9 Perfect Ways to Unwind this Winter

The summer months may be behind us, but there’s a whole host of exciting activities and events for you to enjoy this winter. Whether you’re holidaying in a favourite corner of the UK or looking for new and exciting events nearer home, our fair isle has plenty on offer to keep you and the family busy over the winter months, whatever the weather. Click on the first image to start the tour.

 

The UK’s Best Christmas Events

A selection of the Britain’s finest festive attractions to get you in the Christmas spirit. Enjoy Edinburgh’s mix of stunning seasonal events, take a walk on the wild side in Chester, marvel at gorgeous garlands in Cornwall and get fit and raise money for charity…

A pre-Christmas treat

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Thursford: putting the spectacle in spectacular

If you’d like a break to get yourself ready for the festivities, then Norfolk can be a great choice. There’s the chance for head-clearing walks on stunning beaches, cosy lunches in country pubs and much more. This would also give you the chance to enjoy the legendary Christmas Spectacular at Thursford. It’s the biggest Christmas show across the country, with 130 singers, dancers and musicians, offering three hours of stunning entertainment. It’s set in an amazingly created atmosphere full of fairground carousels and mechanical organs, and folk travel from all across the UK to enjoy a happy and memorable festive experience.

A night with the animals

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Monkey business by The Lantern Company

Many folk have been recently charmed by the BBC drama series Our Zoo – telling the story of Chester Zoo. This Christmas, there’s a chance to visit the place itself and enjoy one of their festive season lantern workshops. Youngsters can design their own lantern, and then everyone sets off on a night-time journey, listening to sounds of animals as they prowl the darkness. There’s an illuminated trail created by The Lantern Company, leading to a display of stunning animal themed lanterns. Hang your Christmas wishes on the Giant Wishing Tree before you visit Fruit Bat Forest and the Elephant House. There are 14 pre-Christmas dates, but many are selling out fast so do check now.

A day at the races

There has been a long tradition of festive season race meetings across the country gathering large holiday crowds. If you’ve never been, it could be a great time to pay a fist visit. Among the many meetings, there will be plenty of atmosphere on Saturday 27th December at Chepstow for the famous Welsh National. On Boxing Day itself, you’ll be able to choose from eight locations, including Huntingdon and Kempton Park, Wetherby or Towcester.

The power of flowers

Photo by Adrian Platt

Photo by Adrian Platt

At Cotehele, a magical National Trust Tudor property in gorgeous Cornwall, the garden staff spend most of November creating a truly amazing sixty-foot long Christmas garland. It contains more than forty thousand flowers, and right through December, you have the chance to visit the hall and admire its unique beauty. If you’re on a pre-Christmas break, you’ll also find musical events under it most days.

A walk in the park

Unless you have small children and buggies, then there’s a great way to clear the head on Boxing Day morning if you are enjoying a break in the wilds of Kent. You could join a group of like-minded souls at Ightham Mote to tuck into a full English breakfast to prepare you for a bracing and informal guided walk around this magnificent estate, just a few miles south of Sevenoaks. After your trek, you might choose to look round this romantic moated manor house itself. Noted historian Dr David Starkey has described it as “one of the most beautiful and interesting of English country houses”.

Your capital choice

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Edinburgh has Christmas covered

Staying in many beautiful countryside locations in central Scotland would give you the chance of a visit or two to Edinburgh, where there’s a huge choice of festive things to do. You and the family might visit the superb Santa Land in East Princes Street Gardens. There’s a grotto and train, tree maze, and terrific rides such as the North Pole Slide, Swan Lake and Race-a-Rama. There’s also a roller coaster! You might also book sixty minutes of circus acts and mischief makers in a youngsters’ treat at the Brat Kids Carnival in St Andrew Square. There’s also an ice rink there, and another in Princes Street Gardens – if you are brave enough!

An adventurous time

A Yorkshire break would give the whole family an excuse to enjoy great fun times at Stockeld Park, located between Harrogate and Leeds. Their packed Christmas Adventure can include either a stroll, or you could try Nordic Skiing, through the amazing Illuminated Enchanted Forest; a mix of theatre, fantasy and great lighting effects. Who knows who you might meet? Then you can lose yourself in the amazing Snowflake Maze. If you have a youngster who wants to try ice skating, but is a bit unsteady, they can even gain the support of their very own supportive penguin!

