This feature is part of Little Vikings Great Yorkshire Family Escapes, a whole year of inspiration for anyone looking for a family break in Yorkshire. Over the next few months, we’ll introduce you to the best places to stay on the Yorkshire Coast, in the North York Moors, Yorkshire Dales and the towns and cities in between. You’ll discover why it’s a great place to stay with kids, and some ideas for things to do while you’re there.
Foreign holidays are lovely, and we’d never say no to a spa break, but sometimes all you need to recharge is a night away in the woods. We were invited along to stay at one of the new bothies at Jollydays Glamping and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Here’s what we made of our night away just a hop, skip and jump from home.
About Jollydays – One of the closest glamping sites to York, Jollydays was also one of the first sites of its kind when it opened in 2008. Owned and run by a local family with a passion for nature and the environment, this stunning boutique glampsite is popular with families looking for an escape from the everyday, groups with something to celebrate and couples in search of a peaceful getaway. It’s worth mentioning their other site, North Star Club, which is slightly further from York but offers an even more upgraded glamping experience.
Getting there – Jollydays is tucked away in the glorious Yorkshire countryside just a stone’s throw from Stamford Bridge and 20 minutes from York city centre. It’s a simple, easy journey but do be sure to use the correct postcode, follow the directions on the website and look out for the road sign once you get close to the woodland. And start to keep an eye out for wildlife – we were greeted by a hare!
The accommodation – They’ve recently moved away from canvas tents to bothies and woodcutter huts, which means extra cosiness and protection from the elements. We stayed one night in The Magician’s Bothy (or Magician’s Botty as our children renamed it), a spacious and beautifully designed lodge with more mod cons than we’d expected from an off-grid experience, from a little gas hob and fridge to warm running water, wood-fired stove, full bathroom with rolltop bath and shower and comfy beds. The children were the first to notice the nods to the subtle magical theme, from stars on the ceiling to ‘hidden’ doors.
As anyone with three children will know, it can be hard to find somewhere to stay that accommodates more than two children well (and there’s often a scrap about who gets the inevitable sofa bed). This time our son actually volunteered to sleep on the living room’s sofa bed because it looked inviting and passed his rigorous comfiness test. He also liked the idea of waking up to the sun coming through the windows, and was completely undisturbed by the birds tapping on the window from 6am! We didn’t need the dining table for eating because we ate our pizza around the communal campfire (more on that later), but it was ideal for playing games around in the evening. In the morning, the large veranda was the perfect place to sit and wake up with a cup of tea, and if we’d stayed longer we could have knocked up (burned) some food on the barbecue provided, too.
What’s in it for kids? – After a busy half term, our kids really enjoyed exploring the woods, playing games and disconnecting from the real world for a while. Don’t expect traditional play areas, smart TVs or hot tubs; this is a back-to-nature experience. Breaks like this are a golden opportunity to spend time together without the many distractions of modern life, from the lure of the inbox to the washing machine beeping to be emptied again. We taught the kids to make a fire, played hide and seek and finally got out the Monopoly set that our eldest had been nagging to play all half term but we hadn’t got around to. They collected sticks, took silly photos of each other and toasted a million marshmallows. Of course, there were the usual arguments to break up, but far less than if we’d been at home. Lovely.
Food & drink – As with most camping trips, you’ll need to decide what to do about food. As we were just staying one night, we kept it simple and brought our own pizzas to cook (well, cremate) on the communal Jollydays pizza oven. Charred crusts or not, nothing beats sitting around a campfire tucking into a pizza that you’ve (sort of) made yourself, especially if you’ve remembered to pack a bottle of something for the grown-ups. You can get groceries delivered, but there’s also a handy co-op in Stamford Bridge that has everything you’ll need. Stamford Bridge also has some nice places to eat, like The Balloon Tree farm shop, and York has more places to eat than you can imagine (see some of our favourites here). On site, we’d heartily recommend the lovely Northwood Kitchen, which is the cafe and bar for the Northwood Trail. Their coffee is delicious, our kids love their hot chocolate, and there’s always a tempting selection of cakes, snacks and light meals.
What’s on the doorstep? There’s so much to do near Jollydays that it makes a brilliant base to explore York, the North York Moors and the Yorkshire Coast. Literally on the doorstep, just a short wander through the trees, is Northwood Trail, England’s Fairy Sanctuary and the sister business to Jollydays. It’s a Little Vikings Award-winning family-friendly attraction that’s totally enchanting, and entry is free for anyone staying at Jollydays (bonus!). York is just 20 minutes’ drive away and it’s bursting with amazing things to do with kids, from the National Railway Museum (free!) to the JORVIK Viking Centre, York Castle Museum and tours and trails galore (see our top things to do in York with kids here). Within half an hour of Jollydays are Castle Howard, Dalby Forest, the North York Moors Railway, Eden Camp, Flamingo Land and all the beaches and seaside towns of the Yorkshire coast. You won’t be short of places to go!
Top tips – You’ll need to take your own towels, and it’s a good idea to pack insect repellent too (we didn’t need it, but better safe than potentially covered in bites). We brought a few things to keep us entertained – a few board games, a badminton set and a few throwing toys – which we did use. Last minute packing of a wireless Bluetooth speaker was a good move, so we could play our favourite songs while we played games in the evening (being considerate of the wildlife and our fellow glampers, of course). Given the lack of wifi, it’s a good idea to download anything you think you’ll need before you get there. There are USB charging points in the bothy, and we’d recommend a torch too. Finally, pack for all weathers! We stayed on a lovely warm May day but were still in our winter coats by the time the sun went down. Likewise, we were glad to have packed trainers for everyone so we could explore more comfortably.
The verdict – We had a jolly good time at Jollydays. Even our older children, who can be less enthusiastic about staying in the great outdoors, both said how much they’d enjoyed it when we got home. Our eldest even asked if we could do the fairy trail before heading back, and not just because he remembered how good the cakes are. The bothy was a beautiful base in the woods, and one that we’d happily return to for some more time together. For a chance to catch up and wind down in the woods, Jollydays is definitely a Great Yorkshire Family Escape.
Jollydays Glamping, Buttercrambe Rd, York YO41 1AN