Camping: noun. The activity of spending a holiday living in a tent.
That’s how the Oxford Dictionary describes “camping”. But when I describe camping and what it means to me, I get nostalgic and sentimental. When I think about camping I’m momentarily transported back to 1998, to a typically British wet summer’s day in July, to a small clearing in a woodland not far from my parents’ home, to a Cub Scout camp with my “pack” and our Leader.
I have (for the most part, fond) memories of trying to put up a heavy, fusty smelling Greenlander tent in the drizzle, hammering waterlogged wooden pegs into the mud with a heavy mallet, then attempting to secure the chunky guy ropes around them, proudly demonstrating to our Leader that we’d remembered those “useful” knots he taught us.
Then come memories of me and my tent mates rolling our floor mats and sleeping bags out onto the tent ground sheet (which by now is already dirty, thanks to a couple of us thoughtlessly running with mud-caked boots through the temporary accommodation during a game of “It”), lying down and then realising that we’d chosen the stoniest, most uneven part of the clearing to put the tent up on, as sharp rocks press into our little 11-year-old backs.
Though I’ve been camping a handful of times in my adult life (mostly at festivals), my memories of camping are all from my time in the Scouts. I associate camping with soggy weekends spent collecting sticks and twigs to make a fire (which would never catch alight because they were too damp). I associate camping with eggy bread and greasy fry ups, muddy wide games and building bivouacs. I associate camping with hair that hasn’t been washed in three days and stinks of last night’s bonfire (we’d given up on the damp wood and resorted to shop-bought seasoned logs, firelighters and someone’s can of Lynx Africa).
I don’t recall anything about camping being particularly “glamorous”. So when I got a message from my friend Danika asking if I’d like to go glamping in the Lake District I wasn’t really sure what to expect…
Glamping at Rainors Farm in Wasdale.
Like other portmanteau words such as “Brangelina”, “chillax” and “Brexit”, the term “glamping” has come from two words being fused together: glamorous and camping. I’m not sure exactly when “glamping” suddenly became popular, but it isn’t a new concept. It’s basically the idea of camping without slumming it; all the thrills of sleeping in a tent under the stars, without the uncomfortable rocks in the back, the stinky portacabin loo and the mud.
I’d camped plenty of times, but I’d never glamped – so as always, was excited about trying something new. The only thing putting me off was the prospect of a six hour drive to get there; but having driven to East Yorkshire and back every weekend for a couple of months before I moved up north last August, I didn’t think it would be that bad…
How wrong I was. After a hellish seven-and-a-half hour drive in pouring rain, I finally arrived at Rainors Farm around 5pm, feeling irritable and in need of a wee, some food and a large drink. My friends were in another car and stuck in traffic about an hour away, so Danika told me to park up, “check in” and make myself at home.
As I got out the car I was greeted by the lovely Debbie, owner and host at Rainors. Her warm and friendly welcome had my resentment at the long drive subsiding, and I couldn’t help but smile as she animatedly chatted away. She gave me the grand tour of the farm, showing me the wet room, the utility room and the farmhouse breakfast room, before taking me down to the yurt we’d be sleeping in.
As she pushed the little door open and I followed her in, every ounce of irritation I’d felt previously was instantly gone, and I knew then the drive had been worth it.
What is a yurt?
Yurt is the Russian word for “dwelling”. Yurts have been lived in for thousands of years, by tribes from East and Central Asia, from as far as Turkey and Iran to Mongolia and Nepal. They’re a sort of Asian “tipi” if you like, a nomadic shelter – but as you can see, infinitely more comfortable and practical. Traditionally they were covered in felt sections, though felt alone is only suitable in dry climates, i.e, not the wet and windy Lake District. Hence most modern Yurts have canvas covers with felt being used for insulating layers, sandwiched between a wooden trellis that holds up the structure.
There are two yurts at Rainors Farm: the “Yurt in the meadow” and the “Yurt by the stream”. We stayed in the latter, which was tucked away in a secluded corner of the wild garden, among oak and hazel trees. Just over little bridge across a gentle babbling stream, it has amazing views of Scafell Pike and the surrounding landscape.
