Its name might convey modest self-concealment, but Hidden Valley Yurts in Monmouthshire has something to shout about — a 10th birthday. The site in the Wye Valley at Lower Glyn Farm has proved a magnet for holidaymakers in search of tranquillity as the glamping concept has taken hold, receiving a slew of awards in the process.
“Being in the business for a decade is quite an achievement in itself, the site is more popular than ever and we’ve won an award for our sustainability, which we are incredibly proud of,” says Hidden Valley’s Mike Pointing. “We’ve earned a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence for the second year running and have launched The Lake House, our new luxury year-round accommodation.”
When Hidden Valley Yurts threw open its tent flaps in 2008, it was one of the very first glamping sites in the UK. With just two yurts in a small field, it offered a simple rural retreat for those looking to get back to nature but without the inconvenience of pitching and packing up a tent. There are now five opulent, modern yurts sleeping from five to 31, with the private lakeside holiday home completing the picture.
Back in 2008, the glamping landscape looked radically different. “There were just a handful of sites across the UK, and sourcing materials wasn’t easy,” Pointing says. “Mongolian yurts were chosen for their authenticity but they were rare in the UK at that time — and so, of course, they had to be imported from Mongolia! Interest in the glamping model was growing at an astonishing rate and people were contacting us for help and advice, so a company was formed to sell the yurts and run courses for those looking to set up their own glamping business. You can now see our Mongolian yurts in sites from Land’s End to John o’ Groats.”
Nestled deep in the hills of South Wales in Llanishen, midway between Chepstow and Monmouth, Hidden Valley comprises a sprawling haven of 80 acres of woodland and meadow for visitors to find refuge. “It’s just what the doctor ordered to recharge, regenerate and recuperate,” says Pointing. “It can be a difficult place to leave and many of our guests from all over the country come back year after year.
A winning philosophy for many glamping operations has been a careful focus on making guests feel at home while immersed in the natural world — and big, comfortable beds are just the starting point. “We provide everything we think might be needed for a home-away-from-home holiday,” Pointing says. “The yurts have fully equipped kitchens including a dishwasher, a breadmaker and a woodburning pizza oven. There’s a herb garden, a chicken run providing fresh eggs, barbecue facilities on every sundeck, loungers and swing seats, a campfire, a woodburner in every yurt, a boules pitch and games galore.”
While visitors are always happy to put their feet up, Hidden Valley shares the practice of many successful operations in offering a plethora of activities, on site and locally. The outdoor specialist Simon Birbeck is on hand to teach foraging, bushcraft, and survival skills; there are nature studies and the opportunity for hillwalking; guests can sharpen their archery skills, have a potshot at clay-pigeon shooting, or take classes in art and design.
“Alternatively, they can hire a chef and a hot tub for the evening and settle into the relaxation of glamping life,” Pointing says.
He notes that plenty of changes have taken place at the site over the decade. “In 2015 we bought new covers for all the yurts — for the first time in an olive green to complement the surrounding countryside. Then in 2016 we completed the replacement of all the yurt decks. Last year we took on the task of renovating an old cricket pavilion, which had been transported from Somerset and placed next to our small lake by the previous owners. Now it’s a luxurious holiday home offering a peaceful stay with all the modern conveniences of home. We opened it in May 2018 and our first guests have loved it. The lake is completely private, a stream runs alongside the house and it is situated at the bottom of the valley, giving an incredible outlook over our land.
The general lakeside setup is a long way from the glamping sites of yesteryear. “The emphasis is on luxury and quality. There’s a double-level deck leading down to the lake with barbecue and sunloungers, and a covered veranda running the full length of the building. Our guests can lie in bed and watch the water rippling on the lake and the breeze blowing in the trees. We’re sure this is going to prove a special holiday home for a lot of clients. We’ll also be hosting courses and training sessions here, using the large indoor and outdoor space for wellbeing, yoga and holistic therapies.”
The Hidden Valley site is a captivating mix of woodland, meadow and farmland, enclosed by the rolling hills of Monmouthshire and safely ensconced from frenetic modern existence. “There’s no traffic, no street lights and no noise other than the trickling stream and birdsong,” says Pointing.
“There are paths through the land and out into the countryside, with streams, waterfalls, bridges and rope swings to explore. We’re in the middle of the county, with Tintern and its ancient abbey, Raglan, Usk, Monmouth and Chepstow close by. You can watch the sun set behind the Sugar Loaf mountain, with the Brecon Beacons in the distance.”
Future prospects are looking bright, particularly in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty long celebrated for its preservation of nature. Representatives from the specialist holiday operator Cool Camping were recently interviewed by Chris Evans on Radio 2 and referred to Hidden Valley as “one of the originals and still one of the best luxury camping sites in the loveliest of locations”.