Host Spotlight: Robert and Emma

By Jackie Dreyer

Editor's note: Each month, we'd like to introduce you to one of our wonderful Glamping Hub hosts and what inspired them to create a glamping site. This month, we have Robert and Emma and their glamping property—with everything from pods and tiny houses to cabins and cottages!—in Essex, England.

1. What is the story behind you starting your glamping site?

Emma:

After converting two redundant farm buildings on the farm into cottages, our road into the accommodation sector began. A friend later suggested we offer a small field for touring caravans. Later, a Sunday supplement feature about MegaPods resulted in a conversation with Ian Bone of The Pod Company, and a few weeks later, our first MegaPod arrived.

Rob was a little skeptical, but a simple addition of a photograph of the MegaPod at the bottom of the cottages website resulted in lots of bookings. Two more MegaPods were quickly bought and installed.

Robert:

Shortly after this, Emma suggested we convert shipping containers into more glamping pods. Why not? We ship potatoes from the farm in shipping containers! This was way before George Clarke got in on the act.

Not long after a visit to a trade show resulted in a conversation with Archie Hunter at Armadilla, and a deal was struck to buy three, which our younger guests love, as they have mood lighting, TVs, DVD players, and Bluetooth connectivity.

The business rolled on but we were regularly turning folks away. We needed to expand, but carefully, without losing our ethos of providing luxury accommodation in large separate private spaces. We looked around the farm and decided on the next location—a little way from the original location, but with fantastic views across the fields to the estuary of the joining rivers: Colne, Crouch, and Blackwater.

After much debate and a trip to Slovenia, we installed 12 fabulous Lushna cabins. There are four different designs—each one in its own huge 25-meter by 15-meter plot—and they're already proving to be extremely popular with our guests.

2. What did you do before becoming a glamping host? What drew you to glamping?

Emma:

Before setting up the glamping business, Rob was a potato merchant, buying and selling potatoes from across the U.K., mostly for export. He also helped out with the family farm, where the glamping business is based.

Robert:

Emma had a successful career in TV working for various companies in London, as well as for a time in Singapore, before moving back to her original home turf in Essex. After meeting Rob, she got involved with the glamping business and uses her marketing and branding qualifications and skills to guide the business on its way.

3. In your opinion, how does your accommodation fit the definition of glamping?

Robert:

Our pods are what glamping is all about, "like a hotel room in a field." It's all the pleasure of camping, but with the luxury and comfort to make the stay as pleasurable as it can be.

4. What is the most special thing about your property?

Emma:

Our location is the best thing about our glamping site. Just a short drive of an hour and 25 minutes from London, the property is on a quiet, peaceful lane, where, except for the odd tractor, the noisiest thing you'll hear are the birds and bees in the hedges and trees. The views across the fields to the estuary beyond are fantastic, and the nature reserve, beach, and marshes at the end of the lane are a place of natural wonder.

5. What do you love the most about running a glamping site? What are some of the challenges you face?

Emma:

Rob loves developing new things, so his mind is currently scheming his tree house! He's already got a design worked up for a two-story, luxury, circular cabin, which will float in the branches of the fabulous holm oak tree in the farm's yard.

Robert:

Emma says my personal challenge is keeping our guests happy and wanting to return here. Coming up with new ideas for the business is important, too, so it evolves for our guests and inspires us and our team here at the farm.

6. Tell us about your most memorable guest experience to date.

Emma:

For Rob, I think it is some of the funny emails we get from guests. Perhaps the gem, "can you quote me happy," still makes him chuckle. I love the marriage proposals at our properties, as well as guests returning over the years to make further memories with their children.

Emma:

And who can forget finding fish swimming about in one of the hot tubs?! That was rather memorable. Some of our younger guests had caught some fish and were not allowed to take them home, so thinking quickly, they popped them in a hot tub for safe keeping. Thankfully, the hot tub had cooled down by that point. When found, the fish were safely returned to the river after their morning spa treatment.

7. Which three words are most commonly used in guest feedback about your accommodation?

Emma:

Relaxing, peaceful, and wonderful.

8. Tell us about the experience you provide for guests visiting your glamping site.

Robert:

What we provide is an opportunity for guests to switch off. We don't need guests to check in, as they receive all the information they need to arrive at their accommodation in advance by email and text message—leaving them with nothing left to do but get on with relaxing.

Emma:

As Rob says, we run the business how we would like to be treated. No check-in means you're not worrying about arriving at 3 p.m. because the owner needs to show you around—all while the kids are driving you nuts in the car and you just want to arrive, relax, and have a cup of tea or a glass of wine.

Reducing stress to start with, so the holiday begins the minute you set off, is important. We encourage our guests to relax or go and explore the local area, including the beautiful stretch of coastline at our doorstep.

9. If you could have anybody stay at your accommodation, who would it be and why?

Robert:

Barack Obama—the only person of renown that I have ever really felt that I would like to meet.

