Festive Escapes: Five Ways to Enjoy an Alternative Xmas

Let’s be honest – Christmas isn’t really all it’s cracked up to be. It’s the most stressful, expensive, noisy time of the year, and it’s cold, too. While there are some people who love nothing more than carol singing, gift giving and wearing festive jumpers – for the rest of us, getting into the Christmas spirit means opening up a bottle of gin.

If you’re already dreading the manic shopping, the office parties and the tense family dinners, you are not alone. Thousands of Brits head for sunnier climes over the Christmas break, choosing to shun tradition and do Christmas their way. But you don’t need to spend a small fortune and travel hundreds of miles just to escape the hustle and hype of the run up to December 25th. Instead, why not give yourself a little breather by taking a couple of days to just chill out and enjoy the holiday season your way.

1. Retreat to the country

St Kilda in the Outer Hebrides: a scenic Xmas escape

It’s not that people don’t celebrate Christmas in the countryside – it’s just that you don’t have to deal with the glaring lights and tacky store window displays when you leave the city centre. Find somewhere nice and remote that’s well away from the lights of the city, and treat yourself to a bit of good old fashioned peace and quiet.

To guarantee tranquillity, choose an area which boasts dark skies, for instance the South Downs or the Outer Hebrides in Scotland. In the far north of Scotland, you can even see the Northern Lights at this time of year.

At night, you can sit outside your rural cottage and drink in the silence while you gaze up at the stars and contemplate the vast emptiness of space and time. Not a sleigh bell or reindeer in sight.

2. Hit the water

Lose yourself in the Lakes

When you really need to get away from it all, there’s no better cure than a night or two at sea. If you can sail, hire a yacht or a boat and head out to sea until you can no longer see the twinkling of the Christmas lights along the coast.

If you can’t sail, simply enjoy the tranquillity of the water from the comfort of the shores. Find a nice big lake or a quiet bay – the sort of place where you can’t see an end to the horizon. That’s better, isn’t it? Treat yourself to a nice fish supper and your seaside retreat is complete.

3. Just stay in

Enjoy a holiday hideaway

Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best. If you hate Christmas, and Christmas seems to be everywhere, just stay inside. No one’s forcing you to put on the Christmas telly, and you don’t have to have mince pies with every meal. Your house, your rules.

Except sometimes it isn’t quite that simple – whether it’s the bulb-tastic display on the house across the street glaring through your bedroom window and keeping you up at night; or the festive fervour of your flatmates or family – sometimes you need to take a break in a home away from home. Hire a holiday cottage or house so you can simply bed in, veg out and luxuriate in your indoor haven.

4. Catch up on your culture

Soak up some culture

While everyone else is off at the school nativity or carol singing in the town square, you could be off getting some real culture in your life. It’s the start of the Hollywood award season, so all the best movies of the year are being released at the moment. Treat yourself to a double bill at the local cinema; for extra Scrooge points, choose a horror flick or a psychological thriller.

Or you could spend the long dark evenings getting stuck into a good book – Wolf Hall should see you through December, and it’s a decidedly non-festive read.

There isn’t much on at the theatre at this time of year – aside from the local panto of course – but you could catch an experimental student production at a local college or uni as the end of term approaches. Oh yes you could.

5. Reach new heights

Put some perspective on Christmas

Take a tip from the Grinch: he moved to a cave on top of a mountain just to get away from the Christmas obsessed residents of Whoville.

There is nothing better than a mountaintop when you just need to be alone. The climb up is reassuringly tough, the air is clean and fresh, and the view from the top puts everything into perspective. Where better to indulge in a picnic, take in your surroundings and scream into the wind? Go on, scream away – it’s just you and the mountain – anything goes. You can even belt out a few verses of your favourite/least-hated Christmas carol if you like… we won’t tell.

Find a host of holiday hideaways with cottages4you

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.

