"The contrasting geodesic structure set in the beautiful Welsh countryside works so well"
Cae Nant glamping opened for business in July 2021, during a global pandemic. Gareth and Charlie had always wanted to own a glamping business, and they made their dream a reality when they launched their glamping business on their forever home, situated in the idyllic Welshpool countryside. Due to the success of the domes, the couple are looking to expand from 2 to 4 domes, and will be viewing options at The Glamping Show this year, which takes place from 16th – 18th September 2021. We caught up with Cae Nant Glamping to chat about how it started and how it’s going!
TruDomes: How long have you been in business for, and did you start with a glamping dome or did you consider other accommodation first?
We opened the first dome ‘Cadair Idris’ at the beginning of July this year. The second dome ‘Cadair Berwyn’ opened at the end of July. We did consider other accommodation but had originally planned to use the glamping domes. We actually went full circle after looking at many alternatives but decided the domes were the best option for us.
TruDomes: TruDomes motto is “Create space anywhere” – how does this resonate with you as a dome owner and how do you think that the dome lends itself to your unique location? What’s special about where you are?
‘Create space anywhere’ is absolutely right for our site. We have situated the domes on platforms to get the best of the views. The space the dome creates on the inside is so peaceful. The amazing panoramic window frames the beautiful view. The structure itself is so clever and unique it is an experience to sleep in one. The contrasting geodesic structure set in the beautiful Welsh countryside works so well. It is almost like it is making a statement, not pretending to be part of the landscape or to look ‘old’ to fit in but to make a contrast with the natural world which just looks beautiful. It is like when the old beams are left exposed in a house renovation and look amazing against the modern decor and lighting. The Welsh hills and countryside are like the old beams which are displayed through the modern structure of the dome.
Our domes are accessed by a single-track road which turns into a bridleway/footpath leading to ‘Glyndwrs Way’. It is a remote rural location with so much wildlife and the most amazing night skies. We have a babbling brook at the bottom of the glamping field where the children who visit spend hours on their own adventures while the adults get to relax and take time to enjoy the nature around them. We fell in love with the place and wouldn’t live anywhere else.
TruDomes: We absolutely love what you have done with the dome, the interior looks super cosy and homely and the wood-fired hot tubs certainly add that luxury glamping aspect. What was the inspiration and did you have an idea of what you wanted to create, or did the idea progress gradually?
The interior of the domes have been a work in progress but we always wanted them to feel luxurious and cosy. We love the colour green so we wanted it to be a theme in one of the domes. We have an Elfin kitchen in each dome and they are colour coordinated to match too. The kitchens have been well equipped with a kettle, toaster, microwave, hob, fridge-freezer, and a Nespresso coffee machine. We love coffee (well I think we run on it) and felt this would be important to us if we were on holiday. We provide a range of teas and coffee again something we felt was important to make people feel at home. The floor is vinyl which means it is easy to clean and comfy to walk on and it also adds a little bit of insulation to keep the dome a bit warmer in the winter.
We decided to keep the wood burner away from the window to keep the view uninterrupted. The master bed has been positioned to look straight out through the window so people could sit up in bed with a nice cup of tea and take in the world outside. We have added rugs, fleece blankets and lots of cushions to make it feel cosy and a home from home. The lighting was something we felt was very important. The dome has fairy lights strung around the interior in a spiral to the star gazing window. We have an LED strip over the kitchen which also lights up inside the cupboards. There is lighting on the decking outside and solar lanterns which have a flame effect. It makes the dome look magical at night.
TruDomes: From the initial idea of starting your own glamping business, to receiving the glowing reviews from customers that you now are, how challenging has the journey been? Tell us about how it started and what challenges you faced along the way.
The idea of a glamping business started 6 years ago when we bought the house as we were lucky enough to find a cottage with 10 acres of land. The house was a wreck and had to be renovated and extended significantly so this was the first job. We had always dreamed of running our own campsite and had talked about it from the time we first met some 25 years ago. We decided on glamping as it reduced the towing traffic on the road which might have been highlighted by highways and we could control the bookings and plan our lives around it better. We didn’t want to have to always be here, and people often just turn up to camp or park their van/caravan. Then came the planning applications and discussions with ecology as to what we could and couldn’t do.
We did all the application ourselves and did the plans as scaled drawings by hand. We were 1/2mm out on one drawing, but the lovely planning officer said she would let it go as I maybe just needed a sharper pencil! We have Dormice on site so the hedges had to be maintained and they could not be disturbed. Once all this was sorted it was time to get building but unfortunately, we were delayed by a year due to Covid-19 and lockdown so, here we are now, a year later than planned but very pleased with the outcome. It has been a long slog of hard physical work as we have done it all ourselves. The groundwork, building of the steel frame, the decking, fencing, construction of the domes, plumbing, electrics, website and all online advertising and social media was a huge undertaking as we were both still working full time. Luckily, we had practised on our house build so we were well trained to do the work. The most difficult bit was doing it after our day jobs and making sure we spent time with our girls Joss (12) and Ellie (9) who have been so amazing and patient throughout this project. I think they secretly love the domes and do help out with the changeovers now. The reviews we have had have been amazing, and the books we have left for guests to comment in have been filled with so many lovely things. It makes the hard work all worth it when you see people having a great time with friends and family and you get such lovely responses from the guests.
