Archive for category Somerset

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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Easter availability in the West Country

There is still time to book a break away for this Easter. Here are a few holiday cottages in the wonderful West Country!

Q10 - View from the balcony

Q10 – View from the balcony

Q10 - spacious living/dining/kitchen area

Q10 – spacious living/dining/kitchen area

This absolutely stunning custom-built detached house (sleeps 8) is positioned on a quiet, private lane on the northern edge of Mawgan Porth. The village has pubs, restaurants, deli, wine bar and beach shops clustered around a beautiful cove. It’s great for bodyboarding, and close to pony-trekking and golf. It’s also not too far from other magnificent beaches and international surfing facilities at Newquay (airport).

The property (Q10) is full of large windows to showcase the view and let light stream in to the generously sized rooms. The living/dining/kitchen area of this house is upstairs to take advantage of the wonderful sea views. Downstairs are four bedrooms (two double, two twin) with three en suite bathrooms and French windows to the garden. Everything about this property is sleek and modern in design for a comfortable holiday.


R54 - kitchen/living room

R54 – kitchen/living room


R54 - view from patio and garden

R54 – view from patio and garden

Another holiday cottage from Helpful Holidays is this large detached bungalow (R54) (sleeps 6) in the hamlet of Freathy overlooking the fine sandy beach of Whitsand Bay. It has a sunlit living room and fitted kitchen and glazed doors to the patio and peaceful garden. There are three bedrooms, two double, one twin, and one bathroom and a shower room. An excellent holiday home with good links to nearby Plymouth.


L153 - view from the front

L153 – view from the front

L153 - inside/outside dining

L153 – inside/outside dining


Perfect for a group or large family in the South Hams is this large, split-level, detached house (L153) (sleeps 12) with panoramic views over the bay to Burgh Island. Just 200 yards up from the magnificent sandy beach in Bigbury-on-Sea stands this contemporary home designed with the latest green technology. The interiors are light, bright and spacious. Consisting of four large en suite bedrooms (three twins, one double) on the lower ground floor, and another huge master bedroom with walk in dressing/cot room and en suite bathroom from the hall. A light-filled kitchen/dining room with glossy, modern units and a kitchen island. Through to a large living area with floor to ceiling glass doors here and in the kitchen to give panoramic views and access to the deck and steps down to the garden, hot tub and little summer house, plus much, much more.

These are just a few of the stunning properties still with availability for the Easter holidays, so make sure to visit the main site to discover even more!

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2014 Spring Steam Gala 27th- 30th March

Ride on the visiting locomotives of days-gone-by as part of the Spring Steam Gala, taking place from Thursday 27th – Sunday 30th March.

The Gala will feature locomotives used on the ‘Withered Arm’ (so-called because the network looked like the withered arm of a tree) and a recreation of the ‘Atlantic Coast Express’ supported by the WSR Home Fleet Steam Locomotives. There are lots of journeys to choose from, and you can also further enhance your journey by downloading the Heritage Hunter’ app which takes you through the history of the railways using interactive augmented reality. For more information, a timetable and to book your train tickets go here.

Stay at this semi-detached former farmhouse in Hatch Beauchamp, a little conservation village nestled in rolling farmland between Taunton and Ilminster. A short walk from the pub, restaurant and children’s playground, the property is by fields and cider orchards. Downstairs there is a large Shaker-style kitchen/dining room with pantry, and also a living room with a piano, and a downstairs loo. Upstairs there are three bedrooms, a double, a family room with double and a single bed and a bunk room. There is also a family bathroom. Outside you can enjoy a pretty, enclosed garden with lawn and small patio. There’s a rustic games barn with table tennis, darts and storage for bicycles.

View from outside

Kitchen/dining room

Double bedroom




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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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Frome Cheese and Agricultural show

If you are down in the South West this weekend and fancy a day out, there is the Cheese and Agricultural Show in Frome on Saturday.

Cheese makers have been visiting the Show for 151 years, coming far and wide from across the globe. This year there will be around 1,200 award-winning cheeses to set your tastebuds going. Not only that, but there will be entertainment from a motorbike display team, dog agility, lurcher racing plus many other countryside pursuits and rural crafts. It’s a family-friendly event with 20,000 visitors last year and even more expected this year as its popularity grows.

