Archive for category Tips

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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Helpful Holidays celebrate National Pet Month

Check out Helpful Holidays when booking cottages during National Pet Month (2nd April to 2nd May) as dogs stay free at all their pet friendly cottages during 2011 when booked during this month. They have properties with enclosed gardens and farms to wander and also properties near dog-friendly beaches or just a gentle stroll from really relaxed pubs that welcome dogs too. Many at Helpful Holidays are dog owners, so they welcome calls for tips on properties and places best suited to a doggy holiday. Up to two dogs can stay free of charge as part of the promotion (from 2nd April to 2nd May).

2 miles from North Bovey in a lovely setting is Bovey Castle, built in 1907 as a country seat for the heir to the WH Smith empire and now a renowned hotel. Carefully hidden in the grounds are 14 private, granite-built lodges of which Helpful Holidays offer 6. They are smart, stylish and comfy and overlook the Edwardian gardens, lake and tennis courts. All the hotel facilities are yours to enjoy, including indoor heated swimming pool (65’ x 19’6″ x 4’6″ deep), gym, steam room, sauna, spa (beauty treatments), restaurants and bistro. Outside are hard and grass tennis courts (lessons available), croquet lawn (seasonal) and cricket nets (late May to mid-September). If you don’t feel like cooking, order a restaurant meal or pizza to be delivered to your lodge, or for a special occasion, book a table at the hotel’s restaurant or bistro.

photo of Holiday cottage in North Bovey, Dartmoor with 5 stars, sleeps 6

photo of Holiday cottage in North Bovey, Dartmoor with 5 stars, sleeps 6

photo of Holiday cottage in North Bovey, Dartmoor with 5 stars, sleeps 6

Mixed reaction to Government’s May Day Bank Holiday plans

A poll of over 4,000 Brits has found a mixed reaction to the Government’s announcement that the May Day Bank Holiday could be replaced:

43% would like the May Day bank holiday left as it is

36% support replacing it with a Trafalgar Day in October

18% support replacing it with a St. George’s Day public holiday in April.

Emma O’Boyle, a TripAdvisor spokesperson said: “May Day has been a popular British holiday for over 30 years and many people plan holidays and family days out around this. It is understandable why some may oppose the change, but replacing it with a Trafalgar Day in October would certainly help extend the British tourist season and break up the long period between the August bank holiday and Christmas.”

The Government’s proposal is intended to lengthen the tourist season into the autumn and it approved could come into affect in 2013.

Large properties with Helpful Holidays

Helpful Holidays have a range of properties for larger parties of people to stay in, some even to have weddings in!

This Grade I listed Cadhay (G100) was shortlisted by Country Life for their ‘Finest manor house’ award. Sitting close to Ottery St Mary the property is mostly Tudor as it was built around 1550. Full of character, but with modern comfort, Cadhay is a beautiful and welcoming place sleeping 22 in 12 bedrooms – and you can get married there!

The magnificent 3 acre garden, described in a magazine article as ‘understated, gracious and beautiful’, fades via a ha-ha into countryside and has fine trees, cedars, fountains and walkways, herbaceous borders and huge lawns to enjoy (croquet available). There is also a walled garden with well-tended allotments and 50 acres of farmland around the house. Inside there are wonderful rooms, fine fireplaces, leaded windows, granite mullions, stucco ceilings, designer curtains, beautiful furniture, paintings.

photo of Holiday cottage in Ottery St Mary, East Devon with 5 stars, sleeps 22

photo of Holiday cottage in Ottery St Mary, East Devon with 5 stars, sleeps 22

Alternatively, how about Francis Drake’s shooting lodge. Originally a medieval hall house and the shooting lodge of Sir Francis Drake’s Yarcombe estate, Sheafhayne Manor (G1) is a superbly positioned, Grade II* listed, Elizabethan manor house sleeping 24 and likened by the Sunday Times to ‘a full-sized game of Cluedo’. There’s trout fishing on the river Yarty on the estate.

A wild garden/orchard with mown paths is at the end of a pergola walk with wisteria and a perfectly placed seat; nearby, a stream (unfenced). On the other side of the huge lawn (croquet) is a shallow rill (unfenced). Huge games room (air hockey, table tennis, table football) in the garden. In front of the house is a flagstoned and paved terrace with sundial and, through a stone arch with wrought iron gate, a sunken garden, very sheltered and peaceful. Inside all the bedrooms are en suite except two which share one large shower-room (suite). Some of the rooms have interconnecting doors; however, all can be bolted and individually accessed. Some have lovely panelling, others exceptional views; some, very wide floorboards; most have Hamstone or cast iron fireplaces (ornamental).

photo of Holiday cottage in Yarcombe, East Devon with 3.5 stars, sleeps 24

photo of Holiday cottage in Yarcombe, East Devon with 3.5 stars, sleeps 24

For more large properties go to our main website or direct to Helpful Holidays.

