Category Archives: Accommodation

3 unusual holiday cottages

As a travel and property enthusiast, I am always on the look out for exciting and interesting holiday cottages which would make a fun family adventure in the UK. Browsing the web this week, I thought it would be highly valuable to share with you some of my favourite finds for this week.

My first interesting find was this beautiful tree house in Somerset. Cleverly titled The Threehouse, this Taunton-based fairy-tale wonder is good fun for all the family. With prices ranging from £690 to £1395, this holiday which sleeps between 2 and 5 people promises the luxury getaway. Complete with hot tub and a spacious open plan living area, it’s the perfect destination to take the kids as there is plenty of room to run around and play. In the surrounding area, there are plenty of activities to be engaged in, in and around Taunton. Take the Taunton heritage trail and explore some of the remaining relics of the town’s turbulent past, and try out delicious local produce on a Thursday at the Farmer’s market on High Street. Someset has much to offer visitors, with plenty of outdoor activities such as walking and mountain biking on Exmoor, pony trekking and of course golf. There are many other attractions such as museums, castles and abbeys which are fun for young and older explorers alike!

Perhaps you’ve always dreamt of staying in a windmill, especially one which has been so widely publicized. For this purpose, The Mill in Braunston, Warwickshire will be just the trick. Perhaps one of the most widely acclaimed holiday cottages in the UK, covered by ITV and the BBC, The Mill can sleep up to 6 people starting from £850 a week. In the nearby area there is plenty to see. Braunston is a very historical village and Oxford isn’t far off. Explore the canal junction, dine in local pubs and indulge in some countryside walks followed by afternoon tea at Poppies Tea Shop for homemade cakes and scones and a variety of hot and cold drinks.

Last but not least, La Rosa is a kooky campsite which knows a thing or two about unusual, and won’t set you back too much (prices start from £27pppn). Based on a philosophy of being at peace with the surrounding environment, all the decoration of the camp is grafted from years of car boot and flea market collections and they keep their energy usage and expenditure to the ultimate low. The owners do not boast of “Glamping” by any means, and warn that if you’re not suitably equipped for the outdoors, then the British weather may get rid of you. Given that this doesn’t put you off though, you are situated in an excellent place to enjoy the nearby seaside town of Whitby (most famous for Goth festivals and Scampi and Chips!) and beautiful countryside surroundings to make any keen walker feel at home.

Prepare your property for a holiday swap vacation

If you live in a popular tourist destination, then the possibilities for letting out your home for a holiday swap will make finding accommodation either elsewhere in the UK or abroad a lot cheaper for your trip away. There are many websites available today such as www.ukholidayswapshop.co.uk where you can register your home online and start swapping.

Once you have arranged your holiday swap and agreed on a date when you would like to swap, it is time to start preparing your home for the swap. There are many things that you need to think about, particularly security if you have never swapped with this person before. Before leaving your home in the hands of somebody else for a while, make sure to lock away any or highly valuable items in a secure room or cupboard. It is also important to make a plan for the handing over of the keys, consider whether you will meet at one of the houses and hand the keys over then, or perhaps arrange for a neighbour to

To make your home more welcoming to your swap guests, make sure the beds are already prepared for when they arrived and that they know where clean linen and towels are available. Leave information in a document about how to use the household appliances such as the television, washing machine and the wifi access key code. Provide a booklet which will tell them all about the best places to eat and drink in the local area, as well as things to do and places of interest to visit.

Obviously cleanliness is a must, before your swappers arrive, give your house a big spring clean and make sure that they will leave it in the same order when they leave. Empty the fridge or if you have a separate fridge or freezer somewhere else in the house, move all of your items into the alternative and give your guests the most convenient and obvious option.

Don’t forget the little extras! Making a “welcome pack” for when your swappers arrive will be very much appreciated, particularly if they have driven or travelled a long way. Get some bread and milk in and perhaps bake some cakes to make them feel at home. Most of all, once you arrive at their home, concentrate on having a good time, and leave the place in the same condition you left it!

Relaxing, rural and green in Dordogne, France

When you think about holidays in France, Dordogne is probably not the first region you think about but it offers a wealth of panoramas, activities and historic culture and is nestled next to arguably the best wine region in the world.

Situated in the south-west region, east of Bordeaux, the Dordogne is famed for its river, hence a host of water activities occur year-round; the most popular being canoeing. There are many organisations offering lessons and excursions, so check with the Federation Francaise de Canoe-Kayak for information on the best spots nearest you.

Another popular holiday activity is go-karting. Lubserac boasts a professional circuit of almost 1000 metres and bikes or cars for everyone aged over five years. In Javerlac there are two tracks – one for adults, the other for children.

