Skoolie Stays Sustainable glamping

Digital Detox Breaks

Digital Detox Breaks in Sussex

“My brain has too many tabs open!”

Let our digital detox breaks help you take a nourishing short break from screens, apps and gadgets. Reconnect with nature, slower living, the people you love and yourself.

get off-grid with us

Swap absent-minded scrolling, online shopping and chores for a good book, a cosy spot in front of the fire, lie-ins and coffee in a comfy bed, stomps in the countryside and, most importantly, quality time talking and laughing with the person or people you care about.


Sound good? Then get yourself booked in to Skoolie Stays – the ultimate in luxurious, off-grid breaks. 


Here’s how we can help you unwind, and we make it extra easy with a great offer for working weekday breaks too:

3-day digital mindfulness breaks

Whether you choose to full-on detox and lock your phone up, or to simply practice using your devices more purposefully, this is your opportunity to spend three nights living in an off-grid cabin with a difference.


Everything is provided for you – linen, towels, a full kitchen, hot shower and a compost loo. There is wood for the log burner, a firepit outside should weather allow, a manual full of local hikes and some classic board games to wile away the hours. 


Reconnect with yourself, your interests, your family and friends and the natural world that surrounds you.

how to break away from your phone habits

the detox treats that await you -

picture window bed cabin glamping

The go-slow

Whilst it may take us a while to slow down, when we do we can appreciate how much we needed it. This is your chance to step away from your screen and put things back into perspective.

So, go slow.

Enjoy lying in bed listening to the birds; watch the sun go down or even come up out on the sun deck (if you can bear to drag yourself from your cosy sleep!); swing in the hammock and stare up at the trees or simply curl up on the sofa and read a book.

how to break away from your phone habits

get back to nature

Research shows that people who are more connected with nature are usually happier in life. Their mental health improves, they have improved concentration and sleep better.

So what better way to embrace nature than going off-grid for a three-night break?

One thing nature-lovers must fit in is a good old stomp through the countryside. We’ll leave you lots of details of hikes you can take so that all you need to do is breathe in deep and fill your lungs, enjoy the details of the trees, the leaves, the smells and the sounds.

shop local when on holiday

a hamper full of delicious local produce

We work with the Village Larder to provide delicious hampers for our guests. You can choose a breakfast hamper full of everything you need to create the perfect fry-up, or a welcome cheese and nibbles hamper that is full of local loveliness. 


Hampers are delivered to the bus before you get there and are even put in the fridge for you. The tough part is deciding which hamper you like the sound of best. Still not sure? You could always order both!


Order as an extra at when you choose your dates and checkout.

White Lion pub thakeham rooms

the very best local pub

We have a wonderful local – The White Lion Inn in Thakeham. You can even walk there through Little Thakeham Farm – a sometimes muddy stomp down the Old Drove Road. But hey – that’s what being in the countryside is all about! 


The pub itself is an original 16th Century coaching inn, so it ticks all the boxes of a quintessential English pub: fires, beams and merry folk at the bar. The owners are lovely and they have produced a great modern menu. Enjoy!

Wine tasting West Sussex

fine wine, fine food, fine company

Keen for a longer walk with a half-way break? Within walking distance of the Skoolie (we will leave you a map), or just a short drive in the car, Kinsbrook Vineyard offers 90 minute public tours and tastings every Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 11am from May to October.


They include a tasting of three wines and you get a guaranteed table at the end if you fancy staying for food. Or you could just lunch and a quick look around the farm shop – it’s all jolly lovely!

vineyards with rooms sussex

wine tasting breaks

If you tried Kinsbrook and rather liked the idea of turning your stay into a wine-tasting break, why stop there? We are lucky enough to have numerous award-winning vineyards on our doorstep. Many of them offer tours and tastings year-round and have restaurants with beautiful views of the vines. Perhaps start with Nutbourne Vineyard and Nyetimber – less than a mile apart.


Or you could read our blog on vineyards and fine-tune your wine-tasting experience – we have multiple vinyeards within 10 miles of the bus.

cooking over the fire

Relaxing in front of a crackling fire is one of the most enjoyable ways to spend a cold winter evening. According to researchers, it’s actually good for us too – the multisensory experience of flickering flames, heat and taste of the food absorbs our attention and slows us down, reducing blood pressure and making us calm.


Our ancestors must have known a thing or two – after all, we’ve been sitting around fires gazing, chatting and eating since prehistoric times.


We are lucky to have a whole field at our disposal, complete with a big firepit and a kindling splitter. We can help you with menu cards and cooking pots so that you can create your own meal over the flames. There is simply nothing like eating outdoors – it tastes so much better!

face the music and dance

Research has shown that listening to music can reduce anxiety, blood pressure, and pain as well as improve sleep quality, mood, mental alertness, and memory.


You don’t have to lock up your phone completely – just practice some digital mindfulness. Download some playlists before you go and take the time to listen to complete albums. Play your favourite tunes from the decades and dance  like nobody is watching – they aren’t, you are in a field on your own!

digital detox book
An eye-opening book. Find it on our shelf during your Skoolie Stays digital detox stay!
Skoolie Stays

Wine Tasting Breaks in West Sussex

Wine tasting breaks in West Sussex

Tours and tastings at internationally acclaimed vineyards close to the Skoolie

Tours and tastings at internationally acclaimed vineyards​

Wine tasting and tour Sussex

Exploring the Sussex Wine Region

You may well have heard of Nyetimber and Bolney Wine, after all, they have put Sussex on the international wine map, but there are also several other vineyards in the area worth talking about. 



Skoolie Stays has several incredible vineyards within 5-10 miles of the site at Little Thakeham Farm. The majority are open year-round for visitors interested in tours and tastings, and there are often dining experiences too. 


Fine wine, fine food and fine company sounds like the perfect way to spend a day, so why not make your Skoolie Stay a full on Wine Tasting Break!

The secret to Sussex’s success

The secret behind their success of Sussex’s wine is the terroir and climate. it is incredibly similar to the Champagne region and the vines thrive on the diverse mix of clay, sand and limestone. They also benefit from the relatively mild weather and low rainfall – the proximity to the sea means temperatures are kept even. No extremes. Grapes ripen slowly and absorb all those minerals to develop the most exceptional flavours.


Just as in Champagne, many vintners opt to produce grape varieties like Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier as these make for fabulous sparkling wine. Some also create their own stills too and it’s been such a successful story that Sussex now has several vineyards of international acclaim with wine that rivals that of the French.


Sussex Modern writes in more detail about each vineyard and even lets you know who needs help with the picking, but if it’s just the sampling you are after, take a look at our list of favourite vineyards. Each one offers the opportunity to learn how the wine is created and aged, how to pair wines,  how to grow vines  – they offer a fascinating, informative (and delicious!) day out. 

Wine Tasting Map West Sussex - courtesy of Wine Cellar Door
Wine Tasting Map West Sussex - courtesy of Wine Cellar Door

Our favourite local vineyards​

stay near kinsbrook vineyard west sussex

Kinsbrook Vineyard - 2.5 miles

Within walking distance of the Skoolie, or just a short drive, Kinsbrook offers 90 minute public tours and tastings every Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 11am from May to October They include a tasting of three wines and you get a guaranteed table at the end if you fancy staying for food. They can also arrange private tours and tastings outside of those times - just get in touch

Nutbourne Vinyard

Nutbourne Vineyards - 3.5 miles

Nutbourne welcomes visitors to the vineyard and cellar door all year round. In Winter you can wander through the vines along the vineyard trail, take in the views from the windmill balcony, enjoy a selection of their wines with a cheese platter and pick up a bottle or two to take away. From Easter to Harvest in September, they offer wine by the glass, picnics, guided tours and events.

Nyetimber Vinyard

Nyetimber Vineyards - 3.5 miles

Nyetimber is is regarded as England's finest sparkling wine. It's less than a mile from Nutbourne - proof of some good soil! You can sign up to an open day to sample the famed Nyetimber wines, or even enjoy one of their dining experiences.

Ambriel wines

Ambriel Vineyard - 4.5 miles

Ambriel is a family-run boutique vineyard that sits on sunny south-facing slopes overlooking the South Downs National Park. They can arrange a bespoke private tour for you, which includes a wine tasting They even focus on areas that you are particularly interested in - just let them know. Alternatively you can sign up to their open days and join a larger group.

