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Forest dwellings for back-to-nature retreats

Getting back to nature doesn’t mean you have to resort to soggy tents and dodgy stoves. With these woodland and hillside hideaways, you can be sustainable and private without forfeiting creature comforts

Words by Jo Davey

Biosphere Sweden

Treehotel’s Biosphere is a stay like no other. Not only is it an actual sphere, strapped between towering pines and accessed by suspension bridge in the countryside near Harads in northern Sweden, but it’s the only private accommodation you’ll happily share with 350 others. Biosphere’s chequerboard walls are made up of hundreds of bird boxes, dappling the bright sunlight through its glass facade and bringing the call of the wild right to your cabin. The aim is to boost the local bird population, with the added benefit of letting guests live side by side with their nesting neighbours. Mornings here are best spent with coffee in one hand and camera in the other as life twitters and flits around you. The interior is designed equally with nests in mind – dark woods and deep accents create a snug den that encourages your gaze outwards during the day and blankets you into blissful sleep come night-time. Made with organic materials, Biosphere has a rooftop terrace with 360-degree forest views,a reading corner, sauna and sustainable bathroom. Utterly unique, with conservationism at its core, Biosphere forms an eco-friendly eyrie almost entirely your own.

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Travel Details

From £969.

Treedwellers Treehouses England

At the eastern edge of the Cotswolds, a half-ring of russet emerges from the forest of pines and beeches. This is Camellia, one of TreeDwellers’ treehouses: a tubular, avant-garde accommodation suspended over fern-studded fields just north of Oxford. Built for couples and small families, the cylindrical lodges are a mix of rustic charm, Scandinavian-style elegance and modern whimsy. Open plan and full of light, they immerse guests in nature, with floor-to-ceiling windows that frame the quiet, private woodlands. You can while away hours spotting deer from the deck or admire them in decadence from the bubbles of the freestanding bathtub. Beneath the bedrooms and book nooks there are plenty of wild pathways to wander, but TreeDwellers is also perfectly placed for going further afield and exploring the rambling rural beauty of the Cotswolds, perhaps with a visit to picturesque Burford, Woodstock’s stately Georgian streets or the splendours of nearby Blenheim Palace. For lunch, tuck into seasonal organic fare at The Wild Rabbit, a Michelin-recommended restaurant in neighbouring Kingham, or check out the local Finstock Ale festival if you visit at the beginning of September. Back at base, rustle up dinner in the comfort of the cabin and cosy up to the log burner at the treehouse’s heart.

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Travel Details

Doubles from £210.

Panorama Glass Lodge Iceland

Reclining on a plush bed, head cradled in downy pillows, your evening’s entertainment plays out across the pitch and pastel sky above. Here, at Iceland’s Panorama Glass Lodge, the end of the day is just the beginning. The four family-run luxury igloos have been built for exclusivity and privacy, with a transparent twist. Comfort is assured, with each lodge featuring a fully-equipped kitchen with coffee machine, a sauna and a bathroom with sustainable rain showers and organic products. But the bedroom is where the lodge comes to life: with glass walls and ceiling, it showcases the untamed Icelandic landscape at Hella. Wake to the first fingers of sunlight as the long Arctic days reveal the south coast’s winding rivers and rolling tors. Come evening, vivid sunsets, a carpet of stars and the opaline ribbon of the Milky Way take over. With luck, you’ll have a first-row seat to Iceland’s most spectacular show as the igloos offer the ultimate view of the northern lights – watch their cascade of colour shimmer between the steaming curlicues of the outdoor hot tub.


Travel Details

Doubles from £460.

Nolla A-Frames Finland

Sustainability becomes reality along the Helsinki sands with Nolla’s eco-friendly A-frame cabins. These stylish deltoid huts, designed by Finnish architect Robin Falck, are refreshingly simple: large windows, earthy neutral tones and a silhouette reminiscent of the humble tent, albeit an extremely comfortable one. Housing only two beds, a basic stove, radiator and USB sockets, the chalets offer a zero-emission getaway that helps conserve the ever-changing surroundings. The frames are lightweight and mobile, allowing them to get stuck into the great outdoors and reach unique spots along Finland’s remote archipelago. Wake up to shingle beaches dotted with seals, stark stonescapes with wheeling birds overhead, or the tranquil hush of the forest. With each new site come new stories that Nolla eagerly shares with its visitors. Guests, after all, are very much part of the experience. You’re encouraged to pack and live lightly during your stay and to learn about the local history, flora and fauna too. Swap overstuffed suitcases and phone signal for conscientious packing, personal connection and spartan sophistication at its Scandinavian best.

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Travel Details

Twins from £165.

