The other week, I wrote about our family break to South Devon at Hillhead Caravan Club Site. Well, our holiday didn’t finish there! From Devon, we made the hour and a bit journey across the county border to Penbugle Organic Farm in neighbouring Cornwall. Here, we did something a bit different – we had our first family glamping experience as we stayed in a Wigwam Holidays wooden cabin / camping pod for three nights for a review.
I’d not heard of Wigwam Holidays before, but it turns out that they have over 70 locations all across the UK. They actually helped start the glamorous camping – or glamping for short – revolution to offer affordable family holidays in their wooden Wigwam Cabins.
They have four different sizes of Wigwam Cabins, all of which are fully insulated, with double-glazing, heating and electric lighting, whilst some even have en-suite bathrooms. This gives you the great outdoors experience, but in nicer accommodation with the home comforts we’ve come to expect. Beats a tent any day, eh?!
Penbugle Organic Farm
We stayed at one of the most Southern Wigwam Holiday sites – Penbugle Organic Farm in South East Cornwall. As the name suggests, this is a working farm owned by John and Lizzie Ridout which produces organic eggs and meat. The site is slap bang in the middle of the countryside between the market town of Liskeard and fishing town of Looe, and in close proximity to the likes of Bodmin Moor and Dartmoor.
The site really is in the middle of nowhere – so much so that we got a bit lost and struggled to find where it was! We made the mistake of following the postcode rather than the instructions on the website, so make sure you’ve looked in advance at where you need to go. I suggest aiming for Dobwalls, then following the road which runs south of the village – Penbugle is a couple of miles further down that road.
Once we arrived, we went through a gate and parked up in the car park area by some farm outbuildings. We then went through another gate to the paddock area, where we were met by Lizzie and shown to our home for the next few days. As cars aren’t allowed by the Wigwams, they provide wheelbarrows to help you take your stuff from the car park to the Wigwams.
At Penbugle, they have one type of cabin – the Big Chief Wigwam which sleeps up to five people. From memory, they have around 10 of these on site, which are placed around a decent-sized, sloped field at the back of the farmhouse. They looked pretty cool from the outside – a bit like a home office that some rich dude would have in his garden.
Accommodation – Inside
On opening the door, we were met with a snug, but larger than expected, interior. There was a worktop area with a kettle, toaster, fridge and storage, a seating area which doubled up as the bed, a panel heater, lighting, power sockets, a clothes airer, a broom, dustpan and brush and two double glazed windows. It was basic and functional – a million times better than a tent, but not quite all the luxuries of a hotel.
In addition to the standard kit, we were also provided with bedding and crockery, which you’d usually either bring with you or pay a supplement for Penbugle to provide. This included cups, plates, cutlery, duvet, sheets and pillows.
Obviously the cabins aren’t the biggest thing in the world, but we more than managed to live in one for a few days and nights. We were able to use one of the benches as somewhere to stick our open suitcases, store things under the benches and plonk things on the worktop. Although designed to sleep five people – which they would – having two adults, a toddler and a dog felt as occupied as I’d probably want it.
There’s plenty of space to sit within the cabin on the inbuilt benches topped with foam mattresses. Just like Transformers, the seating area is more than would originally seem though. At night, these benches turn into sleeping platforms. Doing this is simple – you put the two wooden panels and foam mattresses which form the seat backrest over the table. Voila.
Toddler L absolutely loved this as she seemed to think that she had her own soft play area. Each night, she had loads of fun bouncing around on the mattresses, doing forward rolls and diving onto the duvet. I’m tempted to get some of these mattresses for our own house!
You can then fit the sheets, duvet and pillows over the mattresses ready for bed. It was comfy enough – the first night we slept width-ways, but the edges where the mattresses met were a bit in the way. For the next two nights, we slept length-ways which was much better. So much so that we woke up after 8am one morning which was a pleasant change to the usual 6.30am. I’ve obviously slept on comfier beds, but as glamping is an alternative to camping, this was much better than sleeping on a cold, hard floor.
Two other things to note. Firstly, I expected a wooden cabin to get a little chilly at night, but was surprised to find that it stayed a good temperature. We stuck the heater on for a few mins each morning, but that was it. Secondly, you do end up trampling in a bit of grass, mud etc from outside because of the location, however it’s easy to keep on top of it with the dustpan and brush.
