Glamping in the UK is always a gamble – you can never predict what the skies are going to send you – but for us the weather couldn’t have been better. We saw Nodes Point at its most brightest; and we were able to escape the oppressive heat of London’s streets for the Isle of Wight’s cooling sea breezes.
Nodes Point is on the outskirts of Ryde, about 25 minutes from the ferry port of Fishbourne. Its location is idyllic, with the resort having almost direct access to the sea. Our tent was a ten minute walk from St Helen’s Beach and Priory Bay (a mixture of stone and sand); a welcome break from London’s steaming concrete.
St Helen’s Beach has a pretty promenade, with a place to buy ice-cream, and a high-quality seafood restaurant, Baywatch on the Beach, which was recently rated by the Telegraph as one of Britain’s best beach restaurants.
Nodes Point is a UK beach resort with several grades of accommodation. I’ve already written about the safari tent we stayed in, which I would highly recommend to anyone wanting to experience outdoor living, in a bit more comfort that a regular tent.
At the top of the hill are the caravans, some of which can be bought (the site is open 12 months a year). The caravans are different prices depending on the level of facilities; they are further away from the beach than the tents, but they do have better views of the bay.
Walking to the sea from the safari tents, you go past ready-erected tents; touring caravans; and then down through the camping pitches, which are practically within earshot of the waves.
There are several toilet and shower blocks on site, for those holidaymakers (like us) who don’t have a bathroom in their accommodation. Our nearest was shared with the people staying in ready-erected tents; the ladies’ was reasonably clean, although D said the mens’ wasn’t quite as hygienic.
The Nodes Point convenience shop sold groceries, cleaning products, newspapers and magazines, alcoholic drinks, and beach toys – buckets and spades etc. Before we popped in (to buy washing-up liquid, which we’d forgotten – doh!) a member of staff has warned us the shop was expensive. But we’re used to London prices, and I’d say it was on a par with – or even cheaper than – our own local convenience stores.
The children’s play area was a nice way to burn off the last remnants of energy before bedtime. Before our stay, I had thought we’d spend more time in the swimming pool, but the weather was so incredible it seemed a shame to be indoors. Unfortunately the slides were cordoned off when we took a dip, but the bean-shaped pool itself was pleasant, with a little bridge and tons of floats.
There was one eaterie on site: the Boathouse Bar and Restaurant, which sold a wide range of pub meals. We didn’t eat there in the evening, but we did try their English breakfasts on the first morning, which were very reasonably priced (£7 for two). They were basic, but did the trick and kept us going well past lunchtime.
The children’s entertainment was perfect for our five and three year-old. I spoke to one of the entertainers and he’d previously worked at Pontins. Although I haven’t been to Pontins or Butlins, I gather Park Resorts’ children’s entertainment is of a similar format, and level of professionalism to those resorts. At Nodes Point, the entertainers dressed up in animal costumes – Sparky the Rabbit and his ‘Krew Club’ – and over the weekend there were storytelling sessions (with the cute and cuddlesome Pipsqueak) plus a birthday party for the terrifying ‘Narky’ (just imagine Ray Winstone at his most threatening, crossed with a seven-foot tall cuddly aardvark).
Before I became a parent, I would have been sceptical about this kind of entertainment. But the performances (which went on until about 7pm) gave me and D a chance to have a chat and an early evening drink. And the children were unanimous that this was the best part of the holiday, for them. The performers who were working during our Nodes Point weekend made a huge effort to make their time at Nodes Point fun and memorable.
As well as Sparky et al, there was an amusement arcade and entertainment centre for the grown-ups, which we didn’t visit (too busy sitting on the verandah in the evening, listening to the chirrup of the crickets).
The highlight of the break for me was horse riding for the first time in 28 years. With my five-year-old son, who’d never ridden before. This is one of those memories I’d like to be able to bottle, and take sips of on very special occasions. Sally’s Riding School treks set out from just behind our tent, and there were several every morning. After being helped into boots and hard hats by one of the plentiful assistants, we set off down a beach path, right out onto the bay itself.
My son managed a whole hour on horseback, led by a staff member, who even helped him learn to do a rising trot. After the ride, he was given a special rosette with the name of his first horse (‘Turnip’) written on the back. The cost was as you’d expect for a high-quality lesson/hack in a resort (£25 per hour, for each of us).
It was worth every penny.
Disclosure: we were invited by Park Resorts to stay for three nights in a Nodes Point safari tent for the purpose of this review. All views are my own.