Bristol vs the world

A travel (and sometimes fashion) blog about exploring Bristol and the rest of the world, one post at a time.

Category: Camping/Glamping

The Trapper’s Tent, Casa dos Loios, Portugal

Trapper's Tent, view from decking

“They’ll be dancing in a minute. You just watch.” Glenn and Dianne smile at us knowingly. We’re stood in the square of a central Portuguese mountain village, attending their annual festa. It’s gone 11pm and the band has just started up. Despite the time, the square is busy with packs of teenagers, laughing friends, and families, from tiny children to their great-grandparents. This is the village event of the year, and everyone attends.

And then a couple start dancing, a relaxed but slightly jumpy partner dance. Another couple follows, doing the same style of dance. Soon half the village are in the space in front of the stage, dancing with a friend or partner or other family member. It’s like they were born knowing how to do these steps. There’s one woman who’s particularly captivating, agily weaving through the throng with her partner. An older couple are slightly slower, but still perfectly in time. I imagine them doing the exact same dance together, nervously, fifty or sixty years ago. Back then he would have had to ask her Mother and Grandmother for permission for just one dance. (Apparently even as recently as ten years ago, this was the norm here.)

festadancing

This is the sort of event we’d never have discovered if staying in a bog-standard hotel or B&B. But from the moment you meet Glenn and Dianne (in our case, over coffee in the local supermarket, where we also chatted to some of their friends) you know your time at the Trapper’s Tent is going to be anything but standard. And that’s before you see the tent itself.

Trapper's Tent, Portugal, view from bed

Regular readers who remember my aversion to nights under canvas might be wondering how John persuaded me to stay in a tent. But the Trapper’s Tent, set in the hamlet of Fonte Longa, is another of Canopy & Stars‘ ‘glamping’ destinations, and comes complete with a proper bed, wardrobe, shower and toilet (the latter two of which are inside a separate shepherd’s hut). You have your own semi-covered kitchen with kettle and hob, all the cooking equipment you’d need and a view over the valley. There’s also a barbeque if you’d prefer (remember to stock up on charcoal). The tent is covered, too, so even the sound of rain didn’t really bother us like it might in your typical under-canvas experience. To paraphrase a well-known ‘supermarket’, this isn’t just camping

Trapper's Tent reading spot
Barbeque Trapper's Tent portugal

You will be the only people staying here for the duration, and so everything you see in the pictures* is for your exclusive use – the only people who might pop by are Glenn & Dianne’s friendly pets, or, occasionally, the couple themselves to check everything’s OK or to offer advice on where to go.

*The pictures in and around the tent that is.

Trapper's Tent pets

It’s hard to tear yourself away from this idyll, but Dianne is wonderful at recommending nearby places to visit based on your interests (you have a quick chat about what you’d like from your stay when you arrive – but not before you’ve had a chance to gawp at your surroundings), places to eat and she even drew us a map of a local walk she enjoys. She has also written a guide to the area that you’ll find in the tent, even including information on the others who live in Forte Longa; you’ll learn about Paula, who’s family used to tour as a reggae band, Miguel the shepherd, Zeca who looks after the goats you often spot grazing in the fields below the tent…

Following Diane’s advice and hand-drawn maps, we explored the Roman ruins at Conimbriga, hopped over rivers in search of Lousa Castle, skimmed stones in the river by a tiny, deserted (man-made) beach by the Mondego River (near Penacova), and meandered down the streets of local towns and markets in this lesser-travelled area of Portugal. Then we’d come back and watch the sun set with wine* or beer and a book and a smile on our faces.

*Top tip: The €3 fizzy wine from Lidl is actually not bad.

Mondego River, Portugal

Is this experience for everyone? No, probably not. If you don’t like the idea of being Internet-less in a foreign country (unless you want to pay for roaming; personally, we loved the escape from technology – to pick up a book, rather than check up your emails, as you wake up slowly in bed is such a wonderful feeling) or possibly having to skip to the toilet through the rain, or no television and room service – then this is an experience to avoid. But if you want to enjoy the great outdoors in relative comfort, or like the idea of barely going ‘properly’ inside for your entire stay (well, excluding supermarkets/museums/restaurants), or fancy experiencing quite a different country and culture not too far from home, all with expert advice from locals, then I’d highly recommend the Trapper’s Tent for a relaxed, friendly and slightly unusual escape.

Practical Information
Getting there and around: We got the train from Lisbon to Coimbra (and then from Coimbra to Porto); both journeys were very easy. From Coimbra, I’d recommend hiring a car to really make the most of the local area. Once you’re out of Coimbra, the roads are pretty quiet, so driving isn’t too difficult. Though despite Dianne’s helpful maps, I’d consider hiring a sat nav.

If you’d rather not hire a car, minibus and additional public transport can be found on the Canopy & Stars website.

Price: From £42 p/night, going up to around £65 p/night in summer. If you’re going for your honeymoon, you can pay a bit more to go fully catered and some other special features – see the website for more information.

Language: Although many chat away in English that puts us native speakers to shame (for example, the wonderful girl in the car hire office), not everyone in the area speaks – or is confident speaking – the language. I’d highly recommend learning a few Portuguese phrases and keeping a phrasebook on you. Based on our experience, locals will appreciate you making an effort regardless of whether they speak English or not.

