We’re now open in Grassington!

Grassington shopext

We’re very happy to announce that we accomplished a first this week here at cottages4you…we opened a shop! Located in the delightful town of Grassington in the Dales it will enable cottage owners and holiday makers alike to come and visit, find out more about our services and even book a holiday. As you can see from the pic above, we opened just in time for Grassington’s fantastic Dickensian Christmas Festival (period dress isn’t something we’ll do all the time – though we’re open to suggestions!).

grassington office
So if you’re based in or around Grassington, just visiting, or passing through please stop off and chat to Sam, Rob, Molly and Liesl. They will be more than happy to offer advice and have a chat about all the services we offer.

101 places to go – Lyon’s Fête des lumières

fetesmall

See Lyon in a different light

While the Christmas period isn’t short of great festive celebrations, it’s fairly hard to find one that is a genuinely unique celebration of local heritage.

Many towns and cities across the UK and beyond offer wonderful Christmas markets, with their streets and buildings providing a fantastic backdrop to the festivities, but, in truth, their offerings are not all that varied (though fending the cold off with Gluhwein and good cheer is such a great way to welcome in the winter that we don’t really let it bother us!).

Christmas in Lyon is a little different, however…

• The Fête des Lumières’ origins date back to the 17th Century when Lyon was struck by bubonic plague. And while this hardly sounds like the makings of anything worth celebrating, the townsfolk’s subsequent prayers to the Virgin Mary are the reason why the citizens of Lyon light candles in their windows to this day.

• The festival tradition began in 1852 with the inauguration of a statue of the Virgin Mary. So delighted were the people of Lyon that they began to light candles in their windows before taking to the streets to sing the praises of their saviour.

• Today, lighting up your window for the Fête des lumières is as traditional a part of the Lyon Christmas as putting up your tree and writing your wish-list. The city’s council recognise the importance of the event for tourism and Lyon’s heritage by staging a number of shows, displays and performances over the three days. The city’s most iconic features are bathed in a dazzling array of beautiful colours and the carnival atmosphere is both captivating and contagious. It’s undoubtedly one of the best ways to welcome in the festive period.

If you’d like to celebrate Lyon’s heritage, or just enjoy one of the most unique and spectacular events of the festive period, then take a look at our holiday properties in Lyon. You can also take a look at the festival’s teaser trailer below…

Top 5 British Winter Walks

There is something cleansing about walking, for me the direct connection with the exquisite beauty of nature purges the soul of the stressful side effects of modern living.  Looking miles down the coastline from a high vantage point, watching the waves crashing on rocks below and perhaps punctuating the journey with a delicious lunch and a fine ale, suddenly all seems very well with the world.   In Britain we are blessed with some of the finest scenery in Western Europe, and with hundreds of miles  of pristine coastline, beautiful rolling hills and challenging mountain  routes there is plenty of choice for the most hardened and timid walker alike. Here are our top 5 favourite British winter walks…

5.  Land’s End to Cape Cornwall

Devoid of the summer hordes, Cornwall in winter is transformed and the raw beauty of its coastline is epitomised in the spectacular stretch of the coastal path from Land’s End to Cape Cornwall. Starting at Land’s End on a clear day you will be able to catch a glimpse of the Scilly Isles on the horizon as you make your way along the cliffs to the exquisite Sennen Cove. A haven for marine birds, you will find a fantastic vantage point over looking Sennen from the old coastguards look out. Owned by the national trust from here you have a great view of the cliffs towards Land’s End, and then to your north the coastline stretches out majestically around the bay towards Cape Cornwall. Dropping down into Sennen Cove you may want to take in lunch at the traditional Old Success Inn or perhaps at the timber clad Beach restaurant with its stunning Atlantic vista. Refreshed and invigorated by the sea breeze, doubtless you will be mesmerised by the Cornish rollers en route to your destination at Cape Cornwall.

Distance: 5 miles

4.  Bala to Llyn Tegid

There is something really special about a crisp clear sapphire winter’s day in North Wales. With a light frost in the air and a view across Lake Bala and wooded hillsides towards Snowdonia, there are few better backdrops for a bracing winter walk.  Starting in the sleepy village of Bala, you will head south to the eastern flank of the lake to get the best elevated view of the lake to the mountains beyond. The route runs parallel to the Bala Lake Railway, gently inclining and then arching to Encil y Coed.  Looking out across the still waters of the lake, perhaps with a thin veil of mist hanging across the water, you will be able to see towards Dolgelleau. Heading back north you will make your way do through fields and woodlands back towards the warmth of the village and why not round off the day with a delicious roast lamb dinner.

