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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.

2013 round up

Happy New Year from all of us at Holiday Cottages! Before we start on the news and reviews for 2014, here’s a some highlights of what we covered on the blog in 2013:

We started the year with a report that we Brits are creatures of habit with our holiday choices, often returning to a previous destination and holiday cottage when we’ve had one good holiday there before. Last year was the Year of Natural Scotland, and was launched with an advert featuring Shetland ponies wearing onesies!

In February we found that 50% of Londoners prefer holidays in the sunshine, with many also stating that their holidays in the UK were some of the happiest they have had. We also gave you a run down of some of our most splendid cottages with pools, which are all still available now and could be great for a summer holiday vibe in winter!

Flybe announced flights from Manchester to Scotland in March, making for a quick and relatively cost effective way of taking a short break in Scotland. The Easter holidays were blighted by bad weather sweeping across the country. It didn’t affect Cheshire, though, as I shared my photography adventure in Tatton Park over the Easter weekend.

Our friends at Helpful Holidays swept the board at the Which? Travel magazine member survey in April. Meanwhile, in May, Blackpool was named the most popular British seaside resort at the TripAdvisor Choice Awards.

In June, research by VisitBritain found that more overseas visitors to the UK prefer visiting open green spaces such as parks and gardens than they do museums and galleries.

July started with the news that a change in the law in 2015, which means schools will decide their own term dates, will very likely drive up the prices of holidays year round. There was a rise in visits to UK attractions, helping to bolster domestic tourism.

We gave our top tips for festivals and activities over the August Bank Holiday; we also reported on the large number of UK piers under threat of coming under a state of disrepair if funding isn’t found.

September was a time for activities such as the Devon Open Studios, Frome Cheese and Agricultural Show, and pickling at Powderham.

In October, inbound tourism was on the up, and also Yorkshire was voted one of the top 10 places to visit in the world!

In November we recommended the North Devon Clovelly Herring Festival and reviewed the light fantastic Lumiere Festival, Durham. There was good news for Hull, as it was named the next UK City of Culture 2017.

Finally, in December, we found that we Brits are flavour of the month with Americans, as tourists from across the Pond have been increasing in number year on year. Christmas was also a great time for UK tourism as the number of overnight stays and short trips increased substantially over the festive period.

So, that’s it for 2013! Keep up to date with news and reviews in 2014 by following the blog, or you can like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter


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Sunny weather weekend events

Summer Sun picture by Flickr user samipaju

Summer Sun picture by Flickr user samipaju

It is glorious weather at the moment, and set to get hotter over the weekend! So, here are a few events going on this weekend that are perfect for days out in the sunshine.


7-9th June The Contemporary Craft Festival, Bovey Tracey.

7-8th June Occombe Beer Festival, Occombe Farm.


6th-8th June Royal Cornwall Show, Wadebridge. A county show featuring livestock judging, flower displays, show jumping and music.

7th-9th June Charles Causley Festival, Launceston. A festival celebrating poetry, prose and the performing arts.

9th June Martin Alvarado performs in Liskeard. Argentina’s award-winning tango vocalist.


8th June Tastes of Yorkshire Food and Drink Family Festival, Ripon Racecourse.

8th-16th June North Yorkshire Open Studios, Gargrave. Over 100 designers and makers open their studios to the public.

29th March – 30th June In Cloud Country – Abstracting from Nature exhibition, Leeds.


8th June Festival Bowland 2013. An afternoon of looking at plants and nature.

8th – 9th June Slaidburn Steam and Vintage Vehicle Display.

All year – Quadtrex at Thornton Hall Farm. Suitable for ages 6 and upwards, whirl around 160 acres of terrain.

South East England

6th-10th June Risborough Walking Festival. A variety of guided walks over the festival period.

8th-9th June Marlow Town Regatta and Festival 2013. A sporting and social event.


Tatton Park adventure

On the Beatrix Potter Trail in Tatton Park. Picture by Elisa Artesero

On the Beatrix Potter Trail in Tatton Park. Picture by Elisa Artesero

I visited Tatton Park this Easter weekend for a spot of photography in its gorgeous selection of gardens. Little did I know that I’d also find myself caught up in the hustle and bustle of the many family activities taking place across the park!

Beatrix Potter inspired the weekend’s events; these included a Peter Rabbit trail across the gardens, the Pigling Bland trail and the Easter storyteller in the farm, and also magic shows and Punch and Judy shows in the stable yard. An adventure playground, an old-fashioned style merry-go-round, and storytelling time in the barn rooms also added to a long list of things for families to do.

I bumped into Peter Rabbit several times as he tried to hide from Mr McGregor, and found myself unwittingly following the Peter Rabbit trail across the gardens, meeting many of Potter’s most cherished characters along the way. It seemed an especially good day out for parents looking for some entertainment for their children.

