The UK's best alternative camping spots

Top places to stay, from yurts and tepees to treehouses and 'nests'

Rachael Pells@rachaelpells
Wednesday 22 July 2015 16:53

Great Glen Yurts, Fort William, Scottish Highlands
If you like your creature comforts, be warned: there is only one plug socket at the Wild Highland Retreats campsite. Then again, with the great outdoors and a communal fire pit, you won’t be needing to charge your laptop anytime soon. Set on a working farm near the village of Torlundy, the campsite looks out onto the north face of Ben Nevis. Hire one of three spacious yurts for a fun, comfortable stay, or try one of two hand-crafted stationary cabins. The Fisherman’s Retreat is the latest addition, located near trout fishing ponds; the traditional Shepherd’s Hut is popular with honeymooning couples, and sits by the idyllic Rover Lochy which borders the farm. There are wood-burning stoves in the yurts and hut, and guests can make use of communal hot showers and a shared kitchen.

Out and about: The site is less than 3km from Nevis Range, making it the perfect base for hikers planning to conquer the UK’s highest peaks. Nearby Lochaber is home to a world-class downhill mountain bike course, but you don’t have to be a world-class adrenaline junkie to hire a bike from Nevis Cycles (; from £20 per day).

Yurts from £70, sleeping up to six. The Shepherd’s Hut costs £60 for two, Fisherman’s Retreat from £90 (01397 702888,

Leewood Nest, Dartmoor, Devon
Hand-built by two artists, this part-luxury tent, part-art installation is a “living home” made up of flowering branches and materials from the surrounding 30 acres of woodland. The inside space is adorned with antique tapestries, rugs and a solid oak throne, all rescued from a past life in an old French manor house. Enjoy a complimentary afternoon tea upon arrival before shocking yourself awake with a bracing swim in the clean freshwater pools of the river Walkham. Compost toilets may not be the most glam, but the super king-size bed with silk canopy means no degree of comfort is lost. The Nest has its own fire-pit, wood-burner and outdoor cooking equipment. Shared hot showers, fridges and free wi-fi can be found just a 200m walk away.

Out and about: A range of art workshops are on offer for those determined to stay productive, including watercolour and woodwork practice ( Trout and salmon fishing is popular, as are the many walking routes across Dartmoor. Bring a bike or hike across the easily accessible moors.

From £97, sleeps two (0117 204 7830;

Alde Garden Tipis, Suffolk
It’s not uncommon for pubs to turn their gardens into campsites during the summer months, but rather unusually, Marie and Mark Smith bought the Sweffling White Horse for its garden – and unexpectedly became pub landlords overnight. Five years later, the Sweffling White Horse has been awarded Suffolk Pub of the Year by Camra, but the main draw is still the small campsite. Most guests cook for themselves using produce from local farm shops and gardens - the pub opens four nights a week, but out of hours drinks can be purchased from its back door. There’s a communal kitchen hang-out, a pizza oven and very smart ladies’ and gents’ wash blocks, but the outside "jungle" shower remains a favourite for those with a sense of adventure. After dark, cosy up by the wood burner inside your tepee, or sit outside under the solar-powered night-lights.

Out and about: Drive 20 minutes to Aldeburgh for famously good fish and chips on the beach. In Sweffling, hire a horse and trap driver for a pleasant evening ride through the villages. Bikes are available to borrow on site.

Tepee from £165 for two nights; sleeps two-four (01728 664178;

Wanderlusts Gypsy Caravans, Cumbria
Step back in time on a horse-drawn gypsy caravan holiday in Cumbria. Choose from one of six beautiful caravans hand-built or renovated by Barney, an ex trapeze-artist and entertainer. He, his wife Katus, plus Bob and Charlie the horses will take you down country roads by day and set you up in wildflower meadow campsites at night. Here, your fire will be lit and you will be left alone with nature in and around the stunning Lake District National Park. Your hosts can also offer a cooked meal and fireside entertainment – Katus has toured the world with her folk music and has many a story to tell.

Out and about: Surrender your contact with the outside world, visit lakeside saunas and caves or simply relax into the slow way of life. Laptops and mobile phones are asked to be left at home, with good reason.

From £180 a night for two adults (three-night minimum stay usually applies). Children are welcome for an extra £20 each but are asked to bring sleeping bags. Alternatively, Wanderlusts offer stationary bow-top Gypsy wagons (vardos) overlooking Lake Windermere from £65 per night for a family of four; bed only, two-night minimum stay (

The Tree House at Castle Cottage, Fittleworth, West Sussex
Fulfil your childhood fantasies by staying in a treehouse fit for fairytales. A secret spot within the grounds of Coates Castle, this unusual accommodation was inspired by the owners’ holidays in African bush camps. This luxurious den is built into a huge sweet chestnut tree, with a glass-roofed en suite and modern comforts including a TV. Breakfast is served in the garden or cottage conservatory, and homemade biscuits and soap add a personal touch.

Out and about: Spend a day horse-riding or on a walk through the South Downs, before returning to base camp for an evening on your private balcony. This is also a popular area for bird-watchers.

From £160 a night, B&B; sleeps two (01798 865001;

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