Into the woods

Whether you’re embracing the benefits of nature or fulfilling a childhood dream, treehouses have had a luxury makeover


They are the lungs of the earth, giving us oxygen to breathe, sheltering wildlife and protecting plants. But getting up close and personal with trees can also improve our own physical and mental health, making a foray into the woods a fitting antidote to the stress of lockdown.

It was the Japanese who first identified shinrin-yoku — translated as “forest bathing” — as a proven therapy for not only minimising mood swings but lowering blood sugar, regulating heart rate and boosting the immune system back in the 1980s.

Those first studies have been followed by more recent ones in Europe showing that exercising in nature improves self-esteem and mood, while those who live close enough to a forest for a daily stroll have been shown to have the healthiest amygdalas — the part of the brain which controls our fear, stress and anxiety responses.

While the Japanese content themselves with weekend trips to immerse themselves in nature, in Britain we can’t resist going one step further and sleeping high above the forest floor surrounded by treetops, nostalgic for those treehouse adventures from the books of our childhood.

And if you have visions of something uncomfortably rustic, think again. Many of the latest openings are taking treehouses to a new level, with an infusion of luxury the stars of Swallows and Amazons-style tales could never have imagined.

Chewton Glen, Hampshire

The 14 treehouses at five-star New Forest resort Chewton Glen require no ladders or rope bridges to access — you step straight from a path into these fabulous houses on stilts, suspended 35 feet above the forest floor.

With floor-to-ceiling windows and wraparound semi-circular private deck, even the marble bathrooms offer a forest view, so you can gaze out to the panorama of trees.

Furnishings are as plush as might be expected from the award-winning hotel group which also owns Cliveden, but you’ll find a nod to the trees in everything from coffee tables and lamps fashioned from logs to the woodburning stove at the heart of every treehouse home.

With sizes ranging from one to five bedrooms, the popular treehouses can sleep every household configuration from a couple to a large family or group of friends (when restrictions permit), along with a full kitchen for self-catering.

No interest in cooking? Chewton Glen’s Walled Garden will open next month for wood-fired pizzas, while James Martin’s excellent casual restaurant in the grounds is also set to reopen. Meanwhile, breakfast is delivered in picnic hampers, featuring treats including smoked salmon, yogurt and bread with foraged jams and honeys.

The Chewton Glen spa is also open this month to treehouse guests, although with a private hot tub on the deck overlooking the forest there’s little incentive to leave for anything except a magical woodland walk — dogs are welcome.

The treehouses cost from £1,440 per night including breakfast hamper.

Forest Holidays

If you prefer to feel like you’re closer to nature, Forest Holidays is adding treehouses to its accommodation in woodlands across the UK. Half a century ago, the Forestry Commission pioneered affordable holidays within the woods by converting spare workers’ cottages and later building timber-clad lodges in many of the woods it manages from Argyll to Snowdonia, Cornwall to Cheshire.

The luxurious treehouses, sleeping up to 10, have been added to some of England’s lushest wooded landscapes; set above the forest floor, you approach by rope bridge before stepping down onto a deck equipped with a private hot tub.

Inside, you’ll find wood-panelled décor as well as that all-important woodburning stove, plus eco-friendly toiletries. You can even book a private chef for an in-cabin dining experience, as well as more standard takeaway fare like pizzas on the doorstep.

Treehouse locations currently include Keldy in North Yorkshire, Delamere Forest in Cheshire and Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire, as well as Thorpe Forest in Norfolk, the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire, Blackwood Forest in Hampshire and Deerpark in Cornwall.

And for an added chance to enjoy the benefits of the forest, some sites offer multi-sensory experiences led by rangers too.

While choosing and exploring every nuance of a favourite leaf or sitting cross-legged in a clearing to meditate on the forest might seem like a throwback to hippie times, taking time to intimately observe bark, leaves, branches, glades and farm buildings hidden among the trees really does offer the kind of profound encounter with nature many city-dwellers rarely see. Rewarding for children and adults alike.