Inside there was one huge king-size bed in the middle of the room, and three single futons on the floor around the edge (originally there were going to be five of us, but we ended up as a foursome). The beds were all made-up with fresh white cotton bed linen and coloured throws – the only thing we had bring were our own towels and toiletries. I didn’t sleep on the bed, so can’t comment on its comfortability, but the futon I slept on was fine. The mattress was soft and duvet was warm enough – even a little too warm when we had the log burner going at night.
Yep, that’s right: there is a log burner inside the tent:
Making a “glamp-fire”.
Being an ex-Scout and having lived up in Yorkshire, where it was cold enough to light the log burner even in July evenings, building fires is something I pride myself in. It is one skill my Leader taught me that has served me well (especially on a trip to Finland in 2015 when I was the only one in a party of 12 who could actually get a fire going in their log cabin).
Therefore, as soon as there was even the slightest chill in the air in Wasdale on the Saturday night, I was straight there, piling kindling and scrunching newspaper. Rainors kindly provide each yurt with plenty of chopped, seasoned firewood, a box of firelighters and a box of matches. Once I’d got it lit, we busted out the marshmallows and skewers, and got smoreing.
We had fresh running water from a tap outside, and a kettle and mugs were provided in the yurt. So it really was like being at home, with cups of tea and coffee made by Danika each morning (and Pot Noodles for dinner on our last night).
The yurt has soft, cosy, traditional-style furnishings, hanging lanterns, bolsters to lounge on, and is insulated with lovely organic, Welsh felt. The clear roof crown was a natural alarm clock in the morning, and allowed us to gaze up at the moon and stars at night – something you can rarely do where we live down south, due to all the light pollution.
For me (much like when I stayed in an Airbnb in Berlin) it was all the little details that made it so special: the fresh flowers in a mason jar, the Moroccan tea service, the ethnic decorations, even the handcrafted fob for the door key. Clearly Debbie and her husband had put a lot of thought and effort into styling the yurts, making it a proper glamping experience.
It wasn’t just the interior decor of the yurt that had been considered though. Directly outside was a storage trunk (with a felted roof, meaning it was waterproof so dry inside) filled with more firewood, a washing up bowl and scourer, and all the cooking utensils and crockery you’d ever need on a camping holiday.
And there were beautiful wild flowers growing all around the yurt, offering little splashes of colour on an otherwise grey day.
Unfortunately it rained all day Friday, most of Saturday and on-and-off all day Sunday while we were in Wasdale. But ironically, on the Monday as we started the epic journey back down south, the sun came out and stayed out. I guess it wouldn’t be the British countryside without some rain though, right? My wellies came in handy, that’s for sure.
Exploring the rest of the farm, there was the main farmhouse and a couple of stone outbuildings, one of which had our wet room and utility room in. There was also a herd of calves in the paddock, which Debbie explained belonged to the farm below her in the valley.
Unlike my previous camping experiences with Scouts, these were the real luxuries though: a proper flushing toilet and a hot shower.
There was no having to dig a latrine pit and put a tent over it, then being told to squat on the edge when you wanted a wee. Instead we had our own private wet room, which was heated and decorated with terracotta tiles and pine paneling. It was not shared by any other guests at the farm, so no queues for showers or the toilet like you get when camping at a festival.
There was also a utility room with boot-rack, clothes airer, huge American larder-style fridge and a washing machine (in case things get really muddy).
The fridge was particularly handy as we brought a mountain of food with us for picnics and BBQs, not to mention the copious amounts of beer, wine and cider. So once I’d unloaded the car and taken a million and one pictures of Rainors Farm and its beautiful yurt, I cracked open a beer and waited for my friends to arrive, so we could start our weekend together.
I had a fantastic weekend up in the Lake District, and there’s nothing I can fault about our stay; I’d recommend Rainors Farm to anyone.
After my glamping initiation, I’m on the look out for other glamping experiences in the UK and abroad. I think glamping yurt holidays are great for all ages, for families and groups of friends like us. And with its romantic ambiance, it would especially suit couples, honeymooners and anyone in need of some fresh air, countryside and “yurt therapy”.