Why not rest your head at this lovely family house in Compton Bishop, Somerset (sleeps 12). The Mendips rise directly behind Compton House with good walks up to Crook Peak. The property has a south-facing terrace running along the length of the house with plants, table/chairs, fire pit and BBQ.  There is also an enclosed lawn, croquet lawn (mallets provided), children’s adventure playground, trampoline, outdoor heated swimming pool (available 24 May to 13 September) and all-weather hard tennis court. Games room (pool table, darts, table football, Wii, iPod dock, TV/DVD). Table tennis in garage. Fun coarse fishing available on the river Yeo, up to 15 March and after 15 June (licence required).

Inside the property consists of a big open plan kitchen/dining room, utility room, loo, large living room and sitting room with open fire. Upstairs there are four bedrooms (three doubles and a twin with en suites). At the rear of the house is a smart annexe: hall and two double bedrooms, one with en suite bathroom (suite) and the other with en suite shower-room (wet-room suite).

View from outside

View from outside

Stunning kitchen and dining room

Stunning kitchen and dining room





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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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Devon’s big day out!

From the 19th – 21st May is the Devon County Show in Exeter. Enjoy three full days of West Country food and drink, the very best horses, goats, sheep, bunnies and cows, including the famous Devon cattle known as Red Rubies. Kids can plant seeds, bake bread, milk Daisy the model cow, weave willow wands, see chicks hatch and pet gentle farm animals. For those of you interested in craft there are lace-makers, quilters, weavers, spinners and dyers. Look out for demonstrations and take the chance to talk to these skilled crafts’ people to get  practical advice on anything you may be working on at home. For a nibble, check out the BIG Devon cream tea marquee, with scones made by Richard Hunt, Executive Chef of the Grand Hotel, thick clotted cream and lashings of jam. There is such a huge list of things to do, it’s probably best to go to the website for full details. If that’s not tempting enough, then kids go free on Saturday!

After all this excitement, why not go back to nearby Ottery St Mary (of flaming barrel running fame) to this gorgeous little cottage from Helpful Holidays that sleeps 4.  A long, elegant hall leads to L-shaped living/dining/kitchen with TV/DVD and beautifully fitted kitchen area (dishwasher, washer-drier, microwave, fridge-freezer, gas hob) with small breakfast table (larger table/chairs kept folded in hall for more formal dining). French windows open to small patio area (table/chairs) immediately to the front of the house.. Oak stairs to first floor and two bedrooms – a double, and a single; very luxurious bathroom. On the second floor, a double bedroom under the eaves with smart en suite shower-room (suite) and 2 steps up to French windows to a small and very private roof terrace (table/chairs) with fine views over the town.

photo of Holiday cottage in Ottery St Mary, East Devon with 4 stars, sleeps 4

photo of Holiday cottage in Ottery St Mary, East Devon with 4 stars, sleeps 4

photo of Holiday cottage in Ottery St Mary, East Devon with 4 stars, sleeps 4

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Cottage expansion

West Country cottage specialists, Helpful Holidays, report booming business and are expanding into North and East Devon for 2011 with an increase in properties in both these regions. Other areas seeing growth for next year include Exmoor, Somerset, the coast near Newquay and the far west of Cornwall.

Offering holidays for nearly 30 years, the agency continues to see very high levels of enquiries from both holidaymakers and home owners.

“It may be as a result of the current economic climate and euro exchange rate, or concern about the environmental impact of flying, but more people are planning holidays in the UK,” says general manager Moray Bowater.

“Booking levels were excellent in 2010, helped by a growing awareness that England, and in particular the West Country, has some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world,” continued Mr Bowater. “Bookings for 2011 are looking good; we are confident that the market for top level, self-catering accommodation will continue to grow.”

Many of Helpful Holidays’ properties are exceptionally plush and the agency has a reputation for offering big and beautiful places, with 68 of its houses sleeping ten or more.

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Build a better bookshelf

One of the great pleasures of getting away on a cottage holiday is the chance to relax with a good book. Another is getting out and about, seeing and doing things that make a real change from everyday life.

