Holiday Cottages Dos and Don’ts

When you’re on a self-catering break, staying in a holiday cottage, you expect a high degree of personal freedom, where you can set your own schedule, make your own eating arrangements, and generally enjoy a

Picture by Petr Krotochvil

holiday that’s a home away from home.

However, holiday cottages do have rules, and while these shouldn’t have a negative impact on the quality of your stay, they are important from the point of view of safety and common courtesy.

Many of them are, in fact unwritten, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t follow them, if you’re going to be a good guest.

Arrival

If you’re given an appointed time to arrive at your holiday accommodation, don’t be too early. It can prove especially difficult where there are several properties in one place, with queues of cars leaving and arriving.

If possible, do arrive at your holiday cottage in daylight hours. After dark, finding things like locks, keys and entrances can prove complex, particularly if you’re out in the countryside. Be on the safe side and bring a torch with you.

Do check in advance if you require disabled access – people can have different ideas about what this means and, depending on the disability, conditions can vary.

Don’t assume that “dogs welcome” means any pet – caged birds will be fine but it’s unusual to take a cat, for example.

Your holiday cottage may state that towels are included, but please don’t assume this will cover all your needs. You should pack your own beach towels (if applicable), and you might want to pack a large bath towel of your own.

Do ask the owner any questions on arrival, but don’t overwhelm them with detailed queries about the area, places to eat etc – their time is limited and while you’re on holiday, they’re not.

If there’s a welcome pack at the cottage, do take the time to read it – it will probably contain useful information about the cottage and the local area and its amenities.

Don’t keep any complaints to yourself – if there’s something you feel is wrong, or missing, then let the owner know as soon as you can after your arrival, so that they can fix it. That way everyone’s happy.

Departure

Do check you’re leaving your holiday cottage in the same state you found it. No one’s expecting you to act like an au pair throughout your holiday, but you should leave the place tidy as a courtesy to the owner.

If there are any breakages do admit to them – it’s not fair on the owner if they then must deal with unreported items that are broken or missing.

If there’s a visitors’ book, do write in it – useful comments, including constructive criticism, should always be welcome, since the holiday cottage owner will want to ensure that guests have the best possible experience.

How to Make the Most of Your Self Catering Holiday

Image by George Hodan

Holidays are about relaxation, but we all know that they can also be a major cause of stress, both in the planning and the execution; and keeping everyone happy all of the time presents certain challenges.

When it comes to a self-catering holiday in a holiday cottage, the key is to be prepared but also be flexible. Here are our tips for a successful, and happy, holiday.

The Advantages of Self Catering

For a family holiday, self-catering gives you much greater flexibility, because you can come and go as you please. Of course, while this means you set your own schedule, it also requires a bit more planning on your part.

You’ve also got potentially more freedom in terms of space – your holiday cottage has more to offer than a hotel room, and while there may not be the facilities immediately to hand that a hotel can offer, you’ve got other choices – surrounding attractions, countryside etc.

There’s also more freedom in not feeling immediately labelled as a tourist – staying in a holiday cottage gives you the opportunity to feel more embedded locally and comfortable in your own skin.

Choosing Your Location

Obviously, location is key. While you might like the abstract concept of self-catering, the reality and what sort of holiday you can expect, will very much depend on where you choose to go on holiday to.

So, if you’ve got kids, think of what they’ll want to do, and what you’ll need to keep them happy and occupied – if, for example, birdwatching and nature reserves are not their thing then make sure your holiday cottage is located somewhere where there are attractions and things that will appeal to them, as well as you.

Think about what you’re looking for and match the location to it – whether it’s rural seclusion, beaches, attractions or entertainment.

What is the immediate outdoor space going to be like – will you have a garden, or even a pool? This can make a big difference to how you find your self-catering holiday experience. Having outdoor space gives everyone on holiday a greater sense of personal freedom.

What You Get and What You Should Bring

What you get in your self-catering accommodation can vary, so you should always check in advance. Your cottage might come with a fully-equipped country kitchen, or something more basic.

Is there a washing machine, a television, kids’ toys? What sort of cutlery, crockery will be supplied, and do you need to bring your own towels?

Knowing what to expect in terms of facilities also affects what you decide to pack for your holiday. If there’s a washing machine, you can pack less changes of clothes, for instance.

Always bring the essentials with you – first aid, a loo roll, and a corkscrew!

And have basic supplies of food and drink with you for the day of your arrival, in case the local shop is closed and there’s nothing provided at your accommodation address. Again, location is important: do you need a food shop nearby to fit in with your holiday plans?

There’s a self-catering holiday to suit most people, so try and choose the one that will best suit you – be prepared for your holiday, but also be prepared to relax – planning is important, but so is enjoying the moment.

Visit Jersey for a Laid-back, Natural Break

Picture by Petr Kratochvil

The largest of the Channel Islands, Jersey is surrounded by smaller islands and reefs. It has a unique combination of British and European influences, giving it a distinctive, laid-back cultural flavour of its own.

With mild weather similar to the South Coast of the UK, it’s an ideal holiday spot and boasts plenty of self-catering accommodation, from beachside apartments to holiday cottages.

 

Jersey Beach Life

Whether it’s beach life, surfing, walking and the rugged outdoors, or just enjoying the scenery accompanied by great food and drink, Jersey offers a wide variety of ways to enjoy yourself.

At St Ouen’s Bay, on the island’s west coast, wait for the golden hour, as the sun sets and lights up the view. Relax in the iconic Watersplash beach bar and diner and experience this natural display of breathtaking beauty.

This side of Jersey is ideal for surfing, with strong Atlantic swells. Swimmers should be careful with the strong currents though.

Further north, there are more sheltered bays, such as the tiny fishing harbour of Bonne Nuit, ideal for picnics. Bouley Bay’s deep waters are great for experienced swimmers, and Greve de Lecq is one of the north coast’s most popular beaches, with its rockpools, sheltered sandy expanse, cafes and pubs.

To the east is the Long Beach at Grouville Bay, a longstanding local favourite with its extended stretch of sand and children’s playground.

On the south coast, Beauport is a lovely south-facing, sheltered beach with shallow, turquoise water, while Portelet Bay is similarly sheltered. St Brelade’s Bay is popular, busy and a great family destination with its beachside activities, seaside eateries and safe swimming. Also, look out for the lovely art deco-style outdoor pool at Havre des Pas, which gets filled daily by the incoming tide.

Explore Jersey’s Heritage

Relaxation aside, Jersey is rich in historical associations and has an intriguing cultural heritage that’s well worth exploring, when you tire of the tide and the sunlounger.

A powerful remnant of the German occupation during the Second World War, the War Tunnels were dug deep into the hillside of the island using forced labour. They are now the site of a series of exhibitions that tell the story of the island’s occupation and liberation. The Jersey War Tunnels are north of St Helier, accessible by car, public transport or on guided tours.

La Corbiere is at the extreme south western point of Jersey, and it is on this rugged piece of coastline that you’ll find La Corbiere Lighthouse. The lighthouse was built in 1873 and switched on the following year. It was the first lighthouse in the British Isles to be made of reinforced concrete. At a height of 35 feet, its light can be seen at a distance of 18 miles on a clear day.

Another of Jersey’s iconic landmark buildings is its Opera House, first built in 1865, then rebuilt and reopened in 1900 following a fire. The building hosts plays, operas and ballets. It is designed with an Edwardian horseshoe-style auditorium, and its lobby has an impressive chandelier comprising over 10,000 pieces.

In the 1920s, the shipping magnate Sir James Knott created the Botanic Gardens in the grounds of Samares Manor, east of St Helier. The gardens have a glorious display of unique plant life, along with a museum dedicated to rural life.

Overlooking the harbour of Gorey, Mont Orgueil Castle was originally built to protect Jersey from French invasion some 600 years ago. With its network of towers, turrets, staircases and hidden rooms, the castle is a great place to explore, and it provides great views across the harbour from the battlements.
Whether it’s exploration, culture or sun and sand you seek, Jersey has plenty to offer, while retaining an underlying sense of unhurried relaxation.

Feeling at Home Abroad in Glorious Guernsey

Guernsey feels at once very British and very different – it’s close enough to France to feel like you’re visiting a foreign country, yet, when you get there, Guernsey has a touch of slightly displaced British charm. In short, it feels unique.

There’s a wide range of accommodation in Guernsey, from luxury hotels to self-catering coastal cottages, full of character.

 

A Coastline with Character

With 27 bays to choose from, Guernsey’s coast is a big draw for visitors. Beaches range from hidden coves to bigger, and more popular, stretches of sandy beach.

The beaches on Guernsey’s west coast are generally of the sandy variety, including the easily accessible Cobo, Vazon, Pembroke, Grandes Rocques and Port Soif. Here you’ll find plenty of facilities and amenities and, in some places, such as Vazon Bay, excellent surfing conditions.

In contrast, on the east coast, Fermain Bay is a secluded pebble beach you can only reach on foot, a short walk along the cliff path from St Peter Port. It feels quite hidden away and has wonderfully clear waters for swimming in.

It’s also well served by the Fermain Beach Café, serving refreshing drinks and good quality food and great views across the bay.

With its shallow, turquoise waters, Moulin Huet Bay on the south coast inspired the painter Renoir with its tranquillity combined with stunning views of the surrounding cliffs.

There’s enough variation on Guernsey’s coast to suit most tastes, whether you’re for watersports, lounging in the sun, or exploring rockier terrain.

A Great Harbour Capital

St Peter Port has been a bustling centre of activity on the island dating back to Roman times. Guarding the town is Castle Cornet, some 800 years old, at the mouth of the harbour.

It’s a short walk from the town centre and contains five museums and four gardens. From here the noon-day gun is fired, and you can experience great views of the port, and across the sea to other, neighbouring islands.

In the town, steep, cobbled streets lead you up to Candie Gardens and the Guernsey Museum and Art Gallery. The restored Victorian gardens have some of the oldest heated glass houses in the British Isles, and a wide selection of beautiful flowers, tended lawns and glittering ponds.

The whole town has an air of easy refinement, while feeling utterly accessible and welcoming. There’s much Regency architecture to admire and a variety of tearooms to visit.

The German Occupation Museum provides plenty of information about the Nazi occupation of the island during the Second World War, and offers a fascinating contrast to the more genteel side of Guernsey’s cultural history.

The French writer Victor Hugo, author of Les Miserables, spent 15 years living in exile on Guernsey. He fell in love with the place and his home, Hauteville House, is open to the public on guided tours. At the very top of the house is the Crystal Room, where Hugo did his writing, and which has glorious views across St Peter Port.

Visitors can also enjoy the surrounding gardens free of charge, and there are lectures on Hugo held there.

Whether it’s activity and culture you’re after, or pure relaxation, or a combination of the two, Guernsey can offer it, wrapped up in its own idiosyncratic island charm.

Channelling your Holiday on the Isle of Wight

Cowes Harbour by Colin Woodcock

Sitting in the English Channel, around three miles off the UK’s south coast, the Isle of Wight has been a popular holiday destination since Victorian times. Its climate is mild, it’s an Outstanding Area of Natural Beauty, and it’s within easy reach of the mainland.

Self-catering accommodation on the island is varied, including cosy cottages and modern apartments, and you can choose between more remote rural locations and being based in a town centre.

 

The Needles, Way out West

The Needles Chairlift is one of the images that is always associated with the Isle of Wight, taking people from the top of the cliffs at Alum Bay down to the beach. The Needles Park is located on the southwestern tip of the island, and there’s a stunning, panoramic view of the cliffs and the sea from the chairlift.

Here you’ll also find the Needles Rocks and the Trinity Lighthouse. The Needles Battery is also well worth a visit. This military site was built in the 1860s to guard the Solent – the stretch of water separating the Isle of Wight from the UK mainland. The National Trust restored the Old Battery in 1982 and it’s now a vibrant museum piece that also offers fantastic views across the Solent.

The Needles Park is also home to Alum Bay Glass, where you can watch traditional glassmaking, and the Sweet Manufactory, for those with a sweet tooth. There’s also a 4D cinema, offering a unique cinematic experience.

 

Osborne House and Carisbrooke Castle

Osborne House is nearby the town of East Cowes and was Queen Victoria’s seaside palace and is a suitably impressive and immersive experience. There are fabulous sea views from the terraces, and inside you can see how Victoria and Albert, and their children, lived when residing here.

The house has sumptuous drawing rooms and dining rooms, alongside the Dunbar Rooms, which are decorated in a style inspired by the Indian subcontinent, at the time known as the jewel in Victoria’s crown.

Situated in Newport, Carisbrooke Castle originally dates from Saxon times before being taken over first by the Normans then later remodelled during the Middle Ages. The castle was a strategic fortress during the reign of Elizabeth I and Charles I was imprisoned here for a time.

You can walk around the castle battlements and experience great panoramic views across the island. There’s film and virtual tour, and the Castle Museum is full of artefacts from the reign of Charles I. Last but not least, the castle’s tea room serves refreshments, light meals and snacks.

 

Cowes and East Cowes

The town of Cowes is famous as hub for sailing, and it has a rich maritime history, which you can explore in the local Maritime Museum. Cowes is also a popular shopping destination, with its many boutique and specialist shops. There are also many small galleries displaying and selling arts and crafts form the Isle of Wight.

The Yacht Haven is the centre of sailing activity and this large marina is where various international yachting events are held.

East Cowes is separated from Cowes by a river and you reach it by crossing the floating bridge – unless, of course, you’re making the journey by boat. In East Cowes you’ll find the Classic Boat Museum and, a short distance from the town, East Cowes Beach, which is a firm family favourite because it’s well sheltered.

These are just some of the many places to visit and things to do on the Isle of Wight. It’s also a home for various events, such as Bestival and the Isle of Wight Festival. It also hosts walking and cycling festivals, and for those into sailing, Cowes Week.

The Isles of Scilly: Splendid Holiday Isolation

An archipelago off Land’s End, the Isles of Scilly are both very English and very different. With the comings and goings of small ferries that connect the islands determining the pace of life, and a general sense of relaxed calm, it is like stepping back into a bygone era.

This is no mere cultural nostalgia trip though, because the natural beauty of the islands is the big draw, with no traditional seaside brashness, just miles of fine beaches, and a welcoming hospitality and intimacy.

Across the five inhabited islands there is plenty of self-catering holiday accommodation, from traditional granite cottages to farmhouses, converted barns and chalets.

 

St Mary’s

This island has the largest population of the Scillies, at around 1,800, and its transport links make it an entry point. 80% of Scillonians live here, but while it is the largest of the islands, it’s still compact.

Central to St Mary’s is Hugh Town, with its shops, banks and places to eat and drink. It’s far from bustling, but has its own easy going charm. The other main settlement on St Mary’s is Old Town, close to the airport, where you’ll find a fine beach and nature reserve and various amenities.

There’s plenty of fresh seafood to savour from the range of restaurants and cafes on St Mary’s, and if you tire of relaxing on the beach, you can visit several historical sites, including iron age and Roman settlements at Bant’s Carn and Halangy Down – in fact there is a greater concentration of historical sites on the Isles of Scilly than anywhere else in the UK.

 

St Agnes and St Martin’s

By way of contrast, St Agnes has a small population of around 70 and feels both calm and wonderfully isolated. There’s a campsite at Troytown Farm, where you can also get delicious ice cream; and the island’s quayside has a fine old pub, the Turk’s Head, as well as restaurants and cafes in the centre.

The landscape of the island comprises rocky outcrops and sheltered coves with attractive beaches.

St Martin’s is just two miles long but has some of the most stunning beaches in the British Isles. It’s also home to a diverse range of wildlife and plants. Coming here is really like getting away from it all – but the island does have a post office, an off licence, and a vineyard, so you’re not totally cut off from civilisation!

You can also experience snorkeling with seals from here, with regular trips organised to the Eastern Isles.

 

Tresco

Tresco boasts the famous Abbey Garden, the Scillies’ major attraction and a breathtaking showcase of sub-tropical plant life and imposing palm trees, a mark of its sophistication. The gardens have a great gathering of ships’ figureheads known as the Valhalla collection, rescued from shipwrecked vessels over the years.

Overall, this island has a more ordered feel than the other islands, with plenty of varied accommodation and an art gallery.

However, the northern end of the island is far emptier and is worth exploring. Here you’ll find the ruins of two forts dating back to the middle of the 17th century.

