Super-Glamping in a Devon Luxury Cocoon

Categories: Activities, Experience Posted: 7th September 2022

“They were invented in America, you know, and we’re the only place in the UK you can stay in one.” Christine, the attentive receptionist at Clawford Lakes in Devon was filling us in on the details of the accommodation we were staying in, and there was no mistaking the pride in her voice.

The accommodation in question is called a Luxury Cocoon and, to be fair, it’s pretty spectacular. If I were to describe it one word (or two), I would plump for ‘super-glamping’. Always open to a new adventure, I had rounded up hubby and the dog and here we were, among the first lucky guests to experience it.

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“Close up, the cocoons are substantial - like mini-cathedrals of camping.”

On the website it’s called a Luxury Cocoon and that’s almost a perfect description. I say almost, because you’d imagine a cocoon to be a bit snug, while the Luxury Cocoon pulls off the remarkable trick of feeling safe and cosy while giving you lots (and lots) of room.

There are only seven of these Luxury Cocoons spaced generously around Sunset Lake, so named because, in its elevated position on the side of the valley, it catches the warm glow of the setting sun. This is a secluded corner of the exciting new development at Clawford Lakes, where there is a choice of other accommodation too, including lodges, apartments, lake pods and floating lodges.

Close up, the cocoons are substantial – like mini-cathedrals of camping. A taut cover is stretched over a metal frame to form a tunnel, with solid wood cabin-style walls at either end. Step inside and some of that scale remains with you. The canvas above is easily 4m at its apex, giving a wonderful feeling of space, which is matched by a huge floor area. One of the ways in which the cocoon earns its ‘luxury’ tag,  is that the expanse beneath your feet, you’ll notice, is heated. Yes! Camping with underfloor heating is my kind of camping.

Even when you are here, it’s hard to get your head round what you’re experiencing. Is it really camping? Glamping? Is it a lodge with a canvas roof? Eventually, we landed on super-glamping, designed perhaps for those of us that find even glamping a little, well, basic.

Whatever. It was a wonderful experience. Silhouettes of sun-dappled leaves on the canvas told us we were camping, while the freestanding roll top bath in a bathroom larger than our own at home told us we were in luxury accommodation.

“It was an absolute delight to see how the children responded to Park Ranger Steve’s bubbling enthusiasm for pond dipping, den building and fire making."

Dominating the interior of the cocoon was a gloriously comfortable king-size bed that would make a 5-star hotel proud. On day two, after a delicious meal at the Apple and Grape onsite restaurant, it seemed pointless to sit on the sofa to watch Shetland, when the bed was so inviting. The only downside was that I kept dozing off at crucial moments in the plot. Maybe that warm and contented tiredness is all part of the experience at Clawford Lakes.

It had been a long and satisfying day after all, starting with a journey of natural discovery under the capable guidance of the Park Ranger, Steve, and his colleague, Charlene. We tagged along as the only party without young children but no one minded and it was an absolute delight to see how the children responded to Steve’s bubbling enthusiasm for pond dipping, den building and fire making. We don’t have grandchildren yet, but we decided this is where we will bring them when we do!

That same afternoon we took a trip to the seaside at Bude, just over the border in Cornwall. There,  we walked out across the huge dog-friendly beach – Barney was most impressed – to where the waves were breaking and we watched the surfers. We sat and ate Cornish ice creams back up in the town and declared the afternoon a salve for the soul (particularly for two Midlanders who rarely get to the coast). With an evening walk around the peaceful 80-acre estate to round off the day, I’m defending my pre-10pm sleepiness.

“We decided paddle boarding looked graceful, serene and easy…”

The next day we finally accepted that when you are staying somewhere with the name ‘Lakes’ in the title, you really can’t dodge your responsibly to take to the water. We decided paddle boarding looked graceful, serene and easy enough for a pair of middle-aged adventurers and were delighted to find Robin, from Freewave Surf Academy in Bude, there to take us through our paces. Of course, it wasn’t just as ‘graceful, serene and easy’ as it looked and yes, we did end up in the water. But it was great fun. The tuition session was just £5.00 each and the paddle boarding without tuition is free. We followed it up in the afternoon in the spa, with a more genteel dip in the indoor Scandinavian Honka pool, dipping in and out of the steam room. Spa treatments were bookable throughout the day but you can’t do everything and we decided to save them for our next visit.

