World Book Day -The UK’s Best Real Life Literary Locations

book-day-comp-final

In honour of our nation’s favourite books, we have put together the ultimate guide to Britain’s literary landmarks.

Pack a paperback, hit the road and immerse yourself in the best of British literature.

Jamaica Inn, Cornwall

Cornwall is the eternal star of Rebecca Du Maurier’s novels, and Jamaica Inn is no exception. Her famous tale of murder and mayhem is set in the brooding Jamaica Inn on Bodwin Moor – and it is still standing today. Du Maurier stumbled across it one night in 1930 after getting lost in the fog while out on the moor. Captivated by the inn’s intense atmosphere and the innkeeper’s chilling ghost stories, she got to work on her most celebrated novel.

Hike across the moors for yourself (fog machine optional) and reward yourself with a pint and a pasty at the real life Jamaica Inn…just remember – don’t trust anyone.

Chesil Beach, Dorset

Chesil beach

Chesil Beach: Star of Ian McEwan’s 2007 Booker-shortlisted novel

Ian McEwan has a real gift for making us feel the most profound misery through his tragic characters and their depressing lives. If you’re into that sort of thing, you absolutely have to visit Chesil Beach in Dorset – the eponymous location for his 2007 Booker-shortlisted book.

The beach is stunningly beautiful in its own right, but after you have read the book you will curse McEwan for ruining your seaside holiday.

Harrogate, North Yorkshire

Fancy solving a real life literary mystery? On 3 December 1926, Agatha Christie left her home in Berkshire following a row with her cheating husband, and simply disappeared. Her car was found abandoned by a lake in Guildford, Kent a few days later, and a national manhunt attracted the likes of Arthur Conan Doyle (who hired a spirit medium to track her down). After 11 days, she was finally spotted in Harrogate, North Yorkshire – hundreds of miles from home – claiming to have amnesia.

No one has ever figured out where she went or what she did during those ‘lost’ 11 days – can you retrace her steps and solve Christie’s greatest mystery?

Whitby Abbey, Whitby

Whitby Abbey: Where else would Dracula stay?

Whitby Abbey: Where else would Dracula visit?

For maximum effect, go after dark, alone, and bring plenty of garlic. That’s right – Whitby Abbey is the real life inspiration behind Dracula’s Castle. During a visit to the Yorkshire town of Whitby in 1890, Bram Stoker spent some time walking around the looming ruins of the ancient abbey, and in his mind a story started to take shape… the rest is horror history.

Whitby Abbey is one of those places you’ve probably already had a dozen nightmares about, without ever actually visiting it. The shadowy arches are home to actual bats, while a steep set of the crumbling steps leads right into the sea, perfect for bringing shipwrecked vampires to the shore.

The ruins are still standing today, while Dracula’s “grave” is situated nearby.

Laugharne, Wales

Dylan Thomas loved Wales, and Wales loved him right back. He was born in Swansea and lived all over picturesque West Wales, but it was in the small town of Laugharne where he was truly inspired.

From a boathouse nestled in a tiny glen beside the glassy water of the Taf Estuary, he wrote the iconic Under Milk Wood, and it is not hard to see why. Laugharne is one of the most calming nooks in all of Carmarthenshire – the perfect place to loll among the daffodils and catch up on your Welsh literature.

Winchester, Hampshire

One of England’s prettiest cities, Winchester has been responsible for inspiring some of the greatest novels every written. From her Winchester home, Jane Austen dreamed up the love story between Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Darcy, a scheming young character called Emma, and many other iconic characters and stories which would go on to become global classics.

Visit Austen’s home (now a museum) in Chawton, and make some time to indulge in a long walk around the countryside, just as she did.

Incidentally, Colin Firth also hails from Winchester, so if you hang around the lakes long enough you may be lucky enough to recreate a certain scene from the BBC adaptation…

Alnwick Castle (AKA: Hogwarts), Northumberland

Alnwick Castle and the River Aln

Alnwick Castle: The wizarding world of Harry Potter

OK, so this is cheating a little – J.K. Rowling wasn’t technically thinking of Alnwick Castle when she wrote about Hogwarts, but thanks to the films, the castle has become synonymous with Harry Potter.

