Life in the city can be stressful. Office pressure and deadlines. Looming skyscrapers. Busy, noisy streets. Phone alerts that never stop. Sometimes, you just want to drop everything and take a break. Get away from the hustle and bustle. Fancy a weekend in the countryside? Commune with nature on a cottage stay or camping getaway safe from Covid? If you live in England or planning a nature getaway, we share some of the best that England has to offer.
Here we share a list of the 10 best back to nature retreats in England:
Ravenstor YHA, Derbyshire
A sweeping National Trust property built by a Victorian mill owner, this 70-bed mansion is now managed by the YHA, so anyone can try the country house experience. Guests are welcome to explore the 60 acres of wooded grounds, but climbers and walkers will be heading out into the surrounding Peak District national park. Raven Tor, known for its knot of challenging rock climbing routes, is nearby and the bike- and boot-friendly Monsal Trail, an 8.5-mile path that follows the old Midland railway, passes close by. The hostel’s bike facilities were updated last year (expect purpose-designed bike storage and a bike repair station), so it’s now a great base for visiting cyclists, too.
Pitch Perfect Camping, Somerset
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Simple, family-friendly camping is the order of the day at this tent-only campsite at Woolverton, near Bath (open May-October). Families and couples can enjoy the run of this pastoral site and its menagerie of chickens and ducks. Hen and stag parties aren’t accepted. In the centre of its 10 well-spaced pitches is a timber play area for younger children and the toilet block includes a custom-designed bathroom for families. The on-site shop sells local cider alongside other camping essentials, and if you want to go glam, there are two bell tents for hire. The National Trust’s Stourhead is a short drive away, as is Longleat, but the picnic-friendly ruins of Farleigh Hungerford Castle are right on the doorstep, and the campsite works with activity operator Aveling Adventure to offer archery, circus skills and family-friendly challenges both on-site and off.
Round the Woods, Norfolk
This two-yurt camp in Norfolk’s Wensum valley is only open until mid-October (reopens end of March 2017) so catch it while you can. Each yurt has a kingsize bed with goose-down duvet, two single futons, cooking area, wood-burning stove, private compost loo (solar-powered showers are in a shipping container bathroom nearby) and a skylight for stargazing, or birdwatching, in bed. They are ideal for two families – or one large one – who want a private retreat. It’s surrounded by 17 acres of countryside, including woods, fields, a wildflower meadow, streams and ponds, so you can spend your time foraging, pond-dipping or trying to spot herons, hares, deer and barn owls.
The Tab, Goudhurst, Kent
If you like the idea of glamping but aren’t so keen on canvas, this new hideaway in the Kentish Weald offers a solution. A micro-caravan with an en suite shower in an old red phone box, it comes with the use of a tennis court, heated swimming pool and summerhouse (play retro arcade games or help yourself to a drink from the honesty bar). And, when you’ve spent the day pedalling along bike trails in Bedgebury Forest, or minibeast-hunting around Bewl Water, order one of the owners’ homemade curries to enjoy with a bottle of wine from the welcome hamper.
Widewath Farm, Lake District
This cottage on a working farm outside Helton, near Penrith, was converted from an old barn in 2014. The kitchen, underfloor heating and shower point to 21st-century comforts but, in keeping with its surroundings, the styling here is appealingly rustic, with chunky wooden bunk beds, a farmhouse kitchen table and exposed stone walls. It’s well set up for outdoorsy visitors, with bike storage, space for muddy boots and table tennis in a stable block. Head out into the fells for a ride or a walk, or follow a family-friendly story trail around nearby Askham Fell.
Tintagel Youth Hostel, Cornwall
Recently reopened after a six-month refurbishment, this secluded youth hostel on a clifftop is now a comfortable year-round retreat thanks to new windows and a wood-burning stove. It has long been popular with walkers and bird-watchers, and a reconfiguration of the communal space has made more of the view: on the most windswept days guests can dispense with the head-to-toe GoreTex and just perch by a window to watch out for peregrine falcons flying past and seals bobbing in the water below. When the sun’s out, step out of the door and stride out along the South West Coastal Path.
Tom’s Eco Lodge, Isle of Wight
The five safari tents at Tom’s Eco Lodge have long been popular with summer visitors but the addition of two log cabins and two glamping pods means you can now book a stay all year round (traditional self-catering cottages are also available elsewhere on the estate). It’s part of a working dairy farm, Tapnell Farm (families are welcome to meet the animals and collect eggs), and is surrounded by over 30 acres of native woodland. There’s a farm shop, restaurant, playground and Tapnell Farm Park, with a playbarn, outdoor activity areas, farm animals and a “mob” of rehomed wallabies.
Bluebird Penthouse, Devon
On a farm outside High Bickington, half an hour’s drive from the north Devon coast, this lovingly restored 1950s caravan has a double bed, shower, toilet, kitchen, central heating, chiminea and even a wine cellar (a trap door leads to a wine store; sadly, you’ll have to stock it yourself). One of the owners is an artist and the green and white decor has a playful vintage charm (the kitchen sink is made from an old ceramic mixing bowl). It’s the peaceful, panoramic views of the Taw Valley that really sell a stay here, though: guests often see deer on the hill opposite. Exmoor national park is half an hour the other way, with wild woodlands and moorlands
The Gathering, Derbyshire
Glamping can mean nothing more than a large tent with a bed. The Gathering is different. The five tents at this new Peak District glampsite come with Hypnos mattresses, merino wool blankets, hot water bottles, wood-fired stoves, roll-top baths and such civilised extras as fresh croissants in the morning and deliveries of ice and lemon for evening drinks. The setting is pretty cosseting, too: just outside Edale, at the start of the Pennine Way. Each tent has views of Grindslow Knoll, a hill linked to Kinder Scout – encouragement to set out on one of myriad local walks. The Chestnut Centre, with its owls, otters and deer, is 15 minutes’ drive away, and the Gathering arranges family-friendly activities in school holidays, from nature walks to arts and crafts and egg collecting. If rain stops play, there’s a sociable barn to retreat to and cook, play games and watch films.
Jackson’s Cabin, East Sussex
What was once a honey farm is now a honeypot for in the far east of the South Downs. The large one-bedroom cabin has smart modern interiors but plenty of rustic character (there’s a wood-burning stove, a partially timber-clad bathroom and original artwork on the walls; the owner is an artist and also runs painting holidays). It’s in a peaceful spot near Alfriston, close to a network of scenic walking routes and an easy cycle ride from the nearest beach. When you’ve finished exploring, sit on the terrace with a glass of Nutbourne’s Sussex Reserve, soaking up uninterrupted views of the Cuckmere valley’s flower-speckled chalk grasslands and the Long Man of Wilmington. For field-to-fork dining, the Sussex Ox pub is an amble away and serves beef, lamb and vegetables from its own organic farm.
This feature’s source came from The Guardian.