Our take on the Glamping movement

We have now just completed our 8thseason running our “Glamping Site” here at Drybeck Farm in the Eden Valley.  It has been quite a journey for us personally, building up our site and business. There was then the pain and challenges of seeing all our hard work, and our home, pretty much destroyed or swept away by the floods of Storm Desmond in December 2015 and then re-building it almost from scratch again to what we now have.

In this time, we have seen the business of Glamping (a description of what we do that I don’t particularly like, but more of that later) from a fringe alternative type of accommodation enjoyed by a minority to a mainstream strand of rural tourism. With this growth of the market, providers have responded to a far broader demographic with a dazzling array of types and levels of sophistication in what they offer.

 History of Glamping:

Glamping as a tourist offering started to emerge in the West over 10 years ago.  It first became a prominent Google search term in 2007, especially so in the British Isles.  Its early manifestation was mostly in large canvas structures such as Yurts and safari tents.  For many this put the roots of this style of outdoor living amongst the nomadic tribes of the Mongolian plains or the Turkish Ottomans. For others, it was more reminiscent of the African safari adventures of wealthy westerners in the 19thcentury where they demanded comfort during their adventures.

A Personal History:

For myself, when we started at Drybeck, it was more reminiscent of my days as a Boy Scout in rural North Lancashire.  We would go off on our 2 week long standing summer camps large canvas ridge tents, camp kitchens and our camp craft which would help us to create all manner of outdoor comforts.  At the heart of these experiences was always the sheer joy of just living amongst nature with our mates.  On a more personal level this is a far more comfortable historical link with what we do than with colonial slaughter of African wildlife and exploitation of the local population. However, that is another story!

Glamping Today:

In a few short years, this offering has now grown to include Gypsy Caravans, log cabins, tree houses, camping pods, converted buses and many others too numerous to mention.

As owners of a Glamping business we are always looking to keep our site current.  Yet with such a proliferation in types and levels of sophistication of accommodation it could be easy to try and emulate the latest trend with ever increasing levels of sophistication whilst perhaps trying too hard to be unique. I feel that too much of this can lose the essence of what should be an outdoor experience close to nature.

What we believe matters to us and out guests:

These ruminations about why, what and how we provide what we do, along with our experiences of the past few years, have led me to putting together some key characteristics that we think a great Glamping site should have and provide, and what benefits or gains a guest should get from staying with us:

  • Location – Peace, tranquillity, a beautiful view, wildlife, sounds of nature, an environment that is accessible but not too manicured or managed – a sense of being amongst nature rather than in a park.
  • Minimal impact on the environment – no concrete, tarmac or brickwork, minimal infrastructure put into the ground such as utility supplies, drains etc – use as much natural material as possible – wood, canvas, re-use old artefacts, Up-cycle, re-cycle, re-use, re-imagine.
  • Comforts – Dry and warmth, stoves and open fires, a decent bed with good bedding, an electric socket, a well-equipped kitchen with a quality wine glass and coffee mug
  • Plenty of space and privacy yet the opportunity to come together make new friends and share precious moments.
  • Variety, individuality, lack of uniformity, each space a unique one off.
  • A warm welcome from a proprietor who strikes a balance of not being too intrusive yet is helpful and interested in their guests, especially those for whom this might be a new and unknown experience.
  • Time out from busy modern lives with space to re-connect with our loved ones.
  • A chance to practice simple skills – light and cook over a fire, chop wood,
  • Sounds and sights of nature all around

 Why what we call it matters:

Earlier I inferred a negative view of the term Glamping.  I accept that the term Glamping is now an integral part of what we provide and at a pragmatic level it is a vital term in digital marketing which is difficult to avoid.  However, the “Gl” in Glamping is usually taken from the word Glamourous. This feels far too frivolous a term with its connotations of trendiness, fashion and artificiality to be attached to an experience which we feel should be connected to the earth and nature and which re-connects us with the fundamentals of what it is to be human.  The word which we would like to use to put the “Gl” into our Glamping experience isGlorious– an expression of wonder, beauty and the sublime.

Use of the word luxury has also become commonly used in descriptions of Glamping experiences. We have used this ourselves – “Drybeck Farm Luxury Glamping”. However, after these reflections upon what we provide we have decided to drop this.  Luxury is a subjective term and one person’s discomfort is another’s luxury and vice-versa.  However, I believe that in terms of accommodation Luxury is the domain of high end hotels, villas, country houses and the like.  Living close to nature is not and should not pretend to be luxurious as this at odds with the essence of the natural world and can cut you off from the experience.

However, we have the means and the instinct to make ourselves comfortable in whatever setting we find ourselves. As the old saying goes “Any fool can be uncomfortable”.  So, as we continue to revise how we view and promote ourselves we will add to GloriousCamping Comfortable Camping. From our own experience use of the term Luxury has compromised the business of matching expectation with experience.  We have had the occasional guest whose understanding of luxury is more akin to high end hotels and have therefore had an unsatisfactory experience.  We readily admit that on some occasions we are the wrong place for some guests.  I am sure that some Glamping sites could be classed a luxurious but that is not what we are about or wish to offer.

I hope that these ramblings have been of interest to both others involved in providing Glamping experiences and visitors to such sites.  It has certainly been helpful for us to re-evaluate what we provide, who it is for and what we hope our guests will gain from staying with us. It also helps us to be clear and proud of both what we are and what we are not.  Being drawn into pretending something that, to many people, we are not is not healthy and not sustainable.  If anybody wishes to get in touch with any comments or questions, please feel free to contact me at here.

After this, my first attempt, I look forward to writing further blogs. I hope you do too!