Conimbriga ruins Conimbriga ruins Conimbriga ruins Lousa Castle Mondego River View from Penacova of Mondego River viewfromkitchentrapperstent
Trapper's tent portugal kitchen
Trapper's Tent Portugal kitchen
Trapper's Tent Portugal bed
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Jumping for joy, Trapper's Tent

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Not-so-lonely goatherders: A weekend at Woodspring Farm

crooksviewwebsite

Not counting festivals or nights in caravans, I have only camped once. It was a practice trip for a school expedition to Vietnam and we were forced to go to Buxton in January. (Quite how pitching a tent on snow prepares you for trekking in the rainforest I’ll never know.) One night I woke up and was shaking so much, I genuinely considered waking my tent-mates and asking them to tell my parents I loved them should I freeze to death. Let’s not even get started on the trauma of putting on new underwear. Overall, not a life highlight.

So despite John’s repeated suggestions that we should invest in a tent, I’ve been avoiding any ‘real’ camping ever since. That was until last Christmas, when I happened upon Canopy & Stars. The ‘glamping’ arm of Alistair Sawdays, the website lists a number of unique, and quite appealing, camping hideaways in the UK and Western Europe. They seemed like the perfect Christmas present: enough outdooryness/nature for John and a proper bed for me (also part of making this a perfect present for him, as it meant that I wouldn’t wake up grumpy after a bad night’s sleep on an under-inflated air mattress).

Kewstoke Wellspring Farm walk

After searching through options in the South West, I eventually settled on Crook’s View Shepherd’s Hut on Woodspring Farm, Kewstoke. Situated between Weston-super-Mare and Worle, Kewstoke’s less than an hour from Bristol by car, which meant we could spend more time enjoying being there and less time driving/getting lost.

The hut turned out to be perfect in so many ways. From the moment I booked, the owner, Victoria, was incredibly friendly and helpful, sending an email full of information about the hut. This continued throughout our stay; she and her partner, Andy, made us feel welcome and were more than happy to chat and offer recommendations, but they also gave us plenty of privacy, too.

Middle Hope, walk near Wellspring Farm, Kewstoke

The location, too, was ideal. Although described as being in Kewstoke, Woodspring Farm is very much in the countryside, close to walks through picture-perfect green fields overlooking the coast. It’s the ideal combination: a peaceful escape, yet close enough to towns to be able to get hold of amenities (and takeaways) easily!

And then there’s the hut itself. When we arrived – on a very wet January Saturday (date chosen because it’s our ‘anniversary’, and I’m a masochist) – the stove was already burning. This and the abundance of blankets kept us cosy throughout our stay. Victoria and Andy provided everything we needed (and more), from utensils, plates and mugs to marshmallows for roasting over our wood burning stove. A handy folder gave recommendations of walks, restaurants and other nearby attractions. And if the weather had been better, we’d have loved to have tried out the storm kettle and outdoor fire pit.

Worn burning stoveInside Crook's View, Wellspring Farm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you do want to cook for yourself, but it’s not quite outdoor-cooking weather, there’s also a ‘guests’ section in Victoria & Andy’s farmhouse which contains a small kitchen (as well as a toilet/bathroom and space to hang up soggy clothes to dry overnight – very much appreciated!). As it was a Christmas present (and we’re lazy), we instead decided to treat ourselves and order in from the local Indian, who deliver to the farm. Delicious, and exactly what we needed on a stormy January night.

We also ate out for lunch, at the Sand Bay Tea Rooms in Kewstoke. Excellent grilled cheese sandwiches and milkshakes, and really friendly owners. We popped in on our way to the farm, but it’s also walking distance from the hut.

Talking of food, the breakfast (included in your stay and delivered to your door at the time you request the previous night) was amazing – and very filling! Even we couldn’t finish it all, and packed some of the snacky bits for our morning walk and journey home.

Breakfast @ Crooks View

But although everything about our stay was lovely, there were two stand-outs. The first was the resident mischievous-but-friendly goats! We had a good giggle watching them try and break into our hut and, later, out of their field! They also seemed to like the taste of my waterproof.

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goatjohn2

The second was waking up in in the hut. Hut’s windows and doors open, we clutched mugs of tea and watched as the goats devoured their breakfast and dawn broke over the hills. There is no better way to start a morning.

Goat feeding in the morning, crook's view

Admittedly our shepherd’s hut experience isn’t exactly what many would consider ‘proper’ camping. It’s certainly not roughing it – not that I’m complaining. But if you want to get away from it all and back to nature but with some home comforts, it’s the perfect way to do so. We’ve already booked our next Canopy & Stars getaway, and were planning to go back to Crook’s View before we’d even left. Perhaps in the summer next time, though; I want to use the fire pit!

Photo Credits
Top photo: Courtesy of Canopy & Stars website
All other photos my own – please credit if using

The details
Crook’s View Shepherd’s Hut
Pricing starts at £160 for two nights (we actually only stayed for one, but I don’t know if that’s an option any more – and I’d highly recommend staying longer, anyway!)
Near Kewstoke, South West England
Nearest train station: Worle (about 3 miles). You can cycle from here, or Victoria will pick you up from £2
Parking on-site

Shepherd's Hut morning view 2

Goats

Sheep

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