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Enjoy the simple life and cosy nights by the fire like your ancestors

Huddled around a life-preserving fire that illuminated the gloom of their Iron-Age roundhouse, our ancestors eked out a living in places like Mabie Forest. Today you can follow in their footsteps in what has to be one of Europe’s first reconstructed Iron-Age roundhouses that you can actually stay the night in. Get down and dirty and all elemental hunter-gatherer while cooking your own food over the fire, enjoying the pleasures of an al-fresco toilet and a dense and moody forest where little has changed over the last few millennia.

Marthrown is a special place in so many ways. The forest itself is awash with native Caledonian trees, with characterful old Scots pines each managing the wilful Scottish trick of being a different shape to the rest of their brood, as well as birch, rowan and juniper. Edging over the grassy mound that separates the heart of the ‘multi-activity centre’ from the roundhouse, you half expect to find a gaggle of Iron-Age hunters crowded around a clearing where Celtic songs and stories were once celebrated in wild ceilidhs.

Today, the roundhouse – an impressive construction that manages to stand up to the full might of the Atlantic weather systems sweeping in off the coast – is similarly full of life. Perfect for groups as it sleeps up to 16, it inevitably plays host to the occasional stag and hen party, and is also popular with groups of friends looking for something a bit different.And different it is: you camp around the central woodburner (in place of the old open fire), perfect for cooking up something tasty and keeping the place cosy. Just nearby is a canvas tipi that sleeps an additional four people and a Mongolian yurt with room for four, but the roundhouse is the real star.Tents are also welcome and it is possible to hire the whole site for exclusive use.

Rather than just sticking up the roundhouse and leaving it at that, the family team behind Marthrown has made an effort to recreate other earthy features, which fit neatly into today’s vogue for all things clean and green. Rather than clog the local sewage system there is a simple, highly effective odour-free straw urinal as well as a compost toilet and an ‘outdoor’ shower. Luxurious extras include a sauna and hot pool that are free of charge for guests.

The surrounding forest, which is alive with red squirrels and woodpeckers, is one of the best locations in Scotland for mountain biking.All skill levels are catered for, with everything from easy and gently undulating forest trails that are perfect for beginners to some seriously testing ‘black runs’ that fling you and your wheels at high speed through tough terrain.

Back at camp, the atmosphere is one of relaxation and all-round bonhomie. However you spend your day at Marthrown, the highlight is getting back around the stove, whether you are in one big group or sharing space with complete strangers.Taking a star-lit stroll and then walking back to the welcoming and gently smoking arms of the simple dwelling is a strangely comforting experience that people have been enjoying for thousands of years.

Reviews

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★★★★★

Great July Visit

Visited early July. It was mid-week so the sight was very quiet but really incredible spot, properly hidden in the woods. Took a while to find as you have to ignore signs saying "no entry unless authorized" but once you drive the long forestry roads you find it. Camping right in amongst the ferns. Shame I didn't have a mountian bike as the best route runs directly past the campsite but went for a run instead which was just as good. Evening beer and book in the wood-fired hot tub too! Just what the doctor ordered.
Aug 2, 2016 by James Smith
★★★★☆

Great camping

Pros: Remote, secluded location (if you like that) Beautiful surroundings with lush greenness everywhere! Great hot showers and the compost toilets do the job. Fantastic biking in the Mabie forest and surrounding area Dumfries only 4 miles away Cons: MIDGEES!!! They are everywhere! We got eaten alive Nothing else Would visit again.
Jul 1, 2012 by willm
★★★★★

Marthrown of Mabie

Get your friends and family together like I did and book the roundhouse for a camping trip with a difference. 12 of us (girly night for 18th birthday party - granny came too!) had the best night ever. It is very basic with a dirt floor and wooden futon beds and mats. Very good replica of an Iron Aged Roundhouse. The large wood burner/cooker stove is amazing and the outside area with place for camp fire and sitting on the logs kept us very happy (and a wee bit of music on the i pod too) These city girls also managed to survive the eco loo and shower! The hot tub and sauna on a lovely Scottish (dry) summer’s night was so good. Sorry to the wee couple who were trying to have a quiet time together. The staff were so helpful and attentive. You could not get a better breakfast than the one we had down at the bunkhouse. Great value - only £4 per head and I really enjoyed my fry up! Would I go back? Oh Yes! Cocktails, laughter and stars...best night ever!

Jul 28, 2010 by Paula Hegarty

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