The Art Of Slow Living: Child-Friendly Glamping At Feather Down Farms

Fresh farm air, no devices and quality family time. What an enticing thought! Yes, I was excited to take to canvas on a trip to Feather Down Farms with my husband and my two boys (aged 9 and 7 years old) to see if the ‘one-of-a-kind holiday’ the company promises lived up to expectations.

With 25 farms across Britain, Feather Down Farms offer a more luxurious alternative to traditional camping; you do after all get a real bed, running water and flushing toilet in your tent and even a private shower and wood-fired hot tub directly outside. As a nature-lover with zero desire to actually pitch my own tent, glamping seemed right up this luxury-lover’s avenue (or should I say dirt track?) but whether my husband and device-loving sons would agree was another matter altogether.

As it turns out, I needn’t have worried. We visited Chesters Estate in Ancrum, Scotland. A place of outstanding beauty, this Feather Down Farms location had us hooked at hello. Chesters have created such a joyous and carefree experience in nature, that there wasn’t even a mention of iPads, Switches or TV from my boys (children or adult!) over the entirety of the trip – bliss, indeed! Instead the weekend was one filled with wonder. We even saw the Northern Lights; now obviously this doesn’t come as standard I have to caveat, but it certainly added to the magic. 

Four Go Glamping

Upon arrival, our anticipation increased as we drove down a mature tree lined path from the entrance gates, following helpful wooden signs with whimsically carved directions, before pulling up at a gloriously romantic set of age-weathered brick stables. We jumped out of the car to be greeted by a brass bell with the word ‘CHESTERS‘ inscribed and an inviting thick rope hanging below. Of course, what 7 year old could resist? Elijah, my youngest son, enthusiastically ran the bell. Our adventure had officially begun!

The very lovely owner of Chesters, Ellie, came to greet us – beaming smile on her kindly face – and immediately she felt like an old friend. Ellie explained that our tent, called FOX, was a short walk away and our possessions could be transported via wheelbarrow. This absolutely enchanted the boys, who swiftly headed into the stables to pick up our own dedicated FOX labelled wheelbarrow for the weekend, plus a couple of spare wheelbarrows (as we hadn’t packed light!) and we set about loading them up and set off, in a line, pushing our loads towards our home for the weekend.

This set the tone delightfully and I was beaming inside at the Enid-Blyton-esque picture in front of me as I saw them trundling their wheelbarrows under the dappled shade of the trees, over a small bridge across a babbling stream, chattering away excitedly to Ellie. We made our short trip past the low brick ‘Bothy’ which was where we could buy essentials like milk, eggs, firelighters, oil for cooking, sweet treats, beer, wine and the like, in an honour system (you write what you’ve taken on a pad and leave your money at the end). We approached FOX with high spirits and mounting excitement as our ‘Cottage Under Canvas’ came into view. 

Our Cottage Under Canvas

What a stunner FOX was! The canvas tent was spacious and packed full of charm and usefulness. You first step onto a small wooden deck, with wooden table and chairs set up already, overlooking unspoilt glorious countryside. You then unzip the thick canvas ‘doors’ to enter into the tent itself. I can hand-on-heart say I have never stayed in a glamping set up quite as rustic and as charming as this one; it is magical.

There is a central open space, in which you find an intricately carved dining table and six chairs, a settee and a kitchen area. All carved out of wood, apart from the stone bowl of a sink and the tap, the stove and a big chest in which you pack (thoughtfully provided) ice packs to act as your own fridge. The cupboards were filled with dishes, cutlery and cooking essentials. Beyond the main space, there was a wooden door, leading to your own private flushing toilet (extremely welcome albeit a bit of a wasp magnet; something that was knowingly acknowledged by the ‘anatomy of a wasp’ illustration hung on the wall next to the sink!), and two heavy curtains. One curtain led to a set of bunk beds, the other unveiled a room with a – surprisingly comfortable double-bed, and then there was an intriguing looking cupboard door…

The boys had a quick gleeful dash about bagsying beds and found that the cupboard door actually opened into a bed-in-a-cupboard! I didn’t think they would ever leave their cupboard-in-a-bed, that’s how much excitement it generated! However, on hearing the small text next door was actually a ‘Discovery Tent’, then ventured out to find out more.

The Discovery Tent is a marvellous idea, packed with books, games, telescopes, nets for fishing and a ‘Shaun The Sheep’ toy who has a little note to say that Shaun stays at the farm, (he is not to be taken home), but that he is to be taken on adventures in nature in the surrounding woodland. This is a wonderful idea if the weather isn’t great during your stay. However we were lucky to have picked an unusually gloriously hot weekend for Scotland, so it didn’t see much use; although the board and card games were much used on an evening by all of us. 

There’s no electricity in the tent, so you rely on oil lamps, candles and lanterns (all provided) to light the tent on an evening. This setting that feels romantic more than anything else.

There is a log burner if the weather drops colder and upon which to cook. There is a second outside oven, your own shower in a separate private hut right next to your tent, with running water that comes out of a bucket with holes in the bottom, mounted as a most wonderfully quirky shower head! The boys have never been so excited to get a shower as they were here. 

The Chester site houses three further ‘Cottages Under Canvas’ as well as FOX, but you’re far away enough from your glamping neighbours that you don’t have to worry about noise albeit they are within sight and you all share the same Bothy – so it feels like a lovely little glamping community. There is a high wooden tree house – wonderful for games of ‘being a pirate’ and lots of streams and half built dens set amongst the trees, started by previous glampers and added to by each intrepid den-building explorer.

Going Rouge On Reality

As the weather was so glorious we had no need to venture out of Chesters into the surrounding areas and we made the most of exploring this wonderful site. The boys could be boys in the very best of ways; from the minute they woke up they would start exploring and playing in nature. The woods were theirs for the owning (and den building), the streams were full of tiny fish they could catch and return, and the hammock discovered amongst the trees was for swinging. It was an idyllic existence and you could practically see them blossoming right alongside the myriad of bluebells that lined the woodland floor. 

On an evening, the wood-fired hot tub was so much fun – it took quite a while to get going but the fun we had foraging for the twigs and wood to fire it up, made it all part of the experience and it certainly wasn’t an inconvenience. The Northern Lights even appeared directly above on our first evening. With no man-made light around, the skies were free to show off in the most magical of ways!

Apart from the once-in-a-lifetime Aurora appearance, the skies being so clear means that stargazing is a great way to add to your glamping experience and the thoughtfully provided telescope and blankets mean it’s must-do family activity once night falls. The lack of electricity means no phone-charging in the tent, but you can take a trip to the Bothy where plugs are available for any essential charging or electrical needs.

The Verdict

Utterly charming, the quirkiness of the tent itself and the thoughtfulness of the supplied extras, mean it’s a short break I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend. It’s great for families with kids of all ages (although ages 4 – 14 is probably the sweet spot), couples looking to reconnect in nature and anyone who yearns for a simpler, more romantic time and to rediscover their childlike sense of wonder. 

Feather Down Farms is an ideal set-up for families who want a short break in nature (with none of the discomfort) where devices are discarded and time as a family time rediscovered. We will certainly be back!

Prices start from £385 for s short stay and more details can be found here:

Review and images by Victoria Reddington @vic_reddington

Meet the Team

For more Travel from H&N Magazine



Most Popular

Stay hydrated

Staying hydrated for optimal immunity

Staying hydrated for optimal immunity Eating well and staying hydrated is important throughout the year, but even more so during the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.