Camping in Comfort: Our Top Glamping Pods Revealed

Camping in Comfort: Our Top Glamping Pods Revealed

Glamping in Glencoe: An Atmospheric Escape

The rain was pouring in an impressive stream from the sky, weighing down every leaf within its reach and bouncing off the roof and wooden decking outside in the most meditative of melodies. Not satisfied with the already high volume of the watery soundtrack, I opened the door and side window too for a full, immersive experience; minus the getting wet part.

My summer trip adventure in Glencoe provided only teasingly short glimmers of hot sunshine. I had high hopes of doing some big hikes, but the weather had other ideas. While this had the potential to put a literal dampener on the trip, I didn’t let it. Instead, I used it as an opportunity to get cosy in my glamping pod and explore the area from the comfort of the car, while sneaking in lots of wee walks and delicious food along the way.

If you’ve conjured up images of quintessentially Highland scenes, with rugged peaks, blooming heather, crystal-clear rivers, and rich history, then Glencoe is exactly that. ‘Glencoe’ refers to the whole area and the village, while ‘Glen Coe’ refers to the actual glen within that area; a ‘glen’ is valley and Glen Coe is one of the most dramatic and awe-inspiring landscapes in Scotland, formed by volcanic activity and glaciation. In my opinion, its wild good looks are best appreciated under moody, atmospheric skies.

The Calder Pod: Comfort and Convenience

The Calder Pod has landed in the grounds of Glencoe Youth Hostel and it is a very welcome addition to the area’s glamping options. The glamping pod is much more affordable than other accommodations in the area; some of them are actually ridiculously overpriced, thanks to the premium, scenic location. The pod is not! It is perfect for those who like to be close to nature, but don’t want to deal with the packing and practicalities of a camping trip; I honestly could not imagine camping in the weather we had!

The pod sits a good distance away from the hostel entrance, down a wavy gravel path, facing outwards towards the scenery for privacy and bonnie vistas: it’s positioning gives the illusion of being more secluded than it is. The proximity to the youth hostel means that you can dip in to the hostelling experience if you fancy, without staying in a dorm. It was nice to see other visitors milling around and I loved my chats with Thomas, the Hostel Manager. His team member Becky was also really friendly and couldn’t have been more helpful. Having a local at hand to offer tips and recommendations is invaluable.

When it comes to the level of comfort and the facilities in the pod, it’s not the one-step-up-from-camping kind of glamping – a convenient shelter with a long walk to the toilet and BYO sleeping bag – but it’s also not luxury glamping with a TV, sofa and kitchenette. It sits nicely somewhere in-between and benefits from these thoughtful, handy touches:

  • Even if it’s too cold or wet to sit outside, the pod has a glass door for your viewing pleasure.
  • I loved waking up in a such a scenic location and we only had to roll up the blind to appreciate it.
  • We picked up our continental breakfast bag and instant coffee from Reception (this is an optional add-on for £5.95) and had a wee pod picnic, before packing the leftovers to take with us on our day out.

It’s worth noting that, at the time of my visit, the self-catering kitchens had not yet re-opened, as a safety measure to reduce the spread of Covid. But I didn’t mind not having this option, as I usually prefer to discover local eateries on my adventures.

Exploring the Wonders of Glencoe

Glencoe is a playground for anyone who loves a scenic walk or mountain hike, and there are some pretty hardcore adventures to be had for those who like a challenge: the notorious Aonach Eagach Ridge for one. The Hidden Valley hike is a popular one too, so much so that I was advised against doing it during the summer months – just too many people.

My go-to walk in the area is the Glencoe Lochan Trail; a short, flat and easy woodland walk, looping around a tranquil lochan with wooden jetties and mountains rising up beyond the trees, and often reflected in the glassy-still surface of the water on a windless day. The views on this walk are often likened to Canada, and that’s because Lord Strathcona planted North American trees across the landscape in the 1890s as a grand gesture to bring some comfort to his homesick wife from Canada. So romantic!

