Archive for category Valentine’s Day

e-Luminate Festival Cambridge

'Colour Shift' at e-Luminate. Picture by Elisa Artesero

‘Colour Shift’ at e-Luminate. Picture by Elisa Artesero

I had the pleasure of visiting Cambridge for the annual e-Luminate Festival of light art and technology this weekend (the festival continues until 23rd February).

It was my first time in the pretty city and it was a flying visit, quite literally at times, as it was windy! We started with a Trail of Light, a walking tour of the Cambridge College Chapels. All participants were given an LED flashing light to create a line of light as we walked across from chapel to chapel. Once inside, we were given a performance by either a choir, or my personal favourite, organ music, which echoed through the candlelit chapels and their high vaulted ceilings.

There were quite a few light installations and projections throughout the city, the most impressive was Colour Shift by Susie Olczak, a wash of changing colours across the facade of King’s College. It really highlighted the architecture, creating harsh shadows to emphasise the detailed cuts of the stone.

Saturday was a bright and sunny day, and really gave us the chance to explore and get a feel for the place. There was a market selling local produce, second-hand LPs, clothes and jewellery. The city is famous for its literature festival and in keeping with this, there were plenty of bookshops to be discovered down tiny side streets and in hidden courtyards, many selling rare books of antiquity.

We had a lovely lunch of fish and chips at The Eagle pub. Dating back to 1667, the pub is most famous as the place where James Watson and Francis Crick first announced they had ‘discovered the secret of life’ – DNA. Regardless of that, it was popular yet cosy once you found a seat. We were quite lucky to get one, and would advise getting there just after midday if you’re to find a table also, as many visitors who arrived after 12.30pm were disappointed.

All in all my visit to Cambridge was a success, and anyone interested in interesting architecture, particularly religious buildings, would do well to visit. I think it would work well as part of a longer visit to the area, so it would be a good idea to rent a holiday cottage outside of the centre to allow for visits to the surrounding countryside. 

Orchard Cottage (sleeps up to 7) is a beautifully restored and tastefully furnished 18th Century cottage with half an acre of garden of mainly trees and lawn where you can, if you wish, play croquet, badminton and quoits. It is in a rural situation with a farm opposite and fields around, but is close to travel to Cambridge, Rutland Water and Stamford.

The cottage has three double bedrooms (master bedroom has en suite shower room), study, sitting room with inglenook fireplace and well-concealed television; large kitchen with Rayburn, microwave oven, dishwasher, washer/drier etc, and conservatory. The furniture is antique even the bathroom has Victorian fittings.

Orchard Cottage

Orchard Cottage

Beautifully presented bedroom

Beautifully presented bedroom


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Valentine’s dinner

Another Valentine’s themed post for those romantics out there – there is a special four-course Valentine’s menu by a log fire at the Venus Beachside Restaurant in Blackpool Sands, Dartmouth, South Devon on Saturday 12th February. You could go for a romantic stroll along the beach and then settle down between 5.30pm and 9pm to delights such as falafel with herbs & lime juice, mushroom & arame pate, BBQ Bigbury Bay oysters Kilpatrick (crispy bacon and Lea & Perrin sauce), Devon free-range chicken breast served with a rustic sauce of bacon, red wine, mushrooms and shallots and chocolate brownie with chocolate sauce, amongst many, see the full menu here.

After such a collosal meal, you will probably want to retire to a beautiful holiday cottage, and Helpful Holidays have just the one! Linney Cottage is a terraced, sunny, south-facing property converted from a 300-year-old barn. A thickly hedged, enclosed, suntrap, private garden (table/chairs) down 12 steps at the back leads to the shared garden. Inside, the cottage is well decorated, light and comfy. There are three bedrooms, a bathroom (suite plus bath-shower), a living/dining room with TV/DVD/video, CD player and good views over the river Dart. There is a well-equipped fitted kitchen with microwave, dishwasher, washer-drier. It’s best for a maximum of 4 adults and prices are from £302 at this time of year.

photo of Holiday cottage in Dittisham, South Hams with 4 stars, sleeps 5

Valentine getaway

It’s coming up to that time of year again, when couples get cosy and fancy a bit of romance – yes, it’s nearly Valentine’s Day! So, what better time to take a break away at one of Helpful Holidays’ cottages in the West Country, perfect for romance. Here is a selection to browse:

This beautiful thatched Grade II listed cottage is in the exceptionally pretty village of Drewsteignton, which has a good food pub, shop, restaurant and church. It lies on a ridge a mile from the most spectacular part of the river Teign valley and is 6 miles to the open moor and 14 miles from Exeter. The cottage (ref: A5) sleeps 4 with two bedrooms (a double and a twin), has an inglenook fireplace and a Rayburn in the kitchen. Prices start from £252.

A Grade II listed farmhouse in Newton Ferrers/Noss Mayo (adjoining small villages beside the lake-like River Yealm estuary) has been cleverly and tastefully converted into two dwellings which sleeps two. The Linhay (ref: L118) is a detached, upside-down cottage, recently refurbished from a former grain store, with own west-facing small lawned garden (bench, table/chairs), it’s decor is simple and modern. The area is popular for sailing, lovely for walking or just sitting. There are essential nearby shops and good food pubs, tennis courts and riding stables. If you fancy a bit of a day trip then there is a pedestrian ferry to coast walk to Wembury and a secluded beach. Prices start from £209.

An attached cottage cleverly converted from outhouses facing the main modern house across a walled courtyard in Chagford, a friendly little village perfectly situated for bracing walks across Dartmoor. The cottage (ref: A55) is only 300 yards from local pubs and shops, so is great for nipping to get another bottle of wine for an evening in, or going out for that romantic meal. The interior of the property is elegant and stylish and can sleep up to 4 people, it’s also only 10 minutes walk away from an outdoor swimming pool – in case of some unseasonably warm weather! Prices start from £252.

Calling romantics

For the romantically inclined among you, we have found some cottages still available to rent in cosy hideaways in Scotland for Valentines weekend (next weekend!)


They include stone cottages with log fires and mountainous backdrops; remote loch-side lodges with panoramic views, and an apartment in the handsome town of Crieff, Perthshire.


The Crieff flat is, perhaps, the most romantic of all. St Ninians Church Tower apartment is, as you might expect, part of a converted church. Beautifully presented, it has retained some unique features while offering great views from its balcony: watch the sun set over the hills surrounding Crieff.


Croftweit Crieff, is another luxurious apartment. It’s part of a Grade II listed mansion, in Perthshire. The rooms have high ceilings and stained glass windows and there is a private garden area ideal for romantic alfresco dining (though it will be chilly in February).


A bottle of ‘Famous Grouse’ whisky from the nearby distillery awaits you as well as complimentary champagne and flowers for all Valentine bookings.


Another romantic cottage still available to rent is Pier Cottage in Applecross, Ross-shire. As the name suggests, this cottage is at the old pier in the hamlet of Camusterrach on the scenic Applecross peninsula. Stylish while at the same time retaining its traditional feel, the property features a smart claw-foot bath for two with sea views. There’s also a romantic open fire.


To find out more go to the Cottages and Castles advert on this website. Click  here