a “wasted gen­er­a­tion” of Ed­war­dian young­sters. But what would he make of an overnight in a con­verted train car­riage, fur­nished with a su­per-king-size bed, rein­deer skin rugs and a hot tub?

For camp­ing has be­come glamp­ing. In its first wave, this “glam­orous camp­ing” was a prac­ti­cal adap­ta­tion: a con­ve­nience in which a yurt in any field would do. But re­cently it has evolved into some­thing greater, of­fer­ing five-star lux­u­ries in the grounds of ho­tels or cas­tles, or in some of Bri­tain’s most re­mote and pre­cious land­scapes.

The new­est tree­houses to let down their lad­ders in 2018 come with a sim­i­lar price tag to a high-end ho­tel room, but per­haps that’s fair: they of­fer more space and fea­ture wrap­around bal­conies, free-stand­ing cop­per bath­tubs, un­der­floor heat­ing, smart TVs and es­presso ma­chines.

Glamp­ing is boom­ing: in Eng­land, the num­ber of overnight trips dou­bled be­tween 2015 and 2016, ris­ing from 160,000 trips to 325,000. Over the first three months of this year, the Cool Camp­ing web­site re­ported a 50 per cent rise in glamp­ing book­ings, com­pared with the same pe­riod of 2017. Re­spond­ing to this de­mand, the com­pany has just launched a spin-off web­site called Glamp­ingly (glamp­ingly.co.uk), fea­tur­ing a col­lec­tion of more lux­u­ri­ous prop­er­ties.

“Even five or six years ago, glamp­ing was a niche in­dus­try but now it is al­most a main­stream hol­i­day op­tion,” said Jonathan Knight, Cool Camp­ing’s founder. “Peo­ple are glamp­ing rather than stay­ing in an Airbnb or a self-cater­ing cot­tage.”

Pitchup, a camp­site book­ing web­site, also saw “dra­matic in­creases” in its glamp­ing book­ings when com­par­ing 2017 with the pre­vi­ous year, with “mi­crolodges” up 114 per cent and “rent-a-tents” up 151 per cent.

The boom has paved the way for a sec­ond wave of high-end, ar­chi­tect­de­signed ac­com­mo­da­tion; dwellings that are sus­tain­able and in­voke an ap­pre­ci­a­tion of na­ture. A cabin dug out from a hill­side fea­tured on Chan­nel 4’s Grand De­signs, while a num­ber of tree­houses ap­peared on Ge­orge Clarke’s Amaz­ing Spa­ces on the same chan­nel. (The ar­chi­tect and pre­sen­ter’s own Sky Den is avail­able for overnight stays).

“Peo­ple al­ways want some­thing in­ter­est­ing and new to do,” said Knight. “A dou­ble decker bus, a de­com­mis­sioned plane; a ho­tel room is a ho­tel room but when you stay in a beau­ti­ful tree­house, hand­crafted from the wood of the for­est you are stay­ing in, it is a unique ex­pe­ri­ence.”

From this sum­mer, glam­pers will be able to stay in a for­mer slate mine in Snow­do­nia, in sa­fari-style lodges. Their wet and windy moun­tain­side lo­ca­tion is not one that screams “pam­per me” but the iso­lated spot does sit un­der some of Bri­tain’s star­ri­est skies – an al­to­gether dif­fer­ent sort of lux­ury.

Camp­ing purists may sneer, but this new wave of glamp­ing should be cel­e­brated. Eco-friendly struc­tures are giv­ing hol­i­day­mak­ers ac­cess to pro­tected land­scapes where ho­tels would never get per­mis­sion to build. It’s not only Snow­do­nia where you can see stars: you might also try Hes­ley­side Huts in Northum­ber­land. Log cabins near wildlife-watch­ing hides within na­ture re­serves are com­mon now, while Buck’s Cop­pice is a lake­side cabin that has been al­lowed in an­cient wood­land.

