Glamping in Devon (with a touch of the Mongolian steppe)

Glamping in Devon is the perfect compromise for a wild camper and his outdoorsy-ish girlfriend.

I’ve often said that I’m most content when wild camping with everything I need on my back. Kia asked me recently why I like it so much. I told her that I love the simple life. I love being cut off from the hectic, modern world and being close to nature. A bit of a cliché I know, but true all the same.

Unfortunately, Kia doesn’t share quite the same enthusiasm. She loves nature and dramatic landscapes, but would rather return to a warm hotel and tasty meal instead of a damp sleeping bag and freeze-dried couscous. When we first met and discussed our dreams of seeing the world together, her sole request was that I keep her fed and keep her warm. It’s a plea that’s simple enough but I have at times pushed the boundaries.

I’ve tried twice to get her to wild camp, both times in vain. Her first experience on a beach in the South Pacific led to what can only be described as a minor breakdown. Her second experience in a rainforest in Colombia led her to declare that she was “done with camping”!

Since then we’ve not camped much. There were two warm nights in the grounds of a hotel in Chile and when we trekked to Machu Picchu she endured three nights camping on the Inca Trail (albeit with an air mattress and the promise of a hot shower and a world wonder at the end of it all).

So understandably, I was a little nervous when for her birthday this year I booked three nights glamping in a Mongolian Yurt in Devon. Considering that during my last experience of camping in Devon I found myself battling hailstorms, torrential rain and gale-force winds amid Storm Katie, even glamping in Devon was going to be a risk.

glamping in Devon around - 20

This was exactly what I feared

I hoped that the erratic English weather would be on my side for a change. I checked the forecast regularly in the lead-up to the trip. With horror, I watched it deteriorate rapidly. Classic English rain, cloud and general gloominess was on the horizon with a little bit of Bodmin Moor thick fog thrown in for good measure.

Great. My girlfriend was surely going to leave me.

Luckily, the Mongolian yurts at Koa Tree Camp provided a completely different experience inside. Kitted out with a log-burning stove, a comfortable bed with extra blankets and soft candescent lighting, the yurts assured a cozy experience. There was even a skylight for star gazing – not that much was on offer during our stay.

glamping in Devon Koa Tree

Luckily, we had our cosy yurt to return to every day

Imported from Mongolia, the yurts are as close to an authentic Mongolian experience one can get in England, albeit heavily adapted to suit the needs of outdoorsy-ish girlfriends. There is electricity for starters with electric lamps and power sockets for “essentials” such as hairdryers and smartphones. The recycled and refashioned furniture is eclectic and traditional with bedside tables papered in comic book pages and travel trunks serving as dressing tables. There are barbecues on the decking of every yurt.

The converted barn or Rainy Day Room as it’s known serves as a kitchen, homely lounge and bathroom block. Although, to call it a ‘bathroom block’ does it a disservice. Each party gets its own personal bathroom, some complete with a bath – essentially luxury hotel-style bathrooms, only not en suite.

glamping in Devon Koa Tree - rainy day room

The Rainy Day Room

There is a wealth of activities available including surfing and paddleboard lessons, on-site massages and art classes. The campsite is located near the Devon-Cornwall border so there is lots of trekking and day hikes on offer as well as endless tearooms and cozy pubs to eat and drink the afternoons and evenings away.

Weather-wise, contrary to my fears, our long weekend was far from a washout. We enjoyed a relatively sunny day visiting the charming village of Clovelly on the north Devon coast and hiking part of the South West Coast Path above rugged cliffs and the dramatic seaboard. The scenery is stunning, quintessentially English and some of the best in the UK. I’ve vowed to return this summer and hike more of the Coastal Path as part of a longer trek.

The rest of our days were spent driving round the various viewpoints along the coast (Hartland Quay and Welcombe Mouth), visiting coastal towns for fish suppers and quiet walks (Bude and Appledore), dropping in for afternoon tea at the nearby Rectory Tea Rooms and Docton Mill Gardens and playing endless games of table tennis between cups of hot tea and biscuits.

So, despite sailing close to the wind at times, Kia is still my girlfriend. I kept her fed and I kept her warm throughout the trip and banked a few brownie points for the next time I take her outside her comfort zone. Our first glamping experience proved a successful one and an exceptionally unique one at that. How else could you enjoy a fusion of camping, luxury hotel, and the Mongolian nomad life?

Glamping in Devon Essentials

What: Glamping in Devon, UK.

Where: Koa Tree Camp in north Devon. Contact the owner, Andy, on 07492 750861 or at andy@koatreecamp.com. There is a selection of Mongolian yurts, bell tents and log cabins from which to choose.

When: Alas, you’re never guaranteed a completely dry period in England, but June to August is without doubt the driest and warmest time of the year. However, it’s also peak season and availability could be an issue, particularly during the school holidays from the end of July through August. The campground opens in April until October, so the shoulder seasons (April-May and September-October) are a good time to visit.

How: We hired a car and drove down from London. The campground is located between Bideford and Bude just off the A39, approximately 4.5 hours drive from London. More detailed driving directions can be found here.

Buses and trains run regularly from London to Exeter where connections to Bude and Barnstable can be found. At 17km (11mi) away, Bude is the closer railhead. Book buses through National Express or Megabus for cheaper rates. Trains can be booked via National Rail. For the best rates on any site, book well in advance.

Taxis can be arranged from Bude for around £20 ($30USD) or contact Andy at Koa Tree Camp to arrange transport. They even have a minibus so can cater for larger groups.

You might also like: