Archive for category dorset

Cornwall most family-friendly destination in the world

Porthcurno Beach, Cornwall picture by Flickr user Fraser Reid

Porthcurno Beach, Cornwall picture by Flickr user Fraser Reid

That’s right, our beloved Cornwall has been voted the most child-friendly holiday destination in the whole world, with Devon, Somerset, Dorset and the Isle of Wight also appearing in the top ten.

The results are from a recent poll of 2,000 parents by an international lettings agency, with Cornwall recommended as the best place for family-friendly holidays. The news comes shortly after Cornwall was granted national minority status within the UK, officially recognising it’s distinct culture and heritage.

Top priorities to ensure the best child-friendly holiday included nearby play areas, a good choice of food to cater for fussy eaters, and a shallow sea. Half of the parents polled said the ideal holiday destination must have nice beaches, and 28% said kids’ swimming pools are essential.

Cornwall pipped Orlando in Florida to the top spot because even though Orlando boasts vast theme parks and near-perfect sunny weather, it was marked down for the long flying time of around nine hours.

The study also found that the ideal length of time for a family holiday would be around 10 days, and travelling time to the destination would be under five hours.

Other UK destinations to feature in the top 50 include West Wales, the Yorkshire Dales, Peak District and the Scottish Highlands.

The results are unsurprising to us at Holiday Cottages, where we have holiday accommodation at all of the high-ranking areas voted on in the poll.

 

Top Ten Child-Friendly Holiday Destinations

1. Cornwall, UK

2. Orlando, USA

3. Devon, UK

4. Majorca

5. Costa Del Sol, Spain

6. Isle of Wight

7. Menorca

8. Dorset, UK

9. Somerset, UK

10. Tenerife

 

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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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August bank holiday in the West Country

Newlyn Fish Festival picture by Flickr user pandrcutts

Newlyn Fish Festival picture by Flickr user pandrcutts

The August bank holiday is nearly upon us, and if you are visiting the South West for a holiday then here is a selection of just some of the fun things happening this weekend and beyond.

The Watchet Festival (23rd-25th August) is a family friendly music festival with amazing views of the stunning West Somerset coastline and beyond. If you’re looking for a last minute break for the family, then day tickets are available at the festival and this stunning newly converted barn (sleeps 8) is a short drive away in the village of Winsford.

The Newlyn Fish Festival (26th August) is held at one of Cornwall’s most distinctive fishing ports. What better place to see live cooking demonstrations and a seafood auction than at the place the fish was caught! The festival hosts a variety of entertainment and fun for all the family.

A little after the bank holiday from the 27th-30th August is the Bude Jazz Festival. A mix of free parade sessions across the pretty little town and ticketed events available to purchase on the day at various venues, it’s a good chance to get your jazz stomp on! Search for holiday cottages in Bude.

The Great Dorset Steam Fair (28th August – 1st September) boasts over 200,000 visitors to this extravaganza of an event, dubbed “THE” National Heritage Show of the year. Entertainment is spread across 600 acres of the enormous show ground at Tarrant Hinton, near Blandford Forum. Many interests are catered for, from steam engines to heavy horses, ancient farm crafts to stunt displays, the list goes on! Stay at this beautiful Helpful Holidays semi-detached Grade II listed cottage in Okeford Fitzpane (sleeps 4) or search for more Dorset cottages on our main site.

If you can’t make it to the Newlyn Fish Festival, or if you had a taste and want more, then on 1st September travel to Clovelly, North Devon, for the Lobster and Crab Feast in the iconic harbour. Not only that, but you can enjoy folk music, arts and crafts and some street theatre to keep you entertained. Still with availability is this single-storey house (sleeps 7) with views of the sea to Welcombe Mouth.

 

 

 

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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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South West bookings soar

Early bookings this year for self-catering rental properties in the South West were up by almost 70 per cent compared with the same time last year, according to data from the Exeter office of estate agent Knight Frank.

And properties in the region are also being let out for longer. Miles Kevin, head of Knight Frank’s residential development team in the South West, says that existing holiday property owners should be optimistic:

“The number of letting weeks has increased significantly in recent years. Five or six years ago, it typically was around 25 weeks but now it runs for around 32 weeks, driven in part by people opting to take long weekends earlier and later in the year – in the softer climate of Devon and Cornwall, this can be as late as November. The signs suggest that holiday properties will remain in demand as the economy improves.”

Knight Frank has also seen a rise in the number of people considering a second home as a stable, long-term investment. Many holiday home buyers are approaching retirement age and looking for a wise use of equity released from selling the large family property; some relocate to the area and live in their property while they search for a new primary residence. There has also been a rise in the number of buyers who see a second home as a mixture of business and pleasure, planning to use the property themselves for leisure as well as to rent it out.

