Cottage of the Week – Tilbury Cottage, Somerset

Tilbury Cottage is set above the village of West Bagborough on the southern slopes of the Quantock Hills. An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, this area is famous for the poets Coleridge and Wordsworth who once lived and wrote here. Set within the grounds of the owner’s farm, this is an ideal holiday location for walkers, bird watchers or for some peace and quiet.

Find more info and make a booking on the property listing on cottages4you.

Top 5 Traffic Free Cycle Routes in the UK

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This year promises to be a momentous year for cycling, not only can we look forward to the Tour de France starting in Britain,  but also the Commonwealth Games promises to be a memorable celebration for many of our cycling superstars. Here at cottages4you we love cycling. A quiet bridleway, the sun beating on your back with the birds and the insects playing the soundtrack, you can’t beat it. There are many great routes across Britain that you can enjoy without having to weave in and out of the traffic; here is a selection of some of our favourites.

1.       The Camel Trail, Cornwall

Arguably the most famous cycle trails in the country, the Camel Trail meanders along the southern edge of the Camel Estuary from Padstow  towards Wadebridge, and for the more adventurous, then on towards Bodmin and Wenfordbridge. The trail follows the line of a disused railway surrounded by the delightful rolling greenery of the beautiful Cornish countryside.  The Camel Estuary itself is absorbing, a huge expanse of sand that disappears daily with the return of the tide. The changing landscape adds to the magic, as the view will in all likelihood have changed dramatically by the time you return. Bicycles are available for hire so if you don’t want to worry about taking your bicycles away on holiday, you can pick out your ideal ride in Padstow and then you can travel as far as you choose along one of the most popular cycle routes in Europe.

2.       The New Forest, Hampshire

Cycling and forests go hand in hand and the sights and sounds of one of Britain’s most famous forests provides the backdrop to some fantastic cycle trails for all of the family. Explore over a 100 miles of forest trails away from the Hampshire roads, starting as short as 3 miles and going up to 21 miles there is plenty of choice to match everyone’s ability. Children will be delighted by the local wildlife, look out for ponies, deer and the unforgettable bright flash of a kingfisher!  Following the gently sloping routes through woodland and surrounding moorland, you will find a landscape is full colour throughout the year. Whether your visit coincides with the bluebells in spring or the golden tones of autumn, cycling is the best way to get to know and fall in love with the New Forest.

3.       The Strawberry Line, Somerset

This traffic free route from Yatton through to the Somerset village of Cheddar, takes its name from the cargo that was carried along this former railway line, taking fruit from the heart of Somerset to the city of Bristol. Today you will still pass the fruit in the fields but at a much more leisurely pace, passing secluded wooded valleys through tunnels and into the Mendips!  This ten mile route is idea for families and you be rewarded at journeys end by the awe inspiring Cheddar Gorge.  One of the most spectacular natural wonders in England, this is the most popular tourist attraction in Somerset.  This limestone gorge is also home to a fascinating network of caves and underground rivers, complete with stalactites and stalagmites!  A visit to Cheddar Gorge is a day out in itself

4.       Dolgellau to Barmouth, North Wales

Otherwise known as the Mawddach Trail, the ten mile riverside route from the delightful  Dolgellau to Barmouth lies at the foothills of the western flank of Snowdonia. The route itself is not encumbered by any steep inclines, but enjoys one for the most spectacular settings for any cycle pathway in the country.  Like so many of our treasured traffic free routes, this trail follows the line of a former railway on its journey beside the river Mawddach towards the estuary beyond. The views are truly breath taking; with mountains on one side and on the other side sea, it is easy to understand why this route is so highly regarded by cyclists and walkers alike. With such close proximity to the estuary remember to take your binoculars to view the multiplicity of wading birds that make this beautiful spot their temporary home, and who could blame them!