Review of 2010

2010 was a year jam-packed with travel related news stories, festivals and events. I’ve taken the liberty of collating some of Holiday Cottages’ best blog posts over the year to give an overall review so you don’t have to go searching for them yourself!

January started with testing out my culinary skills at the Ashburton Cookery School in Devon.

A survey in February showed high speed rail was more important to people than airport expansions.

The Shambles in York was voted most picturesque street in March. There was also trouble on the railways with a Network Rail threatened strike.

Easter was a staycation preference in April.

There were many family fun festivals between May and August.

Even before the Royal wedding announcement we found out how the Royals are key to UK tourism.

27 West Country beaches were awarded blue flags in August, showing that the West Country is a great place to visit!

We were given tips on how to give tourists a better welcome during the Olympics.

Taxing times for holiday rental businesses.

The famous Exmoor Food Festival was in October, tickling visitor’s taste buds!

Bonfire Night had many events to travel to, including the flaming barrel run in Ottery St. Mary’s!

It got very cold in November and December as part of the big freeze.

The year ended with a little early Christmas cheer for the travel industry!

So there’s a pick of the Holiday Cottages blog coverage of events and news over the year. For travel news pertaining to outbound travel don’t forget to check out our sister site’s blog, Villaseek. There will be a run down of the year’s news on there very soon also!

Winter driving advice

This weekend is the busiest for last minute Christmas shopping trips and for people travelling home for the festive holiday; but as a fresh blanket of snow covers the UK there are fears of travel chaos and an increased risk of collisions on the roads.

Yesterday’s blizzards already brought in 331 insurance claims for the AA, a 10% increase overall. Of all claimants, 51% in Scotland and 34% in Wales say their collision was because of snow or ice.

Simon Douglas, director of AA Insurance advises on how to limit your risk on the roads: “If the police in your area are advising drivers not to travel then it is sensible to heed that advice and monitor the situation locally. During the run-up to Christmas, plan your journey to take account of the latest local forecasts and try to stick to main roads, which are more likely to be gritted.

“If the road surface is icy, our advice is to try to keep a gap of 10 seconds between yourself and the vehicle in front to minimise the risk of you sliding in to the car in front.”

He points out that tail-end crashes, especially at road junctions and roundabouts, are the most common type of winter claim, followed by collisions with parked cars. He adds that cars fitted with winter tyres are less likely to lose traction on snow and ice.

Winter tyres are made from a rubber compound that performs better at temperatures below plus 7 decrees C and tests show that cars fitted with them stop in a much shorter distance on snow and ice than those with conventional tyres. If such tyres are to be used, it is vital that all four wheels are so fitted.

So the message of the moment is to monitor the weather locally, to plan your journeys in advance, try to use main roads, and take it easy on the roads – rushing in such weather will not do anyone any favours!

Time off tips!

For those of you who manage people and their time off, you might find it hard to work out what to do to ensure that there is adequate cover over the December holiday season while still making sure your employees are receiving their fair holiday entitlement. This can be especially prevalent for those working in tourism as the festival season is a busy time for the industry as pretty much everyone, not just your staff, wants to take time off. Below are a few tips by specialist temporary recruitment company, Office Team (part of Robert Half International) to help you keep organised.

1) Before a flood of time off requests come your way, it’s important to think about how you will determine whether or not time off will be granted. Will the decision be based on a first come first served basis, or be driven by scheduling needs? Having established a list of criteria will ensure you are consistent in granting fair time off during the holidays and avoid you looking like the office Grinch!

2) It is important to clearly communicate your time-off policy so employees know what procedure they need to follow when requesting it. For example, it is vital to communicate how much notice your employees need to give and the ways they go about it. Do they have to email you directly or simply fill in holiday request form? You can even hold brief meetings with seasonal snacks to ensure full understanding of the policies requirements!

3) You must ensure back-ups are in place to cover the tasks of your employees taking time off, and that you always have a Plan B. If you can’t meet these needs internally, you might want to consider hiring temporary or part-time employees to meet the shortfall of staff during the holiday season.

4) Think about offering alternative work schedules during the holiday season. Compressed working weeks or flexi-time enables your employees to continue working the same number of hours per week whilst allowing them to meet their Christmas social obligations! Another option is allowing employees to work from home as long as they have the right equipment and resources available to make this feasible.

5) If your staff members are fighting for holiday requests, consider providing incentives to take time off during less desirable times of the year. For instance, you can allow employees to take an extra day or two if they wait until busy times have subsided. Alternatively, one of the simplest ways to keep your employees in the office this time of year is by creating a festive and fun atmosphere. You can liven up office life with decorations, a secret Santa scheme and some festive music.