Sleeping under the stars, roasting marshmallows over a campfire, disconnecting from the daily grind – camping offers a properly wholesome break. But if the thought of spending the weekend in a borrowed tent, without access to running water or a toilet seat you’re happy to actually sit on fills you with dread, we might just have the answer.
Out in the Wiltshire countryside, less than two hours’ train and taxi ride from London Waterloo, is Pythouse Kitchen Garden. As pretty as a watercolour, it’s a 350-year-old walled garden which houses a restaurant and cafe at one end and a ‘glamping village’ and events space at the other, with rows of home-grown produce in between. Run by partners Sophia and Piers, the venue hosts regular events, fire-cooking evenings, private parties and weddings.
Weave your way through the apple orchard at the far end of the grounds and you’ll find six bell tents, each of which sleeps up to four. Inside the roomy structures is the antithesis to everything you’ve always hated about camping. Comfortable mattresses – check. Fresh linen – check. Actual headroom – check. To add to the swoon factor, they’ve even thrown in fresh flowers and cosy hot-water bottles. So far, so glam. But it gets better.
Head up the hill a few paces and you’ll see a well-equipped bar under a canopy. Behind that, a cabin houses a kitchenette with running water, mugs, a kettle, and fresh milk. It also houses two bathrooms with proper toilets and hot showers. When we say bathrooms, we mean bathrooms. They’re probably nicer than the ones in many people’s homes.
At night, the glamping village really comes alive, with lights twinkling in the trees and a roaring campfire. It feels a million miles from anywhere, making it perfect for a group getaway or post-nupital party (the site is also a fairytale wedding venue). You can rent out the whole village, which sleeps up to 24 people, for £1,350 (US$1,740) a night, working out at just £56.25 (US$72.50) per head if you’ve got a full house. Otherwise, a bell tent for two works out at £135 (US$175) – and those prices include waking up to the promise of a hearty cooked breakfast in the restaurant.
The restaurant itself puts a big emphasis on fire-cooking, and has a serious piece of kit to prove its credentials. On the patio stands an iron fire pit, stacked with all the gear necessary for Argentine fire cooking (it’s all the rage right now, don’t you know?). On the first Saturday of each month, Pythouse hosts a BBQ supper, with locally-sourced and home-grown produce cooked ‘low and slow’ over the flames. Kicking off with a hot cocktail of buttered-rum cider, you’ll be treated to the likes of cedar-plank hot-smoked salmon and slow-barbecued pork belly, all cooked and served around the fire. Then it’s just a short stumble home to your cosy tent.