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The UK's best vintage vans and trailers to stay in this summer

In the market for a quirky staycation? Channel 4’s Carry on Glamping series opened the nation’s eyes to the joys — and struggles — of transforming vintage campervans into miniature boutique hotels. Here are eight to book this summer.

The Oat Box, on hen-peppered farmland near Northern Ireland’s windswept north coast, is a sweet retreat for two tucked inside an 1968 Bedford TK Horse Lorry. Over the past few years, the market has blossomed with trailers-turned-boutiques that offer on-your-doorstep access to nature without the heavy load of pitch-it-yourself sites.

Photograph by Emma Stewart Photography
By Stephanie Cavagnaro
Published 19 Jun 2021, 08:00 BST

Glampsites today have evolved a long way from a fallow field of bell tents. The trend for creature comfort camping has matured over the course of the 21st century, with hotel-quality beds working their way into treehouses, yurts and eco pods. The latest revved-up craze is for vintage vehicle hotels: retro Airstream trailers, converted buses, rare caravans and even luxury horseboxes that have all been kitted out to be super-cool.

Comedian Johnny Vegas recently hopped on the restored bandwagon with this year’s sell-out success, Field of Dreams. The making of this vintage vehicle glampsite in the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, North Yorkshire, recently featured on the four-part Channel 4 series Carry on Glamping. Among Field of Dreams’ five souped-up stays on wheels are a 1960s German Mercedes-Benz fire engine and a 1970s American school bus, all now fully booked for 2021. But don’t despair if you haven’t swooped a spot, there are plenty more options across the UK for experiential glamping enthusiasts.

“Due to the success of Carry on Glamping and other programmes, such as Extraordinary Escapes with Sandi Toksvig, we have seen a real surge in interest in unusual glamping, specifically for vehicles and also for extraordinary, space-age-type glamping,” explains Alex Wilson, co-founder of accommodation directory Host Unusual. “Searches for these types of properties have increased by 230% in the past year. This may be attributed to the overall staycation boom of 2021, but people are also more aware of the vast range of experiential accommodation that exists, and which continues to grow, in the UK.”

Over the past few years, the market has blossomed with trailers-turned-boutiques that offer on-your-doorstep access to nature without the heavy load of pitch-it-yourself sites. Plus, converted vehicles often pack all the extras into one spot: kitchenettes, multiple bedrooms, indoor showers — appealing to petrol-heads and comfort-seekers alike. Tap into the nostalgia and get behind the wheel of one of these vintage stunners: here are eight to book for an unusual staycation this summer.

Billed as 'Skoolie staycations, for families who are wild at heart', Roarsome Adventures brings its cosy, converted American school buses to a farm near Cornwall's Polzeath Beach from June until mid-September Cornwall.

Photograph by Roarsome Adventures

1. Roarsome Adventures, Cornwall

Fancy summer school in Cornwall? Parked on a farm near Polzeath Beach from June until mid-September (and, later, in the Cotswolds from late July to the end of October) are two vintage American school busses that have been transformed into family-friendly cabins for five. Each is kitted out with cosy faux fur throws, leather armchairs and reclaimed wood to resemble Alpine ski chalets. If that’s not reason enough to hop on board, there’s also a stocked-up hamper included in the price, and local activities include brewery tours, dolphin spotting and surf lessons.

Roarsome Adventures' American school buses will be available to book in the Cotswolds from late July to the end of October.

Photograph by Roarsome Adventures

2. The Ceridwen Centre, Carmarthenshire

Go west to the Teifi Valley for a clutch of sustainable glampsites on a sprawling organic farm. There’s a yurt, a hand-built eco pod and even a double-decker bus. The converted cream-and-navy 1964 Leyland Titan bus sleeps up to six, with a kitchen and dining area on the lower floor and two separate en suite bedrooms on the upper deck. Farm walks stretch for miles, a Swedish eco hot tub is available for a soak and wood-fired sourdough pizzas sizzle on Friday nights.

