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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.

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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 John Wassell and Geoff Hill, the day to day management of the yard is done 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 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.

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