If you did a straw poll of 100 people asking them where they went on holiday this year I am guessing the results might be: Spain (40), Greece (20), France (20), UK (10), Belgium (1). That one would be me! So why did we choose Europe’s least obvious holiday destination for our Summer break this year? There is actually a very obvious reason : two of the national culinary specialities are chocolate and cheesy chips. What is not to like?!
But if you are more of a plant than prailine based diet person there is a actually another great reason to flock to the Flemish land. Enter the Scandi/Rustic cabin of my dreams. About 6 months ago this image popped up on the explore page of my Instagram. It had me at festoon light. When I discovered it was located in the pine forests of Belgium rather than the plains of the American Mid West I was sold on a glamping holiday for 2019.
We booked 4 nights over the August bank holiday. At 700 Euros it was approximately half the price of the equivalent break in the UK with a significantly reduced risk of coming home with a veruca. I am not going to lie, I was a little bit worried that I had gone completely off piste as we drove ever deeper into Belgium past all the places I had heard of and could easily pronounce but when we arrived all of those fears evaporated and hopefully after reading this Belgium will also be top of your holiday hit list for next year
There are approximately 28 of the cabins at Nutchel located in a beautiful pine forest close to the border with the Netherlands. It is the perfect mix of being secluded/an escape from everyday life whilst also 10 minutes drive from a supermarket that stocks toilet roll and marshmallows should you run out of either in the middle of the night, There are a mix of different cabins depending upon your party size and budget. We stayed in one of the cozy cabins which has all of the living accommodation at ground floor level and then a raised covered platform with seating for outdoor dining up in the trees.
There are some which are all elevated though which looked really cool and a couple which come with their own hot tubs which I would definitely splash my Euros on when we return next time. But to be honest you really can’t go wrong as all of them have the same great combo of crittal style doors/windows, contemporary cladding and festoon lights
Where do I start? They were my wildest Little Modern Rustic House on the Prairie fantasy!
Wooden clad walls, flowing linen curtains, cosy woodburner, industrial inspired kitchen, fairy lights and lanterns, cosy corners to curl up and read a book in, fluffy white duvets and a view of the forest from your bed, hell even copper piping taps in the bathroom!
The layout is basically one open plan room for the living space that has a sofa, a kitchen, a table and built in seating (as well as the woodburner) and then a separate bathroom and sleeping area with the beds sort of stacked up on top of each other. Hopefully you can see what i mean from the picture below.
The sleeping arrangement did mean that marital relations were pretty much off the cards for the week on account of us having children directly below and above us at all times but I did have a really good book I was reading so that actually worked out quite well for me!
A Camping Experience with Glamping Comforts
The cabins definitely deliver on the back to nature front and offer the chance to live a simpler life for a few days. There is no television, no WiFi, no microwave and no fridge (though there is a clever cold box before you start worrying about where you will store your almond milk).
But before you worry that you will be pooing into compost and unable to charge your phone, I should reassure you that there are power points flushing toilets, warm water and 4G reception in the cabins. So it is back to nature with data roaming still intact!
Things to Do
In all honesty your really won’t miss the TV because there is so much to do on the site and in the surrounding area. What i hadn’t appreciated when I booked is that there is a actually a really nice common area that all of the cabins have access to that includes a lake with a sandy beach around it which is dotted with Tiki style parasols, lazy boy bean bags and happy looking parents. The lake has a series of stepping stones in it for jumping off , a mini water slide and then in the landscaping around the lake there are also some adventure challenges like log stepping stones, a net bridge to navigate over a pond and some tightropes. On a Wednesday night there is a big barbecue in a cosy tipi strung with fairy lights over looking the lake and they open a bar up on the sand. Our kids loved this whole area (as did I Aperol Spritz in hand as I watched them play) and we easily spent 3-4 hours each day hanging out there.
If you can prize your bum off a bean bag there is also a Go Ape style adventure park which culminates in a huge zipline across the forest and for littler ones there is a woodland playground that doesn’t require a crash helmet or for you to conquer your fear of heights! One of the things our boys loved the most though was just playing in the woods! They set up a mini cricket pitch in a clearing by our cabin and played a woodland version of the Ashes (with perhaps a greater proportion of tantrums and runs ending in one of them calling the other an idiot).
On our last day we booked a session in the hot tub set in the woods in a bid to persuade the boys that sitting in gently bubbling warm water is more enjoyable than trying to find a cricket ball in a bramble thicket. There is also a sauna and a Finnish wooden hut you can hire for a barbecue experience!
We also ventured into nearby Masseig one of the days which has a pretty square with restaurants and bars around. The boys declared our meal their the best they had ever had on account of the waiter giving them both a football and a plate of fizzy sweets at the end of the meal. Note to Heston Blummenthal if you want that fifth Michelin Star swap Petit Four for fizzy dummies.
Two holidays in one
The other thing I loved about this as a break is that you can really easily combine it with a city break on your way there. We drove and from Calais to the cabin it was about 4 hours but we broke the journey up by both having lunch in Bruges and then staying a coupe of nights in Antwerp. I would really recommend Antwerp. It has not perhaps got the Belgium Venice good looks of Bruges or Ghent but it has lots of great museums, cafes, restaurants, parks and, as the fashion captial of Belgium, shops!
So have I persuaded you to swap Greece for Ghent next year? This is the link to Nutchel so you can have a closer look and if you are interested I would say it is worth e-mailing and asking them to let you know when availability for Summer 2020 is released as I hear it gets booked up really fast!