Cottage of the Week – Little Thatchings, Oxfordshire

Our new featured property is located in the pretty little village of Warborough in Oxford, perhaps better known to TV viewers as the filming location for Midsomer Murders. Thankfully, real life in Warborough is far more relaxing (and safer!) than its portrayal on screen, which should allow you plenty of opportunity to explore and enjoy one of the UK’s most stunningly scenic regions.

The property itself isn’t short of beauty and tranquility. Nestled in its own garden just off the village green with secret seating areas and a small orchard, it has been delightfully furnished in ‘Arts and Crafts’ style with original beams (some originating from ships of the Spanish Armada which were broken up at The Wharf just down the road) and many more attractive features.

You’re also perfectly located to enjoy a range of quintessentially English locations and activities including Oxford, Blenheim Palace, Henley, Windsor, Stratford, The Cotswolds and London with numerous gastro pubs, restaurants, markets and antique shops in the surrounding area.

Take a look at the latest pricing, availability and make a booking on the property’s listing on cottages4you.

cottages4you’s Summer Entertainment Guide

Whether you’re on a proper holiday, or perhaps planning a few days away before the kids go back to school, there is so much to enjoy right across the country this summer. But summer activities don’t have to mean long queues in the scorching sun (or pouring rain!) there are a host of fun activities for the family that are off the beaten track, or not as well known as some. Take a look at out guide below for inspiration.

Life’s a beach!

The only crowds on the Farne Islands

The only crowds on the Farne Islands

The busiest beaches are thriving with noise but perhaps lacking a bit in space to enjoy yourself. However, there are many terrific and quieter places to enjoy sand and sea. How about Northumberland? Starting with the sweep of Bamburgh and its stunning castle, through Seahouses where you can take a boat trip out to the Farne Islands, right down to the busier end of Whitley Bay and Tynemouth, there are beaches to be enjoyed and space to do your own thing.

At the other side of the country, you’ll discover Britain’s first area of outstanding natural beauty on the Gower Peninsula. Starting just outside Swansea, you can immerse yourself in so many activities, from kite flying to pony trekking, kayaking to wind surfing. Add a wealth of caves and castles, stunning beaches and clambery walks, and you’ll return each night to your handy self-catering accommodation in a state of pleasant exhaustion!

Fun with a theme

The top theme parks, such as Alton Towers, Legoland, Chessington World of Adventures and Blackpool Pleasure Beach, are so well known. There are many others to enjoy as well. At Malton in North Yorkshire you’ll enter the amazing world of Flamingo Land. Established as both a zoo and theme park more than forty years ago, it offers a wealth of fun experiences such as Being a Zookeeper or Animal Trainer, intimate encounters with everything from sea lions to giraffes (not forgetting meerkats) as well as adventure rides from Cable Car to Cliff Hanger.

Another great choice would be Drayton Manor in Staffordshire (near Tamworth). There you’ll find almost three hundred acres of fun packed activities with extremely damp and thoroughly scary rides, including a highly unusual stand-up roller coaster. There’s a brand new 4D cinema (it’s 3D with added water and wind!) and the chance for the littler ones to enjoy Thomas Land – named after a tank engine you may just have heard of.

A celebration of festivals

Fun at the festival in Edinburgh

Fun at the festival in Edinburgh

If there’s one thing we do know how to do here in the UK it’s how to enjoy a good festival. The music circuit is well-established by now, with annual events such as the Cambridge Folk or Reading and Leeds Festivals. Of course, each August Edinburgh offers thousands of cultural treats and many more not-so-highbrow events.

Away from music, there are also so many other festivals to enjoy across the rest of the summer. Food-wise for example, on August Bank Holiday the largest fish festival in the UK is held at Newlyn in Cornwall. Apart from great fresh tastes, you can enjoy the unique sight of teams in the Lugger Rowing Championships – a serious row while competing for the legendary Gold Pilchard Award. At the end of that week Jamie Oliver and Alex James get together again to present The Big Feastival held on Alex’s own farm deep in The Cotswolds. Add music, demonstrations and a vintage funfair and you have a feast of fun!