 

Bryher

Bryher is a study in contrasts: its west side has the jagged rocks and crashing breakers of Hell Bay, but it’s also home to the luxurious Hell Bay Hotel. It’s also home to the Fraggle Rock Bar and a number of places to eat serving tasty fresh seafood.

Paths criss-cross the island, making it a great place for walking; and the area has plenty of sandy beaches to enjoy and rocky coves to explore.

There are also over a hundred uninhabited islands that are worth visiting in the Scillies, sites of great natural beauty and vivid wildlife. Many can be reached by boat and plenty of day trips are available from the inhabited Islands of Scilly.

Explore Glastonbury and the Avalon Marshes

Rising above the surrounding Somerset Levels, the hill of Glastonbury Tor has been a site of cultural significance for over a thousand years. And

Picture taken by Diego Torres.

Picture taken by Diego Torres.

Glastonbury itself has much to offer visitors, far beyond the concentrated activity of the Glastonbury Festival.

The area has many self-catering holiday cottages, homes and apartments, and is an ideal location for exploring the immediate area and rural Somerset.

 

The Tor and the Abbey

The National Trust has designated the whole site of Glastonbury Tor a national monument. It comprises the hill and, atop it, St Michael’s Tower, a Grade I listed building.

The Tor may date back as far as the Iron Age. It had several buildings built on its summit over time, from the Saxon to early medieval periods, including a wooden church destroyed by an earthquake in 1275. St Michael’s Tower remains from the stone church built in the 14th century.

As a location, Glastonbury Tor’s spiritual significance spans many historical eras, from pre-Christian, pagan worship, to its Christian settlement. There was renewed focus on it from the 19th century onwards with a growth in interest in Celtic mythology.

Glastonbury Abbey is one of England’s oldest abbeys, originally dating from the 7th century, expanded and improved over time by the Saxons, then the Normans, before falling into disuse following Henry the Eighth’s Dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century.

The ruins of the abbey sit in 36 acres of parkland in the centre of Glastonbury town. In the grounds you’ll also find the Holy Thorn tree and the supposed burial place of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere.

There’s also a wildlife area, Badger Boardwalk, a cider orchard and a picnic area for visitors.

 

The Town

As a market town, Glastonbury has a unique character, informed by the history of the area and its continuing focus for alternative lifestyles and spiritual interests.

Consequently, the town is full of individual, idiosyncratic shops selling crafts, charms and crystals, alongside antiques, books and clothing. There’s also a fine selection of cafes, tea rooms, pubs and restaurants.

A good way of exploring the town is to follow the Millennium Trail, a circular walking route that takes you around the town and provides information about its architecture and heritage, including the Pump House, St John’s Church Tower and the town hall.

 

The Avalon Marshes

At the heart of the Somerset Levels lie its wetlands, the Avalon Marshes. Its combination of marshland and low lying green pastures give it a unique, picturesque quality, complementing its mystical heritage.

The nature reserves here are of national importance, home to the marsh harrier, bittern and the great white egret.

You can visit great open expanses of water, but also fenland, heaths, woodland and grasslands. This is great country for exploring and walking in; and Glastonbury has its own, special aura which seems to hang over the whole area.

Defenders of the South Coast: Sussex’s Castle Strongholds

castle-and-moat-bodiam

Bodiam Castle by Karen Arnold

Historically, Britain’s South Coast has been a key strategic location, which is why successive monarchs chose to build castles there. The added benefit for modern visitors is that it’s such a beautiful part of the country, providing breathtaking scenery and views.

Sussex has plenty of accommodation to offer visitors, including self-catering holiday cottages, providing the perfect base from which to explore the area’s rich heritage.

 

Early Norman Castles

Hastings Castle was the first ever Norman castle built in this country. With fabulous views of the Hastings coastline, these ruins evoke a powerful sense of the past. The site also includes a history of the famous Battle of Hastings vividly recreated through sound and images; and the nearby Smugglers Adventure, comprising mysterious caverns and tunnels of the coastline.

Overlooking the river Arun, Arundel Castle dates back to 1067. Rising high above the town, it’s an imposing structure and is the ancestral seat and family home of the 18th Duke of Norfolk. By contrast to Hastings Castle, this building is very much the result of historical development, containing an impressive Regency library and Victorian bedrooms.