Distance: 5 miles

3.  Edinburgh New Town Walk

During winter the British countryside is picturesque and exudes character but we should forget that the nation’s cities offer an equally fascinating backdrop for a winter walk and one of the best examples is Edinburgh. With the added appeal of maybe sampling a dram or two along the way a city walk in Edinburgh is one of the best ways to take in the elegant beauty of one of world’s finest cities. In the shadow of Arthur’s seat the Georgian New Town contrasts with gothic echoes to shape a majestic skyline. The classic route begins in the centre of town in Princes Street, winding northwards through George Street, Queen Street and on towards the Stockbridge and the Botanical gardens. This meandering route takes you past some of the city’s finest shopping and most desirable residencies. Returning back on yourself and then heading towards the playhouse you will turn back for home with the city’s stunning castle overlooking the route.

Enjoy some of the best views of Edinburgh

Distance: 3 miles

2.   Hawes via Sedbusk 

In the winter months the Yorkshire Dales take on an enigmatic character conjuring thoughts of the Bronte’s and James Herriot, an exquisitely uncompromising landscape that, unsurprisingly, attracts walkers all year round. The Wensleydale market town of Hawes, lying on the route of the Pennine Way, is one of the premier walking centres in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales.   Initially heading west from Hawes you will turn north towards ‘Bluebell Hill’ crossing fields and frozen becks passing Apperset in the heart of the Dales. Rolling countryside and moorland lead you to Hardraw Force, England’s largest single drop waterfall (or in harsh winters England’s largest icicle!).  Here you can take the opportunity to warm up in front of a roaring fire in the nearby historic 13th century Green Dragon pub.  Heading west to the village of Sedbusk you will be greeted with a sweeping view of the Wensleydale valley across fellside pastures and winding rivers.  Destinations end back in Hawes lies a short 1.5 mile transit to the south.

Distance: 5 miles

1.  Grasmere  via Alcock Tarn

The Lake District is picture perfect in winter and with a light dusting of snow or a heavy frost it turns into a wonderland.  William Wordsworth was a keen walker and took much of his inspiration from the spectacular scenery surrounding his beloved Grasmere. Like Bala, Grasmere sits at the head of a stunning lake with mountains beyond. Starting to the north of the village, past the Swan Hotel, you will head into the rocky fells towards the mountain lake, care is required as it can get quite steep but the path is well maintained and lies just a mile and a half from the village. The views are spectacular and reach across the fells towards Grasmere below and the southern Lakes beyond. The route back to Grasmere is delightful, heading south from Alcock Tarn and then onto Wordsworth’s home at Rydal (Rydal Mount). The route back to Grasmere takes you past the timeless Rydal Water and continuing on to the village and your original starting point.

Stunning views all year round

Distance: 7 miles

By Gareth McKillop                                                  

101 places to go – The best British Christmas lights

We’ve got a bumper festive issue of ‘101 places to go’ this week. The big day may be several more weeks away but the preparations have begun in earnest; not least at cottages4you, where we’ve been busily beavering away on our Christmas celebrations and working hard to find fantastic festive offers for our customers (more info here:  http://bit.ly/PTOByR).

This week we’ve focussed on one thing that gets us more in the festive mood than listening to Bing Crosby while writing Christmas cards in a snow covered cottage. We’re talking about the unsung hero of the most magical time of the year: Christmas lights. So for this installment we’re looking at some of the best places to enjoy festive illuminations.

Westonbirt Arboretum

Regular readers won’t be unfamiliar with our love of this special place. A trip to the National Arboretum boasts a wealth of wonder at any time of year, with the seasons beautifully showcased through its living exhibits. Christmas at Westonbirt offers a unique magical trail through the trees with shadows and lights creating a wonderful festive tapestry. Father Christmas and his reindeer will be turning on the lights on 30 November, but don’t worry if you don’t make it; he’s going to be on-site in the run-up to Christmas, along with craft activities, refreshments and more.