The call of nature

Kids and nature seem to have an affinity. Whether they are splashing around in rock pools, getting cuddly with tame specimens in petting zoos, or looking out for unusual wildlife in woodlands, their interest is always infectious. Our country offers some great opportunities to commune with nature. Imagine watching the soaring glory of sea eagles on the Isle of Mull, swooping red kites in Grizedale Forest in Cumbria, or looking for a close encounter with rare red squirrels in parts of Northern England.

In Scotland, you can look for a friendly bottlenose dolphin encounter during a boat trip on the Moray Firth, before spending a fun day at nearby Aviemore or in the stunning Cairngorms National Park.

Trusted entertainment

If we’re proud of our history, we can also make sure we have some fun with it too. The National Trust run a terrific series of events throughout the summer at many of their properties. Think how the kids would enjoy watching bats emerge at dusk on the Penrose estate, a Nature Night Walk at Godolphin House, or the chance to build a family den at Trengwainton – all in Cornwall.

At Woolsthorpe Manor in Lincolnshire – home of Sir Isaac Newton – you could be part of a glorious bug hunt in his orchard (he probably won’t turn up in person though). Fab Friday (8th August) is Archery Day at Rockingham Forest at Lyveden in Northamptonshire.

There’s so much more!

Cromer. seaside town in Norfolk, England

Lovely Cromer

Of course all of these terrific ideas do no more than scratch the surface of the huge number of events and locations spread across the United Kingdom in the next few weeks. We offer so many family-friendly self-catering choices from Cornwall in the south west to Wick in the far north of Scotland; Snowdonia and the Brecon Beacons in Wales to Cromer in Norfolk. This means that, no matter how you want to spend your precious family time, you can site yourself close and convenient for wherever you wish to be. If history is your thing it might be Warwick or Leeds Castle, or stately homes from Chatsworth to Cragside (first home of hydro-electric power in the UK).

You might fancy lunch in a genuine treehouse during a visit to Alnwick Castle (part of a certain wizard’s adventures were filmed there). How about a glorious day watching the penguins strut their stuff at Edinburgh Zoo? Or perhaps a family cycle on the Olympic road race route over Box Hill would be an unforgettable piece of family bonding with views (and inclines!) that may leave you breathless.

Whatever excites your family, wherever you’d like to be throughout the rest of our British summer, don’t forget to register for our Big Kid Bingo competition. Not only can you enjoy a host of fun family activities but if you complete your card you’ll be entered into a prize draw to win £1,000 cottages4you voucher. Start playing now on our Facebook page.

The UK’s Best Ice Cream Parlours

Three ice cream cones

Maybe you’d prefer Cotton Candy and Bubblegum flavours…

We’d eat ice cream every day of the year if we could, but July gives us the best excuse to – it’s National Ice Cream Month! The tradition was started in 1984 in the United States by the President at the time, Ronald Reagan. With temperatures soaring across the UK, what better time to take advantage of some of the incredible ice cream on offer? The UK is home to some of the world’s best ice cream, and here are five places to sample the best…

The Pudding House, Lancashire.

Wallings Farm is located in Cockerham, just outside Lancaster. The ice cream parlour is extremely popular with the locals, so be prepared to queue – especially if it’s a nice day. It’s positioned in beautiful countryside, with alpacas grazing in the adjoining fields. The perfect location for enjoying your ice cream! The parlour is situated at the front of the Pudding House café, and stocks a huge range of around 40 flavours. Traditional flavours are available, but what really sets Pudding House apart as one of the best is their incredible range of unique, innovative ice creams. The Lemon Meringue Pie flavour is a popular choice, with real meringue pieces nestled between delicious lemon ice cream and ripples of lemon curd. Alternatively, if you’re feeling festive, why not try their Christmas pudding flavour? With delicious ice cream, generous serving sizes and an idyllic setting, you won’t be left disappointed after a visit to Lancashire’s most loved ice cream parlour and farm.

