Think hot tub and you conjure up an image of luxury as you relax in the warming water sipping a glass of bubbly.
Think again. This hot tub experience is more akin to being a key ingredient of a ‘mini stony’ soup, comprising a stock of brownish water heated up with a wood-burning stove for four hours until piping hot, mixed with sticks, dirt and pebbles from the woodland floor and the secret ingredient you don’t dare contemplate, courtesy of filthy dirty small boys.
Whoever called this glamping is way off. A Country House Hideout break is more like an old-fashioned Swallows and Amazons adventure for today’s molly-coddled youngsters – and it’s fantastic fun, giving them the chance to run wild for a few days in the beautiful surroundings of Chesters Estate, outside Ancrum near Jedburgh in the Scottish Borders.
Accommodation is one of five encampments hidden away among the trees with great views over the fields to Fatlips folly. Each camp comprises a main tent, a discovery tent, a shower tent, a bath tub and cooking cart.
For the main living accommodation think Dr Livingstone if his wood and canvas bivouac had been kitted out by Cath Kidston.
There are three sleeping canopies complete with double bed, bunk beds and ‘bed in a cupboard’ that can accommodate up to six. The discovery tent next door has more camp beds, so your break can easily become a two-family one.
A wood-burning stove and kitchen sink are part of the well-stocked living area. A rustic table and chairs, plumbed-in toilet, LED lamps powered by a bike on the verandah and a wind-up gramophone make your stay just a tad more civilised.
The discovery tent is kitted out with a microscope and telescope and books on flora and fauna to encourage budding David Attenboroughs, but our three were more impressed with the field telephone which they used to call us constantly in the main tent.
The beautiful surroundings seemed to encourage their imagination to run riot. They delighted in turning the shower tent into a shoe shop (don’t ask) and transformed a fallen tree trunk into a pirate ship, using sleeping mats from the discovery tent as a mast.
They absolutely loved going for a ride in the wheelbarrows which are provided for transporting your luggage the half a mile from the car park area to encampment.
Chesters is the first site for Country House Hideout in Scotland, an offshoot of Feather Down Farm Days.
The 1,565-acre country estate lies on the banks of the River Teviot and apparently it is home to more than 1,000 sheep, 100 cows, roe deer, pheasants, partridges, buzzards, rooks, salmon, trout and rabbits.
With our three boys and their newfound friends from the neighbouring tents running whooping through the woods it’s hardly surprising that wildlife seemed to have moved elsewhere for the duration of our break.
You could quite easily spend your whole break on the estate, playing croquet, rowing on the river and tending to stoves.
Getting the hot tub ready can become an all-consuming fascination.
But whatever you do, don’t swallow the water if filthy dirty small boys have been in for a dip before you.