Lights at the borderlands

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Alnwick Garden’s stunning Sparkle show

As the festive season draws to a close, the magnificent Alnwick Garden in Northumberland is lit up with a truly stunning Sparkle lighting display. The whole family can celebrate the New Year in a traditional way with street entertainment, giggle-inducing party games, much music and a traditional Hog Roast Carvery, plus a DJ party or a quieter and more relaxing option in the Pavilion. There’s also an awesome landscape of windswept coastlines and castles, sweeping moorlands and charming towns to investigate as you make your way into another great year!

Run, Santa, Run

Ted tried it last year

Even Ted’s tried it

If you tend to over-indulge in the festivities over the Christmas period then our next choice is the perfect preparation for a New Year Resolution to get fit – and raise money for charity in the process! The annual Santa Fun Run, in aid of Bosom Friends, takes place in Barnoldswick every year. This year’s event takes place on December 7th near to our office and the emphasis is on the fun, so whether you try to beat your ‘PB’ or are happier completing the 5k as a strolling Santa, we’re sure you’ll have a good time whilst raising funds for a very worthy cause.

Find fantastic festive accommodation with cottages4you

Cottage of the Week – Trevellan House nr. Falmouth

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Trevellan House. cottages4you ref: TPF

An architect designed, detached house located in the creek side village of Mylor Bridge, perfect for families or couples looking for a comfortable house to relax. Trevellan House sits in a quiet private road and is perfectly placed for exploring some of Cornwall’s finest beaches and creeks.

Approximately 15 minutes’ walk along narrow country lanes will take you to Weir Point, where there is a peaceful and secluded shingle beach. The lovely, sandy beaches of Falmouth are just a 10-minute drive away. Visit its busy port and marinas, The National Maritime Museum and Pendennis Castle. Take a sea safari to watch dolphins, basking sharks and seals, or take a fishing trip or a small ferry to nearby St Mawes and the beautiful Helford River.

Trevellan House itself sleeps 6 and provides a selection of options to keep holidaymakers entertained, including WiFi, two bedrooms with TVs and one with wonderful water views. You can find more info and make a booking on the property listing on our website, and take a look at some customer comments below…

‘This is a truly outstanding property, the village shop was very large & well stocked for meals -with large superstores only a couple of miles away in Falmouth. The views both back & front were truly breathtaking. we stayed 1st week of school summer holidays- it was blissful!!’  Heather, Crawley, West Sussex.

 

 

The UK’s best TV filming locations

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Ted on set of ‘The Village’

With so many great dramas, comedies and adaptations hitting our screens over the last few years, the UK is now awash with interesting and beautiful TV filming locations for us all to visit. Although not all of them are available to tour directly, they still make great holiday locations where you can soak in the atmosphere, feel and aesthetics of your favourite TV programmes. But with so many to choose from, and each with their own visitation limitations and restriction, how will you ever decide on which ones to visit? Well don’t worry, we’ve picked out some of the most famous, beautiful and interesting TV filming location in the UK to help you make up your mind. So here you are, five of the best TV filming locations to visit in the UK:

Downton Abbey – Highclere Castle

First on the list is probably the most famous. Downton Abbey has been a revelation not only in the UK, but also in America where its popularity has exceeded expectations. The show is revered for its accurate historical costume and setting, and critically acclaimed for its realistic representation of social relations in the Edwardian era, and now you can visit the abbey itself. Whilst many of the indoor scenes are filmed in specially constructed studio sets, the outdoor shots of the Abbey are filmed at Highclere Castle in Berkshire, the seat of the Earl of Carnarvon. You can visit the castle most days of the year, and since the show has attracted considerable tourist attention.

If Highclere Castle isn’t enough for you, you can also visit the village of Bampton in Oxfordshire, which is the setting for Downton Village. There is a scheduled tour of the village, or if you prefer you can walk around at your leisure and experience the setting for some of the major plot developments in the show. You can also get access to some of the closed off filming locations and see the Crawley House, Downton Hospital and St Mary’s Church.

Sherlock: The Hound of the Baskervilles – Hound Tor and Dewer’s Hollow

Hound Tor is the site of a deserted Medieval village on Bodmin Moor, and was the inspiration for Arthur Conan Doyle’s story The Hound of the Baskervilles. It’s fitting, then, that when the BBC came to adapt the story for the new series of Sherlock that they decided to film some of it there. The location has a history of being used as a TV location, being featured in Doctor Who in the 1970s and The Sontaran Experiment. This historical and archaeological landmark lies within the rugged woodland of Bodmin Moor, and offers beautiful views across its expanse.

Scenes for this episode were also filmed in Three Bears Cave in Forest Fawr Country Park near Cardiff, which was used to represent Dewer’s Hollow. Again a rugged and traditionally British woodland, this provided the dark eerie backdrop for the sighting of the hound, and has also been used in various other BBC TV programmes, such as Torchwood and Merlin. The woodland expanse of the country park is a beautiful walking holiday destination, which also allows you to take in some TV history whilst you’re at it!

Jamaica Inn – Cornwall

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The BBC remake of Jamaica Inn divided opinion, but whatever you think of the shows recent foray onto our screens, Jamaica Inn remains one of the defining novels in history. Although the TV programme itself was filmed on a number of locations, including Cornwall and Kirkby Lonsdale in Cumbria, fans of the show, book or film adaptations can still visit the famous Jamaica Inn itself, from Daphne Du Maurier took the name of her novel – in fact, the Inn is now so famous it has been given Grade II listing status by English Heritage. Located in the middle of Bodmin Moor, the inn has been on the site since the 18th century, when it was used a resting house for smugglers and pirates in the area. Because of this interesting history, it has also been named one of the most haunted places in the UK.

Regardless of this connection with the novel and various TV and film adaptations, the Inn as a beautiful and historic site in its own right, and the nearby village of Bolventor and the surrounding moorland are typical of the rugged and sublime north Cornish landscape.

Doc Martin – Port Isaac

Nestled on the north coast of Cornwall, the small fishing village of Port Isaac has found fame in the last ten years as the filming location of Doc Martin. Called Port Wenn in the show, all the exterior scenes are filmed in the village, and can be visited all year round. Many of the interior scenes were also shot in the village, but in a converted barn on a local farm, which you can also visit. The village has a history as a TV filming location, having previously been the location of Poldark in 1970s, which is due to make a comeback on our screens next year. As well as a must for fans of the show, this picturesque fishing village is a great holiday spot regardless of its TV associations.

Broadchurch – Dorset

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Slightly less cheerful coastal comings and goings took place in ITV’s drama series Broadchurch. The serial made good use of Dorset’s stunning coastline to tell a gripping tale of the dark secrets underlying a seemingly idyllic community. Thankfully, while the script (and the titular location) was a work of fiction, the beautiful landscape on England’s south coast is far from, with breath-taking landscapes, stunning scenic vistas and warm welcomes aplenty.

The success of Broadchurch has already prompted an increase in screen tourism to the area, but thanks to the abundance of tranquil beauty in Dorset we’re fairly sure that you won’t notice the increased numbers. Of course that may chance when they screen series 2!

Doctor Who – Cardiff

Doctor Who is known for inspiring serious levels of fandom, and its filming locations around Cardiff have become the stuff of legend. Although you can’t get access to any of the sets, you can take an unofficial tour or use the tour app to discover and visit the filming locations of the show. Cardiff is a great city, with fantastic scenery, architecture and museums, and is a great holiday destination even if you’re not a fan of the Doctor.

Aside from the location featured here, there are a whole host other beautiful, history and rugged TV filming locations which make great holiday destinations. It’s the perfect way to fulfil your TV fandom whilst having a great holiday at the same time. With cottages4You you can do both, staying in self-catering accommodation whilst visiting the famous locations of your favourite TV shows.

Cottage of the Week – Eastcott Farmhouse, Tamar Valley, Cornwall

Nestled in acres of secluded countryside in the glorious Tamar Valley, our new featured property is within easy reach of Devon and Cornwall’s stunning north coast with its numerous beautiful beaches. Sleeps 9. Customer comments include: “Excellent, roomy accommodation in a delightfully tranquil location”, “Lovely house (v clean) and lovely helpful owner.” and “Great location, plenty to do around the area”. Find out more on the property listing on our website.

Celebrate National Picnic Week! 

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In a world where we live our lives increasingly indoors, and where families eat together far less often than they used to, picnics offer the perfect chance to come together and enjoy some al fresco food and drink as well as each other’s company.

It’s also a great bonding opportunity away from the distractions of home and work. Even if the weather isn’t at its best, it can still be a hugely enjoyable and beneficial experience. Equally, if you have a large extended family and not that much space indoors, or if you don’t have a big garden, a picnic can be one of the best ways of relishing being outside spaces.