Billy Bob’s Parlour, North Yorkshire.

Finding an ice cream parlour in the Yorkshire Dales can be a difficult task, as there are so many to choose from. Billy Bob’s parlour, situated just outside the beautiful town of Skipton, is a popular choice with locals and tourists alike. The parlour boasts a fantastic 30 flavours, with something on offer for everybody. Traditional flavours, such as Vanilla and Strawberry, compete against some more extravagant choices, like the Cotton Candy and Bubblegum flavours. As well as the tasty ice cream, Billy Bob also serves a full range of delicious fast food, from burgers and hot dogs, to pancakes and waffles. An excellent choice if you’re travelling with children, the parlour also boasts an outdoor play area as well as an indoor play barn. No matter what the weather, Billy Bob’s ice cream parlour is a fun day out for the entire family. Plus, when you’re finished, you can continue your adventures in the Yorkshire Dales.

Aplin’s Farm, Devon.

Otter Valley Dairy in Devon have won numerous awards, and it’s not hard to see why. The small, family-run business has been around for four generations, refining their range of ice cream to create new, mouthwatering flavours. There are 21 flavours to choose from, including Rhubarb and Ginger, Cream Tea, and Devon Rice Pudding with Raspberry Jam, as well as four varieties of sorbet for those looking for something a little different. The ice creams are made in house, using milk from their own herd of cows, and the recipe is based upon Italian Gelato. Off the beaten track, Otter Valley Dairy can be difficult to find but a visit is worth the trip. Tucked into the breath-taking valley, the summerhouse offers fantastic views of the Devon countryside. If the weather permits, you can enjoy your ice cream outdoors in the designated picnic area, beside the very same cows that helped to create the wonderful ice cream.

Broughty Ferry, Scotland

Visocchi’s Café, in Broughty Ferry, has recently been awarded the title of the best ice cream in Scotland. Located just outside Dundee, the café specialises in two Italian delights: pizza and ice cream. All handmade at the premises, their ice creams attract huge crowds during the summer. Exceptionally creamy, and with inventive flavours, you get luxury ice cream at affordable prices. Broughty Ferry itself is located on the Firth of Tay. It’s a historic river town, with plenty to see and do, including Sandy Beach and its Esplanade, Barnhill Rock Gardens, and Broughty Ferry Castle.

Blaze Farm, Peak District.

Blaze Farm boasts the best ice cream in the Peak District. The ice cream is well known, having won several awards, and is all made on site using milk from its own herd of dairy cows. With an impressive range of flavours, you can choose from traditional varieties or the more inventive, such as the Turkish Delight with White Chocolate Chip. In addition to the amazing ice cream on offer, Blaze Farm has nature trails that can be enjoyed by the whole family. With plenty of wildlife and incredible countryside views, it’s not to be missed! If you visit in the springtime, you may even get to watch the lambing take place on the farm. There’s lots of interactive fun for the children, too, with cows milked daily in the parlour. There’s no admission fee for the farm, so it’s the perfect family day out for those on a tight budget.

The UK’s best TV filming locations

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Ted on set of ‘The Village’

With so many great dramas, comedies and adaptations hitting our screens over the last few years, the UK is now awash with interesting and beautiful TV filming locations for us all to visit. Although not all of them are available to tour directly, they still make great holiday locations where you can soak in the atmosphere, feel and aesthetics of your favourite TV programmes. But with so many to choose from, and each with their own visitation limitations and restriction, how will you ever decide on which ones to visit? Well don’t worry, we’ve picked out some of the most famous, beautiful and interesting TV filming location in the UK to help you make up your mind. So here you are, five of the best TV filming locations to visit in the UK:

Downton Abbey – Highclere Castle

First on the list is probably the most famous. Downton Abbey has been a revelation not only in the UK, but also in America where its popularity has exceeded expectations. The show is revered for its accurate historical costume and setting, and critically acclaimed for its realistic representation of social relations in the Edwardian era, and now you can visit the abbey itself. Whilst many of the indoor scenes are filmed in specially constructed studio sets, the outdoor shots of the Abbey are filmed at Highclere Castle in Berkshire, the seat of the Earl of Carnarvon. You can visit the castle most days of the year, and since the show has attracted considerable tourist attention.

