Ready-to-go luxury tents offer a different kind of outdoors experience. Alastair Dalton and family try one for size in Scone, Perthshire
I t is, as my wife put it, camping for wimps. But for a family whose experience of sleeping under canvas extends to two nights in a relative’s garden and then an abortive trip to the Ochils last May because it was a bit wet and cold, this was perfect.
In a Ready Camp tent, there are proper beds, a solid wooden floor and no low headroom-induced stooping.
In fact, the “safari-style” shelter was so well equipped with everything from a good size fridge to a mini hob I kept forgetting it didn’t have running water. And that was just a minute’s walk away.
The Camping and Caravanning Club is experimenting with these French-made tents at sites across Britain, including two in Scotland - Luss and Scone.
We chose Scone – less midge-y than Loch Lomond, and, for us, an overlooked corner of Perthshire, just two miles outside of Perth.
The club has added two of the tents to its site beside Perth Racecourse, which sit in a secluded corner at the far end, tucked away from the main field of white tin-box motor homes.
It’s an attractive spot in the tree-lined site, which provides easy access to walks along the east bank of the nearby River Tay.
The tents sleep six, in two bedroom areas: one with a double bed and the other a bunk bed with double lower bunk plus a slide-out single bed underneath.
The mattresses were comfortable and the bedrooms’ second layer of canvas acted as a blackout blind, so we were not woken at dawn. In fact, it was so dark, ensconced in our cocoon, we didn’t even notice it getting light outside.
There was a large wooden, patio-style table and chairs in the main part of the tent, which can be moved onto the decking verandah for al fresco eating and drinking.
That was the beauty of the tent – being able to double, or even triple, the available space by unzipping and tying back different sections. With everything open, it felt very roomy.
The kitchen area has a microwave, kettle, toaster and that two-ring electric hob and a standard under-unit fridge.
Worktop space was at a premium so the table was needed for food preparation, but there was a cupboard for storage.
Basic cutlery and crockery are provided, and we soon learned to love the all-plastic collection – including wine glasses – for not having to worry about anything getting smashed.
There was a jaunty lime green plastic trug to carry everything to be washed up in the campsite’s central “amenity block”, a novelty that even inspired our two children to lend a hand – at least to start with.
The building also contains loos and thoughtfully-designed “wet room”-style shower cubicles, with level floors and plenty of space for changing.
Electric heaters for the tents are available to hire, from £6 for three nights, which helped take the edge off the early-morning chill during our late September stay.
The camp site also has wi-fi (from £2 a day), which has become the first thing our children ask about when we mention we are staying somewhere new.
There are several electric sockets in the kitchen and sleeping areas but we also brought an extension lead for plugging in the family’s assorted phones and other screens.
Visiting the neighbours was an obvious day out, which in our case was Scone Palace.
The site is famed as the ancient crowning place of Scotland’s monarchs, and the 200-year-old palace may contain many treasures, but for me, the grounds are the main attraction.
A quintessential part of Perthshire’s “big tree” country, the estate’s massive trunks, including oaks, giant redwoods and western hemlocks create an imposing landscape which is a fantastic place to wander around.
Scone was the birthplace of 19th century plant hunter David Douglas, after whom a North American fir was named. Fine examples can be viewed from a pavilion which tells of his exploits.
There was also plenty to occupy our children, from branches to clamber on, a woodland adventure playground and an extraordinary star-shaped maze with 800 metres of paths to race round.
Pausing to refuel, the palace’s Old Servants’ Hall cafe serves tasty, well-presented food, with a clear focus on local produce that should be applauded.
Our second excursion was to Kinnoull Hill in Perth, a wooded park bordered by a dramatic rock face.
From a car park high above Perth, you are immediately rewarded with views of the Tay to the north.
But reaching the vantage point at the top of the hill, the outlook is as breathtaking as I’d imagined, down the Tay as it snakes towards Dundee, while to the south, you’re virtually on top of the Friarton Bridge over the river.
So, camping without the hassle. Simple, a bit different and plenty to do nearby.
• The Camping and Caravanning Club (readycamp.co.uk) has Ready Camp tents at 17 of its sites across Britain, including Luss and Scone in Scotland. They cost £20-£65 per tent per night. Scone Palace (01738 552300, scone-palace.co.uk) is open 1 April-31 October. Admission £10.50, grounds only £6.50.