Graythwaites glamping near Lake Windermere in the Lake District

Graythwaite Glamping: Pop-up glamping in the Lake District

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Discover why we fell for a campsite with a difference in the Lakes: Graythwaite Glamping on glorious Lake Windermere.

There is something a little bit magical about arriving at Graythwaite Glamping.

The road winds, corkscrew fashion, through dense woodland for several miles as you approach. Lush and leafy, it leaves much to the imagination with no view to speak of or hint at your location. A final arc in the road and the farmhouse is upon you, slightly dishevelled in a charming sort of way. It’s a sharp turn into the farmyard, and then a left into the car park, where the view is finally revealed.

Pristine white bell tents speckle the field ahead, clustered in cosy groups and stark as sheep against the deep green. Beyond, Lake Windermere shimmers and the low hills beyond frame the far side of the water. As campsites go, this arrival rivals the best.

We booked a week’s stay at Graythwaite Glamping on a last-minute whim. I wouldn’t normally recommend waiting until two weeks out to book your summer holiday. But once in a while you get lucky, and in July Lady Luck was on our side. A pop-up glamping spot in only its first year, it had not long opened its doors – and has just closed them again for the winter.

You might wonder why I wanted to share a site that’s not open right now. This gem is rumoured to be re-opening in summer 2022, and if you like the look of it I’d join the queue now. I’m certain future spaces at this site will sell like hotcakes and for very good reason.

Where is Graythwaite Glamping?

Nestled on the banks of Lake Windermere, Graythwaite Glamping is at the heart of the southern Lakes. Technically part of the small hamlet of Cunsey, it’s just a stone’s throw from the village of Hilltop and the ferry to Bowness-on-Windermere (a quick way to reach the far side of the lake). It’s less than twenty minutes by car from Ambleside, Hawkshead and Coniston – starting points for fantastic Lake District adventures.

But let’s not miss the stellar feature of this site.

You are quite literally on the lakeside. Pass through the gateway in the dry stone wall at the bottom of the camping field and you’re one hundred meters, at most, from the lakeside. Follow the path along the shore for a mile or more in each direction, or pitch up at any spot where gravel runs softly down from the path into the water – and brave it if you dare. This site is perfect for paddleboarders and kayakers, as well as keen swimmers. I can’t promise perfect weather but I can promise a divine lakeside location.

Lake Windermere on a summer evening
Just a few hundred meters walk from our tent

Beautiful bell tents

When we stayed in summer 2021, the site comprised 40 pre-erected bell tents. And big ones at that. Generous 5m diameter bell tents (sparkling new) all fully carpeted inside. I’d never known such decadence having endured perhaps one too many camping trips in a two-man tent. I’ve discovered the joy of space! A tent of this size felt almost lavish for the two of us, and would comfortably accommodate a small family or a couple of friends travelling together – even allowing for a few chairs and a small camp kitchen inside.

The tents were thoughtfully located on site too. Groups of tents were placed together in clusters – not so close as to afford no privacy or space outside, but also not so far apart as to feel lost in the field. We were particularly lucky to receive a tent close to the road as the elevated position (the camping field undulates a little) gave us a panoramic view over the water beyond. It’s worth noting there’s no need to worry at the mention of a road, it’s incredibly quite and there is no noise to speak of at all – aside from the occasional bleat of a sheep or honk of an enthusiastic goose.

It is, however, worth mentioning that the tents are not furnished. You’ll need to bring your own camp bed and kit for your stay. I’ll share a suggested packing list shortly, but in the meantime I’ll share a little about the facilities we found on site.

Graythwaite Glamping: The facilities

If I’m honest, this was what I was most interested in when I arrived. The folks running this spot had quite the challenge on their hands to create a pop-up experience for less than three months, without any permanent infrastructure. I think they rose to it magnificently, and find it quite fascinating to think this spot has now been returned to a farmyard and field, with no hint of what was here when we arrived.

That said, we were pragmatic. It’s not possible to perfect everything in these circumstances, but it felt polished and as comfortable as you could make it knowing it would disappear at the end of the season.