If Highclere Castle isn’t enough for you, you can also visit the village of Bampton in Oxfordshire, which is the setting for Downton Village. There is a scheduled tour of the village, or if you prefer you can walk around at your leisure and experience the setting for some of the major plot developments in the show. You can also get access to some of the closed off filming locations and see the Crawley House, Downton Hospital and St Mary’s Church.

Sherlock: The Hound of the Baskervilles – Hound Tor and Dewer’s Hollow

Hound Tor is the site of a deserted Medieval village on Bodmin Moor, and was the inspiration for Arthur Conan Doyle’s story The Hound of the Baskervilles. It’s fitting, then, that when the BBC came to adapt the story for the new series of Sherlock that they decided to film some of it there. The location has a history of being used as a TV location, being featured in Doctor Who in the 1970s and The Sontaran Experiment. This historical and archaeological landmark lies within the rugged woodland of Bodmin Moor, and offers beautiful views across its expanse.

Scenes for this episode were also filmed in Three Bears Cave in Forest Fawr Country Park near Cardiff, which was used to represent Dewer’s Hollow. Again a rugged and traditionally British woodland, this provided the dark eerie backdrop for the sighting of the hound, and has also been used in various other BBC TV programmes, such as Torchwood and Merlin. The woodland expanse of the country park is a beautiful walking holiday destination, which also allows you to take in some TV history whilst you’re at it!

Jamaica Inn – Cornwall

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The BBC remake of Jamaica Inn divided opinion, but whatever you think of the shows recent foray onto our screens, Jamaica Inn remains one of the defining novels in history. Although the TV programme itself was filmed on a number of locations, including Cornwall and Kirkby Lonsdale in Cumbria, fans of the show, book or film adaptations can still visit the famous Jamaica Inn itself, from Daphne Du Maurier took the name of her novel – in fact, the Inn is now so famous it has been given Grade II listing status by English Heritage. Located in the middle of Bodmin Moor, the inn has been on the site since the 18th century, when it was used a resting house for smugglers and pirates in the area. Because of this interesting history, it has also been named one of the most haunted places in the UK.

Regardless of this connection with the novel and various TV and film adaptations, the Inn as a beautiful and historic site in its own right, and the nearby village of Bolventor and the surrounding moorland are typical of the rugged and sublime north Cornish landscape.

Doc Martin – Port Isaac

Nestled on the north coast of Cornwall, the small fishing village of Port Isaac has found fame in the last ten years as the filming location of Doc Martin. Called Port Wenn in the show, all the exterior scenes are filmed in the village, and can be visited all year round. Many of the interior scenes were also shot in the village, but in a converted barn on a local farm, which you can also visit. The village has a history as a TV filming location, having previously been the location of Poldark in 1970s, which is due to make a comeback on our screens next year. As well as a must for fans of the show, this picturesque fishing village is a great holiday spot regardless of its TV associations.

Broadchurch – Dorset

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Slightly less cheerful coastal comings and goings took place in ITV’s drama series Broadchurch. The serial made good use of Dorset’s stunning coastline to tell a gripping tale of the dark secrets underlying a seemingly idyllic community. Thankfully, while the script (and the titular location) was a work of fiction, the beautiful landscape on England’s south coast is far from, with breath-taking landscapes, stunning scenic vistas and warm welcomes aplenty.

The success of Broadchurch has already prompted an increase in screen tourism to the area, but thanks to the abundance of tranquil beauty in Dorset we’re fairly sure that you won’t notice the increased numbers. Of course that may chance when they screen series 2!

