101 places to go – Kayaking on the River Fowey, Cornwall

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If you are looking for an activity based holiday for your next cottage break, then kayaking should be near the top of your list. As one of our more established water sports, there are now many kayaking adventure centres across the country offering basic tutoring and guided tours across the length and breadth of our beautiful rivers and coastline. Kayaking is a great activity for the whole family as it is particularly easy for beginners to pick up quickly. Under the careful supervision of a local guide, you will soon be taking in the natural beauty of Britain at a suitably tranquil pace in keeping with your surroundings.

There can be few better kayaking locations in Britain than on the Cornish peninsula where the longest coastline in Britain offers a multitude of kayaking backdrops. Whether it be azure bays, quaint harbours or meandering estuaries, this is a great opportunity to become totally absorbed by the essential beauty of Cornwall. This is a county of contrasts, typified by the exquisitely timeless River Fowey which is an ideal base for kayaking, offering excursions extending along the coast itself but you can also enjoy delightful routes heading north into the rolling greenery of the southern Cornish countryside.

For decades artists have been attracted to this stunning part of Cornwall. Author Daphne Du Maurier famously made Fowey her home whilst children’s writer Kenneth Grahame was entranced by the region and his many holidays to the River Fowey doubtless helped inspire and shape the all time classic ‘Wind in the Willows’. The river has a kind of ‘other worldly’ secluded feel to it; the sense of freedom is all encapsulating and it is this quality that also inspired some of the world’s top music artists to record at the famous Sawmills studio. The creative energy at this idyllic setting helped Oasis create their classic album Definitely Maybe; The Stone Roses recorded the epic Fool’s Gold whilst other artists such a Robert Plant, The Verve and latterly Muse have all recorded famous tracks at this Cornish riverside haven.

The route heading north towards the shallows of the river and the village of Lerryn is ideal for beginners. Tours tend to follow the flow of the tide and at a leisurely pace you can keep a close eye on the local wildlife. Your mind can easily wander and you can just imagine Mr Toad and Mr Badger loitering by the leafy shore. Today the river is home to egrets, otters, heron, cormorants and much more. Cornwall is famed for the crystalline quality of its water and this holds true for the river Fowey. From your stealthy vantage point you can easily spot shoals of fish swimming close by, grey mullet and trout are particularly numerous in a river that is teaming with wildlife.

After a leisurely paddle you will soon find yourself in the pretty Cornish village  Lerryn, which is a great spot to take a break on your river adventure. This unspoilt village is picture perfect and a fantastic setting for a picnic or perhaps a sedate pub lunch. With the turn of the tide you will head back south alongside the river bank where you can spot the wildlife that you missed on the way upstream! If you are lucky you will spot the signature luminous flash of a kingfisher darting above the river or maybe even a migratory osprey on its fleeting visit to Cornish shores. Invigorated by the days exploits you can retreat to your cottage enriched by the memories of a great day kayaking in Cornwall.

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101 places to go – International Kite Festival, Berck-sur-Mer

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We’re focussing on something light, bright and breezy for our latest entry. Where else, for example, could you stand on vast golden sands whilst above you the skies are filled with colourful creatures of different shapes and sizes, dancing through the air with incredible grace and beauty? We can’t think of anywhere like the International Kite Festival, Berck-sur-Mer, France, so its inclusion was something of a ‘no-brainer’.

For over 20 years people have visited Berck-sur-Mer in the springtime to witness blue skies bursting with a myriad of moving colours. The displays and intricacy of the kites is astounding, and each year promises something new that will astound over half a million visitors.

This year’s event runs from 13-21 April and boasts a number of wonderful displays, from aerial ballets and jousts to a parade of inflatable sea creatures turning the sky into a huge blue aquarium. And to spread the inclusive feeling there are a number of workshops to encourage the next generation to take to the skies with their wonderful creations.

The region itself possesses more than its fair share of beauty and history. It has a rich maritime heritage and its strategic position on the north coast has given it a colourful history that’s well worth exploring. But it’s undoubtedly the prevalence of long expanses of sand and gentle sloping dunes that has led to a large increase in visitor numbers. Still, with 12 kilometres of beach it can feel anything but crowded.

The International Kite Festival at Berck-sur-Mer really is the kind of one-off event that we love to promote and support at cottages4you. If you’d like to visit this beautiful part of northern France then take a look at our featured accommodation in the region.

If you have visited the Kite Festival before then please share your experiences by leaving a comment below.

101 places to go – The Laugharne Weekend

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A“timeless, mild, beguiling island of a town” is how Dylan Thomas described Laugharne. This small and enchanting corner of Carmarthenshire clearly had a huge influence on the writer as his most renowned works were created during his time at the lovely little boathouse by the bay. But Laugharne’s endearing personality isn’t just evidenced though its small scale and the large welcome offered by its inhabitants, it also informs its most popular event: The Laugharne Weekend.