 

Christmas Destinations 2013

WinterWonder

As many of you will be aware, the way the Christmas dates fall this year mean that a week’s break straddles the bank holiday, giving a great balance of days leading up to Christmas and still allowing for a couple of days afterwards. As a result lots of people are taking the full week off and looking at holiday destinations that are a little further afield.  Many are doubtless looking for that illusive ‘Christmas card’ idyll, the perennial desire for a white Christmas right here in Britain. With convenient festive booking dates and the season fast approaching, let’s take a look at some of those ‘picture perfect’ destinations for a Christmas to remember in 2013!

Christmas in the Cairngorms

In recent years the winters have been cold, and practically anywhere in Britain have a good chance of seeing snow, but if you really want to increase your chances then a break in and amongst some of Scotland’s most rugged and beautiful scenery might be perfect for you this year.  With the colder temperatures the Cairngorms has continued to thrive as a centre for winter sports in Britain. With plenty of powder snow across the Highlands, skiers and snowboarders have been making the most of what has turned into an extended season over the past few winters. This is ‘Monarch of the Glen’ territory where countryside really meets wilderness, a scenic backdrop that exemplifies the very best of Scottish natural beauty.

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Christmas in Snowdonia

You really can’t beat that feeling of invigoration and sense of freshness produced by a crisp winter’s morning in North Wales. Waking up to breath taking scenery, maybe walking from your doorstep into probably the most dramatic countryside in Wales and then returning to a warm hearth and a little more of that Christmas ‘spirit’, it is hard not to see the attraction.  If you are in search of a winter wonderland this Christmas, Snowdonia maybe the perfect choice to enjoy the total freedom of a rural holiday this winter. Whether you want to cocoon yourself in a snug cottage or immerse yourself in the surrounding beauty (or perhaps both) North Wales is a great option to enjoy a traditional Christmas this December.

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Christmas in the Lake District

With the snow lying across the Cumbrian fells, there surely cannot be many more enigmatic settings this Christmas than in the Lake District National Park. With idyllic country villages decorated in tinsel and lights set against the towering hillsides, you are quickly transported to the magical essence of Christmas’ past. Atmospheric throughout the year, the Lake District has the power to immerse the senses but at Christmas there just that something extra special being in a timeless crystalline winter landscape.  With some of the finest and most scenic walking in the country, you will soon burn off that Christmas ‘excess’ without really noticing! Where will you be spending Christmas 2013?

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Our 5 Most Popular Destinations for 2014

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The beautiful Fistral beach

After a fantastic summer, many people are booking early for next year with coastal locations proving to be extremely popular. When the sun is out the UK coast is very hard to beat and people are looking to make sure they secure their favourite spots. With encouraging recent news from the British economy and hopefully more of that long hot sultry weather, 2014 is looking to be a great year for holidaying in the UK. Add to that the prospect of some great events, not least the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, and it’s clear that this is a great time to be looking at availability for your next UK cottage holiday. To help you we are going to take a look at the 5 most popular booking locations for 2014.

5. Windermere, Lake District

Windermere, situated close to England’s iconic largest lake, features at number 5 on our list. Apart from its majestic elevated position close to the shore of Lake Windermere, the town is well positioned to explore the exquisite natural beauty of the National Park in southern Lakeland. With the bustling resort of Bowness close by as well as attractions such as ‘The World of Beatrix Potter’ and ‘Brockhole’ there is plenty to do in what is one of the most popular holiday destinations in Britain. The lake itself now has a 10mph speed limit adding to the tranquillity of a body of water forged by glaciers thousands of years ago. A great way to enjoy the beautiful surroundings is to take one of the regular boat trips from Bowness to the delightful Ambleside. For those of you intent on enjoying a more energetic holiday, Windemere is a great base for fell walking or mountain biking in and amongst some of the most stunning scenery in Britain.