Doctor Who – Cardiff

Doctor Who is known for inspiring serious levels of fandom, and its filming locations around Cardiff have become the stuff of legend. Although you can’t get access to any of the sets, you can take an unofficial tour or use the tour app to discover and visit the filming locations of the show. Cardiff is a great city, with fantastic scenery, architecture and museums, and is a great holiday destination even if you’re not a fan of the Doctor.

Aside from the location featured here, there are a whole host other beautiful, history and rugged TV filming locations which make great holiday destinations. It’s the perfect way to fulfil your TV fandom whilst having a great holiday at the same time. With cottages4You you can do both, staying in self-catering accommodation whilst visiting the famous locations of your favourite TV shows.

Gearing up for the Cycling!

To say that people are getting a little bit excited about the cycling in ‘God’s Own County’ would be something of an understatement! We’ve added a few shots of preparations in this album, along with some properties that still have availability if you fancy going along and enjoying the spectacle!

Views from t’Saddle – the entries so far!

We’ve had some great photos entered into our scenic cycling photo competition. We’ve added a brief selection below. If you’d like to add yours – and possibly win a £100 Evans Cycles voucher and a cycling jersey signed Sir Bradley Wiggins – then email your ‘views from t’saddle’ or enter via Twitter, Facebook or Google+.

 

Celebrate National Picnic Week! 

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In a world where we live our lives increasingly indoors, and where families eat together far less often than they used to, picnics offer the perfect chance to come together and enjoy some al fresco food and drink as well as each other’s company.

It’s also a great bonding opportunity away from the distractions of home and work. Even if the weather isn’t at its best, it can still be a hugely enjoyable and beneficial experience. Equally, if you have a large extended family and not that much space indoors, or if you don’t have a big garden, a picnic can be one of the best ways of relishing being outside spaces.

Taking place this year from June 16-22, National Picnic Week aims to give families the ideal chance to come together over an outdoor meal, with tips, advice, recipes and other information, so that you enjoy the perfect picnic. It encourages people to get outside and find great local al fresco dining sites, and the event has grown hugely over the decade it’s been around.

That’s because, while it may be a hoary old cliché, food really does taste better outdoors! There aren’t many better ways of making the most of the summer.

In the rush to get overseas for holidays and the like, it can be easy to forget how lucky we are in the UK to have a huge range of open areas for picnics, from forests and woodland to Britain’s dramatic coastline, hillsides, fields and meadows. Or how about having a picnic on an island, the grounds of a stately home or in a lovely country park? Your perfect family picnic spot may be closer than you realised.

Of course, like most things, a little preparation is required. As well as planning and making your food with care, you will need to choose your family picnic spot in advance, and give some thought to the decision.

Here are just some ideas. Even if they aren’t close to where you live, they could provide inspiration for the sort of spot you’d like to take your family to.

Country Parks 

In the UK, we are very lucky to have a good number of these. In Wiltshire, for example, the Avon Valley Country Park covers some fifty acres of gorgeous land right by the River Avon, and there’s stacks for grown-ups and children to do. Kids, for instance, will love the youngsters’ assault course and there are some great riverside rambles to do while you work up an appetite and decide where to unfurl your picnic rug.

Another good place is Wellington Country Park, with its 350 stunning acres of Hampshire countryside, not to mention a miniature railway, crazy golf, oversized snakes and ladders game, nature trails and more.

North of the border, Beecraigs Country Park in the Bathgate Hills near Linlithgow makes another idyllic location for a family day out. There are activities from kayaking to archery, a fishery and deer farm as well as a campsite, so you could stay a few days and enjoy not just one but several wonderful al fresco meals.

Still in Scotland, the Glenkiln Sculpture Park in Dumfries and Galloway has six sculptures in its eight miles of land.

Historic Sites 

Rievaulx Abbey

Rievaulx Abbey

Avebury Stone Circle in Wiltshire makes an unusual picnic spot, at Europe’s biggest stone circle, thought to be four thousand years old.

Alternatively, in North Yorkshire the ruined Rievaulx Abbey, surrounded by woodland, dates from medieval times and will give your picnic a unique atmosphere. Or what about picnicking in the grounds of Dorset’s Corfe Castle?

