Carry On Glamping!!

I have a friend who, every summer, goes camping. And she hates it. But she goes because her beloved, her boy and her best friends love it. And because she's no party pooper. But I have to say I've some sympathy with her. The idea of sleeping on the floor, in a bag, with only a thin bit of canvas separating me from insects, wild animals and inclement weather? No thanks! Oh it all sounds very appealing. On the face of it being at one with nature, in the peace and quiet and all that country air? It sounds perfect! All very pioneery and adventurous. But that's just the idea of it, in reality camping seems, to me at least, well, hard work.

Granted I've never actually been 'proper' camping, but, as a youngster, I once slept overnight in a tent on the lawn. I barely slept a wink. Disturbed by visits from the neighbourhood cats, various unidentified noises from the adjoining allotments and the wind whistling through the trees, I didn't nod off until just before dawn and was woken a few minutes later by the early birds out catching their worms. The enforced use of the spider-ridden outside loo just about finished me off. I knew then, aged 10, that full-on camping was never going to be my thing.

Which is a pity. Because I like being out in the countryside. I like sharing a bottle and a barbie with friends. Like evenings under the stars listening to Edith Piaf and cozying by a bonfire. I even like doing it when it's cold outside. But I can't say I've ever been tempted to actually go camping. I'm just a little too fond of my room service. Well, fluffy mattresses and indoor plumbing at least. But at the hairdressers the other week I happened upon a type of camping I'd never really considered, or even realised existed. Because there was a colour magazine supplement absolutely full of ideas for 'Glamping'. Glamorous camping? Now that sounded a lot more up my streets. And I spent the entire 30 minutes it took for my colour to 'take' absorbing every detail of what was on offer. 

Did you know, for instance, that here in the UK it's possible to spend the night in a traditional 1930s bowtop Romany caravan and adjoining cottage converted from old stables? The Roulotte Retreat lies in the Scottish Borders also offers several French roulottes or caravans as accommodation. What could be more romantic?  If you'd always fancied running away with the circus or fair, how about the Mollycroft near Catterick? But with all the mod-cons. This place might well have been lovingly converted from a 1940s showman's van, but boasts gas hobs, mains power and even wi-fi! If you prefer a bit of the outdoors there's a firepit and barbecue outside.  At Westfield Farm in Norfolk stands an original shepherd's rest complete with sheep for neighbours, although thankfully perhaps, safely separated from the hut by a wooden fence. It's tiny, but don't worry the bathroom, shower and loo are located just a few feet away and disguised as a summer house.

If you, like me, fell in love with Elsa the Lion and the wonderful books of Joy Adamson, you'll doubtless appreciate Lochhouses Farm in East Lothian where several large safari-style tents offer spacious and luxurious accommodation for up to eight people. With wood-burning stoves and ovens, Belfast sinks with hot and cold running water and real beds. And you're both on a farm and right by the beach. Now this is my kind of camping!

All manner of glamping accommodation is on offer in the UK. Among the most popular are yurts – Mongolian-style round tents and tipis – yes, like the Native Americans used. But luxury bell tents like the ones at Belle Glamping in Wales. The Featherdown Farm locations across the country offer a more realistic camping experience. While you do have running water and proper beds, you are still camping and have to do much of the work yourself. But with a days-gone-by theme to their farms, you'll soon be getting right in the spirit and it's a kind of 'roughing it' even I'd be happy to cope with! If tents aren't your thing there are lodges and pods, ecohomes, vintage caravans, houseboats or even surf shacks to choose from. 

But my two personal favourites allow me to indulge in two entirely separate fantasies. Firstly the Lodge at Eden Hall near Penrith in the Lake District. It's a log cabin beside a river and surrounded by trees. What more could you want? Well a proper bed to begin with and you get one complete with romantic quilt. A big plus for luxury lovers everywhere, it has a fully equipped kitchen (with a dishwasher!), a log burner and central heating, so you're not really roughing it at all. Add in the option of bringing in your own personal chef to cook for you, a ready-filled hamper waiting for you and your own masseuse to ease away the stresses of the day's hiking and you might as well be royalty. All while pretending to be Laura Ingalls Wilder. For the other you need to go up a notch or two, literally. The Treehouse at Harptree Court fulfills all those Ewok fantasies. Nestled high in the tree canopy the treehouse is an ideal romantic retreat and sleeps just two. Adults only are allowed, probably a good idea given the elevated position. A woodburning stove provides warmth and there's a king-size bed, a copper bath and even a flushing loo. The living area boast comfy seats, wi-fi, a DAB clock complete with iPod dock and a kitchen with cooker, hob, fridge and dishwasher and there's a verandah too. 
Now, I don't know about you, but I'm pretty sure even the most camping-phobe among us might just be a little bit tempted by the idea of a bit of luxury. I know I am.

Many of the glamping options mentioned in this feature can be found at Canopy & Stars and/or Glamping UK