A glam summer escape in Oxfordshire that might just convert the most sceptical of camper – Telegraph.co.uk

Posted: August 20, 2020 at 1:51 pm


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As I, like many Britons, brave an obstacle course of Covid tests, quarantine threats and pesky QR codes in the run-up to my fix of European summer sun, one question tuts at the back of my mind. Am I a fool for not settling on a staycation this once?

Particularly given the warm admiration I feel for those entrepreneurial holidaymakers setting up tents on Britains open moorland, heathered hillsides and even beaches to nab the best sunbathing spot. Not that I will be joining them. My Mediterranean holiday is booked and I havent been camping since my bronze Duke of Edinburgh award, a miserable puddle of a memory that still makes me shudder.

Like Scarlett OHara vowed never to go hungry, my 15-year-old snowflake self made a personal promise to never again be so damp. But thats where the glamping weekend trend preys ingeniously on the spoiled and troubled psyche of the millennial jet-setter. One of Britains most hipster hotel groups, Hoxton, has taken over Eynsham Hall to launch a luxury glamping experience aimed at 30-somethings this summer (they may run more dates, so watch this space).

Yurt-style tents have been erected across the gardens of the 18th-century hunting-pile-turned-hotel in Oxfordshire, which is currently closed as it prepares for a relaunch in 2022 (those seeking peace and quiet need not fret as, currently, no refurbishment works are under way).

But for the billowing white ceilings of canvas fabric and the odd flying ant scaling the walls (staff can spray down tents on request), they are pretty much like walking into any Hoxton hotel room from the king-size bed decorated with teal velvet pillows to the copper-brushed light fixtures and easy chairs. Hoxton signature mugs and a kettle sit atop the minibar, which, presumably thanks to a tentsized loophole in the new hotel room regulations, was loaded with a complimentary bottle of Douro Valley wine and the usual array of alcoholic miniatures. Each tent even has its own private rain shower and loo in a building next to the main house.

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After a panicked moment searching for a socket to charge my two phones (what is the point of glamping if not to make believe at switching off without having to actually switch off), I kitted up with one of the campsites bicycles to explore the grounds. This was a delightful race-around with pauses to watch rabbits dive between the foxgloves, and lambs graze in the fields beyond.

Eynsham Hall is a 3,000-acre estate, but it is surrounded by private land, and the main road out of it isnt particularly cycle-friendly, so those who wish to explore further are better doing so on foot. The village of North Leigh has various footpaths perfect for ramblers. Turning off into one, I found myself suddenly on top of a slope peering across Oxfordshires green and golden hills. The footpaths led me deeper into the country, deserted apart from the odd blackberry picker and grass-munching horses.

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Back at base, the evening started with a complimentary open bar. Just one drink on the menu, but it was a good un: white port with forest fruit and rosemary-infused tonic. As I sipped my ice-cold cocktail while sunbathing on the grass, but for Oxfordshires verdant rolling hills, I could have been on the Algarve. My sunset, however, was more redolent of Ibiza: Roberts radio automatically tuned to Smooth Chill percolating languorous synth tunes, as I leafed through one of the campsites hip self-help books (that bible for burnt-out 30-somethings, The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle).

But one of the greatest highlights is cooking up a feast on your tents private barbecue. At a reasonable supplement, guests can order food boxes in advance, cooking up gourmet burgers with black treacle cured bacon and tomato marmalade, or jerk chicken with rum sauce. I went for the Banging Veggie BBQ Selection if only out of curiosity would it really compare to blackened hot dogs and juicy rump steaks? I was in fact pleasantly bowled over by the glories of corn on the cob smeared with truffle butter, ras el hanout marinated cauliflower steak with tahini and pomegranate dressing and halloumi brioche burgers.

At 8pm, the staff light the campsites fire pits, so bring your marshmallows and sticks and round off the evening gazing into the stars. I was slightly sad they werent selling any in the lobby shop just branded hoodies in 32C (90F) sun.

Aimed at those who like their fresh country air washed down with cocktails on the South Bank, Camp Hox stays can be twinned with an overnight stay at the brands newest London property in Southwark; it is still buzzing in the wake of lockdown, if not as heaving as before. Reserve well in advance to enjoy Londons longest oyster menu at its high-rise restaurant Seabird, and then take in the glittering views of the city from your hotel room, remembering how the sheep were rousing you from your slumber, as natures alarm clock, just hours before. Can a summer holiday in Europe top it? Im not so sure

Two nights at Camp Hox plus one night at The Hoxton, Southwark, costs 370 for two people. Extra nights available on request (camphox.com).

The best hotels in Oxfordshire

Sleep in a bell tent or tipiin the manicured grounds of 17th-century St Giles House in Dorset until the end of August. Cloud Nine is run by the same people behind Boardmasters festival, soexpect (socially distanced) activities such as archery, guided walks, paddleboarding, kayaking and silent discos. Street food and bar pop-ups will continue the festival feel.

Tents from 132 pernight (cloudnineglamping.com)

A new tour operator offering luxury guided expeditions in the Scottish Highlands will launch this October. Wildnis, founded by ex-Army captains, combines outdoor activities think packrafting and scrambling with hotel-like comforts, such as bell tents, open-fire feasts from Michelinstandard chefs and Land Rover Defenders. Tours also available in Norfolk and Cornwall.

Four-night expedition, 3,000 per person, all-inclusive (wildnis.co.uk)

These beachcomberchic yurts sit atop the golden sands at Lusty Glaze, a privately owned bay edged with powder blue huts near Newquay. You can be swimming in the sea one minute and drinking some local white wine around a fire pit the next. There are plenty of nearby coastal walks, too.

Three-night stay for two, 810 (lustyglaze.co.uk)

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A glam summer escape in Oxfordshire that might just convert the most sceptical of camper - Telegraph.co.uk

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August 20th, 2020 at 1:51 pm

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