How do you fancy a few nights’ camping in the Lake District? said the magazine editor. “Not a chance, chief”, replied this veteran of the 1st Fife Scout Group and rain-sodden canvas tortures in the likes of
Peebles, Kirkfieldbank and Loch Lubnaig. “No, no – glamping. You know, the great outdoors with all the comforts?” Still dubious, I was swayed by the fact this Lake District site’s glamping S-Pod 4s took dogs – just the ticket for our wee four-legged friend – and featured an en-suite toilet, shower, TV, wifi, stereo Bluetooth speakers, fridge, BBQ stand, big seating platform with a massive brolly to keep the sun (well, in our case, torrential rain) off us. So our home for three nights at Coniston Experience Freedom was compact and (ahem) bijou – which is just as well as Cumbria decided it was Wet Weather Weekend for our trip. “You should have been here last weekend – it was lovely” was a constant refrain.
Yet we had a brilliant time. The company that makes the S-Pod 4s is Swift, which also makes caravans and motorhomes, so it is used to not wasting an inch of space. It’s a bit like Dr Who’s Tardis, really. The couch with the mirror behind it turns out to be the double bed – grab the handle and two seconds later, the bed – complete with duvet and pillows – is set up. I tried hard, as your reviewer, to find fault.
“Where’s the bedside light?” Err, you just need to flick that switch, said my partner. “Where’s the wardrobe?”
That panel next to the bed opens up to it. “Cooking without the barbecue?” The galley has two small gas burners, a microwave oven, kettle and toaster and allowed us to be well fed. (Word to the wise, do your supermarket shopping before you get to Coniston – some lovely wee shops there but bring anything fancy with you). Quite a few charging points built in so no need to worry about running out of juice for mobiles and iPads.
The setting is a comfortable wooded spot just off Lake Coniston and the village and its attractive pubs are a 15-20 minute hike. Good news for you dog lovers is that almost all of the pubs let canines in. There is plenty to see and do in the area, and I’d highly recommend a trip to Victorian polymath John Ruskin’s oddball house at Brantwood, an easy stroll round the head of Lake Coniston or a five-minute car ride away. Apart from the house itself and several Turner paintings, the gardens are magnificent. Slightly further afield, in fact a 40-minute car run away, is the highly enjoyable minirailway at Ravenglass & Eskdale. Rescued by volunteer enthusiasts in 1960, its tiny carriages are pulled up into the fells by a variety of little steam engines and the odd diesel.
There is a comfortable cafe at the top of the line at Dalegarth but press on a few hundred yards to Boot and the Brook House Inn – best food and beer in the area. The Experience Freedom site is very well run and cleverly thought out so that you still have a good deal of privacy – and all the S-Pod 4s have their own designated car space. The site also has a couple of Airstream trailers for hire, if you fancy a bit of 1940s/50s Big Country nostalgia. So the S-Pod 4 verdict? It took everything that the bad weather threw at us and left us cosy, comfy and content. You know, I could get used to this glamping business – and the proof of this is that we, and the wee dug, will be back.
Frank Morgan, The Herald Scotland
Glamping pods sleep two adults + two children at £69/ night. The park is open all year. Visit experiencefreedom.co.uk.
Swift Group, based in East Yorkshire, manufactures the glamping pods – visit swiftgroup.co.uk
For visitor attractions in Cumbria, visit golakes.co.uk