Michelin guide 2012

The recent release of the 2012 Michelin starred restaurants not only allows us to write about one of our favourite subjects: what goes in our tummies; it also reveals some interesting facts about fine regional dining in the UK and Ireland.

For example, you may not be surprised to find that London boasts more Michelin starred restaurants than anywhere else in the country. Fine dining is, after all, just one of many strings on London’s bow. But head further north and you’ll find Scotland laying claim to a large part of the fine dining landscape, a bit like Braveheart, but with knives and forks instead of pikes and swords.

Edinburgh offers four prestigious Michelin-starred eateries: The Kitchin on the waterfront, Martin Wishart in Edinburgh’s historic Port of Leith and Number One at The Balmoral Hotel all held on to their stars from 2011. They were joined by newcomer Castle Terrace. Nestled under the shadow of the Castle, Edinburgh’s latest recipient of a Michelin Star is from the team behind The Kitchin, so it’s perhaps no surprise to see its star has risen so fast.

Over the Firth of Forth lies Fife (now there’s a tongue-twister), which is no slouch when it comes to fine dining either. Husband and wife, Bruce and Jackie’s Sangster’s in Elie retains its star, as does The Peat Inn Restaurant. And when you add the four restaurants in the Highlands, you have a very strong showing for Scotland.

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Not to be outdone, over the North Channel, Dublin offers Ireland’s first two Michelin starred eatery at Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud. Not only is French chef Guilbaud’s restaurant the first to achieve the double, but it is also known as the city’s priciest place to eat – a dubious honour if ever there was one.

If you’re looking to place less pressure on the wallet then Chapter One, in the Dublin Writers Museum, seems like a good place to start. Joining it in retaining its star for the second year are longstanding classical French restaurant l’Ecrivain and Thornton’s which now offers its own canapé bar.

Fans of the Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon series The Trip will be pleased to hear that one of the Lake District’s most acclaimed restaurants  / ex-Casualty stars, Holbeck Ghyll has retained its star. So too has Cartmel’s L’Enclume, with its infamous taster menu, not to mention the lovely Yorke Arms.  

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If there’s one thing that the 2012 Michelin does suggest, it’s that good food doesn’t need to cost the earth. The second star awarded to The Hand & Flowers pub in Marlow may have raised a few eyebrows but it’s obviously a strong testament to Tom and Beth Kerridge’s successful approach to pub grub. And perhaps more importantly, you can now have a two-course set lunch at a double Michelin star winner for only £12.50!

If you fancy some more fine dining recommendations, check out our GoLocal guide to some of the UK’s best kept dining secrets.

Brixham Pirate and Shanty Festival

The Brixham Pirate and Shanty Festival promises a full weekend of fun in South Devon for pirates and landlubbers alike. The festivities begin on Friday 30 April 2010 with a Pirates of the Caribbean themed night, including limbo dancing, fire breathing, food and music.

Saturday is Pirate Fun Day, with a whole range of activities for peg-legged participants of all ages. Try your hand at archery, art, knot-tying, or watch a range of events – including a live sea battle!

Sunday’s highlight is the Guiness World Record attempt for the largest gathering of pirates (and presumably the loudest “ARGGGGHH”) so make sure you dress appropriately. Following the attempt there will be more quizzes, live music and attractions than you can shake a metal hook at.

Monday brings the event to a close, beginning with a pirate market. Expect arts and crafts, and maybe even a few pirate videos (*chortle*). Throughout the day there will also be treasure hunts, sword dancing, re-enactments, competitions and live music.

For more info on the Brixham Pirate and Shanty Festival please click here to visit the event website.

If you fancy staying on dry land then we’ve selected a few great local holiday cottages that are a short hop away.

Click here to look at Torfrey, a Grade II listed holiday cottage in Brixham that sleeps 5 (no pets).

Click here to look at Upper Cottage, in the centre of Brixham (sleeps 5-6).

Click here to look at Windjammer, a terraced cottage close to the sea that sleeps 5-6.

Click here to look at Furze Cottage, a cosy decorative property in Brixham that sleeps 7-8.

Click here to look at Rosalie, a 160-year-old holiday cottage in Brixham that sleeps 6.

Click here to look at Mulberry Cottage, an 18th-century listed stone barn set in a tranquil conservation area on the edge of Churston Ferrers (sleeps 6-7).

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.

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

Newby Hall Easter Fun Weekend

Newby Hall in North Yorkshire will be hosting their annual Easter Fun Day weekend this Sunday and Monday. The event allows kids (of all ages!) to follow a specially themed Easter trail, meeting characters who will give them clues to the location of the Newby treasure! As well as the treasure hunt there will also be face painting, egg painting, reading from children’s authors and the opportunity to have your photo taken at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, with the added option of having your picture turned into a postcard – so at least you’ll have proof!

Less festive attractions include live music, a local arts and crafts exhibition, miniature train rides, beautiful open gardens, an adventure playground, woodland walks and the hall itself which will be open for refreshments along with the opportunity to explore the beautifully restored  interior.

Gates open at 11am and close at 4pm on both days. For more information, including directions and ticket prices then please click here to visit Newby Hall’s website.

Click here to search for cottages4you holiday cottages in Yorkshire.

If you’d like to promote your event in the UK on the cottages4you blog then send an email to blogmaster@holidaycottagesgroup.com.

Something for the weekend 04/12/09

It’s that time of year again, when everyone starts to get excited and begins to look forward to the biggest event in December. No, not the X-Factor final, we’re talking about Christmas! And we’re writing our own list of fantastic activities to get you in the mood. We may also throw in a few non-festive activities for those who fancy taking a bit of time off before the festive onslaught begins!

As always, if you fancy checking availability on some of our fantastic holiday cottages, you can do so by clicking this link.

Cheshire’s Tatton Park makes for a fantastic day out any time of year but they really know how to get into the Christmas spirit. From Wednesday the 2nd, you’ll be able to visit the park’s 18th century mansion, which not only has been decorated with garlands and decorations from inside the park, but also has the staterooms illuminated by candlelight and filled with live music from choirs and musicians. And if that doesn’t get you into the festive spirit, entry to the mansion also give you access to the fantastic Christmas gift fair in the Tenant’s Hall. Visitors at the weekend will also get the chance to meet Santa, who is in residence at the park’s Christmas Farm.

For more info and to book tickets visit Tatton Park’s website.

If you fancy something a little sporty then the European Curling Championships start on the 4th at the Linx Arena in Aberdeen (we did say ‘a little sporty’). If you’re a curling fan then you’ll be aware that it’s the last major international event before the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. However, if you just fancy investigating the winter sport that seems to be getting more and more popular, then it runs until the 12th, with day tickets are available. For what it’s worth, we’re backing local lad David Murdoch’s Scottish Team to hold onto the title. Why not go and lend your support? Alternatively, the arena is also set beside Aberdeen’s beach if you fancy a bracing walk and a beautiful view.

For tickets and tournament info please visit the event’s website.

Visit Hampton Palace in Richmond upon Thames and you’ll get the opportunity to take to the ice yourself. The annual Hampton Court Palace Ice Rink is now open and offers visitors the fantastic opportunity to skate under the spectacular backdrop of the palace’s majestic western front. There are also a series of events and exhibitions running within the palace so if it gets too cold (or your bumps get too sore!) you could always explore Henry VIII’s favourite lodgings!

For info and tickets please visit the Ice at the Palace website.

Something for the weekend 27/11/09

We’ve selected a few activities that can’t be spoiled by the rain for this weekend. Though, in light of last week’s weather, there can’t be that much rain left can there? So if you fancy staying dry while sampling fine foods and music or you just want to get into the Christmas spirit, we’re sure we’ve got just the suggestion for you.

If you fancy booking a short weekend break then you can check availability online at cottages4you.

