Archive for category Wales

The Inspiring Coast of Pembrokeshire

Pembrokeshire is Britain’s only Coastal National Park. Located in the south west of wales, Pembrokeshire has award winning, Blue Flag beaches, abundant wildlife and attractive towns and villages. It’s an ideal destination if you want to combine the countryside and the seaside on your holiday, and it’s an ideal location for holiday cottages.

 

The Smallest City and Towns With Charm

Small in scale but big in charm, most of Pembrokeshire’s towns are intimately connected with the sea, having had links with ocean trade at some point in their history. The area also has the UK’s smallest city, St David’s, with just over 1,500 residents.

St David’s is located on a peninsula with stunning coastal scenery and access to the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. As well as being ideal for walkers, St David’s is the base for several wildlife watching trips, where you can travel by boat to see whales and dolphins, and the massed Gannets nesting on Grassholm Island.

The city is also home to the Oriel y Parc Gallery, built in 2008 to house Welsh national treasures, and the impressive St David’s Cathedral.

On the North Coast of Pembrokeshire lies Newport, a picturesque market town with a gorgeous, laid-back, undeveloped feel. The walled seaside town of Tenby is busier, but retains a charm of its own. It’s an award-winning coastal resort with a thriving harbour and three great beaches. It provides plenty of opportunities for watersports enthusiasts, including kayaking and jetskiing, and it offers more sedate attractions in the form of the Tudor Merchant’s House, owned by the National Trust, and the Tenby Museum and Art Gallery.

Further inland, the town of Narbeth has a high street lined with multi-coloured Edwardian and Georgian buildings and an impressive number of real one-off shops, from antiques sellers to vintage and other gift and craft items. There are also plenty of restaurants, cafés and pubs to break up the shopping.

Haverfordwest is Pembrokeshire’s administrative centre with its own castle and museum and the recently excavated riverside ruins of an Augustinian priory. There is also an award-winning farmers’ market, and plenty of holiday cottages in the surrounding area.

Historical Sites for Sightseers

Pembrokeshire is home to medieval castles and prehistoric tombs, including Pembroke Castle, Carew Castle and Cilgerran Castle. Gilgerran Castle overlooks  the Teifi Gorge, in the most dramatic of locations.

West of Abercastle, on the north side of the St David’s Peninsula is Carreg Samson, an exposed Neolithic burial chamber, known as a cromlech. Another burial chamber is located in the heart of Bluestone Country, near Newport. This is Pentre Ifan, the most popular megalithic site in Wales, dating from around 3500 BC.

Like other parts of Wales, Pembrokeshire has a real feel of somewhere rooted in heritage and in the character of its surroundings. It’s popular as a holiday destination but much of the area retains a feeling of unspoiled, natural character and beauty.

Green With Soul: the Valleys of South Wales

miner-sculptureFrom eastern Carmarthenshire to western Monmouthshire, and from the vale of Glamorgan to Swansea Bay, the Valleys of South Wales are steeped in cultural history and the industrial heritage of Wales. They also provide a wealth of activities and things to see, including walking and climbing, mountain biking and sightseeing.

They cover a large area of South Wales, ideal for self-catering holiday cottage accommodation, and for days of exploration and relaxation.

The Industrial Past

Industrialisation transformed the pastures and wooded valleys of South Wales. With the dramatic growth of first iron works and then coal mining in the 19th century came the development of towns and villages. When the iron industry declined, coal mining took over, reaching its peak in the early years of the 20th century.

The Blackwood Miners’ Institute, in Blackwood, Caerphilly is a hub for arts and entertainment in the area. It hosts various theatrical and musical events and exhibitions throughout the year, and while remaining a dynamic heart of the community. Also in Caerphilly you’ll find the Senghenydd Mining Memorial, opened in 2013 to commemorate all welsh mining disasters. There is a ceramic memorial wall and a dramatic bronze sculpture – “The Rescue” by Les Johnson – set in beautifully landscaped memorial gardens.

