The Great South West Walks – loving the South West Coast Path!

Last week Bill Brown, one of our intrepid Regional Managers, completed the cottages4you sponsored New Polzeath Coastal Conservation Walk, organised by the South West Coast Path Association.

The event was just one of many organised as part of Great South West Walks 2014, a celebration of the South West Coast Path comprised of 100 popular circular walks around the Coast Path in Somerset, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall.

You can see a few of Bill’s brilliant photos below. If you fancy taking part, or learning more about the great work that the South West Coast Path Association do to preserve this beautiful stretch of Britain, then head over to their website and get involved!

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Bill (centre) with guide Justin Seedhouse (red jacket) and other intrepid walkers

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Some of the stunning scenery on offer

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Peppercombe to Bucks Mills is one of the region’s most popular walks

The Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge

We teamed up with our friends at Hoseasons and Canvas Holidays to tackle Yorkshire’s Three Peaks this weekend, raising much-needed funds for the Three Peaks Project in the process. Great (dry!) weather made for ideal walking conditions and a really fun (though exhausting!) day. Find more info on the Three Peaks Project on their website.

Celebrate National Walking Month

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Rhossili Bay: “Breathtakingly wonderful” seems like an understatement!

If you want to really feel alive and refresh those senses this summer, it’s time to get outside and start walking. This month is National Walking Month, and here in the UK we are extremely lucky; the terrain makes it the perfect place to walk. Whether you want a gentle, family stroll, or you are an experienced walker looking for your next challenge, our list of favourite scenic walks has something for everyone.

Easy or family walks

Rhossili Bay
Distance: 5 miles circular route
Starting point: Rhossili National Trust visitor centre
Suitable for walkers with little experience and families
Map

Rhossili Bay is such a stunning area it has earned itself the number 1 place to visit in Swansea on the independent review website, Trip advisor. Visitors to the area have left reviews on the website describing the area as “Paradise” and “Breathtakingly wonderful”.

But don’t worry. Despite the fact that 750,000 people visit Rhossilli every year, this beautiful walk never seems too busy and it’s the perfect walk for all the family. It covers moorland and one of the most glorious sandy beaches in the UK. It even has its very own shipwreck visible at low tide, the ill fated Helvetia that has been there since 1887.

From the highest point of this walk, you can see an uninterrupted 360 degree of the entire tip of the Gower Peninsula including Worms Head and Burry Holmes. On a clear day, you can even see as far as Devon.

Getting there: Catch the bus to this beautiful bay from Swansea, or you can drive and park in the National Trust visitor centre.

Wye Downs (using part of the popular North Downs Way)
Distance: 4.5 miles
Starting point: Church in Wye
Map 

Get to know the beautiful Wye Downs by following paths and tracks through open fields and luscious woodland. On this walk you will get the chance to see the fantastic Wye Crown, a massive crest that students cut into the chalk hillside in 1902 to honour the coronation of King Edward VII.

You will also pass through the Wye National Nature Reserve with its beautiful landscape of chalk, woodland and scrub. Moths, insects and orchids that are essential to conservation efforts have made their home here. From the nature reserve you will get the chance to take in enthralling views of the Devil’s Kneading Trough, a 260 feet deep steep dry valley.

On the way back, make sure you take time to look around the historic village of Wye and stop off at one of the pubs for a rewarding, refreshing drink

Ben A’an
Distance: 2.5 miles
Height: 1,491 feet
Start: 200 yards west of Tigh Mhor near Loch Achray
Map

The extraordinary views over the Trossachs and Loch Katrine from the summit of Ben A’an are what makes this walk unbeatable. Although relatively short, this walk involves steep climbs through woodland and steep steps on loose rock, so it’s more suited to those with a good level of fitness. Don’t worry though, it also covers easier terrain you can meander through and enjoy the stunning views while catching your breath.

Along the path there are large rock areas often used by picnickers. You will also find steep, rocky trails that offshoot from the main path, ignore these and stick to the main path. Typically, it takes about an hour to reach the summit, though if you’re really fit you can do it in much less.

The path ends at 1,491 feet at two rocky peaks, both of which give enthralling views across two vast landscapes of Scotland, west over Loch Katrine towards the ‘Arrochar Alps’ and and south east over Loch Achray towards the Campsies. If you’re lucky, you may even see the Sir Walter Scott steamer as she travels across Loch Katrine. One thing to remember is that this walk does get busy at times, but its popularity is just testimony to how beautiful it is.

