FAMILY GLAMPING | Our Lake District Mini Break in a Glamping Pod [AD]
AD / THIS POST CONTAINS GIFTED PRODUCT FROM BUYAGIFT. ALL WORDING & OPINION EXPRESSED IS MY OWN, NOT OF THE BRAND.
A family holiday is something I’ve been wanting for a while but put off. In part it’s because I’m overly protective of my pets who I can’t take with me and also, there’s something about the thought of taking a toddler on holiday that fills me with dread. So without taking a leap into long holidays away, I realised a short staycation would be the ideal answer for a family getaway.
A few months back I was gifted a glamping pod break from Buyagift which I thought would tie in nicely as a belated honeymoon / first family holiday. I’ve wanted to ‘go glamping’ for as long as I can remember so I was really looking forward to putting the experience to use and taking Reuben on his first little holiday.
Nestled close to the Lake District’s most northerly lake, Ullswater, is Waterfoot Park, the Lake District Estates‘ touring and self-catering holiday site on which the glamping pod break is offered. Catering for two people and including two further complimentary experiences: the Ullswater ‘Steamers’ and the Eskdale and Ravenglass Railway; it’s a deluxe two night break offering brilliant value for money. The glamping pods – technically wigwams by design – are compact wooden ‘homes away from home’ providing the mod cons conventional camping methods lack such as running water, electricity and heating, as well as small luxuries such as a toilet and fitted bed, promising the ultimate glamping experience in the most stunning of locations.
Although technically a break for two people, we were able to turn it into a family group and include Reuben, and since he’s only two there was no additional charge. Booking the break was a doddle: I’d already emailed Waterfoot Park to enquire about taking Reuben so I was able to book via email which simplified an already simple process! I just needed to give the Buyagift voucher number along with my full details and the dates I wanted to stay. So with the middle of May earmarked for our early summer getaway, it wasn’t long before we were heading off to the Lakes.
Glamping Day 1
Reuben was so charged up with excitement on the Monday morning of our holiday. I don’t think he had a clue what this glamping pod was that we were telling him about but he sure knew it was an adventure and he loves his adventures. He was so excited that while Mum and Dad were getting everything together and in the car ready to go, Reuben found a red felt tip pen that I never knew he had and prettied up the sofa. Thanks Reubs!
So we set off for the Lakes around 10 o’clock later that morning, stopping for lunch on the way before arriving at Waterfoot Park just after 1pm. With wigwam check-in times from 2.30pm we were a little early so after a friendly chat with the gentleman on reception we went for a walk into nearby Pooley Bridge. Despite the cooler weather that rained lightly at times, it was lovely to be able to walk straight out from the park to the lake. A gentle path skirting the bottom edge of the park led us up through pasture, over a road and along the most scenic of trails overlooking the lake which was a pretty sight for sore eyes. If only the field beside the track wasn’t having the most thunderous ground work undertaken, it would have been peaceful too (we had to wait til the workmen left at 5 for that later on.) From there, the easy walk took an interesting turn by leading us into a wood through some quite tricky terrain, which we spent the best part navigating with a tired two year old who just wanted to be carried. It transpired what was the only way to safely walk to Pooley Bridge was basically the Ullswater Way, the official route for hiking the points of interest around the Lake’s perimeter. Great for fit walkers, not so good for parents of toddlers, those who need a wheelchair or pushchair or anyone just likely to trip over uneven ground.
After a brief walk down to Pooley Bridge we made our way back to reception and got checked in, before being led to the glamping pod site by following in our car behind the gentleman from reception driving a buggy. Up the top end of the site was the glamping pod area; there were just four of the pods spaced out in a grassed area segregated from the caravans, and some new holiday huts called ‘hives’ closer to the gateway. The pods in real time were much bigger than I’d been imagining, which was a relief! Introduced to our pod, we were briefed on the box of crockery and utensils that was provided to use, showed how to use the heater and handed our door key before being left to get on with moving our gear in. We had a lot of bags to bring in, so it was handy that there were a couple of trolleys to help cart our luggage containing clothes, a billion snacks, bottles of water (not that we particularly needed it because there was running water) and a mountain of bedding.
Right outside the pod was a large raised decking area, a neat place to open up a couple of camping chairs and chill with a cup of tea, and just off the decking was our own picnic bench to use. The pod had double french doors which opened up to reveal an open plan space featuring a sofa bed, dining table and chairs, kitchenette and a double bed, while a separate shower room hid away a proper plumbed-in toilet, corner shower cubicle and sink basin.
We instantly made ourselves at home and popped the kettle on while Reuben bounced around the pod with excitement.