The Rhondda Heritage Park is the site of the first deep coal mine in the Rhondda Valleys, at the former Lewis Merthyr Colliery. The park offers full underground tours and the visitor centre has an indoor reconstruction of a period village street. There is also a contemporary art gallery and café.

Activities and Exploration

At the world heritage site of Blaenavon visitors can combine walking with visiting an intriguing range of historic sites, from prehistoric remains to industrial heritage. Blaenavon covers 33 square kilometres, and the walks cover mountainous terrain and picturesque landscapes of reclaimed industrial sites. Blaenavon town has rows of old miners’ cottages and the imposing Workingman’s Hall juxtaposed with specialist shops and independent cafés. You can also visit the Big Pit National Coal Museum and the historical iron works at Blaenavon.

There are some 400 kilometres of off-road tracks to explore throughout The Valleys, many with gentle gradients that make them family-friendly. Two of the most famous routes are the Taff Trail and the Trevithick Trail. The Taff Trail stretches between Brecon and Cardiff, whereas the Trevithick Trail follows the route taken by the first steam locomotive to pull a load by rail, back in 1804.

Other activities in The Valleys include kayaking, climbing and archery, and mountain biking, of course.

The Valleys could have been made for mountain biking, so suited is the terrain here. Key routes include the Twrch Trail in Cwmcarn Forest, Darren Fawr mountain bike trails, and BikePark Wales in Merthyr Tydfil.

The South Wales Valleys present visitors with a wide choice of activities, suitable for different ages. They resonate with the industrial past but also have a great feeling of reclaimed and natural beauty combined.

 

Mystery, Adventure and Relaxation on the Island of Anglesey

Anglesey_south-stack-pathThe Island of Anglesey lies off the north-west coast of Wales, and it’s a place resonant with ancient history and character. It is an area associated with the druids, the Iron Age and the Roman occupation of Britain. It has a scattering of small towns, sandy beaches and a beautiful rural coastline.

Anglesey is a small island of less than 300 square miles, and it has a feeling of self-sufficiency, close to but apart from the Welsh mainland. This brings with it a unique character, and this is reflected in the hospitality shown towards its visitors. For anyone considering staying in a holiday cottage on Anglesey, it has much to recommend it.

 

Exploring Along the Coastal Path

The Isle of Anglesey Coastal Path runs for some 125 miles along much of the island’s coastline. 95% of the Anglesey’s coast is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). This takes in woodland, coastal heath, dunes, salt-march and cliffs. There is also a National Nature Reserve.

The island is divided into 12 sections, which is handy if you don’t actually fancy trying to walk the full 125 miles (though if you do, the Friends of the Anglesey Coastal Path will award you with a special badge and certificate).

Highlights of the route include Holyhead Mountain, the highest point on the island, the imposing Menai Suspension Bridge, and the Cemlyn nature reserve.

Ancient Monuments and Castles

If you want to get a real sense of history, stretching far back to times of pre-Christian worship, then Anglesey is the place to be. The island has over 120 ancient monuments, including around 30 burial chambers dating from Neolithic era and Bronze Age. There are also plenty of standing stones.

The island is home to a number of castles. Beamaris is the most famous, built during the reign of Edward I in 1295 but never fully completed. In contrast with the squat sturdiness of this construction are the ruins of Aberlleiniog castle, seemingly embedded in surrounding woodland, and the eerie, hillside Bryn Celli Ddu burial chamber.

 

Anglesey’s Best Beaches

For those less inclined to explore rugged paths and ancient monuments, there is always the beach, classic UK summer weather permitting. Anglesey is blessed with a number of outstanding beaches, from the wide expanse of Lligwy Beach to the rural seclusion of Porth Nobla.

Porth Tywyn Mawr Beach is popular for watersports and has a nearby campsite and village for amenities. The sheltered cove at Bull Bay has plenty of rock pools for kids to explore and also some good fishing locations. Moelfre’s small pebble beach is a good for boats, while Cemaes Bay feels like pretty much the perfect sandy beach.

