Camping and rustic glamping in a working boatyard with an exceptional waterside location on the Dyfi estuary
You’d never know the acoustics in the hull of a boat could be so perfect until you’ve tried it. A piano, tucked beneath the low beams of the main deck, is alive under the fingers of a particularly gifted musician and everyone else, clustered along rug-thrown benches, is belting out the chorus of “What shall we do with the drunken sailor…” Every verse seems to grow louder, at one point the guitar is even picked up for extra gusto, but it all peters out into laughter when the group runs out of lines and fresh ideas have all run dry.
Somewhere between pub, party, village hall and your best mate's living room, this is just another night below deck aboard The Boy John – officially Cool Camping's favourite ship. By the next day the partying pianists have left and a couple have taken a quieter captaincy of the vessel, kipping in the cabin where a double bed offers quirky, semi-glamping-esque accommodation.
Unique as it may be, though, The Boy John is just one feather in this unusual campsite’s cap. Smugglers Cove Boatyard contains as many hidden gems as the name suggests and when you step from the hull of the boat out into the eye-blinkingly bright sunlight there is still a treasure trove to explore. This, after all, is not really a glamping site at all but an eclectic, rustic sustainable camping resource with a little bit of everything on offer.
Smugglers Cove Boatyard started life as an old slate works and quay overlooking the beautiful Dyfi Estuary. For years it continued its existence building boats, offering moorings and acting as a hub for local sailors. But now, while these nautical trades continue, it has also opened its doors to fellow outdoor enthusiasts. Along the coastal footpath, a hundred meters from the boatyard, three individual camping pitches offer the very best spots on the Dyfi’s banks and, tucked beneath the tree line, they provide ultimate waterside privacy in a positively dreamy location.
Camping here is a truly unique experience. Beyond your tent flaps is a scene that changes as much within the hour as most sites do across the season. Cobble a morning brew together over the campfire and munch on blackberries as high tide laps beyond your toes and wooden sailing boats to and fro across the estuary. Come lunchtime it’s become a private beach, the water withdrawing to a narrow channel slithering through the sands while long-legged birds wade along its edges. In fact, there’s actually a nature reserve that campers look across to, RSPB Ynys-hir on the opposite shore, so it’s no wonder the birdlife is so abundant – sail across at high tide for a closer look.
Landlubbers are just as welcome as those arriving with boat in tow. Head back along the coastal path to where cars are parked and explore the local fishing villages or, better still, keep two feet firmly on the ground by venturing into the peaks of Snowdonia National Park and walking the ridges that crinkle towards the north east. The views reveal a vast vista of the estuary below, though don’t expect to see the campsite. Tucked in their perfectly secluded location, your tents really are a camping cubbyhole in the wilds, worth every second of the 100m walk to get to.
The Owner Says
Camping and glamping in a working boatyard with an exceptional location on the Dyfi estuary.
This small, friendly boatyard on the Dyfi estuary, is located at an old slate works and quay in the Snowdonia National Park.
The boatyard is run by Geoff, Ben, John & Liz with the boats moved and launched by boat builder Giles Thaxton.
We have established a small, slightly eccentric, sustainable resource to be used by those interested in the outdoors.
We have a slipway and boat hoist, moorings & hard standing for smaller boats, toilets, showers, camping, glamping boat and holiday cottages.
Located 3 miles upriver from Aberdyfi bar and on the A493
The Boy John - a boat on the land.
A love nest for two or tiny venue for camping groups: a former Scottish fishing boat pulled up onto the shore and converted into a quirky space.
If you are looking for a romantic weekend away with a difference, the Boy John experience will be memorable!
The Boy John is 40’ long and 13’ wide, with good standing headroom. The main space has a kitchen/bar area with 2 ring gas hob; a piano and a wood burning stove, with seating along the sides for 12 people. The space is lit with fairy lights and spot lights, using solar generated electricity. Beyond, the stern cabin has a double bed, and is lined with boards that follow the lines of the hull, which gives it a real nautical feel. Upstairs the wheelhouse is glazed and you can sit outside on deck enjoying amazing views of the estuary.
If you have booked our cottages or camping pitches, the Boy John can provide a warm dry space for your group on the foreshore. She has been used for music gigs, films, storytelling and party space.
Add Your Review
Rated ★★★★★ over 27 reviews
Stunning location, amazing memories
Stayed in july and loved staying in the Hannah with my 3 kid's aged 9, 14 and 16. Especially liked the quirky ness of the hannah including a record player and bedroom ceiling hatch. The views and serenity of the cove is incredible. The facilities were excellent and having a fire pit and barbecue area gave an even greater sense of space. Exploring the estruary daily at various times topped off an amazing holiday. Smugglers cove is also located just 3miles driving(padel boarding!)from the Aberdyfi beach and village. Aberdyfi has excellent parking, food and beaches (incl dog friendly). The beaches were clean and good to swim. Further variety of shops, beaches and a large co-op can also be found at Towyn which is around 6 miles from smugglers cove. It was my first time exploring this area but will not be my last as I am already looking at future dates of returning to smugglers cove either with the kids or friends as we are already missing the boat and breathtaking views of this unique paradise.
Perfect stay, no matter the weather
Stayed on The Boy John and it was lovely - lots of character and charm, incredible views of the estuary and ideal if you get a chance to sit out on the deck. Even with the rolling fog obscuring the hilltops, it's a stunning spot to relax after a long day of hiking and watch the tide roll in. Definitely recommended and would happily visit again.
Possibly the best camping experience ever!
It helped that the sun mostly shine, bit absolutely perfect quiet secluded spot. We loved sitting out in the evenings watching the geese, herons, egrets, oyster cathers and even an osprey with a fish in its talons. The kids loved swimming when the tide was slack, the perfect antidote to the last crazy year.
Perfect quirky stay
Me and my Partner have just returned from The Boy John and will definitely be returning! The location allowed for relatively easy travel to all activities we wanted to do whilst there. Facilities were spot on, with a separate shower room specifically for the boat. The log burner was perfect for evenings and when combined with a few glasses of red made for the perfect end to the day after climbing Snowdon. The only complaint would have been no wine glasses, but we bought some and left them behind for future visitors, so that won’t be an issue! Absolutely perfect place- can’t recommend it enough! We will be back (can’t come soon enough)
What a magical and wild site. We went with two families and five children between 8 and 15 and we all had a wonderful time. The kids were constantly entertained by the beach; high tide and low tide were equally fun and there were so many crabs to catch! The location feels really wild although the road is close it doesn’t disturb you. The boatyard is really fun to look at. We saw fish jumping and birds of prey overhead. Aberdovey is just down the road and great for ice cream and jetty jumping. The facilities are very basic but I would not agree with the reviews that say the loo is grotty, it was always clean. One word of warning; the tides are strong so might not be ideal for little kids as they would need very close supervision.
A magical location and a really wild experience
We loved watching the tides turn, swimming at high tide and playing in the sand at low tide. The kids spent hours hunting crabs, we spotted birds of prey and ate blackberries from the hedges. It is a wild and magical site. Perhaps not good for little kids as the tides are strong and you would have to keep a very watchful eye. Facilities are clean but basic.
Incredible escape from the world in stunningly peaceful and beautiful Welsh landscapes.
The boat is simplistic but lovely, rustic and homely with just the right amount of equipment to make you feel comfortable. There are lights, cosy blankets, so many options for places to make into a bed and a log-burning stove to keep you warm through the cold nights. The views of the Dyfi Estuary are unparalleled in their beauty and no matter how cold your hands and feet are when you wake up, those views are enough to warm you right through. The boatyard itself is clean, tidy and organised and all facilities are modest but functional, exactly as you'd expect for somewhere so remote and natural. There are natural wooden chairs and a fire pit so you can sit on the estuary and watch the sun go down, as well as a comfortable wicker sofa in front of the fire to enjoy a glass of whisky by as the night draws in. The site is well signposted, the team are always on hand and happy to help with anything, as well as being friendly and very knowledgeable. I couldn't recommend this place more as even though my partner and I stayed on perhaps the coldest night of the year, we had a fantastic and memorable visit and wouldn't hesitate to come again.
The boat was stunning so cosy and cute, very cold in December but my boyfriend loved this as his birthday gift and our little get away really recommend!
A piece of heaven
Whata fabulous location, great site with a clean beach. We all loved it and the sunsets were amazing! It was so relaxing - it was heaven!
It is such a fabulous place, I felt like I was cut off from the world (in a good way). The views, peace and quiet, the river, the hills - everything is so beautiful. I would love to go back.
