In late October 2017 myself and an intrepid gang of novice glampers embarked upon a safari tent adventure…
Our destination was Lantern & Larks’ Suffolk site at Sweffling Hall – one of four luxury campsites offering ‘comfort under canvas’ in spacious and well-equipped safari tent lodges, each sleeping up to 6 guests.
Our party of five (plus a four-legged friend) included four newbies to glamping: my parents, my brother and my very excited niece, (who was almost 7 years old at the time). Being the only one who had glamped before, it was up to me to advise on what to bring and what not to bring – but thankfully Lantern & Larks supply all this info in a very handy PDF/email format which made life a lot easier.
I was especially curious to find out what my parents (both in their late 60s) would make of glamping, having holidayed generally in seaside and rural cottages with the standard four walls, solid roof and so on. Having shown them pictures of the tent and the very comfy looking bedrooms with PROPER beds, private toilet and hot shower, they were reassured that they wouldn’t be sleeping on camping mats and making midnight trips to a toilet block in the rain.
The South Lookout, Aldeburgh beach
We travelled up in the morning so that we would have a bit of spare time before check-in to explore the popular Suffolk coastal town of Aldeburgh, and we discovered that it is every bit as charming as expected. We had our lunch in the sunshine on the seafront, and took a lovely stroll along the beach, stopping to read some of the hundreds of painted stones displayed outside the quaint South Lookout with its spiral staircase and tower, before having a look around the independent shops along the high street. It wasn’t long before it was time to check in, so we headed off to Sweffling Hall which was an easy 20 minute drive away.
We were greeted warmly on arrival at the site which is situated on a peaceful working farm at the end of a tree-lined driveway. One of the first things we noticed was the free range hen enclosure – a wonderland for feathered friends who are truly spoilt with cute little huts, lots of space and even various slides to play on! Needless to say, the onsite honesty shop, as well as being stocked with various other glamping essentials, offered lots of glorious free range eggs which had travelled zero food miles from their source.
From the car park and honesty shop, we could see over to the canvas lodges, dotted around the edge of the large field looking down across gorgeously green countryside views. We made our way over to our tent, Swallow, with our luggage (plus my niece) packed in handy wheelbarrows, along with some solar powered lanterns that are supplied for guests and charged up in the honesty shop.
Inside, our tent was already wonderfully cosy as the enormous wood-burning stove was still producing heat from the previous guests’ fire – a nice bonus!
The tent itself was incredibly spacious and well-appointed – a large kingsize double room, a twin room and bunk room all with plenty of space, warm blankets and beds made up ready for us with soft duvets and plump pillows. The open plan lounge and diner at the heart of the tent featured comfy sofas and a large dining table, and the kitchen area to the left had a surprising amount of space for storage. Chilled goods could be kept cold in the freezer boxes under the worktops, and the whistling kettle on the butane hob produced a fab cup of tea.
The private hot shower and toilet were accessed through the back of the tent via covered area and definitely proved handy as expected, as once you’re all cosy at bedtime the idea of trekking over to a communal toilet block in the dark in your PJs isn’t too appealing.
Once all the rooms had been allocated (my niece opted for the bunk room as per usual, so my brother was relegated to bottom bunk which was thankfully plenty big enough!) we all made our way out on the veranda to sit back take in the views.
By this point, we were all feeling rather lazy and relaxed, so instead of going out to the supermarket for supplies we decided to order a curry from the local curry house recommended on the honesty shop noticeboard, conveniently delivered direct to the car park, piping hot!
Thankfully the dining table was more than roomy enough for our feast, with lots of space to spread out and enjoy a delicious family meal by candlelight.
Once our dinner had settled, armed with hats, gloves and blankets we decided to venture outside again to sit around the fire pit and toast those obligatory marshmallows – another first for my parents, who are now confirmed toasted marshmallow converts.
The night sky was a jaw-dropping spectacle – due to the low light pollution in this uncluttered rural area, we were treated to a crisp clear night with a blanket of stars to rival the Australian outback. My niece remarked that she had never before seen a sky so full of twinkles.
After such a busy day we had a fairly early night. Just before settling down to sleep swathed in cosy blankets, I was amused to hear owls hooting to each other just above our tent, reminding us that we were sleeping as near to the Great Outdoors as possible on a late Autumn evening!
Southwold Beach Huts
After a leisurely morning including a hot shower, breakfast and some exploration of the site, we headed off to Southwold (stopping for tasty fish and chips at Saxmundham on the way). Southwold is a classic seaside town, with pretty beach huts, a sandy beach and of course the wonderfully quirky and charming Southwold Pier. We spent our time enjoying the marvels of Tim Hunkin’s weird and wonderful Under the Pier Show, full of eccentric home-made slot machines and simulator rides, then took a bracing walk along the seafront, reading all the imaginative names of the beach huts along the way, before heading back to our base for dinner.
That evening we were treated to the most stunning sunset in wonderful tones of pink, purple and yellow – much more spectacular than my camera could capture. Under this sunset we partook of yet more marshmallows, and the lovely owner Laura came to say hi and to tell us about all the different activities on offer at Sweffling Hall (including archery, axe throwing and bushcraft which all sounded like fun!). The rest of the evening was spent reading books, relaxing and chatting by candlelight, warmed by the large stove. It was a welcome change to have no television on in the background, meaning we really did spend quality time together as a family, which was very special and something my parents particularly noticed and appreciated.
The following morning – as promised by the previous evening’s sunset – was lovely and sunny, almost Spring-like. My niece enjoyed jumping up and down the veranda steps into the ‘sea’ (the grass, in other words) and when it was time for us to leave she proclaimed that she’d like to live there for ever – praise indeed!
In conclusion, for the young AND the young at heart, from novice glampers to experienced ones, Lantern and Larks has something special to offer everyone.
Take a look inside our Lantern & Larks safari tent below: