The Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge

We teamed up with our friends at Hoseasons and Canvas Holidays to tackle Yorkshire’s Three Peaks this weekend, raising much-needed funds for the Three Peaks Project in the process. Great (dry!) weather made for ideal walking conditions and a really fun (though exhausting!) day. Find more info on the Three Peaks Project on their website.

The UK’s Best Ice Cream Parlours

Three ice cream cones

Maybe you’d prefer Cotton Candy and Bubblegum flavours…

We’d eat ice cream every day of the year if we could, but July gives us the best excuse to – it’s National Ice Cream Month! The tradition was started in 1984 in the United States by the President at the time, Ronald Reagan. With temperatures soaring across the UK, what better time to take advantage of some of the incredible ice cream on offer? The UK is home to some of the world’s best ice cream, and here are five places to sample the best…

The Pudding House, Lancashire.

Wallings Farm is located in Cockerham, just outside Lancaster. The ice cream parlour is extremely popular with the locals, so be prepared to queue – especially if it’s a nice day. It’s positioned in beautiful countryside, with alpacas grazing in the adjoining fields. The perfect location for enjoying your ice cream! The parlour is situated at the front of the Pudding House café, and stocks a huge range of around 40 flavours. Traditional flavours are available, but what really sets Pudding House apart as one of the best is their incredible range of unique, innovative ice creams. The Lemon Meringue Pie flavour is a popular choice, with real meringue pieces nestled between delicious lemon ice cream and ripples of lemon curd. Alternatively, if you’re feeling festive, why not try their Christmas pudding flavour? With delicious ice cream, generous serving sizes and an idyllic setting, you won’t be left disappointed after a visit to Lancashire’s most loved ice cream parlour and farm.

Billy Bob’s Parlour, North Yorkshire.

Finding an ice cream parlour in the Yorkshire Dales can be a difficult task, as there are so many to choose from. Billy Bob’s parlour, situated just outside the beautiful town of Skipton, is a popular choice with locals and tourists alike. The parlour boasts a fantastic 30 flavours, with something on offer for everybody. Traditional flavours, such as Vanilla and Strawberry, compete against some more extravagant choices, like the Cotton Candy and Bubblegum flavours. As well as the tasty ice cream, Billy Bob also serves a full range of delicious fast food, from burgers and hot dogs, to pancakes and waffles. An excellent choice if you’re travelling with children, the parlour also boasts an outdoor play area as well as an indoor play barn. No matter what the weather, Billy Bob’s ice cream parlour is a fun day out for the entire family. Plus, when you’re finished, you can continue your adventures in the Yorkshire Dales.

Aplin’s Farm, Devon.

Otter Valley Dairy in Devon have won numerous awards, and it’s not hard to see why. The small, family-run business has been around for four generations, refining their range of ice cream to create new, mouthwatering flavours. There are 21 flavours to choose from, including Rhubarb and Ginger, Cream Tea, and Devon Rice Pudding with Raspberry Jam, as well as four varieties of sorbet for those looking for something a little different. The ice creams are made in house, using milk from their own herd of cows, and the recipe is based upon Italian Gelato. Off the beaten track, Otter Valley Dairy can be difficult to find but a visit is worth the trip. Tucked into the breath-taking valley, the summerhouse offers fantastic views of the Devon countryside. If the weather permits, you can enjoy your ice cream outdoors in the designated picnic area, beside the very same cows that helped to create the wonderful ice cream.

Broughty Ferry, Scotland

Visocchi’s Café, in Broughty Ferry, has recently been awarded the title of the best ice cream in Scotland. Located just outside Dundee, the café specialises in two Italian delights: pizza and ice cream. All handmade at the premises, their ice creams attract huge crowds during the summer. Exceptionally creamy, and with inventive flavours, you get luxury ice cream at affordable prices. Broughty Ferry itself is located on the Firth of Tay. It’s a historic river town, with plenty to see and do, including Sandy Beach and its Esplanade, Barnhill Rock Gardens, and Broughty Ferry Castle.

Blaze Farm, Peak District.

Blaze Farm boasts the best ice cream in the Peak District. The ice cream is well known, having won several awards, and is all made on site using milk from its own herd of dairy cows. With an impressive range of flavours, you can choose from traditional varieties or the more inventive, such as the Turkish Delight with White Chocolate Chip. In addition to the amazing ice cream on offer, Blaze Farm has nature trails that can be enjoyed by the whole family. With plenty of wildlife and incredible countryside views, it’s not to be missed! If you visit in the springtime, you may even get to watch the lambing take place on the farm. There’s lots of interactive fun for the children, too, with cows milked daily in the parlour. There’s no admission fee for the farm, so it’s the perfect family day out for those on a tight budget.