Such a beautiful place. We were lucky to have sunshine for three days, but with extra room on the Boy John, we could've happily spent a day inside too. Only word of warning - if you cook on the boat, watch out for flies. We were inundated and had to batten down the hatches!
What a stunning location
The short juggling trick of getting your gear to camp is well worth the struggle once you reach your pitch as the views are to die for. The estuary is home to so many birds and waders, and watching the tide come and go is mesmerising. With hills and the sea as a back drop what else is there to ask for. This is not the type of site for luxury camping, the facilities are basic and tired but serve their purpose. This is the site for those that appreciate nature and the outdoors and want to camp in one of the most stunning locations there is.
We stayed in the Boy John, and despite being -3 outside, was cosy and hidden away inside. Unique and special it’s the perfect place to get away from the world with a good speaker system and log burning stove!
We had a wonderful stay on the Boy John!! It was ideal with beautiful views and all the nacesities! Made for a great evening with a bonfire dinner.
Idyllic and beautiful spot in a fantastic boat!
We've just returned from our trip to Smugglers Cove and couldn't have asked for a better holiday. Perfect, peaceful spot with plenty of wildlife, walks and scenery. But best of all, the Boy John was idyllic. Ideal for relaxing in and watching the world outside our window. Lots of lovely evenings spent watching nature's TV with the burning fire and great piano too! We'll be back!
extactly what we wanted
we had a brilliant two night stay, we were the only campers and we barely saw anyone else. it was quite and felt a lot closer to wild camping than a campsite which is what we were after. the boatyard is really interesting to walk through and the views are amazing, with a handy fire pit to dry out next to.
Amazing pitch, beautiful views
This is our second year and despite the tricky car unloading and nightmare slate ground we will be back again. Bring good quality pegs.
Escape from the hustle
3rd year in a row and this place still amazes us. I travel with my sister and our kids (now both 8) and 2 furry babies... this is the one place the kids go on and on about returning to.. where to start... the views are breathtaking... always changing from hour to hour. The kids actually play using imagination and not technology... we explore, read books by a camp fire, scavenge for wood, float down the estuary... perfect for family time away from all distractions... there are no frills, no luxury, no heated swimming pools, no arcades, no added costly extras... you rock up, load your stuff in wheel barrows, grab your pitch and enjoy. You are not disturbed. There are only 3 pitches so you are not crammed. 2 loos and a warm shower are more than enough.. if you want the fluffy towels, the hustle, beeping arcades, club houses and theme parks then this is not for you... however if you want to take a step back, return to basics, appreciate time with your friends/ family, make memories then take a chance and visit. The only complaint is next year can't come fast enough... 😊😊😊
Loving the wilderness
This was the 3rd year running and we love this place. We travel with 2 dogs and 2 kids (both 8) and this is the only place they keep going on about to come back... where to start...the views take your breath away, it's away from everyone and everything ... kids play using imagination and not technology. They scavenge for wood to build fires.. use the current as a lazy river. Read stories by the fire taking in the beauty. This place is exactly what it says.. no frills just a perfect family get away escaping from the rush of life... only compliant next year can't come fast enough... 😁😁😁😁
A cosy pitch with a fire pit for a small to medium tent just above the high water mark. Adequate, but grotty toilet and shower facilities. A dishwashing area lost under the overgrowth and a long walk to the pitch - all worth it for that view. Great if you have a canoe as well. Paddle with the tide as it's a very strong current.
World class view, wonderfully idiosyncratic experience
It is what it is – a small working boatyard that has a three camp sites and camping boat - the Boy John. The facilities are pretty basic but completely adequate. The views of the Dyfi estuary are spectacular. Every hour or so the small coastal train trundles by. Within 30 minutes of arriving we spotted an Osprey. At some point a slow worm turned up. We swam, drank whiskey, lit a roaring fire and laughed for hours. The place is not going to suit everyone. It’s not a quite rural retreat, we woke up one morning to find a yacht had been pulled up next to us. And doesn’t have the lavishness of glamping campsites – there are no fluffy towels in the shower. Anyone looking for an electronic hook-up, slot machines or heated swimming pool should go elsewhere. But it is a brilliant place with real character. Wales needs more of these places. They should be cherished.
Stunning & unspoilt
Loved the location of the pitches and the scenery. Shower was fine, easy to refill drinking water from water points and handy folder of printed local walks. The boatyard itself is really interesting and Aberdyfi just down the road is lovely. Would like to have had more time to explore more so will hopefully return in the future. I personally prefered the no-frills style of the site and it had everything we needed for our stay. The perfect antidote to overcrowded, noisy campsites and the views are amazing.