Despite being hugely popular, Laugharne’s annual arts festival still offers an incredibly personal experience, where big names from the world of comedy, literature and music rub shoulders with townsfolk and visitors. It creates a lovely feeling of community and makes for an incredible celebration of the arts, filled with unique and memorable events. And because the festival can only grow as big as the town, it has retained its unique identity whilst some other festivals have expanded and lost a little of what made them so endearing in the process.

It’s for this reason that Laugharne offers up some very attractive events. The 2013 festival takes place on the weekend of April 5-7. Here are a few of our picks:

• The ‘Godfather of British Pop Art’ Sir Peter Blake RA will be appearing on the Sunday at 2pm in the Millennium Hall.

• Musical picks include Beth Orton on Friday, 9pm at the Congregational Church and one half of Everything But The Girl, Tracey Thorn on Saturday, 4pm at the Millennium Hall.

• Fans of poetry will find much to enjoy, including John Cooper Clarke on Saturday, 8pm at the Millennium Hall, Kate Tempest and Porky the Poet (aka Phil Jupitus) on Saturday, 3.30pm-4.30pm at the Marquee.

• Writers and broadcasters appearing at the show include Stuart Maconie, Caitlin Moran, Grace Dent, Charlie Higson and more. We’d also suggest Mark Watson at Saturday, 6pm, Congregational Church who will probably still be recovering from his 25 hour stand-up comedy routine for Comic Relief.

If you’d like to visit The Laugharne Weekend, take a look at our featured holiday cottages in the region today.

101 places to go – St David’s Day special

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Llangennith Beach on the Gower Peninsula in Wales

With St David’s Day just around the corner we thought we’d take the opportunity to celebrate some of the most beloved, beautiful and just plain fun attractions in the country to which he claims patronage.

Wales’ attractions are as wonderful and varied as the surrounding landscape. From Castle Coch’s gothic spires reaching high above the green trees over the River Taff to the majestic Alpine topography of Snowdonia, by way of Cardiff’s millennium waterfront and the gentle lolling waters of Lake Bala – there’s so much to enjoy in the ‘Land of Song’ that the only downside is finding the time to enjoy it all.

So, instead of choosing just one location to celebrate in Wales, we’re going to cheat a little and suggest a handful of our favourite attractions. Unfortunately, we can’t list them all but we’d love to hear your favourites in the comments section below.

• Wales is so filled with stunning scenes and wonderful vistas that you’ll no doubt be short of breath before you begin your exploration. So you may take some comfort from the fact that you can explore one of its most iconic landscapes from the relaxing comfort of a steam locomotive. The Brecon Mountain Railway takes you into the very heart of the Beacons along the gentle shores of the Taf Fechan reservoir.

• Those looking to enjoy Wales’ coastal scenery would do well to head to the Gower Peninsula. The first area in Britain to be crowned an ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’, the Gower offers miles of stunning coastline comprised of hills, valleys, caves, Blue Flag beaches and historic castles.

• While Wales isn’t short of natural wonders, its man-made conurbations are no less impressive. Cardiff’s millennial makeover has made it the go-to place for those looking for a cosmopolitan getaway among the wonderful Welsh landscape. So while Wales’ capital is justly proud of its rich history there’s a wealth of contemporary attractions to enjoy too!

• A less typical celebration of Wales can be found at the popular tourist village of Portmeirion. Started by architect Sir Bertram Clough Williams-Ellis in the 1920s, the aim of the village’s striking design was to recreate the Mediterranean amongst the region’s natural beauty. Judging from visitor numbers, we’d have to say it was something of a success!

If you’re looking for a place to celebrate St David’s Day take a look at our featured holiday cottages in Wales today.

101 places to go – Verona

Verona and Adige River

Few would argue with the fair city of Verona’s status as a ‘must see’ destination for lovers. After all, it was within the city’s beautiful Roman edifices and medieval facades that William’s Shakespeare’s story of star-crossed romance came to life. Although advances have obviously modernised Verona, it still possesses a uniquely romantic, historic ambience and – thanks to its invitingly temperate climate – is a wonderful place to visit all year round.

Shakespeare himself was so enraptured with the city that he also set The Taming of the Shrew and (of course!) The Gentleman of Verona there. It’s hard not to feel the inspiration yourself as you gaze over the expansive Piazza Bra at the incredible Verona Arena or the lovely Piazza delle Erbe, and its famous resident, Madonna Verona.