The huge castle is open to the public for most of the year, and even hosts the odd Harry Potter themed day – bring your wand and recreate the magic for yourself.

Haworth, West Yorkshire

This way to Wuthering Heights

This way to Wuthering Heights

The West Yorkshire village of Haworth was home to the Bronte sisters for many years, and it was in the Haworth Parsonage where they wrote most of their books. You can’t miss the connection when you visit – almost every landmark has a ‘Bronte’ association (the Bronte Waterfall; Bronte Bridge, etc), while the old Parsonage is now a museum.

There is no real-life Wuthering Heights, but it is widely assumed that Emily Bronte was inspired by Top Withins, a desolate and rural farmhouse approximately 3 miles outside of the village.

Best enjoyed with a friend named Cathy.

Kirriemuir, Angus

This unassuming “wee red toonie” in the east of Scotland was where Neverland was born. The hometown of Peter Pan author J.M. Barrie, it features in many of his novels including Auld Licht Idylls, The Little Minister and A Window in Thrums. It was here that he wrote Peter Pan, and the rugged, lush landscape of Neverland was based on the local Angus scenery.

Kirriemuir has some of the clearest night skies in the UK, so you can map your own route to Neverland. According to Barrie, it is near the “stars of the milky way”, “second to the right, and straight on till morning”, and most easily spotted at sunrise.

Wales: Travel Highlights for St David’s Day

St David’s Day is the feast day of the patron saint of Wales. Falling on 1st March every year, the day of his passing in 569, it’s a great time to celebrate all things Welsh, and has been a national day since the 1900s.

Spring is a good time generally to travel to Wales – all the flowers are starting to come out, but the high summer crowds have not arrived. The weather is often ideal for walking, biking and getting about in the crisp but not freezing air as you absorb all that this spectacular part of the world has to offer. It’s a time of year when colours look gorgeously fresh as well, so it can feel very energising.

What to visit…

The Gower Peninsula

gower peninsula

The Gower Peninsula was the UK’s first place to become an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1966. Surrounded by the Atlantic and the Bristol Sea, Gower’s truly spectacular landscape is dotted with castles, prehistoric stones, churches and other reminders of Wales’s rich past. All these are set against a breathtaking backdrop of beaches, valleys, woodland and stunning clifftop views.

Mumbles

mumbles

Mumbles is often referred to as the Gateway to Gower, as it marks the start of this stretch of coastline. It is a popular area of Swansea and an old haunt of Dylan Thomas. Cosmopolitan yet cosy, and with some great shopping and eateries, Mumbles is a fantastic area to visit because there are lots of things to see and do. There is a lighthouse that was constructed in 1794, a Victorian pier, Oystermouth Castle, and incredible sea views.

Pendine Sands

pendine sands

This is a glorious seven mile stretch of beach on the Welsh south coast, along the shores of Carmarthen Bay. It reaches from Gilman Point at its western end to Laugharne Sands in the east. Pendine village itself is nearer the western end. Used as a track for motorbike and car racing in the early 1900s, the beach has been described as “the finest natural speedway imaginable,” and it was used as a firing range in the Second World War. The Museum of Speed is open in Pendine village in the summer.

Caerphilly Castle

caerphilly castle

Used as the backdrop for the popular TV series Merlin, and offering free entry on St David’s Day, Caerphilly Castle is one of western Europe’s great medieval fortresses, and the continent’s second biggest castle. It’s famous for its great hall, gatehouses and ‘leaning’ tower, and is surrounded by extensive artificial lakes. Work on building it began in the 13th century – as part of Gilbert de Clare’s campaign to conquer Glamorgan.

Fairbourne

Sunset and reflection on baech at Barmouth, Wales UK

This delightful village and seaside resort is on the coast of Barmouth Bay, in Gwynedd, south of the River Mawddach estuary and surrounded by Snowdonia National Park. The area boasts a two mile Blue Flag beach of golden sands, is accessible for wheelchairs and prams, and the beach is fronted by tank traps known as Dragon’s Teeth, which date back to World War II. At the same time, the popular narrow-gauge Fairbourne Railway links the village with Penrhyn Point in the warmer months, and the Barmouth Ferry leaves from the seaward end of the railway.

