Cottage of the Week – Felin Hedd, Tregaron, nr. Aberystwyth

Felin Hedd, ref. 0N3

We now feature over 700 properties in our Green Scheme – including our lovely new Cottage of the Week.

To join our Green Scheme a property must be energy efficient, offer effective water and waste management and provide guests with plenty of information on shopping local and making the most of attractions in the area (so there’s no need to drive!). Felin Hedd ticks all those boxes and more. The fact that it’s also part of our Luxury and Baby and Toddler collection, offers a hot tub, pool table and comes fully decorated for a festive break is just the icing on a very nice cake!

Felin Hedd sleeps 8 and 2 pets. Find more info and make a booking on the property’s listing on 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.

 

8 Unique Christmas Shopping Experiences

Edinburgh at Xmas: a vibrant yet traditional festive experience

Christmas shopping – those who love it will tell you nothing could spoil the feeling of finding the perfect gift for someone you love. Hate it and you’ll no doubt be put off by the bustling crowds and stress. Whatever your feelings towards it, we’ve come up with some shopping destination alternatives to the multitude of high streets and malls that’ll leave even the biggest shopping Grinch feeling merry and in the festive spirit.

  1. The Shambles, York

Take a step back in time this year and visit the historic city of York for a Christmas shopping experience coupled with culture and sightseeing. While the city has plenty of fantastic places to grab your gifts, the highlight has to be The Shambles, a road so old that it was mentioned in the Domesday Book of William the Conqueror in 1086. Strolling down the narrow, charming cobbled road beneath beautiful, timber-framed buildings, you’ll find vintage boutiques, delicious chocolatiers and unique gifts. Voted ‘Britain’s Most Picturesque Street’ in 2010; it’s possible in some places to touch both sides of the streets with your arms outstretched.

  1. Llandeilo, Wales

While Cardiff and Swansea might be your usual destinations of choice for Christmas shopping in Wales, head out of the cities for more relaxing shopping. With a multitude of market towns in Wales you’re spoilt for choice. One of our favourites is the colourful town of Llandeilo, a chic Christmas shopping destination without a high-street shop in sight. Winding streets host many one off items from designer fashion, bespoke home furnishings and furniture, local crafts, produce and antiques. Right on the edge of the magnificent Brecon Beacons National Park, this is the perfect place to do a spot of Christmas shopping and get away from it all. Who said Christmas shopping had to be stressful?

  1. Carnaby Street, London
Christmas Decoration in London

Carnaby Street: An out of this world experience for festive shoppers

With such an array of diverse and fantastic shopping in the country’s capital, it can be difficult to know where to start. Stumble into a winter shopping wonderland and visit Harrods for a Christmas experience you’ll never forget or try the hip markets in Shoreditch and haggle with aspiring designers for one off fashion finds. Our top tip for London though is Carnaby Street in Soho, a shopping haven with independent boutiques and fashion retailers as well as bigger global brands and fantastic restaurants. You can get all of your festive shopping done here and have plenty of fun doing it!

  1. Northern Quarter, Manchester

If you like your Christmas shopping to come with a quirky twist then a trip to Manchester’s Northern Quarter certainly delivers. A hotbed of creative talents, independent retailers, record shops, cafes, restaurants and bars ensures the Northern Quarter has a charm that echoes Manchester’s illustrious musical and artistic history. A must see is the famous Affleck’s Palace with fashion retailers and outlets over four floors. If the chill of winter is getting too much then grab a drink or a bite to eat in one of the Northern Quarter’s fantastic bars or restaurants. If the shopping hasn’t tired you out then stick around a little longer to enjoy the vibrant nightlife on offer.

  1. Salisbury, Wiltshire

Recently voted by Lonely Planet as ‘One of the World’s Top 10 Cities to visit in 2015′, get there early for a quintessentially English Christmas shopping experience. There are hundreds of shops and, while Salisbury is famous for its local and independent traders, there are plenty of high street offerings as well. This medieval city is easy to get around making shopping a delight rather than a chore. Also included in the top 10 were Vienna, Toronto and Milan, so Salisbury is rubbing shoulders with some truly stunning places. A visit to Stonehenge is a must for any Salisbury trip (but don’t expect to find any shops there!)

  1. The Grassmarket, Edinburgh

Only a short walk from the popular Royal Mile, soak up the vibrant and medieval atmosphere at Edinburgh’s Grassmarket for a specialist shopping experience. Over 90% of the shops here are independent and locally run, and there’s year round entertainment and events to brighten up the day for even the most reluctant Christmas shopper. Eat and drink traditional Scottish and locally sourced produce whilst you enjoy spectacular views of Edinburgh Castle that towers above.

  1. The Lanes, Brighton

Enjoy another side of Brighton in the winter

You might want to leave your bathing gear behind for this seaside trip, but there are plenty of other reasons to visit this beautiful seaside town in winter. The Lanes are packed full of wonderful antique and jewellery shops nestled alongside contemporary and designer boutique fashion retailers, restaurants and eccentric cafes. If you have a sweet-tooth then pop into the famous Choccywoccydoodah and grab some deliciously indulgent stocking fillers. If you’ve still got some energy left at the end of the day then head to Brighton Pier for a fun-filled way to round off the day with rides, arcades and attractions.