The Pinecone Treehouse USA

A solitary bedroom might seem overly minimalist, but the Pinecone’s intimate sleeping quarters don’t want for style. This cone-shaped pendant of glass and wood combines architecture, art and sculpture in the giant Redwood forests of Bonny Doon. Accessed by a steep, laddered staircase and trapdoor, the aerial abode hangs under the canopy of the Californian giants. Composed of transparent panels that bristle like the echinate layers of a cone, the treehouse provides ultimate privacy through its use of one-way glass. From the inside, the forest unfurls around you and falls away down the hillside 18m below. Outside, the glass scales reflect the trees, echoing the environment and shimmering in the west coast sunlight. Designed solely for sleep, the Pinecone’s room is dedicated to a large bed encircled by a string of lights. Bathroom and shower facilities are housed just below in an extra cabin with equally impressive views, reached by a small suspension bridge. The toilet is compostable, keeping your stay in this exceptional seed pod water-conscious and eco-friendly.

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Travel Details

From £410.

The Arctic Hideaway Norway

In the midst of the Fleinvær Archipelago, a scattering of grassy rocks that dimple the sea off Norway’s west coast, stands the Arctic Hideaway. Reached by boat or seaplane from Bodø, this collection of five distinct dwellings is as far-flung as they come. The islands have neither cars nor shops: your stay is catered in the kitchen cabin, which serves meals of fresh, local ingredients with emphasis on seasonal seafood. Shared areas include separate dressing, living and dining lodges, a bath house and a sauna that sits on the sheltered sea. Curtain-free rooms ensure under-the-stars slumber, while osmosis plants turn saltwater into fresh. Flora, fauna and foraging form the base of activities, as well as rowing, hiking, cycling and sea bathing – but mindful, slow-paced stays are encouraged too.

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Travel Details

Doubles from £234.

Hinterhouse Canada

On a quiet mountainside in Quebec, under the watchful eye of deep green firs, rests a minimalist symphony of white cedar. Despite its clean form and clear-cut lines, the exquisite Hinterhouse looks like a product of the forest. Inspired by Japanese and Norwegian architecture, the design is a celebration of wood, with cedar, pine, maple and Douglas fir lining the entire living space and framing the extensive glasswork, where slats split the sunlight like a grove of bamboo. The windows open out on to lush views of the Mont Tremblant valley and a small deck, where you can unwind surrounded by the sugar and sap scent of evergreens and rich earth. Down steps set into the hillside, you’ll find an isolated sauna with glass wall and outdoor shower. The main room, based around a central wood fire, is a harmonious space of buff and black with an extensive kitchen, dining table and sprawling sofas. In the bedrooms, stained woods soften the light ready for a blissful sleep in hand-made, stone-washed sheets.

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Travel Details

Sleeps four. From £388.

Catuçaba Eco Cabin Brazil

The rolling hills and pastures three hours north of São Paulo don’t usually conjure images of sleek, Arctic-style cabins. The modular Catuçaba Eco Cabin, however, is the first of its kind in Brazil. Minimising waste, building work and displacements, the prefabricated building sits on a former coffee plantation, overlooking the green foothills of the dramatic Serra do Mar State Park. The lodge is made up of a continuous line of wood-clad capsules, culminating in an open-ended balcony area ideal for lazing in the last rays of the day. A compact but comprehensive kitchenette offers the ease and comfort of making your own meals, best enjoyed on either the small patio just outside or the separate open-air deck overlooking a panorama of treetops and the estate’s lake. Once the sun sets, tuck yourself into the cosy living room and watch the stars emerge beside the warmth of the wood burner. The slatted cabin is completed by a bathroom and large bedroom, where a full-length window gives uninterrupted views of unbeatable Brazilian scenery.


Travel Details

Sleeps two to four. From £202.

Eagle Brae Scotland

The rough-hewn timbers of Eagle Brae perfectly suit the rugged Scottish landscape 20 miles west of Inverness. Topped by living grass roofs, a series of cabins blend into the forested background of ochre and emerald – to the point that the local wildlife walks right past your door. The rustic exteriors belie the luxury within, however, where warm leather sofas and woven textiles create a snug cedar-wood sanctuary that will have you happy to laze away the days indoors. The ground floor houses an extensive kitchen, dining room and wood-fired lounge while upstairs, the mezzanine morphs into broad, welcoming bedrooms. Smaller cabins come with wide walk-in showers and larger lodges include baths too, but to stay in the true lap of luxury opt for the Ardea, which comes with a sauna. Outside, a spacious platform allows you to sit back and watch the deer graze over breakfast before heading off to explore the Highlands. Activities include dog sledding, canoeing, shooting, fishing and bird safaris, as well as hikes and biking trails. With plentiful domestic comforts and heaps of carved-out character, returning to Eagle Brae after a busy day outdoors is like finding a slice of home in the majestic Highlands.

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Travel Details

2-person cabin from £523 (2-night min).

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