A luxury Glamping experience at the Badminton Horse Trials in Gloucestershire England

One of the world’s most exciting equestrian competitions, the Badminton Horse Trials is a five-day event, one of only seven annual Concours Complet International (CCI) five-star events as classified by the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI). It’s held each year in the park of Badminton House, the estate of the Duke of Beaufort.

“Do you get nervous before the cross country at Badminton?

Top British eventer Alex Bragg: “Ummm, YES! If I didn’t, I don’t think I’d be human; have you seen the size of the jumps out there!”

“That’s one of the more printable questions our guest speakers got asked this year,” said Emily Lee, who co-founded the Badminton Retreat glamping site with her husband, Barny. “Alex was also asked about lucky underwear. He was such a good sport!”she continued with a chuckle.

“We’re very lucky to have had some great eventing stars join us in the evenings, and Laura Collett came for a second time last year looking super glamorous. She handled Paul Trapner’s heckling with great aplomb; he’s so naughty! It’s so good of them to give their time and the guests really enjoy the talks. They often stay afterward to mingle and chat, perhaps have a vodka and tonic-Laura-or a pint-Alex-it’s a really lovely relaxed atmosphere.”

Launched in 2019 the Badminton Retreat was heralded a resounding success with 100’s
of resident guests and day visitors enjoying the luxury glamping facilities, bar and restaurant situated close to the action directly on the edge of the cross-country course at Huntsman’s Close.

“We start planning for the next year almost immediately after we’d packed and cleared everything off-site for the current one!” says Emily. “We have a debrief with all the team to identify any issues that may have arisen, what worked well, and what could be improved, go through feedback received from guests, and think about what we can add for the next time. There’s a tremendous amount to organize behind the scenes and we are dedicated to making it a really special experience for guests and visitors alike.”

Barny and Emily met while competing for Great Britain at a U-16 3-day event, and Emily continued to turn this into a career competing at the 5-star level, including Badminton. Since the arrival of their sons, Johny and George, Emily has focused on coaching and is a South West of England regional U-18 coach for British Eventing. “Becoming a mother makes you think about the wisdom of hurtling around a cross country course!” she exclaimed. Barny achieved 4-star status in eventing before heading to university to study business and finance. Working through the summer holidays for a marquee company inspired him to start his own marquee company in 2003, and Barny Lee Marquees has gone from strength to strength while remaining very much a family-run business. Their older son Jonny, who is 16 and sitting his exams in 2024, is showing great promise and commitment as an event rider, competing regularly at U-16 and now at U-18…..George prefers art to horses!

Barny heads the team that builds the retreat site which takes around a month of long days and hard work. “It’s pretty full on for about four to five weeks, but we have a great team with us, and the reward is the beaming faces of guests when they arrive. 2023 was a real challenge with the rain in the run up, I think it was the wettest Badminton on record!” he grins, “We now have quite a few returning guests both from the UK, Australia and the USA, who were very quick to book up for this year, so that’s really great!”

We started a pop-up glamping site in 2017 for the Glastonbury music festival, aptly named the Glastonbury Retreat, which proved to be very popular. With our eventing background it seemed an obvious next step to create a similar set up for the Badminton Horse Trials” explains Barny. “We’d already been running the marquee business for nearly 20 years and were looking for a way to branch out that still had some connection to the existing business and complimented it.”

From initial concept in 2017, to fruition in 2019, the Lees have created a hugely popular space with luxury Safari tents furnished with proper beds and heating, a fantastic restaurant with award-winning chefs, and a fully licensed bar with big screens showing the days’ sporting coverage. With their connections and friends in the eventing world, they have attracted some great guest speakers to join guests with Q and A sessions, stories of their eventing journeys, and tips for aspiring riders. In fact, competitors, owners and trainers often relax in the Retreat Bar in the evening with a glass of something refreshing.

If you are looking for luxury glamping accommodation during the Badminton Horse Trials then there really is no better place to be than at The Badminton Retreat.

Equestrian Living’s friends, the Eddy and Fields families visited Badminton and lived in the glamping tents onsite.

Guests have exclusive access to the buggies to transport them to and from the shopping village so there’s no need to worry about carting all those must-have items about. With 24-hour security, hot showers, deluxe WCs, and a well-equipped vanity area, it’s a true home from home that saw many guests returning last year and again this year.

To read more of EQ Living’s travel features click here. To read the entire March/April 2024 issue click here. To learn more about the Badminton Retreat, explore the website. https://badmintonretreat.co.uk/.