  1. Christmas Markets

We’re cheating here but we can’t single out just one Christmas market. Combining food, drink and shopping, we think they create a fantastic festive experience that’ll get you in a marvellously merry mood. View our countdown of the 11 Best Christmas Markets in the UK for inspiration.

Mr. Turner’s Britain: 5 Destinations that Shaped the Artist

Timothy Spall as J.M.W. Turner

With Mr. Turner currently earning great notices and a retrospective of his late work exhibiting at The Tate, the life and work of artist Joseph Mallord William Turner has never been more talked about. But with a career spanning over 60 years involving the creation of countless sketches and paintings in several different countries, understanding where to begin an appreciation of Turner’s life and work can be a daunting prospect.

With Turner’s current prominence in mind, we’re decided to look at a few key works from his life and suggest where might be the best place to appreciate some of his works: the locations where they were painstakingly created.  As a renowned “painter of light”, Turner is regarded as the master of capturing the beauty, majesty and drama of history and the natural world so you can expect unparalleled beauty, stunning scenes and a few surprises as you embark on the Turner trail.

1. Otley and the Wharfe Valley, Yorkshire

iStock_000013990006Large

The beautiful Wharfe Valley

Turner’s dramatic portrayal of Hannibal crossing the Alps has its origins in the unlikely setting of a snowstorm rolling in over the Chevin, a rocky bluff that crests over the pretty Yorkshire market town of Otley. The artist spent a lot of time painting at nearby Farnely Hall and was a good friend of the Ramsden Fawkes family who live there to this day. Visits to the hall are by invitation only so we would recommend a walk up the Chevin ridge to marvel at the stunning views of the Wharfe Valley that inspired Turner and prompted him to return and paint throughout his life.

2. The Needles, the Isle of Wight

iStock_000021636321Large

Yachts off the Isle of Wight

Turner’s first exhibited oil painting at the prestigious Royal Academy was Fishermen at Sea, a moonlit portrait of men working tirelessly against crashing waves whilst the Isle’s dramatic Needles rise up out of the murk in the distance. Visitors to the west coast of the Isle who have marvelled at the craggy Needles rising from Alum Bay won’t be surprised that Turner was so inspired by them. In fact, the artists found a lot more inspiration in and around the Isle with fantastic portraits of Cowes, yachts at the Regatta, Freshwater Bay, Carisbrooke Castle and more still exhibited to this day.

3. Margate and Kent

White cliffs of Dover

The Kent coast was another location Turner would return to throughout his life. The artist would hone his skills as a young boy capturing local landmarks in pen, ink and watercolour. In fact, it was here that Turner first saw the sea, a subject that, like Margate itself, would recur throughout his life. Margate’s Regency flourishes were irreparably damaged during World War II, so filmmakers had to recreate Turner’s time in Kent elsewhere. Today his life and times in Margate are celebrated at the Turner Contemporary Gallery, and you may still find a few of his subjects still standing and awaiting your admiration!

4. Wales

iStock_000016964892Large

Caernarfon Castle: one of Turner’s Welsh subjects

Turner seemed to have a particular affinity for Wales and the Welsh landscape. Growing up in London in the late 18th and early 19th century, he was immersed in the creative atmosphere of the Piazza at Coven Garden – a hub of artists’ studios. The work of one particular painter would have a formative effect on Turner, Welshman Richard Wilson. Turner set out on a pilgrimage to the artist’s homeland and there would fall in love with the history and large array of stunning topographical features set within a relatively close space. During Turner’s five visits to Wales he would capture castles, lakes, mountains, cliffs and coasts all with an unerring focus on the rich majesty and natural drama they contained – a feature still evidenced in the delightful Welsh landscape today.

5. Twickenham, Richmond upon Thames

iStock_000016259771Large

The Thames from Richmond Hill

Turner received formal training in architectural drawing in his early years, and allegedly wished to train as an architect if he had the chance to have his time again. The artist’s structural paintings are a good indicator of his affinity for architectural design, but perhaps his greatest achievement in the field is Sandycombe Lodge, the Turner House in Twickenham. The home was built to Turner’s specifications and would allow himself, and his father ‘Old William’ a refuge from the pressures of London. Sketchbooks at the Tate in London show Turner’s design extend to the plot surrounding the home, which his father would later spend his days tending to. Turner himself was keen on exploring the surrounding area taking boat rides on the Thames, walking the towpaths admiring the views and taking guests on picnics.

Celebrate National Picnic Week! 

iStock_000012304156MediumPICNIC

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!

Top 5 Traffic Free Cycle Routes in the UK

iStock_000033057752Mediumcycling

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.

Search for your next cycling adventure

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.

Search for accommodation in the Cairngorms

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.

Search for accommodation in Snowdonia

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?

Search for accommodation in the Lake District