Alnwick Gardens

Slightly closer to his home, Father Christmas will also be appearing at the North East Pole at Alnwick Gardens this year. Before then there’s a host of other festive activities to enjoy including the Duchess of Northumberland unveiling the gardens’ permanent lighting exhibit ‘Sparkle’. Phase one of the project will see the iconic hornbeam tunnels transformed into a ‘stunning spectacle of light and colour.’ Sounds unmissable to us but if you need more convincing there are also a number of craft workshops and lantern walks to get you into the festive spirit at this already magical location.

Bath

The Georgian streets and buildings of this fantastic World Heritage City provide some of the most atmospheric festive locations you could wish for. If you did need more help to get into the festive spirit then the Bath lights were officially switched on the One Show’s Matt Baker and Alex Jones with John Bishop on 12 November. On 30 November Bath’s festive market opens with stalls, carols and refreshment under the shadow of the stunning cathedral. If you’re looking for the most traditional festive lights on this list then you need look no further.

The Eden Project

Looking for a more unconventional Christmas? The Eden Project’s exotic topiary may provide a slightly off-beat festive attraction but it’s no less fun for it. The indoor ice rink has returned in 2012 with special skating sessions for youngsters, and there are plenty more festive activities including the chance to meet Father Christmas, his reindeer and elves, lantern parades, live music, food and drink, craft workshops and more – all within the magnificent illuminated ‘biomes’.

Manning Close

For many of us, Christmas doesn’t really start until we hang the lights on the tree or in the window. Spare a thought then for Paul Toole who spends the best part of the year planning the display at his parents’ house in Wells, Somerset. The Manning Close Christmas light show has grown in fame and stature each year propelling Paul into the spotlight (you may have seen him in Channel 4’s ‘King of Christmas Lights’ last year). This year’s switch-on is on 30 November and promises to be bigger and better with 40,000 light bulbs and participation from Paul’s neighbours on Manning Close.

Do you agree with the list? Share your favourite Christmas illuminations below!

101 places to go – Xmas in Arras

Arras Grand Place at night

What do you like best about winter? Is it waking to find the landscape has turned into a winter wonderland overnight? Maybe it’s the opportunity to snuggle up and get cosy next to a crackling fire. At cottages4you we’d have to say it’s the opportunity to explore and enjoy far reaches in a completely new light.

Take Arras in France for example; not only does the historic centre of the Artois region boast stunning monuments to its culturally diverse past – including two UNESCO World Heritage sites – in the summer months the town comes alive to the sounds of the Main Square Festival. But as enjoyable as it is to soak up the French summer to the accompaniment of some of music’s biggest names, we have to say: we’re a little more partial to Arras in winter.

This is due in no small part to the annual Christmas market. Over 60 exhibitors secure their pitch and offer a variety of delightful wares from the end of November to Christmas Eve. There are local delicacies, like the heart-shaped biscuits and wine, alongside delicacies from all over the world. You can view a myriad of delightful arts and crafts goods, or enjoy a range of other activities, including cookery demonstrations and fun fair rides!

Taking a winter walk through the historic streets of Arras is a joy in itself. Here are a couple of the town’s highlights…

• The stunning town hall isn’t one to miss. Not that you would, since its Gothic decor and grandiose belfry dominate the skyline.

• Just north of the town you’ll find the National Vimy Memorial. It was built to commemorate the Canadians who fought in the Battle of Arras during the First World War and is both a striking and sobering reminder of the Great War.

Christmas in Edinburgh

How to start with describing how good a place Edinburgh is to visit during Christmas? It’s hard.

After all, the city, one of the best, most culturally vibrant, pretty and entertaining in the UK, is a spectacular place for a short break or family holiday any time of the year – at Christmas time it’s a bona fide winter wonderland.

So, how about someone real, native to the city, someone who gets right in the midst of the festive spirit, to shed a little light about Edinburgh during the run up to Santa’s season of jolly fun and good times.

“I love being in the city at Christmas time,” says Lisa Mayes, 38, deputy manager of Tiso on Rose Street. “The German market and the big Ferris wheel with the backdrop of the castle and a sprinkle of snow makes me feel like I’m inside a beautiful snow globe.

“Cheesy I know but that’s me.”

Very cheesy indeed, but nothing to be apologetic about, that pretty much sells Edinburgh to us at cottages4you, and we take some pleasing!

