TRAVEL: Have a tree-mendous holiday
Growing up, the kids next door had a treehouse. Three planks of wood nailed across two chunky branches, but magical nonetheless.
When I heard Chewton Glen, the multi award-winning five-star spa hotel in the New Forest, was opening 12 Treehouse Suites this summer, memories flooded back. So too did the childlike excitement, when my sister and I beat our way to the top of a waiting list and booked a weekend break.
But when we arrive at the high-end suites, it becomes apparent treehouse living has come a long way in the last few years.
For starters, there’s no scrambling up a rope ladder.
The adventure begins with a golf buggy ride from the hotel’s main reception, up the bumpy track into the surrounding woodlands.
The suites are cleverly built into the side of a hill - with one half propped up with stilts - allowing guests to enter at ground level.
Re-living the pure, unabashed joys of childhood is rare, but within seconds of entering our treehouse, my sister, Harriet, and I are running around, marvelling at the different features - and there are lots.
A vast walk-in shower, flatscreen TV at the foot of the bath and a log-burning stove instantly grab our attention. But it’s the little touches that really make us warm to the place: a well-stocked fridge, freshly baked lemon drizzle cake on the coffee table, and jars of hot chocolate with marshmallows in the kitchen.
We’re staying in a Studio Suite (there are also bigger and more private Loft, Hideaway and Private Suites available, ideal for families or honeymooning couples), which has an open-plan layout with large, foldaway glass doors leading onto a balcony.
The design is modern but inviting, with quirky touches such as small silver birds perched on pieces of furniture. Even the hot-water bottles are well-dressed in quaint woollen covers!
With so much excitement indoors, it’s easy to forget we’re in a treehouse, but stepping out onto the balcony we’re greeted with a sea of green. Level with the treetops, we have a wonderful birds-eye view.
Chewton Glen never do things by halves; constructed with natural materials where possible, the Suites blend into the trees, like five-star nests of luxury.
Right now, the leaves are shimmering from recent rainfall, but it’s easy to imagine this setting would be stunning in any weather, at any time of year.
Harriet and I waste no time dipping into the outdoor private hot tub with a pre-dinner drink, admiring the panoramic views and enjoying the silence.
An “in-treehouse” meal service is available, but venturing back to civilisation for dinner is a real treat. The recently-remodelled Vetvier Restaurant has a suitably impressive menu and wine list to please even the most knowledgeable connoisseur. We tuck into tender pink duck, then, armed with our torch, brave the (very-mini-but-still-adventurous) trek back to the treehouse, owls hooting in the distance.
The morning brings a new wave of delights. We awake to see our pre-ordered breakfast hamper has discreetly arrived through the hatch near the front door. Packed full of fresh juices, yogurt, fruit, warm muffins, bread and jam, this is most definitely a highlight, and we feast in our bath robes on the balcony.
Next, it’s off to the spa - one of the key draws for many of Chewton Glen’s guests. As well as a long list of treatments to choose from, there’s a pool, steam rooms and sauna and a hydrotherapy room that’s a bit like a Jacuzzi theme park!
When our stay comes to an end, there’s another bolt of childhood nostalgia - the gloom of playtime being over. Thankfully, I’ve grown out of tantrums, but treehouses haven’t lost their magic, and Chewton Glen’s are utterly enchanting.
:: Chewton Glen’s Tree House Suites start from £600 per night including tax. To book, visit www.mrandmrssmith.com or call 0845 034 0700
:: Four more treehouses to try...
Best for... family fun
Also unveiled earlier this year were Center Parcs’ treehouses at Longleat Forest, Wiltshire. Reached via spiral stairs winding around a tree, these luxury log cabins on stilts sit among 400 acres of woodland - perfect for little explorers.
Fitted with all mod cons (including 42-inch TVs and iPod docks), with an ensuite bathroom for parents, the treehouses can sleep up to eight and are ecologically heated by solar panels and ground source heat pumps.
Guests can make use of Center Parcs’ vast range of activities, including canoeing, paintballing and falconry, plus there’s a spa and adventure swimming pool. Alternatively, retreat to the treehouse to relax in the cosy lounge, hot tub and sauna.
:: Treehouses at Center Parcs Longleat Forest in 2013 start from £2,499 for three nights. To book, visit www.centerparcs.co.uk or call 08448 266 266
Best for... design addicts
They may look a bit like alien spaceships, but “treerooms” at the Treehotel in Harads, Sweden, are actually works of architectural wonder commissioned by husband and wife team, Britta and Kent Lindvall.
Nestled among acres of unspoilt, natural surroundings, the individually-designed eco treerooms (which include the Cabin, Mirrorcube, Bird’s Nest, Blue Cone and UFO) are ideally situated to see the Northern Lights.
Guests can also enjoy a tree sauna, forest activities (such as horse riding, mountain biking and ice fishing) and Britta’s home-cooked meals.
:: Treerooms at the Treehotel start from £380 for two people including VAT. To book, visit www.mantiscollection.com or call 01483 425 465
Best for... jungle adventures
Here, intrepid tourists can walk, as well as sleep, among the treetops. Nesting more than 100ft high in the Peruvian South Eastern Amazon, Inkaterra´s Canopy Tree House, developed in partnership with National Geographic, promises visitors an unforgettable experience.
More than a quarter of a mile of canopies and hanging bridges enable visitors to explore an area only recently seen by scientists.
The opportunities for wildlife spotting are also excellent. Unwind with a drink as exotic birds flutter past, then dine under the stars, feeling on top of the world. Definitely an experience to write home about.
:: The Canopy Treehouse at Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica starts from £813 per person for two nights. To book, visit www.inkaterra.com or call 0808 101 2224
Best for... fairytale fantasies
The branch-top, crooked wooden cabins at Les Alicourts, just outside Orleans in central France, look like they’re straight out of the pages of a Hans Christian Anderson adventure.
Ideal for families with kids aged two and above, they’re part of a park which offers a range of activities, including go-karting, biking, mini golf, a skate park for teens and a gym and spa for adults plus
:: Family treehouses for four at Les Alicourts start from £143 per night. To book, visit www.alicourtstreehouses.com