Caernarfon

caernarfon castle

The royal town of Caernarfon has been inhabited continuously since pre-Roman times, and is dominated by Edward I’s medieval fortress, where Prince Charles had his investiture as Prince of Wales in 1969. The castle is probably the most famous in Wales, thanks to its commanding presence and sheer scale. The town itself has everything a visitor could need, with plenty of good places to eat and stay.

Cardiff

cardiff

There are so many reasons to visit and enjoy the Welsh capital and its line-up of unique attractions, from its quality shops to the enticing blend of modern architecture and historic buildings. Cardiff Bay has entertainment for everyone. Stroll around Bute Park, take in Cardiff Castle, and visit the Doctor Who Experience – or perhaps you’ll be lucky enough to catch a show at the Millennium Centre?

Easy to get to and around, Cardiff really is a city with something for everyone.

Snowdonia National Park

iStock_000010634519Large

Located on the west coast, Snowdonia National Park covers over 820 miles of diverse landscapes, and is Wales’s biggest national park. It’s also home to the highest mountain to be found in Wales, as well as the biggest natural lake and an array of beautiful villages, such as Betws y Coed and Beddgelert.

This is also a great place to immerse yourself in Welsh history and culture, since over half the population is Welsh-speaking.

Other highlights

Ystradfellte

With so much to take in and experience in Wales, these highlights are just the start! From the waterfalls at Ystradfellte to Dylan Thomas’s house at Laugharne, from the Pembrokeshire coastal path to the red stone walls of Powys Castle and the majesty of Tintern Abbey – there’s something new to experience each time you visit.

High Flyers – Find out the nearest airport to our overseas properties

plane

There is nothing worse than booking your dream holiday property overseas and then trying to figure out where the nearest airport is.  Spending hours going through properties and finding there is nothing nearby can be really disheartening. Many customers ask our call centre staff for assistance when making their reservation.

As we know that travel is just as important as the property, we have now done some of the leg work for you. All of our 4000+ overseas properties now have at least the location of the nearest airport, many of which are within a 1 hour drive, to your perfect holiday home.

mont

Where can you find this information?

On each property that we have this information for the airport is stated underneath the text regarding the area and before the property text.

So whether it’s France, Italy or Ireland that takes your fancy we hope this additional information makes your holiday search that little less stressful.

france

Bring the Wild to Life – 8 unmissable natural experiences in Yorkshire

puffin_15_c_amy_lewis

Photo by Amy Lewis

  1. Puffin perfection near Bridlington: Just 15 minutes from this bustling seaside town and a jewel in the crown of the Yorkshire Nature Triangle is the Flamborough Headland. RSPB Bempton Cliffs offers fully accessible and family friendly viewing of some 250,000 seabirds during spring and summer including the sought-after puffin, atop dramatic 400ft cliffs. For the more adventurous, nearby Flamborough Cliffs reveal secluded turquoise bays with yet more puffins, orchid-topped coastal paths and a chance to explore pirates’ caves with local fisherman on their boats from North Landing.

whitbywhalewatching

  1. A whale of a time at Whitby: The giant bowhead jawbones looking out over Whitby’s northern cliffs give a hint of a dark past, but today whales are on a new hit list, as the town has become the region’s top spot for heading out to watch these magnificent mammals. From July to October, 30ft minke whales pass along the coastline, and thanks to operators at Whitby and nearby Staithes you too can come eye-to-eye with these almost mythical creatures. In some years, white-beaked dolphins and larger humpback whales come to join in the action too.
Photo by Ken Jensen

Photo by Ken Jensen

  1. A leap of faith at Stainforth Force: Autumnal white-water rivers twisting through the Yorkshire Dales already make for an impressive sight, but the annual ‘salmon run’ brings an added natural spectacle as these fascinating fish embark on their epic upstream journey. After years at sea, the salmon return to spawn and face the mammoth task of swimming against relentless torrents and waterfalls for mile upon mile, often leaping high out of the flow. Try an overcast day in October and November following rain for your best chance.
Photo by George Stoyle