Getting there: There is a car park A821 near Tigh Mor opposite the track.

For the more experienced walker

Dunskey Castle at Portpatrick

Dunskey Castle at Portpatrick

Southern Upland Way
Distance: 214 mile (340 km) coast to coast
Starting point: Portpatrick
Map 

Often overlooked for other Scottish walks such as the West Highland Way, The Southern Upland Way is a stunning, if rather tough, walk. It begins in Portpatrick, a small fishing village on the Scottish west coast and finishes in Cockburnspath on the east coast.

At 214 miles, this walk isn’t the longest in the UK, but is known as one of the toughest. Overwhelming mountains, thick forests and beautiful moors make up this enchanting walk. There is accommodation en route, however this walk is rather isolated and you won’t stumble across many day trippers or holiday makers on your way. The walk visits stunning spots such as Castle Kennedy, St John’s Town of Dalry, St Mary’s Loch, Galashiels, Lauder and Longformacus en route.

It’s worth remembering that on the Southern Upland Way the path can be challenging with a loose, steep, rocky and muddy surface. Hill walking boots are a must!

Britain’s Best Winter Walks – part 1

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The Peak District: perfect for dusting off the cobwebs

The advent of the New Year signals the beginning of millions of resolutions across the nation, doubtless many of them to include good intentions for a healthier lifestyle.  There cannot be many more invigorating ways to greet the New Year whilst embarking on a more active 2014 than to enjoy a winter walk in the beautiful British countryside. This is the perfect opportunity maybe to ‘dust away a few cobwebs’ whilst getting away this winter to explore some of the most spectacular scenery in Europe.  Here are some great options for winter walking in 2014.

Walking in Cornwall – Holywell Bay to Porthtowan

Coastal walking in winter can be dramatic and perhaps nowhere are they more spectacular than in Cornwall. The mesmerising winter swell produces an impressive demonstration of nature’s unrelenting pounding of the Cornish Atlantic coast. Whether it be a crystalline blue winter’s day or a breezy afternoon, walkers (and surfers!) are drawn to one of the most enigmatic stretches of coast in the country. Holywell Bay with its famous Gull Rocks lies just to the south of Newquay on the north Cornwall coast. The walk following the coastal path south to Porthtowan passes delightful coves, expansive beaches and imposing cliffs and takes about 5 hours. The route will take you through Perranporth, St Agnes and the emblematic Wheal Coates, a former tin mine which looks down on this majestic coastline. This historic landmark has come to symbolise ‘Kernow’ and man’s essential link to land and sea. With a plethora of great pubs along the way, there is plenty of opportunity to ‘rest’ on this popular winter walk.

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Walking in South Wales  –  Rhossili Bay

The Gower peninsula is an area of outstanding natural beauty and like its Cornish cousin the coastline on ‘The Gower’ is unforgettable. This ancient terrain is blessed with natural good looks and is also dotted with Iron Age and Norman monuments to explore in an area that has been treasured for centuries. A great way to take in this fabulous vista is to walk from Worms Head along the coast and then into a circular route around Rhossili Bay. This eight mile route provides some fantastic vantage points that on a clear day will allow you to glimpse the North Devon coast. The rugged countryside is bordered by a large beach at Rhossili Bay providing an opportunity to follow the tideline as part of your journey across some of the most delightful scenery in South Wales.

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Walking in Scotland – Loch Morar

Scotland is synonymous with walking and the famed Munro’s and Corbett’s are of course will trodden. If you are looking for something not quite as strenuous whilst equally picturesque, then Loch Morar is a great option for a memorable winter walk. This part of Scotland is considered a paradise for walkers, with elevated views of some of the most stunning Scottish mountains including Ben Nevis and across the water towards the Hebrides. One of the most scenic and popular routes is the 5 mile route along the loch to Tarbet. With a snow capped backdrop against the still, mirror-like waters and on a crisp winter’s day, the views are simply breathtaking. The wild landscape provides a variety of habits to a fascinating array of wildlife. Look out for otters, roe deer and even sea eagles, which can be seen fishing for salmon!

