Camping has been a mainstay British holiday for as long as people realised they could throw a piece of material over some sticks and sleep underneath it. Of course it’s evolved just a little since then, but the principles are still the same and it remains hugely popular with people of all ages.
Read more: The Best UK Campsites to Stay at in 2017
Enter glamping, the new kid on the campsite. For the uninitiated, glamping is glam camping, a more luxury way of camping that still has you sleeping in the great outdoors, but with more comfort than your average tent. You can glamp in just about anything, from wigwams and yurts to converted helicopters and shipping containers – most of the time with lovely mod cons you don’t get when you camp.
But just as camping’s not everyone’s cup of tea (hard to believe, we know), the same goes for glamping, and some prefer the more traditional way of doing things. So which is right for you? We spoke with James Warner Smith, author and editor at Cool Camping, as well as Garri Raynor, founder of Go Glamping & Cabinly for their thoughts on the matter…
While at one time glamping was somewhat of a niche thing that you rarely saw, it’s becoming much more commonplace, and a good proportion of campsites now offer both camping and glamping options, which makes a lot of sense – the more options they can offer, the more likely it is that people are going to want to camp there.
Glamping also has the advantage (or disadvantage, depending on your preference) of not needing to actually put the tent up, offering a much more instant experience, and one could argue this has more appeal with a wider demographic.
James: “Glamping has clearly appealed to the higher-pace of 21st-century life. Less time is spent unloading the car, pitching a tent and assembling your equipment, which allows for more time to visit the beach, explore the countryside or climb the hills. It can therefore increase the amount of holiday time you have.
“But glamping has also increased in popularity because it opens up the camping experience to a far wider number of people. Older adults who once felt they had outgrown camping and aching their backs on a lumpy floor now have the option of sleeping in a proper bed; younger professionals who don’t want to forgo the luxuries of a power shower, hair straighteners or Wi-Fi can now still have these hotel-style luxuries but also enjoy nature and the great outdoors; families who don’t like camping but don’t want their children reeking havoc in a fancy hotel can have the space of a glamping site for their children but the luxuries of a yurt or tipi for themselves.”
However, glamping is never really going to hold a candle to camping when it comes to true accessibility. Camping usually requires little more than a patch of grass, making it much easier for campsites to offer more pitches. While you may struggle to book glamping at peak season, you should normally be able to find somewhere to pitch your tent.
And if you fancy a spot of wild camping then you’ll never be short of a pitch!
Well all this hinges on your idea of fun really, but it’s probably one of the most important considerations to make. What exactly do you enjoy the most?
Do you like sleeping on the floor (well, on a sleeping mat) and cooking over an open fire? Or do you prefer something a little more luxurious, with many of the perks you’d get from staying in a hotel?
If the former sounds like you then camping is undoubtedly more your bag, whereas that’s some people’s idea of hell, and if they’re even going to go near a campsite, then it’ll need to be relatively luxurious. Obviously there are various degrees of camping and glamping, but your willingness (or unwillingness) to embrace nature may well be the deciding factor.
Glamping also provides a little more variety in the type of accommodation, and some of it is pretty bonkers – from yurts and treehouses to converted helicopters and shipping containers.
James: “People will always have a soft spot for camping, and for many it is still the more traditional option and the elements of hardship – pitching your tent in the rain, damp nights in a sleeping bag, cooking on an old-fashioned camp stove – arguably become some of the more rose-tinted memories when you look back once time has passed.
“Some of our fondest memories of camping, with the benefit of hind-sight, come from these little challenges. For families, too, it’s a chance to teach these things to children, there are elements of team-work and self-sufficiency in jobs like erecting a tent and preparing a meal and many see camping as a great holiday for ‘family time’ doing these things together. There are some benefits to a little hard work!”
Again, this very much comes down to your personal definition of ‘fashionable’.
There’s no doubt that glamping is the more fashionable option for many right now. There’s something magical and romantic about the notion of staying in a plush treehouse in the middle of the forest, and is ideal for those who like the idea of camping but don’t want to forego some of their luxuries.
However, many aren’t concerned with how their holiday looks on Facebook, and find their own definition of ‘fashionable’ in being that little bit close to nature.
Garri: “Glamping has a very broad appeal and is more attractive to people who wouldn’t normally have had an interest in camping: city dwellers with limited space to store regular camping gear; people who want to enjoy an outdoors, back-to-nature, experience without the hassle of lugging gear around, putting it and taking it down; time stretched families with young children; large group occasions such as weddings, hen/stag parties, birthday/anniversary celebrations, corporate team building, etc.”