Wiston Estate

Wiston Wine Estate - 5 miles

Wiston Estate is a family-owned estate that produces exceptional sparkling wines - for which they have received critical acclaim and several awards. They offer a range of tours and tastings, as well as special events. They also have Chalk restaurant, which is an experience in itself.

Stopham Vineyard

Stopham Vineyards - 6 miles

Stopham vineyard is based in an spot of outstanding natural beauty in West Sussex and forms part of the South Downs National Park. They offer wine tasting tours with the winemaker on the majority of Saturdays at 11am or 2pm between April and September. You can also choose to add lunch by the river. They are closed on Sundays and bank holidays.

Upperton Vineyard

Upperton Vineyards - 11 miles

Upperton is a family-run vineyard set in the heart of the South Downs, with spectacular views. They offer private tours around the vineyard tour with the owner, which include a wine tasting. They also have a terrace bar, open from April until the end of the season.

Bolney Wine Estate

Bolney Wine Estate - 15 miles

We had to include Bolney's award-winning wines! The Vineyard Shop is open daily from 9am to 5pm and they offer a variety of tours and tasting experiences where you can learn about the methodology as well as how to pair wine with cheese etc. They also have a restaurant and cafe onsite, so there is plenty to keep you busy!

News Skoolie Stays Sustainable glamping Uncategorized

Press reviews

Skoolie Stays in the Press

From the UK to the USA – what the papers have to say

Typing in a skoolie

By Ruth

Skoolie Stays has featured in local and national press, she’s appeared on television and in a book…  So what do the media make of Skoolie Stays? 

Quirky Weddings Magazine: What's love without a little rebellion?

Quirky Weddings Magazine featured us on a 4-page spread in their magazine and online . It was part of a collaboration with Eastbourne based photographer @thornandfound and make up artist / concept planner @makeupbychelsey_. We had SO MUCH fun staging the rock ‘n’ roll photo shoot on the bus. It was the perfect setting and the team were fantastic. 

Wild Escapes: Incredible Places to Unwind and Explore (National Trust)

Wild Escapes

The National Trust contacted us a year about a possible stay for their author Sian Anna Lewis, who was documenting Wild Escapes in the UK. We were thrilled to be considered and hosted her in early 2022 at our site in Beachy Head.


Of course the eagle-eyed will spot that it talks about our site at Beachy Head. Sian’s Wild Escape took place before we had the news that Black Robin Farm, our site, was to undergo works as part of the Council’s Level Up Funding project. The South Downs National Park could no longer let us stay at our spot and so we moved to Little Thakeham Farm.


But although some of the suggestions about pubs and hikes may not be relevant, the bus is after all a bus – it has many stops. Little Thakeham is just as wild a destination (and it’s a lot less windy!) so we think our guests will find it just the place to unwind and explore. 


Order your copy here!

Call of the Wild: Guardian / Observer

Guardian observer article Skoolie Stays
"Surprisingly chic and spacious"

Sian Anne Lewis, an award-winning travel-writer and blogger visited the Skoolie Stays bus at our site in Beachy Head so that she could write about the best UK wild escapes for a National Trust book. 


In preparation for the book launch, 10 of the best of the 40 escapes mentioned in the book, appeared in the Guardian and Observer on 7th May 2023. There was the Skoolie, in at number 2. 


She declared the Skoolie as a “big yellow home-from-home” whilst the photographer, the fantastic Annapurna Mellor, told us privately that they had both “loved (their stay) and it’s a really unique addition to the book.


Across the Pond: Florida Patch, Manatee School District and ABC Action News

We got in touch with the school district that had originally been home for the Skoolie Stays bus. They were so excited to hear from us. 


We worked with Melissa, the Communications Specialist at Manatee District Schools, to provide our side of the Skoolie story and then her team created an incredible film showcasing the reactions to the story of bus #25’s English retirement.  It was shown at their School District meeting, which went out to six thousand of their employees. You can read more about that on our blog


The story also led to coverage in The Patch, which goes out across Florida, and the ABC Action News.


10 Wild New Stays in Britain: Telegraph

Times article - meet the owners
"Original stays with the wow factor"​

We were interviewed by Laura Fowler for the Telegraph Travel Section. She wanted to talk to ‘glamping entrepreneurs who gave up their day jobs to create original stays with the wow factor. 


Laura was really interested in our idea of sharing the off-grid lifestyle that we had enjoyed in America through Skoolie Stays. 

Fire pits and frosty walks’: readers’ top UK winter cabin and glamping stays: Guardian

The Guardian article Skoolie Stays
"A tiny quirky home"​

This was a reader’s tip that made it into the Guardian top tip pages!

Tiana Wilson's Converted School Bus Tiny House Tour (Off Grid)

Teen you-tube star Tiana Wilson decided to book a weekend in the bus to create some content for her numerous channels. She created a couple of different videos for her 5.29m subscribers – a “haunted bus” series and also a tour of the bus.  We had no idea Tiana was staying, so had quite the surprise when the bus popped up as her film set!

itravel: Autumn Glamping Adventures

The itravel article Skoolie Stays
"All American quirky comfort in an altogether more English setting"​

We didn’t even realise we had featured in this until a family friend sent us the itravel article!  Here we are though, second in the list of places to hunker down for a cosy UK break. 

The Argus: Couple's Skoolie Stays Glamping Business Comes to Eastbourne

Argus online
Everywhere you turn there is something creative and interesting "​

The Argus interviewed us to find out more about our trip and how it inspired us to ship over the Skoolie Stays bus. 

Eastbourne Herald: A Look Inside the American School Bus

Easbourne Herald
"This eco-friendly self-catering accommodation boasts solar panels and renewable energy "​

The Eastbourne Herald ran a series of features on us when we moved to Beachy Head. A yellow American school bus was not a common sight and locals were evidently curious as to exactly what was inside that bus!

News Skoolie Stays

When Skoolie Stays was a school bus

Back to school

Everything repurposed has a past life and our Skoolie is no exception

Typing in a skoolie

By Ruth

We began our Skoolie Stays journey at the start of 2021, but that wasn’t the beginning for our big yellow American school bus. As the layers of paint were scrubbed off the exterior, we discovered the key to her past. 


Little did we know that the reveal of three words – Manatee District Schools – would go on to unlock such a delightful story. 

The school bus that became Skoolie Stays

Unlocking the secrets of Skoolie Stays past

We knew the Skoolie Stays bus had come from somewhere in Florida but it wasn’t until we started converting her that we found out the clues that led us to her past: a ticket stub behind the panelling, a number 25 hidden on the roof and the word “Manatee” hidden under a black splodge of paint.


I tweeted Manatee District Schools to share my discovery. I didn’t know what to expect by way of reply. They have hundreds of buses, so would they really care about a former member of their fleet?


Yes they would! This wasn’t just any bus – it was bus #25! They were absolutely blown away by my story and straight away they wanted to do something fun to reveal the transformation to the transportation department who had worked on and in her for so many years. 


We worked with Melissa, the Communications Specialist, to provide our side of the story and then her team created an incredible film showcasing the reactions to the story of bus #25’s English retirement.  


Celebrating a "lovely retirement"

Connecting with a team who loved her as much as we do

Melissa, our contact at Manatee District Schools, confirmed that our bus went to auction in 2020, having driven children from Orange Ridge-Bullock Elementary School to their home and vice versa.  It used to travel along the roadways of U.S. 301 and 41 in Bradenton as part of the Manatee County School Bus fleet. 

Melissa’s team revealed the interior transformation of the bus to her transportation department, without telling them the story.  Perhaps they might like to take a holiday there? “Yes“, they all said. “It’s beautiful”, “It’s amazing“, “Is it a cabin?”.


“No. It’s bus no#25”.

The shock was clear on their faces. 

Linda Agresta, Transportation Liason, finds out the beautiful cabin she is looking at is actually one of her old fleet

Two of Manatee County’s longtime bus drivers who have driven buses there for more than 50 years combined,  are pictured above in the schools district garage, where bus #25 was serviced for maintenance.  They remember driving the bus, “I never thought that all of this could fit into a school bus…. How did they have more room than the children?!”



