Tipi or not tipi? That was the question for camping sceptic EMILY HEWARD. But memories of previous canvas disasters were banished on a glamping trip to the Lake District.
The last time my friends and I embarked on a camping trip to the Lake District, we arrived in the driving rain after getting lost, and it took forever to pitch our tents.
When they were finally up, we took turns to cook dinner over the flickering flame of a feeble gas stove before someone lost their footing in the quagmire and tumbled down a muddy hill, taking the whole, painstakingly prepared meal with them. By then the only thing we could lay our hands on to sate our gnawing hunger was packets of crisps from the campsite bar, and on returning to our pitch, half the party gave up on the idea of camping altogether and slept in the car after finding their pitch had become a swamp.
Never again, I vowed, so we weren't taking any chances when we decided to have a girly weekend away to welcome home a friend who had just returned from a travelling adventure that turned into four years in Australia. This time we wouldn't camp: we would glamp. The pointed peaks of tipis begin to poke above the hedgerows as we round a corner into the National Trust's Low Wray campsite, and soon we can see a cluster of colourful canopies nestled in the hilly countryside.
It's at this idyllic spot, perched on the western shores of the northern tip of Lake Windermere, not far from Ambleside, that one half of 4 Winds Lakeland Tipis is based, with the other just shy of 10 miles away at Hoathwaite, near Torver.
Ducking inside Blackfoot, the tipi we'll be calling home for the next two nights, is like entering a Tardis. Inside, it's capacious but cosy: rainbow-hued rag rugs cover the floor, colourful cushions are scattered across a comfy futon and a string of bunting flutters above it all.
Opposite the futon there's a basket of wood ready to be thrown on the log burner or the fire pit-cum-barbecue outside (Cookouts! Marshmallows!) There's also a gas stove with two burners on top of a handy food prep table stocked with all the kitchen knick-knacks you could need for a weekend away.
It's gloriously sunny, so we decide to make the most of the warm weather with a stroll down to the water, where the sun glints off the rippling surface of the lake, overlooked by Wansfell Pike and the Fairfield Horseshoe in the distance.
On the way back we notice a wood-fired pizza stall (open Tuesday, Friday and Saturday nights from 8.30pm) and make a mental note to return tomorrow - we've got designs on that fire pit tonight.
We soon get it roaring as we catch up over a few beers and plates of pasta. As it falls dark, a chill descends and we head into our snug tipi to stoke up the log-burner.
As it's a family site, it's lights out at 11pm so we fold down the futon and tuck ourselves in for an early night - we've got an action-packed day ahead.
Next day we rise early and get ready to see the Lake District from a different perspective.
A 15-minute drive takes us into the heart of Grizedale Forest and to Go Ape, to try out the treetop adventure's new zip trekking experience.
It's a three-kilometre network of zip lines traversing the sky-scraping firs that lets you fly high above the forest floor.
But to go down, you've got to go up first, so it starts with a 20-minute uphill hike before we're collected in a 4x4 for the rest of the ascent.
Once we're at the top, our instructors hand us our harnesses and give us a safety briefing before letting us loose.
We take it in turns to race one another along the seven tandem zip lines, and the views from 100ft above the ground are breathtaking.
By the time we've come back down to earth, two hours have passed by.
There's plenty more you can do at Grizedale, from hiring mountain bikes and having a go at the North Face Trail (or just pootling around the fire roads, if you're a pitiful cyclist like me), to admiring the 40 sculptures dotted around the forest.
Later, we head into the nearby village of Hawkshead where we enjoy a pint of Hawkshead Brewery's Red ale in the Kings Arms pub before wandering its quaint cobbled streets.
After stopping off at the Hawkshead Relish Company shop to buy souvenirs in the form of jam and pickles, we head back to the campsite to stoke up that campfire again.
We never did make it to the pizza place...
Next morning we're up with the sun again and back down at the lakeshore bright and early to hire a Canadian canoe from the on-site boat shack.
Paddling out to the middle of the water, we pause to take in the tranquil scene around us: it really is paradise here.
The other two even brave a dip in the bracing water.
We're all sad to say goodbye to Blackfoot when it's time to pack up and head home and our recently returned friend is dreaming of setting up her own tipi camp in the Blue Mountains one day.
Until then, we'll keep coming back to 4 Winds, where finally, the NEED TO KNOW E | | EMILY HEWARD stayed at 4 Winds Lakeland Tipis, Low Wray National Trust Campsite, Ambleside, Cumbria, LA22 0JA as a guest of the site.
Prices are from PS245 to PS300 |for short breaks, and from PS450 to PS545 for a full week.
Call 07976 558602.
If you want to Go Ape at |Grizedale, zip trekking Adventures cost PS45. Call 0333 331 7936.