Cottage of the Week – Red House, Scarborough

Our new featured property sleeps 10, accepts pets, has Wi-Fi, TV, a pool table, sea views, a lovely interior, is in Yorkshire – which is proving VERY popular at the moment (no prizes for guessing why) and has a turret! It’s pretty much the perfect property – as customer reviews will attest. Find out more and make a booking 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 in the Dales

We’re getting lots of requests for holiday cottages in the Dales at the moment, so we thought we’d showcase a few properties that offer the best of Yorkshire: quaint cottages in lovely locations close to the 2014 Tour de France route for the Yorkshire Grand Départ.

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Holly Cottage, Bellerby, Wensleydale. Ref: B5776. Set just under 4 miles from the Yorkshire Dales National Park, this 300-year-old stone Yorkshire Dales cottage is situated on the edge of a village green, with stream and real ale inn. In the ’best kept village’ of Bellerby, it has beamed ceilings, stone features and is comfortably furnished and very well-equipped.

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Cherry Tree Cottage, Bellerby, Wensleydale. Ref: IHD. Set 4 miles from the Yorkshire Dales National Park on the edge of a pretty village green – complete with stream and wandering ducks – this 300-year-old stone Yorkshire Dales cottage makes a spacious holiday home. With a carefully co-ordinated interior, it retains much character with exposed beams and window seats.

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Clematis Cottage, Redmire, Wensleydale. Ref: 23131. This comfortable 200 year old stone cottage full of charm and character overlooks the peaceful village green. Set in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales National Park it is an ideal holiday base for touring, walking (guided walks available) or cycling. Visit Hawes, home to Wallace and Gromit’s favourite Wensleydale cheese or nearby Forbidden Corner at Leyburn.

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Castle View, Richmond, Swaledale. Ref: IWP. Set 2 miles from the Yorkshire Dales National Park and commanding extensive views over historic Richmond to its castle, the River Swale and old jousting fields, this detached holiday home combines modern convenience with designer style and paintings by a local artist. In an elevated position, its peaceful gardens invite guests to admire the view.

Cycling in Yorkshire 2014

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Cycle through “God’s Own County”

Yorkshire is a proud county and has been at the forefront of recent British sporting success. Indeed, had Yorkshire been a competing country at the 2012 Olympic Games it would have finished eleventh in the medals table, above countries such as Spain, Holland and 2016 hosts Brazil. Amongst the Yorkshire success stories was cyclist Ed Clancy, winning gold as part of the team pursuit. This year marks a special moment in cycling and indeed for the country, as Yorkshire gears up to host this year’s Tour de France.

Following great success at the Olympics and back to back wins by Sir Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome in the Tour itself, cycling in Britain is enjoying a golden age. The first three stages of the 2014 Tour will be hosted in Britain, with the first two held in Yorkshire.  The county is the ideal choice for the ‘Grand Départ’, stunning scenery and challenging hills provide the perfect backdrop to this the most prestigious of cycling road races. The countdown has already begun to what promises to be a cycling carnival and the excitement will doubtless become fever pitch by July when the race begins.

It is easy to see the appeal of cycling, passing by beautiful scenery whilst keeping active, a sport in which the whole family can take part, and what better place than ‘God’s own Country’ to enjoy your next cycling holiday.  Many budding Tour de France champions will want to sample the routes where their cycling heroes will be racing this summer, but Yorkshire offers a fantastic variety of bridleways and cycling routes (many traffic free) throughout this beautiful county.

The tranquil Yorkshire Dales provides a variety of challenges for cyclists, whether that be off road mountain biking or leisurely trails through exquisite valleys and moorland. Many of the leafy lanes in this part of Yorkshire are very quiet but rest assured you will never find yourself short of great eating options to ‘refuel’.  A popular and gentle route for families is a 23 mile journey starting and finishing in Grassington through Upper Wharfedale. With no significant climbs but nonetheless plenty of fantastic views, this trail will take you by the delightful Dales villages of Kettlewell, Arncliffe and Litton.

The Yorkshire Moors have long been treasured by cyclists, the varied landscapes encompassing woodland, undulating moorland and coastal paths provide hundreds of miles of routes within this timeless corner of Yorkshire.  One of the most challenging for cyclists is the ‘ Moor to Sea’ cycle route which is split into 12 stages covering over 150 miles and taking in many historic sites whilst passing by the Heritage Coast. Whether you choose to take on the full trail or just parts of this network, you are assured stunning views from cliff tops, across Gothic ruins or rolling countryside, this is Yorkshire at its very best!

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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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