Cottage of the Week – Rascals Barn nr. Cromer

Rascals Barn is a semi-detached, 200-year-old barn conversion which has been sympathetically renovated to preserve its character and charm. Cromer, with its sandy beaches, promenade, traditional seaside amusements and artisan cafes and shops is just 4 miles away. You’ll also find plenty to keep your own rascals amused, with table football, a pool table, table tennis, push hockey, a digital TV and Nintendo Wii in the games room. Find more info and make a booking on our website.

 

Cutting loose in the Cotswolds

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The Cotswolds: quintessentially English

The enduring appeal of the Cotswolds revolves around its essential ‘Englishness’ and the reflection of a timeless village idyll.  A typical image comes to mind of ducks paddling peacefully across the ubiquitous village pond set alongside a stone bridge and a nearby quaint pub, which happens to serve great food. For many, it is the epitomy of a way of life that lies at the very heart of our being as a nation. Whether it be early spring or the height of summer, it is a world running at an altogether slower pace in tune with the timeless tranquil surroundings. With great links to the whole of the country, the Cotswolds are eminently accessible for your next short break or week away, so let’s take a look at the best the Cotswolds has to offer.

Lower Slaughter

If you want to experience the essence of a quintessential Cotswold village, then Lower Slaughter should be high up on your list. At this time of year the gorgeous honey-coloured stone cottages are framed by a daffodil lined stream with the field’s beyond full of exuberant lambs.  The delightful Copse Hill Road was voted Britain’s most romantic street in 2011 by Google and it is not hard to see why. Running by the path of a stream with overhanging trees and then winding its way past the church, this tranquil village setting really sets the mood for couple’s enjoying a walk in one of the country’s prettiest villages.

Blenheim Palace

Birthplace of one of Britain’s greatest hero’s Sir Winston Churchill, Blenheim palace is a majestic stately home and estate overlooking a lake in the rolling Oxfordshire countryside.  This fascinating and historic palace is surrounded by beautiful parkland and visitors can choose to buy tickets to enjoy both the palace and parkland or if the weather is great and you are looking for a memorable location for a picnic, then a ticket for the estate may be perfect for you. These hugely impressive and grand surroundings were the Eighteenth century home to the Dukes of Marlborough. Lying a short distance from Woodstock, a visit to Blenheim palace is sure to grab the imagination of the whole family.

Cotswold Motoring Museum

As well as home to ‘King of the Petrolheads’, Jeremy Clarkson, the Cotswolds also boasts a fine motoring museum in the picture perfect village of Bourton on the Water. This is a great value venue housing collections of vintage and classic cars and motorcycles from the past hundred years of motoring. From elegant Jaguars, unique Austins and Lambrettas, the Cotswold Motoring Museum is an engaging journey for both young and old. Children will be delighted by the collection of antique toy cars and a chance to see television toy car star ‘Brum’!

Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway

If you are looking for engines with a little more power, then a trip to Cheltenham’s steam railway will not disappoint. The GWR railway really gets the juices going, the sight, sound and smell of these magnificent steam trains is intoxicating. Mix that with a journey through the stunning Cotswold countryside, and you have the makings of an unforgettable day out. The restored railway follows a 25 mile route from Laverton to Cheltenham racecourse with themed events hosted throughout the year. First class carriages are available along with sumptuous catering to make the occasion just that extra special.

Search for a holiday home in the Cotswolds

Signs of Spring finalists

Thanks to everyone who entered our competition and shared one of the many ‘Signs of Spring’ that have been popping up all over the UK. We received some really strong entries, from flowers in bloom to lambs bouncing in the spring sunshine!

We would have loved to have awarded prizes to them all but unfortunately there was to be only one winner. Our judge had this to say about the winning entry:  “It still says something about spring but is a little different. The picture conjures up images of cruising along little winding singletrack roads in the Yorkshire Dales. It also has a nice element of humour and local character to it.”

We’re sure you can guess which one he was talking about! Congratulations to Phil Edwards who submitted his photo via Twitter.

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Surfing Ireland

Hitting the beach at Bundoran

Hitting the beach at Bundoran

The rugged romance of Ireland’s west coast has myriad charms that may well take you out of your comfort zone. The mystical beauty and wild drama of the landscape might inspire you to don a smock and attempt to capture the waves on canvas, pen a poem or two or even leave the warmth of the pub for a hike along the cliffs. But unless riding 60ft breakers and prancing about in neoprene is your idea of a holiday, chances are you don’t know that this wind-blown stretch of the Emerald Isle, notorious for the warmth of its hospitality, is also up there with Hawaii, Malibu and Bondi in every self-respecting surf dude’s hit list.

In fact, big wave hunters from around the globe now descend on the jade-coloured shores of the Clare, Sligo and Donegal coasts, which aficionados consider more than a match for the world’s famous and more exotic surf playgrounds. The good news is that you don’t need to be super fit to join in the fun. If you fancy dipping a toe in shimmering green waters – with waves this great it would be rude not to have a go – or have a brood of active kids or teens hungry for adventure, Donegal Bay is the holiday hotspot that guarantees an absolute blast.

While Donegal Bay offers a great choice of challenging reef and beach breaks for the pros, absolute beginners of all ages are also welcomed with a zeal verging on the evangelical. The same winds that make surfers froth with delight also produce perfect conditions for sailing, wind and kite surfing, canoeing and kayaking, offering a smorgasbord of options for messing about on the water. Even better, the bay is home to two glorious Blue Flag beaches, Bundoran and Rossnowlagh, which also have safe bathing areas for families.

If you fancy learning to surf and want to taste all the water sports, make your base in Bundoran. Situated on the south westerly tip of Donegal, it’s hailed as the jewel of the Ireland’s surf beaches as its shoreline comprises a series of headlands and flat rock reefs that face directly onto near constant swell. Here, you’ll find excellent ISA approved surf schools, including Bundoran Surf Co., Turf ‘n’ Surf and The Donegal Adventure Centre, where friendly qualified instructors will help you master the precarious art of staying upright on a board.

If you don’t have the skills or the nerve to brave The Peak, Bundoran’s famous and challenging wonder wall of water, considered one of the best waves in Europe, don’t despair. You’ll have a swell time in the gentler spots for beginners and there’s plenty of craic to be had on dry land, too.  There is a great choice of charming bars and restaurants catering for families and couples as well as lively spit-and-sawdust watering holes that serve the surf fraternity.

Donegal Adventure Centre also offers the less challenging sport of body boarding (why try to stand when you can lie flat on your belly?) and for those who don’t fancy the feisty Atlantic waters, canoeing and kayaking on beautiful Lough Melvin. Adrenalin junkies can also indulge in the mystifying pleasures of cliff jumping while popular pursuits for families include learning how to build traditional Irish boats called Curraghs – available throughout the summer.

And you don’t need a board to explore the bay. For an exhilarating wind in your hair experience, you can climb aboard a speed boat for a marine tour with Bundoran Seaventures. Or if you fancy deep sea angling or the chance to spot whales and dolphins, Bundoran Star is a charter boat service that offers a fabulous choice of trips around Donegal Bay.

OK, so it’s hardly the tropics but when the tide rises and the sun shines you’ll be hard pushed to find a better water sports wonderland on your doorstep. All you need is a spirit of adventure – and possibly a thermal vest.

Other great surfing beaches

The Blue Flag beach of Rossnowlagh, a short hop from Bundoran, is another top choice for water sports action and offers a fun-filled holiday haven. Home to one of Ireland’s biggest surf clubs, Fionn Mc Cool’s, and prime surftastic waves it nonetheless offers beginners a warm welcome.

Heading a little further south, you’ll come to the top surfing beaches of Strandhill. Situated close to the town of Sligo, this is a popular haunt as whenever there’s a swell there’s waves. Likewise, further south down the coast the beaches of Lahinch are a safe bet offering a wide variety of beach and reef breaks and conditions for surfers of all abilities.

However, Lahinch has nightlife as active as its breakers, so prepare for crowds.  Experienced surfers can test their metal at Mossies Reef and the ledge out at Gary William point off Brandon Bay beach while nearby Ballybunnion is the home of surfing in Kerry with plenty of schools for beginners. Looking for a challenge? Castle Freek boasts the best waves on the south coast: a long peeling right hander with barrelling sections purely for the brave.

Britain’s best offbeat attractions

A gnome from home

A gnome from home

Unlike other countries in Europe and around the world, we in Britain have always been proud of our eccentricities; those unusual and unique quirks that make the UK just that little bit different.

As a result, Britain is home to some of the most offbeat, entertaining and surprising tourist attractions anywhere in the world, many of which are located in the beautiful towns, villages and countryside that make up this rather unconventional island.

