One of the UK’s first glampsites, Yurtcamp Devon comprises 22 yurts in 40 acres of woodland.
Transforming a miniature railway into a yurt glamping village, owner David Ager now also offers whole site exclusivity for weddings and celebrations, making the most of his prime location close to Dartmoor and the south Devon coast.
What’s your back story – your life before glamping?
I had some holiday cottages in Worcestershire, which gave me a taste for a hospitality business. There is a real pleasure in delighting guests with their chosen site and accommodation.
What made you decide to start offering glamping accommodation?
I bought the site 14 years ago as I wanted to start a glamping business in Devon and it had 40 acres of beautiful woodland, which seemed ideal. It was a beautiful site that had been used for a miniature railway tourist attraction. I could see great potential, but there was a lot of work needed to get it ready.
How did you research the business before entering it?
I did a lot of research on what was currently available in self-catering sites, and found that there was very little in the way of glamping – this was 14 years ago!
Tell us about your location and site
Yurtcamp Devon is located just a 15 minute drive off the end of the M5, with the last three minutes being the journey time off the A38, so very accessible from all parts of Britain. Our closeness to the A38 means that we make it clear on our website that if you are seeking perfect peace, please don’t book. The vast majority of our guests are not troubled by road noise, even though they have read about it and are listening for it!
We have 40 acres of beautiful Devon woodland, with lots of lovely walks, a full size assault course, and a zip line. There is also table tennis, swings, see-saws and a sand pit plus a large field on which impromptu games of football, cricket and rounders are played.
We have the onsite independently run fully licensed Woodland Cafe, run by a very experienced chap called Stuart, who serves fabulous local food and drink at sensible prices including BBQs and pizzas.
There is plenty to do in the local area too, with Dartmoor on our doorstep (fantastic for pony trekking, river swimming and rock scrambling) and the wonderful south Devon coastline is just eight miles away.
How did you tackle getting planning?
Planning was a piece of cake as the site was previously a lovely miniature railway tourist attraction that went bust about 16 years ago. When I bought the site, all that was left was miles of derelict track and fabulous bridges and tunnels. There were also some lovely wooden buildings which have all been used to create Yurtcamp Devon.
Having been approached by many way out and crazy schemes, the planners loved my glamping site idea, and literally rolled out the red carpet! I got planning permission for 49 yurts, but now have 22, which is in my opinion about right. I wouldn’t want to spoil the site by having too many.
We became licensed to hold civil ceremonies 10 years ago and have since had about 100 weddings. It works really well as we offer site exclusivity from midday Friday to midday Sunday for the couple and their families and friends to have a full weekend to get together and celebrate.
I have often thought that Yurtcamp Devon would be great for wakes, but have never done any marketing for them. Similarly with corporate events and team building, which we have done a bit with, but nothing like the number that we could probably do with effective marketing. I suppose the bottom line is that I am busy enough with things we are already very popular for, without adding to them!
How did you finance the project?
I used savings.
What glamping accommodation do you offer and why did you choose it?
We offer yurts. I love the design of a Mongolian yurt, but wanted to create a more contemporary version that was suited to the British climate.
The smaller yurts are ideal for couples, and the larger yurts ideal for up to six to accommodate family and friends. Each yurt has a log burner and is fully equipped for cooking, sleeping and relaxing in, and has access to an outdoor fire pit for campfires and barbecues.
Most of our yurts are situated in small groups offering a pleasant village atmosphere while allowing guests their own space. For those seeking more solitude we also have yurts sited remotely in a tranquil woodland setting.
The toilet and shower block has separate male, female and disabled facilities including toilets, hot showers, hairdryers and mirrors, plus plenty of hot water!
What occupancy levels do you achieve?
We are open most of the year and are usually quite busy over New Year. In normal times our occupancy is between 30 per cent (off peak periods) and 95 per cent (peak periods). Our prices depend on the season, and whilst we offer two night stays, our prices encourage longer stays.
How did you work out your brand and how do you publicise yourself?
Yurtcamp Devon seemed like the best name, and while we post on social media, we don’t spend very much on advertising.
How would you describe your ethos and unique selling point?
A beautiful site to relax, or get married, or celebrate a landmark birthday.
How did you choose your interior decoration?
It has evolved over 12 years.
What challenges have you faced?
Initially, getting the site prepared was a huge amount of work as it needed a lot of landscaping to make it suitable for yurts. There is also quite a lot of forest maintenance needed each year, and regular checks on trees near to yurts.
How have you coped through Covid?
We had to be very careful about expenditure. We’ve been open when allowed to be, putting in lots of Covid preventative measures.
What are your plans for next season?
We are always looking for improvements to make. We are greatly looking forward to reopening and also to hosting several weddings for the first time in 18 months!
Describe your average day mid-season
I start at 8.30am, responding to emails and bookings, overseeing work being done on site, saying farewell to departing guests, welcoming arrivals, and being available to them if they need any help.
Do you enjoy the business and why?
Very much. Guests going away, usually for a well-earned rest, deserve to have a lovely time.
What are you most proud of?
Guests telling me that they’ve had a great time.
What other outdoor hospitality sectors do you operate in?
We offer site exclusivity, usually from midday Friday to midday Sunday, for weddings, as we are licensed for civil ceremonies. Couples love to have a full weekend get together and celebration of their marriage, with everyone staying on site.
What advice could you give to someone coming into the industry?
Be prepared for plenty of work, but like most things in life, the more you put in, the more you get out.
Devon TQ12 6FU