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Our top picks: ‘Glampsites’

Glamping, born amid the new-age hedonism of music festivals, natured on the back-to-nature ideals and then propelled in to the public psyche by Kate Moss, colourful Hunter wellies and Cath Kidston trappings and a few fur throws.

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Whatever your definition is, glamping is a means of enjoying the outdoor, natural, 'something a little different' benefits of camping, while still enjoying a degree of comfort, or even luxury. But above all, it should meet your expectations and, quite simply, be fun.

A brief history

While the term 'glamping' was first coined in the UK in 2005, the concept has been around for centuries, since the days of Kublai Khan's normadic Xandadu, the first really famous glamper's paradise. His lavish but mobile dwellings featured luxury trappings (though Kath Kidston adornments weren't his thing as far as we know).

Yurt at sunrise

Fast forward to the Edwardian era and we find they too saw the appeal of the great outdoors, but with a certain comfort guaranteed. One Edwardian household was renowned for elaborate camping excursions, with pils of equipment and even a large harmonium as essential kit. Like modern glampers, they aimed to make themselves comfortable byt 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".

Perhaps the most glamourous of glamping examples in history has to be the Field of the Cloth of Gold, a summit held near Calais, France (then part of England) to improve the relationship between King Henry VIII of England and King Francis I of France following the Anglo-French treaty of 1514. In a game of one-upmanship the kings both put on lavish feasts and jousting tornaments, they provided music and exceptional accommodation in the form of luxurious gold cloth tents. Henry even constructed a temporary palace of cloth and timber, painted to look like brick, with exceptional furnishings of pure gold and fountains of red wine.

Field of the Cloth of Gold

So, while you can't expect golden canvas tents and red wine on tap like King Henry VIII, the fundamental appeal of modern camping has remained constant since the days of the 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 the 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.

A brief guide to glamping

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.

Yurts

Perhaps the epitome of glamping, these substantial structures provide the feel, but not the whiff, of the Mongolian nomad.

Teepees

The iconic silhouette as dusks falls puts kids of all ages under the spell of a little Native Indian magic.

Safari tents

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.

Canadian tent

Very similar to the safari tent, but decidely retro in style and with a 'frontier' feel about them.

Cahuttes

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 a wood burning stove and trapdoor to the stairs.

Roulottes

Based on the traditional Romany-style horse-drawn 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.

Wooden cabins

Similar in concept to certain gites, these are made of timber and come equipped with all mod-cons. Wood burning stoves and dishwashers are not uncommon, and some even have mezzanine levels too.

Treehouses

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.

Camping pods

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 camping equipment.

Airstream caravans

The iconic silver bullet-shaped caravans, steeped in rootsy road trips of vintage Americana, are occasionally found available to hire on European campsites.


Alan Rogers selected glamping sites:

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