If you are an animal lover, you could try horse riding, with 8,500 kilometres of winding countryside track, going through small villages and beaches. You could visit the Aquarium du Périgord Noir, in Le Buge, to view a wide variety of fish and reptiles.

You can also see lions, tigers and, rhinos, giraffe, camels, monkeys and birds at Le Parc du Reynou, near Limoges.

Matt Hopkins loves to holiday in Dordogne so much, he now owns a self catering holiday villa there. He says, “The Dordogne is a great region of France – it has just about everything you would expect from France – beautiful countryside, vineyards, cafe culture, amazing history.

“I like that it is far enough for great weather, but not too far – so you can drive to the area within half a day. This is the primary reason we chose this area – accessible, yet far enough to escape the north European weather.”

You can fly to the Dordogne via Bergerac airport – with Toulouse and Bordeaux also viable. In Bergerac you can also hire a car from just over £26 a day, which is advisable because France is a very big place. Or you can pick up a car in the UK and cross the channel to northern France and then drive down.

Matt adds, “When we take our holidays there, we pretty much just relax – soak up the sun, read books, enjoy the wine and such. But if you want to be more adventurous, there’s plenty to do to keep you going – canoeing down the Dordogne river, horse riding, cycling, some fantastic walks too.”

OTHER TOP DORDOGNE ATTRACTIONS

Château de Castelnaud
A 12th century castle in Nontron which dominates the skyline. After three restoration projects, the château is now open to the public and home to an impressive, popular museum of medieval warfare.

Rocamadour
A hugely popular village which draws tourists wanting to see the black Madonna – the shrine of the Virgin Mary.

Les Jardins de Marqueyssac
Wonderfully manicured gardens overlooking the Dordogne river where each hedge has been carefully snipped into whorls and bubbles, producing a stunning effect – all done by hand. Stay until dark to view the fairy lights.

Lascaux
Not far to the north of Sarlat, the Lascaux caves are known around the world and have been given UNESCO World Heritage status.

Markets
You will find markets all over the region in towns and villages. Well worth a visit.

By Steve Masters

 

Glamping- the cooler way to camp

Camping is a word which over the last couple of decades, has evolved to mean something other than pitching canvas in stormy weather, damp sleeping bags and passing around baked beans in a pan. Today you can stay in a tent fully equipped with electricity, nothing less than luxury showers and sleep in a bed under a duvet that’s not on a dusty ground sheet, and so “glamping” was born, when the glamour of hotels, meets the simplicity of an outdoor holiday.

Glamping has several degrees of glamour. From a canvas tent with typical camp beds which still provide the basics for cookery (often a gas hob and grill), to small wooden pods complete with an en-suite bathroom and linen provided. There is of course the traditional mobile home, which in itself has evolved, more due to competition between rival camping companies ( this is a trend mostly springing up around European campsites as the main camping companies Keycamp, Eurocamp and Canvas Holidays compete for their customer’s affections), however the British are now applying these trends to their own turf and many campsites have lots of unique and interesting huts popping up all over the place boasting hotel quality stays in Britain’s back garden.

Starting with the basics, I shall outline the canvas options for the hardiest of our “Glampers”. This genre of Glamper enjoys the outdoors and still wants to feel like they’re camping but with a few more comforts than a standard DIY tent pitch. Popular canvas options include tee-pees, yurts and wig-wams. Many of the camp sites providing these have already gone the extra mile for you and provided everything you’ll need! Woodland Tipis in Herefordshire include double beds, mattresses and a chimnea or wood burning stove depending on whether you choose a Yurt or a Tipi.

At mid-range, more solid accommodation can be found in a variety of formats, from renting your own VW Camper in Cornwall, to something that resembles a garden shed in Cumbria, the basic solid glamping can be a sturdy affair. The Bivouac campsite in North Yorkshire has a very strong eco-ethos which gives the campsite that extra special environmental touch. The campsite blends into the local surroundings perfectly and has a choice of charming rustic shacks and yurts to choose from. More recently it has installed a hot tub for the campsite users to enjoy!

At the most glamourous end of the spectrum, glamping can now include huts with 4 poster beds and tents with their own warm running water supply. Jollydays camping have some of the biggest and luxurious camping yet. Their tents are supplied with fully operational kitchens, have separate living rooms, dining areas and bedrooms, and some are supplied with double beds. Similar luxuries can be found at Shepherd’s Huts in Kent, where the camping huts come with en-suite and they even offer to deliver cosy couples an evening meal so that they can really enjoy each other’s company.