Birmingham is currently hosting the BBC Good Food Show Live at the NEC. As well as sampling the wares of many chefs and food suppliers from across the country, the show also features live cookery demonstrations from the likes of Gordon, Jamie, James Martin and the Hairy Bikers, whose recipes you might be able to replicate – no doubt with varying degrees of success – at home. Then again, with a live Masterchef show also planned, you may prefer to enjoy the show’s hospitality and leave the cooking to the professionals!

The BBC Good Food Show Live runs from this Wednesday, the 25th until Sunday the 29th. Find out more details and book tickets on the event’s website.

If you fancy feasting on some culture then the Huddersfield Festival of Contemporary Music is running until Sunday the 29th. With over 30 years of experience, the festival is rather good at promoting the best new and experimental music from around the world. And if you’d like to find out more about the pieces, the composers and the musicians, then there are a number of pre and post show talks.

Visit the festival’s website for the programme and tickets,

The beautiful architecture of Bath makes it well worth a visit at any time of year. But the Bath Christmas market, that starts this Thursday, makes visiting essential if you want to get in to the festive spirit. Taking place in the area between the stunning Bath Abbey and the Roman Baths, the market encompasses 123 wooden chalets offering everything from unique hand-made Christmas gifts to delicious food, mulled wine and live entertainment! Supporting charities has been a large part of the market’s history and this year is no exception, with several of the chalets occupied by worthy causes.

The market opens on the 26th November and runs until the 6th December. Find out more info on the website.

Something for the weekend 20/11/09

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We’ve got something for everyone this weekend – including film festivals near the Lakes, international art exhibitions in one of the UK’s most incredible cities and real ale rambles through mid-Wales. So why not give yourself something to look forward to by booking a break this weekend and chasing those Monday morning blues away!

It’s always nice to plan outdoor activities that will help you keep fit and let you see some of the beautiful landscape on offer in the UK. However, with the winter months drawing in, the reality is that a lot of us would be happy to watch someone else do the exercise while we stay warm and comfortable. Kendal Mountain Festival seems to share this approach. With over 50 outdoor themed films being screened from Thursday until Sunday, in locations all over the town – including the fantastic Brewery Arts Centre – you may even be inspired to take the surrounding hills yourself, weather depending of course.

View the programme on the event’s website.

If you have an eye to soak up culture somewhere a little more urban, then the 5th Edinburgh Art Fair takes place in the city’s Corn Exchange from the 20th.  There, visitors will be able to see works from 65 different galleries all over the world. But as well as admiring the pieces, you’ll also be able to invest. And although some works run into the hundreds of thousands, you will also be able to pick up pieces from around £70. Though whether they’ll be worth more in years to come is another matter!

Visit the fair’s website for more details.

For those after a more active weekend, the Real Ale Ramble, in Wales, promises 2 days of relaxed rambling accompanied by fine real ales. Sounds like a great weekend if you ask us! The rambling begins on Saturday 21st in the centre of Llanwrtyd Wells, the smallest town in Britain, where visitors will find the lovely locals enjoying a more relaxed way of life. The walks are 10, 15 or 25 miles per day and participants will be met with a refreshing glass of real ale at checkpoints throughout. Of course, you may want to just appreciate the beautiful forests, moors and mountains as you make your way through one of the UK’s most scenic locales.

For tickets and info please visit the ramble’s website.

Something for the weekend? 06/11/09

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Hope you had a suitably spooky Halloween this weekend. You certainly shouldn’t have been short of terrifying things to do all over the country.

Now you should find a far less scary selection of activities this weekend – provided you’re not scared of loud noises. But even if you are  we’ve included an extra activity that doesn’t involve exploding fireworks, burning Guys, toffee apples and sparklers. We’re thoughtful like that.

So, let’s get planning!

It’s not quite the weekend but they’ve decided to mix things up in Liverpool this Thursday night by not focusing on the demise of Guy Fawkes, but celebrating the 40 year anniversary of the moon landings, which sounds far more civilised to us. Visitors to Sefton Park, Newsham Park and Walton Hall Park will experience a 20 minute display of pyrotechnics accompanied by spaced themed music and genuine NASA communications. It should be just like going into space…but with better car parking facilities.

