Archive for category Tips

Father’s day, teddy bears, pints and scarecrows

Scarecrow picture by Flickr user Tim Green

Scarecrow picture by Flickr user Tim Green

This Sunday is Father’s Day and it’s shaping up to be a lovely weekend for lots of activities!

It’s a special Father’s Day teddy bear picnic at Newquay Zoo on Sunday. Great fun for the family and fathers get special half price entry. Children under 15 will get in for free if they bring their teddy bear for the picnic! Face painting will be available throughout the day, and find out about the animals at the daily keeper talks.

Dads go free at Newquay‘s Blue Reef Aquarium this Sunday. Learn about the roles of fathers in the ocean, from dedicated seahorses and not so dedicated sea turtles.

How about a pasty and a pint courtesy of Pennywell Farm, Buckfastleigh? Dads will also be able to have a go at some falconry or have a blast on the Red Rocket.

This weekend is the annual Scarecrow Festival in Devon‘s East Budleigh. Expect all the lovely festivities, foods and drinks from a normal village fete, but with a surreal but wonderful display of scarecrows throughout the village!

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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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Rise in demand for wi-fi in holiday cottages as more parents work while on holiday

A rise in demand for wi-fi in holiday cottages comes as over two-thirds (69%) of parents work while on holiday, according to a new survey.

Despite the demand, 82% of respondents said they would rather not work while on holiday; however 71% believed it was necessary for their business, while 14% felt under pressure from their employer , and 6% were afraid of losing their jobs.

More than 500 people responded to the Tots to Travel survey, which focused on the work/life balance of parents with young children. Astonishingly, 1.7% of parents said they would only stop work for two hours on Christmas day, with 5% stating they would only take one day off. The numbers increase on holidays aside from Christmas, with 41% claiming to work five or more hours a week while on holiday, 68% take work calls during this period, and 78% check work emails.

Holiday company founder, Wendy Shand said the results amazed and disturbed her: “We have seen a trend in our business towards families going on holiday for shorter periods and at the same time an increasing demand for wi-fi. As business owners ourselves we appreciate that many parents feel the need to keep in touch with the office while on holiday but an astonishing 40% of respondents said they worked out of habit.

“As parents of young children I believe passionately that we all need to give ourselves a break, resist the temptation of the smartphone and ensure that even if only for one week we try to forget about work and spend time with our families.”

The need for an actual holiday from work is supported in a review by the British Psychological Society, published last year. It found that holidays had a small but significant effect on people’s well being.

However, not all respondents required wi-fi purely for work (only 9%), 71% wanted it for both work and pleasure, showing that it is not all work and no play. Although, having wi-fi available in a property did increase the likelihood of  a quarter of respondents working while on holiday, perhaps showing that access is too much of a temptation.


Do you work while on holiday? Would wi-fi in a holiday cottage encourage you to book, or put you off? Please post your comments below.

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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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Easter Availability

It’s getting closer to the Easter holidays, and for those of you who haven’t planned so far ahead, there are some great cottages still available for a break away with the family or as a couple.

Aldermoor Cottages (sleeps 2-4) near Camelford in Cornwall are three cottages set in idyllic green surroundings with wild flowers, perfect in spring. The cottages are set within their own grounds and are ideally located for touring Cornwall and North Devon. You are within easy walking distance of the Moors and only minutes from surfing beaches, including the old market town of Camelford 1.5 miles away. The pretty fishing harbours of Boscastle, Port Isaac and Padstow are also within easy reach, as are many excellent coastal and moorland walks and the famous Camel Trail (bikes can be hired locally).

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Or alternatively if you are in the mood for a romantic getaway for just the two of you, why not try Helpful Holidays’ the Bothy; a private, single-storey cottage with French windows overlooking its little wild garden with lovely views beyond. Approached by 80 yards of sloping path, there are 4 steps up to a glazed door opening into a large open-plan room with high exposed beams, comfy sofa, TV/DVD, dining table/chairs, woodburner, imposing four-poster bed (5’), floorboards/rug and wall-hung tapestries; 2 steps up to little kitchen with combi-microwave and separate electric hob, through to shower-room (suite). No children, except pre-crawling babies. A very romantic cottage situated near Exmoor and only 2.5 miles from the little pebble beach at dramatic Heddon’s Mouth.