The sound of people laughing, as the noise travels on the wind down to the house sometimes, the reviews and job satisfaction that people have loved what we have to offer and felt they have had value for money too. The day we got a rebooking was fantastic and a booking over New Year too. We plan on making the New Year booking a bit special so we are coming up with ideas to decorate the dome and thinking about what we can give them in the welcome basket to make it a special New Years’ eve.
The overall feeling, like we have finally achieved what we set out to, is such a good feeling. Even though we want to add at least 2 more domes to our site, it is knowing we have created something people really like. We now feel more confident to move and complete the site as we first imagined it. Obviously, another bonus to setting up these domes is being able to try it all out! We very much enjoyed ‘testing’ the hot tubs as we had never used one before and we all just loved it. (We might even get one for the house.)
TruDomes: Once you set up your glamping business, how did you go about getting bookings? Is marketing something that you had put much thought into before and did you find it easy to attract people?
We set up the booking system through Cool Camping and Glampingly after being turned down by Canopy and Stars! But, we are so pleased with Cool Camping. They added us to an article in the Evening Standard as a ‘Top’ glamping site still with availability which we had a few bookings from. We had only just opened so that is why we had availability, but it was nice to be selected by them to be worthy of this type of advertisement. We have also set up a Facebook page and are now using Instagram as a platform for marketing and advertisement. Another form of advertising has been through facebook groups. We are members of Holiday Lets in Wales and have had a lot of interest from this as we can directly link our website to people asking for availability for specific dates. When we were thinking about opening, we had friends and family try out the domes and post their experiences on social media. A very good friend of mine runs her business through social media and we have had a number of bookings directly from her recommendation. We are now getting bookings based on ‘real’ customers who have stayed and have shared our details with their friends and family which is great news for us.
TruDomes: What’s next? Any plans for growth or expansion?
We have planning for 6 units but think we may expand the 2 we have to 4. We want to maintain the feeling of space and make sure people feel they are not too cramped in. We may put a couple of smaller units lower down in the field which would be for summer only. It’s all up for discussion. We will be looking at what is on offer at the glamping show which might give us some new ideas. The one thing I think we are sure of is that we will be doing a dome again as we love them.
TruDomes: What’s the best thing about your glamping domes, and what do your guests like most about the domes?
So far the feedback has been great. Our guests seem to like the fact we have tried to think of everything from a tin opener, dog towels and bowls to fly swatters! We make sure they are spotless before guests arrive and the cleanliness has been complimented on a number of times. They also seem to like the welcome basket of homemade brownies, marshmallows for toasting, a bottle of fizz as well as the basics like bread, milk, butter and fresh eggs from our chickens. The hot tubs have been a big hit and we are really pleased we opted for them in the end. Guests have also loved the hammock and space around the dome and have found it easy to relax and enjoy the views. Comments in the guest book have shown that the pizza oven hire has been a big hit. We provide pizza dough and salsa and all the things they need to make fresh pizzas. They then use our wood-fired pizza oven which we deliver to them at a time to suit them. They book the pizza oven as an extra when they book their stay but we have had people request it when they have seen the other dome using it. One guest loved it so much that they rebooked it for the end of their stay!
Another thing we have found useful has been ‘touch stay’ this app has made the check-in and out so easy for the guests. They have a guide to the domes on their phone at all times which means they don’t have to keep coming to ask for help, they can just look it up on the app. This has made our lives easier but has been mentioned a number of times as we have included lots of information on the touch stay including places to visit as well as important numbers and information for the doctors, vets, local shops etc. Our guests have used the guide to help them plan their stay and it has taken the stress out of trying to work things out which can spoil the feel of the holiday.
TruDomes: What would your advice be to anyone aspiring to set up their own glamping business?
We would advise anyone going into the business to do their homework. Make sure they are clear about what they want to offer and not cut corners. Make the accommodation high quality and remember the general population don’t know how to light a fire so setting up the log burners and hot tubs is definitely a good idea! (We even have a guide to this on our website as so many people don’t ever have to light a fire they just have central heating so really have no clue!). Make good use of technology and online content to promote the business and make day-to-day running easier.
TruDomes: Your logo reads, “we don’t have five stars, we have a billion”. We love that! How did you come up with it and what does it mean?
Our logo came about around our kitchen table one night after having tea. We were all coming up with the normal stuff like ‘glamping in the heart of Wales’ etc. but we wanted something totally different. One thing we love about where we live is the night sky. The stars on a clear night are breathtaking. If it is a clear night we can see the band of the ‘Milky Way’ across the sky. We tell the girls it’s the stars in-between the stars. So, when we say we don’t have 5 stars we have a billion we mean the stars in the sky. This is why the star gazing ceiling of the domes is great as they so beautifully display the stars and our guests can drift off to sleep looking at this amazing natural display.
To find out more about Cae Nant Glamping click here – http://www.caenantglamping.com