Now, one problem will glamping (or any form of self catering) is you end up taking half your house with you because you need stuff but you’re also worried about not having enough stuff. We had a ton of crap which meant it took up a lot of valuable space in the pod. The dining table ended up being the dumping ground for most bags, mainly because it was the only place Reuben’s little two year old self couldn’t reach. The rest of the bags – clothes and wash bags – went on the floor at the foot of the bed.
Of all the essentials on top of essentials that I thought to bring to the pod, there was still the odd item which caught us short. No, not the toilet roll. The first thing: hand wash. Who even thinks of taking hand wash anywhere?! I didn’t but thankfully I do carry a bottle of hand sanitiser on me so that came in useful. The second essential I forgot? Washing up liquid. I just didn’t think! And frustratingly the crock box contained a dish cloth but no dish washing liquid or soap, so I just ended up rinsing plates and cups with hot water and cleaning with a dash of shower gel. Well, it was better than nothing.
As our first day was already well into the afternoon we decided to keep it pretty simple and headed back out over to the lakeside and Pooley Bridge. This time we took the runner pushchair, knowing that Reuben’s energy comes in fits and bursts and will likely want a rest at some point. We found out there was an alternative route out of the park from the top end where the glamping pods were which took you through the mansion house’s garden, and it was a pleasant walk but it wasn’t feasible for the pushchair; Sean had to carry it down some steps and then try to pass through some gates which had posts right in the path of. The route through the wood was still unavoidable but thankfully our rugged pushchair made it.
Our first night in the pod was a stuffy one. The heater had been on low which was keeping the pod cosy but by bedtime it felt too hot so we switched it off. The heat didn’t help with settling Reuben for bed but to be honest he was just too hyper to sleep, so he spent the evening watching Bob the Builder on his friend’s dvd player and playing with the sticker books we brought. We hadn’t taken the black out blind from our bedroom so the pod was still quite light until late, so it was getting on half 10 by the time we all hit the hay together. By this time though it was perfectly quiet and peaceful (well, until the fridge kicked in humming) and it didn’t take long for us all to drop off.
Glamping Day 2
Come the morning of our second day the clouds were shifting and the sun was making an appearance, so it was lovely to be able to throw open the french doors and let in the fresh air while we ate breakfast and prepared for a trip on the lake. I was thrilled to find our Ullswater Steamers voucher that came complimentary with our glamping pod experience were all day tickets which meant we could hop on and off at different stops around the lake. With the Steamers leaving Pooley Bridge it meant another hike through that wood again, though after a few walks under our belt we were used to clambering through it by now. We called into the ticket office at the pier to purchase our tickets with our voucher which was very straight forward. Inside there was a very convenient toilet and a small gift shop where we bought a cute magnet souvenir.
We had some time to kill before the steamer came in so we wandered down toward Pooley Bridge, this time keeping to the lakeside where Reuben could go down and throw stones in the water. Nobody else was down there so it was really nice to relax and take in the views in our own secluded spot.
We were first in the line waiting to board the steamer but a large group of elderly folk had just come off a coach and they weren’t best pleased to see a toddler waiting to board. Reuben couldn’t understand why we were waiting when the ferry had arrived and got a bit impatiently upset, but he was instantly thrilled when we were allowed on board. He was a bit daunted once we actually sat down because this boat was entirely open and we sat on benches, so I sat close to the side with Reuben on my lap. I had been concerned about the safety of taking him on a boat so as precaution I put his reins on and held tight. I also popped his swim vest on, which I know is not a life vest but I figured I’d rather him wear that than nothing if he happened to fall out.
So we spent the entire day on the boats, sightseeing around the lake and visiting the various villages at the stops. Each ride was lengthy in time with a good hour before we stopped off at Glenridding briefly to quickly board the next boat over to Aira Force. When we reached there we stopped to have our packed lunch before taking the challenging hike (for mine and Reuben’s legs and Sean’s for carrying the pushchair up far too many steps to count) up to the National Trust’s Aira Force waterfall. We’re members of the trust but it’s a free to visit attraction for all so a bonus for keeping the holiday purse unspent!
Reuben made a little friend on the shore, playing ball with a young boy and his dog. Reuben loves dogs so he was in his element, as was I just taking photos of the glorious sun drenched views.
As the steamers are very time thirsty, you don’t actually have all that much time to ride different ones and visit the villages too, but we found it all enough. We stopped off at Glenridding on the way back and enjoyed wandering down to the shops where we stopped for some gorgeous locally produced ice cream and Reuben bought some Peter Rabbit books from the independent gallery and gift shop.
We took the last steamer back to Pooley Bridge, arriving back just before 6 so it was in good time to head back to our pod and fire up the mini barbecue we’d brought along. On the way there we’d bought some beef burgers and frankfurters, so I microwaved the hot dogs for quickness as it was already getting late for Reuben’s tea, and we were able to enjoy a light lemony lager as we sat around our smoking burgers. After our tea I thought a wander into the caravan site would be a good idea to make sure Reuben had burned enough energy, and we found the play park where he enjoyed a swing and the slide.
