Big Kid Bingo – How we Spent our Summer

Thanks for all the brilliant Big Kid Bingo entries we’ve received so far – looks like you’ve had a fantastic summer! We’ve picked a few to share with you here and will add more as the competition continues. Don’t forget to join in the fun on our Facebook page.

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Viva Italia! Sample the seductive charms of Italy in 2015

Our featured properties in Italy have just gone on sale for 2015, so we thought we’d try and inspire you by picking a few of our favourite regions…and don’t forget you can currently reserve your 2015 property for £25! More info on our Italy page.   

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Italy is one of Europe’s top holiday destinations, and for good reason. It’s a breathtaking blend of stunning sights, romantic vistas, stylish people, mouth-watering cuisine and excellent weather. The list goes on and on, making this gorgeous country a place you must visit, at least once in your lifetime. Read on to find out more about Italy’s top tourist destinations:

The eternal city

Roman ruins in Rome, Forum

The Forum in Rome

Italy’s capital, Rome, is the eternal city – and it’s eternally popular with tourists from all over the world. Located in the central Lazio region of the country, Rome has everything you’d want in a holiday, whether a short city break or a stopover while visiting other parts of the country.

The Colosseum, the Roman Forum, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps are among the many natural tourist magnets. Then there’s the city within a city itself – the Vatican, with its equally famous St. Peter’s Basilica and square that attracts millions of people each year.

There’s no use counting calories when in Rome – delve right in to some of the most delicious pizzas, pastas and gelatos anywhere.

Tuscany

Tuscany landscape

Tuscany landscape

The wine-producing Tuscany region in central Italy is a romantic place of extreme natural beauty that has long been a favourite with people from all over. It’s where the Renaissance movement began, in Florence, and so is steeped in great art and culture, and there’s so much to explore. Who can go to Italy without seeing the Leaning Towner of Pisa, located right here? The medieval city of Siena and its Il Campo central piazza is also a top tourist draw.

Oenophiles (that’s wine lovers to you and me) will delight in the many wines produced in Tuscany, including its most well-known export, Chianti, a bold red enjoyed all over the world. Gastronomes, meanwhile, will revel in Tuscany’s simple and delicious country fare, including lots of vegetables, olive oil and stuffed pastas such as ravioli.

Up north

Venice by night

Venice by night

In the northeast of the country, romantic Venice is a natural choice for many people. Surrounded by water and now a World Heritage Site, Venice has been called one of the most beautiful cities on the planet. This astonishing “Floating City”, whose many canals are filled with water taxis and gondolas, has some extraordinary architecture, including Piazza San Marco, the main public square; Saint Mark’s Basilica and its striking Italo-Byzantine features; and the Gothic Doge’s Palace.

In the northwest, fashionable Milan, capital of the Lombardy region, is also an excellent holiday choice. Like other major Italian cities, Milan has a wealth of culture and sights, including Milan Cathedral, Sforza Castle and the shopping mecca of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, which dates back to 1865. Many parts of Italy have their own particular cuisine, and Milan is no different. Try its succulent risotto alla milanese, which is made with saffron; cotoletta alla milanese, a fried veal dish; and minestrone alla milanese, with lots of vegetables and often also with pancetta.

Way down south

Sicily is a perennial tourist favourite, due to its wonderful Mediterranean weather and great natural beauty. Located off the southern tip of Italy, Sicily is the biggest island in the Med and is a natural choice for those seeking sun and sand while on an Italian holiday.

Palermo is the island’s capital and is an oasis of culture, history and amazing cuisine, and you’ll find some of the best beaches in Italy all around the coastline, places of white-sand perfection where you can truly relax and let all your worries just float away. For the adventurous, why not take a trip to see Mount Etna, one of three active volcanoes in Italy and one of the most active in the world?

The Calabria region of Italy takes up what’s known as the “toe” of the country, or its southernmost mainland mass. Its capital is the city of Catanzaro, looking out over the Gulf of Squillace and a place definitely worth visiting. It’s especially busy during the peak summer months, and it also enjoys a Mediterranean climate.

Out to sea

The sea at Sardinia

The sea at Sardinia

Way out to the west is another glorious part of Italy – the Mediterranean Sea’s second largest island of Sardinia, and also a top tourist pick. The island enjoys year-round sunshine and is home to some of the most stunning beaches in the world.

The extremely old city of Cagliari, dating back many centuries, serves as the island’s capital and today visitors can take in lots of historical sites dotted around it, including a necropolis, amphitheatre, fortifications and a basilica. Elsewhere, there’s some stunning scenery around the interior of the island.

Italy has so much to offer visitors that it’s indeed hard to take it all in during one trip. Once you get a taste for this delightful place you’ll want to keep coming back to sample all of its many flavours.