Dangerous and dirty
This place is awful! We were meant to stay 3 nights and left very early on the first morning after having had no sleep for the sound of the fast winding road right above us. From start to finish this place was dreadful, the fella on the phone when I called to ask a question was rude (that was a sign!), the pitches are close to each other and you need to be kamikaze to risk it (which we weren't willing to for more than one night), and the toilets (I'm being polite calling it that but there's a far more apt word!) We're filthy dirty, freezing and I wouldn't allow my dog to use them let alone use them myself. The views and scenery were stunning! Nothing's worth that death trap though.
best weekend ever
we booked a campsite and the amazing BoyJohn for a family and friends get together last month September 2016. What could I say? the location is amazing the facilities are basic but more than adequate, we went swimming in and sailing on the estuary, grilled fresh caught fish on the beach and had a massive driftwood fire in the evening, other glampers joined us making one big happy party. I think what makes this place so cool is the magic energy that is all around it. We have already booked our next visit for round 2!
Camping/The boy John
We stayed one night camping on the estuary with amazing views and friendly and welcoming staff however the 60 mph winding road which passed above the tent pitches were slightly unnerving. it is of course protected by a once/twice hit patched up wall. You will be fine :) I'm 100% sure that nobody has been squashed "yet". It all adds to the adventure and it is a small price to pay considering the views and lovely location for walks etc. The owner charged us £10 for a standard bag of logs that were too wet to burn yet later in the evening we found wheel barrows full for £10 a barrow with a honesty box which we thought was a bit cheeky of the owner. We are not to bothered about facilities as we often wild camp but if you are then expect cold showers in a working boat yard (think you can get the picture) We are quite campers who come to walk and enjoy the peace and quite and the lovely views. This was a little to noisy for us with very loud music coming from the hill sides which ecos through the estuary till 3am. (We only stayed one night...unlucky maybe) Overall I would give the camping 5 out of 10 bases on location and views. We also stayed for one night in the boy John at £100 a night. This was supposed to be a treat for us half way through our road trip so that we could get dry and walm before heading to the Pembrokeshire coast. Sadly the boy John was very disappointing, unique and unusual but far from being worth £100 a night. We were told that the boy John was not a sparkling boat but I wasn't quite prepared for the missing Windows rotting wood and large rat holes. I think the smugglers cove may need to recruit a new cleaner. The boat had a very damp smell from the rotting wood and was in need of some very much deserved TLC. It was very sad to see this lovely boat going to wreck and ruin. This is no cozy love shack/romantic getaway. It was however an experience and if we had paid £25 a night to stay here I would not have any complaints but for £100 a night it gives a lot to complain about. Overall the boy John gets a 2.5 out of 10 from us. Just because under all that grime it's a very lovely boat just needing a bit of love and care. If you love boats then please don't let us put you off. As seen in previous reviews of the boy John one persons opinion and experience may differ very much from another and it can be very much down to personal preference. I write this review simply because people work hard for their holidays and therefore I wouldn't want you to waste your well earned cash if this is not for you.
Our stay on Boy John
Honestly the best surprise getaway I've ever experienced. The landscape is both tranquil and breathtaking. It is a very relaxing location with so much to do in the surrounding area. Me and my partner enjoyed it so much we are already organising our next trip (for longer next time) . Hopefully next time we are also going to bring all our family with us! The owners were so friendly and made us feel right at home. The Boy John is so special, we will always treasure our stay. See you soon Smugglers cove. Thank you so much for proving unforgettable memories.
Smugglers Cove Camp Site
Beautifully secluded tiny corner of the Dyfi Estuary, a pick of three pitches all with stunning views to take your breath away. The perfect spot to watch the sun go down, a fire sky of electric pink amazingness. Arriving to meet the lovely owners of this campsite they were very welcoming, laid back but very accommodating to our every need, not that we were in need of much, the scenery and instant warming feeling of this tranquil environment captured us into an amazing little bubble. Needless to say to make the experience ever-more magical we needed a campfire and Giles was on hand to provide us with an abundance of firewood and interesting shaped offcuts from the boat yard we were rather reluctant to burn. Waking up to the incoming tide and bird song, you cant ask for much more. This campsite is un-spoilt perfection and we hope it never grows or goes :)