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Second year at top of Which? survey for Helpful Holidays

Many congratulations to our friends at Helpful Holidays for sweeping the board at this year’s Which? Travel magazine member survey!

For the second year running, Helpful Holidays came out on top of the survey rating holiday cottage and villa booking companies. They achieved and overall score of 91% and awarded 5 stars in every category, bar one.

Lorna Cowan, Editor of Which? Travel, said, “Helpful Holidays has proved to be a continued hit with Which? members after being voted the best holiday cottage company in our annual satisfaction survey for the second year running. Its impressive customer score and maximum five star rating in six out of the seven featured categories, including customer service and ease of booking, shows just how well members rate the company and the cottages it offers.”

Which? is recognised for its unbiased and trustworthy endorsements, so to rate so highly by its members is a wonderful achievement. It also follows on from the recent Silver Award for Best UK Cottage/Self Catering Booking Company (UK Properties) at the British Travel Awards.

Beaminster cottage

Beaminster cottage

Why not try this pretty, detached 19th cent. stone cottage in Beaminster, Dorset.  With lovely wooded valley walks to neighbouring Netherbury, where the original ‘River Cottage’ from the TV series is located. Sleeps 4 and has availability in May.

Cottage by the creek

Cottage by the creek

Also available in May is this neat, modern mid-terrace cottage, one of nine in a stylish, small development in Little Petherick. At the back, an enclosed, waterside, decked terrace (lockable gate with ladder to creek) and first-floor balcony are ideal for enjoying the lovely creek views and great for wildlife-watching: swans, egrets, herons and kingfishers frequently seen. Sleeps 4.

Bovey Castle lodges

Bovey Castle lodges

With a 25% discount offer in May, you can’t go wrong with one of these granite built lodges (sleeps 6) overlooking Edwardian gardens, lake and tennis courts in the grounds of Bovey Castle, Dartmoor. All the hotel facilities are yours to enjoy, including indoor heated swimming pool, gym, steam room, sauna, spa (beauty treatments) and restaurant. Outside are hard and grass tennis courts (lessons available), croquet lawn (seasonal), cricket nets (late May to mid-September) and trampoline.

St. Ives cottage

St. Ives cottage

For a beach holiday on the Tate Gallery side of St Ives and just 450 yards from the heart of town, harbour and galleries is this carefully renovated, Victorian terraced house (sleeps 6). The beautifully white interior and simple, contemporary furnishings and original artwork reflect the unique local light and the artistic influences of the town

For all of these Helpful Holidays properties and more, be sure to visit our main site to find your perfect holiday let.

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Brits are creatures of habit

Returning to a previous holiday destination proves popular to a third or Brits, according to a new consumer survey.

33% of respondents to the TravelVision survey said that available information, or knowledge of a destination was the main reason that would prompt them into booking a holiday.

The survey, run in conjunction with the British Travel Awards, is the largest of its type and took place between July and September last year. It had a huge 479,830 responses to questions regarding travel plans for 2013.

Other responses showed that researching and also booking holidays online was a mainstay in consumer behaviour. The biggest influence on where people decided to go on holiday was through recommendation. The tradition of a two week summer holiday was less popular than previous years, with holiday makers preferring to split their time over the year with shorter vacations or weekend breaks.

The ‘grey’ and ’empty nester’ market was the most resilient in the current financial climate; with families and the new so-called ‘squeezed middle’ behaving more frugally regarding their holiday choices.


Do you return to the same area and holiday cottage? Please tell us your reasons why you like to return to a particular area or one of our holiday cottages in the comments box below. We’d love to hear your feedback.


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2012 Round up

Happy new year from all at Holiday Cottages! 2012 was an eventful and special year, with a successful Olympic Games and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee; it all came up roses for Britain. Before we start on news in 2013, here’s a round up of the main stories we covered on this blog last year.

January started positively for holiday cottage owners, as research showed that an increased number of people were planning self-catering holidays. The future of rail travel got a boost as new high speed lines got the go ahead from the government, and quicker and easier searches were made possible by and Google Maps. However, train companies did not fare very well in a customer satisfaction survey.

February started with a cold snap and the government warned that parents could be fined if they were found to be taking their children on holiday during term time.

In April we posted about some brilliantholiday properties and also gave you a list of top things to do over Easter, many of which are also applicable at other times of the year!

The Olympic torch relay began in May, as a precursor to London 2012. We also ran two great competitions, tickets to Oakwood Theme Park and to Chessington World of Adventures.

Much speculation arose regarding the impact the Olympics would have on the UK in June. Brits changed their holiday plans to fit around the Games, no one knew if the Tube would cope with the extra visitors (by and large it did), and British Airways even launched a campaign to get people to stay at home and support Team GB.

July saw record rainfall over the space of 24 hours. In August the number of ‘nightcations’ were found to be on the rise, and the Lake District got some Hollywood visitors.

Yorkshire was branded ‘not a destination’, by Visit England in September, something which has been proved otherwise after it was named best for holidays at the World Travel Awards the following month, and most recently been made the starting point for the Tour de France 2014.

A rise in demand for wi-fi in holiday cottages was revealed by a survey in December, and we gave you a list of some beautiful festive getaways, great for all year, not just for Christmas!


So, that was the year on this blog. What will 2013 bring? Bookmark us and find out! You can also keep track of us on our Facebook page.

For a rundown of travel news in and outside of the UK, see our sister site blog, Villaseek.




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Riding on the success of London 2012

London 2012 logo made by school children. Photo by Flickr user surreynews

London 2012 logo made by school children. Photo by Flickr user surreynews


Riding on the success of the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, VisitBritain is to launch a new campaign to attract visitors to the UK.

Official figures show a drop in visitors to the UK during the Olympics compared to a normal year. However, according to BAA, this is the ‘Olympic effect’, as UK passengers chose to stay at home to watch the Games, and non-Olympic visitors decided to defer their journeys.

A new advert with the slogan ‘Memories are GREAT’ will be launched by VisitBritain. It will include footage of the opening ceremony, and a print version will run for several months in National Geographic and Time Out magazines. It is hoped that this promotion will extend the good press and image the UK has received worldwide throughout the Games.

In addition, VisitBritain has partnered with STA Travel to promote Britain to the youth market on university campuses. Together with British Airways, £5 million will be invested in the US, Japan, China, and the Middle East to encourage visitors to the UK for Christmas shopping and January sales. BA will also offer discounted flights to help push the campaign.

Laurence Bresh, director of marketing at VisitBritain said: “The main event may be over, but the hard work begins now.

“Britain’s image and reputation around the world is riding high, this next stage of our GREAT campaign aims to convert worldwide interest into increased bookings. We’ve captured the world’s imagination on TV screens over the last few weeks, and now is the time to inspire them to come to Britain.”

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Competition time! Win tickets to Chessington World of Adventures

 Madagascar Live! Prepare to Party (c) 2012 DreamWorks Animation L.L.C

Madagascar Live! Prepare to Party (c) 2012 DreamWorks Animation L.L.C


Fancy a day out at the Chessington World of Adventures resort this summer? As part of their 25th anniversary celebrations and the NEW ‘Madagascar Live! Prepare to Party’ stage show, we have two sets of family of four day tickets to give away!

Get ready to explore the jungle and find all your favourite characters from the film in the heart of the park in new land ‘Africa’. The only one of its kind in Europe, this show promises to be fun-filled and exciting. The Madagascar characters – Alex, King Julien, Gloria, Mort and The Penguins host a party with lively songs & dancing. Even when the party games are over, you can meet and greet the group, and take pictures with your new friends!

Continue the family adventure with a spin on KOBRA in the heart of Wild Asia, brave the fiery Dragon’s Fury or discover the mystery of Tomb Blaster in Forbidden Kingdom. Take a walk on the wild side in the Zoo with tigers, lions and gorillas in the Trail of the Kings or get a soaking as Rameses gets its Revenge! Get lost beneath the waves in AZTECA, an exciting SEA LIFE centre experience featuring an undersea empire full of sharks, rays, and parrot fish.

To enter the competition to win one of the sets of family tickets to Chessington World of Adventures, just get your hands on the latest copy of Holiday Villas and Cottages Magazine!

The full season park is open from 23rd March – 5th November, find full opening times and directions here.

Remember to check out Holiday Cottages for some wonderful places to stay in the area!

