As winter draws closer and the world continues to descend into chaos, what could be more appealing than to run away for a few days to a forest or isolated clifftop, where there’s nothing to do but go for frosty rambles, soak in a wood-fired hot tub and sit snug in bed by a woodburner.
Whether you swoon over sharply designed, stark, cantilevered black timber huts of the kind seen on cult architecture website Dezeen, prefer the backcountry Americana of hit photography book Cabin Porn, or fancy more of an off-grid, homemade-shed vibe, it’s never been easier to get your fix.
“We’ve seen a huge increase in searches for cabins over the past few years,” said Claire Wills of accommodation website coolstays.com, “and now have a dedicated collection of over 350.” Likewise, glamping specialist Canopy & Stars said 40% of its bookings this year were for cabins, its most popular type of accommodation, and that its collection had grown in the past year from 138 to 235. “The popularity of cabin and treehouse holidays is at an all-time high,” said spokeswoman Alice Cottingham, “and bookings for the rest of this year are expected to be double those of the same period in 2019.”
This explosion in the range and style of holiday cabins means there are hundreds to choose from — perhaps one of these beauties will do the trick.
The Log House Studio, Carmarthenshire
Turn into the secluded tree-fringed fields of Cwm Farm near Llandeilo and it feels like you’ve been magicked to Scandinavia. The farm’s gorgeous larch cabin, with a gabled roof and covered veranda on stilts, is authentically Swedish – owner Tim took two log-housebuilding courses in Sweden before hand-building it himself – and cosy enough for Nordic climes. Logs crackle in the woodburner, paraffin lamps create a warm glow, and while the coffee brews you can curl up with a book on the ladder-accessed mezzanine, or contemplate Tim’s paintings, displayed on easels in the sitting area – it doubles as his studio when no one’s staying.
• From £110 a night for two, £20pp extra for up to two more people in the mezzanine, canopyandstars.co.uk
Anyone feeling ready to disengage from the world may fancy a three-day digital detox at Unplugged, a sleek, chic black timber cabin for two near Audley End. Life will slow down once you’ve handed in your phone to the hosts, stare out through the huge picture window into empty fields, and reverted to old-school analogue entertainments: cassette tapes, maps, postcards, board games and a Polaroid camera are provided. Nearby, the Axe and Compasses pub is the place for dinner, and sights include the English Heritage-run Audley End house and gardens (book timed tickets in advance).
• Three-night minimum stay from £390, sleeps two, hostunusual.com. Availability from November
Carswell Farm, south Devon
Cabin stays aren’t always about hiding away in the woods. Gazing out at a wild wintery sea can be a more exhilarating return to nature, especially if you’re the sort to brave cold-water swimming or surfing. Carswell Farm Holiday Cottages’ new beach hut is in an incredible location, totally isolated right on the rocks of its own private cove – perfect for some winter skinny-dipping, with a wood-fired hot tub on the deck to warm up in afterwards. Inside there’s a double bed reached by ladder, woodburner and two hammock seats in the window.
• From £358 for a two-night weekend or four nights midweek, sleeps two, carswellcottages.com
Albion Nights, Norfolk
It might be named Albion Nights, but this funky, wonky, handcrafted cabin looks like it belongs in the American west or Australian outback. Charmingly thrown-together looking, with a corrugated metal shower and an outdoor bath sitting on a roofed veranda, the off-grid cabin was built from reclaimed materials and stands alone in a wildflower meadow in the Waveney valley near the market town of Bungay, 20 minutes’ drive from Norwich. Indoors, sheepskin rugs and a woodburner keep things snuggly, and guests can order in home-cooked meals or buy supplies from Old Hall Farm next door.
• From £125 a night (two-night minimum), sleeps two, hostunusual.com
Carnish Cabins, Outer Hebrides
Something of a modern architectural vernacular has developed in the Hebrides, and you can’t go more than a few miles without spotting a high-spec, black timber hut in a simple wendy-house shape. Even more futuristic-looking are two new cabins at Uig Sands, a stretch of beautiful white beach on the Isle of Lewis. Carnish Cabin Flow, and its sister property, Ebb, are encased in a long, curved quarter-pipe of metal, with wooden sundecks from which to spot deer, golden eagles and otters on the beach.
• From £595 a week (shorter breaks available), each sleeps two, unique-cottages.co.uk
The Old Forge, South Heighton, South Downs
This studio is at the bottom of Rhoda and Christian Funnell’s wild garden, which is filled with his bold modern sculptures. It feels wonderfully secluded and cosy, with a logburner and lots of thick blankets, but also has a touch of luxury – the soft down duvet, towels and walk-in shower are five-star-hotel quality. And the couple’s impeccable arty aesthetic is visible in everything, from the mid-century furniture to the old record player (with eclectic vinyl collection), bold printed cushions and art magazines scattered about. There’s a G&T honesty bar, with local Ditchling Gin and Folkington’s tonic, which can be enjoyed on the small terrace overlooking the River Ouse. The South Downs national park is a minute from the doorstep, so there are walks aplenty (there are guidebooks and an OS map in the cabin), including an 1½-hour stroll to the Ram Inn, a rambling, 500-year-old pub with an open fire in the pretty village of Firle. Or it’s a short drive to Lewes, Glyndebourne and the Seven Sisters white cliffs on the south coast.
• £95 a night (two-night minimum, reduced rate for single occupancy), including organic breakfast of eggs, juice, muesli, berries and bread, theoldforgeopenhouse.com
Quirky Huts, Northumberland
When the kids’ room has rock-climbing holds screwed into all the walls so they can boulder up to the top bunk, you know you’ve booked a place where the focus is on fun. Kip Hideaways’ spacious Quirky Huts, on a farm in Northumberland national park, are built from reclaimed oak, and decked out with woodburners, solar-powered showers, a grand outdoor cast-iron bath and firepits. Tempting as it is to hang out there all weekend, there’s plenty to do nearby: visiting Alnwick Castle, rambling through forests and moorland, or watching the farm’s Aberdeen Angus cows and flocks of Swiss Valais Blacknose sheep.
• From £130 a night, sleeps four, kiphideaways.com. Membership (£10 a year) required for booking
Howgills Hideaway, Yorkshire Dales
Many UK campsites and farms have added collections of basic wooden camping pods in recent years. At Howgills Hideaway, on the Cumbrian side of the Yorkshire Dales, one of the four standard pods has been upgraded with the addition of an en suite open-fronted bathing shed housing a deep, wood-clad bath big enough for two. (Guests of the other pods share a shower and toilet block.) Each pod has a kitchenette and a private deck for barbecues and outdoor dining, though food baskets can be delivered for every meal. There’s a trampoline and games for kids, but the real joy is being surrounded by the wonderful walking of the Howgill Fells, Alfred Wainwright’s “sleepy elephants”.
• From £90 a night, sleeps four, howgillshideaway.co.uk
Dragonfly Cabin, Cambridgeshire
A private swimming pond right outside the door is, at certain hours of the day, just for the use of those staying at Dragonfly Cabin, a new remote-feeling lodge five miles from Cambridge, which opened in August as part of B&B Crafts Hill Barn. The cabin started out as a bird hide but now it’s smartly decked out, with a floor-to-ceiling picture window looking on to a little pebble beach, with a timber jetty to leap from. The kitchen doesn’t have a cooker but there are firepits to reserve and the B&B can provide hampers or a “firepit pack” of burgers, kebabs and salad (£30 for two).
• From £100 a night (two-night minimum), sleeps two, coolstays.com
Cuan Mor Lodges, County Down
Strangford Lough, the largest sea inlet in the UK, is one of Northern Ireland’s biggest draws and an important conservation zone that’s home to common seals, harbour porpoises and all sorts of waders, cormorants and nesting terns. Cuan Mor, a peaceful private estate on its shores, has a collection of red timber cabins for nature lovers to hide away in. Dotted around their own, smaller, lily pad-strewn lake, the cabins have wooden decks and shared use of a black timber jetty, the perfect spot for sipping a nightcap and toasting s’mores over the firepit. Breakfast hampers are delivered to the door, setting guests up for a day exploring the Castle Espie Wetland Centre next door, home to exotic geese and ducks.
• From £150 a night for two, £180 for four, cuanmorlodges.com