Photo by George Stoyle

  1. See the light at Yorkshire’s land’s end: Around an hour from the City of Culture in Hull, Spurn Point is like nowhere else along the coast. With miles of sand dunes at the mercy of Mother Nature, this unusual location has a colourful history of wartime exploits, lifesaving rescues and lost villages. Now, you can experience the most impressive view of all – from 128ft up within the renovated Spurn Lighthouse. Getting there is an adventure in itself, either on a 4×4 ‘Spurn Safari’ with the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust (look for deer, seals and migratory birds on the way) or on foot across the tidal breach in the peninsula – be sure to check the tide times before you venture across.
Photo by Tom Marshall

Photo by Tom Marshall

  1. Rocking by the pool at South Landing: When was the last time you went rock pooling? If it’s been a while then head to South Landing near Bridlington where the Living Seas Centre and their team can give you all the top tips for this great family activity. There’s guided seashore explorations to join in with, and if the weather turns typically British then the centre offers an array of hands-on and interactive indoor activities for the kids too. If you’re making a day of it, the centre also has all the latest wildlife sightings from along the coast including whales, dolphins and porpoises.
Photo by Mike Snelle

Photo by Mike Snelle

  1. Seeing red at Snaizeholme: Surely the definition of cute, red squirrels can still be found in a few special corners of Yorkshire including near Hawes in the Yorkshire Dales along a specially created trail at Snaizeholme. Smaller than their urban counterparts the grey squirrel, ‘reds’ can also be told apart by their tufted, stripy ears. Take a walk along the trail to visit the dedicated feeding area, although the squirrels could appear at any time!
Photo by Margaret Holland

Photo by Margaret Holland

  1. You otter believe it: A firm favourite with wildlife lovers, the charismatic otter is unfortunately just as elusive as it is popular. Thankfully, following years of conservation efforts, the ‘river king’ is now back across the county and your luck could be in. Tophill Low between Beverley and Driffield has a dedicated viewing hide with regular sightings (and a new visitor centre for 2017), whilst patient visitors could also be rewarded at Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s Staveley reserve near Harrogate.
Photo by Amy Lewis

Photo by Amy Lewis

  1. Go fly a kite: With a wingspan bettered only by Scotland’s eagles in the UK, the red kite is an impressive sight in Yorkshire skies. Boasting a distinctive forked tail, they are unmistakable and are a spectacle that can be enjoyed in many parts of the county, notably at Harewood House where they were reintroduced around 18 years ago. Other top spots include the Yorkshire Wolds, where kites can gather in good numbers in winter roosts in woodlands close to the village of Nunburnholme.

By Tom at the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.

Find holiday cottages in Yorkshire with cottages.com.

The Best 2017 Events and Activities in France

2017 offers a wealth of festivals, carnivals and activities to enjoy all over France, all of which take advantage of their glorious surroundings to ensure an amazing spectacle.

From live music echoing around the historic ramparts and city streets of Carcassonne to brilliant bright kites on beautiful beaches in the sun-kissed Riviera, the unique cultural identity and scenic beauty of France makes it the perfect holiday destination. So take a look at our pick of this year’s biggest and best events.

Carcassonne Festival, Languedoc-Roussillon- 1-30 June

Carcassonne Fireworks Finale

The amazingly preserved medieval city and UNESCO site hosts this culturally diverse festival. One of France’s most popular events, it offers over 120 shows, many of which are free and take place in and around the  stunning historic streets of Carcassonne. International stars rub shoulders with emerging talent and local artists. www.festivaldecarcassonne.fr

Nice Carnival, Cote d’Azur – 11-25 February

One of the largest carnivals in the world takes over Nice for 2 weeks. The daily parades are a feast for the senses with fantastically decorated floats, huge figurines and over 1000 musicians, dancers and performers throughout the day and night. The famous flower battles see elaborately dressed figures throwing flowers into the crowd. www.nicecarnaval.com