 Madagascar Live! Prepare to Party (c) 2012 DreamWorks Animation L.L.C

Madagascar Live! Prepare to Party (c) 2012 DreamWorks Animation L.L.C



Competition time! Win tickets to Oakwood Theme Park

Yee-Haa! Staff at Oakwood Theme Park

Yee-Haa! Staff at Oakwood Theme Park



It’s a “yee-haa!” welcome at the Oakwood Theme Park in Pembrokeshire! Staff at the Theme Park joined in the ‘cowboy’ theme to mark the official completion and opening of a newly themed Wild West area, complete with saloon, at the park recently.

The park opened 25 years ago with a ‘cowboy’ theme, so it only seems fitting that on this momentous anniversary there should be another area with this theme.

As part of the celebrations, staff donned stetsons and even took part in an impromptu line dance!

Oakwood Theme Park’s Anthony Crowdie said: “We’re all delighted with the way the new-look Wild West area has turned out. It really recreates the feel of a typical frontier US town.

“We decided to re-theme the area following requests from members of the public. It certainly seems to have gone down well with our visitors and we have had a number of people commenting on how good it looks.

“It’s also clearly got the thumbs up from our staff who didn’t take very much persuading to dress up and take part in their own version of line dancing to celebrate its unveiling!” he added.

The park is planning a series of special events and celebrations to mark the anniversary. Exciting added attractions for 2012 also include extended late-night opening in July and August with fireworks finales and the return of the hugely popular High Diving Show for the summer.

To enter the competition to win free tickets to Oakwood Theme Park, just get your hands on the latest copy of Holiday Villas and Cottages Magazine!


Staff practice their line dancing!

Staff practice their line dancing!


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Congratulations to Helpful Holidays

Congratulations are in order for our friends at Helpful Holidays! They came out on top in a Which? Travel magazine member survey of holiday cottage and villa booking companies, with four stars for value for money and five stars in customer service, ease of booking, range of properties, property information and website usability.

The panel of 2,678 Which? members who had booked a villa or holiday cottage in the past two years were asked to rate the companies they’d used.

Lorna Cowan, Editor of Which? Travel, said, “Nearly 3,000 members gave us feedback on cottage and villa booking companies – Helpful Holidays stood out, receiving an outstanding customer score overall, with members impressed by the excellent customer service and easy-to-use website.”

Mary Bowater said in a message to all subscribers to the Helpful Holidays newsletter: “We’re thrilled to receive this unbiased endorsement. Which? is the UK’s pre-eminent and most trustworthy barometer of consumer attitudes and opinions and we couldn’t be more delighted to get this feedback from them. The values of honesty, integrity and attention to detail that Helpful Holidays puts into practice every day are recognised and appreciated by customers in this report. Ultimately, trust is the currency that really counts and earning that of our customers has been the purpose of Helpful Holidays for the last 30 years.”


Cottage owners targeted by phone-call advertising scam

Warning – credit card losses from impersonation

We’ve received the following email from the editors of Holiday Villas and Cottages magazine, which is relevant to all people who advertise their property on and any other web site or magazine:

Please be aware that a number of advertisers in our publication Holiday Villas & Cottages have recently received calls from sales people improperly claiming to work for, or on behalf of, the magazine.

In a number of cases individuals have been persuaded to hand over credit card details after being offered renewal of their advertisement booking at a low price, subject to immediate acceptance of the offer and payment by credit card. Their card is then debited in that amount, often several times.
No written or email confirmation is supplied until after payment has been taken.

Any advertising supplied as a result appears to be in a freesheet style publication, not in a bona fide magazine.

These calls are not in any way connected with Holiday Villas & Cottages, Merricks Publishing Ltd,

Calls to our advertisers are almost certainly just the tip of the iceberg. Anyone advertising in any publication or on any website could be called by these people.
If you receive an advertising sales call seeking a repeat booking in any publication/website and you have any doubts at all as to whether it is genuine, ask the caller for his/her name and the name of the company and publication, then call that publication (making sure you call the genuine number, not one that you are given on the pretext that ‘the switchboard is always busy.’) In our case, the number to call is 01458 274447.

Allegations of improper sales activity of this sort have been covered by the BBC and discussed online, for example here and here.

If this has already happened to you, call me, Hamish Watson-Grey, or e-mail and we will advise what steps you can take to recover your funds.

With kind regards

Hamish Watson-Grey
Managing Director
Merricks Publishing Ltd

7 Fun Things to do in Norfolk

Below is a guest post from Kett Country Cottages in Norfolk. Let us know what you think — it’s always interesting to get a different point of view, and we’re hoping to do more of these in future. Looking for more ideas? You can read our Norfolk holiday guide on the main Holiday Cottages site.

We all enjoy the traditional Christmas feast with our family, but what else is there to do if you decide to go on holiday in Norfolk this festive season? Going on holiday to this part of England can add some extra excitement to your family Christmas, so go out and have an adventure this year!

  1. Going for a Christmas swim. In Norfolk, the glory of the North Sea is there for all to enjoy, with a number of hardy folk jumping into the sea over Christmas time. There are 3 on consecutive days, so you can go to one or all of them, depending on your tolerance for cold.
  2. Enjoy a Christmas Spectacular. In Thursford, you have the opportunity to enjoy one of the most popular Christmas shows, which features carols, dancers, beautiful costumes and wonderful music. It’s an event the whole family can enjoy. (Shows every day at 2pm and 7pm until the 23rd December)
  3. Take a trip on a heritage railway. A number of different lines throughout Norfolk, including the Poppy Line, are running festive services where you can enjoy a train journey to see Santa, travelling through the countryside while munching on mince pies.
  4. Visit a Norwich Christmas Market. There are a large number of special Christmas Markets happening throughout Norwich, which each offer a unique range of little gifts and treats for the whole family to enjoy when you return to your Christmas holiday cottage. In the Mall, you can find the Norwich Christmas Craft Fair (From 9am every day until 24th December)
  5. Attend the Pantomime. This year Sleeping Beauty is playing at the Norwich Theatre Royal until the 14th of January, so you can take the whole family to enjoy the fun and laughter of a panto featuring well-known actors, and songs that everyone can sing along to.
  6. Take a guided walk or tour. Some of the most interesting sights in Norfolk can only seen if you know where to look and a guide can help you find them. There are a number of different guided tours happening, including:
    • Victorian Ghosts, a walk hosted by the Man in Black, who will tell you the unusual stories that aren’t told on most ghost walks. You can also finish off in the festive spirit with some mulled wine (Adam & Eve Pub, Norwich, 22nd December at 7pm)
    • The Boxing Day walk at Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden, will allow you to get a guided tour around this beautiful garden from its head gardener, ending with mince pies and mulled wines (South Walsham, 26th December at 11am)
  7. Watch Morris Dancing. This traditional English dancing is being performed by the Kemps Men of Norwich, including their Mummers Dance. This is a fun event that the whole family can watch and enjoy. (Banningham Crown Pub, 26th December at 12 noon)

Durham Lumiere

Cedric Le Borgne 'Les Voyageurs'

Deadgood Studio 'Rainbow'

Jaques Rival 'I Love Durham'

This weekend I went to the Lumiere festival in Durham. It was a wonderful event which showed off this beautiful city to its best advantage. Light art illuminated prominent parts of this historic place, such as Kingsgate bridge transformed into a huge illuminated waterfall entitled ‘Splash’ by artist Peter Lewis and engineered by Water Sculptures. Martin Warren lit up three more of Durham’s bridges, Cedric Le Borgne suspended brightly illuminated sculptures of men above a particularly narrow cobbled street giving a magical essence to the walk. These, along with many more made for a really enjoyable experience and would also encourage me to visit again, even without the festival.

A small drive away in Northallerton are these 4 cottages which sleep 2-4. These former farm buildings have been imaginatively converted into 4 well equipped and attractive holiday cottages. Original beams have been retained and there is central heating for year round appeal. All the cottages have TV with Freeview, video and radio cassette/CD player, fully equipped kitchens with washer/dryer, fridge/freezer, dishwasher and microwave, cots and highchairs. The cottages are set in peaceful countryside and have magnificent views. They are perfect if you want to combine a visit to Durham, with great walks and even a drive over to the seaside with Whitby within easy reach.

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