Open spaces

The heather and bracken of Bodmin Moor in Cornwall offer a dramatic backdrop to any outdoor meal, as do the North Pennines, from Northumberland’s Hadrian’s Wall into Cumbria. In Wales, the Clywedog Valley and Trail has seven miles of great walking and you could visit the local lead mines. Or take in the hills, woodland and Iron Age fort of Devil’s Dyke, East Sussex.

Beaches and Islands

Still in Wales, Barafundle Beach in Pembrokeshire is a little known spot, but discover it and you won’t want to leave. For island settings, think about beautiful St Herbert’s, Cumbria, or Dorset’s Brownsea Island, dotted with idyllic picnicking locations.

Stately homes

Ragley Hall in Warwickshire provides a superb family day out, with 400 acres to play in, an adventure playground incorporating a maze, climbing frames and a trampoline. You may want to spread out your picnic rug by the lake, where its’ nice and peaceful, and you may see the odd peacock strutting around!

London 

Finally, if you thought the city was no place for a picnic, think again. Somerset House lets you escape the chaotic capital with a massive courtyard complete with fountains, in front of this glorious eighteenth century palace. Another idea is the gardens next to the Horniman Museum, which have sixteen acres and where there’s always something going on.

With so much to enjoy, what are you waiting for? Pack up your picnic basket this summer and head off to enjoy the best of what the UK has to offer- and don’t forget to capture the moment for your Big Kid Bingo card!

11 Unmissable European Music Festivals for Summer 2014

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If live music is on your wish-list of activities this year, there are some exceptional festivals to choose from. A dazzling array of global superstars awaits you, but you’ll first need to decide which of the many events taking place throughout Europe are for you. So, come with us as we take you on a European tour of music festivals that will help you to decide where to spend your precious leisure time this summer.

Isle of Wight Festival

With a line-up of previous performers that includes Bob Dylan, The Who, Hendrix, The Doors, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie and more,  the Isle of Wight’s musical heritage takes some beating. Taking place over the weekend of 12th-15th June, 2014’s roster includes a number of contemporary musical heavyweights such as Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kings of Leon and more alongside a mix of equally enticing acts on the second stage.

Why not stay at… 

Palmers Brook House

Palmers Brook House

Why stay in a tent when you and up to 9 of your friends can enjoy the comfort of Palmers Brook House. This period Victorian house is set in a semi-rural location close to Newport, Ryde and East Cowes and offers a garden, farmhouse-style kitchen with gas/electric range, shower room, Wi-Fi and more!  Palmers House still has weekend availability for the festival. View more info and make a booking now.   

Sonar, Spain

This year is a very special one for Barcelona’s Sonar festival, as it’s the year the event celebrates its 21st Birthday. You will find an intriguing blend of music and arts at this sun-kissed festival, as well as the likes of Four Tet, Caribou and chart-topping band Rudimental. Take plenty of sun cream though, as the festivities take place between the 12th and 14th of June when the Spanish sun is at its hottest.

Main Square, France

If you’re looking for a laid-back festival where you can meet people, enjoy stunning architecture and find room to breathe, Main Square in the French city of Arras is ideal. There are only two stages at this event, but they will host around 40 acts this summer, including Disclosure, Depeche Mode and the Chemical Brothers. There is a personal and very friendly vibe to be found at this event, which makes it ideal if you’re not into mosh pits and drunken debauchery. As this event takes place in the city, you can swap your mud-soaked tent for a quaint cottage with lots of typically Gallic charm. The Main Square festival takes place between the 3rd and 6th of July this year.

Benicassim, Spain

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The beautiful port town of Benicassim is a sleepy Spanish settlement for most of the year, but it comes to life every July when music lovers arrive for four straight days of quality live music.

The event is probably best known for its alternative rock and electronic acts, but it has been known to host the odd rave or two in the past. The Benicassim festival takes place between the 17th and 20th of July this year, and the likes of Kasabian, Lily Allen and Paul Weller will be gracing the various stages.