So having a well chosen selection of books (as well as DVDs and games) in a holiday property can contribute a lot to a holiday. Bookshelves tend to acquire a life of their own, with visitors donating books they’ve brought and read. That can lead to a wonderfully mixed selection of books reflecting all sorts of tastes and interests. Even so, it still helps a lot if at the heart of the collection is a core of books appropriate to the property. Books about the area, of course, whether guide books, local history or fiction. But also books that can help visitors appreciate aspects of country life they might otherwise miss.

For instance, a couple of new books from Britain’s Wildlife Trusts do this in quite different ways. The first is a guide designed to help you get closer to nature, called 152 Wild Things to Do. Divided into four seasonal sections, it lists places to visit (mostly wildlife reserves owned by the Trusts), activities for both adults and children, and skills you can acquire.

In spring, if you’re in Wales you could visit Silent Valley nature reserve. Or you could cook nettle soup. “Healthy, delicious and found absolutely everywhere, nettles are a wonderful leaf that can be cooked up into a wholesome soup. Food that’s free and full of goodness – perfect! You’ll need to pick the tender tops of young nettles in the spring.” It goes on to a full Nigella-style listing of ingredients (including optional wild garlic leaves), cooking instructions and a final flourish: “You could stir in some crème fraîche or serve with a swirl of cream and some crusty bread.”

In summer, you could go wild swimming or glow-worm spotting; in autumn, you could go blackberrying (and make jam), discover Tolkien’s inspiration or see Britain’s largest butterfly. And in winter… well, buy the book and give it as a present, or just for yourself to spur inspiration and booking another cottage holiday.

In all there are – as you would expect – 152 recommendations, so there’s plenty to keep you busy. The book is probably aimed mostly at parents hoping to occupy children and stir an interest in nature and the countryside, but there’s plenty for everyone. It serves as an introduction to a number of small, lesser-known nature reserves and the colour photography is beautiful. It’s a book that deserves a place on every holiday cottage bookshelf.

Rather more traditional is Nature Tales, from  the same source. It’s a compilation of nature writing spanning the last three hundred years, with a forward by Sir David Attenborough. “This wonderful collection of some of the greatest nature writers in Britain’s history is a pleasure to read from start to finish and a valuable addition to any naturalist’s library,” says Sir David. Quite so, but don’t let that reference to a naturalist’s library make you think this is some learned, stuffy book. Quite the reverse, because it’s the ideal accompaniment to a cup of tea and a digestive, with most of the items no more than two or three pages long.

The book is organised in themed sections – By river and sea, From my window, Nature trails, and so on – each with items from across the 300 years. So an entertaining piece by Bill Oddie – one of the longest items at nine pages – is preceded by the 19th century novelist Richard Jefferies and followed by Nan Shepherd, a wonderful descriptive writer who died in 1981 at the age of 88. There are brief notes on each contributor, which might well lead you to follow up on their other writings.

Even more than in a naturalist’s library, this book belongs in every holiday cottage. And it, too, would make an excellent birthday or Christmas present for any nature-minded reader.

152 Wild Things to Do, published by Elliott and Thompson Ltd, £12.99,
Nature Tales, published byElliott and Thompson Ltd, £18.99

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Putting the baths back in Bath

Roman bathsA major renovation of the Roman Baths in Bath has been completed at a cost of £5.5 million, with improvements designed to help visitors imagine what life was like there 2,000 years ago. Roman and Victorian stonework has been cleaned, in some cases with lasers, while the Great Bath has been de-cluttered by the removal of random items of masonry that had accumulated over the years.

The aim of the five-year redevelopment was to transform the baths into an attraction for the 21st century, creating a fun and interactive day out and at the same time improving accessibility for disabled visitors. Audio guides are provided in a number of languages, including an English alternative by Bill Bryson and one in Mandarin.

“We had to up our game to retain our position as a leading visitor attraction,” said Stephen Bird, Head of Heritage Services at Bath and North East Somerset Council.

“We needed to bring the baths into the 21st century but without changing it into a fairground ride,” added Mr Bird. “We want people to be sure that the time they have spent here has been worth it. We have great comments from people, saying that this is the best museum they have ever been to.”

Some of the measures taken to bring the baths to life may startle traditionalists. Projected images of Romans flicker in the background, while actors in character mingle with visitors, telling their stories and engaging in conversation about their lives.

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