Japanese Garden picture by Elisa Artesero

Japanese Garden picture by Elisa Artesero

It was also a lovely place to take photos, particularly the Japanese garden which could only be observed from its periphery so as to keep the careful planting in tact. It was so picturesque, it looked like something from a picture book. The grounds just outside of the main area were ideal for a more peaceful walk away from the popular activity areas. They were also great for a bit of wildlife photography, I saw some young deer settled down near the lake and there was also a special hut for bird watchers.

Deer at Tatton Park. Picture by Elisa Artesero

Deer at Tatton Park. Picture by Elisa Artesero

Luckily, the activities don’t stop at this bank holiday weekend. Many of them continue on throughout the school holidays and beyond, so you have plenty of time to visit yet. For instance, from now until the 12th April it is lambing fortnight at the farm, the ‘Beatrix Potter’s Life’ exhibition in the Mansion runs until 1st September, plus many more events and activities.

If you like the sound of Tatton Park and are also looking for a break away in Cheshire one weekend, you won’t go far wrong with Broomfield Barns (sleeps 5), nestled in the Cheshire countryside and near some award-winning local pubs. For this holiday cottage, and many more, visit our main site for details.

If you would like to see some more of my pictures of the day, please see my website

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Easter events 2013

Easter Eggs picture by Flickr user phil41dean

Easter Eggs picture by Flickr user phil41dean

Easter is nearly upon us! As the flowers start to bloom and the sun begins to shine for that little bit longer each day, it is time to start planning those Easter holiday activities!

1. Tarmar Valley Spring Trail Festival – With over 30 guided walks and activities to suit all ages and abilities, this Cornish Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty runs the festival from 28th March – 7th April with many events available for free or a small donation. Events include Exploring Nature, a walk looking at Lutyens’ buildings in Milton Abbot, a Woodland Family Activity Day and Uncovering the Past exhibition continues its tour of the Tamar Valley.

2. Trereife Easter Food & Craft Fair  (Easter weekend) – Also in Cornwall, this is a perfect day out for the foodies amongst you. The beautiful grounds of this Queen Anne manor house will play host to cooking demonstrations from gourmet chefs, and marquees with a wide range of producers from Worthy Farm Cheeses and Fish sales from ‘Cornish Smokies’, to locally produced beer, cider and wine. Perfect produce to fill up your picnic basket!

3. Annual Oyster Gathering, Falmouth (Easter weekend) – Go on boat trips to watch the fishermen do their thing at the Flushing Quay on the last weekend of the season. Taste the bounty at the seafood market with some of the catch cooked up by local chefs.

4. York’s CHOCOLATE Story – It wouldn’t be Easter without chocolate! Find out about chocolate’s history, how to make it, and more importantly, taste it, on this tour of York’s most famous chocolate-making families!

5. The Great Studfold Easter Egg Hunt, North Yorkshire (30th March – 14th April) – Gather up the brightly coloured eggs from wicker baskets on this Easter egg hunt. Also look out for craft days and the chance to make an Easter card.

6. Easter Eggspress at Kirklees Light Railway (Easter Weekend) – A great family day out with bouncy castles, face painting, tram rides, donkey rides, egg hunt and egg and spoon races for both children and adults alike!

7. ‘All About Me’ at Eureka (from 29th March) – A new exhibition to encourage learning through interaction and play at the UK’s National Children’s Museum.

8. Lake Windermere Watersports (29th March – 14th April) – Get active in the water on one of the Lake District‘s most famous lakes. For £10 per person there are family-orientated activity sessions, including canoeing, kayaking, sailing, windsurfing and raft building.

9. The Great Peter Rabbit Easter Egg Hunt, Windermere and Bowness (from 4th April) – It’s the North’s largest egg hunt, with 50 limited edition ceramic eggs to be found across the Lakes. It’s a mammoth task, and one which is probably best spent on a weekend away.

10. Abbot Hall Easter Sculpting Workshops, Kendal (8th – 12th April) – Add to the large willow sculptures, or make a smaller one to take away with you at these workshops over the Easter holidays.

If there are any other Easter activities taking place across the country these holidays, please comment below, or tweet us @holcottagescc 

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Holiday cottages with pools

This sun is shining and spring is well on its way! However, a dip in the sea might still be a little chilly for some, so why not rent a holiday cottage with its own pool? Perhaps pools aren’t something you would think about when looking for a holiday let, but this little luxury is increasing in popularity and affordability in the cottage market, so don’t overlook the prospect of one for your next holiday!

Hicks Farm Holidays Rose Cottage in Boresford, Herefordshire, is set on a quiet livestock farm. This pretty cottage caters for many activities – you can explore the farm and help feed the animals, badger watch at sunset, play pool in the games room, and of course, swim in the indoor luxury pool.  Sleeps 7 + 2 cots, prices start at £710

Indoor pool

Indoor pool

Rose Cottage

Rose Cottage










If beautiful South Hams is the area for you, why not try one of these three barn conversions, or two cottages positioned on a mixed working farm a mile from Halwell. These Helpful Holidays properties all share an indoor swimming pool with a toddler’s splash area. There is also a children’s play area with swings, climbing frame, slide and trampoline. If that isn’t enough, there is also a games room complete with WiFi. Sleeps 10 and prices start at £725.