Green Man Festival, Wales

Set against the majestic backdrop of the Brecon Beacons, the Green Man Festival is perhaps one of the most picturesque British music festivals. Folk music is the star of the show, but you will also get the chance to enjoy comedians, poetry recitals and book readings. The event takes place between the 14th and 17th of August this year, and amongst the line-up of bands already confirmed for the Green Man Festival are Beirut and The Violators.

Latitude, England

The gorgeous East Anglian countryside becomes an outdoor arena for four days in July when the Latitude festival sets up camp. This music festival has a very relaxed ambience, and it delivers far more than fantastic live acts. DJs perform in the depths of local woods, opera singers perform against the backdrop of a stunning natural lake, films play in an on-site cinema and actors recite Shakespeare and Wilde on various stages scattered around the Suffolk countryside. Latitude takes place between the 17th and 20th of July this year, and Blur’s Damon Albarn has been confirmed as the headline act.

Sonisphere, Italy

If you’re into heavy metal, the Sonisphere festival in Rome will definitely interest you. This hugely popular event takes place on 1st June, and more than 40,000 leather-clad hard rock fans are expected this year. Located at the home of the Italian Grand Prix in Imola, the festival will reach a deafening crescendo with a performance from legendary heavy metal band Metallica.

Festival Beauregard, France

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Set against the stunning natural landscapes of Normandy, the Festival Beauregard near Caen has to be one of the most impressive celebrations of live music in the world. This is a garden party for pop and rock fans on a huge scale, and it is taking place between the 3rd and 6th of July this year.

Don’t expect a quiet affair, however, as 55,000 fans showed up last year. A beautiful castle, rolling hills, landscaped gardens and some of the biggest artists on the planet make the Festival Beauregard one of the most prestigious live events in France. Among the confirmed artists for 2014 are Blondie, Portishead and Madness.

Hellfest, France

Located in the charming town of Champ Louet in France, Hellfest is a heavy metal fan’s paradise. Four stages host some of the biggest metal bands in the world, and 70,000 fans bang their heads in unison. This is a particularly rowdy event, however, so don’t be surprised if you see empty bottles and fruit being thrown at the stage, it’s all part of the fun. Headlining this year’s event between the 20th and 22nd of June are Iron Maiden, Aerosmith and Black Sabbath.

Midi, France

Midi is very popular with up and coming bands, and many of Europe’s finest found fame and fortune after appearing at this event in the stunning French Riviera. The location of this festival is probably its greatest asset, as it looks down over the French town of Hyeres and stunning stretches of coastline. With Chateau Vallombrossa as an eye-catching backdrop, there can’t be many European music festivals as picturesque as this one. Midi will take place on the 25th and 26th of July this year, and Europe’s freshest pop talent will be gracing the stage.

Global Gathering, England

Located in the beautiful Warwickshire countryside, Global Gathering is one of the fastest growing music festivals in Europe. A combination of enormous stages, booming sound systems and the biggest names in music has given this festival a reputation to rival the likes of Reading and Glastonbury. Hard house, dance and drum ‘n’ bass take centre stage, but unlike many other festivals in the UK, Global Gathering features an element of luxury in the form of private ‘Suitehuts’ – complete with TV, DVD player, fridge and a bed. The event takes place on the 26th and 27th of July this year, and head-liners include Plan B, Steve Aoki and Disclosure.

Wherever you decide to go this year, you don’t need to resign yourself to sleeping in a cold, muddy and damp tent. Rent a cottage or local holiday home instead, and enjoy live music with clean clothes and a clear head.

