Honeymoons in the UK

Inspired by the news that Prince William and Kate Middleton are planning on celebrating their nuptials on the Scilly Isles, we recently asked our friends, followers and fans on Facebook and Twitter, where they would choose to spend a romantic honeymoon in the UK. Maybe it was the release of news, or perhaps because we asked the question around Valentine’s Day, but we got lots of great responses.

So where are the UK’s honeymoon hotspots? Well, since all the responses involved being surrounded by beautiful landscapes, it would seem that, like the young royals, we want nothing more than to spend our romantic breaks in stunning remote surroundings.

The Lake District

It’s hard to fault this choice, as the Lakes offers a uniquely appealing mix of cultural history and eye-watering vistas. Whether you take to the waters of Coniston, enjoy a relaxed amble over the hills, or explore the life of local romantic, Wordsworth, this is one location that never ceases to inspire.

We think Melanie K sums up the appeal of the Lake District best: “It’s beautiful and romantic all year round.” We couldn’t agree more!

The Yorkshire Dales

The wild beauty of the Dales has had an equal influence on romantic literature. After all, where else could the turbulent romance of Wuthering Heights take place? Your own romantic tale in the Yorkshire Dales can also include a few activities that didn’t make the final draft of Emily Bronte’s novel, including mountain biking and ballooning!

Emma H sums up the appeal of the Dales: “I’d love to stay in a cosy little cottage in the Yorkshire Dales. Spend all day walking around the Dales, and exploring a nice little pub or 2.” Sounds lovely!

Cornwall

For many, the romantic ideal can only be realised with leisurely walks across golden sands and enjoying romantic meals by candlelight. We’re fairly sure that Cornwall fits the bill, after all it offers a wealth of beautiful beaches and isn’t exactly short of fine dining experiences either!

Tracy S agrees: “I’d love a cosy cottage too but on the coast of Cornwall (any coast, it’s all too beautiful).”

Scotland

Rolling highlands, dense pine forests, soaring mountains, deep lochs, rivers and historic cities, there’s genuinely something for everyone to enjoy on a romantic break in Scotland. We just hope that such a wealth of choice doesn’t lead to disagreements between happy honeymooners!

Andy H says: “I’d love a quaint little cottage in rural Scotland, plenty of wildlife, privacy and a place to stay. Although I’d be tempted to look for one with an outdoor jacuzzi!”

Where would you like to spend a UK honeymoon? Leave your suggestions below!

If you’d like to book your own romantic retreat, have a look at our featured romantic cottages in the UK.

Cornwall on film

The Eden Project: A home fit for a supervillain

Films versions of ‘Alice in Wonderland’, ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘Robin Hood’ have all recently taken advantage of the UK’s stunning natural landscapes while also increasing visits to their respective filming locations. So with screen tourism in mind, we’re starting a new feature on the cottages4you blog, looking at the most beautiful regions in the UK and the film locations you can visit there.

Our first stop is Cornwall, a beautiful and popular filming location in its own right, and one of the UK’s premier sites for screen tourism…

Tim Burton’s re-imagining of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ received a mixed response when it was released earlier this year – though most critics agreed that it provided a feast of stunning imagery. And even though you can’t visit Wonderland for real, its real world locations are no less striking.

Anthony House & Gardens in Torpoint provided the backdrop for Alice’s adventures before she descended down the rabbit hole. A stunning 18th-century mansion, Anthony House is nestled in equally beautiful surroundings. Now operated by the National Trust, visitors can explore the house and gardens for themselves. Please do look out for large holes in the ground though.

Another Johnny Depp starrer, the forthcoming ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides’, recently filmed in the popular seaside town of St Ives. Since it’s not released until 2011, we have no idea what they filmed but we imagine it probably took advantage of the fantastic harbour and beautiful beaches…and probably involved pirates. Just a guess.

James Bond casts a fairly large shadow across British cinema and no discussion on the topic is complete without a reference to at least one of 007’s many adventures. Similarly, no discussion on British filming locations is complete without mentioning at least one location that provided the backdrop to his adventures.

‘Die Another Day’ (aka the one with the invisible car), Pierce Brosnan’s final Bond film, used the beautiful Holywell Bay to double for North Korea in the thrilling opening sequence. Thankfully, the reality of Holywell is far more relaxing – and far less dangerous! Likewise, the Eden Project in St Austell was a natural fit for a villain’s base but in reality offers a stunning array of eye-catching flora and a whole host of fun family activities.