Getting ready for bed felt much more in check on our second night. We took turns taking a shower in our little washroom – even Reuben had a shower, but I sat him in the shower tray for his wash as it was too slippy without a rubber mat down. He loved it, so I’ve returned home considering giving him showers the odd time too now. We were all absolutely shattered at the end of our day of exploring Ullswater that we all went to bed together by 10 (another late holiday night for Reuben, but an early night for us).
Glamping Day 3
The following morning we woke to deep blue skies. Well actually Sean woke earlier at just gone 5 to the sound of a tractor in the field right next to our pods, but other than that, the day began on a positive note. Day three was going to take us further into the Lake District to Windermere, but it was also a sad goodbye to our glamping pod. With our early morning rise it meant we had good time to wake up without any rushing about and begin packing away our bags back into the car. Reuben helped Sean wheel the trolley back and forth while I casually put some make up on and enjoyed some peace before the mad day ahead. It didn’t take too long to tidy up the pod; sheets were pulled off the mattresses and cups were washed and put back into the borrowed crock box. So with a drop of the key back into reception we were driving to our next destination – to see the Beatrix Potter Attraction.
The weather was so much warmer and brighter so it came as no surprise to find Windermere bustling. Although, while it had been 9 years since we’d last visited here (obviously without Reuben) I’d forgotten how much more touristy it is here in this part of the Lakes. We spent the morning in the Beatrix Potter Attraction which Reuben had mixed feelings about (he found it a bit scary in part probably because it’s so dark inside) before heading out for a meander around the shops and stopping for some battered sausage and chips.
A relaxed walk down to the lakeside turned into a mad hunt for a loo which I could have done without but we found one, seemingly miles away, eventually. With that out of the way we went back down to the pier and bought some whippy ice creams (one being plopped onto the pavement by you know who) and then went to feed the ducks. It was crazy just how tame the swans were who actually allowed you to stroke them, or cuddle in Reuben’s case, but tears abounded when as I was feeding a dove of all creatures in my hand, a feisty goose chomped on Reuben’s arm leaving quite a nasty nip and bruise.
Not wanting to leave too soon but feeling the need to escape the crowds we drove out from the centre a short distance and stopped for a short walk down to a quieter part of the lake. Reuben was asleep by this point but he woke up eventually when we got near the shore, and after a little snack he got to work throwing stones again. It was nice just to sit on the rocks for a while to take in the tranquility of the lakes one last time before leaving for home. It was beautiful, just watching yachts bob in the distance on the crystalline water.
So what did we think of the pod?
Holidaying in a glamping pod was certainly different to staying in a b&b or even camping in a tent. It had its bonuses and downsides. I loved the pod for all its luxurious cosiness compared to a tent or caravan – it was modern, warm, you could wash and have a wee in comfort and with its wooden aesthetic and light giving french doors you felt close to nature.
Reuben had some freedom outside by running around the pod but generally it didn’t feel especially child friendly since the entrance to the glamping area was an open gate. Ball games weren’t allowed outside the pods so I was wary of getting our holidays toys out but Reuben was happy enough with his monster trucks and stickers anyway. There were some disappointments with the pod itself; we figured we were staying in the ‘dog friendly’ pod since we found so many dog hairs about and it did have a slight doggy wiff. Some of the shelves inside the fridge were broken so we couldn’t stand the milk up. And the sofa bed was sooo annoying because whenever you’d sit on it the back mattress would fall on you (Reuben thought he was getting attacked and ran away from it.) Oh, and then Reuben spotted cobwebs! “Wobs!” he shouted pointing at the door. He hates cobwebs and can spot them a mile off. Nice.
Was glamping with a toddler successful?
Yeah I would say so! We had the freedom we wouldn’t have had in a hotel, and it was a good experience for Reuben. But it really wasn’t relaxing in the way both the husband and I had hoped, where we’d imagined sitting outside in the cool evening watching the sun set while sipping a beer or two, because that certainly did not happen.
The glamping break package was really good value considering the cost of the Ullswater Steamers and the Eskdale and Ravenglass Railway experiences too. While we made as much of the steamers as we could, we sadly didn’t get to visit the railway as it was just too far away and we didn’t have enough time to make a proper day of going even further into the Lakes.
So while the pod had its flaws, we still loved our little pod. It was our bolt hole out of the elements for us to come back and chill out in and, for all the stressing, we still got our special family time together.
You can purchase the Waterfoot Park glamping break experience here:
Have you ever been glamping or camping with the family? What would be your top tips for successful holidaying with little ones?