Anglesey is full of contrasts, from ancient to contemporary and rugged to relaxing, which makes it an excellent UK holiday location, particularly if you want to strike out on your own in a self-catering, holiday cottage.

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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Record number of visitors to UK in 2013

It’s official – the UK saw a record annual inbound spend and numbers of visitors during 2013.

The results from the Office of National Statistics show overseas visitors spent £21 billion in 2013, 13% more than the previous record breaking year of 2012 which saw £18.64 billion.

It was also a record number for tourists, with 32.89 million visits from overseas, exceeding the previous record set in 2007, which saw 32.78 million visits.

The increase is, in part, thanks to VisitBritain’s GREAT Britain campaign, said the tourist board.

Sandie Dawe, chief executive at VisitBritain said: “Not only have we managed to surpass the £20bn barrier for the very first time, but we’ve broken records for holidaymakers and visitors from key growth markets such as China and South Korea.

“Holiday figures are up across the whole of Britain with robust growth for Scotland, Wales, Rest of England and London.”

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Top events for 2014

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre timeline picture by Flickr user Dysanovic

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre timeline picture by Flickr user Dysanovic

We’re speeding through January now, so let’s have a quick look at some of the main events in the UK for 2014!

1. This year will be the 450th birthday of England’s greatest poet and playwright, Shakespeare. Celebrations have already kicked off this month at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London. Candlelit plays, operas and concerts will be performed in the new Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. On Shakespeare’s actual birthday, 23rd April, during ‘Shakespeare Week’ The Globe will stage its first performance of Hamlet to start a two-year world tour.

2. 5th July will see Stage 1 of the Tour de France Grand Départ get underway in Leeds, Yorkshire. It will continue on through some of the most stunning countryside in the Yorkshire Dales through to the spa town of Harrogate. Stage 2 starts in the medieval city of York, finishing in my home town, Sheffield! Stage 3 sets off from Cambridge, cycling through the Essex countryside to London, leading to a spectacular finish at The Mall. An exciting sporting event, and great to use the route to explore different areas of the country.

3. Scotland gears up for a summer of sport with the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in July, and the golf championship, the Ryder Cup, at Gleneagles in September.

4. This year marks the 175th anniversary of the Henley Royal Regatta. For five days from 1st July, teams from across the world will compete in this traditional rowing event across the River Thames. A great event to sit on the riverbank with a picnic in the sunshine.

5. Another anniversary this year, too; the centenary of Wales‘ greatest poet and writer, Dylan Thomas. The actual centenary is 27th October, but year-round events, exhibitions and festivals will celebrate Thomas and showcase Wales as an extraordinary land of artistic excellence.

 

Keep up to date with upcoming events around the UK featured on this blog, or search particular dates and places at the tourist board, VisitBritain.

 

 

 

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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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Beautiful Pembrokeshire

Stables Cottage outside view

Stables Cottage – outside view

Stables Cottages inside view

Stables Cottage – inside view

Pembrokeshire is Wales’ most popular coastal destination. As the sun starts to shine, then it would be a great place to consider going on holiday. It has a national park, coastal path, great cycling routes, arts and crafts and wonderful beaches.

Luckily for you, we have a new holiday cottage on our listings which is perfect for a self-catering family holiday.

A short stroll from its own beach and close to the coastal path on the Pembrokshire National Park coastline, Fynnonofi Farm is relaxation central. The traditional stone holiday cottage has stunning sea or mountain views from all rooms. And with outdoor eating areas to enjoy sunsets in the evening, you will have little need to go anywhere else.

The cottage sleeps 5 with 2 double bedrooms and a children’s room. The kitchen has all expected amenities, and the is a large, bright sitting room with wood-burning stove, TV/video and double glass doors with idyllic views across the sea. There are 2 bathrooms, underfloor heating and the style is ‘rustic coastal’. There is also plenty of space for children to play safely.

For many more Pembrokeshire cottages, visit our main site.

The beautiful beach!