View to the kitchen

View to the kitchen

Helpful Holidays South Hams

Helpful Holidays South Hams










In Wales this former Victorian gatehouse in Carmarthenshire and Laugharne has access to free leisure facilities – heated indoor swimming pool, Jacuzzi and Sauna, fitness suite, tennis courts, table tennis and pool/games room at the exclusive Pantglas Leisure Club, just a short walk away from North Lodge.  Set in a quiet valley, this cottage is positioned for sunshine and has a charming woodburning stove in the kitchen/breakfast room. Sleeps 6 and prices start at £440.

Fantastic leisure facilities

Fantastic leisure facilities

Former Victorian gatehouse

Former Victorian gatehouse










Last but not least in this list of suggestions, is Maenporth Estate in Cornwall’s Med. A classic modern development with large indoor heated swimming pool, sauna, jacuzzi, table tennis, pool table and two tennis courts in 30 acres of landscaped gardens. There is also a large barbecue area, children’’s play area and plenty of woodland walks, all for your enjoyment and use while on holiday. Sleeps 4 and starts at a very reasonable £395.

Tennis anyone?

Tennis anyone?

Maenporth, Cornwall's Med

Maenporth, Cornwall’s Med










There are plenty more properties with pools on the Holiday Cottages website, just type ‘swimming pool‘ into the keywords search tool for an extensive list across the country to suit all tastes and budgets.

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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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Bonfire Night 2012

Fireworks photo by Flickr User Bayasaa

Fireworks photo by Flickr User Bayasaa


It’s getting closer to Bonfire Night, so here are a few events going on around the country:

Chatsworth – Enjoy a large firework display, bonfire in the garden and lots of live entertainment. 3rd & 4th November, Adults £12, Children £8. Check out some of our holiday cottages near by and make a break of it.

Lewes Bonfire Night – with processions and many bonfires at different sites around the town, Lewes looks to be putting on a spectacular evening on 5th November. Ticket prices vary. There is also a mobile phone app you can download here. Here are some holiday cottages nearby too!

The Station Inn, Oxenholme near Kendal – Wrap up warm for the firework display, bonfire and burgers and pies from 6pm, 2nd November. There are also lots of Lake District holiday cottages to choose from!

Kendal Castle firework display – 7.30pm, 5th November. No charge for this one, but all donations go towards hosting next year’s event!

Leeds Roundhay Park – enjoy a huge bonfire with 70,000 other visitors, 7.30pm, 5th November, free admission.

Museum of East Anglican Life – enjoy a bonfire, firework display and refreshments, all alongside the sights and smells of traction engines in steam. Family ticket £12 or Adults £4.50 and children £3.50 available from the Tourist Information Centre in Stowmarket. 6.30pm, 3rd November.

Gulliver’s World Theme Park – If you book for the Mystical Mayhem Show you can get access to the rides, fireworks and dinner! 3rd November Adults £19.95, Children £17.95


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Halloween 2012 spooktacular activities!

Carved pumpkins picture by Flickr User khrawlings

Carved pumpkins picture by Flickr User khrawlings


So, it’s half term for many, the clocks have gone back, the nights are getting darker, and this Wednesday is Halloween! If you haven’t planned anything just yet, then never fear! Here are a few activity ideas for at home:

1. Pumpkin carving – an oldie but a goody. Gather together some pumpkins of different sizes, hollow them out and carve in some scary faces. Don’t forget to put a tea light inside for added effect and to chase off those spooks and ghouls!

2. Trick or treat – dress up the children as a ghost in a sheet, a witch with a wart-ridden nose, or a zombie and take them to play trick or treat with the neighbours!

3. Apple bobbing – prizes for each apple caught. No cheating, hands must stay behind backs at all times!

4. Mask making – gather together lots of paper, crayons, cotton wool and thread to make your own spooky Halloween masks.

5. Eye-popping food – make scary eyeballs out of peeled grapes with a dot of food colouring for the pupils are sure to scare and delight children!


Now here are some activities happening around the UK:

1. Fright Fantastic Half Term Horror at Adventure Island, Southend-on-sea. Special scare zones and a new fright attraction all take place this week!

2. Halloween Trails at Croft Castle and Parkland Herefordshire 10am-4.30pm Normal admission charges plus £2 per trail. Follow the clues to hunt down the ghosts and get your goody bag!

3. Lanhydrock Spooky Trail, Cornwall

4. Snaglefang’s Spooky Spectacular, Bewilderwood, Hoveton, Norfolk. Lantern and mask-making together with a parade at 5.45pm all this week.

5. Halloween Festival at Marwell, Owslebury, Winchester. Carve pumpkins at the Pumpkin Emporium and hear stories from Marwell’s resident witch!



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