Swinton Bivouac

North Yorkshire, Northern England, United Kingdom Book from

Reviewed by Jane Foster
Go glamping in quirky lodges and yurts (self-catering; each sleeps 2-7) in the Yorkshire Dales, complete with a café serving homespun fare
A 10-minute drive from the sleepy market town of Masham in the 20,000-acre Swinton Park Estate, overlooking rolling meadows dotted with sheep and criss-crossed by dry stone walls, stands Swinton Bivouac. Approached up a rough track, it centres on a restored farmhouse accommodating a reception area and café, while in the surrounding pastures and woodland you’ll find an unconventional choice of overnight lodgings: 8 canvas yurts sleeping 2-5 and 6 tastefully furnished timber lodges for up to 7.

The mood is informal and relaxed, appealing to couples and families in search of an authentic yet comfortable back-to-nature adventure. The yurts and lodges have cosy wood-burners, proper beds, running water and basic cooking equipment, and great attention to detail is paid in everything from the rustic décor to the activities on offer. Swinton Bivouac also hosts groups (there’s a dorm-style Bunk Barn sleeping 12 that can be booked for 1-night stays) and organises woodland weddings at the Druid’s Temple, a 200-year-old folly set among the pines nearby. There’s plenty to do: hiking, cycling, visiting castles and waterfalls, and tasting famous Dales produce such as Wensleydale cheese and Black Sheep beer. And you don’t have to go far - trails lead out from the site, and there's a homely café for those who don’t want to self-cater, serving delicious food prepared from local ingredients.

Highs

  • A peaceful, rural location with sweeping views across the valley and moorland - restful for adults and liberating for kids
  • Ideal for families, with a play area and organised activities (crafts, nature trails). Yurts have a double bed, 2 singles and space for a rollaway bed; lodges have 2 doubles and 3 singles
  • Generous breakfasts, lunches and dinners in the cosy café, plus local beer; takeaway meals and picnics are available with 24 hours’ notice
  • Friendly and welcoming staff, who are always ready to chat but never intrusive
  • Plenty of outdoor activities in the surrounding countryside, with the beautiful Yorkshire Dales National Park on the doorstep

Lows

    • Don’t expect luxury: cooking facilities are minimal, the yurts and lodges have no electricity, and the yurts share a communal shower block (lodges have their own bathrooms)
    • It’s remote, and city slickers might feel a little marooned - no nightlife, no telly, just fire pits and star-gazing after dark
    • You’ll need to be reasonably nimble to get in and out of the beds in the lodges, arranged over 3 levels and reached by a steep ladder; you might also risk bumping your head in the top and bottom levels
    • Full pre-payment and a security deposit is required
    • The yurts are closed November to April annually

Best time to go

The Yorkshire Dales are beautiful year-round. Spring and summer are especially lovely, when the weather is ideal for hiking, the fields abound with wildflowers and new-born lambs, and village pubs have outdoor tables. The region is also stunning when seen under a blanket of snow in winter, but bear in mind that driving can be difficult. The Bunk Barn and Tree Lodges are open all year; the yurts from April to October. This being the UK, it can rain at any moment, so bring light waterproofs and wellies.

Our top tips

Bring a head torch (one per person is best), so you can find misplaced pyjamas and see your way to the bathroom at night - there’s no electricity in the lodges or yurts, though candles are provided. The Bunk Barn has proper lighting.

Great for...

Cheap & Chic
Eco
Family
Great Outdoors
Wedding
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Rural Lodges & Yurts
  • 8 yurts + 6 lodges + 1 bunk barn
  • Self-catering (on-site café)
  • All ages welcome
  • Closed: 4 Jan 2017 - 2 Feb 2017
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Daily Maid Service
  • Towels & Bedlinen
  • Bicycles Available
  • Games and books
Room:

Rooms

Sleeping up to 7 people each, the timber-clad Tree Lodges are set on the edge of a dense pinewood, a 10-minute walk from the farmhouse. Each has a veranda, shabby-chic furnishings and a slate-tiled bathroom with a shower. The beds are arranged in 3 tiers, accessed by a ladder: a double on the upper level, set under a sloping roof with a sky-light, 3 single mattresses on the middle level (ideal for kids), and another ‘secret’ double underneath with a curtain for privacy. The main living area has a table, benches, seating and a sink. There’s no electricity, but candles are provided. The wood-burner doubles as a stove, as well as providing hot water for the shower. It’s all very cosy and, thanks to the surrounding trees, very private.

Set in a field a little nearer to the farmhouse, the Mongolian-inspired Meadow Yurts (open April-October) sleep up to 5. They're timber-framed and canvas-clad, erected on wooden platforms with small verandas. Inside they’re open-plan, with a chunky wooden double bed and 2 singles that pull out from underneath it (plus the option of an additional bed if needed). There are colourful rugs, a giant bean bag and a wood-burner providing heating and basic cooking facilities. There’s also a sink with cold running water, but no bathroom; instead, yurt residents use shared shower facilities (spotlessly clean, with underfloor heating) in a building across the field.

Within the farmhouse itself is the Bunk Barn, a large space with wooden bunk beds sleeping 12. There's a tea- and coffee-making corner with a sink and kettle; shared shower facilities are downstairs. It’s ideal for hikers seeking a 1-night stopover (you can book individual beds), and can also be hired for kids’ sleepover parties or groups.

