Easter activities

Easter’s just around the corner and it brings a wealth of opportunities – not just to eat chocolate eggs. With the beginning of Spring, there’s no better time to get out and about, enjoy a host of fun activities and soak up the beauty of the UK countryside. In this article we’re going to focus on several areas of the UK and highlight some fun activities that are suitable for all the family over the Easter holidays. So even if you do over-indulge on the chocolate there are plenty of chances to work it off.

Northumberland is a beautiful and quite underrated area of the UK, which is part of the reason why it can be called truly unspoiled, and makes it perfect for those looking for a bit of peace and quiet on their Easter break. The egg hunts at Kielder Castle, Lindisfarne Castle and Kirkhale Courtyard give you the opportunity to win chocolate while you pretend to explore Northumberland’s fantastic heritage.

If you’d like to appreciate the joys of Spring, Alnwick Castle is one of six historic locations hosting the de Jager Tulip festival between 10 – 15 April. Learn about planting and tending tulips or just admire the pretty flowers, the festival should provide a welcome feast for the senses.

Also unique to Northumberland in Spring time, and perfect for early risers, is the Deer Safari in Kielder Water and Forest Park. Not only does this event allow you to explore the beauty of England’s largest forest but it also lets you admire their largest occupants, all before breakfast (which is also included). Trips leave on the 10 April.

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The beautiful beaches and landscape of Cornwall really comes to life in Spring and the Easter holidays provide the perfect opportunity to take some time to explore them. There are Easter events at Pendennis Castle near Falmouth and Trevarno Estate and Gardens near Helston.

No visit to Cornwall is complete to the fantastic Eden Project, which not only reflects the changing of the seasons with its fantastic flora but also holds a range of seasonal events. Easter promises ‘Freaky Nature’ a chance to get up close and personal with a range of strange plants and creatures! Your tolerance for creepy crawlies may also dictate your speed at rock climbing, which runs until April 18.

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With so much beautiful land on offer, the best Easter activities in Dorset make good use of their magnificent surroundings. Easter egg hunts are available at Corfe Castle and on Church Field on Brownsea Island, Poole Harbour. If you fancy a bigger challenge then The Great Dinosaur Egg Hunt at the Dinosaur Museum in Dorchester should provide more than a handful to the winner.

If you prefer your wildlife to be a little less, er, wild, then RSPB Arne Nature Reserve is running a Wildlife Explorer Easter Holiday from the 1st until the 18 April. Young explorers will be provided with backpacks containing all the tools they need to identify the native creatures. But if you’d rather take a more relaxing view of the countryside then the Swanage Railway Easter Specials gives you a great view of the Jurassic coastline and even throws in a free hot cross bun. Lovely.

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Norfolk has a range of activities that make good use of its beautiful landscape. While you’ve got the energy why not try one of the many treasure hunts that run through the 90 miles of glorious Norfolk coastline (don’t worry, they’re not all 90 miles long). If you’d rather take a more passive exploration of the Norfolk countryside then the Bure Valley RailwayNorfolk’s longest fifteen inch gauge line – is running the Easter Eggspress (see what they did there?) between the 10 and 13 April. Under 5s travel free and there’s a free Easter egg for every child accompanied by an adult. The Bure Valley Railway is also hosting a range of sponsored walks in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support, which also includes a ride on the railway. The walks take place on the 17 and 18 April.

But not all of Norfolk’s beauty is confined to the landscape. Wretham Lodge is holding an open garden day between the 4 – 5 April, allowing visitors to view the beautiful grounds and a whole range of flora. Between the 10 and 11 April the Norfolk & Norwich Horticultural Society Spring Flower Show will be running at the Royal Norfolk Showground for those of you who can’t get enough of flowers. As well as winning the prize for the hardest name to say out loud, the show will also feature craft classes and the East of England Daffodil Championship.

No trip to Norfolk is complete without a trip to the farmer’s market at Wroxham barns. As well as sampling great local produce you can shop, watch local craftsmen and women ply their trades and let the kids take part in a range of fantastic fun activities.

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Do you have any Easter events in the UK that you’d like to promote? Post them in the comments section or drop an email to blogmaster at holidaycottagesgroup.com

Holiday report: Discovering the delights of Keswick…

Looking for stunning scenery, plenty of walking opportunities and lush countryside as far as the eye can see?  Then perhaps a holiday cottage in the Lake District can the ideal holiday break.