James: “Camping and glamping are fairly equal in interest right now, but seasonal trends also play a large role. In the spring and summer the interest in camping on our website shoots up as the peak season approaches and there are still more people searching for traditional tent and campervan sites than there are glamping.
“However, in autumn and winter time, over 90% of the bookings made on coolcamping.com are for glamping sites as the likes of shepherd’s huts, pods, treehouses and so on become the more appropriate options.
“Most trends also inspire a real counter-culture and as glamping continues to increase, camping will probably begin to grow again too, particularly as glamping becomes more common and seen as less of a ‘quirky’ option. It may be appealing at the moment to say “glamping is camping but with all the added comforts”, but people may begin to realise that camping offers all the real pleasures of glamping – the nature, the outdoors, the starry nights – but without the price tag.”
So this is what the decision between camping and glamping often comes down to. You know what you’re getting with camping most of the time, and you may well have to sacrifice a lot of your home comforts. But that’s what many love about camping: the getting back to basics, being closer to nature, and not relying on the trappings of everyday life.
Others simply can’t function without those trappings, whether it’s somewhere to plug in hair straighteners, a comfy bed, or reliable wi-fi. Not all glamping has these things, but you can get pretty whatever you need if you’re willing to pay a bit more.
Garri: “Glamping can cover a wide range of options to suit all budgets from spartan, off-rid cabins where you need to bring bedding and other gear, to top end luxury safari tents with separated bedrooms (some are even 2 storey), ensuite bathroom, not to mention a fully equipped kitchen inside. There are new glamping structures being launched every year and it’s always inspiring what people are coming up with.”
Cost is a huge issue for a lot of people, and will often determine the type of holiday they will have. Camping is generally the cheaper option in terms of how much it costs for a night’s stay – glamping can cost more than most hotel stays if you go for something really swanky. Camping does have the initial outlay of buying tents and the various camping accessories, but most of them are investments that you won’t have to replace very often.
James: “An average camping pitch is around £20 per night for 2 people. ‘Glamping’, meanwhile, is a catch-all term that can refer to anything from a sparsely furnished bell tent with a couple of mattresses (£40 per night) all the way up to a treehouse with multiple storeys, a hot tub on the roof and a power shower in the branches (£200 per night). For a well furnished shepherd’s hut or yurt for 2 people, though, expect to pay at least £80 per night.”
Garri: “It’s the cost and relative affordability of both camping and glamping that has seen a rise in their popularity in recent years. The economic downturn in 2008 played a big part in more people choosing ‘staycations’, and in 2010, camping & glamping overtook traditional B&Bs for the first time.
“The current fall in value of the pound is likely to see this trend continue for many, especially young families who might be looking to save money and question whether they need to go abroad.”
Top tips for those unsure whether to camp or glamp
James from Cool Camping has kindly provided us with some more of his invaluable advice on the topic…
1) Most campsites nowadays also have a few glamping options alongside their regular pitches. One option is to take your tent and plan for a camping holiday but, if you find you really aren’t enjoying it or the weather turns bad, you can then ‘upgrade’ and move into one of the site’s pods, shepherd’s huts or accommodation. This can only really be done outside of peak season, however, otherwise the glamping accommodation will probably already be booked out.
2) There are a few campsites out there that fall somewhere between the two. The Real Campsite in the Cotswolds, for example, has an ‘en suite’ toilet at each pitch so that, while you still bring your own tent and have a camping experience, you also have the luxuries of private facilities. You’ll also find sites with kitchens, lounges and other luxuries. This means you can have a camping experience with your own tent but don’t need to really rough-it in the wild.
3) Try bell tent glamping, which is probably the closest glamping accommodation you will find to a traditional, bring-your-own tent. Glamping in a bell tent may give you a good feel for what regular camping is like, whereas staying in, say, a treehouse is quite dramatically different from a regular camping trip. You’ll find sites that offer quite sparsely furnished, pre-erected tents. This means you have the glamping convenience of not having to bring and pitch your own canvas but still have something that is quite close to regular camping.
Best places for glamping in the UK
We recently picked some amazing glamping & luxury camping sites in the UK, but there are a huge number of others. Garri has chosen some of his favourite glamping spots from around the UK and Europe…
- Luxury geodesic domes set in the Ancient Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire
- Shepherd huts with all mod cons with uninterrupted sea views on the Gower Peninsula
- Tree houses & safari tents set in the fairytale surroundings of Lake Bled in Slovenia
And here are some of James’ picks…
- A converted shipping container beside a lake in Bodmin Moor
- Blackberry Wood in East Sussex – they have a converted double-decker bus, rescue helicopter, and now an impressive treehouse with wonderfully wonky branches exposed and a fairy-tale, castle-like design.
Last modified: March 23, 2017