Helen Warwick takes the family glamping in Wales to Bert’s Kitchen Garden and certainly eats in style.
Bert’s Kitchen Garden is the dream of Ali and Ian Paice – a couple who had escaped the rat race of London and, in the pursuit of the good life, bought a farmhouse on the wild Llyn Peninsula. The dwelling came with acres of land and stretched towards a shingly beach, pounded by the flinty waters of the Irish Sea. They tidied up the meadows, cutting out pitches for tents and campervans and planted a kitchen garden with the foresight of helming a restaurant where they could pluck their own veggies and herbs for their menu.
What started as a dream – as a desire to live closer to the land and fulfil a more back-to-basics living with their children – is now a fully-fledged business and talked about in camping circles with levels of admiration.
I’m no stranger to tents or nipping outside to communal loos in the early hours. But with nine-month-old Mia in tow (and two wild boys), I thought I’d play it safe with Bert’s Kitchen Garden family hut, standing in its own garden away from the meadow camping. Unlike the traditional campers, who leave their cars in the main car park and haul their gear towards their pitch in wheelbarrows, our hut had a designated car parking spot right next to it.
The boys jumped straight out – careering towards the door of the hut, dragging their bags through the thick grass. Inside, the thoughtfully designed layout makes the most of every inch of space, with a double bed tucked away at one end and bunks for the kids at the other. And in between, plenty of nooks to hide away kitchen crockery, children’s books and wardrobe space. We even found a guitar stashed away in one cupboard.
A collection of books can be found at the ends of the bunks – Julia Donaldson and Enid Blyton – to flick through before the children doze off and there’s a compost loo just around the back so you don’t have to head to the communal block after dark. There’s a mini kitchen with hobs, kettle and fridge and a table where the kids ate their warm pastries, we ordered from reception each morning.
Dressed up in traditional country cottage style with the sort of bedding you’d expect in a luxury hotel, we really did drift off in comfort – and we all slept soundly, even with Mia tucked away in her travel cot next to our bed. In every sense, it was the epitome of cosy. The hut, predictably, is without washing facilities (although Mia had a little bath in the kitchen sink) but the communal showers are close by and are wonderfully hot with Bert’s own sustainable shower gels and shampoo.
Bert’s Kitchen Garden team have nailed that wholesome, slow-travel feel too – parents chatter over locally brewed beers and tousled-haired kids sway on rope swings and dash about the wildflower-speckled meadows. But it’s their foodie credentials in which Bert’s really comes to the fore. The restaurant sits before its kitchen garden, rich with the fragrant tang of rosemary, thyme and mint.
Diners arrive at the tables, either pulling up a chair on the terrace beside the herb planters with astounding views of distant mountains; or sweeping past climbing sweet peas and settling inside where tables are intermixed with cosy, cushioned seating. There’s a play area towards one side, and Maxi dashed over towards the sandpit, giggling with new friends as we settled in over a locally brewed G&T to a soundtrack of Zero 7, Moby and Nightmares on Wax.
Baked Camembert arrived at the table, warm and gooey with spears of flatbread for dunking, whilst the boys grinned over their stone baked pizzas. But I implore you to order the steak for two – a gargantuan board of perfectly pink steak, piled high with a fresh and herby chimichurri – chopped coriander, chilli, garlic, and a good grinding of salt – and crispy rosemary potatoes.
It was outstanding. We rounded off with oozy baked cookies and ice cream and a rich chocolate cake with a buttery, fudgy filling.
The couple were keen to find the sweet spot of ordinary camping but with a few frills thrown in: yoga classes, gardening workshops, great food and massages. And I think with Bert’s Kitchen Garden they really have created a rural idyll, whose wild and untamed look is wholly in keeping with the wholesome feel of the place.
The fragrant scents of lavender in the kitchen garden, the rope swings, the acres of verdant grassland for kids to run about – it all serves as a potent reminder that the good life, the pursuit of a slower and sustainable way of living might just be the answer… at least for a few soul-soothing days anyway.
Tell me more about Bert’s Kitchen Garden
Bert’s Kitchen Garden, Morfa Farm, Trefor LL54 5LD, Wales T: 01286 660823
Camping pitches cost £22pppn, £10 per child (under 5s free), The Piggery (sleeping two) costs £175 per night, the glamping Dutch tents (sleeping four) cost £85pn, the family hut (sleeping four) is from £175 per night and the two huts (sleeping two) cost £175.