Sheila Parkinson visited Greta Grove House, and sent the following report…

The Lake DistrictThe town of Keswick is located in the North of the Lake District National Park and is reached from the M6 Motorway at Penrith or by passing through the Lake District.

The apartment at Greta Grove House is in the heart of Keswick and as there is an allocated parking space there are no parking problems. Greta Grove is extremely well equipped and the décor and furnishings of the apartment are practical, tasteful, warm and relaxing.

The location of Greta Grove is excellent, situated very close to Booth’s supermarket with pubs, restaurants and cafes nearby.  Various shops are within a very short distance selling walking equipment, maps, guide books etc. 

Around Keswick there are many walks which are suitable for the serious walker or for the less energetic. Boat rides on beautiful Lake Derwent are very popular.

The Lake District - magnificent viewsThere is a motor launch which travels to Hawes End across the lake and from here the walk up ‘Cat Bells’ begins.  Cat Bells is a highly recommended walk as the views from here are magnificent in all directions.  Some scrambling is involved on this walk but if you are moderately fit it can be easily done.  A longer version of the walk returns via the lake side or through the woods back to Keswick.

Keswick has a disused railway line which is used by cyclists, (bicycles can be hired in Keswick) and walkers; suitable for wheelchair users and prams and is located behind the sports centre. It is a level, easy walk with spectacular forest, field and river scenery along the way.

Keswick can be enjoyed at any time of the year from the frosts and snow of winter; to the lambs and flowers of spring; from the beauty of summer to the breathtaking tints of autumn.

Britain’s Best Beach? – Porthcurno, ‘Bay of Cornwall’

Porthcurno

Porthcurno

The summer holidays are fast approaching and with many of us about to embark on a “staycation” we consider the question, ‘What is Britain’s best beach?’. Porthcurno, situated in Cornwall just a few miles to the east of Land’s End, must be close to the top of the list. This historic and virtually unspoiled location plays host to dolphins and basking sharks during the summer months. With its crystal azure water set against golden sands, you could be forgiven for thinking that you were abroad.  Locals insist that this area enjoys a ‘micro-climate’ and with shelter in its ‘lagoon like’ bay, the sun lights up the coastline on what is a jewel in Cornwall’s ‘crown’.

This is indeed is an idyllic setting but the tranquillity masks an illustrious past as Porthcurno enjoyed fame towards the end of the nineteenth century as its quiet shores became the site for Britain’s telegraph links to the rest of the world. The strategic importance of Porthcurno continued through the twentieth century and it is strange to think that such a beautiful location could be fortified with flame throwers but these precautions were  implemented during the Second World War. Today, with the flame throwers long gone, visitors can explore and learn more at the Porthcurno Telegraph Museum. With nearby Sennen Cove and the exquisite St Ives a short drive to the north, this part of south west Cornwall is a delight and has much to offer inquisitive guests.

Logan's Rock

Logan's Rock

With its stunning bay surrounded by jagged cliffs, Porthcurno is also the home to the Minack Theatre. Carved into the cliffs this outdoor amphitheatre was the vision of Rowena Cade whose dedication has left us with one of the most amazing theatres in the country. Productions run throughout the summer and there truly cannot be a more fascinating backdrop to watch plays such as ‘The Tempest’ or ‘A Mid-summers Night’s Dream’.  If you do not intend to take in a show, then a visit during the day is still worthwhile in order to appreciate this unique cultural treasure. The view across the bay is inspiring in itself. The walk from the top of the Minack across the beach and over the cliff’s to Logan Rock is breathtaking. If you are lucky you will spot dolphins playing in the bay or maybe lumbering basking sharks as they pass Cornwall on mass during their migratory trail in early summer. If this sounds like too much hard work, then there is of course the beach.

Clear Blue Water

Clear Blue Water

Owned by the National Trust the beach at Porthcurno is timeless. On a recent visit I over-heard an American visitor say, “I have been to Tahiti and I have never seen water this blue”.  There is a sapphire quality to the water which is transfixing. The retreat of the tide lightens the blue vista even more giving it an almost tropical like appearance. The beach itself is lifeguarded throughout the summer and is sheltered on both sides by rising cliffs. This is certainly not the Pacific but it is a beautiful example of the British coastline at its best. We should be proud of our heritage and remember that Britain has a lot to offer and has beaches to rival any in the world.

