Plush bedding, proper loos and some seriously good food credentials. From farm stays to tipis, tree houses to tents with fully kitted kitchens, glamping provides a brilliant getaway for families.
Camp out in style on the Isles of Scilly’s only dairy farm, in immaculately appointed bell tents, overlooking a white sandy beach. Tents sleep two to four people and come with pots, pans, a camping stove, proper crockery, cutlery and utensils, plus a cool box and free ice-pack service. Pre-order a hamper from the farm shop for farm-reared pork and beef, plus the creamiest dairy produce from Troytown’s Jersey and Ayrshire cows. The un-homogenised milk, live yogurt and decadent ice cream (30 flavours, but hard to go past the clotted cream) are worth writing home about. Local shops and honesty boxes are replete with seasonal fruit and veg, apple juice, free-range eggs, local crab and lobster.
How to get there: Ferry from Penzance to the main island of St Mary’s (2 hours 45 mins) for cracking views of the Cornish coast, plus the chance to spot dolphins and basking sharks. Then take one of the thrice daily water taxis to tiny St Agnes.
Price: It costs from £415 to rent a bell tent for four people for seven nights, or from £61 a night.
For more information visit: Troytown
La Grande Noe, Normandy, France
Best for tree houses and cider
A 300-acre family-run château estate in the little-known Le Perche region of Normandy looks très impressionnant out front, but in the forest behind, you’ll find a rustic hamlet of six eco award-winning tree houses designed to look somewhere between a medieval castle and Captain Hook’s galleon. Normandy is cider country, so you can steady vertigo-induced nerves with a glass of the farm’s own deep amber variety. A bottle can be winched up to your terrace, along with local cheeses, honey, bread, cloudy apple juice and salads – the latter lovingly made by the owner. Inside you’ll find gnarly branches curling to create a fantasy of bunk beds, nooks and love seats, plus discreet compost loos (showers are in the smartly converted 14th-century stone chicken house). Agnès is on hand to recommend restaurants, including friendly Le Bistrot des Loups, opposite the monumental 15th-century church in nearby Longny-au-Perche. The bistro also delivers for treetop dining, but it’s worth eating out to best appreciate its indulgent moules frites.
How to get there: The nearest ferry is to Caen or Le Havre (a two-hour drive), and Paris is a two-hour drive away.
Price: Tree houses at La Grande Noe cost from €131 (£102) a night for a two-person house, and €280 (£218) for a four-person house. The price includes breakfast delivered via a winched-up hamper.
For more information visit: La Grande Noe
Feather Down Moor Farm, Gloucestershire
Best for experiencing a working farm
This is child heaven, but for adults it’s a particularly foodie stay. Set in the glorious Gloucestershire countryside, Moor Farm is a quiet, get-away-from-it-all place but with plenty for everyone to do. The kids can be kept busy with farm chores, and there’s a swimming pool if it’s warm. Spanking-fresh eggs can be collected in the communal chicken coop (as long as the hens are feeling happy), and you can buy a breakfast hamper in the farm shop with excellent bread and great produce. The rose veal burgers are standouts – ideal for barbecues. During the week there’s wood-fired pizza night (with cider). The farmer’s son, Mathew, is a trained chef and he hosts events including hog roasts and Double Gloucester cheese tastings. The canal into Gloucester is a walkable distance, with boating and fishing available, along with a number of pubs, including the Ship Inn gastropub.
How to get there: accommodation is in safari-style Canvas Lodges with wooden floors, kitchenettes and outside stoves. Choose a Frills Lodge for an ensuite bathroom, veranda and barbecue.
Price: prices start at £399 for a four-night stay in a Frills Lodge; all lodges can sleep a maximum of six people (five adults and one child up to 12 years old) and include a double bed, bunkbed and cupboard bed.
For more information visit: Feather Down
Choose from six traditional yurts and three Sioux Native American tipis scattered through woodland, all decked with proper beds, cosy rugs and wood-burning heaters. This is a real dingly dell, discreetly fenced in, so it’s safe for children to roam free, with a hippy festival aesthetic and 1950s caravan kitsch-style share-kitchens. It’s shady in the woods, so pack fleecy layers even in summer. There are materials for den-making, giant tyre swings, towering trees to climb and trails to explore. Hooting, low-flying owls bring dusk some Harry Potter magic, while parents can fall under the spell of holistic therapies in the woodland treatment room. Order a seasonal veg box from Carey Organic at the neighbouring White Thorn Farm and discover the secrets of cider-making at Westons Cider Visitor Centre. There are three good pubs within easy walking distance; for Sunday lunch, the aptly named Cottage of Content is a must – try the roast topside of Hereford beef.
Price: A three-night weekend stay costs £295 for a tipi sleeping four to six, £310 for a yurt (four to five people), and £330 for a yurt (four to six).
For more information visit: Woodland Tipi and Yurts
Check into one of eight Sioux tipis, hand-painted with traditional Native American designs and decked out with beanbags, faux fur rugs and proper beds. They’re set in a two-acre meadow, part of 23 acres of meadowland, fields and woodland, five miles from the East Sussex coast. You can cook breakfast on the campfire (or gas stove; all utensils and crockery are provided) with home-produced, free-range sausages, bacon and eggs. Local pubs, which are about a 20-minute walk away, include the Lamb Inn and The Farm @ Friday Street. Despite the digital-age name of the latter, it's set in a 17th-century farmhouse and serves everything from afternoon tea to dinner and brunch. Big Sky’s site was selected for its lack of light pollution, so – weather allowing – expect plenty of starry nights.
Price: Tipis sleeping four to six start from £90 for two nights.
For more information visit: Big Sky Tipi Holidays
An early adopter of the trend for family attractions to offer accommodation, Port Lympne Safari Park recently added tree houses to its glamping set-up of eco pods, safari tents and lodges. Set on a tree-lined escarpment, the new cabins come with a fully kitted kitchen-diner (milk, biscuits, tea and coffee are provided), a bathroom, two bedrooms and a wrap-around wooden terrace, from which rhinos, zebras and giraffes can be seen roaming the Kent ‘savannah’. On a clear day you can also see the outline of France across the Channel. Don’t want to self-cater? Enjoy a glass of sparkling rosé in the private clubhouse for tree house guests, then dine either in the estate’s eccentric red brick manor house (where Churchill used to hold decadent soirées) or at the Livingstone Lodge, which overlooks Port Lympne’s watering hole. Watch buffalo and wildebeest gather to drink as you enjoy a four-course, African-inspired dinner cooked on an open fire pit. Rise early before the park opens and watch your rhino neighbours having their breakfast as you enjoy yours.
Price: Tree houses sleeping four cost from £300 a night (two-night minimum stay at weekends), which includes access to Port Lympne Reserve and sister zoo Howletts, and safari trips.
For more information visit: Port Lympne
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