Britain’s Blue Flag Beaches

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Broadstairs in Kent

It’s hard to beat a great British seaside holiday, and we’re blessed with a tremendous choice of beaches dotted all around our diverse coastline. If it’s a pristine stretch of white or golden sand you want, we can do that. If it’s rugged shale beaches in craggy coves, we can do that too. Windswept, deserted miles of sand, gentle bays and inlets, rockpools, turquoise sea, rolling dunes and crashing waves – you choose. Any one of these, and often a combination of two or more features, is available somewhere along our coast. The sun may be more elusive in our fickle summers in the UK, but as the saying goes – there’s no such thing as the wrong type of weather, just the wrong type of clothes!

There are plenty of guides and online sites that will help you to find the perfect beach for a day out at the seaside or if you want to plan a longer stay. Look out for those beaches which have been awarded a prestigious Blue Flag or Seaside Award, which means you can be sure they will be first class in every sense.

A total of 168 beaches in England and 33 in Wales have been recognised for their cleanliness, safety, public amenities and quality of water by Keep Britain Tidy in this year’s Blue Flag and Seaside Awards. A Blue Flag is an internationally recognised symbol given to beaches and marinas for ‘high standards of management, cleanliness and safety’ – an eco badge of honour which any beach can be proud of. An international jury of conservationists, environmentalists and lifesavers meets twice a year to make the awards based on information, including the results of seawater analysis, sent to them by the local authority responsible for the beach. It’s up to the local authority to put a beach forward for an award, which is then issued for a single season.

Blue Flags were awarded to 56 beaches in England and a further 122 received a Seaside Award. Thanet in Kent received most Blue Flags this year, with seven of its beaches singled out. Poole, Bournemouth, Isle of Wight and Torbay were each awarded four Blue Flags. Awarded beaches are to be found all over England, in the north east, east Midlands, south east, south west and on the east coast.

Wales will also see plenty of Blue Flags snapping in the sea breezes this summer, with an impressive 33 beaches awarded the highest accolade. Pembrokeshire did particularly well, rivalling Devon for counties with the most flags. Beaches in Gower, Snowdonia, Ceredigion and Anglesey will also be flying the blue standard for all the world to see. Wales can boast some stunning coastline, with over 100 beaches to choose from.

Scotland too has its fair share of wonderful beaches, many far-flung and remote and some so rarely visited that if you do know where to go, chances are you’ll have the place to yourself. Keep Scotland Beautiful will be announcing this year’s Blue Flag winners in July, in time for the school holidays although beaches to get a Seaside Award have already been announced.

Beaches, bays, cliffs and rockpools are some of our great natural playgrounds for all ages. Sailors, surfers, kayakers, swimmers and scuba divers will all find plenty of scope to enjoy themselves, as will beachcombers and the bucket and spade brigade. Even sun-worshipers will have their day in the sun, with a bit of luck! Deckchairs and donkey-rides are still to be found at many of the more traditional resorts and a day at the beach wouldn’t be complete without an ice-cream cone or fish and chips in a seaside café. Most of our seaside towns and villages are home to a wide range of pubs, bistros for al fresco eating and restaurants which offer fine-dining, if that’s what you’re after.

If you like cooking, one of the advantages of going self-catering is being able to buy some of the local produce such as fish and seafood and enjoy it with family and friends. If you find somewhere with a small harbour be sure and see if anyone’s landed some lobster, crab, sea bass or mackerel you can buy fresh off the boat. For a full list of beaches awarded a Blue Flag or Seaside Award click on one of the links below. Wherever you see one flying you know you’re on one of the country’s cleanest beaches, but don’t forget there are many others that may not be listed but can turn out to be wonderful discoveries.

For more information and guide to beaches in the UK, see:

Keep Britain Tidy

Keep Wales Tidy

Keep Scotland Beautiful

The Beach Guide

 

 

 

 

Cottages of the Week – Tamar Valley Cottages, nr. Bude, Cornwall

“Beautiful cottage, with gorgeous interiors and comfortable beds”, “Very clean and tidy…set in an awesome location”, “We had a wonderful stay with all the home comforts would recommend to everyone” are just some of the positive comments that we’ve received on our new Cottages of the Week. Fancy adding your own? Take a look at the property listings below for more info on these four lovely properties in Cornwall’s Tamar Valley…