Thousands of tiny spheres of light are swaying in a midsummer night’s breeze. They resemble flowers: bright little bulbs on slender stems. Some change colour in waves, from soft pink to rich purple to deep blue. Others are fixed, grouped together in a fiery red sea or a shimmering emerald pool.
This is Field of Light at Marston Park, an installation by artist Bruce Munro at a glamping site in Somerset. Munro is perhaps best known for his permanent light display at Uluru in Australia; some of his other illuminations can be found in the US, Japan and South Korea. But Marston Park, which is not far from the artist’s home in Long Knoll, Wiltshire, boasts his first fully immersive work: visitors can sleep among the spheres.
Thirty bell tents, dotted along the shore of a Victorian lake, each have their own glowing garden of light. Larger clusters extend into the surrounding ancient woodland. Every tent has a private firepit in a little lakeside clearing; we sat around ours between the flickering flames and the twinkling lights. If inspiration strikes, the tents are equipped with artists’ materials, an easel and a guitar. They also tick all the glamping boxes: double beds and woodburning stoves, with flushing toilets, hot showers and Bramley toiletries.
Marston Park is run by two friends, Michael Fenna and Charlie Bonham Christie – Charlie’s family have owned the land since 1905. Their aim is to create a “playground of creativity”, where artists, musicians and writers can come to work (they offer artists’ residencies), while other guests enjoy the views and the arty vibe.
On the other side of the lake is a converted horse box bar and the Terrace restaurant, an open-sided safari-style structure serving small plates (salt-and-pepper squid £7) and wood-fired pizza (from £10). This is the heart of the site, with DJs on Fridays and Saturdays, and acoustic musicians on Sundays, plus lots of lakeside seating, a jetty and communal firepits. Exhibitions are held here too: a recent display focused on Glastonbury festival (Worthy Farm is a half-hour drive away).
Further on is the Hideout, where I joined a yoga class and a sound bath while swans and their cygnets glided across the lake, ducks snoozed on the bank and a heron flapped overhead. There are regular arts and crafts sessions here and in the nearby glade: upcoming workshops include a clothes-mending class and a printmaking day, where participants can design and print their own fabric and turn it into a lampshade.
This side of the lake is also home to the Futuro House, a work of art in itself. Finnish architect Matti Suuronen designed holiday cabins that look like spaceships in the 1960s, but just 68 still exist and most are in museums or private collections. This one, restored by artist Craig Barnes, is one of only two in the world that guests can stay in; the other is in Russia. Unsurprisingly, that doesn’t come cheap (from £600 a night for two), but visitors can (and do) gawp at it from the main path, where it is close enough for a photo op.
Michael and Charlie plan to add more modern architecture, and to renovate the site’s historic buildings, such as an old boathouse. They are also restoring the landscape, including the lake, which is now too shallow for swimming and boating. However, there is a gorgeous teal-coloured wild pool to swim in, and a wood-fired hot tub (pool free for guests, hot tub £30 for 50 minutes). We spent a happy afternoon there with a couple of local families.
Guests can order a breakfast hamper of yoghurt, fruit, granola, pastries, juice and coffee (£15.50pp). Marston Park is 10 minutes’ drive from Frome and 20 minutes from Bruton, both of which have plenty of independent shops, vintage stores, bookshops and cafes. Palmer Street Bottle in Frome is a good pitstop for a beer and a sausage roll (vegan if required).
In Bruton, one of the main draws is the Hauser & Wirth gallery, a 10-minute stroll from the high street. This beautifully converted farmstead hosts major exhibitions inside and out; there is a Henry Moore survey until 4 September (free). The Roth Bar & Grill (named after Swiss artist Dieter Roth), in the former cowshed, is a great spot for lunch – we ate charred mackerel and crispy artichokes under a lemon tree in the courtyard, followed by gooseberry ice-cream from the gallery’s classy van.
For those staying just one night at Marston Park, dinner at the Terrace is a must, mainly for the magical lakeside setting – we watched bats flitting around while we ate our pizzas. But for those staying longer, it’s well worth a 10-minute drive to the Bath Arms in Horningsham, on the Longleat estate (not to be confused with various other pubs in the area with the same name). This 1730s pub has a lovely garden, a seasonal menu (from ceviche and battered courgette flowers to steak and chips) and an interesting wine list featuring English, Greek and Croatian bottles.
As we drove back up the lane to Marston Park, a barn owl swooped overhead, hunting for its own supper. Nature, art and a comfy bed – as campsites go, this one is hard to beat.
The trip was provided by Marston Park. Bell tents from £120 a night for two, marstonpark.co.uk. Field of Light runs until 30 September; there will be new artistic collaborations in 2023.
Five more arty campsites
Tapnell Farm, Isle of Wight
Safari tents, log cabins, pods and domes are dotted round a farm with sea views at Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight. The Wight Herd, a lifesize herd of multicoloured cows, is a permanent art installation on site. There is free live music near the herd every evening until 4 September.
From £200 a night, tapnellfarm.com
A geodesic dome and architect-designed pavilion (sleeps two to four) and a converted barn (sleeps four) complete the accommodation on a farm in Buckland Brewer, north Devon. A two-person cabin is being added soon. Ania, the artist owner, also runs jewellery-making workshops (£85pp).
From £120, hostunusual.com
Home Farm Glamping, Hertfordshire
Bell tents (sleep four) and yurts (sleep five) sit in 150 acres of woodland, fields and lakes just 13 miles from central London. Amanda, the resident artist, teaches abstract art classes, and there are family craft sessions.
From £115 a night, homefarmglamping.com
Arcadia Glamping, Stirlingshire
The two luxe cabins (each sleep two) enjoy eight hectares of woodland and pasture near Loch Lomond. The cabins are decorated with art and found objects, and the woods are dotted with sculptures by the owner, Rob Mulholland, an environmental artist.
From £168 a night, hostunusual.com
As well as 85 pitches for tents and camper vans (no caravans), there are rooms and dorms in the converted stables and granary at this site by the sea in Burnham Deepdale. Rural crafts workshops include willow weaving to make a birdhouse feeder.
Pitch from £11 a night, deepdalebackpackers.co.uk