Luxury camping might seem a perfect contradiction but "glamping" is here to stay. The concept is based on the splendour of African safaris, where pampered guests sleep in the wilderness under canvas with five-star hotel comforts. This is camping in name only, with “tents” fitted with fireplaces, linen sheets and even roll-top baths.
“Think of them as canvas cottages,” says Alan Wenham of Boldscan, a Somerset- based company supplying specialist glamping equipment. “We’ve seen demand increase annually by about 30 per cent since 2010.”
Glamping by the Sea
Tanya and Andy Bellamy gave up corporate careers in the Midlands two years ago to move to Cornwall and set up Coastal Valley Camp and Crafts, a camping and glamping business close to family favourite Watergate Bay, near Newquay. They are in their first full year of operation, having opened in May 2014, and are fully booked this summer. Accommodation includes pre-pitched tents, small Hobbit-style wooden lodges and, taking centre stage, a safari tent with three bedrooms.
“The safari tent has the wow factor,” says Tanya. “As soon as people see it, they are overwhelmed by the king-size bed, the log-burning stove and the cosy children’s bedrooms. It is very romantic. We have our first wedding booked for September, with the bride and groom staying in the safari tent.”
Tanya and Andy stayed in the safari tent for two months while developing the site. “I refused to leave it, even when a smart American caravan turned up,” remembers Tanya. “Inside, everything is natural, from wooden surfaces to a solid Belfast sink. It is so far away from traditional camping.”
Coastal Valley is open from February to October, with three-night weekend stays in the safari tent from £380.
Glamping on a Farm
Britain’s Got Talent judge Amanda Holden and her family are fans of The Dandelion Hideaway, the first glamping business to win a VisitEngland award for excellence. It is owned by Sharon and John Earp on their Leicestershire farm, 90 minutes from London and two miles from Market Bosworth.
Sharon was a founder member of the Feather Down Farm Days glamping franchise in 2006, but in 2011 the couple opened the Hideaway, with the aim of making the concept even more glamorous. They have six canvas cottages, each sleeping six, with one bedroom inside a “secret” wooden cabin — a particular hit with children.
Each cottage is unique, but Sharon has used Farrow & Ball heritage colours and linen curtains, while the en suite bathrooms have roll-top baths and plentiful, instant hot water. Designers Lewis & Wood have fitted out one cottage with their own country-themed fabrics and wallpapers.
“Guests tell us they love the beauty of the location and the chance for their children to run free and get back to nature,” says Sharon. “The popularity of glamping seems to be about a return to old-fashioned holidays and because we have kept it small, guests get to know each other. And there is a romance about sleeping outside at any age.”
The Dandelion Hideaway is open from March to October, with three night weekend stays from £575.
Glamping by the coastal path
Knaveswell Farm in Dorset — a field away from England’s longest footpath, the 630-mile South West Coast Path — has been offering glamping holidays for seven years, but this year has invested in four safari-style tents.
Owner Jo Dyer and her family run a 156-acre dairy farm and are already booked for most of the summer. The combination of living close to the land, but with all the comforts of home, is what appeals to their guests.
“Guests can collect eggs for breakfast from the hens, visit the piglets and the ponies nearby or watch our herd of cows being milked,” says Jo. “In spring, when extra help is always appreciated, we have lambs for bottle-feeding.”
Knaveswell Farm is open from Easter to the end of October, with prices from £290 for three night weekend stays.
Interested in setting up a glamping business?
Boldscan, which supplies British-made canvas to businesses including Durrell Wildlife Park in Jersey and Hauser & Wirth art gallery in Somerset, can advise on planning permission, green finance and how to fit out tents. Longlands in north Devon hosts regular seminars providing advice on setting up a glamping site.