Family Adventures: Tree Houses

Cabanes de Salagnac

We choose 6 of the best tree house hotels in Europe, from the simple to the downright swanky: each family friendly and ready to remind you what a little bit of adventure feels like.

There’s no better adventure than sleeping in the great outdoors, especially with young kids. But go one step further: a tree house carries with it the whispered promise of adventure, as well as offering an antidote to modern life. Getting into nature and back to simplicity – the enveloping canopy, the dark night unfettered by lights, an escape from wifi – without the inevitable memories of shivering under damp canvas in the name of ‘family time’ that you carry from your youth camping trips.

Treehotel, Sweden

Tree Hotel, Sweden Tree Hotel, Sweden

Harads in Northern Sweden saw it’s first suspended suite slung between the trees in 2010 and there are now six to choose from: from a UFO to a modernist dragonfly. Bird’s Nest is thrilling for children, reached by a retractable staircase and trapdoor, the cylindrical room spans 17 square metres and sleeps four (in a double and twin bunks). But the original and the best is The Mirrorcube (above). Walls, floor and ceiling are a sea of plywood and birch, and a tree trunk runs though the centre. For design-conscious families, this is a fantastic place to see the Northen Lights and explore the eerie, beautiful landscape.

Pedras Salgadas Park, Portugal

Pedras Salgadas Park Treehouse

Clad in slate and wood, the new tree houses at Pedras Salgadas Park are designed to integrate into their environment and immerse people into the depths of the forest. With one window onto the canopy and one up to the stars, you are otherwise encased. Anyone with a sci-fi alter ego will love the surreal design and otherworldly quality of these sustainable structures. Designed to accommodate a couple, there is a small sofa bed in each tree house ideal for a young child, but families with more children will need to check into the park’s eco houses.

Cabanes Clévacances Domaine de Salagnac, France

Cabanes de Salagnac MrFox-cabane-la-dordogne

Surrounded by more than 40 hectares of dense wood, adventure trails, hills and valleys, the Domaine de Salagnac also has a string of unusual tree houses, each with it’s own living room and double bedroom, though extra beds can be arranged and there’s plenty of space in the open plan layout. Swathes of glass make you feel as though you are hovering in the branches, and waking up with the light, children can explore to their heart’s content, while you sip coffee on your balcony. 

Living Rooms, Wales 

Living Room Treehouse, Wales

Living Room Treehouse, Wales

In the lofty branches of oak and larch trees on a remote, organic sheep farm at the edge of Snowdonia National Park, Living Room’s tree houses are immersed in old-world nature. Dotted along a steep hillside, each elliptical pod is completely supported by the trees – nerve-wracking though it may be, they are precisely engineered so that when the wind blows and the larch trees sway, it’s perfectly safe. A suspension bridge slung some 20 feet above the forest floor leads to the composting loo. This is not for the feint-hearted, but top of the list for adventure. Tip: ask for Pen Y Bryn – it’s the first tree house with electric lights, and has a huge deck for family dining under the stars.

Treehouses at Chewton Glen

Chewton Glen Treehouse MrFox-Chewton-Glen-Treehouse-Suites
At the most elaborate extreme are the all-singing, all-dancing suites at the lavish New Forest hotel Chewton Glen.  So far removed from the splintery, spider-slung tree houses of your youth, that you may cry tears of joy at check-in. From the ultra slick iPad system for ordering in-room dining hampers, to the zen-like bathrooms with floor-to-ceiling glass; no comfort is lacking and yet it still feels like an adventure. Kids can only be cajoled out of the eyerie hot tub by the prospect of supper being slipped into the hatch – by squirrels. A mezzanine kids bedroom (complete with library and toybox) is genius, but if they’re under 6, the vertical ladder is treacherous. For older children though, it’s a win-win.

The Treehouse Hotel at Port Lympne Reserve, Kent

Port Lympne Reserve2Port Lympne Reserve

This wildlife reserve and safari park in Kent is already a brilliant place for young families. But to spend a day here taking pictures of remarkable animal encounters, and then trip up to the ridge and sit on the balcony of a slick new treehouse and listen to the dusk calls? That’s something else. The new Treehouse Hotel is set to open in May, overlooking a 600-acre reserve, the glass fronted suites have been designed by Tara Bernerd, and are a serene escape from modernity. You can take a buggy to Port Lympne Hotel, but better yet, hole up and enjoy the vast stillness and darkness (and a bottle of Chianti, naturally).

Your turn: have you stayed in a tree house with your family? Tell us about it in the comments below.