Charlotte Metcalf rounds up this summer’s ‘glamping’ options in the UK
After its sell-out launch last year, Camp Bestival won Best New Festival Award 2008 and is back this year with even more glamping options. Rob da Bank, Isle of Wight-based DJ and promoter of the various ‘Bestivals’ throughout the year, has been convinced of camping’s popularity for a long time.
‘My wife coined the phrase “boutique camping” six years ago,’ he says. ‘People like camping because it’s so easy with the kids. More and more people are holidaying in Britain and we’re expecting about 10,000 at Camp Bestival this year. It’s been a huge success because there’s such a family vibe.’
There are two campsites at Camp Bestival. For glampers there is the Boutique Campsite, offering a range of exotic accommodation: Mongolian yurts, tipis, podpads, bellpads, gypsy caravans and wooden huts with fitted carpets and solar power. For £60 you can hire extra furnishing: sheepskins, cushions, rugs, low tables and lanterns.
The music ranges from tried and tested favourites like Kid Creole & The Coconuts and Will Young to PJ Harvey and Chic, plus DJs including Rob da Bank himself. There’s also Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Café.
‘What’s really made Camp Bestival popular is that we’ve really thought about kids,’ says Rob. Camp Bestival provides a Kids’ Garden with the usual face-painting, bouncy castle and donkey rides, but also a circus big top, a dressing-up tent complete with catwalk, a children’s bookshop, a Punch & Judy show and an insect circus and museum. Also featuring this year are the well-known children’s characters Angelina Ballerina, SpongeBob SquarePants and Mr Tumble. There’s even the pioneering ‘Breastival Mother and Baby Temple’.
‘We’re basically making it fun and easy for people to take in a festival as part of an all-round family holiday,’ says Rob.
24-26 July, Lulworth Castle, Dorset
Feather Down Farms
City dwellers looking to experience the real countryside without taking the cramped and soggy tent route need look no further than Feather Down Farms. It is the brainchild of Dutchman Luite Moral, who brought his winning formula to Britain five years ago. Moral’s cleverness is to combine comfort with authentic country life, and Feather Down is the only organisation that builds all its campsites on working farms at 22 sites around the country.
I stayed at Hollings Hill Farm at the foot of the Malvern Hills. Here there are just seven tents — but ‘tent’ is an understatement for these generous canvas structures on solid decking, which boast a bunk-room, a double bedroom and double canopy bed, a flushable loo and a living room with a dining table, wood-burning stove and a sink with running water.
There are plenty of oil lamps and candles to compensate for having no electricity; laptops and charging your mobile phone are not what this place is about.
Fay, the farmer’s wife and mother of four, takes us round the farm and children’s squeaks of urban angst turn to squeals of delight as they are licked by newborn calves or help Austin, the farmer, with the milking: there are 270 Friesian dairy cows here. Later, in the shop next to the farmhouse kitchen, I purchase tea, coffee, bacon, eggs, creamy milk fresh from the farm and a bottle of decent chilled Sauvignon.
In the next-door field to my tent, four horses huddle Stubbs-like round a tree and geese waddle past my outdoor stove on which bacon is sizzling nicely. Fay’s four-year-old daughter arrives with a wheelbarrow full of kindling. All I can hear are birds singing and the occasional laughter of children from the nearest tent — some 50 yards away. For urbanites with children, this is a gentle introduction to camping, farming and country life, guaranteed to delight.
Normally the word ‘safari’ conjures up images of the African bush rather than the gentle Sussex Downs, but now Safari Britain is offering luxury camping in huge yurts and bell tents in the South Downs National Park.
Just like any self-respecting African safari, Safari Britain provides expert guides. But in this case they are foragers, gamekeepers, ornithologists and botanists. They will take you foraging for wild food and hunting with falcons. They will teach you about birdsong, butterflies, insects and how to spot rare downland flowers or a shy barn owl. They will even show you how to cook and prepare game for the pot, and typical menus are likely to include snails, rabbit or squirrel stew and elderflower fritters.