Mike Vickers, a mechanic for Manatee Schools, could clearly remember working on the bus. “I have worked on this bus, been in it…. oh my gosh, that is beautiful!”.  He was so impressed he’s even thinking of converting one for himself so he can travel with his wife!


Good news moment

Melissa shared the story at the Manatee Schools Board Meeting as a “Good News” feature. The meeting went out on live stream to 6000+ employees and it was amazing to watch it from our home alongside them all. They have also shared the story and video on their site.  

Skoolie Stays

Discover West Sussex

Discover West Sussex

Find out more about the fun activities and day trips close to Skoolie Stays at Little Thakeham Farm

Typing in a skoolie

By Ruth

There is a wealth of things to discover in West Sussex. Think fairy tale castles, glorious stately homes, wineries and vineyards and then, of course, the rolling downs. 


Nestled into a private meadow right in the heart of rural West Sussex, Skoolie Stays is perfectly placed for you to explore the best the county has to offer, all within 30 minutes of our site.

Discover : castles and stately homes

Arundel Castle
Image courtesy of Arundel Castle

Arundel Castle & Cathedral - 30 minutes

Just a 30-minutes from the Skoolie Stays site and you are in picturesque Arundel. It’s lovely to wander in its own right, but as we are in a section dedicated to heritage, let’s focus on the two major draws: the Castle and the Cathedral, both of which dominate the Arundel skyline.

Home of the Dukes of Norfolk and their ancestors, the Castle has been in occupation since 1067. It has stunning furniture, paintings, armour, tapestries and everything else you’d expect from a castle, as well as incredible views from the Keep. We love the gardens – they run regular re-enactments, which are always fun to watch, but  in April they are also full of glorious tulips. You can check their events page to see what they have going on. 

It is also worth visiting the gothic Cathedral. It is beautiful on the inside and out, but for a real wow factor it is worth coinciding your visit with their world famous Carpet of Flowers exhibition, which comes out just after Easter. Beautiful!


Both the Castle and the Cathedral are involved in Augusts’ Festival of the Arts. 

Parham House and Gardens - 10 minutes

A 10 minute drive away and you reach the beautiful Parham House and Gardens. This Elizabethan mansion was built in 1557 and is still lived in by the descendants of the original family.

The house has been sensitively restored so that guests can enjoy the beautiful furniture, paintings, books, textiles and clocks. The garden is also open to the public so that they can enjoy the deer park, mature trees, four-acre walled garden with herbaceous borders, and seven acres of landscaped pleasure grounds.  It really is a very beautiful spot. 

Petworth House - 27 minutes

Managed by the National Trust, this 17th century mansioninspired by the Baroque mansions of Europe, has one of the finest art collections in the care of the National Trust. It was also the setting for several scenes in Netflix’s Bridgerton.


While the house is very lovely, our favourite activity at Petworth is walking and picnicking in the grounds. The house is set in a 700-acre deer park, designed by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, and include the Ionic Rotunda erected in about 1765. 

Discover: archaeological sites and museums

Cissbury ring
Cissbury Ring - Image courtesy of National Trust

Amberley Museum - 15 minutes

Amberley Museum is dedicated to preserving the South East’s industrial heritage and it’s a fun day out, particularly for smaller kids.

There are 36 acres to explore and over 40 exhibits to visit, including a working print shop, traditional crafts people demonstrations, lime kilns and other ancient monuments that date back to when the site was a working chalk quarry. It also has a ‘connected Earth’ telecommunications hall (so that you can show the kids a life before mobile phones!) and an industrial narrow gauge railway.

Bignor Roman Villa - 25 minutes

A farmer discovered these famous Roman mosaics whilst he was ploughing the fields in 1811!  The family still farm the land but they leave this part for the visitors to enjoy. And it is quite a sight. 

The  mosaics themselves are some of the most complete and intricate in the country. Everything is explained and there are lots of interactive elements. Fascinating stuff! Of course if your children get bored, as children have a tendency to do at historic exhibits, they also have other things going on. At the time of writing, a stunning sunflower maze was open and a pumpkin patch was due to launch for October.   

Cissbury Ring - 14 minutes

Cissbury Ring is the largest hill fort in Sussex, and the second largest in the country. The 60 acre site is owned by the National Trust and is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, its fortificatons built around the beginning of the Middle Iron-Age, possibly around 250 BC.

The site has some spectacular views and butterfly-lovers will enjoy spotting the chalkhill blues, marbled whites and Adonnis that live here. 

Chanctonbury Ring - 19 minutes

Chanctonbury Ring is another Iron Age hill fort, later used as a Roman religious site.  It is easily visible from various locations in Sussex due to its distinguishable crown of beech trees.



Again, the site has lovely views and is ideal for picnics as it’s a relatively short 30 minute walk up to the top.  We love the lower part of the walk as there are some fabulous trees with their roots exposed due to chalk erosion. It’s the perfect spot for a game of hide and seek!  

Discover: places to wander and watch wildlife

Pulborough Brooks
RSPB Pulborough Brooks: courtesy of the RSPB

Arundel Wetlands Centre - 30 minutes

A 30-minute drive away, this 65-acre nature reserve run by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust provides a protected habitat for swans, geese, ducks, and other beautiful wetland birds. It has lovely walkways and play areas – it’s very kid-friendly.


There are always a host of activities taking place, from pond dipping to wood carving to boat safaris, and they also run seasonal events – check their calendar for details.  There’s also a rather lovely pub next door – The Black Rabbit…. just saying!

Knepp Castle Estate - 16 minutes

16 minutes drive away and you reach the 3,500 acre Knepp Estate,  owned by the Burrell family for over 220 years. In 2001 they embarked on a ‘rewilding’ project, using grazing animals and restoring natural water courses in order to increase wildlife in the area. It’s triggered a return of rare species, including nightingales, peregrine falcons, turtle doves and purple emperor butterflies.



There are lots of footpaths that weave through 16 miles of the Knepp Estate, allowing you to see the effects of the rewilding project up close. Kids (and adults!) will also enjoy the five tree-viewing platforms which give fabulous,  panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.

Pulborough Brooks Nature Reserve - 12 minutes

Just four miles away, the RSPB site at Pulborough Brooks offers the chance to explore grasslands, pools, wildflower meadows and newly restored heathland.


The visitor centre is open year-round and there are some wonderful wildlife viewing opportunities – check out their seasonal calendar to find out what you might spot.


Warren Hill Park - 6 minutes

Warren Hill Park , 6 minutes drive away, is a recreational green space owned by the National Trust. A classic small forestry estate, you can still recognise small plantations of softwoods, hazel and sweet chestnut coppice, and beautiful straight oaks as well as semi-natural woodland. 


There are plenty of broad paths, grassy glades and a small pocket of heathland and kids will love hunting for wildlife while you picnic under the trees.

Discover: hiking and biking in the South Downs

South Downs Way - from 10 minutes

Biking South Downs
Biking South Downs

The 100 miles (160 Km) long South Downs Way is a National Trail that follows the old routes and droveways along the chalk escarpment and ridges of the South Downs. Every section of it offers something different and the 48 mile stretch through West Sussex, and the areas closest to Skoolie Stays, are no exception.



Upwaltham (27 minutes drive) to Amberley is a 6.5 mile hike, taking you over Burton Down, Westburton and Bury Hill before dropping down to the River Arun. This is one of the two places where the muddy waters of the Weald have cut their way through the chalky mass of the South Downs and are a haven for wildlife.



It’s a tough climb out of Amberley as you head on the 6 mile hike towards Washington. From there it’s a 7.5 mile hike towards Washington – a hike that gives you the chance to spot the hill fort at Chanctonbury (see above).

West Sussex biking - from 10 minutes

There are some great options for mountain biking in West Sussex: the wide chalky trails of the South Downs Way, the woodland areas of Houghton or the Steyning Downland Scheme, a number of trails with varying degrees of difficulty, carefully planned, built and maintained by local volunteers and riders.



For serious mountain bikers, there are plenty of longer rides. A favourite of ours is Mountain Biking magazine’s: South Downs (MBUK 315) which takes you past Cissbury Ring. Stunning views!  For other ideas you can check out Trailforks or Outdoor Active West Sussex suggestions.

