Into the Woods
Lydia Gard experiences staying in an unusual location for a relaxed family holiday – a Welsh tree house
The tree houses of my youth were rickety, splintery things and generally pretty terrifying. And yet, being enveloped by branches and watching clouds drift by – unseen in a silent canopy – is a sensory thrill I was desperate for my sons to experience. Mercifully, tree houses have come a long way since then, allowing an adventure for the young and crucial comforts for adults.
Adventurous in WalesSuspended among oak and larch trees on a remote, organic sheep farm at the edge of Snowdonia National Park, Living Room’s tree houses combine the thrill of being immersed in nature with the promise of crisp white bed linen and a hot shower.
Dotted along a steep hillside, each house is a striking elliptical pod completely supported by the trees – stilts, it seems, are for wimps. To get to Ty Mawr, where we slept, a staircase of oak treads and woven branch rails snakes up a tree trunk with a suspension bridge slung some 20 feet above the forest floor. From the deck there are views over the Dovey Valley to the foothills.
Laser-cut doors echo the silhouette of surrounding branches; on the hillside there’s a hot tub steaming; under the pod, an alfresco shower is heated by the log-burner within. There are tree swings and tree nets for cloud watching or stargazing. It is adventure – refined.
Inside, the patina and grain of the woods – bone oak and western red cedar – give texture and pattern. Porthole windows are positioned to frame the view or channel a flood of moonlight across the pillows. Baskets of cosy blankets and books are on hand for reading by candlelight. It’s simple, but highly curated.
The highest house, Gwdi Hw – Welsh for owl – teeters high up in larch trees. Young families should choose Bryn Meurig Bach in a pretty woodland clearing with plenty of flat ground for den building and survival games, while families with older children bag the superlative new Pen Y Bryn – electric lights, a ceramic butler sink, a huge deck and elegantly rustic interiors. Yes, there is a composting loo, but it’s a small price to pay to be enveloped in the uninterrupted majesty of the canopy.
Ways and meansTree houses cost £329 for two nights (three if arriving Sunday). Each of the five houses has a double and two bunk beds. living-room.co
Three more high-rise spots
Chic in FranceFor forest dwelling with savoir faire, the tree-house cabin at Le Clos Saint Saourde, 35 kilometres north-east of Avignon, is set in Muscat vineyards. The vaulted ceilings and wood-panelled walls in an elegant Provençal palette of cream and grey are accented by Asian antiques.
The cabin costs from £317 per night and includes breakfast. i-escape.com
Wild in KenyaPropped in an Elephant Pepper tree overlooking the Mara River, The Nest will delight naturalists. Within the Mara North Conservancy, Kenya, it’s equipped with state-of-the-art night-vision cameras to monitor game silently moving through the African bush, while the simple decoration and open walls give the impression of being outside.
Cazenove + Loyd offers four nights at Serian Camp, including a night at The Nest, from £1,716 per person, based on two sharing, on a full-board basis. cazloyd.com
Magical in SwedenDragonfly may be the newest of Treehotel’s seven Swedish tree houses but The Bird’s Nest is still the most thrilling. Reached by a retractable staircase and trapdoor, the cylindrical room spans 17 square metres and sleeps four (in a double and twin bunks). It’s furnished simply, with limed-wood walls punctured only by a string of porthole windows. The entire room is invisible from the exterior, which is covered in woven branches, thus appearing from all angles to be a huge nest hovering among the pines.
The Bird’s Nest costs from £1,246 for three nights, including buffet breakfast. treehotel.se
Taken from the May 2014 issue of House & Garden.