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March 19, 2021
By Heidi Fuller-love
Longing to reconnect with nature while spending time with your loved ones? Swap the leaky tent for a treehouse, shepherd’s hut or eco pod, and wake up with the sunrise without having to face the creepy crawlies. Our guide to the best glamping sites in the UK puts a new spin on the idea of 'roughing it'.
Whether you’re a fan of The Fonz, or just fancy a retro getaway, you’ll get your kicks at this peaceful Suffolk site near the historic market town of Saxmundham. At Happy Days Retro Vacations, Dee Dee, Betty and other gleaming vintage US Airstreams caravans will set your IG feed on fire.
On-site you can crack the code (or else!) in one of the site’s war-themed escape rooms or get a big dose of nostalgia watching a classic movie at the Red Shed cinema room. Off-site, you can shop in chic boutiques in the seaside resort of Aldeburgh, sunbathe on Southwold’s soft sand beaches, or take a tour of Adnams Brewery.
If you’ve always wanted to act out those dragons and dungeons fantasies, book a cosy woodland camping pod at Castle Ward, an 18th-century mansion overlooking the swan-dotted waters of Strangford Lough near Belfast, where the first episodes of HBO’s Game of Thrones were filmed.
Follow this walking tour to discover the locations that starred in the show, or explore the lough for yourself in one of Castle Ward’s canoes. Further afield, you can get up close to the local sea life at Exploris Aquarium; sup on brine-fresh seafood, dry-aged steaks and other gourmet fare at Michelin-bib-awarded restaurant Balloo House; or visit the Titanic museum and other world-class sights in buzzing Belfast, an hour’s drive away.
Fancy getting your craft beer fix direct from the source? Stay in one of the lovingly renovated, budget-friendly glamping horseboxes in the sweet-scented hop gardens of Kingstone Brewery, near the Forest of Dean. Here, you can take a tour with owner Ed to learn about the art of brewing and then fire up a barbecue – or treat yourself to one of Ed’s succulent wood-fired pizzas.
Continue the booze-fuelled stay on a kayak trip along the River Wye, where you can stop off at waterfront pubs, then detox mind and body in a relaxing floatation session at Float in the Forest. When you want to explore, the Forest of Dean has plenty of attractions, including heritage centres and butterfly zoos.
Imagine going off-grid as you kick back in a sumptuously converted shipping container overlooking your own private lake (which is also your fridge). With only wild ponies for company, you’ll be surprised that The Lake is less than an hour’s drive from some of Cornwall’s best beaches.
For a quick dip, you can swim in the (chilly) lake, but if you prefer to stay dry, you can pay an extra £75 for a rowing boat or lace up your walking shoes to wander for miles over the wild and lonely Bodmin moors. Want to go further? Hike six miles cross-country to Blisland Inn, where the sumptuous home-cooked food and choice of real ales will make the trek worthwhile.
Other attractions in Cornwall include The Eden Project, where you can whiz along England’s longest zipwire and discover exotic plants, and the Shipwreck & Heritage Centre, where you can gawp at the remains of the Titanic. For seriously good food, visit the charming harbour and gourmet restaurants of foodie-famed Padstow, also less than an hour away by car.
Whether you’d like to organise a unique stag night, invite your hens to go wild in the county or just want to spend time with extended family, this budget-friendly, riverside glamping site, set in ten acres of private land near Kings Lynn, will hit the spot.
On-site, you can play Tarzan and Jane in the forest; hike the vast surrounding web of woodland trails, or fish for brown trout in the river Nar. You’re also close to some of Norfolk’s best attractions: laze on Hunstanton’s gold sand beach, discover 18th-century Holkham Hall where countless films, including The Duchess with Keira Knightley, were filmed, or take a trip to visit England's largest grey seal colony.
Dream of getting up close and personal with tigers? Head for Port Lympne Reserve near the seaside town of Folkestone. Here, you can stay in a cosy lodge, or spacious safari tent situated directly above the animal enclosures. Best of all, your money goes directly back into the conservation work of The Aspinall Foundation.
As for things to do, you can set out on a thrilling Ranger Tour to spot black rhinos, western lowland gorillas and other rare wildlife; stroll through the reserve’s landscaped gardens, or lap up Africa-inspired dishes cooked over an open fire pit at the Giraffe Lodge restaurant.
To discover the surrounding area, hop on the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch steam train, wander along Hythe’s pretty seafront, or hit up the hip boutiques in the cobbled streets of Folkestone's Creative Quarter.
If you fancy the idea of surfing surrounded by lofty mountains, or going underground to explore one of the globe’s longest artificial caving courses, Surf Snowdonia Adventure Parc’s glamping pods are for you.
With spectacular views over the world’s first inland surf lagoon (and plenty of hot tubs for soaking après surf), this one’s all about getting active, both on-site and off. In the Parc, take surf lessons; test your skills in the Crash & Splash lagoon; or find your inner Bear Grylls on a netted aerial assault course at the site’s Adrenaline Outdoors centre.
Outside of it, you can hire a mountain bike to take challenging trails in Coed Y Brenin forest park, explore the spectacular Snowdonia National Park, or discover the world’s longest underground zipline at Go Below.
Chill with stunning sea views in your own bright and breezy pod at Lochhouses, a working farm an hour’s drive from Edinburgh where you’ll wake to the sounds of roosters crowing. For £10 extra, you can rent your own chicken coop, complete with hen, or rent a steed from a neighbouring farm and gallop through the surf on horseback – golden beaches are just minutes away.
Further afield, you can sip Scotch single malt whisky on a Glenkinchie Distillery tour; seek the fabled treasure of the Knights Templar in Rosslyn, the chapel where The Da Vinci Code was filmed; or explore the cobbled café- and shop-lined streets of the Scottish capital.