So they’re really is a Glamping style for every attitude, taste and budget, so now you know your options, Go Glamping!

Setting up a guest house- Part 2

How to be the perfect host -Remember that running your own business is a lot of work and attention to detail is everything. Guests are judging their experience before they’ve even walked through the door, and so being a warm, welcoming and attentive host is absolutely paramount to their experience and getting repeat business.

1-Getting Experience- If you have never worked in hospitality before make sure you get experience first. You may spend a week working in a hotel and then discover that you actually hate it and so make sure that you enjoy your work before you commit a mortgage to it! Learning the basics of the business from somebody with more experience is very useful and doing this for anything between two months and a year will give you great ideas of what to do and what not to do.

2-Keeping it clean- Cleanliness is one of the most important aspects of how a guest judges their experience, if you are not into cleaning, perhaps you will want to employ a cleaner and use a laundry and linen loan service for sheets and bedding. This has the advantage of giving you more time to run the books and pay attention to the needs of your guests.

3-Be the tourist office- Brushing up on your knowledge of the local area and acting as the tourist office will make you a useful host and your guests will remember you for your ability to give them directions and recommend the best local facilities! Having leaflets, maps and useful tips to hand will prove to guests that you have prepared for their every need and that they can rely on you!

4- Smile! – Being warm, smiling and helpful will only win you points. Timing your work so that you are on reception for the arrival of guests and making the welcome as warm as possible will establish a good customer relationship from the start of their stay. Show interest in your guest, enquire about their wellbeing, ask how their journey went and find out what they want from their holiday so that you know how you can help them to the best of your ability.

5- Prepare yourself for complaints- businesses will always receive complaints at some point in their life cycle. Perhaps you forgot to replace towels, or they found a mysterious hair in their bath. It is important to acknowledge this complaint and deal with it as swiftly as possible, with an apology for the inconvenience it has caused your guest. Denying a complaint will only anger your guest and soil your reputation. Depending on the seriousness of the complaint and how much it has affected their stay you may wish to give your guest a small token of apology as well as extra special treatment to make sure that everything else runs smoothly.

Finally it is most important to remember that these people are your GUESTS and not customers. If they are made to feel like friends that have been invited for a weekend break, they will want to come back again, but if they feel like just another passing face in your business, they will just be another passing face! You are aiming to get good reviews and the main issues raised on sites such as trip advisor are friendliness, cleanliness and the availability of staff!

Manchester guide part 2: sleeping, shopping and seeing

And so it is time for our next installment of how to enjoy your perfect weekend break in Manchester. This time we will be focusing  where you can stay, and how to experience the best of Manchester’s rich cultural life, the music and events which you can go and see and most importantly for bargain hunters and fashionistas, where to go shopping!

Culture, music and events: Manchester MEN Arena regularly shows live acts from the international music scene. The Lowry Arts and Entertainment Centre regularly shows theatre and dance, hosting art exhibitions and is even the chosen venue of ITV’s “Britain’s Got Talent”! The Royal Exchange Theatre shows regular performances of dance, theatre and music.

Bars and clubs: There is no shortage of bars and clubs. You can spend your evening drinking in your own style, from relaxed drinks in The Black Dog Ballroom, to the European bottled beer and vodka at The Cord Bar, without forgetting the venues that cater for the LGBT scene such as Spiritz and New York, New York. For clubbing, The Warehouse Project is a memorable night out with a calendar jammed with live music events, whilst Sankeys has a place in the heart of every Mancunian clubber!

Where to stay: For luxury, head to the historical Palace Hotel, which guarantees comfort and convenience in a central location. For a smaller budget, check out some of the more wallet friendly hotels such as the family friendly Britannia Hotel, located in the heart of the city, close to rail, bus and shuttle links. If it’s more of a backpacker feel that you’re after however, head for a night of shut-eye at Hatters Youth Hostel on New Street, which is Manchester’s backpacker’s favourite.

Shopping:Manchester boasts excellent mainstream and unique shopping .High street brands are available at the Trafford Centre and in the city centre on Market Street, Deansgate and the Arndale Centre. For something different, The Vintage Fair visits Manchester every third week of the month, but Affleck’s Palace remains a permanent fixture for all things eclectic, with 5 floors of unique clothes, jewellery and other decorations!

National Trust Holiday Cottages: The perfect cottage holiday

National Trust Holiday Cottages offer a wide variety of cottages, farmhouses and even lighthouses where you can spend a long weekend or even up to three weeks enjoying some of the best sights that the United Kingdom has to offer. The accommodation covers nearly every corner of the country and whether it’s a romantic break or a family affair, there is something that would suit every occasion. Here are a few cottages worth checking out:

The romantic weekend away: Cornwall

Penhaligon’s: This cute thatched-cottage with wooden beams and a fireplace is nestled away in a secluded area, yet remains close to the vibrant Towan Beach and delightful Porth Creek.