There’s much more to see and do in Verona, whether you’re on a romantic break or a trip away with the family. Here are a few of our favourite sights…

• Verona conveys such a relaxing and welcoming atmosphere that simply sitting and watching the world go by is one of our favourite holiday activities. One of the best places to absorb the city’s ambience and admire the relaxed pace of life is the Ponte Pietra. This stunning stone bridge spans the Adige and affords wonderful panoramic views of the surrounding area. Whether you visit in the day or at night, you’re guaranteed a wonderful experience.

• Our next two recommendations offer a wonderful showcase of local history and ornate heritage. The Sant’Anastasia is basically an art gallery housed in a huge Gothic red brick church. In the light, airy interior you will find a stunning collection of paintings and frescoes.

• San Zeno Maggiore Church offers a wonderful ornate Romanesque interior to explore. Alongside the frescoes, large marble columns and impressive altarpiece you will also find a very atmospheric crypt: the setting for Romeo and Juliet’s marriage in Shakespeare’s classic.

Take a look at our featured holiday properties in Verona today. Visit our site for more holiday homes in Italy.

101 places to go – The Gathering 2013

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This week’s featured pick is a homecoming of sorts for thousands, if not millions, of people around the world…

The Gathering is a year-long event organized by Ireland’s tourist board with the intention of opening the gates of the Emerald Isle to a global community of former residents, friends and family. Essentially, this makes 2013 a year-long party for Ireland’s visitors and residents with sporting events, festivals and a host of events and activities falling under The Gathering’s umbrella.

But don’t worry if you don’t have Irish ancestry; all events are designed to be as inclusive as possible. Basically, the aim of The Gathering is to enhance the overall experience of a holiday to Ireland, so whether you’re one of the Irish diaspora, or just fancy a visit, 2013 is probably the best time to go. Besides, you don’t want to be late to the party. Just imagine all that cleaning up!

Ireland isn’t short of spectacular locations and fantastic events in 2013, but we’ve managed to narrow the selection down to a handful of highlights. Please feel free to share your own picks in the comments section.

• The Jameson Dublin International Film Festival eases you into a year of Irish festivities from 14 February. For ten days the streets and screens of Ireland’s capital will be playing host to a number of exclusive screenings and premieres alongside appearances from some of the film industry’s movers and shakers. Tickets and a full schedule are available on the festival website.

• If you’re after something a little more traditional then Cork is playing host to the annual St Patrick’s Day Festival on the weekend of 17 and 18 March this year. The city will come alive with a host of free events for all the family – including a huge parade and plenty of artisan food and delightful crafts. Find more info on the website.

• County Galway is renowned for its glorious vistas and open expanses so, needless to say, many of its own offerings to The Gathering comprise of active explorations of the region. Visit Inishbofin Island on 24 May to walk along the western coast of Europe at the Walking Festival. From 30 March you can walk, cycle, fish, run and much more at the Explore Clonbur Outdoor Activity Festival 2013. There’s also a host of other events to take your breath away – if the countryside doesn’t get there first! Find the full schedule on The Gathering website.

Fancy attending The Gathering? Take a look at our featured holiday cottages in Ireland.

101 places to go – Warwick

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If you’re after the quintessential English experience on your holiday then we suggest you skip to the very bottom of this article and click on the link that says ‘Find holiday cottages in Warwick’ right now. If you’re still undecided, and would like to know more about the many charms of this wonderful county town in the heart of England, then read on as we celebrate wonderful Warwick..

Its location in the heart of England and breathtaking location high on a bluff above the River Avon has seen Warwick play an equally central part in English history. If testament were needed then you only have to take a look at Warwick Castle – widely regarded as Britain’s best – to marvel at the majesty and scenic beauty of the area.

•  Warwick Castle is undoubtedly one of the region’s biggest attractions. Thanks to its well-preserved towers and walls, its location on the banks of the Avon and the stewardship of the Tussauds group, the castle has become one of the UK’s premier tourist attractions. Enjoy a host of demonstrations, displays (including the world’s largest catapult!) and seasonal events at this most majestic attraction.

•  Though the Great Fire destroyed much of Warwick in the late 17th century, the town still offers a wonderful display of architectural heritage. Collegiate Church of St Mary, Warwick lies near the market in the town’s centre and is a ‘must-see’. This originally Norman church was later rebuilt in dramatic Gothic style, and it was here that writer JRR Tolkien wed in 1916.

•  Shakespeare was also no stranger to Warwick. It is alleged that a young William paid a visit to the lovely Charlecote Estate – not to admire the wonderful home and gardens. Instead, the young writer supposedly tried his hand at poaching and was rewarded with an appearance in front of the magistrates. The Charlecote Estate has been in the hands of the Lucy family since the 13th century and though it is around 5 miles from Warwick, it’s well worth making the trip.

Find holiday cottages in Warwick.