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Elmley Nature Reserve on Sheppey is one of Kent's best rural hideaways

By Luke May

Glamping huts sitting on Sheppey marshland have been recognised as one of Kent’s best places to stay the night.

Boasting panoramic views, Elmley Nature Reserve’s selection of rural hideaways picked up the Rest Your Head prize at the Go To Places tourism awards.

Starting at £75 per night, there are six cabins including an old railway carriage and converted shepherd’s huts available to rent, as well as a more conventional cottage.

Stephanie Currie from Quality in Tourism, left, presents the award to Georgina and Gareth Fulton of Elmley Nature Reserve

The business was set up in August 2014, and this year saw its highest number of visitors, with nearly 2,500 people staying the night at the reserve, compared to around 900 last year.

Georgina Fulton, who runs the site with her husband Gareth, said: “People are still realising we’re here.

"They’ve been driving over the bridge for 20 years and never known there’s a nature reserve beneath them.

The Little Owl hut at Elmley. Picture: Rob Canis

"We’ve had visitors come from across the UK, but what is great is that around a quarter of bookings are actually from Kent. The landscape is so huge and flat its like a wilderness. The sunrises and sunsets are fantastic, it’s almost like being in Africa sometimes.

“Visitors used to only be able to see the reserve in the daylight, but we thought we should open it so people can enjoy the quiet night with the view of the stars above.”

Visit Kent helped organise this year’s awards, which saw a judging panel shortlist candidates into seven categories, which also included tourism pub of the year and the family friendly business of the year.

Inside the Little Owl Hut at Emley. Picture: Rob Canis

In September, the shortlists were revealed, and the winners were chosen by public vote.

Mrs Fulton, daughter of Philip and Corrine Merricks, who own Kingsland Farm at the heart of the reserve, said: “It’s been lovely getting this support. We get people from the Island telling us it’s like going to a foreign country, except they can almost see their house.”

The couple were presented with their prize at Theatre Royal in Drury Lane, London.

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