On the approach to The Bivouac, you get a curious feeling of leaving the hustle and bustle of modern life behind. You emerge through the sleepy villages of rural Yorkshire and find yourself on a tiny winding lane, weaving through meadows and over the fast flowing River Ure.
We arrived in the late afternoon, on a bright & blustery Friday in autumn, and were greeted by the lovely Andy at the immaculately designed reception/shop. He showed us where the cafe was and told us to meet him at the top of the car park so he could lead us to our accommodation on his quad bike.
I love the concept & design elements of The Bivouac. Every tiny detail reflects the core values at the heart of the site. The whole place is achingly stylish, combining rustic sustainability with comfortable luxury. Andy knew loads about The Bivouac having been part of the team who built it. He took our party and another group through a gate into what looked like an empty meadow but suddenly stopped and said “here we are”. “Where are we?!” I thought to myself, and then as I looked through a gap in the stone wall I saw the most wonderful wooden cabin.
When I was told we’d be staying in one of their “Wooden Shacks” this is not what I had envisaged! The ‘Shack’ looked cosy and inviting with steps leading up to a veranda with its own rocking chair. So far, so awesome.
We opened the door to find an amazingly well designed living space, complete with wood burner, dining table, kitchen and bathroom. There were three separate sleeping areas, and two were accessed via ladders (endless fun for the kids!). If this is Glamping, then I am definitely a fan! Although the shack was snug, the lovely folk at The Bivouac have still thoughtfully made room for storing luggage, so you can pack your bags away to save floor space.
Andy explained all of the important bits we needed to know and suggested we got the wood burner going right away so that it could heat the hot water. It took a bait of practice but once it was running the shack was very warm and cosy- just in time for dinner and the kids bedtime. We all sat around the table and ate dinner by candlelight, the children were so tired by the days events that they were all sound asleep by 8pm and us grown-ups were able to enjoy a child-free hour with a cup of cocoa and a laugh on the veranda before turning in ourselves.
The best space I could find for Seth’s travel cot was by the bed in the top bedroom compartment, which (by an enormous stroke of luck) gave me a view of the stars while I fed him during the night. Honestly, looking up at the inky blackness dotted with beautiful bright, glittering stars made it hard to fall back to sleep…I was mesmerised! Being so far from towns and cities meant that the sky wasn’t polluted by the orange glow of street lamps and the night sky was like something out of a story book. The beds were sumptuously comfortable and The Bivouac provides all bedding so that leaves one less thing to bring with you.
We all awoke as the sun rose sometime between 6-7am. Everyone said they’d slept well except Seth & I obviously, but that had nothing to do with the place we were staying!! We cooked up a breakfast of scrambled eggs on the hob and my friends quick thinking Husband had bought his percolator and milk frother- so we all had a fabulous cappuccino too! We got the fire going again and then headed out with our walking gear on to visit the Druids Temple which actually shares the site with The Bivouac on the Swinton Estate. It was an amazing place to experience, and the whole site is very beautiful. We had enormous fun climbing on all of the stones around the temple and there were plenty of places for the little ones to explore safely too.
By the time we got back the wood burner had warmed the water tank enough for some much-needed hot showers. Brett & I took Seth and Tabby down to the cafe for a slice of chocolate truffle cake (highly recommended!) while our friends settled their little one down for a nap. It was such a great atmosphere in the cafe that we decided once the baby was awake we would come back for lunch.
The menu was brilliant and offered plenty of options for young and old. I opted for Yorkshire ham with egg and chips. We sat in the dedicated Family Room which also doubles up as a play room with one of the best selections of wooden toys my kids have ever seen! The whole place has a light and airy feel and the Family Room leads out onto an outdoor play space. The dresser has a fantastic array of books for adults and children and there are plenty of highchairs.
After our delicious food we set out for what we assumed would be about a 90 minute walk…boy, how wrong we were! We had heard of a walk down to the reservoir and decided it’d be an invigorating way to walk off our lunch. However, the walk was far harder than we thought it would be (through marshes, over very high walls etc) and we didn’t end up getting back until dusk!! Whew! We were so giddy with relief at having made it back and starving hungry, that we wolfed our dinner down quickly and all headed to bed just after the kids.
On Sunday Seth woke pretty early and I lit a few lanterns so that I could start packing up. We had planned a day at Hackfall Woods to see some of the waterfalls so I wanted to make sure I didn’t end up in a rush just before we set off for home. I wasn’t quite ready to come back from this beautiful part of the world. It had been such a blissful couple of days, I could quite easily have spent a week there. As the sun started to trickle through into the shack I thought of how grounding it was to be without things like electricity, television and central heating. Relying on the elements made me so appreciative of simple things like wrapping my hands around a hot mug of coffee and feeling the warm water of the shower heated by the fire. My body felt at ease, relaxed by the candlelight and the company of our good friends.
If you enjoy camping but just want a little more comfort, this is the perfect place. Homely, comfortable, yet at the same time rustic and somehow primitive. It gives you the experience of camping….with a touch more glamour, which is why it’s called Glamping I guess!! The staff were all extremely friendly and knowledgable, and the site is run so smoothly you would never guess they only opened this Spring.
So, would we return? In a heartbeat. We have a LOT more exploring to do in Yorkshire and I need another slice of truffle cake so we hope that we’ll be making a return visit. They also do weddings there so now I’m desperate to get someone I know to get married there because I think it would be just about the cutest wedding EVER!
If you do decide to book a holiday at The Bivouac please do tell them that you heard about it here. And also, make use of my handy tips below…
- Lanterns, you wouldn’t believe how dark it gets out there!
- Slippers, as they have a “no outdoor shoe” policy inside the shacks & yurts.
- Walking boots. The surrounding area is too tempting not to explore!
- Towels, unless you want to hire them when you arrive.
- Mascara…this is always an essential. And it is Glamping, after all!
Big, enormous Thank You’s to all of the lovely folk at The Bivouac. We’ll be back!