5.       Tissington Trail, Derbyshire

Open for the past 43 years, the Tissington Trail is a 13 mile route that links Ashbourne  with Parsley Hay in the Peak District National Park. It has quickly established itself as one of the premier cycle paths in the country, enjoying special views across the haunting Derbyshire landscape. Like many on our ‘favourites list’ the Tissington Trail is ideal because by in large there are no steep hills to worry about. Renowned for its moorland, the Peak District makes a lasting impression and the Tissington Trail offers visitors great views of the rolling hills and dales that draw people back year after year. To enjoy the trail at its best, perhaps plan a visit during the summer months when the hillsides are at their greenest and the butterflies provide the company along a bridleway that is suitable for cyclists of all ages.

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Provincial pubs: a guide to the UK’s best

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If you’re looking for a self-catering holiday in the UK, you’ll no doubt be looking to book somewhere that has all of the local facilities that you need. Good local food shops are crucial, and families will want to stay in a location that has plenty to keep the children occupied. For many, a great local pub is essential, providing you with a taste of local life, good drinks, great food and a welcoming atmosphere.

Great food can be found at pubs all over the UK, but if you want to try a Michelin starred menu, a pub can be a great place to do so without breaking the bank. If you’re visiting Kent, a trip to The Sportsman is a must. The Michelin-starred pub has a true focus on local ingredients, with Whitstable oysters, lamb from across the road and home churned butter all on the menu. At the time of writing, you could enjoy a main course for around £20 or a tasting menu for £65 – and without the pretentiousness of many Michelin-starred restaurants.

Alternatively, head to Somerset’s Chew Valley to The Pony & Trap in Chew Magna: a multiple award-winning country pub owned by brother and sister team Josh and Holly Eggleton. The Pony & Trap has held its Michelin star since 2011, offering everything from pub classics such as ham, egg and chips at lunch times to special six course seasonal menus for £50 a head. The views of the rolling countryside from the back garden are fantastic too.

Real ale lovers should head to the Swan With Two Necks in Pendleton, Lancashire, which was given the title of National Pub Of The Year by the Campaign for Real Ale in February 2014. The tiny pub offers draught beers such as Copper Dragon’s Golden Pippin, in addition to a range of guest ales from microbreweries that include Salamander, Dark Star and Phoenix. The Swan With Two Necks also sells local cider that is produced from apple trees owned by the pub itself.

If you want to visit the best cider pub in the UK (according to CAMRA), you’ll have to head to a railway station in Norfolk. The Railway Arms in Downham Market, Norfolk, describes itself as a “micro-pub and café”, and is located on the platform at Downham Market Station. Stocking cider from local producer Pickled Pig among others, The Railway Arms is also known for its good selection of real ales.

For a remote pub experience, try The Carpenters Arms in Walterstone, Herefordshire, under the Black Mountains’ eastern ridge. Popular with walkers and cyclists, The Carpenters Arms offers good home cooked food and a warming environment thanks to landlady Vera, who has run the pub for 35 years since taking it over from her mother.

Those wanting a truly remote pub visit (as certified by the Guinness Book of Records) should head to The Old Forge in Inverie on Scotland’s north west coast, which has the claim to fame of being the most remote pub in mainland Britain. Accessible only via a 7 mile sea crossing or an 18 mile hike (there are no roads to the pub), those who make it over there will be rewarded with a great atmosphere, honest local food, great local beers and quality live music. There is no mobile phone signal in the pub and The Old Forge switch off their WiFi at 6pm, making it a truly sociable place.

If you’re looking for something a little more quirky, then consider a trip to the Crooked House just outside Himley, near Dudley, Staffordshire. Built in 1765, it used to be a farmhouse – and its quirkiness comes from the fact that the whole building is leaning to one side. One side of the building is four feet lower than the other thanks to subsidence caused by the mining industry back in the 1800s, but structurally, it is perfectly safe. While the floors are level, the walls lean, leading to optical illusions such as glasses sliding across tables, and marbles rolling uphill.

Card players should also head to the Pack o’ Cards in Combe Martin, a seaside town in Devon. Not only was it built to look like a deck of cards, but the plot of land on which it was situated is 52 feet by 52 feet, it has four floors (one to represent each suit), 13 fireplaces and 13 doors on each floor. The reason for this? The building of the pub was funded by winnings from a card game!

From great food and drink to award-winning beers and ciders, from truly remote pub trips to some very quirky venues, the range of rural pubs in the UK is huge, offering something for everyone.