Cottage of the Week – La Belle Vue, Coti-Chiavari, Corsica

No prizes for guessing how our new featured property got its name! La Belle Vue is magnificent property near to the village of Acqua Doria in the south of the Gulf of Ajaccio, and is built on a very large private plot in the Corsican countryside with breathtaking views of the Gulf.

From the vast decked terrace, you will be able to admire the panoramic view over the Gulf of Ajaccio and the Sanguinaires islands whilst admiring the beautiful evening sunset. In the surrounding area, fine sandy beaches and a crystal clear sea waits, with the beach of Cala d’Orzu or that of Coti-Chiavari, which is also called the silver beach, where numerous watersport activities can be enjoyed.

This delightful property sleeps 8 and offers 4 bedrooms. Find more info and make a booking on the property’s listing on our website.

 

A Dog’s Day Out

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Everyone deserves a holiday – and as far as we’re concerned, that includes our four-legged friends too. Yes, they may drive us crazy with their barking, endless requests for ball throwing, and many a strange pong. But, as the saying goes, ‘a dog is a man’s best friend’ and best friends make perfect holiday companions. So if you’re thinking about holidaying with your canine companion, here’s our pick of the top dog-friendly holiday destinations in the UK.

1. Yorkshire

If you’re used to living in an urban area, give your dog a taste of the good life with a trip to Yorkshire. It’s got countryside that rolls on for miles, beaches that stretch into the distance, and plenty of dog-friendly places to eat too.

For a great dog-friendly beach, head to the gorgeous old smuggler’s haunt of Robin Hood’s Bay. The beach is a mix of sand and – when the tide’s fully out – plenty of rock pools too. Up the coast is Whitby where dogs have year-round access to a sandy and sheltered beach on the east of the River Esk. A little further up the coast again you’ll find Staithes. It’s home of CBeebies hit ‘Old Jack’s Boat’, and its beach welcomes dogs all year round. Back in Whitby, when the time comes for a snack, head into town to Marie Antoinette’s Patisserie, where dogs are made especially welcome and given gravy bones as treats. You’ll find it at 139 Church Street.

Head inland to the North Yorkshire Moors and you’ll have all manner of bracing country walks at your fingertips. For something a little different, hop on a steam train at Grosmont and alight at Goathland, then walk back along the rail trail. Make a stop at Beck Hole for a spot of light refreshment (you’ll find great beers and homemade pies and sandwiches at the Birch Hall Inn), and your dog can enjoy a splash in the beck. This walk is mainly flat, covers about three and a half miles, and can even be done with a pushchair if you’ve got little ones as well.

2. Hampshire

You want enchanting forests, picturesque heath land, and easy-walking for the whole family? It’s got to be the New Forest. This is great walking territory and dogs will love exploring all the new sights and smells to be found here. There are scores of walking routes with minimal restrictions for dogs, and you’ll find plenty of dog-friendly watering holes to relax at too. The Drift Inn in Beaulieu, the Sir Walter Tyrell in Cadnam, and the Hare and Hounds in Lymington are just for starters on the pub front – but all make dogs feel welcome. If you’re looking for attractions that will welcome your dog too, make sure you visit the New Forest Centre in Lymhurst and Exbury Gardens on the outskirts of Beaulieu. There’ll be no need to keep your dog hemmed up in the car as they’re welcome at both of these locations.

3. The Lake District

It’s a walker’s heaven, so it makes sense that our furry friends will fit right in here too. As well as stack loads of glorious walks, there are also a whole host of attractions in the Lake District to enjoy with your dog too. Muncaster Castle has gardens that you can walk round with your dog. Grizedale Forest has walks for all abilities and a sculpture trail too, while the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway makes a great day out and offers a welcome break from all that walking.

4. Cornwall

Rugged coastlines, windswept scenery, and plenty of places for a pooch to mooch. First off, head to Holywell Bay Beach. It’s about five miles outside the famous surfing town of Newquay. Holywell Bay beach offers a year-round welcome to dogs and their companions. Plus, humans will be especially pleased with the Pirans Inn pub, which overlooks the beach and offers a perfect place to sup a pint. Holywell Bay is a beautiful spot to walk the dogs, with the accolade of ‘best beach in England’ as voted for by the National Trust.

Elsewhere, soak up some culture at a couple of dog-friendly art galleries. The Newlyn Art Gallery and Exchange Art Gallery in Penzance have both recently opened their dogs to our four-legged friends too. Now, there’s no saying your Jack Russell will leave as a connoisseur of Cubism, but it makes for a welcome change of scene – especially as most galleries are strictly out of bounds for dogs.