Accommodation – Outside
Each Wigwam has an outdoor picnic area, which comprised of a picnic bench and fire pit. There was also a raised, decked area just outside the door and a water standpipe to the right for fresh water. Although the Wigwams were next to each other, it didn’t feel cramped and there was still an element of privacy. It would have been easy to have crowbarred another couple of cabins on the land, so it’s good that they haven’t.
Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t great during our stay so we weren’t able to be be outside for as long as we hoped. That being said, our first day / evening was really nice, so we managed to spend a few hours outside. This included playing bat and ball, playing doctors, blowing bubbles, playing chase and rolling down the hill. Toddler L had a blast being outside, plus we knew she was safe on the field.
We were also kindly provided with some wood and firelighters for the fire pit – again, this is stuff you can buy when you arrive. We’d popped to the nearest big supermarket (Morrisons in Liskeard) to get some BBQ stuff for tea and also picked up some marshmallows and biscuits to make s’mores. I didn’t trust my BBQing skills without a gas BBQ, so we decided to cook the burgers and sausages in the kitchen instead – shhhhh don’t tell the BBQ purists.
With the sun starting to set, the fire pit providing a bit of warmth, a beer in hand and the only sound being sheep in the neighbouring field, we really felt like we’d managed to get away from it all. After we’d eaten, we partook in the camping tradition of toasting marshmallows on the fire pit. Because we’re extra fat, we stuck them inbetween two chocolate digestives to make s’mores.
Rest Of The Site
As mentioned, the site is a sloped field at the back of the farmhouse and farm buildings. Along with around 10 Wigwam Cabins, there’s also a toilet and shower block and a kitchen – both of which are shared facilities. By which I mean shared for everyone on site, not cooking a meal near the toilets! As the site isn’t that big, you’re talking a few seconds walk from your cabin to the buildings. The kitchen is at the top of the slope, whilst the toilets / showers are near the entrance to the site.
The kitchen area has washing-up facilities (two sinks), an oven, hobs, kettle, microwave, fridge, pots and pans. It remained clean during our stay and everything was in good working order. We cooked a couple of evening meals in here and had no issues.
In the room next to the kitchen, there was an area with table and chairs, a notice board with information on local places of interest and a few games. There was also local produce available to buy, including things like milk, coffee and honey.
The toilet and shower block was separated into male and female. Within each, there were two showers and two toilets, along with a number of sinks. Again, everything was functional and clean, albeit felt a little basic. However, the key thing is that there are toilet and shower facilities onsite, which not everyone can boast.
The one thing to mention is that these are obviously shared. When the site is busier, you might find yourself vying for the facilities. Personally speaking, I know that the missus and I would feel a little uncomfortable cooking in the kitchen when someone is waiting, or alternatively trying to share the hob with a stranger when they’re cooking.
This is obviously part and parcel of camping life and some people love this sociable element, but it’s not really our bag to be honest – we’d much prefer to cook, eat, wash etc in our own accommodation rather than share with others. If you don’t mind that aspect, then everything is perfectly fine and usable though.
As you’re in the middle of nowhere, it does get a bit dark at night for that 3am toilet trip – as such, you’d probably want to bring a torch. Similarly, when it rains, it does get pretty damp walking back and forth across the grass, so wellies are a good idea. Unsurprisingly, we brought neither! The site is dog friendly too, which is great when you have your four-legged friend with you like we did.
Just next to the car park, you also have an on-site ceramic studio. We didn’t use this, but here you can decorate things like mugs or create a personalised item to take home with you. As it’s a working farm, there’s also a few animals around. On the day we were leaving, John came over with a lamb and gave Toddler L the chance to feed it a bottle which she enjoyed.
Things To Do In The Area
There’s plenty of things to do in the nearby area and we weren’t short of toddler and dog-friendly choices – here’s a few from last year’s trip to the nearby Tamar Valley in Dartmoor. However, below are the things we got up to this time:
Bodmin Moor (The Hurlers and The Cheesewring)
A few miles up the road from Penbugle, near the village of Minions, you have three stone circles called The Hurlers. This is a Bronze Age monument which consists of large stones arranged in circles. We pulled up in the car park, then made the short walk across the moors to the circles. They were pretty cool to look and the weather was at it’s eeriest best.