The Gnome Reserve, Devon

What could be more British than a garden full of gallivanting gnomes? Well, not much really as this four-acre, gnome-tastic site in North Devon shows only too well.

There are over 1000 gnomes and pixies that live in this woodland reserve, all happily fishing, sunbathing, gardening or simply wiling the time away in their natural habitat. On arrival, visitors are issued with a fishing rod and gnome hat to help them fit in with the locals, a great touch that kids especially will really love.

Once you’ve had your fill of gnomes and pixies, you can enjoy the beautiful surrounding countryside or drive to one of the nearby beaches on the North Devon coast.

Teapot Island, Kent

The vast collection of unique, quirky and downright strange teapots that now makes up the impressive display at Teapot Island in Kent began as the personal collection of owner Susie Blayze when her grandmother gave her her first teapot back in 1983. The museum once held the record for the largest collection of teapots in the world, and today visitors can see teapots shaped as Daleks, Darth Vader and even toilets.

Once you’ve finished exploring the world of teapots, you can retire to the on site café for what hopefully is a very well made cup of tea.

Quay House, North Wales

Smallest-House

Not far from Colwyn Bay on the beautiful North Wales coast, you’ll find the old Quay House, a tiny one up, one down semi that is officially the smallest home in Britain. Built during the reign of Elizabeth I, the house is just 6 feet wide and 10 feet high, the upstairs is only just big enough for a single bed and bedside table.

It won’t take long to tour the property’s nooks and crannies, leaving you plenty of time to explore the traditional harbour and neighbouring Conwy Castle.

The Phone Box Museum, Wales

If you head to the Phone Box Museum in South Wales with the aim of learning all about the history and design of these iconic telecommunications boxes, you may be a little disappointed when you arrive and discover just a single red phone box at the side of a lane near the village of Cilgerran. In fact, the innocuous red phone box is home to Wale’s smallest museum, a collection of photographs taken by local resident Tom Mathias.

The photos show the inhabitants and history of the nearby village and surrounding countryside, and provide an intriguing glimpse into times gone by. For those who still really want to learn about phone boxes, it’s just a short three-hour drive to the National Telephone Kiosk Collection at the Avoncroft Museum of Buildings in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire.

The Forbidden Corner, North Yorkshire

forbiddencornerOriginally conceived as a private pleasure garden in the 1980s, The Forbidden Corner in Tupgill Park Estate, North Yorkshire, bills itself as ‘The Strangest Place in the World’. In typical British tradition, the attraction began as a folly and has now grown to include grottoes, tunnels, walled gardens, statues, art installations and woodland.

Visitors are not given a map but instead encouraged to explore the park until they have ticked off all of the boxes on their checklist of sights.

The attraction has been awarded the title of Best European Folly of the 20th Century by the Folly Fellowship and been voted the best children’s attraction in Yorkshire. Admission is by pre-booked ticket only.

Cuckooland, Cheshire

If you thought that cuckoo clocks were all the same, Cuckooland in Cheshire is guaranteed to make you think again. Home to one of the most important collection of its type in the world, Cuckooland is currently home to around 600 cuckoo clocks, all made in the Black Forest region of central Europe.

Many of the clocks in this vast collection have been specially restored by brothers Roman and Maz Piekarski who began their apprenticeships in clock restoration in Manchester at the age of 15.

Visitors to the museum can learn pretty much everything that they need to know about the making and restoration of the clocks, and if they haven’t been driven cuckoo by all the excitement they can even pick up their very own replica piece from the gift shop on the way out.

Dennis Savers’ House, London

At 18 Folgate Street in London’s Spitalfields, you’ll find Dennis Savers’ House, a unique and eccentric museum created by an artist who wanted to bring the past to life by transforming a private home into a time capsule. From 1979 to 1999 Dennis Savers gradually turned the house into a sort of still life, a snapshot of life in the property in times gone by. The rooms are set up as if the occupants have only just left, giving visitors a real sense of what life would have been like in the past.

From north to south and east to west, Britain is dotted with some of the most eccentric, bizarre and endearing offbeat attractions you’ll find anywhere in the world. Visiting just a few will give you a unique taste of British life and make any holiday in the UK even more entertaining and eye-opening.

Late Deals for March

We have a host of savings on select late arrivals in March at the moment, so we thought we’d post them all up here. Each saving is a one-off and when they’re gone they’re gone so you’ll have to be quick if you want to save up to 35% on one of these lovely cottages!