We also know that, as the num­ber of tra­di­tional camp­ing and car­a­van­ning trips is grow­ing at the same time as the in­crease in glamp­ing, over­all, peo­ple are choos­ing to spend more time out­doors. Paul Jones, of the Camp­ing and Car­a­van­ning Club, noted the “growth of camp­ing in all its forms”, while sug­gest­ing that glamp­ing is “here to stay”. “Glamp­ing of­fers a great in­tro­duc­tion to life un­der can­vas for thou­sands of peo­ple each year,” he added.

But where do you draw the line? Don’t dish­wash­ers and the abil­ity to or­der in your din­ner mean that you are no longer re­ally camp­ing? If there is a line, no one seems both­ered by it. “In the States, they think camp­ing should only be un­der can­vas,” said Knight. “But in the UK it is a dif­fer­ent tale.”

With lots of generic “pods” avail­able that are quick and easy for landown­ers to in­stall, ex­perts think that the less be­spoke side of the in­dus­try could reach sat­u­ra­tion point in the fu­ture.

But glamp­ing’s sec­ond wave has the wow fac­tor and, as long as ac­cess to a patch of wilder­ness sets our cabins or tree­houses apart from a ho­tel, ex­perts be­lieve we will carry on glamp­ing.

“The con­cept of stay­ing and be­ing some­where beau­ti­ful will al­ways be pop­u­lar, and we be­lieve that in mod­ern life it has never been more im­por­tant,” said Tom Dixon, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of glamp­ing web­site Canopy & Stars.

Many glamp­ing sites now or­gan­ise ac­tiv­i­ties de­signed to get us en­gag­ing with the nat­u­ral world. And with more chil­dren out wildlife-watch­ing, stargaz­ing and whit­tling on hol­i­day, per­haps Baden-Pow­ell would ap­prove. In the Bre­con Bea­cons, this tree­house has a wrap­around deck above the Llynfi river, a fire pit and pri­vate hot tub ac­cessed by a swing­ing bridge. A ro­man­tic hide­away just for two, there is a hand-carved dou­ble bed and lux­ury linens, plus an en suite bath­room with a walk-in shower and a kitchen with a dish­washer and coffee ma­chine. The own­ers pro­vide the in­gre­di­ents for a cooked break­fast.

From £189 a night. qual­i­tyun­earthed.co.uk Ge­orge Clarke’s tree­house blends the in­doors with the out­doors, tak­ing in every­thing from red squir­rels in the trees to the sweep­ing river just be­low. The space is im­pres­sively ver­sa­tile. The kitchen has fold­away fur­ni­ture, glass doors open on to a bal­cony and a wet room is ac­ces­si­ble from the deck. A cir­cu­lar viewpoint holds a wood-burn­ing stove and the tri­an­gu­lar roof of the loft can be opened up to re­veal Northum­ber­land’s Dark Sky Re­serve.

From £300 for two nights. canopy­and­stars.co.uk This clever cabin-cumtree­house is built into the top of a tall, steep slope, giv­ing the set­ting of a canopy, de­spite be­ing close to terra firma. Enor­mous win­dows and a bal­cony look out into the leaves. There’s a wood-burner, a king-size bed and a com­fort­able lounge area, though the shared kitchen is a stroll away. Bor­row a book to read be­neath the site’s gi­ant name­sake red­wood or visit Nor­ton Brook.

From £120 a night. glamp­ingly.co.uk The ru­ined man­sion of Wit­ley Court, two miles away, is vis­i­ble over the hedgerows sur­round­ing this rather stately hut. In­side, there’s a king-size bed with a chunky head­board di­vid­ing the sleep­ing space from the hand-crafted kitchen. The oak floor­ing ends where an en suite shower room be­gins, not that you need it. A deep cop­per bath­tub is the hut’s piece de re­sis­tance. From £125 a night. glamp­ingly.co.uk

The King­fisher cabin, main; the Sky Den tree­house, be­low

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