So, those are our top doggie destinations in the UK. Have we missed anywhere out? Or do you have a secret location you’d like to share with your fellow holidaying dog owners? If so, let us know – because we want to see dogs enjoying their holidays as much as their owners!

Cottage of the Week – Phil’s House, Lairg

Perfect for pets and people, Phil’s House (ref SUUR) is an architect designed, eco-friendly, single-storey house on an elevated position with panoramic views over the village of Lairg in the Highlands, waters of the Loch Shin and towards the hills beyond. Sleeps 6 and 3 pets. Check out customer comments and find more info on the property listing.

6 tips for Travelling with your Dog

 

Make the perfect pet-friendly break.

Make the perfect pet-friendly break

Nothing beats the feeling of finishing work for a well deserved holiday. However, often that feeling is tarnished by the realisation that you will be leaving your beloved pooch behind. Putting up with two weeks away from your fluffy companion for the sake of a relaxing holiday doesn’t have to be the case! It doesn’t matter whether your break is in the UK or a little further afield, there’s always the option to take your pet away with you. There are a number of things that you must consider, however, so that your dog remains safe, comfortable and, in some cases, legal! Here are our top tips for a happy trip away with your pet dog.

1. Crate your dog to ensure safety and comfort in the car

Some dog owners feel bad about keeping their dog in a crate, especially on long journeys. The truth is, the majority of dogs are quite happy inside their crate – it’s their happy place. Placing your dog inside a crate for car journeys is essential – it keeps them safe, prevents them from distracting the driver, and ensures a comfortable journey for all members of the family.

If your dog already has a crate, and is used to being locked inside it, fantastic! You don’t need to do much other than moving the crate into the car and following your usual commands to get the dog inside. However, if your dog isn’t used to being inside a crate, it’s a good idea to start preparing them for the trip a few weeks in advance. Allow the dog to spend some time in there, with the door closed, and build a positive association. Speak to your canine friend with a happy, positive voice – they need to understand that it’s a safe, comfortable environment for them to spend time in. Most dogs adapt well to crate training, but there are plenty of detailed guides online if you encounter any difficulties.

2. Go for a long walk before embarking on your journey

If your dog is well exercised before you set off, it’s likely they’ll be tired enough to just curl up and go to sleep for much of the journey. It’s important to do this, as a restless dog is more likely to feel stressed and agitated throughout the journey. It also provides them with the opportunity to use the toilet before the trip – just as we do – particularly important if you’re embarking on a long journey without many stops!

3. Keep your dog relaxed and comfortable

There are many things you can do to keep your dog comfortable whilst in the car. Firstly, don’t feed them immediately before you depart. Whilst this can be tempting, especially if they’re not going to eat for a while, many dogs are prone to motion sickness and eating straight before you leave will only make the problem worse. It’s also a good idea to take any dog blankets or toys in the car with you. If they have a favourite toy, place it in the crate to comfort them. However, ensure that there’s no risk of strangulation or injury to the dog first – some toys aren’t suitable. If it’s warm in the car, use the air conditioning. Remember that it might not be as cool in the dog’s crate, particularly if they’re in the boot, so you might need to pack an extra jumper for yourself!

4. Take regular breaks

If you’re making a long journey, take regular breaks to allow your dog to stretch their legs, have a drink, and get some attention. Never leave your dog unattended in the car, particularly during summer. The temperature inside the car can increase rapidly, and is extremely dangerous.

5. Maintain a normal routine

Dogs are used to their routine, so it’s important not to disrupt it too much while you’re away. Try to stick to their regular meal times – they know when they’re due to be fed, and will be hungry! Also make sure that you take your dog for regular walks and give them lots of attention. Being away from home can be strange and confusing for dogs, particularly during the first couple of days, so make it your priority to ensure they’re feeling happy and comfortable.

6. Be prepared

Before you go, be prepared and get to know the local area. Find out the nearest vets to your accommodation, and write down their address and phone number. That way, if anything were to happen whilst you’re away, you’ll be able to get there straight away. If you intend on eating out, research dog friendly pubs and restaurants before you leave to avoid disappointment.

Following these tips will ensure a memorable and fun trip for the entire family!

Take a look at our Pets Page for more info and to search our special range of pet-friendly properties.

British Travel Awards Nominations 2014

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We’ve been nominated for ‘Best UK Holiday Cottage/ Self Catering Booking Company’ at the British Travel Awards 2014.

This is a huge honour for us but we need your support to win it! If you’ve enjoyed a break with cottages4you in the past then please vote for us on the British Travel Awards website.

Once you cast your vote you’ll be entered into a prize draw to win a host of prizes – including holidays and more!