Glamping has come a long, long way. Girl Guide and Boy Scout memories of leaky tents and baked beans scalded over a campfire are long gone. Nor did those chilly children have WiFi, instant hot water or locally distilled gin.
Abbey Farm in Alby soars glamping to new heights. Owners Jonathan and Lara have devoted seven bucolic acres of their East Meadow to glamping as a slice of therapeutic Norfolk life.
Their geodesic white domes, a cross between Antarctic research centre living and futuristic sci-fi homes, look out over rural views under Norfolk’s famed big skies.
Currently there are three domes, with more planned. Long weekend stays, Friday to Monday, are being snapped up by stressed urbanites. They want the luxury of a high-end hotel but with all the fresh-air freedom of camping. Escaping from the city, these glampers want Instagrammable rustic utopia on their doorstep. They also want a secure lockable front door for when they head of on journeys of discovery and no anxieties over parking.
As demand for glamping continues to rise, luxurious accommodation is attracting new glampers to The Great Outdoors.
Outdoor living is the aim. On the decking there is a wood-fired hot-tub, a barbecue with pizza oven and garden furniture. Essentially, this is a good-times party kit. Guests can begin with breakfast on the terrace and finish the day with a barbecue under Norfolk’s dark skies.
Dome interiors are stylish penthouse style; light grey wooden flooring contrasts with black wooden furniture and the white walls of the polar-insulated dome. Abbey Farm is where an interior design magazine photo shoot – natural textiles of a tan sofa, a grey throw and artfully positioned rugs – comes to glamping. Even the curling flames of the wood burner and the wicker logs basket are worthy of Pinterest.
Design is ingenious. At the centre of the dome, a black cuboid houses the bathroom. Navigating clockwise, 90 degrees takes guests to the deep White Company duvet on a huge wide double bed. His and her plugs, perfect for phone charging, are strategically placed either side of the bed.
Another 90 degrees and it is the kitchen with its two-ring hob and fridge. A sophisticated microwave scrolls a plea to read its operating instructions before use but the appliance is nowhere near as complicated as it likes to think.
A dining table looks out over the rural views, a black and glossy take on Shaker style. A set of elegant wine glasses and six flutes for bubbly make for elegant table settings, are again photo-shoot worthy. Take a last 90-degree turn into the living area with sofa and huge smart television.
There is one more surprise. Climb a ladder by the bathroom door to reach a mezzanine level and another double bed. As the sofa also converts to a double bed, a dome can sleep six.
Guests are welcomed by a hamper containing coffee for the cafetière, tea, jam and cookies. Most eyes are drawn to the Abbey Farm gin.
“I had thoughts of something distilled from samphire, a flavour of the Norfolk coast,” says Jonathan. “But it just didn’t work. Lara’s citrus flavours were far more appealing, so we decided on that one for a batch.” Alongside the gin and tonic, there are some bottles of Abbey Farm’s own beer too.
Jonathan and Lara take the strain out of self-catering. Guests can order afternoon tea, barbecue packs and charcuterie platters. Pizza kits, with balls of dough provided, allow guests to roll out and create their own pizza. Spicy nduja brings Iberian flavours to Norfolk.
A mere 15-minute drive arrives at the Norfolk coastal path. Park-up on Overstrand’s headland and stroll two miles along the sandy beach into Cromer. The path’s 84 miles runs through prime boating and crabbing territory, much of it designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Beyond Cromer and Sherringham, Blakeney’s salt marshes lie to the west, tinged purple with sea lavender in late summer. Bring binoculars to this vast wind-battered terrain to search the horizon for seals and wading birds.
Between gentle pastures grazed by sheep, tall pine forests and flint built cottages, Norfolk’s grand stately homes attract visitors to their extensive grounds. The National Trust’s Felbrigg Hall and Blickling Hall are both within a ten-minute drive of Abbey Farm.
In a nutshell
Abbey Farm provides indulgent luxury glamping at the heart of rural Norfolk. Jonathan and Lara pamper their guests with hampers. Yet, it is an immersive hands-on experience with guests rolling out their pizzas, firing up the wood-burner and tending the flames of the barbecue.
Domes, sleeping six, can be booked from £675 for a four-night stay.
Address: Abbey Farm, Alby, Norwich, Norfolk, NR11 7HG
Phone: 07979 997355