In summer, Britain is awash not only in rain, but also in outdoor music festivals—not what most would consider a happy combination. Presented with the challenge of appealing to an increasing number of more mature festival-goers (often accompanied by small children) who could no longer face sheltering from the wet in a tent or dealing with Port-O-Sans, over the past decade festivals have started offering more luxurious accommodations: portable structures such as yurts or tipis, complete with solar showers, toilets, and back-friendly beds.
Now the trend, known as "glamping", has been widely adopted by the tourism industry. So if you want to go back to nature in a beautiful location without giving up all the comforts of home—and maybe even gaining some—this may be a welcome alternative.
Priory Bay, Isle of Wight
Tucked away on this elegant country house hotel’s 60 acres of grounds encompassing lawns, woodland, and beach are locally-made luxury yurts— water-resistant plastic domes stretched over wooden frames with a skylight at the top, modeled on the Mongolian originals. Each yurt has a lockable stable door, king-sized bed, sofa, rugs, deck, and separate wood-floored bathrooms with either shower or bath and flushing loo. There is electricity, but no TV or Wi-Fi—the views of the surrounding woodland glade and the Solent beyond make up for it, however. You also have access to the hotel’s swimming pool, tennis courts, and restaurant, though you can arrange to have meals delivered to your deck. Open May–Sept only. From £200/night.
Wild Luxury, Norfolk
It’s a tent, Jim, but not as we know it. Staying in one of Wild Luxury's spacious canvas safari lodges does not mean roughing it, as they come equipped with kitchen area, wood-powered stoves, dining table, coolbox, deck, breakfast fixings, comfortable bedrooms, and, in a separate cabin, sinks, power showers, and flushing toilets. There’s no electricity, but a combination of oil and solar-powered lamps keep things bright. Real beds plus pillows and duvets are provided, but linens are BYO (though these can be provided at a small extra charge, as can casseroles in containers). Lodges are situated in beautiful countryside settings near the wide beaches of the Norfolk coast. Open Mar–Oct. From £395/3 nights.
Dome Garden, Gloucestershire
Located in the atmospheric and relatively undeveloped Forest of Dean, this collection of geodesic domes with Astroturf flooring combine the pegs and zippers of traditional camping with glamping’s real beds, flushing toilets, insulation, and showers, along with an indoor wood-burning stove for heating, an outdoor "rocket" stove for cooking, and a wood-fired boiler for hot water (you collect your own wood and feed it yourself). Children will be especially taken with the pizza nights, the site’s wandering free-range chickens, the rope swings, and the forest’s many bike paths. They'll also likely prefer to sleep in one of the cocoon-like hanging canvas pods rather than an actual bed. From £345/4 nights.
Part rustic retreat, part Bond-villain lair, these open-plan ecopods aimed at couples rather than families offer luxury touches like designer furniture (Eames recliners, Ligne Rosset sofas), handmade kitchens, organic cotton sheets, cedar bathrooms with hot-water showers, wood-pellet stoves, sheepskin throws, and Japanese cedar hot tubs on the deck. There is electricity, so digital TV and WiFi, as well as lamps, are provided, but you’ll probably spend most of your time looking at the spectacular view over Loch Linnhe towards mountains and coastline. Guests are greeted with a hamper containing staples like eggs, bread, and milk, as well as local delicacies like Loch Linnhe scallops and handmade chocolates. Oh, and a decanter of Scotch whiskey. From £386/3 nights.
Atlantic Surf Pods, Cornwall
Cornwall is the epicenter of the UK’s thriving surf scene, and these ovoid, green-roofed wood huts are on a 26-acre farm close to surfing hotspot Bude and five beaches. Each Atlantic Surf Pod contains a king-sized bed, solar-powered lighting (but no electricity or WiFi), coolbox, cooking utensils, beanbag, underfloor heating, and deck with gas-fired barbeque, plus separate wet-room cabins with flushing loos, sink, and cold shower (hot showers are available in a communal bathroom near the main farmhouse). Somewhat incongruously, the farm also hosts a vintage diner imported from New Jersey serving fresh, local food. Tip: The doors have hasps but no locks, so bring a padlock along with your surfboard. From £75/night.
Photo Credits: Priory Bay, Isle of Wight: Courtesy of The Priory Bay Hotel; Wild Luxury, Norfolk: Courtesy of Wild Luxury; Dome Garden, Gloucestershire: Courtesy of The Dome Garden; Ecopod, Argyll: Courtesy of Ecopod; Atlantic Surf Pods, Cornwall: Courtesy of Atlantic Surf Pods