Here’s the key points;

The marquee

Unmissable at the entrance to the site, the large and elegant marquee is a communal space. Trestle tables and benches provided a spot to eat or play games, charging points were handily located here and the Fussball and table tennis tables seemed to be loved by everyone on site aged five to fifty, including us.

The barn

Next to the car park, the barn serves as reception but was mostly home to the charming horsebox cafe that offered essentials and good brews twice a day. Helpfully, there was also a cluster of fridges in here – a bonus for an off-grid site.

The toilets

I know, you’ve been dying to ask. This was a pop-up site, so serviced by portaloos. Provided you realise this, and don’t mind, it’s absolutely fine. They were spotlessly clean throughout our stay. Whilst I didn’t mind in the slightest, it isn’t for everyone and not all guests had clocked this when booking although it was made clear. It pays to read the small print folks.

The showers

Don’t worry. They were great. Graythwaites had invested in top-notch temporary shower units, the sort you find at some sports events and more upmarket festivals. Plenty of room to shower and change, well lit, again immaculately clean and with warm water at any time, we had no complaints on this front.

Washing up stations

As a reasonably seasoned camper, this was the one facility that let the site down a little. Whilst a table area was set up near the water taps, there was no outdoor sink area and I was extremely glad to have packed a washing up bowl. It wasn’t perfect but I’m sure will be improved upon if the site re-opens.

Not a bad view from right outside our tent

What to pack for Graythwaite Glamping

Now that you know what to expect, it’s a little easier to suggest what you might want to bring with you.

It’s worth saying that the Graythwaite Estate did a great job of providing a suggested packing list for Graythwaite Glamping both on their website and in booking emails. But here’s my thoughts after our stay.

  • Camp beds and bedding – You could absolutely make do with camping mats and sleeping bags, but as you have the space airbeds and regular bedding will make this experience feel much more luxurious.
  • Headlights and lanterns – Whilst pretty string lights festoon part of the site, from a practical perspective you’ll need light to get around at night and in your tent. You could rely on your phone, but I find it mch more practical not to. A head torch is great for using the toilets and wash stations. Bring a battery powered lantern for drinks or late dinner on an evening. I also brought battery-powered fairy lights for our tent, a fun way to add a little more atmosphere.
  • All the chargers – If you’re relying on battery or USB powered lights and the like, be sure to bring chargers to keep them full of juice.
  • Camping chairs and a folding table
  • A gas stove, gas, lighter and pans – If you plan to cook on site or even just make a morning brew, you’ll need these to hand
  • Crockery and food prep tools – This will depend on what your plans are for your stay, but as enthusiatic campsite cooks we like to come prepared. A basic plate/bowl/cup/cutlery for each person is a good starting point. I then add in a chopping board and a few basic utensils like knives, a serving spoon, silicon spatula, tin opener and most crucial of all – a bottle opener.
  • Bin bags – Boring but useful. It’s a little walk to the bins, you won’t want to carry every wrapper over one at a time.
  • Washing up supplies – Liquid and a dish cloth minimum, a washing up bowl and tea towels if you’ve got space.
  • Towels and a clothes horse – This is a key last point – you’ll need to bring your own towels. Better still, if you have a small clothes horse you can easily dry these plus any wet swinwear or soggy clothes.

You could also bring a barbecue if you fancy – and during our stay it was possible to hire a limited number of firepits for the evening. This was a great option for cooler nights or for kids (and big kids) who enjoy a toasted marshmallow or five.

Planning your trip

As I mentioned earlier, Graythwaite Glamping has now closed for the season. With luck, it may be back in the summer of 2022. As soon as I hear of booking opening up, I’ll update this page here.

In the meantime, keep your eye on the Graythwaite Estate website for booking and more on their other offerings, including a farm shop, holiday cottages and outdoor adventure activities.

We didn’t give ourselves much time to plan for our trip to the Lake District, but we landed on our feet with this superb little pop-up. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to others (so long as you’re not phased by a few off-grid facilities) or to stop by on a future trip to this part of the world. It’s a pretty magical spot for camping in the Lake District – and that’s saying a lot.

Planning a trip to the Lakes? Check out my first timers guide to walking in the Lake District in summer

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