Chillderness | WOW places to stay

Unplugged retreats in spectacular locations. That sounds like the answer to all my first world problems. I’ve got too caught up in the hamster wheel of life and I need to jump off into the wilderness.

Or should that be into the Chillderness?

This play on words really appeals to the side of me that just wants to close my laptop and run off into the distance waving my hands in the air, returning home an undetermined amount of time later, slightly muddy, no make up but with a certain joie de vivre only the great outdoors can provide.

And in their own words, Chillderness is a place to ‘immerse yourself in the great outdoors’ and ‘escape to nature’. I’m in the mood to switch off, waylay my responsibilities and just wander in wonder without a care in the world. It’d be a first for me, but then the owners, David and Anjana Devoy are used to being first. Their site was home to the first Tree Tent in the UK and first Bentley-engineered Conker, too. Intrigued? I was.

With design awards for various architectural projects, they’ve set up a sanctuary in the Welsh countryside on their private conservation estate with ‘retreats that enhance lifestyles’, places to stay that not only have wow factor, but allow you to truly enjoy the simple things in life without letting go of quality or comfort – you’ll see on their Facebook page they are ‘passionate about detail, quality and the experience of living amongst bespoke, beautifully-worked, natural materials’.

You might recognise them, if you’re a fan of architecture like me. They built Curved House in their garden in Clapham which was featured on Grand Designs in 2004, no less, and whilst that is not part of the Chillderness portfolio, The Beach House on the Pembrokeshire coast and the Red Kite Barn certainly are.

Part of their Surf and Turf Breaks concept, The Beach House brings their exquisite taste in interiors to the seaside after they renovated David's family home. But for those of you who want to get among nature yet can’t quite bring yourselves to get muddy, the barn is a thing of beauty (and was shortlisted for the prestigious 2013 RIBA awards for architecture in Wales). Still bringing you the best of Welsh countryside and the owners’ cool, quality design aesthetic, this building was rescued from nature and features exposed stone and beams alongside all the mod-cons plus uninterrupted views as you toast marshmallows at sunset in complete seclusion. You could book this along with the tree tents for the full experience…

WOW Chillderness wilderness

Speaking of which, the tree tents are a great example of going ‘beyond glamping’ (which is what we’re all about here at Where Oh Where). David and Anjana bring the basic instinctive experience of camping together with innovative, contemporary design – taking glamping to another level in terms of concept and craftsmanship but staying so strongly tied to nature – the tree tents are literally tied to the trees.

First glance at these floating balls of canvas inspires an immediate sense of adventure. I’m one of those people who likes to get a little too close to the edge of a cliff and sticks their head out of a car window like an enthusiastic puppy – I immediately want in. I want to climb up into the tentball and curl up like a squirrel, feel the sway and get in tune with the rhythm of nature, creaky trees, unidentified noises, strange shadows and all.

I want to get muddy and explore. I want to clamber through the woods and up the mountain side to come across unexpected views that take my breath away, get caught in an unexpected rainstorm and sing The Pina Colada Song with my Other Half. I want to experience the great outdoors then cosy up protected from the elements in my Tree Tent, listening to Mother Nature’s moans as the weather sets in. I want to be away from everything.

And you are on your own here – the owners are not on site, you’re left to your own devices to make your time your own. There’s no stress around arrival times, you can be independent, enjoy the sense of freedom and privilege that you have access to such a place – all they ask is you treat it with respect (we wouldn’t expect anything less). If you come here, come here for the right reasons, for the love of what they’ve created and the conservation of the landscape, to enjoy the wildlife and to leave as little mark as possible. 

WOW tree tent reading

They say this place is for literary hermits, lovers of nature and…lovers. All of the above, please? The simple luxury of existing in such a space has to be as satisfyingly uplifting as they mention on their website – how can it not be, surrounded by nothing but the birds and the bees, trickling stream soundtrack and scent of fresh pine? Probably not ideal for those afraid of the dark or who have read too many horror stories – or maybe that’s part of the thrill, a good excuse to cuddle up extra close or to go it alone and test your metal. I think I’d love to take my notebook and finally start that book I’ve been saying I’d write for the past ten years; snuggle up to my blanket not my bloke, sip hot chocolate instead of champagne and get some serious word work done. But of course it’d be nice to have someone there to share that sunset with – maybe I’ll do both.

From the romance of the sky shelters to the solidity of the giant copper marble; I think the Other Half would better suit a stay in The Conker – he likes a bit of hi-tech engineering. And this comes from Bentley, no less. It looks so space-age yet it’s totally off-grid, a strange juxtaposition yet one that works in this world first. He’d compare it to a football trophy, bronzed and majestic, I look on it as a prize chocolate and then get carried away imagining I’m in a Willy Wonka World of Wow… but I’ll save that story for the book I’ll write. It feels like it should be a finial on an Olympian marketing event, but this extraordinary orb is on its own (and a good hike up the mountainside), entirely private as it pushes the boundaries of construction. I should think I’d like to come in every season, to watch the changing ways of nature across mid-Wales, ensconced safely in the warmth of a fully insulated, cutting-edge heating tech, ball of beauty.


 “There is no wifi in the forest, but I promise you will find a better connection” 

WOW chillderness forest

There’s so much room to explore and wander across the estate – but bear in mind this is a conservation area, something that makes it all the more worth visiting if you ask me. 80 acres of mountains, forest and wildlife? Ideal. The Red Kites the accommodation is named after wheal above the working commercial forest which is being managed for conservation – they felled 50 acres of conifers to replant with broadleaf trees and are looking ahead to increase the biodiversity and natural environment. Plans include digging a lake on site with an island in the middle, the perfect habitat for brown trout and the introduction of…beavers! Anjana told me about their ambitious project involving rewilding and creation of a safe enclosure to help beavers populate the area, and how you can get involved.

They’re looking to provide space for people to plant their own trees to help carbon offset their holiday and are investigating ways of allowing guests to bring their own indigenous seeds to spread around the acreage as they explore – savvy business sense and environmental benefits in one. There’s already a lot of wildlife with mushrooms, butterflies, flora, fauna, buzzards and the kites but the lake should also encourage more water-based creatures, particularly birds – perhaps future glamping pods will be named Heron?

Guests visiting The Conker in particular have the opportunity to get involved in the growth of the site – if you’re walking that way, take a stone or two with you from the rock pile? They’re constructing a dry stone wall to incorporate your very own pizza oven and help rusticate the landscape around the very modern looking accommodation. If you hoick enough stones for them, not only will you play a part in the history of this very special place to stay, but it might just be ready for Valentine’s 2020.

Basic beds swinging in the trees or an astronomical orb on the hillside, which one would you rather stay in?

WOW stay at chillderness

Find out more about Red Kite Tree Tents

Find out more about Red Kite Conker


Sign up for smoke signals