The beautiful beach

 

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Holiday cottages with pools

This sun is shining and spring is well on its way! However, a dip in the sea might still be a little chilly for some, so why not rent a holiday cottage with its own pool? Perhaps pools aren’t something you would think about when looking for a holiday let, but this little luxury is increasing in popularity and affordability in the cottage market, so don’t overlook the prospect of one for your next holiday!

Hicks Farm Holidays Rose Cottage in Boresford, Herefordshire, is set on a quiet livestock farm. This pretty cottage caters for many activities – you can explore the farm and help feed the animals, badger watch at sunset, play pool in the games room, and of course, swim in the indoor luxury pool.  Sleeps 7 + 2 cots, prices start at £710

Indoor pool

Indoor pool

Rose Cottage

Rose Cottage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If beautiful South Hams is the area for you, why not try one of these three barn conversions, or two cottages positioned on a mixed working farm a mile from Halwell. These Helpful Holidays properties all share an indoor swimming pool with a toddler’s splash area. There is also a children’s play area with swings, climbing frame, slide and trampoline. If that isn’t enough, there is also a games room complete with WiFi. Sleeps 10 and prices start at £725.

View to the kitchen

View to the kitchen

Helpful Holidays South Hams

Helpful Holidays South Hams

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Wales this former Victorian gatehouse in Carmarthenshire and Laugharne has access to free leisure facilities – heated indoor swimming pool, Jacuzzi and Sauna, fitness suite, tennis courts, table tennis and pool/games room at the exclusive Pantglas Leisure Club, just a short walk away from North Lodge.  Set in a quiet valley, this cottage is positioned for sunshine and has a charming woodburning stove in the kitchen/breakfast room. Sleeps 6 and prices start at £440.

Fantastic leisure facilities

Fantastic leisure facilities

Former Victorian gatehouse

Former Victorian gatehouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last but not least in this list of suggestions, is Maenporth Estate in Cornwall’s Med. A classic modern development with large indoor heated swimming pool, sauna, jacuzzi, table tennis, pool table and two tennis courts in 30 acres of landscaped gardens. There is also a large barbecue area, children’’s play area and plenty of woodland walks, all for your enjoyment and use while on holiday. Sleeps 4 and starts at a very reasonable £395.

Tennis anyone?

Tennis anyone?

Maenporth, Cornwall's Med

Maenporth, Cornwall’s Med

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are plenty more properties with pools on the Holiday Cottages website, just type ‘swimming pool‘ into the keywords search tool for an extensive list across the country to suit all tastes and budgets.

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Competition time! Win tickets to Oakwood Theme Park

Yee-Haa! Staff at Oakwood Theme Park

Yee-Haa! Staff at Oakwood Theme Park

 

 

It’s a “yee-haa!” welcome at the Oakwood Theme Park in Pembrokeshire! Staff at the Theme Park joined in the ‘cowboy’ theme to mark the official completion and opening of a newly themed Wild West area, complete with saloon, at the park recently.

The park opened 25 years ago with a ‘cowboy’ theme, so it only seems fitting that on this momentous anniversary there should be another area with this theme.

As part of the celebrations, staff donned stetsons and even took part in an impromptu line dance!

Oakwood Theme Park’s Anthony Crowdie said: “We’re all delighted with the way the new-look Wild West area has turned out. It really recreates the feel of a typical frontier US town.

“We decided to re-theme the area following requests from members of the public. It certainly seems to have gone down well with our visitors and we have had a number of people commenting on how good it looks.

“It’s also clearly got the thumbs up from our staff who didn’t take very much persuading to dress up and take part in their own version of line dancing to celebrate its unveiling!” he added.

The park is planning a series of special events and celebrations to mark the anniversary. Exciting added attractions for 2012 also include extended late-night opening in July and August with fireworks finales and the return of the hugely popular High Diving Show for the summer.

To enter the competition to win free tickets to Oakwood Theme Park, just get your hands on the latest copy of Holiday Villas and Cottages Magazine!

 


Staff practice their line dancing!

Staff practice their line dancing!

 

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