Castletown’s scenic village and small harbour perfectly encapsulates the Cornish experience, so it comes as no surprise that it’s also one of the most captured on film. Hitchcock’s adaptation of Daphne Du Maurier’s ‘Rebecca’ filmed there (see also the ‘Jamaica Inn’, another Cornish visitor attraction), as did ‘The Eagle Has Landed’, the 1976 Michael Caine starrer. More recently 1999’s ‘Mansfield Park’, 2004’s ‘The New World’ and even parts of Tim Burton’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’ were captured there.

If you’d like to search our featured range of self-catering holiday accommodation in Cornwall then please use the search function on cottages4you.

Posted by Ben Webster, cottages4you.

Escape to … the Ochre Cliffs of Roussillon

One of the joys of travelling is being taken by surprise. In my case, it was the ochre cliffs of Roussillon that bowled me over. We packed a lot in on our trip around the Luberon in Provence, going to gardens, nature reserves, organic vineyards, and one of our stops was to be the Conservatory of Natural Ochre and Pigments. It’s not that I was sceptical, but I wasn’t expecting much. Yet I found this particular part of our trip to be one of the most memorable.

Ochre is a natural pigment found in the Luberon region of Provence – this is where the orangey-pink wash on Provençal houses comes from. Although today most of these pigments are chemically made, up until the 1960s it was extracted from quarries, leaving behind great canyons of reds, oranges and yellows. And while that explanation might not be the most inspiring, the canyons definitely are.

The vibrancy of the ochres are set against the deep blue of the sky and the bright green of the vegetation, making them almost too difficult to look at – the colours really do dazzle the eyes. There are trails all through the quarries and the sun and the shadows animate the landscape as you walk along, making it seem as if the ground is undulating. Although this is a popular tourist attraction, there are places where you can stand quietly and feel just how small you are …

To see more pictures of the Ochre Cliffs, go to cottages4you Facebook page.

Kathi Hall is the editor of Escape magazine for cottages4you. She loves travelling and being surprised by what she finds, she’s a fluent French speaker in her head but strangely mute when confronted with an opportunity to speak it out loud and she firmly believes in trying all local specialities – except for snails.

Escape to…the curious garden

Driving up to Le Potager d’un curieux, the first thing you see is a giant pile of stones crowned by an old television set – the first indication that perhaps this garden is a bit more than a few tomato plants and a rose bush or two. Once you meet the owner, Jean-Luc Danneyrolles, the television set starts to make a bit more sense – there is no doubt that you are in the company of a man who marches to the beat of his own drummer.

Le Potager d’un curieux, in the Provençal countryside near Apt, is an extraordinary place – intriguing, disconcerting, inspiring – reflecting the personality of its owner. Jean-Luc has a freedom, even wildness, in his spirit that comes out through his garden and they are in perfect sync.

Potager means kitchen or vegetable garden and Jean-Luc has, over the past 20-some years, created a place where ancient or forgotten plant varieties are resurrected, nurtured and encouraged to flourish in soil that hasn’t seen a drop of chemical pesticides or fertilisers. When asked what he uses to ward off disease in his crops, his look is almost blank, as if he doesn’t understand the question. ‘Rien,’ he shrugs. ‘Nothing’. He believes that trying to prevent or cure his plants’ diseases weakens them and makes them fragile so they have to fight the disease themselves, just like in the wild – a French gardener’s equivalent of tough love. The fact that his seemingly endless acres of crops are flourishing makes me think he’s on to something.

When we visited him, one of his students was stirring a bubbling pot of the latest crop of strawberries on an old stove in his workshop (he was making jam). All around the place are great chandeliers of dried plants, surreal mobiles made of hollowed-out gourds and cages filled with long fingers of desiccated beanpods. The doors are collaged with newspaper photographs and headlines with writing scribbled and painted over them.

Throughout the grounds, strange sculptures are half hidden as the vegetation embrace them, giving them an almost subliminal quality. It’s only once you’ve walked past them that they creep into your peripheral vision. Handwritten plant plaques to identify the beds are solid wooden squares painted in cobalt blues, fire-engine reds, lemon yellows, splashing primary colours throughout the spring planting and gently weathering to more subtle shades as the plants grow and paint the garden from their own palette.

Jean-Luc is a great gardener philosopher – he has written a number of books on creating potagers and growing individual vegetables, such as tomatoes – his garden has about 50 different varieties of tomatoes, most of them forgotten by industrial agriculture but sought after by Michelin star chefs – but he says that he doesn’t have time to publish these days as he is writing his book on the land. The furrows between the rows are the pages of his book, the plants are his words, the beds his ideas. If you’re in the area this summer, visit this beautiful tome …

Le Potager d’un curieux, La Moliere, 84400 Saignon. Tel: 33 (0)4.90.74.44.68; lepotager@wanadoo.fr. Visitors are welcome during the summer months. Plants and seeds are also for sale.

