Owl Valley Glamping, Bideford

Sometimes a place just steals your heart, and you can’t always put your finger on exactly why that is. For me, Owl Valley completely did that, probably for a combination of reasons that have us planning to go back, most likely more than once! In fact, this may just become our little family haven for years to come, and I will try to describe why as best I can, or you can just skip the following and book already to find out for yourself!

We drove through Bideford and the satnav said 2 minutes away, I started to wonder where this place was, as we drove through a busy town, road works and past industrial estates. But then we turned off down a narrow lane, and it really felt like we were miles from civilisation very quickly. Blackberry pickers stopped to let us pass, we reached a bridge with overhanging trees and a little river, and saw the sign for Owl Valley. Only a couple of minutes out from the town and yet as soon as you walk into the off grid glamping site, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in the middle of nowhere. Not a sound to be heard other than the trickling stream and birdsong. Absolute bliss!

We had such a warm welcome from Chris and family, who were also incredibly accommodating during the booking process and we really felt nothing was too much to ask. The owners of this site would go out of their way to ensure you have a pleasant stay. This was so evident and appreciated from the very start of our communications, and made me love the place before we had even arrived! It was wonderful to talk to Chris about the history of the site and how he came to run it, and as new owners of the site they have really turned it around during lockdown to make it more convenient and comfortable for you.

We had a quick little tour before settling in. There are 3 bell tents available and a wooden barn, also off grid (pictured). The tents are 5m and 6m, with a king sized, handmade oak bed in each one. It was such a comfortable bed and that is why it’s called glamping! Waking up to hear the sound of the stream right outside and the odd owl hooting was so relaxing and we had the best nights sleep we have in ages. If there are more of you (i.e. kids! We left those behind for this trip) there is a fold up futon, and more available on request I believe. I liked that there weren’t just loads of beds in the space being unused, which we have seen in a few glamping places. This way you can make more of the space depending on the size of your party. There was a chair, 2 stools and a chest which is where we gratefully found our hot water bottles and lantern. Little touches that make a big difference.

Each tent has it’s own facilities, including compost toilet and outdoor kitchen. The compost toilet was great, with the material used making it the warmest toilet seat I’ve ever sat on! Luxurious! The hut was as nicely done as a toilet could be, with thoughtful little touches to make it feel quaint.

The shower is very basic (basically a weed killer pump you can fill with warm water – I quite liked the resourcefulness!) so don’t expect too much luxury there. If you don’t stress too much about camping hair there is space to have a wash and you’re not far away from the sea! This is often something that comes with off grid camping / glamping – a few luxuries or conveniences aren’t always available. One of the things I do miss, but wish I didn’t, is usually a fully charged phone! I can cope without hairdryers, straighteners, ipads…but I am obviously documenting our stays which can’t be done with a dead phone! Thankfully a lot of places offer solar chargers (including Owl Valley), and we always take the in car chargers to get that juice on our way out exploring the local area.

The outdoor kitchen here was fantastic. You really don’t need to bring anything! They had plenty of pots and pans, crockery, cups and glasses, bottle openers, cutlery and cooking knives, various other cooking utensils, tea towels, tea bags, washing up liquid…the list goes on! The BBQ had a bag of charcoal waiting for us, and the fire pit was ready with kindling and logs to. Just take your own food!

So moving on to the bit that really sparked all the good feels…Steve’s Shack. What an incredibly charming space this is! When the weather is bad or you don’t feel like doing too much, you can play games together, light the log burner (and all the candles!) and use the extra outdoor kitchen attached to the shack (perfect for groups camping separately but coming together for a meal or social evening). It really turns the whole place into more than just great accommodation. It provides holiday entertainment and opportunity for quality time together, without ever having to leave the site. Despite losing badly at snooker and darts I had the best evening in there, oblivious to the rain, and this cosy shack was the icing on the cake (or maybe it was the cake itself?!)

The shack has plenty to offer children, with the ingenious fabric water balloons and family board games and the children’s artwork pinned up showed how much kids love this place too. Make sure you go looking for the red phone box early on, where you can find a whole host of kids activities, including animal poo identification sheets, a sure favourite with all ages!

Moving on to the local area. You are close to a few nice beaches here. The closest is Westward Ho! and then you have Woolacombe and Ilfracombe about half an hour or so away. We went to Ilfracombe for the day to learn paddle boarding with Active Escape. Would really recommend this! Great value for money and a good 2.5 hours in the sea. They are based in a pretty little bay and we paddled across to another secluded beach.

After falling in several times and lots of laughs we headed for lunch at Nelly May’s Parlour. A proper old fashioned little cafe serving the best afternoon tea. Vegetarian and vegan options available but get in touch in advance. A must is you are in the area. We also walked to Instow from Bideford for an absolutely delicious meal, overlooking the sunset on the sea, at The Boathouse (photo of the view below!) Very pretty, family friendly and vegan options available. The walk was just under 5 miles but is along the river on a wide path, perfect for a bike ride if it’s a bit far for little ones to walk.

There is plenty to do to entertain the whole family whilst here, such as The Big Sheep theme park or a trip to Lundy Island where you can see puffins and explore the beautiful car-free landscape. Sadly we couldn’t fit this in this time, but it is on the list for future because it sounds truly magical. Read more here.

All in all I cannot recommend Owl Valley enough. There may be ‘fancier’ places out there, but for the price range (an absolute bargain in our opinion) we think this will exceed many people’s expectations for bell tent accommodation. This site does allow groups bookings. It would be the perfect place for a few families to visit as a group getaway, or the most peaceful retreat for a family or couple. There is something so magical about the location. Something so charming about the handmade touches throughout the entire place. Something so warming about the humble owners who we instantly considered friends. And something so memorable about our stay that will certainly keep us going back for more. I almost want to keep this one as our little secret! A secret little paradise.

Prices start from around £80 per night

For more information and to book go to www.owlvalleyglamping.com