Emma:

Aside from celebrities, I would like to look at charities for next year, perhaps offering a couple of weekends for families that are facing or have faced challenges, perhaps a bereavement, for example. Children caring for a sick parent really resonate with me, and I would like to offer a family some time to relax and get away from the strains of home life for a couple of days, if possible. As much as we are running a business, for both of us, it is important to add an ethical purpose, too.

10. Are there any upcoming additions/changes to your glamping site you would like to share with us?

Robert

My tree house and our hope and dream to add three cabins to a lovely area of grass between our wooded area and our reservoir. It is a beautiful location on the other side of the village—perfect for glamping!

Emma:

We have a few ideas. Another site would be good, with some variation. It's been a challenging year for us in a few different ways, and we have been talking recently about how, despite this, we are getting ready to move forward and create something new and different.


To book an unforgettable stay at Robert and Emma's property in Essex, click here for the cottage, some tiny houses, another tiny house, pods, one more tiny house, another pod, a few more pods, and a cabin!

Extreme adventure travel: Via Ferrata in Cumbria, England

By Arran Wallace

What better way to disconnect from your daily routine, embrace the great outdoors, and get some quality time with friends or family than by trying a new and exciting activity together? You have a plethora of options for your next unique experience, but our top suggestion for this summer will take you to the U.K.

For the ideal extreme adventure travel plan for this summer, check out the Via Ferrata in Cumbria, England.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

What is a via ferrata?

Via ferrata means iron path in Italian and is a climbing route that consists of a steel cable and iron steps and ladders, all of which are fixed to rock. Some via ferratas go the extra mile and include suspension bridges and zip-lines for those seeking an extra adrenaline rush.

Climbers attach themselves to the rock by clipping their harness to the steel cable and use the steps and ladders to progress. It's like a mix of traditional rock-climbing and scrambling, and it makes certain altitudes and peaks more accessible to the non-expert climber. All you need is sensible footwear and a good head for heights; most places provide or rent out all of the necessary equipment.

The need-to-know about Cumbria's Via Ferrata

Photo courtesy of Honister Slate Mine.

This particular via ferrata is located in the last working slate mine in England—Honister Slate Mine—where mining was carried out from 1728 until 1989. The mine was closed for a few years, but it was later reopened in 1997, with the addition of a tourist attraction within the Lake District National Park that includes underground tours and a visitors center.

Soon afterwards, the Via Ferrata (England's first!) was installed and proved to be extremely popular—even winning the "Best Tourism Experience in the Lake District" in 2011! It follows the original track that the miners used up the steep incline of Fleetwith Pike, reaching a height of 2,126 feet.

What to expect

Cumbria's Via Ferrata works like every other. Although trained guides accompany you and help to fasten you securely to the steel cable, it's all up to you to navigate the cliff-facing ladders, bridges, and narrow edges. It can be a mentally challenging, yet ultimately rewarding, activity, and whenever the going gets tough, just remember, miners used to do this without safety equipment!

There are two routes available to budding climbers: the Via Ferrata Classic and the Via Ferrata Xtreme. Both take around three hours, but the Xtreme follows a slightly different route—throwing in more edge exposure, vertical climbs, cliff-edge ladders, and a Burma bridge and cargo net to cross.

What to remember

Photo courtesy of Honister Slate Mine.
  • At Honister Slate Mine, all the necessary equipment is provided, including harnesses and helmets, but you are expected to dress appropriately and wear sensible footwear, so no heels or sandals!
  • Wear your helmet at all times, even during the designated breaks. While extremely unlikely, there may be the odd falling rock from above.
  • Your guide is there for a reason! Listen to the safety information before you start off, and if you get stuck, you can ask them the best way to maneuver across the rocks.
  • Check weather conditions before booking! You don't want to be holding onto iron rungs when lightning comes.
  • Take only essential items, such as water, high-energy snacks, gloves, and sunglasses. Mobile phones tend not to survive falls of hundreds of feet!
  • While the cable is there to be used, try not to use it for excessive load-pulling; use the iron rungs and rock face to push and pull yourself up.
  • Have fun, and don't look down!

What to enjoy in Cumbria afterward

Photo courtesy of the Lake District National Park Facebook page.

Once you're back on ground level and have got your sea legs back, you're going to want to check out what else there is on offer in the area. For those who love being in nature, Cumbria is a haven for outdoor activities, and much of the region is covered by the Lake District National Park.

In this national park, you'll find a rolling landscape of hills, valleys, and lakes, from which the park gets its name. Scafell Pike—England's largest peak at 3,209 feet—is just 10 kilometers south of Honister Mine; however, those wishing to conquer its peak will have to drive up, around, and back down south to attempt the summit on its western side.

Photo courtesy of The Crazy Tourist.

The quaint and charming towns of Keswick and Ambleside are both within easy driving distance of the mine, offering visitors the chance to experience typical architecture of the region and a surprising amount of traditional pubs, given their size.

Cumbria is also known for its various breweries and distilleries, and the famous Lakes Distillery is known for its whisky called, "The ONE" whisky, which was the first blended whisky in the British Isles. They now create their own gins and vodkas, too—the only ones brewed in Cumbria—and have been named one of the "Eight Distilleries to Visit Before You Die" by World Whisky Day.