Abbeyfield Glamping's converted 1964 Bedford TK opened in August 2020, offering guests such luxuries as a wood-burning stove, memory foam mattress and en suite rain shower — plus, five acres of wildflower meadows at its site in Mitford Valley.

Photograph by Abbeyfield Glamping

3. Abbeyfield Glamping, Northumberland

This is peak luxury camping: a converted 1964 Bedford TK is the star of this Mitford Valley site that opened last August. Set in five acres of wildflower meadow and ancient woods, this converted horsebox has been given a makeover with handmade furnishings, wood-burning stove, memory foam mattress, en suite rain shower, solar-powered electricity and an outdoor fire pit with a cast-iron cooking set. Check out the wild spa: a wine barrel hot tub beneath a swaying hazel tree.

Read more: Experts share their tips for exploring the UK by campervan this summer

4. Mad Dogs and Vintage Vans, Herefordshire

Retired to a Wye Valley wildflower meadow are four vintage caravans. They date back to the 1930s but have been newly gussied up while keeping pretty period features intact. ‘Monty’ is a bomb-proof Second World War military wagon, boho ‘Gertie’ is a rare 1930s Cheltenham Gnu with original handmade oak furniture and gas lamps, while ‘Elsie’ is a 1950s beauty with an original cocktail cabinet. And for fuel? For guests, it’s cream teas on vintage crockery, wild-dining feasts, locally pressed cider and marshmallows on the outdoor fire.

Sleep easy in Glen Dye Cabins and Cottages' refurbished 1955 Airstream Safari caravan, complete with an outdoor wood-fired hot tub and a outdoor shower created in the bones of the abandoned sawmill.

Photograph by Fran Mart, Glen Dye Cabins and Cottages

5. Glen Dye Cabins and Cottages, Aberdeenshire

Get your nature kicks at this expansive 30,000-acre estate encompassing wild forest, rugged moorland and the rushing River Dye. Along with a collection of cottages, you can sleep easy in a refurbished 1955 Airstream Safari caravan set in pine woods or a baby blue 1958 showman’s caravan. Depending on which is booked, glampers might have a private wood-fired hot tub, outdoor shower or pizza oven, while all guests can pull up a pew at the BYOB pub complete with log fire and record player.

Glen Dye Cabins and Cottages

Photograph by Glen Dye Cabins and Cottages

6. Vintage Vacations, Isle of Wight

A fleet of slick vintage Airstreams overlook the sloping Brading Down, providing a slice of classic Americana. These silver bullets date from 1946 to 1966 and have been restored to their mid-century condition with all their original Formica details. Vintage board games including Tiddlywinks, plus rock ’n’ roll CDs (even though CDs weren’t invented then) add to the time warp. Each caravan has a kitchen and an outdoor area with deck chairs around a log burner, while the site’s shop-in-a-shed sells kitsch bric-a-brac.

The Oat Box, near Londonderry, has been restored with an original mahogany floor, vintage details and an oak kitchen featuring a wood-burner range oven.

Photograph by The Oat Box

7. The Oat Box, Londonderry

This sweet retreat for two comes courtesy of a 1968 Bedford TK Horse Lorry amid hen-peppered farmland near Northern Ireland’s windswept north coast. It’s been restored with an original mahogany floor, vintage details and an oak kitchen featuring a wood-burner range oven. A ladder slides up to the king-size bed, while outdoor loungers are gathered into a firepit. With shower and toilet facilities also inside, it’s impressively self-contained.

The spacious quarters of Ceredigion's Dolly the Circus Wagon include theatrical drapes in the bedroom, vintage seating and a retro kitchen. 

Photograph by Dolly the Circus Wagon

8. Dolly the Circus Wagon, Ceredigion

Have you dreamt of running away and joining the circus? Sleep like an entertainer in this boho circus living wagon built in 1947, which has now given up the limelight for greener pastures near Cardigan Bay. The spacious quarters include theatrical drapes in the bedroom, vintage seating and a retro kitchen. A dressing room, toilet and hot shower are in an adjacent shepherd’s hut. Nearby are sandy beaches and brooding mountains, while the grounds beyond include a lake, woodland and gentle hills.

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