Glamping – a beginner’s guide: How to get it right in your own back garden

Camping doesn’t have to mean hardship. A few boutique hotel elements can transform the experience from brutal to bijou

Glaming is the bona fide way to delude yourself you are roughing it while keeping the creepy crawlies away from your sleeping arrangements. But how do you translate the posh arrangements offered by hotels into your own back garden? Steal the suggestions of Justin Greene who runs Ballyvolane House in Fermoy, Co Cork and who fell in love with the idea of glamorous camping – so-called glamping – while working at Babbington House in Somerset. He camped as a kid and has “grim” memories of transporting camping gear in a horsebox, of “nights spent crawling around a damp field before the family would give up and retire to said horsebox to escape the cold and the wet”.

He now favours “a more upmarket” approach to one of life’s great experiences – sleeping under canvas – something he still does with his wife Jenny and their three children, Toby (13), Jamie (10) and Fleur (7).

It was “the ambiance, the sound of birdsong and the shadow-play of the sun on the canvas in the yurt used for spa treatments” that inspired him to offer glamping as part of that country house experience. When the recession hit, he decided to do the same at his homestead, Ballyvolane House, where what he offers is a million miles from the damp memories of his childhood.

Greene’s little luxurious extras are ideas that can easily be implemented in Camp Back Garden. “The key is to make sure you pitch your tent on a dry, well-drained piece of ground that isn’t liable to flood.”


Sleeping on a groundsheet makes you absorb the cold from the ground, so at Ballyvolane the beds sit atop elevated platforms that are custom-made by a pallet company. You could build your own platform or cheat by buying pallets from Rathcoole-based Max Pallets, one of several suppliers you will find online – just check them for nails before use.

Greene’s guests sleep on “super-comfy mattresses stuffed with recycled jeans and organic lamb’s wool”, made by the UK-based Natural Mat Company. A less expensive outlay is a camp bed. Try O’Meara Camping for inflatable air beds, from €24.95, and traditional camp beds, from €19.95 for a single.

At Ballyvolane, guests sleep in Egyptian cotton sheets under duvets and blankets – at home you can use your own bedding. At turn-down time, Ballyvolane staff slip a hot water bottle into every bed.

For a tent with attitude, you could go all out and invest in a dramatic design by the Indian Garden Company in England, run by Offaly woman Bernadette O’Farrell. Its canvas creations are made to order and worthy of any maharaja, given that prices start at about €3,500. Bell tents, the kind you may have slept in at the recent Body & Soul Festival, can be purchased from Co Kildare-based Silk Road Tents. Prices for a four-man size start from €300.

Solar-operated fairy lights or storm lanterns add visual warmth. Scatter cushions, melamine plates and plastic glasses are practical and add colour. If it’s a romantic night for two, then a half-bottle of Champagne chilled in a bedside bucket is “just enough to add colour to the cheeks without getting too squiffy,” says Greene.

Alanna Gallagher

Alanna Gallagher

Alanna Gallagher is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in property and interiors