The castle also has an impressive art collection, including paintings by Canaletto, Van Dyck and Gainsborough. The surrounding gardens are open to the public, offering a sumptuous display of flora and landscaping, as well as hosting open air performances of Shakespeare’s plays as part of the Arundel Festival.

The 1000 year old Lewes Castle offers panoramic views of Sussex if you make the climb to the top of its tower. It also houses a great bookshop, while adjoining it is the Barbican House, where you’ll find the Museum of Sussex Archeology.

 

A Fairytale Fortress in Sussex

Sometimes a castle fulfils all your expectations. Bodiam Castle is just such a place. Located in East Sussex, by the river Rother, the castle dates back to the 1300s, but it isn’t certain whether it was built primarily as a fortress, or as a stately home for Sir Edward Dallingridge.

Either way, it’s a mightily fine structure, with its lofty turrets and wide moat. The National Trust owns Bodiam Castle, and this distinguished historical building is open to the public.

The castle’s interior was destroyed during the English Civil War but was restored in the early 20th century. Now you can explore its spiral staircases and living quarters; and you can’t help but its well-preserved exterior impressive.

The grounds are beautifully landscaped, and after exploring the castle and its surroundings you can relax in the tearoom and buy excellent local produce from the castle shop.

Because it looks like such an archetypal storybook castle, Bodiam has immense appeal, conjuring up a really magical setting for the whole family to enjoy.

Explore the Seaside of Brighton, Hove and Eastbourne

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Eastbourne Pier: Petr Kratochvil

The historic county of Sussex is probably best known for its seaside places. Brighton and Hove and Eastbourne in particular are embedded in the national consciousness, evoking a certain cheeky charm alongside Victorian elegance.

Sussex has plenty of varied accommodation, including self-catering holiday cottages, and plenty of choice when it comes to things to see and do.

 

Brighton and Hove’s Seaside Mix

Brighton and its smaller, immediate neighbour Hove are full of character, combining the traditions of the British seaside with both a quirky and cosmopolitan air of individuality.

Mixing the city with the coastal resort, Brighton, beach bohemia actually has a wide appeal, because there’s something here for everyone.

Brighton has been a fashionable resort since the Regency period, and its Royal Pavilion dates from the time that the future George IV, then the Prince of Wales, made Brighton his home. Visiting the museum and art gallery at the Royal Pavilion, you can see a confluence of tastes, from Regency to Oriental, all housed within a magnificent architectural folly. The museum also hosts exhibitions of 20th century art, design and fashion.

Out an about in Brighton, you’ll find a wide range of places to eat and drink, including independent cafes and bars and notable restaurants, such as the Coal Shed, the Regency Restaurant and Terre a Terre.

The Lanes in Brighton is a great destination for the unusual and the unique when it comes to shopping. This is the historic quarter of the city, a maze of alleyways where you’re always sure to bump into something intriguing.

The Brighton Beachfront is lined with restaurants and bars and is the epicentre of the city’s nightlife. It’s not just about being cool and hip though; you can also let yourself go with traditional seaside entertainment such as fortune tellers, rides for thrillseekers and candyfloss.

Hove is Brighton’s smaller, more laid-back neighbour, but its relative quietness belies a charm all of its own.

There are plenty of Regency buildings and elegant mews houses to feast your eyes on, and the town centre has plenty of independent shops, cafes and restaurants of its own.

Hove Art Museum and Gallery has a fine collection of contemporary craft on display, including textiles, glass and ceramics.

 

Elegant, Cultural and Spectacular Eastbourne

Combining Victorian design with seaside relaxation, Eastbourne has experienced dynamic growth in the past twenty years without losing its inherent character. It has a wonderful pier and seafront, and the contemporary Towner Art Gallery.

The Towner is at the heart of Eastbourne’s Cultural Quarter, set back from the seafront. It hosts exhibitions and has its own permanent collection, including work by 20th century artists such as Paul Nash and Henry Moore, alongside contemporary artists like Grayson Perry and Julian Opie.

As a resort, Eastbourne offers typical seaside attractions alongside unique places to see, such as the nearby Beachy Head and the South Downs National Park.