Discover: vineyards, wineries, and breweries

Image courtesy of Wiston Estate

Wiston Estate - 11 minutes

Wiston Estate has been farmed by the Goring family since 1743. The ancient chalk downland produces exceptional fruit and their cuvées, both Vintage and Non-Vintage, are delicious.


They offer a variety of tours from the winery, where guests can learn about the wine production, taste the award-winning wines or enjoy the Landscape and Nature tours which take in the wider estate. There is also a lovely eatery: The Chalk Restaurant. It serves up seasonal and locally sourced dishes in a  refurbished barn.

Nutbourne Vineyards - 11 minutes

Nutbourne is a family run, boutique vineyard and winery with a range of award winning still and sparkling wines. They focus on biodiversity, carbon neutral in the vineyard and reduced footprint from production and distribution.


It is a lovely place to visit, with wildflower meadows, alpacas, lakes, places to picnic and stunning views along the vineyard trail. In the Summer they run guided tours and tastings


Kinsbrook Vineyard - 7 minutes

Kinsbrook Vineyard is a relatively new vineyard that was founded in 2014 by the Beckett family. It describes itself as young and progressive and they have worked hard to create an inclusive space to teach about minimal-interventionalist, regenerative practices.


They have a KIN Cafe Bar, where you can try a glass of their wine, or pick up a bottle (or more!) to take away. There is also supper clubs, Sunday afternoon events (summer only) and a farm shop and eatery.

Arundel Brewery - 30 minutes

Arundel Brewery creates award-winning beers and their Brewhouse Project is the perfect place to try beers from the brewery alongside delicious homemade food.

They also hold regular events here such as Jazz Thursdays, DJ Friday nights and regular invite street food pop ups to share the site.

Hepworth Brewery - 13 minutes


Hepworth brews a range of lagers, bitters, pale ales, and stouts. They offer tours to groups and also have a Tap Room selling their beers, as well as others, local wines, gin and ciders.

Skoolie Stays Uncategorized

Glamping reviews

Skoolie Stays Reviews

What do our guests really think… read on to find out what American School Bus glamping with us is actually like

Typing in a skoolie

By Ruth

Skoolie Stays has been running for 18 months now and we are on to our third location: Thakeham in West Sussex. 


We’ve told you our story – where we got the idea, how we built our Skoolie and how busy we have been, but we know that the one thing people actually want to know before they book is “what do other guests make of the bus?”!!


Well, read on and find out!

Beautiful or functional?

It looks pretty but is it well equipped for a holiday?

Skoolie Stays - equipped with everything
"An impeccably presented glamping property"

We’ve just got back from an absolutely amazing stay with Skoolie Stays. This is a memory that will stay with us for the rest of our lives. As short breaks go, this is the best we have ever done. The Skoolie is simply stunning. We wanted and needed for nothing. There is genius in every detail, from the murphy bunks to the kitchen design and sun deck. We felt at home immediately.” Sarah


“The bus is beautifully fitted out & has everything you need to experience “van life”Paul 


“We used the drop down balcony at the back of the bus constantly, lovely place for a brew” Emma


“Inside is immaculate with a toasty log burner, games and books to keep you entertained and the most comfortable bed I may have ever slept on.” Mo


“The bus has been finished immaculately with so many thoughtful details; this is small space living done well! Ingenious compost loo and lovely hot shower, perfectly formed little kitchen, beautiful parquet floor, comfy bed and nifty little Murphy bunks for the children”. Sophie


“The bus has been designed in an incredibly clever way which makes it feel cozy and homely, while still creating enough space for each individual. Beds are gloriously comfy, shower and toilet make perfect use of the space available and are user friendly without fault. Kitchen is practical and once again showcases careful thinking and planning so that it’s small enough not to be in the way yet also accessible and useable. There was absolutely nothing lacking in this bus for our short break. The wood burner was super toasty and heats the whole bus in no time. We used the drop down balcony at the back of the bus constantly, lovely place for a brew and to read, again it’s a brilliant size to relax in comfort.”  Emma


“Every detail on board had been thoroughly thought through, testament to the long US road trip that the owners undertook in one of these. Perfectly kitted out, the Skoolie is a labour of love!” Daniel


“A really exceptional and special place for a break, we feel really privileged to have been able to stay here. Thank you.” Emma


“We loved all the little touches; twinkly lights, cosy blankets and reading books. Our boys loved sleeping in the handcrafted bunk beds and we loved having a beautiful bathroom and shower to freshen up in. Everything had been thought of and we came away wanting to rebook as soon as possible.” Chantelle


“We especially enjoyed cosying around the log burner in the evening and cooking up a full English breakfast in the morning which we ate on the sun deck.” Sam

Family friendly?

It's great to see quirky but is it suitable for kids?

“It’s comfortable and stylish, with gorgeous quirky touches, and every single detail has been carefully considered. Plenty of space for a family of four”. Katy


“A special stay for our 10 year old son who is mad on ‘Miss Fritter’ the school bus from Disney Cars 3 demolition derby ! Absolutely stunning location and a fantastically kitted out cosy school bus. Highly recommend.” Oskar


“I really love the comfy bed it was cosy at night. Also I love the penny design on the worktop. We toasted marshmallows last night. They were delicious! My mum and dad also had a great time. Thank you for a really cool surprise holiday. We will miss it but will never forget it”  Daisy


“Definitely recommend to anyone and everyone from couples like us to a family with kids.” Ruby


We arrived late and collapsed on the deep slouchy leather sofa with a glass of wine whilst the kids gave us a break by playing at bus drivers and checking every knob and lever – luckily safety has been considered first, and they couldn’t cause any trouble!” Jenny


“From the grown ups to the little ones we were all amazed by the Skoolie’s charm and coolness. As a family we loved our time together playing American monopoly and reading books kindly provided”. Paul


“We had simply the best weekend in the skoolie, and our 3 year old absolutely loved it! The location is beautiful – better than the photos, the enclosed garden is great for kids to play in.” Nikita


“My family and I have just returned home from an amazing stay on the Skoolie bus. From start to finish it was an amazing experience. Each one of the family members enjoyed the experience and were sad to leave”. Jonathan


“Great fun for families with young children – sitting in the driver’s seat and pressing the many buttons was enjoyable for me as an adult!! ” Deborah

Does it work for winter breaks?

Will we be freezing if we glamp in the colder months?

“The bus was toasty warm and comfortable, even in chilly November, thanks to the wood-burning stove and sheep’s wool insulation”. Daniel


“We arrived in a huricane but as soon is the stove was lit were as cozy as anything.” Paul


“I was glad I ordered the fire wood – which I had hoped we would use outside but it was just too cold – but the log burner made it so toasty inside. The bed was the cosiest! Plenty of hot water in the shower”. Nikita

“We had the Skoolie experience with our grandsons and all four had a brilliant time!  The bus is the star of the stay, everything we could need including very comfortable beds and a welcome hot shower after a days walk! The log burner burned brightly both nights- cosy. We really hope to return in the summer but any season would be a pleasure!” Christine
 “With the log burner on, sitting in the bus with a glass of wine whilst the wind whipped outside was warm and cosy.” Chantelle
“For my 50th I had a desire to pitch a tent next to a river…,but… it is January…. So I found the Skoolie Bus instead! It was a wonderful experience and our kids loved it too.  The bus is very comfortable and with the log fire going we were never cold.” Claire
“The log burner and the diesel heating kept us lovely and warm despite the cold January weather.” Megan

Does off-grid mean basic?

And come says smell-free but is the compost toilet really ok?

“I was slightly apprehensive about the compost toilet, but as promised, it really doesn’t smell, and is not weird at all!” Jen


“This is a mini boutique bolt hole . Being off grid didn’t feel like a compromise at all with solar lights & hot showers! “ Shehani


“This eco-sustainable accommodation seriously needs to be seen to be believed and we are already considering another stay next year. If I could give more than 5* I would!”  Mo


“The perfect place to reconnect with nature and each other. I highly recommend it!” Catherine


And what are the owners like?

What happens if we need to speak to Ruth and Guy?