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4. Totnes, Devon

The idyllic rolling Devonshire countryside on the edge of Dartmoor provides the back drop to the market town of Totnes. This area of outstanding natural beauty is blessed by some of the most delightful rivers in the South West. Totnes itself sits on the estuary of the River Dart, and is eminently accessible to some of the best known beaches in South Devon with Paignton and Torquay both within easy reach. To the north lies the rugged beauty of Dartmoor National Park, famous for its rocky ‘tors’ and of course its ponies. This expansive protected English ‘wilderness’ is fantastic for walking and is dotted with quaint Devon villages and pubs. Totnes itself has a thriving local economy buoyed in large part by an influx of artists offering an eclectic range of arts and crafts. Indeed, Totnes was at the forefront of promoting local business and introduced the ‘Totnes pound’ in 2007. With a Norman Castle, even a local vinery and a great mix of exciting eateries, it is not hard to see why Totnes features at number 4 on our list of popular 2014 locations.

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3. Whitby, North Yorkshire

One of the most iconic seaside ports in Britain, Whitby has retained its popularity as a holiday destination for centuries. Facing the North Sea and located by the River Esk, this charming harbour town enjoys mild winters and relatively warm summers. The historic ruined abbey enjoys fantastic views across a scene which has change little over the years.  The cobbled streets of the ‘old town’ serve to convey the living history of a port which for years has been supported by the fishing industry. These days tourism alongside fishing is the life blood of town reputed to be the home of the best fish and chips in Britain, according to Rick Stein and let’s face it, he should know! This stretch of gorgeous Yorkshire coastline is blessed with a huge beach at Whitby, children will love the miles of golden sand. With Staithes to the north and Robin Hood’s Bay a short distance to the south, Whitby is one of the most popular seaside destinations on the East Coast.

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2. Newquay, Cornwall

When considering a beach holiday many will instinctively think about Newquay on the stunning North Cornish coast. Newquay is probably the busiest resort in Cornwall and really has various ‘guises’ with plenty to offer whatever type of holiday you are looking for. Centrally located it provides a great base for exploring one of the most scenic counties in Britain. With a lively nightlife, there are plenty of bars and restaurants to enjoy well into the early hours. Newquay has several gorgeous beaches enjoying the benefit of great surf with Fistral probably the most famous. The River Gannel separates Newquay from the exquisite Crantock Beach to the south, and a short drive to the north lies the expansive Watergate Bay, another favourite amongst surfers. The area is benefiting from the burgeoning culinary scene in the county and there are some great options for fine dining against the backdrop of the stunning Atlantic coastline. This is one of the quintessential seaside towns in Britain, and it is difficult to envisage that Newquay will be anything other than one of the most popular holiday destinations in the UK for some time to come.

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1. Happisburgh, Norfolk

At the top of our list of ‘hot’ locations for 2014 is Happisburgh on the Norfolk coast. As well as one of the most popular, Happisburgh is one of the oldest places in Britain with the discovery of ancient flints providing the earliest signs of habitation in the country. Consequently Happisburgh is designated as a site of special archaeological importance, but for today’s holidaymaker Happisburgh has all of the accoutrements for that perfect seaside break. With miles of sandy beach to the north and south, this is one of the most delightful coastal villages in East Anglia. An imposing red and white ‘candy’ stripped lighthouse is perhaps Happisburgh’s most famous landmark which looks out across the village and the sand dunes beyond towards the unforgiving North Sea. The ravages of the sea have carved a dramatic coastline, which extends north towards the resorts of Bacton and Mundesley. Why not come and find out why many will be spending their holiday in and around Happisburgh next year!

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Cottage of the Week – Spout Crag Boathouse, Windermere

At cottages4you we pride ourselves on featuring some of the most desirable and unconventional accommodation you could find in the UK, Ireland, France and Italy, and we think our new Cottage of the Week ticks those boxes and many more. For starters, you have the location itself. Windermere is a perennially popular destination in the Lake District. In fact, it’s often the first place our customers want to stay in the Lakes as it offers a wealth of stunning beauty in its rurality whilst also offering a host of more urbane activities, including boutique shops, bars and restaurants.

