Cabin class: we go into the wild at Wales’ first pop-up boutique retreat

cabin with bed and chairs
Dragon’s Eye: Clearly Carwyn Lloyd Jones had a great deal of fun creating this cabin. Viewed from a distance, especially in the dark with the bedroom’s burning stove fully lit, the impression is of the giant unblinking eye of an animal hidden in the landscape
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By their very nature, themed resorts can be tricky propositions, but the unveiling of eight glamping cabins in Wales has us reconsidering our biases, and checking plane schedules.

Late last year, a consortium that includes Wales’ Tourism Product Innovation Fund and George + Tomas Architects, staged a global competition for the design of glamping units inspired by Welsh mythology, traditions and nature. Structurally, the brief called for ‘a high-quality, self-contained glamping accommodation unit to be developed to form a completely unique mobile hotel’.

The resulting eight cabins, collectively called Epic Retreats and Wales’ first pop-up boutique hotel, are being unveiled in June, a literally moveable accommodation that will spend the month in the foothills of southern Snowdonia, before relocating to the wild coastal paths of the Llyn Peninsula for the summer.

Clearly, the designers were able to indulge their fantasist streaks, not the least being Carwyn Lloyd Jones’s Dragon Eye in which zinc and metal shingles evoke scales, and Arthur’s Cave by Miller Kendrick Architects, the design an homage to the magical cave in which the Once and Future King once sought refuge.

The wildly differing design schemes not withstanding, each cabin shares a common DNY by way of a living area anchored by a wood burner, adjoining bathroom, and a bijoux hob, while communal activities are facilitated by way of a common room, BBQ pit and dining area.

Cabin

Dragon’s Eye: A combination of slanting roof encased in shingles (for the shape of the eye), and curved glass (for the eyeball) provides for fine views

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Black cabin

Arthur’s Cave: Miller Kendrick Architects’s slick polygonal structure is clad in birch-faced ply, the raised central foundation allowing the whole to seemingly float over the terrain

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cabin interior view

Arthur’s Cave: The beveled window, really a sliding glazed door, is both oculus and viewing platform, its generous proportions sweeping in light and panorama by day, and starlight by night

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Cabin exterior view

Cabin in the Woods: Inspired by a Welsh poem, Francis and Arnett designed this intriguing cubist structure to be sited in a forest, the bulk raised on slender stilts to resemble an almost Tim Burton-esque creature prowling through the foliage

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Cabin interior view

Cabin in the Woods: Oriented towards the northeast, the interior of local timber, slate and timber is wreathed in shadows and light as the sun passes overhead

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Red cabin exterior view

Miner’s Hut: The palimpsest of Wales’s once thriving mining industry, its iron sheds and mining hulks still dotting the landscape, is read with great effect in How About Studio’s tribute

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cabin interior view

Miner’s Hut: The subterranean aesthetic is immediately recalled with a low-set tunnel entrance through which guests crawl to emerge into the internal living spaces comprised of inter-connecting corridors; less agile guests enter through a quotidian door

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cabin exterior

Slate Cabin: Mimicking the stone cairns built by walkers down the ages, Trias Studio layered its cabin with grey Welsh slate to great effect

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cabin interior view

Slate Cabin: The interior, by contrast, is sheathed in warm hued timber. The centrepiece is a raised platform with a direct sightline through the oversized window to the views beyond

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Cabin exterior view

Little Dragon: Symbolism features heavily in Barton Wilmore Architects’ design for the Little Dragon cabin. The scaled clawed feet of the titular creature is recalled in the shingled tripod foundation, whilst the tubular form is an homage to mining machinery

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cabin interior view

Little Dragon: The result is a surprisingly spacious interior where the circular bed sits above the living room

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Cabin exterior view

Black Hat: A favoured children’s accessory during the St David’s Day festivities, the Black Hat is an homage to the Welsh women who rallied against an ultimately doomed French invasion in the 18th century

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cabin outdoor space

Black Hat: In the hands of Rural Office for Architecture, the historic event is recalled in the form of a conical structure that forms a tepee, the tip a literal sun-dial, whilst the walls are lined with Welsh wool

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Sky Hut: Waind Gohil + Potter Architects has inserted a geared pulley system borrowed from sail-boating into the hinges of the roof so that the entire covering literally lifts open to take in the open sky and the constellations

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Sky Hut: It’s a conceit that combines the best of both worlds – the sensation of outdoor camping, but from the comfort of bed

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INFORMATION

Epic Retreats will be in Snowdownia from 5 – 30 June, and Llyn Peninsula from 10 July – 11 September. For more information visit the Epic Retreats website (opens in new tab)

Daven Wu is the Singapore Editor at Wallpaper*. A former corporate lawyer, he has been covering Singapore and the neighbouring South-East Asian region since 1999, writing extensively about architecture, design, and travel for both the magazine and website. He is also the City Editor for the Phaidon Wallpaper* City Guide to Singapore.