We’ll come clean at the start. Camping, we admit, was never high on our agenda. Soft, fluffy towels, sleek, sophisticated bathrooms, big, comfy beds, yes. Baked beans cooked alfresco by faltering calor gas, cold showers and leaky tents, no. Then things changed. In the last few years the simple pleasures of life have made a comeback. But nowadays it’s simplicity with style, which is why the travel gurus have invented a new word called ‘glamping’, shorthand for ‘glamorous camping’.
We gave it a try last summer on a short break with the kids in Jersey. Anyone who has camped for real will know that camping and travelling light do not usually go hand-in-hand. But here’s the first joy of glamping: all the kit is already there, including bedding, furniture, proper gas hob, furniture and (luxury!) a fridge. A toothbrush, towel, swimsuit and couple of changes of clothes each saw us through the long weekend.
The second joy of glamping is not having to put up the tent. A large, immaculate tent was waiting for us, with three bedrooms and a spacious living area, plus plenty of room outside for parking the van and setting up the barbeque. There’s a third joy too, which we’ll keep until the end of the article.
Beuvelande campsite kept chipping away at the myth that camping is a character-building exercise reserved for masochists. The tiled washrooms were warm and spotless, with unlimited hot water on tap (no measly coin-operated water meters here – hooray!). A well-lit vanity area with sockets for hairdryers and shavers catered for those of us in need of that extra little help in looking presentable. Family washrooms with disabled access made life easy for parents with very young children and people with wheelchairs. The site was beautifully located in green fields above Jersey’s east coast. And the kids loved the heated swimming pool, games room and outdoor play area. With so many other children around, they made instant friends, leaving us with no choice but to relax with a glass of wine.
To add to the retro-chic theme of our break we hired a sky-blue VW campervan, complete with split screen and gingham curtains. A campervan is not a speedy vehicle, but its natural pace seemed to fit our holiday tempo. And anyway, who would want to race around Jersey? Half the fun comes from enjoying the narrow lanes, blooming hedgerows and glimpses of the ocean.
But be prepared for some attention. The campervan itself was a bit of a showstopper. Mum thought she was getting admiring glances from a lot of 40-something men, but it turned out they were more interested in finding out where we hired the van. If for any reason we were evicted from Beuvelande, we could have slept in our dinky, dear little VW, but have to admit to preferring the comfy mattresses that came with the tent.
On our first day we drove to Mont Orgueil Castle, Jersey’s giant fortress that looms so large above the harbour at Gorey that it gives the waterside cafés, bistros and shops a toytown look. We had lunch in Feast, one of the many places where you can sit outside watching the boats bobbing in the harbour. The menu featured local specialities that were, as all good food should be, simple, fresh and tasty. The dishes also reflected the French-English fusion that is so much a part of Jersey (moules marinière served with Jersey Royals in herb butter… mmm). We walked off lunch by clambering over the granite promontory between harbour and castle, while the kids enjoyed searching the rockpools and seaweed for crabs, sea anemones and other weird water creatures.
Bright and early on Saturday we pottered off to the south coast for a day on the beach at sheltered, south-facing St Brelade’s Bay. It sits in the sun all day long, and when we arrived the tide was out revealing a huge expanse of flat sand. We did (as you do) the whole beach thing: paddling, swimming, sandcastles, sunbathing, ball games and mega-trampolining. Okay, the last one is less traditional but still great fun. More foodie treats were served up at lunchtime at the seafront Wayside Café. It ticks all the boxes: child-friendly with outdoor seating and a fabulous view, great bistro-style food and a jaw-dropping selection of cakes and desserts.
For such a small place Jersey is crammed with attractions. Top Bates tip: if you’re visiting, the Jersey Pass – which allows unrestricted access to many – is a travel bargain. On Sunday we used ours at Durrell Wildlife, a place famous for its pioneering conservation work. The animals are housed in large, carefully created enclosures with multiple viewing areas so that you get a real feel for their natural habitats.
This policy certainly worked for our kids. They took one look at the manic meerkats and promptly disappeared from view, only to pop up in a transparent viewing dome in the middle of the pen. What a great idea!
The gorillas were every bit as majestic as you would expect from the David Attenborough programmes. We saw exotic birds, bears, jumping rats and aye-ayes (new to us). But our favourites were the orang-utans. They are sociable and agile, and each one seems to be equipped with a sack they use as a sleeping bag or hammock. Or if they want some peace, to stick on their heads.
Lucky we weren’t wearing our best clothes when we visited Amaizin! Maze on Sunday afternoon. A flash of our passes and we were into a playground that’s real, physical outdoor fun for all the family. The kids had a ball on the giant slide (with optional water shower) and it was hard to get Dad off the mini-tractor circuit. Other highlights included a giant inflatable pillow for bouncing on and a sand trough where the kids happily panned for treasure, while we recovered in the coffee shop. The main attraction is a giant corn maze with around four miles of paths. It’s all great value, especially for families with young teenagers and smaller children.
Although Monday was our last day, we were able to make the most of it thanks to another Jersey plus-point: its ease of access. A short 4pm flight back to Southampton meant that we could pack a lot into the day. We called into Holme Farm Organics to stock up on picnic goodies for lunch. We discovered Jersey’s cabbage bread: a round loaf baked with a cabbage leaf to protect the top crust. The leaf peels off to reveal a wonderful soft crumb inside, perfect with the local cheese.
French saucisson, ham, peaches, cherries and sparkling cucumber pressé all seemed like good ideas too. And we couldn’t resist an apple pie with Jersey clotted cream. We bundled it all into the VW and drove to the east coast for a picnic in meadows overlooking the sea. An easy lunch, outdoors on a warm day is surely one of life’s simple pleasures. And – talk about simple – if you want an antidote to the horrors of Heathrow then fly out of passenger-friendly Jersey Airport.
In our few days we saw enough to convince us that Jersey is a great place for a family holiday. There are loads of attractions to keep the kids entertained, the beaches and cafés are top quality, and coming from the UK, it is an easy trip. Glamping was perfect too: hassle-free and great value. It combines all the excitement of ‘real’ camping – the tent, the barbeque, the great outdoors – with those home comforts that softies like us (and, we suspect, you) can’t do without.
And that third joy of glamping? When we left, we simply zipped up the tent and drove away free from the prospect of scrubbing the groundsheet and hunting for missing tent pegs.
Liz loves glamping
I love it because we had a great tent, and it was much bigger than the tents we are used to. I even had my own room, but unfortunately I could still hear Dad snoring. There were lots of things that kept me and my sister entertained, so we were never bored. We went in the swimming pool every afternoon and played air hockey in the games room.
Then, in the evening, we would take our stove out, so we could have a barbeque. If we ate all our food, Mum and Dad let us toast marshmallows (they taste even better with chocolate sauce!).
After our comfy sleep in the tent Ciara and I would run to the shop to get milk and bread for breakfast. Later on at night, we were allowed to play in the park with our torches, because Mum and Dad said they needed a quiet drink.
Ciara loves Jersey
What I love about Jersey is the beaches. They were huge and the sand is great for digging and making sandcastles. I liked rock climbing and looking in the rockpools and seeing an anemone. Also, I collected loads of shells and I got a really interesting one.
One day we had fish and chips on the beach and that was a brilliant idea. But you have to chase the seagulls away because they are chip fans too.
Another good thing in Jersey is that you can get jam called Black Butter. It is made with apple and cinnamon. I never had it before but it is lovely. You can put it on toast for your breakfast.