“Current yields for new-build properties in prime (coastal, or historic town) pockets of the South West are healthier than ever,” says Miles Kevin. “We are seeing some of the schemes we’re selling achieve a yield of up to eight per cent. For example, a two-bedroom flat with a modern interior in Newquay, Cornwall, can command £1,000 or more a week during July and August. However, a less-modernised property might only bring in £650. The holiday letting market looks for quality and will not put up with ‘Granny’s furniture’ any more, so a newly built, well furnished property often better fits the bill.”

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Petrol prices boost bikes

Sportives, National Trust

Will rocketing petrol prices create a holiday bicycle boom? More and more tourism businesses seem to believe so. For instance, April saw the launch of Cambridge Bike Tours, the first of its kind to provide a programme of bicycle tours around the city and surrounding areas. As well as modern bikes, tourists have the opportunity to try some nostalgic and immaculately refurbished historic British bikes.

Cambridge is famous for its cycling and has over 80 miles of cycle paths and lanes to explore. The company claims its tours offer tourists a unique outdoors experience and enable them to see more of the city and river than on the many walking tours available. Surprisingly, Cambridge Bike Tours is the first tour company in the city to offer a programme dedicated purely to bicycle tours.

The company runs a programme of four different tours operating every day of the week in the summer except Tuesdays. Three of the tours cost £20 and the full day tour costs £33, including bike and helmet. Discounts are available for students, families and groups.

Also getting busy on two wheels is the National Trust, which has launched a new series of challenge rides (also known as sportives). Anyone who’s ever fancied the idea of taking part in a challenging cycle ride through stunning countryside or around a beautiful country estate could be in for a treat with one of them.

All of the routes start and finish at National Trust sites and the first ride will take place in Pembrokeshire in West Wales on 1 May.

The National Trust’s Philip Broadbent-Yale said: “These rides offer a fantastic way to see amazing countryside and have been specifically designed to cater for all ages and abilities, from first-time riders to seasoned pros, there’s something for everyone.”

With distances ranging from a few miles, which is ideal for families, to more testing 50-100 mile rides for the more experienced, these cycling challenges are designed for those who love spending time in the great outdoors. The routes wind through open countryside and will be fully way-marked and marshalled by professional event organisers.

Challenge rides planned for 2011 are:

  • 1 May – National Trust Pembrokeshire Challenge Ride at Stackpole in Wales
  • 19 June – Father’s Day Ride at Dunstable Downs in Bedfordshire
  • 3 July – National Trust White Peak Challenge Ride – Illam, Peak District (TBC)
  • 3 July – Kingston Lacy in Dorset
  • 24 July – Dunstable Downs in Bedfordshire
  • 11 Sept – Wimpole in Cambridgeshire
  • 2 October – Dartmoor Atlantic Challenge at the Parke Estate in Devon
  • 9 October – Sizergh Castle in the Lake District

More information on the rides, how to register and more downloadable cycle trails can be found at National Trust website

Also happening this summer will be the Trust’s first ever Cycling Festival which will take place between 16-24 July, with bike-ride events and activities happening at 25 locations, including Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire and Scotney Castle in Kent.

Finally, March saw the launch of a unique cycle route in Dorset, where to celebrate its 50th Anniversary, Dorset Wildlife Trust has created 42toDO, a special route taking in all of its 42 nature reserves. At 260 miles through the best of Dorset’s landscapes, it is a challenge that people can take up by bike, on foot or even by car, with shorter routes also available for a more leisurely day.

Fiona Sansom of Dorset Wildlife Trust said:

“42toDO is all about celebrating our wonderful nature reserves. Anybody can do it, whether they cycle the whole thing in one go or tick off a few nature reserves at a time on a leisurely ride or walk. Our route is suitable for cyclists, avoiding main roads where possible, but you can still visit the reserves by car, so there’s no reason to feel left out!”

The Trust has produced a map which includes all you need to know about where and when to see unmissable wildlife such as wood anemones, bluebells, sand lizards, early spider orchids or red squirrels.

With different punches at every reserve to collect on the 42toDO maps, challengers will win a certificate and special badge for achieving all 42 or for more than half. There will be additional prizes for the most impressive or unusual ways of completing the challenge.

The 42toDO challenge is free. For a pack, click here

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Ride, stride and support

Explore the English countryside

There’s another opportunity in September to explore and enjoy the English countryside by taking part in Ride+Stride, a sponsored walk or bike ride between 10,000 participating churches. The event involves over 13,000 people of all ages, crosses 34 counties and opens the doors to some of the landscape’s most unusual and unknown churches.

