After another tiring week we were all ready to escape the Winter blues and weekend chores to regroup as a family. Our family goals this year included more travel in the form of staycation mini breaks. Staying at a Swinton Bivouac Tree Lodge sounded just perfect for our second mini break of 2020. As most of my readers know we love the outdoors and are not fazed by camping, glamping and outdoorsy escapes. That said, I always appreciate home comforts, especially in February! When glamping as a large family it’s handy to have a well equipped kitchen, a hot en-suite shower and a cozy fire to keep us all warm.
From reception there is a short track to the lodge, which has it’s own parking bay outside.
On reaching our lodge the excitement was high! The Winter sunshine was going down and the kind Bivouac staff had lit our fire and candles so the tree snug was a welcoming sight on a chilly February evening.
There is no electricity in the lodges so if you’re looking to be a bit more off grid and unwind from endless screen time then this is the place. You can get a mobile data signal in the lodge and the cafe has wifi in case you need it! I recommend taking a few torches if visiting. It is very dark in the woods at night and you may need to venture outside for firewood or to your car.
Our lodge slept 7, so more than enough room for a family of 6 like us. It consists of one large open area for living /sleeping and one ensuite bathroom.
The top mezzanine balconied floor accessed by the built in ladder is a comfortable king sized bed. We chose to share with our youngest and still felt like we had enough room.
On the middle sleeping level are the cutest 3 single beds ever (accessed by a smaller ladder). The ground floor has the tucked away double bed, which the teenager got to stretch out in. Both the triple and the double beds have curtains to pull across for privacy. If you can manage to not fall asleep at the same time as the kids after all the fresh Yorkshire air, you can sit around and enjoy a drink and a chat once they’re in bed!
Included in your stay is all bedding. This always makes a difference to our packing and also my washing on return. I always appreciate it when bedding is provided! I recommend some warm pjs/onesies as the duvets are on the light side. If you need to you can make use of the extra blankets from the store cupboard.
A small towel and bath mat are provided, however I recommend bringing a couple of extra towels. Toilet roll and hand soap are provided.
In one of the corners of the lodge there is a small yet perfectly equipped kitchen with a lovely outlook over the Dales. There is a camping stove with a 2 ring burner and grill. They provide mugs, glasses, crockery, utensils and pans. Also provided was a tea towel, sponge, washing up liquid, matches, sweeping brush and bins. We did bring an extra cloth as we usually have a few spills at teatime to deal with. The children loved taking it in turns to use the sweeping brush, so I think we may invest in one for home! Next time I would take our thermos flask so we could go for a walk complete with a hot chocolate.
For storing food we were given a cool box which sits on a cold slab outside in a secure shed. We also kept some food in a box that we brought from home which we made sure had a lid to discourage any small wildlife from seeking it out!
A delicious breakfast box can also be provided – Ours was placed in our lodge on arrival Friday evening. Included in the breakfast box was local sausages, bacon, tins of beans, fresh tomatoes, eggs and bread. We had enough bacon for two breakfasts!
Logs are provided and each lodge has a log store and a wheelbarrow to go and collect further logs if required.
I will start by saying our youngest loved this adventure! She has told everyone all about the tree house and just loved the quality time we all spent together. There are a few things to mention for those with smaller children. The wood burning fire has a heavy duty fireguard surrounding it, which we felt made the fire more than safe. We were careful to position the lanterns away from the younger ones as they are a little rickety! The ladders were ok for our 3 year old as she’s a pretty strong climber so we just reminded her she was to climb them safely under our watchful eye. Being all in the same area meant that there was someone close by at all times. If she had been younger she wouldn’t have been able to climb the taller one anyway without close supervision.
You can find my Swinton Tree Lodge tour here
Five minutes away from our lodge is a warm cafe with really pretty decor and helpful staff. Think pastel colours and fairy lights with a good view of the estate. They serve a good flat white and we all enjoyed their carrot cake! As we were staying out of season in Winter they are only open 10-3 and serve drinks, cake and soup. In school holiday periods and outside of the Winter season they are open longer with a larger menu to choose from. There is a small play area for the kids to explore plus the staff and my husband also took the children to visit some of the birds of prey they home at the back of the cafe. Yurts are available to hire in season close to these facilities.
During our stay at Swinton Bivouac tree lodge we were lucky enough to get the opportunity to visit the Swinton Country club and Spa. Just a ten minute drive from the lodge you can pay to visit the Country Club and Spa with the kids at set times in the day (information is provided in your welcome packs).
We chose to take the children for the late afternoon kids swim session. The facilities felt luxurious and practical at the same time. Wristbands were given to us on arrival for lockers and doors which avoids any escaping little ones. The family changing room is complete with shower and shampoo, conditioner, body wash and hairdryer is provided. We took this opportunity to have their hair washed and ready for the start of school on Monday! Woggle floats are free to use and the children enjoyed their swim in the warm indoor pool. We also appreciated taking it in turns to grab some relaxation and peace in the sauna spa area, which was bliss. I would like to return for a spa experience without the kids sometime soon!
Evening meal was taken in the terraced restaurant next door to the spa area. The restaurant had a chilled out vibe for the kids and for once we weren’t stressing about them behaving themselves whilst eating out, which is rare! They loved the fleecy sheepskin chairs, the 3 course kids menu and being able to see the chefs at work in the open kitchen from our table. I would say that for eating out as a family of 6 this is the top end of budget for our family. We would only be able to justify the price for a treat such as a big Birthday celebration. That said, the food was all local, good sized portions and so definitely a real treat for us!
Swinton Bivouac is part of the 20,000 acre Swinton Estate. Just steps away from the tree lodge is the large woodland with breathtaking views across the moorlands. The Druid’s Temple is one of Yorkshire’s most interesting follies and within the woodland there are a number of other standing stones. This ancient site is of particular appeal to walkers, families and bird watchers. Our kids were fascinated by the mystical feel to the site and acted out several theatrical druid chants! We visited the site when the sun was peering through the trees, it just added to the mysterious feel of the ancient woodland. Continuing on the circular walk through the woodland we made it back to the lodge for some warm soup. It was just the right distance for younger feet and we did use our toddler carrier for our youngest.
There are some more active pursuits available such as mountain biking, running trails and horse riding available.
We really enjoyed the experience of staying in the Swinton Bivouac tree lodge and I know we will be talking about our stay for some time. It’s a perfect place for outdoorsy families or those wishing to experience the outdoors with some degree of home comfort. A perfect base for relaxing and spending time with the family or exploring the Dales surrounding the estate.
We were gifted a one night stay with dinner, bed and breakfast in exchange for an open and honest review of our experience. All words and images are my own.