Cosy, self-contained and immersed in nature, cabin stays are trending in travel. Tara Hill’s ‘posh rooms in the wilderness’ are a new adult-only escape
I’m not sure exactly when the light began to change. I was sleepy, but clocked a slight brightening of things.
Soon, a subtle strip of orange slashed across the horizon. Over the next half-hour or so, the colours mixed and morphed, like paint on a palette. Red, orange, yellow; and then clear daylight. It was a beautiful sunrise, and I watched it all without having to get out of bed.
‘Posh rooms in the wilderness’ is one way The Wild Rooms, three charred timber-clad cabins overlooking the sea from Tara Hill, Co Wexford, are described.
After checking in, I did as many guests do, says Ben Wainwright, who built the cabins with his wife, Vanessa, on their hillside estate. I left my blind up at night to watch the sunset, fell asleep under the stars, and woke with sunrise.
“We don’t really like going to hotels,” Ben tells me the following morning. “We like going to places where you can easily escape, get out amongst it. We wanted to create something that was almost like a hotel experience, but where you could immediately step out in the wild.”
Ben and Vanessa run a data mapping and matching platform, both working remotely. Other than Sea Forest Lodge, a converted outbuilding on Tara Hill Estate, they had little hospitality experience. But they did have a very clear concept of what they wanted to achieve with the Wild Rooms.
“The idea that kept kicking around was giving people the view, the environment to come and immerse themselves in something, and have a different experience and degree of comfort,” Ben says.
‘Stargazer’, ‘Sunriser’ and ‘Stormchaser’, as the rooms are called, opened last summer. They’re a short drive from Courtown and Ballymoney, but feel a world away. In the morning, I hike gorse-strewn paths up Tara Hill. An off-radar beach is a mile down the road. There’s an outdoor shower and a weatherproof box for storing boots or wetsuits. I enjoy underfloor heating, a capsule coffee machine and secure parking, but feel like a guest in nature.
You can see why stays like this are having a moment. Insta-friendly Airbnbs, glamping pods, shepherd’s huts, treehouses and wellness trends like forest bathing began before the pandemic, but Covid has seen them catch fire.
This year, our readers named the Bubble Domes in Finn Lough, Co Fermanagh, as ‘ Ireland’s Sexiest Bedrooms’. Native.ie, a rewilding project incorporating native timber cabins, will open this summer in West Cork. Slow Cabins, a Belgian concept that sees guests ‘book blind’, unaware of the location of their cabin until a couple of weeks before arrival, plans to open its first sites in Ireland in 2022.
Think slow travel, outdoor living, self-contained spaces, smart design, immersions in nature and Covid-safe holidays. There’s a lot to unpack in these little pods.
Guests vary widely in age and interest, Ben says. “There’s been a real mix of people who are very much about the outdoors, and others who are just looking for escape.” Mostly, they come “to tune out”, he adds.
High banks of gorse give The Wild Rooms privacy from each other. Angled toward the sea, gently sloping roofs maximise the eight-foot picture windows. Interior design is sparse, with lots of whites and greys, but makes the most of the tight space — storage drawers under the window bench seat, and a fold-down hook by the al fresco shower, for example.
Ben dubs it “sustainable luxury”, and it’s certainly a cut above standard glamping pods, but don’t expect a high-end rustic stay like Cabu by the Lakes. A double bed, bathroom with heated towel racks, decent shower and small kitchenette are compact and comfy, and I like extra touches like the pair of KeepCups in the cupboard. However, the cabins lack a soft bedside lamp for atmospheric evening light, and remote workers should note that there is no desk (the breakfast bar is just wide enough to balance my 13-inch MacBook Air).
These feel like easy tweaks to further elevate the experience. Ben’s very open to my feedback, and has been canvassing other guests for theirs (many would love hot tubs, apparently).
“The idea was to hide all the technology away, so that you can turn up and switch off, or switch on,” he says (there are no TVs, but they are considering movie projectors). One company even gave its staff stays as part of a corporate wellness programme.
In the future, they may consider adding a communal space, or opening in other locations. But for now, focus is on the season ahead.
Another important detail: The Wild Rooms are adult-only. “We’ve had a lot of people hell-bent on organising babysitters,” Ben says. “They’re like, we’ll get this sorted!”
The couple’s tech background shows too. Wifi is zippy, there’s an app with directions, gate codes, local activities and bookable extras like a basic breakfast (€8pp) and margherita pizza (€12, above) delivered to the door, hampers that include local ingredients like Tara Hill Honey, Wild About Wexford chutney and Bean and Goose chocolate, and you can even add Wild Yoga classes (€99 for two).
Check-in is contactless — I simply tap in the gate code, park up and find the key in my door (with mini dreamcatcher attached). The wine I ordered is waiting inside, too.
What I like most about The Wild Rooms is the way they make me feel. They could be a space to share with someone, to work, study, or write a song. You could watch Netflix, sit out with a beer, or take a taxi to a nearby bar or restaurant. They feel like a place apart, an immersion in nature where links to normal life are blissfully broken.
Sunset is delicious, with pink skies pinching over the Irish Sea. At night, I step outside and see Orion sparkling in the sky. A chorus of chirpy birdsong accompanies that morning sunrise and, when Ben and I chat, a curious robin comes close enough almost to touch.
“People are reconnecting with those kinds of experiences,” he muses. “Step away from the day-to-day; catch your breath. It’s peaceful and grounding, isn’t it?
“It’s like a reset.”
Blue (5.4km) and Red (4km) walking trails are waymarked on Tara Hill. Both pass points of historical interest, like a 1798 graveyard and summit cairn, leading to panoramas from the 252m peak. wexfordwalkingtrail.ie; visitwexford.ie
The Wild Rooms sleep two adults from €249-€279 per night. Add-ons like breakfast (€8pp), pizza (€12) and wild yoga (€99 for two) are bookable as extras.
Rates at Sea Forest Lodge, which sleeps three people (pictured here), start from €179 per night (the Lodge accepts dogs, but not The Wild Rooms).
Soon, guests will be able to book a package bundling an overnight stay, transfers to Gorey, dinner at Raspberry restaurant and cocktails from €369 for two sharing.
Pól stayed as a guest of Tara Hill Estate. tarahillestate.com