photo of Holiday cottage in Parracombe, Exmoor with 3 stars, sleeps 2 photo of Holiday cottage in Parracombe, Exmoor with 3 stars, sleeps 2 photo of Holiday cottage in Parracombe, Exmoor with 3 stars, sleeps 2

Finally, if those don’t quite fit, there’s always a sea and shipping themed holiday at this third floor apartment with 180 degree sea view of ships (and the occasional warship) entering Plymouth from Helpful Holidays’ 48 Fort Picklecombe (R378). This well-kept apartment comprises of hall leading to living/dining room, smart fitted kitchen area (washer-drier, microwave) with TV/DVD, full of interesting pictures and pieces of china, and glazed doors to balcony (table/chairs), all with superb sea views (telescope). At the back, overlooking the gardens there are two bedrooms – one twin (VDU/DVD/video), and one with single and pull-out truckle; bathroom (suite plus bath-shower). Sleeps maximum of 4, including babies.

photo of Holiday cottage in Fort Picklecombe, South Cornwall with 3.5 stars, sleeps 4 photo of Holiday cottage in Fort Picklecombe, South Cornwall with 3.5 stars, sleeps 4



For even more choice, go to our main Holiday Cottages website for some last minute gems.


Google Maps to show train travel details

Courtesy of Google Maps has now launched information and timetables for mainland Britain. Now train travellers are able to search to journeys across the country here with more than 2,500 stations and 170,000 trips nationwide at their fingertips, in addition 8,000 bus stops and over 250 tube stations. The website also gives users full information on walking directions and some bus timetables for connections, as well as the opportunity to click through to to book tickets.

Searching for travel information across Greater London was already possible but now internet and mobile users have access to timetables and train information for routes across the whole country.

Richard Rowson, Product Development Director at said: “We’re delighted to be providing train travel information through Google Maps for the first time. We want to make sure that consumers are always able to consider rail options when making a journey and this innovation will help train travellers nationwide to do that by planning their route more easily. This is a fantastic partnership and demonstrates what two market leading brands working together can achieve.”

Ed Parsons, Google UK’s geospatial technologist, said: “Google Maps seeks to provide a wide range of relevant local information, and public transport station and schedule information is definitely a part of that. It is great to be able to partner with companies like and have their schedule information available in Google Maps for the whole of Britain. This means we can reach and help a larger number of people with useful national rail train information.”

Google Maps is available in over 50 languages, so as London gets set for the 2012 Olympics and an even bigger influx of tourists, it is hoped that this technology will help them to find their way around the city and country.

Christopher Rodrigues, VisitBritain Chairman said: “We want to encourage visitors to explore the whole of Britain. With the Olympics less than 200 days away Google’s new initiative is exciting news. Millions of visitors plan their itinerary using Google maps and this additional information will act as a catalyst and inspire them to discover all that is wonderful about our great country.”


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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Wales the best region

Three Cliffs Bay picture by Flickr User Thomas Guest

Three Cliffs Bay picture by Flickr User Thomas Guest


According to the Metro, the travel experts at Lonely Planet have voted Wales’ coastline as the world’s greatest region in it’s best-in-travel 2012 guide!

The All Wales Coast Path is due to be completed next year and will spread 870 miles, so will be a wonderful way to enjoy what Wales has to offer. The guide said of the path: “What a wonderful thing. How better to truly appreciate the shape and soul – of a nation?”

The town of Porthmeirion is even described as “part Italian Riviera, part wedding cake, part surreal spy thriller.”

I visited Wales a lot when I was younger and have to say I loved the coastline in particular, it was always magical and quite beautiful, so I’m not surprised at this declaration from the Lonely Planet at all, it’s merely made me want to go back and visit once more!

Vote for Helpful Holidays!

We’ve been working with Helpful Holidays for quite some time and we think that they are a brilliant company with some outstanding cottages! Their standing as a great company has now been officially recognised as they are nominated for the first time in the British Travel Awards!

They’ve been nominated for the ‘Best UK Cottage/Self Catering Booking Company (UK Properties)’ and are in the running with 12 other companies in this category. Most of the other companies are big national players, so Helpful Holidays will need your help to be in with a chance of winning!

Please support them by clicking here or going to before the closing date of 30th September.