From here, we drove a couple of minutes up the road and parked in another car park where there was the visitor’s centre. The weather had turned, but we decided to carry on to see The Cheesewring anyway – now with Toddler L asleep in the carrier. This was about a 20 minute walk up a path towards the Cheesewring Quarry. Situated at one of the highest points in the area, The Cheesewring is a pile of granite that looks precariously piled upon each other. The weather wasn’t great, but it was cool to see and we were pleased we made the trek.
An hour away is the historic fishing village of Boscastle which is actually a National Trust site. Described as “a sheltered natural inlet with an unspoilt harbour village”, it really was a cool place to explore. In fact, it didn’t feel much like the UK at all – instead, we could have been somewhere like the Norwegian Fjords. You can do a number of clifftop walks, but with the toddler and dog with us, and the missus’ legs suffering from The Cheesewring, we instead decided to to a leisurely stroll along the inlet that is Boscastle Harbour.
Half an hour away near St Austell is Eden Project. Located on the site of a former pit, the project now consists of two huge biomes which house thousands of different species of plant. This has basically been created out of nothing, so is hugely impressive. However, if you don’t really like plants – like me – then it’s not the most exciting thing in the world.
Today we visited Eden Project. I don’t wish to downplay what’s been achieved, but it’s a bit like a giant garden centre you pay nearly £30 for. Still, the Rainforest Biome was pretty awesome, particularly the lookout from 165 foot up. Of course, Toddler L’s favourite bit was the soft play…not like we could have done that anywhere else…
The Tropical Biome is based on rainforest environments and is in fact the biggest indoor rainforest in the world with 1,000 varieties of plants, including the ‘corpse flower’. In addition, there’s things like waterfalls, a canopy walkway and a viewing platform close to the top of the 50-metre tall biodome. Walking around this was pretty cool and there was some decent things to see.
The second biome is the Mediterranean Biome which is based on a Mediterranean climate, featuring plants from the likes of South Africa, California and Western Australia. Compared to the first, this was a bit boring and we soon hurried around this.
There’s more plants outside, but as the weather wasn’t great, we headed to The Core which is the educational facility, featuring plenty of different exhibits, and most importantly, a soft play! As expected, Toddler L liked this bit the best and we spent a fair bit of time in there as she dressed up and played.
Don’t get me wrong, Eden Project was alright and I can appreciate what it is, but it’s not really our thing. Toddler L enjoyed walking around and looking at things, but she also does that at a garden centre. At nearly £30 per adult ticket, it’s also not cheap. I’m pleased we did it, but we probably wouldn’t go back again.
15 minutes down the road is the coastal town of Looe. Again, the weather wasn’t great when we visited, so we had a quick walk along the harbour, popped into a few shops, attempted to win some cuddly toys in the amusements and then had some posh fish and chips. We even managed to pick up a cool umbrella for Toddler L.
Cornwall is an awesome destination for a family-friendly holiday and Penbugle is a great location for the coast, moors and visitor attractions such as Eden Project. At £42 per night for a mid-season weekday for two adults (under threes are free), it’s certainly an affordable way to have a staycation. I’d suggest it fits somewhere in between a camping and caravanning holiday – it’s more glamorous than camping (hence the term ‘glamping’), but isn’t quite as comfortable as a caravan.
With home comforts like lighting, heating and a kettle in the cabin, as well as a shared kitchen and toilets / showers, Penbugle has all of the bases covered in terms of home comforts. The picnic and fire pit area is a great addition and we enjoyed spending some time outside when the weather was nice. Sure, there wasn’t a TV, WiFi or other mod cons, but the point of a break like this is to lose yourself in nature and get away from it all. We certainly did that, as we enjoyed spending quality time together without everyday distractions.
Would we stay again? For me, yes I would. As someone who has grown up on caravanning holidays, Penbugle was a nice site, in a countryside setting with everything you’d need. For the missus, I don’t think she would. Not because she didn’t enjoy it, but her idea of holidays is a bit more luxurious than being in a wooden cabin sharing facilities with other guests. That’s not intended as a slight against Penbugle, more a personal preference. If you’re into camping and caravanning holidays, then staying in a Wigwam cabin at Penbugle Organic Farm is definitely something that should be strongly considered.
N.B. This review was written by me (Dave) and represents my honest opinion. We were provided with a complimentary three nights stay at Penbugle Organic Farm Wigwams with the purpose of writing an honest review. All activities etc were paid for by ourselves.