Why glamping in Herts is booming

With the romance of a Victorian safari adventure, Home Farm has luxury tipis and yurts on a 150-acre site

With the romance of a Victorian safari adventure, Home Farm has luxury tipis and yurts on a 150-acre site - Credit: Home Farm Glamping

A consequence of the pandemic has been our rediscovery of the great outdoors and staycations - even in normally overlooked Herts as a rise in luxury camping shows, writes Sebastian Oake

Imagine the scene. You are taking it easy with your loved one, friends or family in a beautiful corner of the countryside, perhaps a woodland clearing, a field with lingering views or a riverside meadow. The sun is sinking gently. There is a bottle of wine open and maybe you are sitting round a campfire, the smell of wood smoke hanging sweetly in the air. Is that marshmallows toasting? The first stars appearing? A story beginning?  

Welcome to the world of glamping. Ok, it’s hardly new but it is thriving due to the restrictions on travel over the past couple of years and positioning itself as a preferred choice of staycation for an increasing number.   

So, what can you expect? Glamping is a bit like camping but without the inconvenience of having to put up a tent in a race against nightfall and then waking up with a stiff back in the morning. It recalls the days of extravagant safaris conducted by wealthy Victorian explorers when weary porters shouldered all sorts of items not strictly necessary for survival, like a gramophone, and a drinks cabinet. Glamping throws everything, including the kitchen sink, at the experience of outdoor living.  

In fact, it now embraces a broad church from tents - bell, tipis, yurts, lodge and safari - to shepherd’s huts, gypsy caravans, log cabins, hobbit huts, treehouses, Iron Age-style roundhouses and even upcycled shipping containers, converted double deckers and old aircraft.

And standards have risen dramatically, whether you opt for a down-to-earth experience or go top drawer, with many sites also offering activities that make the most of the outdoorsy life. 

You no longer need to head to the corners of the British Isles, like Cornwall or west Wales either, you can go glamping pretty much anywhere. Think our own dear county is not a holiday destination? Think again. There are a growing number of glamping sites right here on our doorstep pulling the London crowd out to our countryside and those Herts folk wanting a holiday without the hassle, or environmental impact, of travel.
Home Farm Glamping near Elstree is just three miles from the London Underground, a selling point they make much of. On a family farm, increasingly looking to diversify, there are four yurts and eight bell tents, in 150 acres of private woodland, fields and lakes.

Interior of glamping tent with double bed looking out over Hertfordshire countryside

Waking up, glamping style, at Home Farm - Credit: Home Farm Glamping

They all come with an outdoor seating area, firepit and barbecue and there are communal kitchen, bathroom and toilet facilities. You can bring your own food or you can take breakfast in the Meadow Café or order breakfast or barbecue boxes to prepare back at your own space. 

General manager Alice Darby says: ‘For us, nothing quite beats a night under canvas. It brings you closer to nature and to one another. The classic bell tent is reminiscent of childhood camping trips but has those comforts and touches that create an elevated camping experience. Yurts provide our guests with more space for lounging, dining and sleeping.’ 

The site is ideal for families. The yurts sleep up to five and the bell tents four. There is a play-fort in the woods and many activities on offer. 

‘At the heart of everything we do is trying to create an experience where wellbeing meets wildlife,’ says Alice. ‘We work closely with charities such as Wilderness Foundation UK and the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust to host bushcraft sessions and bat walks. This year we also have Tiny T’s Theatre, bug hotel building, tree climbing, yoga, archery, massages in the meadow and even wine tasting and art workshops on offer. And in June we will have a circus on-site!’ 

The beauty of glamping is that no two sites are the same. On Lower Farm near Buntingford, you will find Daisy Cabin. Built largely from reclaimed materials and solar-powered, this bolt-hole for two is on a 26-acre farm with chickens, geese and horses. Inside the cabin is a wood-burner and kitchen but you can also cook outside on the barbecue or firepit.  

Daisy Cabin, a rustic escape in countryside near Buntingford 

Daisy Cabin, a rustic escape in countryside near Buntingford - Credit: Jody Salmon

Owner Jody Salmon says it attracts all-comers: ‘Our guests range from the younger to the older, those who are more experienced with the simplicities of off-grid living and those for whom this is a new experience. What they all have in common is that they wish for some private space and time away from the daily grind of busy life. 

'People love the privacy and tranquillity of Daisy Cabin. Some guests enjoy visiting local areas whilst others simply enjoy doing nothing more than watching the wild fallow deer on the fields surrounding the cabin, looking at the grass sway in the breeze in the orchard or listening to the rain on the tin roof, whilst sitting next to the cosy wood-burning stove.’  

There again, you could try one of the two Mongolian yurts in the wonderfully-named hamlet of Gubblecote near Tring at the foot of the Chilterns. They each sleep up to five and come with private toilet and shower facilities, a wood-burner inside and a firepit and barbecue outside. Breakfast baskets and barbecue boxes are available, and reflexology, aromatherapy and massage are offered.  

Interior of Mongolian yurt glamping tent

One of the two yurts handmade in Mongolia at Chiltern Yurts - Credit: Chiltern Yurts 

‘We are very proud of our yurts,’ says Emma McMunn, who runs Chiltern Yurts. ‘Red Kite and Golden Pheasant are imported directly from Mongolia, where they are handmade and painted in the most gorgeous designs.

Each is topped by a clear crown that allows you to gaze at the moonlit sky or, in the morning, enables the sun to stream in. The five layers of canvas and cosy wood-burner provide warmth all year round. And we love the beautifully decorated solid wooden doors, which have their own lock and key.’ 

Since opening last summer Emma says they've had ‘fabulous guests’, ranging from working couples escaping city life for a weekend, to families wanting the outdoor experience and local attractions to visit, such as Whipsnade Zoo or the Harry Potter Studios. 

Glamping is more popular now than ever but is there a cloud in the sky for glampers - the Great British weather, that notorious spoiler of so much outdoors? Not a bit of it. Just retreat into your inner sanctum – whatever form that takes – and watch it all  pass by.  

Eight great glamping sites 

Home Farm Glamping, homefarmglamping.com  
Daisy Cabin, daisycabin.com  
Chiltern Yurts, chilternyurts.com  
Safari tent and pods at Foxholes Farm near Hertford, foxholesfarm.com  
Bell tents at Three Lakes Glamping, Paynes Hall near Hertford, threelakesglamping.co.uk 
Cabins and bell tents at Aldenham Country Park near Elstree, aldenhamcountrypark.co.uk  
Cabins and bell tents at Church Farm, Ardeley near Stevenage, churchfarmardeley.co.uk  
Huts and treehouses at North Hill Farm near Chorleywood, northhillfarm.co.uk   

Remember… Not all glamping sites offer all the facilities you may be looking for. Before booking, check what’s offered and any extras you might need to take.