Ruth and Guy Skoolie Stays
"Ruth and Guy were such wonderful hosts who made sure we had a lovely stay which we are very grateful for, thank you!"

Cannot fault the communication from the owners, professional yet also personal. Easy to contact, and gave clear and informative instructions.” Emma


“The owners are truly wonderful… friendly, funny and very helpful with providing all the info you need in advance and during your stay”. Moira


“Absolutely blown away. The attention to detail is amazing and the little touches make all the difference. Pretty clear that heart and soul has gone into creating this luxury bus stay and we loved every minute!” Daniel


“The bus was easy to find as directions were clear, everything on the bus was easy to use with the detailed user guide to hand, the bus itself was truly amazing and so much fun! I loved it so much that it has inspired me to buy and convert my own Skoolie bus one day so I can take it out on the road! Ruth was an amazing host going above and beyond to accommodate us! Thank you!” Ruby


“I had some minor issues with the gas hob but Guy arrived quickly to resolve them.” Elaine


“My daughter I had recently experienced the joy of staying on the Skoolie Bus! Amazing! The love & thought that has gone into the Skoolie Bus & your stay is evident throughout”Tracy

Should I book?

I would - it's not just the guests that love it. So do the press!

National / local press features: TelegraphTimes; Guardian; iNewsThe ArgusThe Eastbourne Herald

News Skoolie Stays Sustainable glamping

Reduce, re-use and recycle

Reduce, reuse and recycle

How we turned trash into treasure, taking a bus off the roads and turning it into a sustainable glamping destination.

Typing in a skoolie

By Ruth

The Skoolie Stays bus is regularly recognised as a unique place to stay, but the initial focus is usually on its iconic exterior. Dig a little deeper and you will find that there is more to take away from a weekend in the Skoolie Stays bus than a photograph of your other half in the driver’s seat!



As an off-grid tiny home, we do our best to educate our guests about a lifestyle with the three R’s at its core: reduce, re-use, recycle. When they leave, they take home an understanding that going green is not a compromise, it’s a positive lifestyle choice.

Waste not, want not

A very different retirement

Chicken buses central america
Blinged out with a new paint job, lights and stereos, ‘chicken buses’, as travellers and locals call them, speed down the streets packing in as many people as possible on their routes

When you think about environmentally-friendly glamping units, you probably have in mind a wooden ‘eco’ pod or a simple yurt, but the battle to save the planet does not stop with the use of less impactful materials. We need to look at how we can re-use our waste, taking something no longer deemed useful and bringing it back to life. We need to work with the old instead of buying new.  


After approximately 10-12 years, the majority of American school buses are retired from service. This is partly because they do not meet the tight standards set by the EPA on emissions. Rather than scrap them, they are auctioned off or sold by dealers, which seems like great news until you realise that the vast majority reappear in Central or South America as public transport.  With less stringent rules on pollutants,  the diesel flows. the engines are pushed hard and the emissions statistics get higher and higher. Possibly 850,000 miles or more are squeezed out of these million mile engines if they head over that southern US border. 



It’s a different story for our Skoolie. Instead of glitz in Guatemala, honking in Honduras, chaos in Costa Rica or pollution in Panama, we sit sedately in Sussex. We don’t drive it on the roads, apart from the occasional garage trip, so there’s no speeding from A to B. Quite the opposite – we encourage people to slow down their busy lives to a stop. Crucially, we don’t damage the environment we exist in. Instead, we encourage people to enjoy the beautiful South Downs National Park, with its protected ecology and landscape, and educate them about off-grid living. We are also working hard to offset the emissions created by its journey to the UK, supporting rewilding projects and beach / cliff clean-ups. 

Off-grid living​

Addressing the impact of water, waste and power​

Solar panels on a skoolie
Being off grid is a great way to reduce carbon emissions.

From the start of our build, we knew we wanted the Skoolie to be off grid. using renewable energy and minimising the amount of water required, not only helps the planet, it saves money and allows us the freedom to quietly exist in rural locations with no access to infrastructure. 



Solar power is an energy efficient option for off-grid homes, with little waste. We installed six panels, each on a hinge so they can be angled to make the most of the low winter sun. An onboard inverter manages the solar energy, ensuring the batteries stay full, so we have plenty of power for lights, the fridge  and several USB charge points on the bus for phones, laptops etc. 


To reduce our water intake, we focused on where most water is wasted: the bathroom. Along with a lo-flow eco shower, we invested in a top-of-the-range compost loo. Years of horrible festival long-drop toilets have given compost toilets a bad reputation for being smelly and dirty, but having lived with a modern one in America for a year,  we know that this is not the case anymore. Waterless toilets massively reduce water consumption and reduce waste and our Simploo toilet is sleek and stylish, with an inbuilt fan that ensures no bad smells.

Infographic about compost toilets

Environmental inspiration

Looking toward nature to find design solutions

Wooden design
Repurposing old doors and furniture allowed us to create stunning wooden design details

Wherever we could, we chose eco products to help extend the bus’ life and keep her warm and cosy inside. This wasn’t a compromise – many of the alternatives are better than their chemical and manmade rivals. Nature does, after all, know best.


Lanoguard, a sheep’s wool derived rust protector, was sprayed on the underbelly to prevent rust and we used Cumbrian sheep’s wool insulation to insulate the walls and ceiling. For a few days it did indeed smell like a farmyard!


FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) wood was used throughout, with pine cladding on the ceiling and sustainable ply planks on the walls. Hardwood pallets were planed back so they could be used as framing for the roof hatches and old American oak doors, donated from a period renovation, were dismantled and planed down to make a feature wall. We found a home for a water-damaged teak futon, which was taken apart and brought back to life as a sliding barn door for the bathroom.



At the end of the project, we even took the OSB board we had used as a cutting table and chopped it into shelves, held up by a chunky bit of driftwood we found on the beach.

Out with the old…. repurpose it as new

Not fit for purpose is different to not fit for use

penny kitchen countertop
An old jar of pennies added copper tones to our epoxy kitchen counter

We wanted to reuse as much as we could, both from the original bus but also repurpose items that others had deemed to be at the end of their life.


With plenty of bus seats at our disposal, it made sense to repurpose a couple and use them to create a dining area. Each seat was cut down to 2/3 its original size, then welded together to form that classic curve. We reupholstered them in vinyl to create our own American-diner. The look was finished off with a recycled school desk from Hove Park School from the Wood Recycling Store, held up by a hydraulic strut that started life as part of the disabled chair leg.

converted bus accommodation sussex
A genuine old-school desk propped up with the hydraulic ram from the original chair lift

The rear-view mirror became part of a feature wall and an old filing cabinet and kitchen splashback were spruced up to add a metallic dimension to our entrance steps. The wood, mentioned above, and copper tones of the epoxy penny countertop, give it a warm and natural feel.


Scouring through other people’s trash produced bus treasure which came with fascinating stories. Our perfectly-sized Scandi leather sofa belonged to a local man who would chill out and relax on it as the tunes played from his fabulous Wurlitzer. Our retro leather pouffe came from a lady who was thrilled to find out that her beloved footstool (which didn’t fit her house) was going to move to a Skoolie. She was so inspired by our Skoolie that she went on to become one of our first bookings!


If you would like to book a stay on our Skoolie Stays bus to find out  more about our off-grid initiatives and eco-credentials, get in touch!

News Skoolie Stays Sustainable glamping

Top 5 unique glamping stays

Top 5 unique glamping stays

Glamping is booming and the UK has some of the best opportunities for a rural escape in the quirkiest of accommodation

Typing in a skoolie

By Ruth

Glamping continues to be a booming industry. And it’s not just the effect of the pandemic. More and more people are discovering the joys of exploring the great outdoors without needing to compromise on accommodation. People no longer need to carry bag-loads of equipment and sleep in a damp tent on a roll mat to experience nature and outdoor adventure. You can escape to the middle of nowhere, sleep under the stars and wake up cosy in your bed. At the same time, you can toast marshmallows, stomp about in wellies and spot deer wandering at dusk. Glamping is the best of both worlds and it is here to stay.  


As the industry becomes more popular, the number of glamping opportunities continues to increase. But while some listings showcase creativity and incredible engineering, others simply show a budget makeover of a garden shed. So where do you start if you want to book a special weekend away? How do you find the best of the boltholes? The most iconic?