The surrounding area offers many more fantastic attractions. Wordsworth’s inspirational locations: his home, Dove Cottage, is open to the public all year. Grizedale Forest, with its Go Ape high wire adventure course and Grasmere and Ambleside are all close by. Visit Hilltop Farm near Sawrey, where Beatrix Potter wrote many of her stories, or take a trip to Hawkshead where there is a gallery dedicated to her original drawings and illustrations.

Alongside gentle boat rides across the waters of Windermere you can take a leisurely steamer cruise over the lake, connecting with the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Steam Railway on the other side. Other historic attractions include Sizergh Castle, Holker Hall, Levens Hall and Muncaster Castle.

With the level of comfort and the surrounding scenery offered by Spout Crag Boathouse you would be forgiven for foregoing any expeditions in the surrounding area and instead making the most of your time there. The property – alongside its neighbour – offers direct access onto the lake with a small pier and boat mooring facilities.

Additional comfort is added by under-floor heating and an electric coal-effect fire in the living room. If you can drag your gaze away from the views beyond the sun terrace you will also find a TV and DVD player which may come in useful for entertaining younger holidaymakers.

If you fancy holidaying in this wonderful, unique holiday property in the Lakes, or want to book both properties and enjoy a break with a larger party then you can find more info on cottages4you.

The Lake District. Englands home for activity and adventure.

By: Steve Finch for cottages4you Escape Magazine

“If you’re an experienced fell walker or mountain biker you may already know that there’s nothing better than staying in your own cottage in the Lakes, from which to have the freedom to explore.
It’s little wonder that the area was home to Alfred Wainwright the famous fell walker, whose books are still the definitive guides to the fells, and it’s where one of our most accomplished mountaineers, Chris Bonnington, chooses to live.

The scope of activities available within the Lake District’s diverse landscape is unparalleled; just the sight of the Lakeland fells and lakes reminds us of the opportunities to stretch our personal boundaries that bit further and experience the essence of adventure.


Cumbria Tourism has been working hard in partnership with adventure providers in the Lakes, to deliver activities which can offer something to everyone – whatever your own level of experience or ability. Their new web site lakedistrictoutdoors.co.uk provides a one-stop-shop for outdoor activity in the Lakes, while their accreditation scheme ‘ROAM’ provides you with the confidence to ‘get out there and do it’ with the best of them, in safety.

Lakes, Goats and Boats – it really has to be the Lake District.

The Lakes would not be the same without the Lake Steamers regularly criss-crossing the water, which are now linked up to the famous ‘Mountain Goat’ bus service to give you total freedom from the car for a few hours.
Linking Bowness with Hawkeshead, Coniston or Grizedale Forest Park; is a large range of cycle routes for all abilities. You can also join up the bits by foot, boat or let the Goat take more of the strain.
Hire a bike and experience the full downhill rush, or take it easy on a family friendly track.

From Glenridding on Ullswater the steamer can be taken up the lake to Howtown, and a walk back along the eastern shore offers an easy but spectacular return.

Diving the English lakes isn’t for the faint hearted and experience is required to explore the dark cold depths of these mountain lakes. But, for those who are attracted, Capenwray Diving at Jackdaw quarry near Carnforth offers one of the countries best dive sites and schools. Capenwray offer a comprehensive one day introduction to diving, while watersports centres on Windermere, Coniston and Bassenthwaite offer a wide range of activities on the lakes.

If you’re looking for a walk to remember and already have a strong pair of boots, I’d recommend the Crinkle Crags Traverse at the top of Langdale. I recently revisited this walk and the views are every bit as spectacular as I remembered them… just a word of warning; make sure your navigation skills are sharp if the weather conditions are poor.

Why not find a guide on lakedistrictoutdoors.co.uk, so you can tackle some of the higher fells in

confidence, or add a ‘Gill Scramble’ to the day?

A visit to one of Lakeland’s market towns, such as Ambleside or the mountain town of Keswick will provide the best selection of outdoor gear found anywhere in the world.”

The Lake District offers something for everyones taste and one of our holiday cottages in the lake district can offer you the perfect base from which to undertake your activities.

For more information and a list of our holiday cottages in the Lake District also visit our Lake District Destination Guide.