Beachy Head itself is spectacular: it’s the UK’s highest chalk sea cliff and a famous location featured in many films and television programmes. You can also visit the iconic lighthouse and ride the waves on a boat trip to take in the view of the cliffs from the sea.

Close to Eastbourne is Bateman’s, an historic writers’ retreat dating from the 17th century. This large house is set in beautiful gardens and was where Rudyard Kipling loved to stay. The house retains its feel from this time, resplendent with oriental rugs and the artifacts Kipling brought back from his travels.

Eastbourne may feel a little less brash than Brighton, but it more than holds its own as a fascinating, entertaining holiday destination.

Bath: Somerset’s City of Beauty and Charm

Somerset is a rural county with a wide variety of places for you to visit and explore, from the rolling Mendip Hills to Exmoor National Park and the Somerset Levels. The county offers a wide choice in self-catering holiday cottages, from which you can explore the different facets of the area.

Alongside its countryside, Somerset is also home to a number of quintessentially English locations, brimming with character and history. One such place is the city of Bath.

 

city-of-bath-view

Bodiam Castle and view of Bath: Karen Arnold

Architecturally Intriguing

The Romans originally developed bath as a recreational centre, building it up around its natural hot springs, and making it a centre for curative treatments and baths.

Under the guidance of Beau Nash, known as the “King of Bath” the city began to change significantly in the early part of the 18th century. Its heyday arrived in the Georgian era, when Ralph Allen and the visionary architect John Wood set out to transform the city.

Of the must see sites of Bath, the buildings of this era are unmissable. In the landscape gardens of Prior Park you’ll find the Palladian Bridge. Built in 1755, the bridge is wonderfully elegant and eye-catching. The National Trust carried out major restoration work on it in the mid-1990s – but the restorers were careful to leave the 18th century graffiti untouched!

Overlooking Royal Victoria Park, the iconic Royal Crescent dates from 1775. It comprises 30 grade I listed houses forming a crescent and in doing so, creating one of the greatest, lasting examples of Georgian architecture. With its houses arranged around a perfect lawn, the Royal Crescent is both imposing and charming. Currently it’s home to a luxury hotel and a museum, alongside private homes.

The Circus is close by to the Royal Crescent. This is three curved townhouses which together form a circular layout. The architect John Wood designed the structure but it was completed by his son of the same name after his death. This striking landmark was home to the painter Thomas Gainsborough for a period.

It was damaged during Bath Blitz of 1942 but was later fully restored and reconstructed.

 

Bathtime in Bath

Visiting Bath, you can experience both the historical Roman Baths and indulge yourself in their contemporary equivalent.

Hot springs have played a key role in the history of Bath, and were the reason the Romans founded the city in the first place.

The original Roman Baths are a testament to their ingenuity and you can really get a sense of the times from wandering amid the ruins and seeing the remains of the Great Bath itself, lying below street level.

The baths also house an interactive museum and the accompanying audio guide helps immerse you in the Roman world.

To truly understand the experience, take yourself off to the Thermae Bath Spa and literally immerse yourself in the thermal waters of the city. The open air, thermally heated outdoor pool overlooking the city is not to be missed.

This contemporary bath complex also offers a wide choice of spa treatments and packages, including a meal in its restaurant.

 

Other Things to See in Bath

Bath Abbey is a formidable example of Gothic architecture and a dramatic structure in the heart of the city. Originally dating from the 7th century, Sir George Gilbert Scott restored it in the 1860s. If you fancy a challenge, climb the Abbey Tower’s 212 steps for rewarding, spectacular 360 degree views of the city.

You might also visit the Holburne Museum, itself a beautiful building surrounded by gardens. Here you can see examples of 18th century paintings, porcelain and sculpture, and experience the exquisite interiors of this one-time hotel.

Traversing the River Avon, Pulteney Bridge has shops built into it and is another beautiful Bath landmark. Viewed from the Parade Gardens park, it captures an enduring sense of beauty that belies its origins as a practical piece of engineering, originally designed to connect the centre with land across the Avon.

Bath is both an historical wonder and an idiosyncratic, contemporary home for individual shops, restaurants and other businesses. As such it retains a dynamic heart central to its charm.