Find out more on Liverpool council’s website.

Battersea Park in London have also chosen a more friendly theme for this year’s event. This Saturday at 6pm, Pains Fireworks are coordinating a fireworks extravaganza with the theme of ‘Love’ (awwwwww). The show is choreographed to music and promises a spectacular display of music, sound and light. Pains Fireworks have a great history of making beautiful explosions so if you’re in London this weekend you’d be remiss not to get down to Battersea.

Find out more on the Wandsworth council website.

If you’re not into big bangs and fancy something a little bit quirkier, then the Tar Barrel Rolling that takes place in Ottery St Mary in Devon could be right up your alley. In fact the event is so quirky that it doesn’t even take place at the weekend!  As the name suggests, the event features a procession of flaming barrels making their way down the street. Why? Nobody knows, but when something is this different, your best course of action is probably to just go with it. If you’re in Devon on Thursday, why not stop off and investigate?

Try to find out more on the Ottery St Mary tourism site.

Something for the weekend? 30/10/09

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It’s only the start of the week but chances are you’re already thinking about the next weekend. So we thought we’d make it a  bit easier for you by suggesting a few great events going on across the UK that are perfect for a short break.

And as it’s Halloween, we’ve got a special ghostly selection to put a shiver down your spine and a smile on your face.

There are already a number of spooky walks in Edinburgh, but there’s something about the atmosphere of all hallows eve that makes them that little bit scarier! Choose from an underground stroll down the delightful ‘Damnation Alley’, and overground exploration that includes a visit to the delightful ‘Black Mausoleum’ – home to the infamous Mackenzie poltergeist. To be honest there are also childrens’ tours which sound perfectly scary enough, for us thank you very much.

Find out more on the Edinburgh walks website.

The Eden Project in Cornwall promises ‘No Tricks, Just Treats’ this Halloween (but then they would say that wouldn’t they?) This Friday and Saturday night there’s a Little Monster’s Ball, which has a whole host of activities for all the family, including potion making, ice skating, the opportunity to meet bats and owls, face painting, a disco and tasty treats to eat. Each Biodome has been given a spooky theme, so we’re sure you’ll find something to terrify you…..in a nice way, of course.

For more information on Halloween at the Eden Project, please visit their website.

Caldicot Castle in Wales promises a Horrible Halloween – in the best way possible. There’s a day of spooky activities and workshops for kids on the Saturday, followed by a ghostly walking tour of the Castle and its grounds. There’s also a two course meal in the evening – assuming you’re not too scared to eat! And if you can handle it the weekend also promises terrifying stories and games. That’s right, even the games are terrifying at Caldicot Castle. We think it may be time for a lie down.

Please visit Caldicot Castle’s website for more info.

If you want to check availability for a great holiday cottage in the UK this weekend, please visit our search page. And whatever you plan on doing this Halloween, please remember to have fun. And don’t get too scared!

Metro Ski and Snowboard Show

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Fancy getting a little practice before heading off for ski season? The Metro Ski and Snowboard Show is on at the Olympia in London this weekend. With 10 tonnes of real snow to play with, there is a whole range of fantastic activities for all ages – not all of them involving moving downhill at high speeds with boards on your feet!

If you don’t fancy skiing or snowboarding  – and there is tuition available for both – then you could always make snowmen and snow angels, go ice skating or take part in an attempt to stage the world’s largest snowball fight!

There is also a range of more passive activities, such as watching professional skiers and snowboarders launch themselves off a huge 5m jump, a winter themed fashion show, food pavilion, an indoor igloo with DJs and comedy shows, plus a huge Snowbombing Street Party.

If you’re after a more practical reason to go there will also be a jobs fair which could help you to find work over the winter season.

It’s also possible that all the snow and ice might help you to appreciate the Autumn weather we’ve been having – and when was the last time that happened?

If you’d like more info on the Metro Ski and Snowboard Show, there are details on their website.