Time out in a tipi, holidaying in a horsebox or vacationing in a camper van - sleeping under the stars has never been so fun, so glamorous or offered so much choice - as Sebastian Oak discovers


IT wasn’t so very long ago when, if you announced to your friends or colleagues you were going to spend your summer holiday in a yurt or a tipi, you’d have received raised eyebrows or ill-concealed smirks. Certainly if you’d said you were staying in a horsebox, an Iron Age hut or a shipping container, people would have thought you quite mad.

How times change. Now glamorous camping, or glamping for short, has soared in popularity. People who once chose a holiday cottage are now opting for something a bit more quirkier their choice forming part of the holiday story, while traditional campers (trampers’ perhaps) are being lured out of their hike tents with the promise of more space and greater luxury.

The essential ingredients of glamping are proving irresistible: rustic but comfortable living in a beautiful spot that allows you to cosy up to nature outside and with a wood-stove inside. Who can resist a bit of lounging around and experimenting with campfire cooking, followed by marshmallow-toasting, star-gazing and then falling asleep to the sound of an occasional owl hoot? It’s all a welcome release from the stresses of modern life.

The south west is, of course, more or less the nation’s heartland for glamping, with Cornwall offering a huge variety of outdoors-focused accommodation. Amongst the many places on our doorstep – but effectively part of a parallel world – is Yurts Cornwall at Tremeer Farm, not far in from the coast between Polruan and Polperro. There, on their small livestock farm, Rob and Sara Williamson have four Mongolian-style yurts, each sleeping up to five.


The site has been running for eight years. We bought a run-down but beautiful old farm and then wondered what more we could do with it,’ says Rob. We came up with posh camping – that was before the word glamping even existed! Some years before, I’d done a car rally from London to Beijing and saw yurts being used by nomadic families in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. It made me think seriously about doing it here. Mind you, our own yurts are a little different – over there they were covered in hairy yak skins!’

Inside each yurt at Tremeer Farm is a wood-burning stove and outside is a fire pit with tripod stand from which to hang your pot of campfire stew or barbecue grill. There are additional shared kitchens, showers and toilets, plus a large barn where you can play indoor badminton, table tennis or skittles if the weather turns wet.

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On the other side of the county, at Mithian near St Agnes, is Tree of Life Organics. As glamping was taking off in Cornwall and elsewhere, Marie Welsh and Sylvia Carthew were also thinking about doing something different. Already successful organic vegetable growers, they were running a local box scheme supplying up to 200 households at their peak. For ten years they lived in a converted horsebox built on a 1972 Bedford lorry but then decided to move out into an eco-cabin.

The horsebox was getting dilapidated,’ explains Marie. But we thought why not bring it back to life, do it up and let others come and share our space and experience organic food too?’ It helped that Sylvia was a trained carpenter and today the mahogany structure is an attractive living space for two, with extra camping space available outside. The bed is in the Luton space above the cab and there is a small kitchen area at the far end with a sofa drawn up in front of a wood-burner in the centre. In common with a lot of other glamping accommodation, there is no mains electricity, helping you resist the call of any modern gadgetry.


It’s simple but cosy,’ says Marie. And you can open up the big door and all of a sudden your space becomes much larger.’ Outside are a compost loo – a poo with a view’ says Marie – and a shower, and there is a wood-fired rocket’ stove to cook on.

The horsebox sits in a small area of woodland on Marie and Sylvia’s small-holding, where five poly tunnels and outdoor areas are used to grow tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, sweetcorn, aubergines, chillis, blueberries, gooseberries and more.

Bookings tend to flood in early for the horsebox, so what makes it so appealing? A lot of people comment on the fact they’ve got their own space and it’s totally private,’ says Marie. Guests get a welcome box of organic fruit, veg and eggs and they can also pick their own produce from the poly tunnels.

People like going back to how things used to be. It suits a couple who just want to escape from the rat race – there have been several proposals and honeymoons here!’


At Yurts Cornwall, Rob and Sara find the farm animals are a big draw. Tremeer Farm has a dozen Dexter cows with calves, as well as hens, orphan lambs and a pet Kunekune pig called Rosie. Dexters are small cows and are really quite friendly,’ says Rob. Children can hand-feed and stroke them.

As well as that, collecting fresh eggs for breakfast, bottle-feeding the lambs and feeding Rosie tend to be highlights for many children who come to stay.’

Yurt dwellers get to use the farm’s wood-fired hot-tub too. It takes a lot of wood to keep it going but people love it. We had a family here with three small boys and they spent literally hours in there. We nicknamed them the hot-tub kings.’

During school holidays the yurt site is obviously popular with families but the rest of the time romantic breaks are more usual. When we talk to couples we often find one is very keen on camping and the other isn’t. We’re a happy medium for them. We’re not traditional camping with all the trauma of putting up a tent in the rain – people just show up and everything’s laid out in front of them. We’ve probably saved quite a few marriages!’


The site is also a hit with extended family groups, who can rent out all the yurts and also a more conventional barn conversion - the latter is perhaps with the grandparents in mind and Rob even has a name for this sort of use: gramping’.

Yurts Cornwall and Tree of Life Organics are two sites among many able to inject a little magic into a summer holiday or short break. Glamping is quite the fashion of the moment. It’s also a fast changing world with new types of accommodation appearing year on year, ever more intriguing. There’s no sign we’ll be getting tired of glamping anytime soon.

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Two good reasons to book a stay at Yurts Cornwall or Tree of Life Organics

Readers can get a 20 per cent discount at Yurts Cornwall for mid-week breaks during September 2016 or April and May 2017 by quoting Cornwall Life (excludes school holidays).

Tree of Life Organics is promising a bumper welcome hamper that includes home-made organic jams and chutneys to the first person on or after 1 July 2016 to mention Cornwall Life at the time of booking a stay in the horsebox.


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