A woodland glamping break is just the thing to get you close to nature, finds Catriona Thomson
There are numerous health benefits to getting into the outdoors – simply enjoying the calm tranquillity of Mother Nature can improve physical and mental health. A short trip to the countryside to get a breath of fresh air is just what the doctor ordered, so with this in mind I jumped at the chance of staying at a five-star glamping site at Dundas Castle near South Queensferry.
We have been on a few family camping expeditions before, however to my dismay the rest of the family were still slightly reticent. Graham my partner pleaded: “Do we have to go?” – definitely not a happy camper there. Teenager Eve was sold the experience as training for her Duke of Edinburgh award expedition later this year. (Although I’m not sure how she’s going to survive, as her first question was: “Is there any wi-fi?”)
Landscaped estate grounds, complete with a picturesque neo-Tudor boathouse make for a stunning backdrop to the site, which is completed by mature specimen plants at every turn, some of them dating from the early 18th century. The site we are visiting is run by Glampotel, a business that mixes eco glamping tourism with boutique hotel standards. This season sees them doubling the number of luxurious glamping units, each named after birds found on site; owl, heron, robin, greylag and mallard.
In Scotland, April weather can be unpredictable, so we were delighted to be greeted by warm sunshine on arrival. Each of the canvas cottages are nestled in their own space in mixed woodland on the southern side of the estate. They are close to Lily loch or Dundas loch, which was originally stocked with fish for consumption by the “Big House”. Today there are only trout and minnows, but the area is home to an impressive range of flora and fauna.
Each tent comes complete with king-sized bed, stylish furniture, log burning stove, decking area and gas-powered barbecue. There is even an ensuite and shower, although don’t worry – green credentials are still intact as it is an eco toilet. When nature calls, delving briefly into indelicate matters, liquid flows to the front compartment and solids are deposited to the rear, and let’s say no more than thankfully I can report no unpleasant whiffs.
We take some time to amble around the estate and discover a wonderful view of the three bridges across the Firth of Forth. We all enjoy spotting the Scots pines, yew trees, and funghi at every turn.
After our dinner and a sundowner on the terrace we sit back and watch the bats’ aerial display. Who needs the Red Arrows? They loop the loop at speed, whirling overhead to catch their insect meals. The full moon provides the light show along with the tasteful solar powered fairy lights twinkling on the guy ropes. There is even a patio heater to keep you warm on a cool evening.
I think we are all feeling the benefits of getting outside, but now it’s time to hit the hay. The best bit for me is that we have a roaring log fire to keep us warm. The girls are sleeping on canvas beds, campaign-style, while Graham and I are kipping in the king-sized bed, complete with Egyptian cotton bedding, fluffy throws and toasty hot water bottles.
Getting back to nature under canvas is all well and good, but we are rudely awakened from our slumber by a cacophony of bird calls as some pheasants decided to have a bit of a noisy showdown behind our tent pre-dawn. There is then a crescendo of calls at 6am on the dot, so don’t bother to pack an alarm clock. I can distinguish the reedy hoot of a coot, the prehistoric shriek of a grey heron and the insistent honk of the territorial greylag geese. The tufted ducks rasped their songs and along with the quacking mallards, it makes for quite a racket. The call of a cormorant, I declare is “once heard never forgotten”. Graham, struggling to unzip the tent to see what all the commotion is about, grumps: “it’s like undressing a punk.”
Our early morning wake-up call is more than made up for by the sumptuous breakfast hamper. It is a veritable treasure chest of luxurious treats. Once the kettle is singing, and the coffee is on, everyone’s good humour returned. The delivery consists of golden eggs, Stichill Jersey cow butter made in Kelso and some Inverawe smoked salmon, not forgetting the delightful rustic bread topped by either raspberry jam or marmalade. I can warmly recommend a night in the country.
FACT BOX Canvas Cottages at Dundas Castle (0800 998 9129, firstname.lastname@example.org) cost from £159 per night to £164 in August, based on two people sharing. Extra beds for children cost £30 per bed, per visit. Breakfast hampers supplied by Craigie’s farm shop are £60.79.