Forest Holidays treehouses cost from £1,235.

The Fish, Cotswolds

One resort that’s made a name for marrying rusticity with luxury is The Fish, part of the Farncombe Estate, not far from the beautiful golden Cotswold stone village of Broadway.

Home to a boutique hotel alongside the other accommodation within its 400-acre grounds, treehouses at The Fish are kitted out in chic Scandi style, a nod to the owners’ Danish heritage, with plenty of pale wood.

Approached across a rope bridge, they’re a romantic hideout for a couple with twin heated outdoor tubs on their expansive decks, as well as catering to families, thanks to a second bedroom.

It’s proof too that you don’t have to give up grown-up mod cons to turn your childhood dreams into reality — from underfloor heating to Nespresso machines and a well-stocked minibar, these are treehouses with style.

You can even order room service direct to the hot tub, as well as fine dining at Hook in the main lodge, specialising in fish, with al fresco dining on the terrace during the summer. There’s also a screening room with space for up to 14. One of the treehouses here is dog-friendly too — you’ll even find an eight-obstacle dog agility course on the site, along with a children’s play zone.

Treehouses at The Fish cost from £395 per night including breakfast.

UK Treehouse escapes

More and more treehouse escapes are popping up across the UK — fortunately, given the popularity of both Chewton Glen and The Fish, where treehouses are already booked out for the next few months. So if you’re tempted by a treehouse stay this summer, try these woodland wonders too.

The Treehouses at Lanrick, Perthshire

Opening briefly last October before lockdown, the five retreats making up The Treehouses at Lanrick in Perthshire have just reopened, offering an authentic Scottish wilderness experience.

Sitting in dense woodland on the banks of the River Teith, there are wood-burning stoves, fine linens and bathrooms with showers. These indoor comforts complement treetop terraces with an outdoor copper bath open to the elements, along with a barbecue.

Each sleeps two adults plus a sofa-bed in the living room for up to two children; Nuthatch is particularly appealing.

Priced from £200 per night with a two-night minimum stay.

Wolf Wood Treehouses, Dartmoor

The Wolf Wood treehouses, on the edge of Dartmoor National Park in Devon, bring the woodland inside, with features like log poles supporting the vaulted roof in the magical master bedroom of the Black Wolf house.

Or the Stargazer and Lookout cabins incorporate a touch of romance and luxury with canopy beds surrounded by drapes overlooking the treetops.

All have fully-equipped kitchens including dishwashers too, as well as decks with private hot tubs. There is a shared sauna for the three treehouses, plus a private barbecue site for each house along the banks of a nearby stream.

From £285 per night.

Sky Den, Kielder Forest, Northumberland

Northumberland is famous for its legendary night skies — hence the observatory at Beacon Hill Farm — but nowhere more so than the county’s Kielder Forest, England’s first Dark Sky Park.

The Sky Den, which featured on Channel 4’s Amazing Spaces, has a roof which opens up to the stars, as well as glass doors onto the balcony when you fancy enjoying the views out to the river from indoors: keep an eye out for red squirrels too.

Sleeping four, it incorporates fold-away furniture and other space-saving devices, along with a wet room opening directly on to the deck.

From £180 per night. Book with Canopy & Stars

The Treehouse at Beacon Hill Farm, Northumberland

Striking a distinctly contemporary note, the Treehouse at Beacon Hill Farm opened this month on a 360-acre private estate near Morpeth on the Northumberland coast.

Unusually, this cottage clad in burnt Siberian larch has wonderful views towards the sea and the Pennines as well as forest views across the 40-acre beech wood, looking out for 50 miles from the bedroom windows.

There’s a private barbecue on the patio, as well as access to a spa with heated swimming pool and steam/sauna, gym, games room, hot tub and observatory.

A stay costs from £750 for three nights.Book with Premier Cottages.


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