If you’re looking for a more aquatic adventure, stand-up paddle boarding (SUPing) seems to be everyone’s new favourite hobby, and for good reason. Once you find your balance and stop wobbling, it’s a fun and relaxing experience. Rugged Paddleboarding operate from the Isles of Glencoe Hotel which sits right on the shores of Loch Leven. You access the water via the sheltered harbour behind the hotel and the loch is yours to explore. I paddled over to Eilean Munde, a burial ground for Scottish clans – including the MacDonalds of Glencoe – and the site of a ruined 16th century chapel. Since I was already soaking, I went for a swim back in the harbour before returning the SUP and heading back to the pod for a hot shower and change of clothes.

Learning About Glencoe’s Storied Past

Housed within traditional 18th century thatched cottages in the heart of Glencoe village, the Glencoe Folk Museum is a treasure trove of interesting items, displays and photographs which tell the story of the area: its past and its people. I always enjoy learning about the history and the way of life in the places that I visit and I loved reading about the Jacobites, the infamous Massacre of Glencoe, and the old Ballachullish Railway. Look out for the replica of the order signed by William of Orange to execute the Massacre of Glencoe; an item which makes this sad history all the more real.

Discovering Hidden Gems in the Highlands

One of my favourite excursions was a scenic drive around Loch Leven, stopping in at the village of Kinlochleven at the very tip of the loch. The road from Glencoe to Kinlochleven is elevated above the loch and the views are stunning! Kinlochleven itself isn’t the most inspiring place, but it is home to the National Ice Climbing Centre and a wee museum about how aluminium was produced in the area. The village also sits on the famous West Highland Way, so you will nearly always seeing walkers having a few pints before they start the final leg of the walk the following day.

Venturing off the popular tourist trail, I also recommend a visit to the West Highland Peninsulas. For just a day trip, I suggest Ardgour reached by a short ferry crossing over Loch Linnhe from Corran, which is just outside Fort William, or by driving the long way round on the road to Glenfinnan. I decided to do both, on a loop via Fort William and Corpach, then returning on the ferry. I stopped for a look at the popularly photographed Corpach Shipwreck, on the shore of Loch Linnhe just beyond the Caledonian Canal at Corpach. Once on the Ardgour peninsula, I stopped in at Ardgour Ales, where the owner, Fergus, has turned his hand to brewing in a massive shed on the land next to his house in Ardgour, powered usually only by hydro-electricity.

For lunch, I went to the Nomad Caravan Café, a brand-new, female-owned business tucked away in the wee village of Clovullin. Anna serves gourmet toasties, Argyll Coffee Roasters coffee, and amazing homemade cakes and brownies. I enjoyed my toasties and coffees in the car (the weather turned) and took a huge chunk of carrot and courgette cake back to the pod with me. I was still talking about the onion bhaji toastie with smoked cheese and mango chutney later that day!

Savoring the Local Flavors

If you like seafood, Crannog Loch Leven Seafood is an absolute must. Despite being constantly busy, the staff are fantastic and my large order of food arrived quickly; all freshly prepared and delicious. The highlights were the seafood pâté, the grilled clams (a first for me) and the scallops. Be sure to book in advance by telephone to avoid disappointment.

Known for its hospitality, hearty food and scenic location, the Clachaig Inn is hugely popular with visitors and hillwalkers, and is super-busy during the high season; I was unable to get a table during my summer visit. I’ve loved my previous visits, tucking into haggis, neeps and tatties in the cosy Boots Bar. There are over 400 kinds of single malts on offer and you might be lucky to catch some live music too.

For a high standard of locally sourced food in an unpretentious setting, The Laroch definitely fits the bill. Local young people provide excellent, friendly service in front of house, and the kitchen is run by Michelin Star Chef Allan Donald, who has crafted a varied menu (almost too many options!) of quality dishes served in generous portions. The pork belly with scallops and black pudding was fantastic, as was my lamb with dauphinoise potatoes.

And when you just need a big, tasty burger and nothing else will do, The Bothy Bar in Kinlochleven is the perfect place to satisfy such a craving. The bar, which is part of the MacDonald Hotel, boasts lovely views out to the loch through the floor-to-ceiling windows and from outside on the decking. I ordered The Brave Heart, which is topped with beef chilli, cheese and Sriracha mayo. The homemade ‘cumberpickles are a really nice touch!

If you’re feeling ready and inspired to go glamping in Glencoe, the best way to check availability for The Calder Pod at Glencoe Youth Hostel is to email [email protected]. I’m sure you’ll enjoy your stay as much as I did!

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