Break the routine
But is this the true picture? Well, no. Glamping has really been around for centuries, since the days of Kublai Khan’s Xanadu, the first really famous glamper’s paradise. His lavish summer dwellings were the epitome of ‘home away from home’, though Cath Kidston adornments were not his thing, as far as we know.
Like modern glampers, they aimed to make themselves comfortable but without losing the essential appeal of the outdoor, ‘in touch with nature’ experience. As an old camping sage of the times observed, “We do not go into the woods to rough it, we go to smooth it”.
So the fundamental appeal of modern camping has remained constant since the days of these early Edwardian ‘gentleman’ travellers: the enjoyment of the open air and the great outdoors, the chance to get up close and personal to nature and the desire to explore beautiful surroundings. Also, frankly, the opportunity to break with usual routines and just do something a little different from everyday life – simple premises that are just as relevant today as they were over 100 years ago.
Modern glamping is a wonderful twist in the tale of camping: while the core ideal is no different from that of previous generations, it does breathe new life into a pursuit we all know and love.
But consider carefully what kind of glamping experience you wish for. Often, we hear from would-be purist glampers who, while enjoying the novelty of their glamping accommodation, find that the children miss having other kindred sprits to play with, a swimming pool to splash around in and all the hubbub and activities that only a well-run campsite can provide.
Glamping with a twist
So how glamorous is glamping? Well this can vary: it might be a lavishly constructed yurt with solid wood floor, fur throws, log burner, insulated walls and sprung beds.
Purists may expect their glamping experience to include a daily visit to the farm to collect freshly laid eggs, but there are plenty of places where you can expect to find more going on for families – after all, the excitement of collecting eggs can only last so long.
The trick is to tread carefully: one man’s romantic ideal is another’s abject misery.
We are familiar with stories of disappointment among those for whom the glamping sizzle promised more than it delivered. You may fancy something a little different but do not necessarily want to share your space with a fragrant alpaca, or find yourself on a far-flung hillside with no immediate neighbours. Problems can arise when high expectations of romantic surroundings, idyllic locations and a unique environment are not met – or, indeed, are washed away by the cold shower of a reality check.
Luckily, there are now many places that offer you the opportunity to glamp and still benefit from the buzz of a campsite. The novelty of camping with a few creature comforts is combined with the activities, great facilities and interaction with like-minded people that only comes from staying on a well-run site. You also benefit from the knowledge of the reception team – walking and cycling routes, the best local attractions and which restaurants to visit are all things they can help with, ensuring you get the best from your holiday.
A child’s eye view
Campsite life is made for children. They love the freedom, the space and the ability to run around and explore in a safe environment. There’s also ample opportunity for getting grubby and the chances of a bath are slim, which is even better news for most under 12s.
They can play hide and seek, create dens and make new friends, and at the end of the day parents can see their little treasures sleeping soundly in the fresh air (after staying up later than usual, of course!).
It’s a cliché, but if the kids are happy, Mum and Dad are happy too. Glamping is about doing what you want, when you want. Take a midday wander around the campsite and you’ll find children splashing in the pool, toddlers enjoying the swings before lunch; some excited jabbering in the distance might herald a treasure hunt.
Over in the corner, under a shady tree, parents recline in companionable silence, quietly getting stuck into their paperbacks.
For some it’s barbecue time, for others it’s not long since they were breakfasting in pyjamas. Some, young and old, are getting ready for an afternoon nap, while others are planning a trip to the beach, a pony ride, an ice cream treat… There are choices for everyone and it really doesn’t matter, there’s no fixed itinerary – this is glamping.
Glamping with real comforts
Glamping may be all about going back to basics but it is very much about comfort and luxury too.
Life in the easy lane
On a glamping holiday the necessities of everyday life ensure a relaxed pace. You’ll quickly establish your own daily rhythms and it’s good to know there are no hotel restrictions, no formalities and no set meal times to conform to.
It’s a refreshing change of pace, a liberating opportunity to break from the daily domestic routine. It’s a chance to take time out, enjoy some breathing space and remind yourself of life’s simple pleasures, whether it’s enjoying a late night drink under the stars or racing the kids down the waterslides.
With glamping, so much is new and unfamiliar. There’s always the excitement and anticipation of arriving at your campsite – home for the holiday. Setting up camp, meeting the neighbours and getting organised is always fun. Then there’s unpacking all the outdoor games and trying to play everything at once, then clamouring for a swim, or an ice cream… probably both. But gradually the excitement settles down and you get into the swing of it.
Handing over some coins, saying ‘Hello’ or ‘Bonjour’ and returning to base without nibbling too much is often a small milestone in the early years.
The washing up ritual is peculiar to camping. At home this is no more than the routine drudgery of everyday life, but on a campsite somehow it can become part of a family bonding exercise, enlivened by banter at the sinks with your neighbours. Kids seem to love it!
How do you glamp?
There is a huge range of accommodation that falls into the glamping ‘camp’.
So pack your bags and try something a little different: all the joys and benefits of traditional campsite life, with a chance to experience a taste of sleeping somewhere innovative. Of course by their nature these forms of accommodation are immensely varied and individual.
Part of their appeal is their lack of consistency – so don’t assume that what you get with one yurt applies to all yurts.
What are your options?
Perhaps the epitome of glamping, these substantial structures provide the feel, but not the whiff, of the Mongolian nomad.
The iconic silhouette as dusk falls puts boys of all ages under the spell of a little Native Indian magic.
Large family tents, with separate canvas compartment ‘rooms’, and equipped with all the usual domestic paraphenalia. Usually on a raised platform deck and with a covered porch from where you can recline and survey the passers-by.
Very similar to the safari tent, but decidedly retro in style and with a ‘frontier’ feel about them.
Relatively new on the glamping scene, these combine the sturdy timber structure of a cabin with the novelty and romance of a canvas roof, allowing bedtime star gazing on balmy nights. They come with wood burning stove and trapdoor to the stairs.
Based on the traditional Romany-style horsedrawn caravans of yester-year, these offer similar levels of comfort to a modern mobile home but with a large feature window that opens out on to a raised terrace on the end.
Similar in concept to certain gites, these are made of timber and come equipped with all mod cons – apart from the usual equipment, woodburning stoves and dishwashers are not uncommon – and some have mezzanine levels too.
Mobile homes with a twist
Some progressive campsites now offer more imaginative mobile homes, enhanced with quirky features. You may find hot tubs, four poster beds, even roll top baths, in addition to the high spec features of a contemporary mobile home.
Great fun and a real novelty, these are usually single-roomed, with wooden steps up to the canopy. On some campsites, breakfast is brought to your treehouse and you haul it up in a wicker basket on a long rope. Made of timber and most definitely evoking a Tarzan lifestyle, they are, obviously, not for the infirm.
The iconic silver bullet-shaped caravans, steeped in rootsy road trips of vintage Americana, are occasionally found available to hire on European campsites.
Uniquely shaped and sensibly constructed, these are generally fairly Spartan in terms of fittings (electricity is usually provided, but you are likely to need bedding and other equipment). They are immensely varied and individual, meaning you’ll never have the same experience twice.
France, Val de Loire, Eure-et-Loir, Senonches
France, Aquitaine, Dordogne, Nojals-et-Clotte
France, Midi-Pyrénées, Ariège, Manses