Let us give you some help….


Iconic and unusual accommodation: our top 5 glamping breaks

Skoolie Stays

Summer days at the Skoolie

Well yes, we know Skoolie Stays is ours but given our customer feedback we feel wholly justified in saying that our converted American school bus ticks all the boxes for a unique break. 


Based on the cliffs at Beachy Head in the South Downs National Park, we have both a beautiful and private location.  The bus itself has been beautifully converted – a labour of love – with eye-catching design, original features and sustainable materials. It sleeps 4 in a king-size bed and two bunks and has a full kitchen and bathroom.  Guests have been blown away by the attention to detail and the clever use of space – and all this in an American school bus. That’s a pretty iconic base for your holiday!


Up in the trees

Living room treehouse

Our next favourite place to stay after American school buses, is treehouses. These homes in the canopy remain the most popular of glamping units across the UK. Many of them are just built on low stilts in woodland, but the Living Room Treehouses really do take you into the trees. 


Just like the Skoolie Stays bus, each treehouse sleeps 2-4 and is completely off-grid with a lovely log burner in the living area and an outdoor terrace. It’s location is amazing too, with incredible walks nearby. And, just like the bus, it is great fun for kids but blissful for two!

Swinging in the breeze

Tree pod

Sticking with life in the trees, the Lost Meadow tree pod doesn’t just offer you the canopy, it appears to suspend you from it! It’s a little bit more basic than the treehouse, but that iconic shape makes it pretty special. 


It sleeps 2, so perfect for romantic breaks, and is the ideal place to watch wildlife on the woodland floor. 

Back to nature


The tree-pod embraced the sphere and so does our next glamping choice –  the Earth Conker.  Again, it is off-grid and expertly engineered for comfort. Many of you will recongise it as it was featured on George Clarke’s ‘Amazing Spaces’. 


As with the Skoolie, stays here are geared towards shutting off from technology and enjoying the surrounding nature. If you can’t quite relax without keeping your phone on charge, or you want to listen to some tunes, there are electric points, a Bluetooth soundbar and lighting to set the perfect mood.  

Back to the future

UFO camping

Our last choice takes you away from nature and into the future. If you thought the tree pod was other-worldly, try the spaceship at Apple camping. Inspired by the Futuro houses of the 1960’s, the owners have styled the glamping pod to feel like something from the future. 


Unlike the Skoolie, it is on a campsite, so you are not completely on your own.  That may not worry you though. After all, when you switch on the smoke machine so that you can recreate the full lunar landing experience, you want an awe-struck audience!

News Skoolie Stays

From Firle to Beachy Head

From Firle to Beachy Head

After an incredible first season, it was time for the Skoolie to hit the road again

Last week we moved the Skoolie to our new location at Beachy Head. The sun was out and the drive over Seven Sisters, past the silvery swirls of the Cuckmere river, was stunning. As we drove through small villages, cars honked us and people waved, thrilled by the sight of an American yellow school bus on their road. We felt pretty happy. Our last Firle guest had given us a 5 star review, continuing our run of lovely feedback from guests,  and a news alert had popped up to tell us that not only had we featured in the i newspaper as an autumn break, we were in the Guardian travel tips for winter glamping too.  Not bad for a first season!



But what comes next?

All the fun at Firle

A fantastic first season on the farm

Skoolie with sheep
Life on Firle's busy farms was always interesting

We moved to Firle Estate, near Lewes, in June. They were keen to try glamping and we were more than happy to move into their beautiful spot (all 7000 acres of it) that spans the South Downs. We got some strange looks as we turned down the tiny lanes in our enormous yellow bus, but we are used to turning heads on the road – everywhere we go, people stop and stare!


We were given access to three locations across Firle and guests had access to some incredible rural locations, gorgeous sunsets and delightful walks across the Estate to reach the array of pubs, tea-rooms and farm shops that were on offer.  The glowing reviews suggest they loved it!

Moving on to something new


So why have we left? Well, all good things must come to an end. Our agreement with Firle was created so that we could offer off-grid camping on unused farmland. But no corner of a farm has empty space for long. Sheep had to be moved to different fields, rams separated, crops cut, seeds sown and shooting traps set. As our booking calendar became increasingly busy, it became a complicated process trying to work out where and when we could move.  


We made the decision to try and find a new location. We wanted one that offered us the same level of access to the stunning South Downs, with some equally great eateries and activities on our doorstep, but that also felt off-grid. We also wanted to increase our outdoors offering to guests. At Firle we had to be mindful of crops and farm buildings . For our new location, we wanted space for kids to run around and adults to set up hammocks or sit around a firepit to toast marshmallows.  

Bringing an iconic vehicle to an iconic location

where to stay near beachy head

As soon as Visit Eastbourne showed us Black Robin Farm, we could see the potential. Our own field with views of the sea, less than a mile from the stunning white cliffs of Beachy Head and the South Downs Way, within walking distance of Eastbourne’s amenities.  It was perfect. 


The Visit Eastbourne team were just as excited about the idea of moving the Skoolie as us. For them, our tiny home offered tourists and residents an opportunity for high-end glamping at one of their most visited tourist destinations. It also fit their vision of an environmentally-conscious glamping solution, it’s solar panels and sheep’s wool insulation making it a year-round option for those who like to escape without abandoning all the comforts of home . Besides, they had fallen in love with the epoxy countertop and the big bug-eye mirrors by then!  


We are already live on the Visit Eastbourne site and will soon be coming out in their accommodation brochure for 2022.  

From one location to....almost nowhere

Skoolie tow
The Skoolie makes a graceful exit from the muddy field

The day came for the big move and we turned on the engine. As the revs turned over, we surveyed the first obstacle – getting out of the field. Firle had received an obscene amount of rain over the past few weeks and our spot, at the bottom corner of a field, had been getting boggier and boggier. Normally, wellies suffice to get you through a muddy field, but you can’t put those on a 14-ton vehicle.  


As soon as we tried to manoeuvre out of the field, we found our wheels spinning. Disaster. Or it could have been. Luckily for us, the farmer is lovely and sent one of his boys down with a tractor to tow us out the field. Problem averted! 

But first a little pit stop....

Applying Lanoguard rust treatment
Applying Lanoguard rust treatment

During the initial build, our friends at Lanoguard had sponsored the application of their chemical-free rust treatment, derived from lanolin, to the bottom of the bus. Knowing we were off to the salty sea air of Beachy Head, they offered to reapply, suggesting we park up at Newhaven Beach so they could film it for their social media.


A stop-over by the beach? Who could resist!


After cleaning the underbody of the bus at a local garage (it was pretty muddy!), we parked up at the beach in time for sunset. It was lovely down by the water, listening to waves lap beside us. It reminded me of the times we parked on the beach in Texas at Padre Island. Sigh.

To the distant cliffs!

View of skoolie and cliffs
The Skoolie with the cliffs at Birling Gap behind us

The drive to Eastbourne was the furthest we would had driven the bus ourselves since it arrived. Each bus is built to different specs – some are good for the mountains, others are better for the cities. Our Florida bus was one that stopped and started a lot – i.e. it didn’t get up much speed. There also aren’t many hills in that part of Florida. We could see the cliffs looming over Seven Sisters. How would it fare?


Thankfully, it was fine. It chugged slowly up the hills and descended gracefully! We made it to Eastbourne’s heritage coast, via the single file bridge at Cuckmere Valley, and one of the most beautiful views over the snaking Cuckmere river. We had no trouble with the field, not a bog in sight – I guess when you are a the top of a cliff then the water runs down!

Safely in our new home

View from skoolie beachy head
Sucking up the solar at Beachy Head

We are now happily parked up in our field at Black Robin Farm, the deck down for sunset drinks and morning coffees. It really is a beautiful spot and we feel very lucky to have access to such a stunning part of the South Downs. 

Tempted by your own Skoolie Stay? Get in touch and we can get you booked up!
News Skoolie Stays Sustainable glamping

Converting the Skoolie Stays American school bus

ruth wimpory skoolie stays

By Ruth

Buying an American school bus and bringing it to the UK is not for the faint-hearted. It takes a lot of time, skills, creativity and contacts to turn an old retired yellow bus from a different continent into a rural bolt hole in the UK.  Luckily, after travelling 14,000 miles across America in our first Skoolie, we had the confidence, ability and network to take the plunge and buy bus number 2 and launch our new business: Skoolie Stays.  

