Tilia Treehouse, West Lexham, Norfolk
West Lexham, near Swaffham in the heart of rural Norfolk, is a historic estate offering a range of accommodation options, from holiday cottages and ensuite rooms to gorgeous glamping in bell tents.
And then there are the treehouses. For a unique holiday or weekend away – and one that kids will love – these are hard to beat.
There are six treehouses in total – including two toddler-friendly low-level tree 'temples' that are ideal for families with younger children.
We stayed in Tilia – named after the lime tree's scientific name. This fabulous structure is one of two luxurious treehouses built in 2016 – the other is nearby Quercus – and staying here feels like a real adventure. We arrived in the dark, with twinkling lights leading us through the trees to Tilia – a treehouse built high up on stilts, and accessed via an external wooden staircase that's lit up enchantingly at night.
Tilia is an almost circular structure with windows on every side, and high rafters adorned with fairy lights – creating a magical, nest-like atmosphere.
Inside, you feel enveloped by the surrounding trees – ivy-clad trunks rise up immediately outside the windows. The branches are home to many bird species – you wake to the sound of birdsong and you can birdwatch from the bed!
The influence of trees is strongly evident in the interior design too. There are comfortable beds, with quality bedding, for six – these can be arranged as six twins or three super-kings, or any combination in between. The beds in the main room are crafted from the trunks of hazel trees – giving the appearance of trees growing inside the house. This adds to the woodland atmosphere, and all the wood creates a wonderful smell as you enter the room.
The dining table and chairs are similarly made from rustic branches. The furniture has been handmade by co-owner Edmund Colville, whose vision was to create sustainable yet beautiful holiday accommodation – and this is the theme that runs throughout West Lexham, with handcrafted touches and excellent attention to detail.
The furniture in Tilia is either handmade or reclaimed, creating a vintage, shabby chic look that's superbly stylish. A rustic staircase – illuminated by more twinkly fairy lights – leads up to a mezzanine where two people can sleep.
Tilia comes with a woodburning stove for cooking on, and for keeping things cosy in winter. When the stove isn't lit, the treehouse is heated by radiators, which are powered by the on-site biomass boiler.
Like Quercus, Tilia has its own ensuite shower room – a surprisingly spacious and beautiful room, with more vintage touches. You're also welcome to use the communal campsite facilities. These are the best we've ever seen – spotlessly clean, individual tiled bathrooms with masses of hot water, vintage decoration and underfloor heating. One even had a bath (pictured below) – a campsite first for us!
Other communal areas that are at guests' disposal are an outdoor kitchen and a firepit. In summer, this becomes the focus for sociable gatherings, with children toasting marshmallows and the opportunity to make new friends.
As West Lexham is located deep in rural Norfolk, there is minimal light pollution. The night skies here are awash with stars – and because of the positioning of the windows in Tilia, you don't even need to get out of bed to see them.
As tempting as it is to spend the whole weekend holed up in Tilia, there's plenty to explore outside. West Lexham's outdoor focal point is the lake – and there are rowing boats to borrow, if you fancy exploring the water. Or just settle on one of the strategically placed benches, admire the view and look out for swans, herons and kingfishers.
Trails and footpaths lead through the gardens and grounds and alongside the river – this is the River Nar, a clean, chalk stream, which supports a remarkable wealth of wildlife in a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest.
Encouraging wildlife into the estate is a large part of the ethos at West Lexham – Head Gardener, Simon, is passionate about working with the natural environment to create a healthy ecosystem. Bird feeders around the estate attract a huge variety of birds, from hawks, kites and kestrels to songbirds such as blue tits, wagtails and bullfinches. At night, tawny owls can be heard hooting in the surrounding trees.
Environmental responsibility is paramount too. West Lexham is managed sustainably, with 95 per cent of the site's energy coming from renewable resources, including a biomass boiler – fuelled with woodchip from the estate – and solar PV panels.
Recycling and composting are also very important. There's no need for guests to separate their rubbish out though – waste is sorted and recycled for you.
Further afield, the beautiful North Norfolk coast is within an easy, 20-minute drive. Or explore many of the historic towns and villages in the area, and enjoy some of the delicious local food that the region is famous for.
For more information about this unique and highly recommended destination, visit the West Lexham website.