Triggabrowne Cottage: As a former farmer workers’ cottage it has a large garden, panoramic views and easy access to walks along the coast and in the countryside.

The family holiday: Norfolk

Watermill Apartment: A spectacularly converted watermill with high ceilings that is within close reach of many family-orientated activities and day outs such as Hunstanton pier and Holkham beach.

2 Horsey Barns: This beautiful open plan barn offers families the chance to spot nearby wildlife as well as visit the nearby stunning coast.

The Lighthouse: Devon

The Lighthouse Keeper’s Cottage: It goes without saying that this unique cottage accommodating up to 10 people boasts striking views of the sea and a series of hairpin roads winding through the National Trust moorland. If you are lucky there is even the possibility to spot dolphins and porpoises!

Some places are very popular so need to be booked in advance ahead of time. Others may start unusually in the middle of the week and it’s always worth checking ‘Important Information’ to find out about accessibility and further features of the property. Finally make sure to also check out ‘Special Offers’ for discounts and ‘Last Minute Offers’ for a spontaneous getaway. Take a look for yourself at National Trust Holiday Cottages.

Levitating house on dunes

Situated on the edge of an Area of Outstanding natural beauty in Thorpeness, on the Suffolk coast levitating house on dunes, so called ‘Dune house’ is an excellent combination of local buildings style and a character of the dunes. Its construction is modern, but fits perfectly to the cultural and natural context of the surrounding area. It was designed and completed in 2011 by British company Mole Architects together with young Norwegian practice Jarmund Visgnaes Architects.

One of the starting points for this project was the complicated roof geometry, which draws attention from the seaside strip houses with an eclectic range of dormer windows and gables and seems to levitate. It is made mostly of solid wood, cladding stained dark, like other buildings on that coast. Building seems to be divided in two different parts – the dark and pointed roofscape and the bright ground floor level, which is set into the dunes to protect it from the strong winds. On this level dominates concrete, glass and aluminium. Big sliding doors on the corners open the corners and emphasize the floating appearance of the top floor.

You can watch a video of an interview with Hakon Vigsnaes here, on the living-architecture.co.uk website.

Wake up in heaven

For those bored with an ordinary accommodation there is a place where they can try something new and wake up in heaven. The House in the Clouds in Thorpeness Village on the Suffolk Heritage Coast is different to any other holiday place.

This building, designed in 1923 to store a basic water supplies for the village, now offers 5 bedrooms, 2 of which have double beds and 3 with twin beds and an additional double sofa bed 3 bathrooms, drawing room, dining room and the splendid ‘room at the top’ giving the finest views of Suffolk. Place is well equipped, with  a dishwasher, microwave, fridge, freezer, washing machine/dryer, colour television, full gas fired central heating, table tennis, lawn tennis and boules available.

The building is circa 70 ft high and has 68 stairs, but the ingenious staircase provides a small landing and resting seats in between each floor making it very easy to cope with.

Thorpeness was originally a small fishing hamlet. In 1910, estate owner Glencairn Stuart Ogilvie bought the whole area and began to develop a planned model holiday village ‘for people who want to experience life as it was when England was Merrie England.’ Now Thorpeness is a small seaside village, mainly holiday destination, with about 400 citizens in winter and over 1 600 people in summer. At the end of August the regatta on the Meare is organized there. House in the clouds is one of the highlights of this place.

If you are interested in some other unusual accommodation spots in United Kingdom read our article available here.

Go green on holidays

There is an amazing variety of accommodation possibilities when going on eco holidays. Whether you want to rent a hotel room, holiday house or stay in a tent, there are many available places to choose from. Most of them offer meals, usually with certified organic products but some are self-catered. Quite often owners of holiday homes in rural areas grow their own fruit and vegetables, always making sure they also use fresh local products. It is said that about 50% on average use organic products to prepare their meals. When choosing a self-catering option it is also possible to purchase some local organically-grown food, home baked bread, cheese and jams. Having a box of fresh fruit and veggies delivered to your doors can really make your day.

Some of the eco friendly accommodation places will also have environment friendly solutions such as rainwater harvesting, solar panels or wind turbins providing electricity in the area. Of course for some traveler these elements might not make much difference, as long as the lights work and there is some hot water. But it makes a huge difference to the environment so the benefits of supporting such places are immense.