Short stay: The Treehouses, Dittisham Hideaway, Devon, UK
In the famous 19th century children’s book, when the shipwrecked Swiss Family Robinson have the opportunity to leave their treehouse on their isolated island, many of the family choose to remain. And they didn’t even have the designer luxuries of Dittisham Hideaway’s toe-warming under-floor heating, fresh herbs growing next to the front door, Nespresso coffeemaker and table-football on the balcony.
Four timbered treehouses are part of an idyllic rural Devon escape that make-up the Dittisham Hideaway. In addition, there is an American Dream of a silver-gleaming 1956 Airstream caravan and five larger-than-average, artisan-crafted Shepherds Lodges.
Forget any notions of inelegantly clambering up rope ladders and hanging out in the branches.These four tree houses – Buzzard, Pheasant, Woodpecker and Owl – are not perched in the branches. They are high-end residences curling and curving through the trees. The Pheasant, Owl and Woodpecker tree houses are all dog friendly.
Loosen the paws on a circular walk of the Hideaway estate, before heading for South Hams’ hill walks and beaches.
Three days before arrival, we receive an e-mail with the code to the estate’s electric gate and a second code for the key box by Buzzard’s front door.
A welcome catering pack of bread, cereals, crisps, jam, orange juice and sachets of hot chocolate await us. Butter and milk are chilling in the fridge too.
Open plan, under a domed yurt-style ceiling, the kitchen flows into the lounge and the lounge flows into the master bedroom. Sun ray wooden struts lead upwards to the glass centrepiece of a roof that gives views to the stars. Cream, green and flashes of arboreal brown make up the pastoral palette.
Above the cedar wood flooring, textiles range from the soft natural wools of the throws, through bronzey hare sculptures, to the nautical rope piping. A five-foot wide bed is dressed in an eco-friendly, Devon Duvet handcrafted from the wools of the southwest. Thoughtfully designed bedrooms have reading lights, bedside tables and plugs for phone-charging on both sides of the bed. Each treehouse is potentially a romantic Hansel and Greta retreat for two.
Or turn right from the entrance hall into family time. Under a smaller yurt dome, there is a triple-bunked bedroom next door to a family bathroom.
Sinuously curving and apostrophe shaped, shower rooms feature in both the family bathroom and the master bedroom en-suite.
An ingenious design, following the external curving wall, helps keep water at the business end of the rainfall shower. Environmentally friendly toiletries are by Basic Earth.
For summer living, a balcony curves around the treehouse offering facilities that those well-known tree-dwellers Tarzan and Jane would never even have dreamed of. A hammock and patio furniture are ready for relaxation.
Next to the BBQ there is an al fresco dining table. Pride of place goes to a wood-heated hot-tub. More cerebrally, an outdoor, outsize chess set is set-up for play.
Inside, the spacious kitchen is so well-equipped that you could host a dinner party – and then sweep all the crockery and cutlery into the dishwasher. If fact, there’s probably enough equipment to cook a Christmas dinner. A washing machine and ironing board are discretely hidden away in a large cupboard.
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A five-minute drive takes guests to Dittisham’s carpark and then a downhill walk to the jetty for the ferries. Ring the bell and a ferry should soon appear for the short River Dart crossing to Greenway.
Agatha Christie’s former home is now cared for by the National Trust. Following a more formal timetable, a ferry sails along the River Dart to and from Dartmouth.
Few guests can resist a visit to the pretty-in-pink, waters-edge Ferryboat Inn. The FBI, as it likes to be known, has a menu with dishes name checking J Edgar Hoover and also Agatha Christie and Miss Marple. Comforting sticky toffee-pudding and a zingy treacle tart, are amongst some of the best puds served in the south-west. Another superlative is the FBI’s claim, hard to dispute, to have one of the best pub window views in the world.
If you are keen to self-cater, Dartmouth’s supermarkets are a mere 10-minute drive for shopping. Then it is easy to drive on to visit crab-sandwich and ferries Dartmouth. Alternatively, you can head west to the white sand beach of Blackpool Sands or Slapton Sands.
If you tire of self-catering, visits from a private chef can be booked. As can the services of a mobile massage therapist and a mobile beauty therapist.
Other nice touches
Complimentary wine chilling in the fridge and a decanter of sloe gin is ready to pour.
The first bag of logs and kindling, for the wood burner, is complimentary. Guests can help themselves to runner beans and peas from the vegetable beds in season.
For 2023, the price per night for a treehouse begins from £275 per night.
The other properties at Dittisham Hideaway, the Shepherds Lodges and the Airstream Caravan, start from £195 per night.
The best bit
These quirky, top-end treehouses pay homage to the late Peter de Savary’s willingness to back bold design and creative flair – however challenging the location.
As you walk through Dittisham Hideaway’s 12 acres of woodland, look out for Mark Bell’s sculptural collection, Dancing to the Sounds of Nature, which includes a squirrel on saxophone and a spider playing the drums.
The final verdict
Forget the glamping word. These supremely well-designed treehouses are on another level. Peter and Lana de Savary have brought 5 star hotel standards to the treehouse.
Dittisham Hideaway is a year-round destination. Whether it is for gloriously easy summer-living or for a cosy spot of far-from-the-madding-crowd winter hibernation.
Disclosure: Our stay was sponsored by Dittisham Hideaway.