Features include:

  • Coffee tea making
  • Cold box
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Hob stove
  • Sink
  • WiFi
  • Wood-burner

Eating

The Café/Bar occupies a beautifully restored stone barn with a pitched roof and exposed wooden beams. The main area has wooden tables, mismatched chairs and subtle lighting. This is overlooked by a mezzanine, where you’ll find a wood-burning stove and a piano. There’s also a kids’ play area, and double doors open onto a stone terrace with tables and lovely views.

For breakfast (8-10am), there are light options like 'Jam Jar' Yorkshire yoghurt with granola and Berries as well as hearty bacon, sausage or egg sandwiches served with tea, coffee or fruit juice.

The lunch menu (12noon onwards) includes light bites such as sandwiches, ploughman's boards and soups. Vegetarians are well catered for, and everything is made from local, free-range ingredients. There’s also a kids’ menu, plus yummy homemade cakes and locally-made Brymor ice creams. Dinner is sometimes served too, but it varies according season and days of the week.

Picnic boxes are available and you can pre-order a takeaway meals to eat in your yurt or lodge if you don't fancy cooking. The bar offers cocktails and local beers, including Black Sheep Brewery and Theakstons. During the summer months, Friday BBQ nights bring everyone together for a feast framed by stunning views and live music.

If you want to self-cater, choose a Tree Lodge or Meadow Yurt (not the Bunk Barn). The Tree Lodge's wood-burners have ranges, so you can cook food inside or on the top, and there’s also a calor-gas hotplate, a cold box (no fridge), and pots, pans and crockery. The Meadow Yurts are slightly more basic, with the stove working as a hotplate but not an oven. You can pick up supplies in Masham, 5 miles away.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Children meals
  • Coffee tea making
  • Hob stove
  • Restaurant
  • Vegetarian menu
  • On-site shop
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Check out the Druid’s Temple, a 19th-century folly hidden among the pines, or walk across the fields to Swinton Castle, set in landscaped parkland
  • Hike out from your door and pick up one of the many signed trails that run through the site. Ask in advance and the café can make up picnics to take with you
  • Try a falconry experience - Swinton Bivouac have resident owls and hawks. Options range from a half hour “Taster” to an hour’s Family Experience and a full Hunting Day
  • Explore the estate on foot or hire a bicycle; there's a woodland mountain bike track that is ideal for families and pros alike
  • Bubble away in Swinton Bivouac’s outdoor hot tub, which can be rented by the day
  • Horse-riding and fly-fishing are also available nearby (ask staff for details)
  • Visit pretty Masham (5 miles away), which centres on a cobbled main square with a small open-air market. Call at the Black Sheep Brewery for a guided tour, then sample their award-winning cask ales and bottled beers
  • Explore Jervaulx Abbey (9 miles away), a once-prosperous religious institution founded by Cistercian monks in 1156. Set in parkland, the romantic ruins still offer the tranquillity the monks once sought
  • Visit Middleham (13 miles away) to see its 12th-century castle ruins (the childhood home of Richard III) and to watch race horses training on the gallops on Middleham Moor
  • Visit the hillside 14th-century Bolton Castle (20 miles away), built overlooking Wensleydale and said to have once held the imprisoned Mary Queen of Scots
  • Drive up Wensleydale to Aysgarth Falls, then visit the Wensleydale Creamery at Hawes

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Beer tasting
  • Birdwatching
  • Cycling
  • Falconry
  • Fishing
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse-riding
  • Mountain biking
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Shopping / markets
  • Well being

Kids

This is the perfect place to escape with the kids, especially those who enjoy outdoor activities and nature. Children will no doubt relish the idea of running wild in the surrounding fields, and the unconventional sleeping arrangements will delight. There are lots of attractions nearby, and Swinton Bivouac runs regular children’s events covering everything from foraging to cake decorating.

Best for:

Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

The Tree Lodges (private shower bathroom) accommodate up to 7 in 2 double beds and 3 singles, arranged in tiers and reached via a ladder. Each Meadow Yurt (shared shower block) sleeps up to 5 in a double bed, 2 pull-out single beds and an additional rollaway bed. Note that they are slightly more basic than the lodges, with minimal cooking facilities.

Exclusive use of the Bunk Barn is handy for large groups, as it can sleep up to 12.

Baby equipment:

  • Baby cots (free of charge)
  • High chairs

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Children's meals:

The café has a kids’ menu, and hot meals are served from noon onwards (open Wednesday-Sunday only). Takeaway meals and picnics are available with 24 hours’ notice. The lodges and yurts have some facilities for self-catering.

Kids Activities on site:

  • Forest School (school holidays)

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Horse-riding and pony-trekking
  • Castles to explore (Middleham, Bolton Castle)
  • Aysgarth Falls (12 miles away)
  • Forbidden Corner (a maze of tunnels, chambers and follies in a 4-acre garden (14 miles away)
  • Cookery school 2 miles down the road which runs kids and teens classes during school holidays

Families Should Know:

The yurts and lodges are off-grid, with no electricity. Candles are provided, but it’s worth bringing torches. The ladders to the beds in the lodges may be difficult for very young children to negotiate

Distances:

  • Shop: 5 minutes (Masham)
  • Hospital: 25 minutes (Ripon; minor injuries only) or 40 minutes (Northallerton; full A&E)
  • Airport: 1 hour (Durham Tees Valley)
Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

7/
Rooms
9/
Food
8/
Service
8/
Value
8/
Overall

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