You may well ask what we were thinking, agreeing to go glamping in the bitter depths of winter but when we agreed to review a two night stay at the luxury Caalm Camp in Dorset, it was with the express purpose of proving, to ourselves and to friends and family, that winter glamping is entirely possible!
Caalm Camp is an award-winning site which is home to six traditionally made Mongolian Yurts. Originally a dairy farm, the Camp has been family run for the last 6 years and claims to put the ‘glam’ in ‘glamping’. It is in a beautiful setting, surrounded by countryside, and with no city lights to interfere with your stargazing come night time. Each Yurt is named after a different wildflower and during our stay we were in Daisy.
Although our journey was pretty straightforward it took us around 5 hours to get down to Dorset but we were met with a friendly face when we pulled up; the owner, Mark, greeted us warmly and showed us around, explaining how everything operated.
Mark was an incredible host, making sure we had everything that we needed throughout our stay and recommending local places we could explore. He was particularly helpful on the ‘staying warm’ front (more on that later…) and we felt he really went out of his way to ensure we were having the best stay possible.
The Yurts themselves are absolutely stunning. From the intricately painted designs to the use of horse hair in their construction (not a bolt or nail in sight!), you really felt as though you were getting an authentic experience. In each Yurt is a double bed and two single beds, perfect for us as a family of four although Caalm Camp do say that it is possible for a yurt to sleep six.
The Yurts come equipped with a toasty log burner to keep it nice and warm, crisp bedlinen and cosy blankets, an outside fire pit, drinking water tap and a picnic bench as well. We didn’t make use of the outside facilities as temperatures were in the minuses but I can imagine it being the perfect place to gaze at the stars in the summer months.
I am going to be honest and say that I am not a fan of camping; I don’t understand why people would pay to be cold and wet when they sleep and why they would find enjoyment in using damp and even chillier facilities. Even though we were glamping, which is by nature slightly different, it’s still something I was concerned about but it really couldn’t have been further from the truth.
There is a building called The Old Haybarn on site which offers shared kitchen facilities, a communal dining and social area complete with TV and a selection of children’s toys, books and board games, and a private wet room for each of the Yurts. Incidentally, Daisy Yurt is closest to the Old Haybarn so if you don’t fancy walking far in the cold and dark then ask for that one when you book!
There is also a games room complete with two resident goats(!), a tennis table and a pool table. My only thought here is that it would have been nice if this room could have had some patio heaters as it was bitter. It is in the old dairy barn so has very little insulation and although Meg and Eli enjoyed having a game or two of table tennis, I couldn’t stand the temperature!
But I know the major question of the moment is whether we were warm in our Yurt?
If you are familiar with our travelling experiences you will know that we can’t go anywhere without having a little ‘adventure’. Think James getting lost at 12am in an unfamiliar French city after our hotel was booked for the wrong night and having to be retrieved by me after I’d persuaded some terrified hotel receptionist to watch the kids. Think driving past our Appartamento in Tuscany several times, commenting each time that it ‘looked very much’ like the place we were meant to be staying but didn’t quite match with the sat nav and you get the idea.
So were we warm in our Yurt?
The straightforward answer is that when our log burner was going, we were incredibly warm. There are logs available for use in your log burner and these come free of charge. There is also the possibility to purchase a bucket of coal for £3 which we were advised by Mark to do and to place the coal in the burner overnight, ensuring heat the whole night through. I don’t think that we had quite made it clear to Mark that fire and James don’t mix however and the first morning we woke, snug as little bugs in our beds, but with temperatures absolutely freezing in the Yurt. In short, our fire had gone out. And of course we had run out of matches the night before.
Cue James driving to the nearest petrol station to get some matches and a big thank you to the gentleman who offered him what he thought was a box of matches, free of charge, but which actually turned out to be a box of staples. You can’t make this stuff up!
But honestly, once we had spoken to Mark in the morning and figured out how to use the burner properly overnight, the second night we woke to find that we were much, much, warmer. In fact, when the log burner was going it took about 20 minutes for the Yurt to heat up and you would never have known you were in a Mongolian Yurt in the middle of the Dorset countryside in January!
Additional facilities on-site include a children’s playground, a shared fit pit area and a shared picnic area, all of which would be ideal if you were staying in a larger group. Caalm Camp does allow hen and stag parties, as well as big family groups but each Yurt is far enough away that you don’t really hear anyone else.
The pathways are also well lit and clearly marked so there’s no worry about losing your way if you need to use the bathroom in the middle of the night.
There is plenty to do in the surrounding area from visiting the beautiful Shaftesbury to taking some local alpacas for a walk and Mark is more than willing to recommend places to go to explore and eat if you need advice from a local.
Overall, our winter glamping experience was a very positive one. The camp site is well looked after, well thought through and we would definitely recommend a visit, even in winter!
*We were offered a two night stay at Caalm Camp for the purpose of this review. All thoughts and opinions are our own.