Buying an American school bus from the UK

Chicken buses central america

There was a sense of de-ja-vu when it came to purchasing a new bus.  It felt very different this time though because of the financial risk. The major cost of a Skoolie project is not in the purchase of the bus – ex-school buses are plentiful in the States, so they are good value – it’s in the shipping and conversion. We needed to be sure we picked a good bus that would be worth the investment we were ready to make. When we found a bus in Florida that had our choice of engine, transmission and had the ‘dog-nose’ look we like (rather than flat-faced), as well as the interior height we sought, we had our friends check it out before we put it on the ship over to Southampton.  


In America, you buy your bus and then convert it before applying to change the registration from bus to a private vehicle. You get your insurance and hit the road. It’s a slightly more complicated process in the UK. You need an HGV license for a start. You also need to navigate the confusing world of DVLA guidelines about MOTs and imported vehicles to get your bus registered. Long story short, you need to get your MOT certificate before you begin your conversion as it needs to look like a bus in order to be assessed as a bus. We had to make a few changes to fit within UK rules and regs, but we sailed through our test and were able to send off our paperwork for registration. A few weeks later. we had our plates. 

First conversion job: stripping the bus

Seat removal is the first place to start with a Skoolie conversion but it’s a nasty job. Our seats were bolted onto rails, which meant they came out easily, but the rails themselves also had to go and the bolts were tricky to shift. 



It took us 3 filthy and exhausting days to remove some 500 bolts. Each one had to be angle-grinded and then hammered or drilled out. Mercifully, the wooden sub-floor was easy to wrench up. We’ve seen plenty of builds in which this stage is even worse – the glue refusing to let go of either surface – so we thanked the Skoolie gods and pulled it all back for the big reveal. What state was the floor in?



The condition of the floor is always a bit of a unknown when buying your bus. You can get an idea of rust from a survey of underneath and around the edges, but you never know until you rip the floor up what kind of state the bus will be in. It can be an expensive disaster to find a rusty, holey mess. The best way to prevent that, especially if you are buying remotely, is to purchase a bus from somewhere that stays warm(ish) and is not too near the sea, and that is built to drive on terrain similar to that which you will need it for. It’s no good heading to the Alps in a city bus that is designed to stop and start on flat roads!



Our floor was thankfully brilliant – just a touch of surface rust which is exactly what you’d expect. We sanded back the surface then treated it with de-greaser before spraying it down with a specialist metal prep. All the holes left by the bolts were filled with bits of old bus metal and pennies (the perfect size) and with the whole floor deemed waterproofed, we covered everything with a rust preventative paint, which is totally resistant to road salt, petrol, battery acid, etc, before adding a gloss top coat (which took forever to dry in the February snow!). g

Back to the metal ... and then out with half of it

Floor done, we moved onto the walls. All the unnecessary metal, fittings and insulation had to be removed, so there were a few more long days wielding angle-grinders, drills and hammers to remove the aircon units and the disabled door lift.  Dirty, dusty, achey days.


We then started on the roof, removing the two emergency exits. Climbing out the hatch to the roof-deck was one of our favourite things to do in America. They are not designed to be opened and closed as regularly as we did though, so ours broke. We wanted to avoid that this time and, as we weren’t building a deck on top, decided to replace the front exit with a glass marine hatch and the rear with a campervan-style vent. Neither were the size of the hole left by the original hatch, so we patched the hole, made a new frame to support the marine hatch (out of old bus rails) and then cut through again to fit. It worked brilliantly and now we always have a view of the sky, even when it is closed.



With the hatches done, the roof was cleaned and sanded down. All the rivets and seams were coated with silicone before a fresh coat of military vehicle paint was applied. The white top, as well as looking traditional for a school bus and making it pretty for the birds and paragliders overhead, has the added benefit of reflecting the sun’s rays and keeping the bus cooler on hot days. 

Taping out our planned layout

MArking out the space in a Skoolie

Once the interior was dry we put the insulation and the ply subfloor down. Suddenly it was starting to look like a useable space and we could dance around marking things out in tape. We had a plan already of course, but you never know how it will feel until you lay it out. Are those tight gaps workable? Can you squeeze anything better into that space?


Before we could get too excited, we hit a problem. We’d picked the worst time of year to begin our conversion. February was freezing but at least it was dry. March was wet, wet, wet. In this instance it was useful though. We arrived one soggy morning to find tell-tale wet spots below the windows. It could only mean one thing – leaky seals. This is a common problem, particularly with this style of window frame, and it was good that the issue was flagged up early in the build. Despite the foul conditions, Guy had to spend the day on a ladder re-sealing each one up while I dammed the drips with blue roll. When the wads of tissue came away dry, Guy was allowed back in again!


With a solid floor, sealed windows and our masking tape guides, we were able to start framing out the living space and lining the walls and ceiling with sheep’s wool insulation. We chose Cumbrian wool because of the eco-credentials. I also liked the idea of wrapping up the bus in a big woolly jumper, even though it smelt like a farmyard for a few days until we got the waterproof membrane taped on top.

Getting down and dirty with the plumbing and heating

Plumbing in a Skoolie

With the inside taking shape, Guy turned his attention to the plumbing for the water and heating. It was a tricky and messy period of the build and even though he had spent hours preparing detailed schematics and timelines for ordering, it was still an almighty challenge and nothing seemed to work quite as we had planned at the first pass. When you are building a bespoke conversion you can’t always buy things off the shelf and much of the time we ended up sourcing what we needed from companies who sold pond supplies or farming equipment. The measurements varied between imperial and metric, but also seemed to be dependent on different companies interpretations of how to measure. Things would arrive and be a mm too small or wouldn’t flex in the right way. It was endlessly frustrating and kept Guy on the laptop until late at night as that was the only time he had free to research and purchase new.


We got there in the end and once we had everything mounted and working, we set about rust-proofing the exterior underbelly with Lanoguard, a sheep-wool derived rust protector. It is a brilliant product and so much better than chemical protectors. Lanoguard even came down to help us apply it. We warmed up their thick grease and painted it on the bolt holes so that it could really soak in to the newly exposed areas, then set up the pressure spray to cover the bottom in a more diluted, thinner product. Mark and Jacob got under the bus with Guy, I went to make them all tea and by the time I came back they had finished and the bus looked brand new.

Fitting out the kitchen, bathroom and living room

Building the interior of a skoolie

Back inside, the framing was done and we had the skeleton of a bedroom and bathroom, as well as a kitchen carcass. It was time to call in the specialists.

John arrived to help us with the tiling, spending days coiled up in the bathroom turning an empty space into a luxurious bathroom. Lots of people are not sure whether you can actually use ceramic tiles in a vehicle conversion, but as long as you use the right kind of flexible grout and sealant, it’s fine. 



Once the bathroom was complete, we moved on to the panelled pine ceiling and made one of many last minute design changes that have gone on to become real features. This time it was to add a long wooden backbone down the length of the bus to help ensure the slats went in neatly and evenly, but also to provide a more solid base for our spotlights. It was time for the first fix electrics. 


With Guy plumbing, John panelling, Neily working on the cabinets, Steve fitting the wiring, Marcus doing the LPG and Andy from Hove log burners lying prostate on the floor trying to fit the log-burning stove, it was quite timely that the Government chose that point to send the kids home from school. It was time for me to leave the boys and work from home! 

Repurposing the bus seats and working from home

Repurposing bus seats

My fingers may not have been as cold as the boys but it didn’t mean I could take my foot of the pedal. In between home-schooling I painted endless panels of wood , all of which had to dry in the warmth of the house, and spent hours researching and ordering bits for the bus. It was also a chance to begin work on all the creative ideas that we had been thinking about. Home-schooling art projects began!


We wanted to reuse as much as we could from our bus and, with a whole bus load of seats at our disposal, it made sense to repurpose a couple and use them to create a dining area. Only problem is, those seats are wide – the aisle space on a US bus seems to be smaller than a UK bus. We decided to cut them down to 2/3 their original size, welding them together and reupholstering them in new vinyl to create our own American-diner. We found an original teak school table from the Wood Recycling Store, cleaned off the gum but left the graffiti, and used part of the disabled lift as a table leg to complete the look.

