Five crazy holiday stays
Who needs a hotel when you can kip in a camper or float in a sub? Ali Horsfall rounds up five hols for hipsters
1. UP STICKS
The most fun way to get back to nature, says Alison Tyler, is to hug a tree. And what better place to do that than in a treehouse.
Your perch for the night:
Center Parcs Longleat and Sherwood
The two-storey, four-bedroom (en suite) treehouses at Longleat and Sherwood Forest are a real Swiss Family Robinson affair, with connecting wooden bridges and gangways, a private games room, sauna and deck with outdoor hot tub. Great for groups and big families.
From about £2,000 for a four-night midweek break; centerparcs.co.uk
Forest Holidays Treehouses
Kids will love these woodland hideaways. Some are approached by walkway entrances, others have outdoor hot tubs, and all have cosy wood-burning stoves and luxurious bathrooms. They're available at Deerpark in Cornwall, Blackwood Forest in Hampshire, Sherwood Forest in Nottingham, Keldy in Yorkshire, Thorpe Forest in Norfolk, and the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire.
Sleeps up to ten, from about £650 for a four-night midweek break; forestholidays.co.uk
Cleveley Mere, Lancashire
W.O.W. Leave any notion of a DIY wooden shack at the door – or should that be rope bridge? This futuristic treetop, lakeside retreat is seriously luxurious and even has its own pier and boat, as well as bikes to explore the vast nature reserve, pedalos and canoes that can be borrowed, crazy golf and more.
Sleeps four, from £219 a night; cleveleymere.com
Eat up – literally: Alnwick Treehouse, Northumberland
This wooden, turreted restaurant in a huge treehouse is reached by a wobbly bridge that's fine for buggies, and trees actually grow out of the dining room floor. There's a children's menu or, for just a snack or a drink, The Potting Shed bar sits on the Treehouse decking. In the evening, everything is lit with candles for a magical, Faraway Tree experience.
Family tickets to the garden from £16.72; alnwickgarden.com
Play like Tarzan: BeWILDerwood, Norfolk
This award-winning forest adventure park has treehouses, jungle bridges, swings, slides, walkways and even mazes, all in and around the trees. There's also storytelling, nature walks, boat trips and a café.
From £12 (children under 92cm free); bewilderwood.co.uk
2. SUPER SUB
The stay: Head to Merseyside and soak up a bit of Beatlemania in this fabulous yellow 'submarine', moored at the Albert Dock. The inside of the sub is a crazy mix of black leather furniture and psychedelic Sixtes prints with a Mod scooter taking pride of place. There's a mini kitchen, three bedrooms and gleaming bathroom. The great location makes it more than manageable to explore Liverpool on foot.
What to do: On the Albert Dock you'll find The National Maritime Museum, Tate Liverpool, and tons of shops and restaurants to keep you busy. Grab energy-boosting smoothies from the Funky Shake Bar as you meander. For a blast of culture, Little Liverpool at the Museum of Liverpool is an interactive gallery just for under-sixes, and The Bug House at the World Museum is a fascinating display of creepy-crawlies.
We love: Sky TV, luxe toiletries and heated towel rails make a five-star stay.
Sleeps 8, from £199 per night; yellowsubliverpool.co.uk
3. BUSMAN'S HOLIDAY
The stay: Book this cheeky 1982 double-decker and sing Wheels on the Bus all day long. Thanks to a loving rescue and revamp, The Big Green Bus now sits in a tranquil Sussex glamping field where you can enjoy its homely interior of oak floors, shiny kitchen and dinky living space with warming log burner and original bus seating. Play being bus driver then bed down on the top deck – there are two double bedrooms and bunks for little ones.
What to do: Break out the deckchairs and watch the children let off steam in the field. When hunger strikes, refuel at the local Six Bells country pub with its outdoor play area (Chiddingly, Lewes, 01825 872227). Visit Lewes Castle, then wander the town's medieval streets; or for an ice cream on the pier and seafront stroll, Brighton is just 20 miles away.
We love: The stocked larder on arrival and welcome hamper of local produce, on request.
The Big Green Bus, from £160 per night for 2 people (minimum stay 2 nights), sleeps 6; biggreenbus.co.uk
4. HAPPY HORSEBOX
The stay: For a wholesome holiday vibe, hire Gertrude, a hip horsebox tucked away on the Elm Farm campsite, Cornwall. At this cute coastal bolthole, the emphasis is very much on laid-back living. Barbecue your meals with the outdoor grill, or make use of the mini kitchen and eat al fresco. Come sleepy-time, there's a stowaway double bed and two little bunks for children. Fold up the truck door, blow out the lanterns and listen to the sound of the stream as you nod off. Gertrude may be bijoux, but she's certainly got heaps of character.
What to do: Grab the buckets and spades and make your way to one of the two great beaches nearby – head to baby-friendly Portreath with its cute village and tiny harbour, or Porthtowan to watch local surfers ride the waves. Active families can hire bikes from the campsite's Bike Barn and ride The Mineral Tramways – cycle routes that follow some of the old Cornish mining railways. If you fancy going even further back in time, Pendennis and St Mawes castles are just a short drive away. The unmissable Eden Project is a longer 30-mile drive, but a fantastic escape if rain sets in, and there's a wide range of events throughout the year, including daily storytelling.
We love: The cosy log fire – a perfect setting for stories and stargazing before bed.
From £200 for a midweekbreak, realcornishglamping.co.uk
5. BOAT HOUSE
The stay: Sail the seas without leaving solid ground in Sonia The Boat at Cardigan Bay in Wales. Sitting in a paddock with a sweeping sea view, this ex-fishing boat is a jolly display of colourful bunting and a nod to all things nautical. Inside, you'll find a snug living area where the seats transform into two single beds, and a double bedroom, with portholes to peep out of. A bathroom and kitchen is housed in a converted barn just a short stroll across the garden.
What to do: It's all about nature in this picturesque part of the country. Spend your days toddling the Ceredigion coastal path, exploring the coves and keeping an eye out for wildlife. Poppit Sands is great for all-day play, with rock pools, dunes, easy parking and a great seafront café. At National Trust's Llanerchaeron estate, visit the home farm, where kids can milk the resident cow.
We love: Dolphin-watching and seal-spotting in the bay just below the boat.
Sonia The Boat, from £349 per week; underthethatch.co.uk/boat