Rome – History’s Eternal Prism

 

By Gareth McKillop

The recent Champions League final between Manchester United and Barcelona has brought Rome back into sharp focus as a holiday destination. This unique historic backdrop provided a fascinating juxtaposition as the world watched modern day Colossus’ fight it out in the Eternal City.

Beautiful Piazzas

Beautiful Piazzas

Quite simply Rome is stunningly beautiful. Built across its famous seven hills, Rome largely escaped the ravages of the Second World War leaving an architectural legacy virtually in tact. The guide books urge you to forget the guide books and meander freely from one exquisite piazza to the next. Pastel facades and roof top terraces adorn the ‘Old City’ providing a path from one unexpected jewel to the next. Punctuate your journey with an espresso here and a gelato there and it doesn’t get much better than this.

The most effective history reaches out and touches your soul. This is certainly true of Rome. A visit to the Colosseum is a must despite the queues, although a more expensive guided tour may save you time. Amongst the various treasures on display, marvel at a humble plum stone. Casually discarded some 19 centuries previously, probably by a season ticket holder in the top tier, this most modest of antiquities brings you face to face with the human side of history. Whilst the entertainment on the ‘pitch’ may have changed, we are really not too far removed from our Roman cousins.

Modern Day Champions

Modern Day Champions

This truth appears all the more apparent with a visit to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. Set in the shadow of the Colosseum the scale of this archaeological site is breathtaking. It allows you to immerse yourself into the essence of ancient Rome and what strikes you is the obvious feeling of civilisation. The Forum was the focus for daily Roman life but more than that, it was the crucible for the world’s history. It is easy to forget that during the height of the Roman Empire it was possible to travel from Rome to York and not leave a paved road (whilst travelling on land!) and indeed the Romans even managed an exchange rate mechanism. It is an inescapable fact that the Romans actually did an awful lot for us!

There really is too much to do to get away with a short City break. A visit to the Vatican will probably occupy your schedule for the majority of the day. With its stunning Renaissance frescos, the Sistine Chapel is Michelangelo’s jewel. Not surprisingly the chapel is a magnet for visitors so to avoid extensive queuing, be strategic with your planning. If you want to get closer to the Pope then you can see the Pontiff himself as he greets crowds every Wednesday (you must book a ticket in advance).

With its geographically central position, Rome is a great base for a longer holiday. From here you can easily reach the delights of Tuscany to the north and Napoli with its nearby gorgeous Rivera lies within a couple of hours to the south. If you want to escape the heat of the city then do as the Romans do and head to the long beaches at Ostia and then retreat to a shady Trattoria and reflect with one of Italy’s deliciously voluptuous red wines! Needless to say you will be contemplating your next visit.

Discover the best of Spain with cottages4you

Did you know that cottages4you offers over 500 properties in Spain from just £279 per week for 6 people?

No-one could tire of Spain and the Balearic Islands; they offer golden beaches, dramatic landscapes, fascinating heritage and 21st century amenities. In fact, everything under the sun.

Mallorcan bayMallorca
The largest of the Balearic islands, Mallorca offers holidays of stunning contrasts. In the south and east are the main beach resorts whilst in the north and west you’ll find a dramatic wooded coastline and hilltop villages beneath the island’s highest mountains: Sierra de Tramuntana.

Villages of character
Quaint Puerto Pollenca on Mallorca’s northern coast was originally a fishing village, and is now a delightful modern resort with a marina fringed by pavement cafes. The fragrant Pine Walk beyond the marina is popular on warm evenings.

Further along the coast is Puerto de Soller, again with a picturesque marina and noted for its vintage tram service. Just beyond are the hilltop villages of Deia and Valldemossa, each boasting cultural roots. The home of the writer Robert Graves is in Deia (and open to the public) and Chopin once lived in the ancient monastery at Valldemossa. Now it houses an exhibition celebrating his life and work.

Walking country
Mallorca is famous for excellent hill walking. The Massanella mountain is highly recommended and with very little climbing will give you the island’s best view from its summit at 1,352m. Tips and routes can be found at www.therucksack.net/massanella.