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Walking in the Peak District – Eastern Moors

The stillness across the frozen Peak District moorland transports the soul into the sense of another world (if not another century). The landscaping is awe-inspiring, whilst haunting at the same time.  The central location of the Peak District National Park makes it eminently accessible and perfect for a walking short break. To get a real sense of wilderness and the essential raw beauty of the Peaks, the Eastern Moors is offers varied range of vistas to immerse yourself during a winter moorland walk.  The circular route from Curbar Gap, through Froggat, White Edges and then back to Curbar Gap, takes in some of the most strikingly rugged parts of the Peak District. Expansive moorland home to timid red deer offers vantage points across Derwent Valley and on to the heartland of the Peak District.

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Walking in the Cotswolds –  Winchcombe

Perhaps there is nowhere that best exemplifies the essence of England’s green and pleasant land than the rolling Cotswolds. Home to the quintessential English village, during the winter months the landscape takes on a magical, almost ethereal flavour as the morning and early evening mists hang over timeless Cotswold valleys. The attractive gentle inclines offer an extensive variety of footpaths and bridleways across historic sites, rivers and past tempting old Inns!  Winchcombe which lies at the heart of the Cotswolds is a great starting point for a variety of walks around some of the most beautiful and historic landscapes in the area.  Many options encompass parts of the Cotwolds Way and you can choose from leisurely two mile routes around Sudeley Castle to more challenging hikes from Winchombe to Hailes, taking in great views of the Malverns and the Vale of Evesham. With the early winter nights make sure you plan your journey allowing for plenty of daylight to complete your walk. What better way than to round off your winter hike than coming home to light your woodburner in your cosy Cotswolds cottage!

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New Year’s Resolutions – Activity Holidays in Britain

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As millions of us are now ‘resolved’ to become healthier in 2013 why not combine good intentions with your next cottage holiday in Britain?  Now is the time to put to one side thoughts of cold dark winter nights and think instead about booking your next adventure holiday for 2013. Britain has a wealth of activity opportunities across the length and breadth of the country. With hundreds of miles of coastline, cycle paths and walking routes to choose from, we are going to focus on some of our favourites to help you decide.

Kayaking on the River Fowey – Cornwall

Home of author and playwright Daphne De Maurier, Fowey stands majestically overlooking the estuary of the River Fowey looking out towards the stunning South Cornish coast. The river is surrounded by wooded undulating hills. A haven for wildlife, this is a great location for kayaking for learner and experienced kayaker alike. Routes extend upstream towards the countryside or follow the estuary along the coast towards the sea. You should be able to spot herons, cormorants and kingfishers as you glide across the water in tune with your beautiful surroundings, there cannot be many better ways to immerse yourself in the essential beauty of Cornwall. Kayaking is great for the whole family and there are various organisations that offer guided tours based on the River Fowey. It is possible to hire kayaks for independent use but this is strictly for over 18 year old experienced kayakers.

Find holiday cottages in Cornwall.

Coasteering in Pembrokershire – South Wales

If you want to enjoy the coast but have a little more of the ‘daredevil’ about you then coasteering in South Wales may be just for you. The Pembrokeshire coastline is spectacular. Much like its Cornish cousin, this stretch coastline has been carved out by the wild Atlantic to create a dramatic seascape. Britain’s only coastal national park, Pembrokeshire boasts a 180 mile long coast path where you will find delightful coves and many golden sandy bays. This really is coasteering country, an adventure sport that brings you face to face with the raw power of the Atlantic and involves rock hopping, wild swimming, climbing and jumping from cliffs!  This is nature at its most exhilarating and is a great opportunity to ‘regress’ and indulge that childlike fun-seeking side of you! It is that unique feeling of exploration that really grabs the imagination. With experienced guides to help you make the most of this adrenaline filled sport whilst toasty warm in your wet suit, this is one holiday activity that the rain cannot spoil!

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Cycling in the Lake District – North West England

The Lake District is basically a cyclist’s paradise offering a range of challenging mountainous paths – as well as many gentle wooded trails – whilst set amongst some of England’s most stunning scenery, there really is something for everyone. Cyclists are drawn to this part of the world not least because of the beautiful views, but also because many parts of the Lake District offer paths that are relatively traffic free. Kids love cycling, and some of the best family trails are to be found at Grizedale Forest, where you will find miles of well-maintained paths amongst ancient oak and conifer trees along with strategically placed cafés for weary parents to recuperate!  Being the Lake District, this is also one of the best places for wild off-road routes that will bring you face to face with a real sense of wilderness. It is perhaps not surprising that the Lake District has been recently voted the number one biking destination in Britain. These bridleways are really a serious challenge for the hardy cyclist but the rewards are rich with unforgettable scenes across some of Britain’s most picturesque countryside.