The event has run each year since it began in Suffolk in 1981, and last year’s event raised £1.5 million for church restoration. This year’s event was on Saturday 11 September, with churches open from 10am – 6pm. The idea is that you sign up with the Churches Trust in your chosen county and find sponsors for your walk or ride between whichever churches you fancy. The route can be as long or short as you like, visiting two, or however many more you like, churches. The sponsorship money can all go to your favourite church, or to all the churches in that county.

Cyclists and walkers lucky enough to live in Cumbria, or planning to be on holiday there, might like to put together a route including the charming Newlands Church in the hamlet of Littletown; Beatrix Potter’s Mrs Tiggy Winkle was dedicated to the Vicar’s daughter. In Dorset, participants could head over to Loders’ St. Mary Magdalene’s Church, to offer sympathy and support to its gargoyle with toothache.

Riders and striders in Wiltshire can picnic by Bremilham Church in Cowage farmyard, the tiniest church in the UK, which has one pew and seats four. Or over to Kent and spend the day on Romney Marsh visiting St Clements Church, Old Romney which boasts pale pink pews, having been painted for the filming of Dr Syn in the 1960s, and which were kept because the parishioners liked them. Or wander to St Thomas a Becket in Fairfield, which sits in the middle of a meadow that was only accessible by boat until the 1960s.

Ride+Stride is ideal for the young and old, the energetic and the more relaxed. In 2009, the oldest participant was a 101 year old lady from Oxfordshire who walked between six churches in hilly countryside; the youngest was still in his push chair. Some walk between two and three churches, others are more ambitious – one inspired rambler spent two weeks running 630 miles along the South West Coastal Path from his local church, St John the Baptist, Buckhorn Weston, to Poole in Dorset.

There is also the opportunity to relax and recharge between journeys, with most churches offering a display of snacks and drinks, from cakes and biscuits to home grown plums and orange squash. In fact, you don’t even need to participate in the main event, as this is an ideal opportunity simply to visit a church, knowing it – and its collection box! – will be open.

Ride+Stride helps preserve some of Britain’s 47,000 churches, chapels and meeting houses. Many historical landmarks are falling into severe disrepair and need our help. The event is supported by The National Churches Trust, in partnership with County Churches Trusts nationwide. Keen cyclist and Channel 4 news presenter, Jon Snow, is the patron. Another keen supporter is author Bill Bryson, who said: “No feature of the English countryside is more important, or potentially more vulnerable, than its churches. That’s why I am so delighted to support Ride+Stride.”

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Lonely Planet Awards

Jurassic Coast picture by Flickr user Kevinzim

A new poll by popular publishers Lonley Planet has revealed that UK holidaymakers’ travel wish lists while at home are better value accommodation and cheaper train travel. More than 3,500 people voted in the first Lonely Planet Awards, created in association with adventure operator Explore.

Walking on Scotland’s wild beaches was considered the most under-rated British day out, closely followed by exploring the UK’s cities and Dorset’s Jurassic Coast.

Lonely Planet’s travel editor Tom Hall said, “Days out in Britain don’t have to be traditional seaside jaunts or tours of stately homes.

“Brits are fast discovering some of the country’s lesser-known attractions and Scotland’s stunning beaches are, quite rightly, recognised as one of the best.”

Dorset resorts pull together

The Dorset resorts of Bournemouth and Poole have become partners in a campaign to woo Brits back from the costas – and into holiday homes and hotels in their area.

Although near neighbours, the two towns have never worked together before. Now they are pooling resources (sorry!) in a new joint marketing campaign.

Bruce Grant-Braham chairman of Poole Tourism Management Board, says, “The collapse of sterling against both the euro and the dollar is forcing many people to re-think their holiday habits, and together we aim to be the first to welcome them back from the costas.”

Alex Carter, chair of Bournemouth Tourism Management Board comments, “Having enjoyed huge success individually, we are now joining forces to offer an even better, unrivalled range of holiday experiences at unbeatable prices.”

Bournemouth and Poole attract about seven million visitors between them a year. Quite a large proportion are regulars who return again and again.

Despite their proximity, the towns have very different personalities. Bournemouth has glorious beaches, well kept gardens and is, in many ways, the quintessential English seaside resort. Poole, with its famous and somewhat exclusive Sandbanks peninsula, a marina for 1500 vessels and fame as Europe’s largest natural harbour, sees itself perhaps as slightly more edgy.

The two tourism bosses feel that, between them, the towns offer just about everything a holidaymaker could want. That includes: 10 miles of sand, accommodation to suit all pockets, live music venues, theatre, museums, galleries, leisure centres, golf (eight courses), restaurants, pubs and tea rooms – and no foreign language problems (not to mention no airport security hassles and delays).