Later, in the kitchen – with its uber-glamping essentials of a small Smeg fridge, oven, grill and induction hob, and hot water on tap – we rustled up a tasty risotto followed by a shop-bought lemon tart (there’s a Waitrose that delivers, in nearby Holsworthy). We washed it down with the complementary and rather good Prosecco left for us in the fridge.

“Clever design using natural materials heightens the camping vibe”

Our Luxury Cocoon delivered on every front, from the spacious bathroom with shower, freestanding roll top bath and fluffy white towels, to the small but perfectly formed kitchen area complete with its butcher’s block storage unit.

Mod cons abounded, including Wi-Fi, plenty of plug points, great lighting – which you hardly need in the summer, and that underfloor heating. We felt like we were in a James Bond movie when we discovered the remote control to open and close the high windows and draw the blinds on them. With the addition of stylish furniture that I would happily have in my living room and plenty of storage space for clothes and personal items, the cocoon was perfect for the two of us and the dog. With a sitting area which transforms into 3 more sleeping spaces at night, a big dining table and Freeview TV, we could see how it would be perfect for a family too.

Outside, the decked veranda was roomy and reached out directly above the lake. Our mornings started with coffee in the sunshine at the bistro style table and chairs and in the afternoons we relaxed in the outdoor sofa area or on the deck chairs, having noted that the fencing was enough to keep a cocker spaniel sized dog out of trouble.

While it was undeniably luxurious, the clever design and abundance of natural materials heightened the camping vibe too – the solid oak dining table, soft mock hide-skin rugs thrown over the benches, a chunky, loose-knit arran blanket on the bed, and a fantastic firepit area outside with rough-hewn benches and tree stumps for seats.

“It’s hard to describe how special this break had been. The crux of it was just how unique the experience was.”

On our last night, as we cooked steaks on the outdoor firepit and watched the sun set over the lake. we reflected on the last few days. It’s hard to describe how special this break had been. The crux of it was just how unique the experience was. The cocoon is like nothing we’ve ever stayed in, and Clawford Lakes itself somehow manages to combine a natural, away-from-it-all experience with all the trappings of an indulgent holiday, complete with indoor pool and spa. The location is just right too, close enough to the coast for seaside trips and attractions while allowing you to escape the crowds and enjoy the balm of a natural setting.

There’s also a thoughtful attention to detail at Clawford Lakes that makes everyone feel valued. With 17 lakes, fishing is an important part of the offer, and the tackle shop and map of the lakes for anglers means this side of the operation sits comfortably alongside the ‘resort’ side. For families, groups and couples, free bike hire is another example of what sets Clawford Lakes apart as are the free of charge Park Ranger sessions. These are matched with free leisure activities on the lake including swimming, kayaking and, of course the paddle boarding. A courtesy call from Christine before we arrived was another nice touch, and had we been celebrating a special occasion, she would have arranged a cake or some other special welcome for us.

Our old cocker spaniel, Barney, loved the new territory to sniff around and he was welcomed and made a fuss of in the Apple and Grape. In fact, Clawford Lakes is possibly the most dog friendly place we have ever stayed at and unlike most resorts, there was no extra charge for Barney’s little holiday.

Christine was right, Clawford Lakes is the only place in the UK where you can stay in this unique accommodation. Based on our own break, the cocoons couldn’t be in better hands, given the developments happening at this rather special resort and the enviable lakeside location of the cocoons with views across the valley. We will be back.

We stayed in a Luxury Cocoon, sleeping up to 5, in August 2022. Travel time: 3 hours from central London, 3.5hrs from Birmingham and 2hrs 40 mins from Cardiff.

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