For cottages4you properties in Mallorca click here

Plaza de Espana, SevilleAndalucia
From Cadiz in the west to the golfing resort of Mojacar in the east, Andalucia is one of Europe’s favourite holiday destinations. Your Andalucian experience starts at http://www.cottages4you.co.uk, where you’ll find your ideal Spanish property and from there you’re ready to plan a wonderful holiday, bathed in sunshine.

Heritage
The world famous Costa resorts are packed with facilities (shopping, restaurants and entertainment) and many travellers like to explore the region’s Moorish heritage too. Granada is a must. The huge pink-stoned Alhambra Palace dominates the city and faces the ancient, bustling El Albaicín Moorish quarter.

Scenery
Andalucia’s dramatic scenery is everywhere you look. The rocky landscape of the Sierra Nevada is the backdrop to the Costa Almeria whereas the Costa del Sol is close to the Rock of Gibraltar. Gibraltar has a long maritime history and there’s more to see here than you might think. Visit http://www.gibnet.com/tourist/general to plan your day trip.

For cottages4you properties in Western Andalucia click here

For cottages4you properties in Eastern Andalucia click here

Fiestas
The vibrant fiestas of Spain capture its fun-loving character like nothing else. There’s a fiesta taking place somewhere in Spain almost every day but they tend to revolve around major religious festivals. April is a big fiesta month with colourful Easter celebrations in Cordoba, Granada and Malaga.

June is when the Spanish mark the Summer Solstice with bonfires and fireworks popular in the south. Meanwhile, the fabulous International Festival of Music and Dance in Granada takes place this year from 26th June to 14th July.

Mallorca hosts two spectacular festivals in June, each with Christian origins: the Sant Joan Pelos at Felanitx (24th) and Romeria de Sant Marçal at Santa Cabeneta (30th).

A fiesta is one of the best ways to taste the real Spain. Visit one if you get the chance.

Dreaming of Daymer – Betjeman’s Beautiful Cornwall Retreat

by Gareth McKillop

Daymer Bay

It is not hard to understand why Sir John Betjeman, one of England’s best loved poets, fell in love with Trebetherick and the beautiful Daymer Bay. Nestling beside its more illustrious neighbour Rock and the surfing resort of Polzeath, Daymer Bay sits on the edge of the Camel Estuary on the dramatic North Cornish coast.

There really is something ethereal about this part of the world.  A short drive down a leafy lane brings you to Daymer which fills the horizon with its stunning golden and azure tones synonymous with Cornwall and so prized by its artists.  Undulating hills with patchwork fields surround the seascape which leaves you mesmerised with its ever changing vista created by the constant ebb and flow of the tide.  The Camel Estuary Continue reading

Cork Delight

by Alex Levine for Escape Magazine

We head to Cork to find out how the best things in life are food!

“Cork offers couples and families the very best in life panoramic landscapes, crystal blue waters, endless beaches, dramatic cliffs and some of the finest dining in the world.
Here we give you all the insider knowledge you need to pick a gem of a restaurant in Cork, and best of all, some are within walking distance of your cottage!

Please visit our site to browse our wide range of holiday cottages in Cork and a huge selection of holiday cottages in Ireland.

A resurgence in Irish cuisine has meant there are some surprising and delicious creations now being served up across the country. Nowhere is this change more apparent than in Cork in the south west corner of Ireland, where a plethora of restaurants serving adventurous cuisine now spoils visitors and locals alike.

The artisan influence of European cuisine, fused with Irish innovation has been gathering pace for over a decade.
In part the gastronomic revolution has been fuelled by economic prosperity, but also by the welcome return of many of Irelands top chefs from Europe.
As the Irish dining scene evolved, so chefs who had been practicing their art abroad for many years also returned, and with them came an exciting range of new skills and ideas that helped to fuel the fire of creativity. Its not hard to see how returning chefs have been so inspired by Cork.
The lush grass nourishes all manner of flesh and fowl, seafood is richly abundant and fresh vegetables and fruit are readily available straight from the fertile land.
Deliciously fresh ingredients picked, prepared and on the plate within hours tastes fabulous, but with the ideas and the sheer skill and vision of the chefs, it becomes less a meal and more a mini revolution!

One thing is for sure, Irish dining may be changing, but the Irish love for food remains unchanged.

So all the following restaurants offer a winning combination of delicious tastes, generous portions and great value for money. Bon appetit. Continue reading