Treehouses: We've opened a new branch

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Treehouses can provide a rustic retreat or luxury among the leaves, says Rhiannon Batten

What's the attraction?

From gourmet jellybeans in hotel minibars, to Connect Four and Trivial Pursuit in the lounges of boutique B&Bs, the hospitality industry has become sentimental about youth-evoking "frills". Now treehouses – once the preserve of excitable children – are fair game for adults, too. They take the nostalgic trend a step further, stirring an immediate sense of playfulness, not to mention the feeling of calm and wellbeing experienced by sleeping within creepy-crawling distance of nature – all without having to set foot in a tent.



Family trees

If you go down to the woods at Center Parcs' Sherwood Forest site this summer you'll be in for a surprise. Not only are there three new four-bedroom treehouses there, but they each come with dishwashers, games dens, hot tubs and Wi-Fi. Three-night breaks start at £2,249 for up to eight guests (0844 826 7723; www.centerparcs.co.uk). Further afield, six of Keycamp's French campsites – including Carnac Grand Metairie in Brittany, Le Château des Marais in the Loire and Le Val de Bonnal in Jura – offer more basic treehouse cottages, sleeping up to six. Rates for these start at £155 per treehouse for a three-night stay, including ferry crossings (0844 406 0200; www.keycamp.co.uk).



Nordic cool

If it's style you're after, look north. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Scandinavians are ahead of the game. Last summer saw the opening of the Treehotel in Swedish Lapland, a collection of six avant-garde treehouses, including a suspended mirrored cube, a bird's nest and futuristic UFO. Rates start from SEK3,500 (£346) for two, including breakfast (00 46 928 10403; www.treehotel.se).

New for this summer is a more traditional treehouse at Hotel Andrum, opening in south-west Sweden next week. Like Hansel and Gretel's gingerbread house, only levitating among the treetops, "Seventh Heaven" is larger and more elaborate than the little red treehouse already in operation here. Rates start at SEK1,620 (£160) for two, including breakfast (00 46 515 720384; www.islanna.com).



Looking for a love nest?

What could be more romantic than holing up à deux in the trees? If that wasn't enough, some treehouses are branching out into wedding venues. The Lodge on Loch Goil is a sophisticated country retreat on Scotland's west coast which offers licensed ceremonies for up to 24 guests, up in the tree overlooking the lake (01301 703173; www.thelodge-scotland.com). Or, you could share your first marital kiss at the aptly named Mistletoe Lodge, a treehouse restaurant in the grounds of Amberley Castle, in West Sussex, that's newly licensed for weddings (01798 831992; www.amberleycastle.co.uk). The venue can be rented for £500, with doubles in the adjacent castle starting at £350, half-board. Finally, Austria is home to a very stylish treehouse suite designed with treehugging honeymooners in mind. Almdorf's cosy "wedding hut", in Carinthia, costs from €490 for two, including breakfast (00 43 4275 7201; www.almdorf.com).



The height of luxury

While some prefer the rusticity of a back-to-nature tree-top lodge, there are plenty more who prefer their treehouses with grown-up luxuries. If you're in the second camp, try Hapuku Lodge, a grove of modernist treehouses perched above the coastline outside Kaikoura, on New Zealand's South Island, complete with wood-burning fire and spa bath. Although it will be closed for refurbishment until 19 August, Hapuku reopens in time for the 2011 Rugby

World Cup, with treehouses starting at NZ$700 (£332), including breakfast (00 64 3319 6559; www.hapukulodge.com). More pampering is on offer at the Jalousie Plantation in St Lucia where guests can have a massage in one of seven new treehouse treatment rooms overlooking the Pitons. A four-night spa package starts at US$956 (£596) per person, including breakfast and either a massage, manicure or pedicure (0845 217 7844; www.jalousieplantation.com).

Closer to home the Treehouse, a glitzy five-star self-catering perch in Somerset that sleeps up to five, is available from £545 for four nights (01823 431622; treehouseholidays.com). Chasing at its tail is a new luxury treehouse set to open in July at Harptree Court, outside Bath. Sleeping two, it offers a two-night break for £350 (01275 395447; www.canopyandstars.co.uk).



Budget boughs

Try a tree tent at the Hertshoorn campsite in Holland. Designed by artist Dre Wapenaar for activists staging woodland sit-ins, these droplet-shaped pods hang from the trees like oversized, unripe figs and now offer basic accommodation to travellers. Each sleeps up to four and costs from €55 per night (00 31 577 461 529; www.ardoer.com).



Back to nature

The real attraction of staying in a treehouse is the proximity to nature. The Mighty Oak Tree Climbing Company in Cornwall takes this a step further with tree-camping trips. Learn how to safely shin up a tree and then spend a night suspended in a hammock for £140 per person (07890 698651; www.mighty-oak.co.uk). If warmer climes and comfort are priorities, the treehouse at the Rainforest Resort in Kerala should suit. Overlooking the thundering Athirapally waterfalls, the houses are also a great perch for birdwatching. Rates start at IR11,500 (£160), including breakfast (00 91 484 270 2222).

In France, treehouses have become le dernier cri in nature-friendly summer holidays. Go stargazing at Perché dans le Perche, outside Orne (00 33 233 255 796; www.perchedansleperche.com; €150 B&B); hop down to swim in a natural swimming pool at Orion, near Saint-Paul de Vence ( www.orionbb.com; €175 B&B); spot deer, badgers and woodpeckers from the terrace at Treehouse France in the Gers (00 33 562 708 084; www.treehousefrance.com; €120 self-catered); or keep an eye out for wild boar from the treetop rope bridges and zipwires before crashing out in a treehouse at Le Chêne Perché in the Ardennes (00 33 324 533 562; www.lecheneperche.com; €85).



What Google will tell you...

"The world's largest treehouse is in Crossville, Tennessee. Built by landscape architect Horace Burgess, at 10 storeys tall the tree house may be more aptly called a tree mansion," according to www.treehugger.com. "He says that since so much of the material used to build the house was given to him, the whole project has only cost him around $12,000, most of which was spent on nails. The 'tree mansion' has become quite the tourist attraction in Crossville since Horrace opened it to the public, with nearly 400 visitors a week."



What Google won't tell you... until now

The oldest documented treehouse perches on an ancient lime on the Pitchford Estate ( pitchfordestate.com), in Shropshire. It was first mentioned on a 1692 map, and was visited by Queen Victoria. What's less well known is that in the early 20th century, its eccentric owner, Lady Sybil Grant, used it as a breakfast room rather than eat alongside her husband in the Hall. There's no public access at present but guests staying in one of the estate's converted barns can enjoy a stroll beside it. Meanwhile, rental prices for the barns start at £1,000 for three nights for up to 14 .

Who said that?



"I expect I shall find it rather dull here after living in London. It seems so quiet. I shall miss the noise of buses and trams."

The Magic Faraway Tree (Enid Blyton, 1943)



"There are 4,000 or so members of the Kombai, most of whom live in isolated family homesteads in tree houses [in Papua]. As well as providing an escape from the heat and mosquitoes, the tree houses probably originated as their height is a defence against flooding during heavy rains as well as offering protection in times of conflict."

Bruce Parry, from his Tribe TV series.



"Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world."

John Muir

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