For those who prefer something a little lighter, Hawkshead Brewery is an innovative craft brewery that offers interesting taps, such as marshmallow and chocolate imperial stouts. They host brewery tours and beer festivals throughout the year, too! The brewery is located near the town of Kendal, the birthplace of Kendal Mint Cake, which is a peppermint confection popular among British climbers as a quick source of energy. Check to see if your Via Ferrata guide has any spare ones in his or her pockets!


Gearing up for a holiday? Check out all of our offerings in England for more unique adventures!

Best Beaches in England

By Lucy Tyler

A girl on the beach in England.

A beach break in England? Does the sun even exist there? A country (unfairly) notorious for its unlucky weather, England isn´t the first place that springs to mind when planning a beach break, but rest assured, the following destinations are sure to send you into a frenzy that is proceeded with hasty suitcase packing and manic bikini buying. When the sun shows its face, there's no better place to be than exploring the unspoiled shores of the marvelous English coastline.

These national treasures are the perfect antidote to the chaos of city life. When sprawled out on a sunbed with an ice cream in hand, your worries will feel far, far away...

So ditch the TripAdvisor reviews, Glamping Hub has made our pick of the country´s most jaw-dropping shorelines that will make any beach bum burst with excitement and spark that inner wanderlust.

**1. For something a little different: Brighton Beach**

The boardwalk in Brighton Beach.

Although not the most typical beach that you had in mind, Brighton Beach is undoubtedly one-of-a-kind. Arguably one of England's most iconic beaches, Brighton oozes a unique and rustic charm you can't find on the likes of the standard west coast of California—or anywhere else for that matter.

Soak up the chilled vibes and the vibrant culture that Brighton exudes, and don't forget to buy a stick of rock, stroll the promenade, and check out the world-famous Brighton Pier. (And don't be put off by the pebbles—at least you won´t have to worry about sandy sandwiches!)

**2. For those seeking seclusion: Bamburgh Beach, Northumberland**

Beach glamping in North England.

Not a fan of your typical beach swarming with crowds of sun-worshippers? Northumberland is an oasis for those seeking an off-the-beaten-track getaway. One of northern England's best-kept secrets and a place steeped in fascinating history is the captivating coastline of Bamburgh Beach. It features an infinite stretch of untouched shoreline and the enchanting Bamburgh Castle, which dominates the skyline.

Comb the beach for marine life, enjoy a windswept wander along the coast, check out the shipwrecks, and hit the waves for excellent surfing. If you fancy a break from the beach, a visit to the castle is a definite must-do, as well as a walk around the quaint nearby towns for wonderful eating, drinking, and shopping.

**3. For an island getaway: Pelistry Bay, Isles of Scilly**

A lovely beach in Cornwall, England.

Out of all of England's vacation destinations, the breathtaking Isles of Scilly are up there with the best of them! With the glistening white sand beaches, turquoise, crystal clear waters, and small boats dotted along the horizon, you'll feel like you've been transported to the Carribean...and yet you're just a 15-minute flight from the mainland of England.

The picture-perfect Pelistry Bay can be found on St Mary's, the largest of these idyllic islands, which has been classified as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. St Mary's is a hub of activity, with a myriad of shops, cafes, restaurants, and fun attractions. And while the shores here are popular among tourists, Pelistry Bay is largely undiscovered, so let's just keep it between us, hey?

**4. For the adventurers: Durdle Door, Dorset**

Beach near glamping site in Dorset, England.

Another hidden gem of southern England's coastline with its remote setting, dramatic cliff backdrop, and magnificent, towering arch, Durdle Door is a place like no other. Carved into Dorset's striking coastline lies this stunning bay, which features in the movie Far From the Madding Crowd, the artwork of Pink Floyd, and even a Cliff Richard music video.

Durdle Door is one for the adventurers, with a slightly strenuous (but definitely worth it) climb down to the shingle beach. A few hundred steps lead down the cliff, which weaves down like a spiral staircase, offering breathtaking vistas and endless Instagram opportunities. Awaiting you down below lies pristine sand, sparkling water, and a secluded setting sheltered by the wind, perfect for whiling away the hours with a good book.

**5. For the surfers: Porthcurno Beach, Cornwall**

View of the beach from a glamping site in Cornwall, England.

A hotspot for surfers and bucket-and-spaders alike, Cornwall is undoubtedly one to tick off the bucket list. (no pun intended) Nestled into the towering bluffs of Englands southwestern peninsula, the famous Porthcurno Beach boasts a curve of dreamy, golden sand, reminiscent of the Mediterranean. The shores here are a wonderful blend of sand and shingle, and the powerful waves are a dream come true for boarders and water sports lovers.

The tall, granite cliffs provide protection from the blustery winds and this picturesque beach makes for the perfect spot to lay out in the sun while drifting off to the soothing sound of the waves crashing against the shore. Perched above, sits the unique and world-famous open-air Minack Theatre, where you can catch a Shakespeare show with an impressive, panoramic backdrop.


Want to see more? Feast your eyes on these wonderful English glamping getaways and let the adventures begin!