Smoke saunas, meat jelly, the sport of wife-carrying and bogshoe hiking: they have all experienced widespread popularity in Estonia. Ood cabins, a brand of slick mirrored hideaways that have popped up at 13 glamping sites across the country’s forests, valleys and Baltic beaches, have also proved a hit. With their reflective exteriors that mirror their settings, smart interiors and one-way glass that make the guest feel as though they’re outdoors while cocooned in comfort within, their appeal is more obvious than tramping through swamps in racket-like footwear.
Now they have arrived in the UK, with seven Ood mirror houses launching on an Oxfordshire polo estate last month. The 650-acre farm that is home to the Kirtlington Park Polo Club and stud lies near the sweet-as-a-sugarlump Kirtlington, a village of thatched cottages with roses climbing the walls and gardens full of acers and fig trees, 12 miles north of Oxford.
The mirror houses are hidden away from the polo in woodland beside a Capability Brown-designed lake, on land that once belonged to Kirtlington Park, a vast estate with a grand stately home. The Budgetts — Charlie, whose great-grandfather Hugh started the polo club in the 1920s, and his wife Lucy, daughter of the Olympic gold medal-winning equestrian Richard Meade — live here with their three young children.
When I arrived on a Sunday afternoon it was Lucy who guided me to the lake, down a long wooden boardwalk linking the cabins. Set among beech and oak, each one has privacy, plus wooden decks, barbecues, log piles and either an outdoor bath, sauna or hot tub. I had just missed the day’s matches and chukkas, which guests are welcome to attend. When play is on you can order drinks at the pop-up Chukka Bar in a trailer. (There are events most days except Monday, see kirtlingtonparkpoloclub.co.uk.)
I’m not a polo person in the slightest — I’m common and allergic to horses — but I enjoyed pausing at each field to watch the ponies.
While other glamping sites might go for shepherd’s huts and rustic bunting-draped bohemia, the Budgetts opted for the high-tech, refined design of the pre-made Oods.
Interiors are both stylish and cosy
“We thought they were different,” Lucy said, “and we’ve added them with minimal impact, building around trees where we can, taking out as little of nature as possible.”
Ood works as a kind of franchise — site owners can buy ready-made cabins, or lease them in a partnership with Ood, an approach that is gaining traction in the glamping market with the designer cabin brands Iglu and Unyoked offering similar set-ups.
And what beauties they are, their mirrored walls reflecting the trees and turning them into works of art.
I was worried about the birds, but some magic mirror tech apparently repels them from smashing into the walls, Lucy said.
Guests can fall asleep with the curtains open in a bed surrounded by trees
The cabins are all doubles, and romantic, with hot water and cold champagne the order of the day, and pairs of seats placed on a little pontoon over the lake. The interiors feel very high-end: a black kitchenette with marble tops, heating and air con, an en suite with marble shower, and a huge marshmallowy bed giving a luxury hotel feel. The one-way glass gives the impression of being out among the trees, so I would be stirring dinner or pulling wine from the fridge and half expecting a squirrel to leap on to my shoulders.
The interiors aren’t entirely off the Ood peg. Lucy added soft touches such as sheepskins and she was advised by the designers of the gorgeous fabrics she selected, Zoe Glencross, Kate Forman and Jules Haines (whose Haines Collection utilises offcuts to reduce textile industry waste). Many useful items are supplied, from phone chargers and mozzie spray (I didn’t need it) to torches and bird books. Birdsong is constant and I saw deer bounding over the boardwalks.
Days ended steaming in the hot tub while spotting bats through a canopy of beech leaves as dusk fell, then watching the cabin turn lilac as it reflected the slow-changing palette of sunset. Then there was the magic of falling asleep with the curtains open in a bed surrounded by trees but with no hint of creepiness or creepy-crawliness.
Next morning, after a breakfast of bacon, eggs, tomatoes and fresh sourdough, I walked round the lake under horse chestnut trees that had scattered pink blossom on the path like confetti, and spied the big old house of Kirtlington Park, now used as a wedding venue.
Oxfordshire Way runs through the estate too, linking Weston-on-the-Green and Kirtlington, which both have good pubs. In the former I visited the Milk Shed, a funky artisan ice-cream parlour and café on a farm, with tables in colourfully painted beach huts (themilkshedstore.co.uk), in the latter a pretty 12th-century church. The Cotswolds are near, and Bicester Village for designer shopping, if you’re so inclined. So there’s plenty to do here even if you don’t like polo, though not, I’m afraid, any bogshoeing.
Gemma Bowes was a guest of Ood at Kirtlington, which has a night’s self-catering for two from £295 (themirrorhouseskirtlington.co.uk; oodhotels.com)
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published 2023-07-16 14:33:33