In for a penny - the epoxy kitchen countertop

Epoxy counter

My other big ‘work from home’ project was the kitchen countertop. Whilst travelling in America, we’d helped our friends create an incredible feature shower wall with glow in the dark epoxy on pecky cypress (wood that is full of holes made by fungus… we don’t get it over in the UK, although other woods get fungus holes) and I really wanted my own epoxy project on the bus. I had in mind a river table but when I started to research it, the huge amount of epoxy you need and the seasoned live wood were prohibitively expensive. I started looking into micro-cement instead but that too was pricey. Time was running out – Neily needed to move on with the kitchen – and I was moments away from ordering a boring butcher block surface when I realised that if we did a shallow epoxy pour over an interesting surface, an epoxy countertop was do-able. Scrap the butcher block and head to the bank – I wanted pennies and lots of them!


Neily cut me the MDF base, I primed it and then set to the job of meticulously cleaning and glue-ing 3000 (ish) pennies and halfpennies to the top. Grout went on next and then it was polished. I was nervous about the epoxy pour because you only get one shot at it. You mix the epoxy and hardener to exactly the right ratio and then stir for a specific amount of time. Once you start, there is no room for error. Get your ratios wrong and it doesn’t set. Set your timer incorrectly and it gets dangerously hot. Pour it badly and you get bubbles. Cure it at the wrong temperature and it scuppers the process. Yikes. We followed the instructions to the letter! The main concern was the rolled edge – to achieve this you have to tape the edge of the countertop to form a barrier. You leave it to cure for an hour or so until it has more of a gel consistency, then remove the tape. The gel doesn’t just stream off like a liquid, so it holds its shape as it drips and eventually rolls over the edge. It was still a bit bubbly, but we chose an epoxy that degasses itself as it cures so we left it for the night. In the morning it was crystal clear and looked sooooo good. It took 24 hours to be touch dry and then a further couple of days to completely harden up. A quick sand of the now solid drips at the bottom and we were good to go. It was a week in the making, but it was worth it – it’s a triumph, even if I do say so myself!

Getting off-grid ready - solar power, compost loos and a service vehicle

Solar panels Skoolie

We wanted the bus to be off-grid. We loved that we could just travel anywhere in the U.S, we didn’t need to plug in to survive and could stay in the wilds as long as our water tank allowed us, so our UK bus needed the same features.


With the help of some fabulous friends, we were able to install 6 solar panels. We hinged each panel on to aluminium boxing with gas struts so that they can be angled to 35 degrees, which is optimum for harvesting the low English winter sun. We will be able to generate plenty of power even on wintery days. 


The other eco-arrival was our compost loo. We thought long and hard about this one. There was no doubt in our minds that a compost toilet made sense – it not only massively reduces water consumption, which means we wouldn’t require a black waste tank, we lived with one for a year and we know that they are brilliant devices for small spaces.


The concern was guests being grossed out with the idea of a campsite-style stinky long-drop. In the end we figured that we just had to change people’s minds by promoting the benefits, namely the enormous amount of water you are saving, and addressing the fears, the biggest one being that they smell. They don’t at all. The liquids and solids mixing together is the main culprit of the lingering smells and with a compost toilet like ours, they are separated. Guy has fitted a tank under the bus for the liquids. The solids go into a container that is vented to the outside. A scoop of sawdust to hide the evidence and a sliding lid to cover the container, and you can walk away confident of no smells.



Our toilet choice was a Simploo, a UK make. They have been really helpful and their customer service is also top notch. We are pretty sure we will win our guests round with their product.

Adding design flair with repurposed wood, upcycled metal and an evolving cool colour pallette

Painting the wooden panels

From the beginning of the build we tried to make the most of the materials around us, re-using parts of the bus as I’ve mentioned, but also upcycling things we found along the way and hunting for the perfect pieces in second-hand stores.


Gumtree, Facebook Marketplace and Ebay were my friends. Scouring through other people’s trash produced bus treasure which came with fascinating stories or brought us new followers. Our perfectly-sized Scandi leather sofa belonged to a local man who would chill out and relax on it as the tunes played from his fabulous Wurlitzer. Our retro leather pouffe came from a lady who was thrilled to find out that her beloved footstool (which didn’t fit her house) was going to move to a Skoolie. She was so inspired by our story that she went on to become one of our first bookings. 



The ‘treasures’ often evolved to be something entirely different. The old doors we picked up that were too heavy for us to use, turned out to be made from American oak slats that we were able to plane down and use to frame our old bus mirror as part of a feature wall, and a kitchen cabinet. A water-damaged teak futon was dismantled and brought back to life as a sliding barn door for the bathroom. The hardwood pallets were used for framing the hatches and even our cutting table from the build was chopped up to be turned into shelves, held up by a huge bit of driftwood we found on the beach. To smooth out the cut marks, I filled in the gaps with leftover  epoxy and glow in the dark paint.


With practically everything finished, it was time to paint. Our original choice of green was developed to create a pallette that matched the wood and copper tones. We added copper and cream paints and fittings and shopped for soft furnishings in soft greys, earthy maroons and teals with the occasional accent of orange because I’d found a fabulous retro Le Creuset ‘volcano’ kettle!


I spent the evenings sewing cushion covers that would tie everything together while the boys worked on their last big project: the murphy bunks.

The murphy bunks and the king-size bed

Murphy bunks in a skoolie

In America, the boys bunks were the worst part of the Skoolie. Our son summed it up:

“They were like coffins! You could barely sit up and there was no air – they sucked”!


Considering they were only being used to sleep in, they took up an enormous amount of space. We knew we wanted to do something different with our UK bus. 


Murphy bunks fold out from the wall, which means they have a much smaller footprint. Friends of ours have ones in which the top bunk drops down to become the back of a sofa (the bottom bunk), but though we liked the design we knew we wanted to keep the sleeping area separate from the living space. 


Guy and Neily excelled themselves with the design and build. They are roomy, comfy and really easy to put up and down because they are assisted with gas struts. It makes a huge difference to the space being able to close them up when they are not in use. And, judging by the social media comments, they are loved as much as the epoxy counter!


The last thing we brought in was the king-size bed mattress and slats. Underneath the bed is the pipework, diesel heater, batteries and the water tank so this was a key working area for much of the build. It was only right at the end that we added the wooden slats and finally brought in the comfy Inofia mattress, transforming it from a work zone to something beautiful and tranquil. The slats sit on a frame so we can lift the whole bed up to access the pipework if ever we need to. 

Laying the floor and the deck

Laying the floor

All that was missing was the floor. Or should I say, a couple of square metres of floor.


Way back at the start of the build I’d sourced 10sqm of old wooden flooring that someone had bought and no longer needed. It was gorgeous engineered, top of the range, oak herringbone-style slats. The problem was, when we took it out the boxes, we only had 6sqm. Gutted…. we needed 8sqm. Would we really have to source something new?


Buying expensive items at the start of a build, when you have the time to shop around, is much easier on the wallet than at the end of a build. We had neither time or finances on our side so I thought I’d try my luck and source the supplier to see if they would help us out with the last 2sqm. I found their name on the side of one of the boxes – Havwoods – and got in touch to see if they still stocked the wood.


Joy of joys, Havwoods still had stock. And, joy of even bigger joys, they loved our Skoolie so much they agreed to sponsor the last corner of the bus so that we could have our beautiful floor without breaking our budget. They even posted up an interview with us on their site. It looks freaking awesome – the shades and patterns of the wooden planks brought together all of the angular designs and warm tones we had used throughout the build. We couldn’t have been happier with the result.



The last thing to arrive was our deck. For this, Tristan, a local lad from Firle area, stepped in to help. He was brilliant and developed the original plan to improve the layout and functionality. It is amazing to be able to walk straight out from the bedroom onto a private sun deck – better than we even imagined and the perfect way to end our build.

The finished Skoolie!

american school bus firle

We are both so proud of what we have achieved – what a journey, what a finish and what a result: we own our very own fantastic Skoolie again.