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Lake District Yurts

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Posted by Richard Hammond at 11:23 on Wednesday 18 July 2007

In splendid isolation at the Lake District Yurt camp. Photo: Richard HammondIn splendid isolation at the Lake District Yurt camp. Photo: Richard HammondYurt camps have been springing up all over Europe - in Spain, France, even on Bodmin Moor – and are fast becoming the preferred pad for luxury campers. They’re waterproof, big enough to house a four-poster bed as well as a wood stove to keep you snug under a sheepskin cover. It’s all a far cry from sleeping bags and dripping fly sheets...

Even though I’ve stayed at several yurt camps, I still do a double-take whenever I see one of these white mushroom-shaped tents squatting incongruously in the European landscape. Full Circle is a new yurt camp in the grounds of Rydal Hall, a historic house owned by the Diocese of Carlisle between Grasmere and Ambleside. A single Mongolian yurt is pitched at the top end of a sloping field at the back of the 30-acre estate with views of wooded countryside towards Windermere. Downhill from the yurt is an 800-year-old sweet chestnut tree, a handful of sheep roam the field and red deer sometimes visit from the nearby wood. Across the valley is Loughrigg Fell and beyond the woods behind the camp is open mountainside.

The interior of the yurts at Lake District YurtsThe interior of the yurts at Lake District YurtsYurts are the traditional homes used by nomadic people in Central Asia, though many of the replica ones you see in the UK have been made over here. Full Circle's yurt is the genuine article, fashioned out of wood, canvas, cotton and wool by a Mongolian yurt maker in Ulan Bator and shipped over to the UK.

You enter through a hand-painted wooden door. Inside there's a stove, a gas cooker, bookcase and several beds (double and single pull-out mattresses on wooden stacks) around the perimeter. The domed roof is supported by the felt-lined latticed wall and wooden posts, painted orange and sky blue. A small detachable glass window in the centre allows you to let out the heat if the stove gets too hot and also means you can look out at the night sky from your bed.

The owner, Sarah Pike, and her husband, Ben, came up with the idea of setting up a yurt camp when they were running children's eco camps from Appleby. After two years of looking a suitable spot, they decided on Rydal Hall because of its stunning setting near Rydal Beck waterfalls and also because it is accessible by public transport and a great base for exploring the national park. Full Circle is run as an independent venture, but because the estate also manages its own campsite on the grounds, guests have access to all the usual amenities, such as a shower block and dish-washing facilities which draw on the local spring water. 

The fast flowing river behind the campThe fast flowing river behind the campThe co-operation also means that guests have access to the estate's land, so in the early evening, after adding a few blocks of wood to the yurt's stove, I took a stroll around the back of the camp. En route, I passed through an adventure playground and picked up a trail that followed the river through the woods. Just a couple of hundred yards upriver, there were several natural plunge pools among the trees where I took a dip. I returned to find a very healthy smoke trail piping up from the yurt and a hot stove that provided enough heat until morning.

Sarah said that since Full Circle opened at Easter some of their guests have pitched their tents on the estate's traditional campsite and have used their yurt as an "extra" - a communal area and a place to seek refuge in the rain. But they miss out on the very thing that makes the camp so special - it's a place where you can drift off to sleep in a comfortable bed by the warmth of a wood fire.

But the biggest attraction is its setting. After a deep night's sleep, I stepped out of the yurt and could make out Windermere ahead shimmering in the haze, and to the right, beyond a clump of giant redwood trees that tower beside the fast-flowing stream, the sun was just touching the hill. Even in remote campsites you still run the risk of sharing the experience with rowdy campers, but at Full Circle, the only noise you're likely to hear at night is the sound of owls in the woods and the whistle of the wind in the trees. Sarah wants a total of three yurts in the camp. It's not many, but if you want to enjoy having the place to yourself it's worth going before two more appear on the hillside.

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A weekend at Full Circle costs from £215, a week costs from £325. www.lake-district-yurts.co.uk, 01539 821278.
Train from Euston to Windermere (via Oxenholme) costs from £35 return (www.virgintrains.co.uk, 08457 222 333) from where there’s a local Stagecoach bus (nos. 554-556) to Rydal Hall (www.traveline.info, 0871 200 2233).

Disclosure

Blogs posts categorised as 'Reviews' have been written with the support of one or more of the following: accommodation owner, activity provider, operator, equipment supplier, tourist board, protected landscape authority or other destination-focussed authority. The reviewer retains full editorial control of the work, which has been written in the reviewer's own words based on their experience of the accommodation, activity, equipment or destination.

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