To see some pictures of our visit to Le Potager d’un curieux, go to the cottages4you Facebook page.

Kathi Hall is the editor of Escape magazine for cottages4you. She loves travelling and being surprised by what she finds, she’s a fluent French speaker in her head but strangely mute when confronted with an opportunity to speak it out loud and she firmly believes in trying all local specialities – except for snails.

Escape to Provence: The Food

During our four-day trip around some of the villages of rural Provence, we made sure to eat at a variety of Bistrots de Pays. Often the only business left in a small village, the bistrot helps keep the village alive by offering food, drinks, and newspapers as well as serve as a meeting place to catch up on the village news.
There are 53 Bistrots de Pays in Provence and, like the meals they offer, they all have their special flavour. We didn’t get around to all 53 – but the three we did get to served up some memorable food.

Café des Poulivets in Oppède-les-Poulivets. Stopping in on a Friday afternoon, the outdoor terrace was filled with locals tucking into the café’s speciality: Aïoli Provençal. Aïoli is a sauce with the consistency of mayonnaise, made with garlic and olive oil, and is the star of the dish, not the condiment – everything else on your plate is there to dip into the aïoli. Served with a plate of boiled potatoes and carrots, perfectly poached cod, and a ladleful of escargots, we tucked in (well, okay, I’ll be honest, I didn’t have the stomach for escargots but I have it on good authority that they were delicious…), all washed down with a carafe of the local rosé wine. A simple, light and satisfying lunch for about €16.

Bistrot de Pierrerue in Pierrerue. Organic is the watchword for this bistrot and the décor is light and airy, with a wall full of old-fashioned postcards – just the right side of kitsch – varnished onto plaques of wood. The food was rich and flavourful and comes from a set menu – whatever’s available in the market is what goes on the plate. Our dinner consisted of tomato and goat’s cheese tartlet, duckling breast with cherries, finished with a slice of lemon-lime tart (the olive oil and spelt cake had been polished off by the family at the next table). Dinner is approx €24, excluding wine.

Chez Jules, Puimichel. Our last dinner at Provence was spent at Chez Jules in the tiny village of Puimichel. We were lucky enough to bag a table outside, as the evening was warm and balmy. The trees were strewn with coloured fairy lights and the church next to the bistrot would chime out the hour – this is what a French holiday is all about. It’s easy to gorge yourself in this place – I started with pâté with a broad bean salad before tackling the main dish of lamb shank flavoured with rosemary. Then out came the cheese platter – four different kinds of goat’s cheese and ample slices of blue cheese, served with a basket of fresh bread. Could I eat any more? Yes. I’d been sitting there for two hours, that takes a lot of energy – so to fortify myself, I had the rhubarb mousse. All this for about €30. Considering I was so full, I didn’t need to eat for a few days afterwards, pretty good value.

For more information on Bistrots de Pays, go to www.bistrotdepays.com.

Kathi Hall is the editor of Escape magazine for cottages4you. She loves travelling and being surprised by what she finds, she’s a fluent French speaker in her head but strangely mute when confronted with an opportunity to speak it out loud and she firmly believes in trying all local specialities – except for snails.

Favourite British plays, poems & novels

As part of an upcoming project we’re asking customers, friends, families, mild acquaintances and complete strangers for their favourite British novels, plays and poems. The response on Twitter has already led to early nominations for such well regarded literary classics as Swallows and Amazons and Jane Eyre.

But do you agree? Maybe you prefer fantasy classics such as Alice’s adventures in Wonderland or the Baggins’ quests in Middle Earth. Perhaps you’re partial to the period detail of Dickens or a spot of Elizabethan poetry. Maybe you adore the page-turners of Colin Dexter and Val McDermid. Whatever your opinion we’d love to hear it.

You can either post your nomination in the comments section below or send a more detailed submission to blogmaster@holidaycottagesgroup.com. We might also publish our favourite entries as separate blog posts to showcase your literary choices and to encourage debate. We’ll reveal more detail about the project in the next few weeks but in the meantime we thought it might be fun to see what you like to read.

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.

Search Easter holiday cottages in Northumberland.

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.

Search Easter holiday cottages in Cornwall.

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.

Search Easter holiday cottages in Dorset.

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.

Search Easter holiday cottages in Norfolk.

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