Find holiday cottages in North West England.

Skiing in Aviemore – Scottish Highlands

Whilst recent cold winters in Britain may have been unwelcome for the majority of us, they have in turn signalled a renaissance in British skiing with the resort of Aviemore the destination of choice. The last three winters have seen exceptionally good snowfalls providing excellent conditions with the key season extending from Christmas through to April. With the great snow and unattractive conversion rates for the Euro, many skiers and snowboarders have swapped the Alps for the beautiful Cairngorms to make the most of great skiing opportunities right here in Britain. Needless to say the Caringorms is one of the most dramatic mountain ranges in Britain with beautiful lochs, rivers and world famous Glens. Set against this stunning Highland backdrop there are over 30km of well-maintained ski runs with a variety of options to suit beginner, intermediate and experienced skiers (including off-piste and country routes). If you are completely new to skiing the local ski school runs great courses for children and adults to allow you to get to grips to the sport closer to home.

Find holiday cottages in the Scottish highlands.

Top 5 British Winter Walks

There is something cleansing about walking, for me the direct connection with the exquisite beauty of nature purges the soul of the stressful side effects of modern living.  Looking miles down the coastline from a high vantage point, watching the waves crashing on rocks below and perhaps punctuating the journey with a delicious lunch and a fine ale, suddenly all seems very well with the world.   In Britain we are blessed with some of the finest scenery in Western Europe, and with hundreds of miles  of pristine coastline, beautiful rolling hills and challenging mountain  routes there is plenty of choice for the most hardened and timid walker alike. Here are our top 5 favourite British winter walks…

5.  Land’s End to Cape Cornwall

Devoid of the summer hordes, Cornwall in winter is transformed and the raw beauty of its coastline is epitomised in the spectacular stretch of the coastal path from Land’s End to Cape Cornwall. Starting at Land’s End on a clear day you will be able to catch a glimpse of the Scilly Isles on the horizon as you make your way along the cliffs to the exquisite Sennen Cove. A haven for marine birds, you will find a fantastic vantage point over looking Sennen from the old coastguards look out. Owned by the national trust from here you have a great view of the cliffs towards Land’s End, and then to your north the coastline stretches out majestically around the bay towards Cape Cornwall. Dropping down into Sennen Cove you may want to take in lunch at the traditional Old Success Inn or perhaps at the timber clad Beach restaurant with its stunning Atlantic vista. Refreshed and invigorated by the sea breeze, doubtless you will be mesmerised by the Cornish rollers en route to your destination at Cape Cornwall.

Distance: 5 miles

4.  Bala to Llyn Tegid

There is something really special about a crisp clear sapphire winter’s day in North Wales. With a light frost in the air and a view across Lake Bala and wooded hillsides towards Snowdonia, there are few better backdrops for a bracing winter walk.  Starting in the sleepy village of Bala, you will head south to the eastern flank of the lake to get the best elevated view of the lake to the mountains beyond. The route runs parallel to the Bala Lake Railway, gently inclining and then arching to Encil y Coed.  Looking out across the still waters of the lake, perhaps with a thin veil of mist hanging across the water, you will be able to see towards Dolgelleau. Heading back north you will make your way do through fields and woodlands back towards the warmth of the village and why not round off the day with a delicious roast lamb dinner.

Distance: 5 miles

3.  Edinburgh New Town Walk

During winter the British countryside is picturesque and exudes character but we should forget that the nation’s cities offer an equally fascinating backdrop for a winter walk and one of the best examples is Edinburgh. With the added appeal of maybe sampling a dram or two along the way a city walk in Edinburgh is one of the best ways to take in the elegant beauty of one of world’s finest cities. In the shadow of Arthur’s seat the Georgian New Town contrasts with gothic echoes to shape a majestic skyline. The classic route begins in the centre of town in Princes Street, winding northwards through George Street, Queen Street and on towards the Stockbridge and the Botanical gardens. This meandering route takes you past some of the city’s finest shopping and most desirable residencies. Returning back on yourself and then heading towards the playhouse you will turn back for home with the city’s stunning castle overlooking the route.