Indeed, Edinburgh has long been recognised as one of the best cities in the world to spend Christmas on a family holiday – it sure does punch its weight when it comes to putting on a good show.

When Princes Street is kitted out for example, you can’t help but be in awe at the vista you are greeted with. Spectacular, yes, but that doesn’t seem to fully describe the sheer awesomeness of it.

Some notable attractions are the Edinburgh Wheel, the largest outdoor ice rink in Europe and, of course, its brilliant markets.

There’s the traditional German market, propped up by stallholders from Frankfurt, selling all sorts of dazzling gifts, many of which are traditional, alongside more contemporary items.

With a chill in the air – and maybe snow on the ground – it makes sense to take a bite of some gorgeous German offerings, as filling as they are tasty. Check out the fired potato cakes, crepes and yummy sausages. And wash down with a nice German beer too.

For those looking for something of a Scottish-esque Christmas, then fear not, the traditional highland village Christmas market provides you with a bonny gig. Located next to the Edinburgh Wheel and outdoor ice rink, this market has a paraphernalia of Scottish goods.

Christmas gift guide…for the wine lover in your life

For many, the New Year is a time to put away those bad habits that we’ve acquired over the year, tighten the old belt and set ourselves on the long road to health and fitness. But that’s the New Year; we still have quite a few weeks of over-indulgence left! So what better time to introduce our next entrance to the cottage gift finder? In this entry we’re concentrating on a group that is notoriously easy to please: the wine lover.

While the wine lover may be happy with a £3.99 bottle from Oddbins, it’s hardly going to make a lasting impression once it’s empty and there’s little lasting joy to be had in sharing it. So we’ve scoured our portfolio of featured properties to bring you something a little bit special. In this festive gift guide you’ll find resplendent country retreats in the wine-producing heart of France, small vineyards in the Sienese countryside and a couple of lovely properties in Dorset – one of the UK’s most prominent wine producing regions.

Each of these properties allows the wine lover to gain a greater understanding and appreciation of what goes into their glass. And because they happen to be set in some of Europe’s most naturally stunning locations, they allow the wine lover’s loved ones (aka ‘you’) to enjoy a wonderful holiday in the process.

Beychac-et-Caillau

We’re heading over to France for our first entry; Beychac-et-Caillau is an authentic detached holiday villa of the vineyard region around Bordeaux. Not only will you find a lovely holiday property that’s been renovated and furnished to a traditional period standard but you’ll also find a billiard table on the mezzanine and your very own private swimming pool in the garden. In late summer the property – and its surrounding area – really comes into its own; the whole region smells of grapes, which creates the perfect setting for a visit to nearby Saint Emilion (notable for its wine tasting) and of course, Bordeaux itself.

The perfect wine-tasting location

Casa Laura in Siena is an equally attractive proposition. Located just outside the walls of the stunning historic town, the property is set in the grounds of a 16th century estate. While Casa Laura once hosted princes and popes it now offers a small vineyard just beyond the cool blue waters of the private swimming pool. And if you want somewhere to sample the local produce we’d recommend the lovely gazebo in the garden.

Drink well and be healthy at Doles Ash Farm

The UK is less renowned for its wine but there are some incredible bottles being created in some of the country’s more temperate climes, which makes staying there even more inviting. Take Doles Ash Farm, for example; a break there allows you to enjoy the stunning Piddle Valley and Hardy country, but also places you in an established vineyard producing fantastic English wines. And if you fancy offsetting any over-indulgence at the vineyard, there’s an indoor heated swimming pool, sauna, games barn with table tennis, snooker and table football and tennis court on-site.

Enjoy a party for 25 at Purbeck Vineyard

Purbeck Vineyard in Dorset ticks similar boxes, but does things on a slightly larger scale. A working vineyard since the year 2000, it now offers over 3000 vines. The on-site winery enables the wine grapes to be harvested, pressed and vinified into wine that truly is chateau bottled and you can even pre-order food hampers, casks and ½ casks of local beer and wine, which is useful if you want to take full advantage of the property, as it can accommodate up to 25 guests!

If you’d like to get something special for your loved ones this year, we’re offering cottages4you gift vouchers in denominations of £10, £20 or £50 – so you can make up the amount you want to give. Give us a call on: 0845 268 9253 to order. Please note: Christmas vouchers will only be available up to 19 December!