Taking place this year from June 16-22, National Picnic Week aims to give families the ideal chance to come together over an outdoor meal, with tips, advice, recipes and other information, so that you enjoy the perfect picnic. It encourages people to get outside and find great local al fresco dining sites, and the event has grown hugely over the decade it’s been around.

That’s because, while it may be a hoary old cliché, food really does taste better outdoors! There aren’t many better ways of making the most of the summer.

In the rush to get overseas for holidays and the like, it can be easy to forget how lucky we are in the UK to have a huge range of open areas for picnics, from forests and woodland to Britain’s dramatic coastline, hillsides, fields and meadows. Or how about having a picnic on an island, the grounds of a stately home or in a lovely country park? Your perfect family picnic spot may be closer than you realised.

Of course, like most things, a little preparation is required. As well as planning and making your food with care, you will need to choose your family picnic spot in advance, and give some thought to the decision.

Here are just some ideas. Even if they aren’t close to where you live, they could provide inspiration for the sort of spot you’d like to take your family to.

Country Parks 

In the UK, we are very lucky to have a good number of these. In Wiltshire, for example, the Avon Valley Country Park covers some fifty acres of gorgeous land right by the River Avon, and there’s stacks for grown-ups and children to do. Kids, for instance, will love the youngsters’ assault course and there are some great riverside rambles to do while you work up an appetite and decide where to unfurl your picnic rug.

Another good place is Wellington Country Park, with its 350 stunning acres of Hampshire countryside, not to mention a miniature railway, crazy golf, oversized snakes and ladders game, nature trails and more.

North of the border, Beecraigs Country Park in the Bathgate Hills near Linlithgow makes another idyllic location for a family day out. There are activities from kayaking to archery, a fishery and deer farm as well as a campsite, so you could stay a few days and enjoy not just one but several wonderful al fresco meals.

Still in Scotland, the Glenkiln Sculpture Park in Dumfries and Galloway has six sculptures in its eight miles of land.

Historic Sites 

Rievaulx Abbey

Rievaulx Abbey

Avebury Stone Circle in Wiltshire makes an unusual picnic spot, at Europe’s biggest stone circle, thought to be four thousand years old.

Alternatively, in North Yorkshire the ruined Rievaulx Abbey, surrounded by woodland, dates from medieval times and will give your picnic a unique atmosphere. Or what about picnicking in the grounds of Dorset’s Corfe Castle?

Open spaces

The heather and bracken of Bodmin Moor in Cornwall offer a dramatic backdrop to any outdoor meal, as do the North Pennines, from Northumberland’s Hadrian’s Wall into Cumbria. In Wales, the Clywedog Valley and Trail has seven miles of great walking and you could visit the local lead mines. Or take in the hills, woodland and Iron Age fort of Devil’s Dyke, East Sussex.

Beaches and Islands

Still in Wales, Barafundle Beach in Pembrokeshire is a little known spot, but discover it and you won’t want to leave. For island settings, think about beautiful St Herbert’s, Cumbria, or Dorset’s Brownsea Island, dotted with idyllic picnicking locations.

Stately homes

Ragley Hall in Warwickshire provides a superb family day out, with 400 acres to play in, an adventure playground incorporating a maze, climbing frames and a trampoline. You may want to spread out your picnic rug by the lake, where its’ nice and peaceful, and you may see the odd peacock strutting around!

London 

Finally, if you thought the city was no place for a picnic, think again. Somerset House lets you escape the chaotic capital with a massive courtyard complete with fountains, in front of this glorious eighteenth century palace. Another idea is the gardens next to the Horniman Museum, which have sixteen acres and where there’s always something going on.

With so much to enjoy, what are you waiting for? Pack up your picnic basket this summer and head off to enjoy the best of what the UK has to offer- and don’t forget to capture the moment for your Big Kid Bingo card!

Cottages of the Week – Tamar Valley Cottages, nr. Bude, Cornwall

“Beautiful cottage, with gorgeous interiors and comfortable beds”, “Very clean and tidy…set in an awesome location”, “We had a wonderful stay with all the home comforts would recommend to everyone” are just some of the positive comments that we’ve received on our new Cottages of the Week. Fancy adding your own? Take a look at the property listings below for more info on these four lovely properties in Cornwall’s Tamar Valley…