Enjoy some of the best views of Edinburgh

Distance: 3 miles

2.   Hawes via Sedbusk 

In the winter months the Yorkshire Dales take on an enigmatic character conjuring thoughts of the Bronte’s and James Herriot, an exquisitely uncompromising landscape that, unsurprisingly, attracts walkers all year round. The Wensleydale market town of Hawes, lying on the route of the Pennine Way, is one of the premier walking centres in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales.   Initially heading west from Hawes you will turn north towards ‘Bluebell Hill’ crossing fields and frozen becks passing Apperset in the heart of the Dales. Rolling countryside and moorland lead you to Hardraw Force, England’s largest single drop waterfall (or in harsh winters England’s largest icicle!).  Here you can take the opportunity to warm up in front of a roaring fire in the nearby historic 13th century Green Dragon pub.  Heading west to the village of Sedbusk you will be greeted with a sweeping view of the Wensleydale valley across fellside pastures and winding rivers.  Destinations end back in Hawes lies a short 1.5 mile transit to the south.

Distance: 5 miles

1.  Grasmere  via Alcock Tarn

The Lake District is picture perfect in winter and with a light dusting of snow or a heavy frost it turns into a wonderland.  William Wordsworth was a keen walker and took much of his inspiration from the spectacular scenery surrounding his beloved Grasmere. Like Bala, Grasmere sits at the head of a stunning lake with mountains beyond. Starting to the north of the village, past the Swan Hotel, you will head into the rocky fells towards the mountain lake, care is required as it can get quite steep but the path is well maintained and lies just a mile and a half from the village. The views are spectacular and reach across the fells towards Grasmere below and the southern Lakes beyond. The route back to Grasmere is delightful, heading south from Alcock Tarn and then onto Wordsworth’s home at Rydal (Rydal Mount). The route back to Grasmere takes you past the timeless Rydal Water and continuing on to the village and your original starting point.

Stunning views all year round

Distance: 7 miles

By Gareth McKillop                                                  

Autumn Trails – Away from it all in the Lakes and Scotland’s South West

There is something fundamentally satisfying about closing your cottage door to the darkness of a lengthening autumnal evening and then pulling up a chair in front of a roaring fire. With the beautiful gold and orange tones already taking over the British countryside, this is a great time of year to ‘get away from it all’ and make the most of the empty roads and quiet trails before winter begins in earnest. We are going to take a look a two of Britain’s most stunning rural destinations, the Lake District and South West Scotland, two regions separated by the Solway Firth but united in their enduring appeal.

The Lake District

There are few places on these Isles which can be categorised as ‘wilderness’, though England’s stunning rugged North West reaches comes close. As the name suggests, it’s comprised of stunning mountainous vistas surrounded by lakes carved through millennia by ancient volcanoes, snow and ice. The result is a breathtaking National Park that boasts gloriously desolate valleys, challenging mountain bike trails and hundreds of miles of some of Britain’s finest walking country. Whilst this part of England offers splendid isolation for those who seek it, the Lake District is also blessed with fine culinary enclaves and fascinating attractions such as Brockhole and The World of Beatrix Potter. Many will be drawn to some of the more popular lakes, such as Windermere or Coniston, though perhaps some of the Lake District’s finest scenery can be found at Buttermere and in particular, the stunningly tranquil Derwent Water.

South West Scotland

It is no coincidence that Sir Paul McCartney choose the quiet of South West Scotland when seeking a retreat in the 1970s. He would later immortalise the region in the timeless classic, ‘Mull of Kintyre’. This bewitching part of Britain, much like its Lakeland cousin to the south, provides a rural haven from the rigours of our hectic modern lives. With a majestic coastline extending from the Solway Firth, meandering along peninsulas to Robert Burns’s country in the north, South West Scotland has some of Britain’s finest links golf courses. Perhaps the most iconic, the legendary Turnberry, looks out forever to the haunting island outcrop the ‘Aisla Craig’ and with Troon just a short distance to the north, this is truly hallowed golfing country. Once you have explored the expanses of beautiful rolling Scottish countryside, why not turn you attention to the exquisite harbour town of Port William or perhaps the historic artist haven, Kirkcudbright.  Even boasting its own whiskey trail, South West Scotland will doubtless leave you with satisfyingly warm reflections on your next autumn cottage break.