VitiLoire, Tours, Loire Valley – 27-28 May

Celebrate the Loire Valley at this free event comprised of 150 winegrowers from this fantastically diverse wine-producing area. The festival includes a producers’ market, wine bars, cookery demonstrations, dinner parties and of course lots of tasting opportunities! Workshops, walks and cycles through the vineyards are also on offer. www.vitiloire.tours.fr

Dragon Festival, Mondragon, Provence – 13 May

The annual Fête du Drac takes place at night with a huge dragon procession, fireworks, medieval market and a carnival atmosphere. The festival pays homage to an old legend that a dragon appears on the banks of the River Rhone to catch unsuspecting villagers. Thankfully, visitors can just enjoy the spectacle without fear! www.comitedesfetesmondragon.com

Nice Jazz Festival, Cote d’Azur – 17-21 July

Nice city

One of the best known international jazz gatherings that has showcased the talent of Louis Armstrong, B.B. King and Erykah Badu to name but a few. The event dates back to 1948 and is now one of the French Riviera’s most popular events.  www.nicejazzfestival.fr

World Music Day, Nationwide – 21 June

La Fête de la Musique is held annually on the summer solstice and is a celebration of all types of amateur music. Across France musicians gather in the streets, bars and cafes to perform for free so you can enjoy a wonderfully festive atmosphere wherever you choose!  www.fetedelamusique.culture.fr.

Le Tour de France – various – 1-23 July

The world’s most prestigious bike race occurs over 3 weeks in July, taking in mountains, flats and road race sprints. Over 10 million people cheer on the race, enjoying the carnival atmosphere, the official promotional caravan and the grand spectacle. www.letour.fr

Menton Lemon Festival, Cote d’Azur – 13 Feb – 2 March

Citrus Exhibition at the Lemon Festival of Menton

Lemonade, lemon vinegar, lemon trees, lemon statues and lemon decorated floats; 145 tons of citrus fruit are worked into models and art in the centre of Menton to celebrate the lovely lemon! This unique event is over 80 years old and has a wonderful carnival atmosphere with parades and street performers. www.fete-du-citron.com

Bastille Day, Nationwide – 13 and 14 July

This national holiday is celebrated across France with fireworks, singing, dancing and a heartfelt party atmosphere. The storming of the Bastille was the start of the French revolution and many towns and cities, including Paris, also host a military parade. www.parisinfo.com

Avignon Festival, Provence – 6-26 July

Avignon, the UNESCO world heritage site, is home to one of France’s oldest and most famous festivals. Every year over 40 shows take place around the city, showcasing the very best in theatre, dance, music and visual arts for a native and international audience. www.festival-avignon.com

Chorégies d’Oranges d’Orange, Provence – 19 June – 5 August

This classical music and operatic spectacular dates back to 1860 and takes place in the magnificently preserved Roman theatre in Orange. The theatre’s original stone stage provides exceptional acoustics and atmosphere for the audience of 9,000, enjoying performances of well known works such as Madam Butterfly and La Traviata. www.choregies.fr

The Festival of Lights, Lyon, Alps – early Dec

Lyon lights

This beautiful night time spectacle sees Lyon awash with light. Candles are placed outside every window in the city and, buildings, streets and squares are lit by artists and light installations are showcased. The festival has a magical atmosphere, celebrating the creation of light. www.fetedeslumieres.lyon.fr

Lorient Interceltic Festival, Lorient, Brittany – 4-13 Aug

This Celtic area of Brittany celebrates its history and brings together the Celtic regions of the UK, France and Spain. The 10 days and nights offer a cultural showcase filled with music, dance, processions, markets and games. www.festival-interceltique.com

Braderie de Lille, Pas de Calais – 2-3 Sept

The Lille Street market is one of the world’s largest flea markets and one of France’s most famous events, dating back to medieval times. Lille is transformed into a bustling, pedestrian friendly home to 100km of stalls. Traditionally moules-frites is eaten by visitors, and the local restaurants compete to build the highest pile of empty shells in the street. www.lilletourism.com

Berck-Sur-Mer Kite Festival, Pas de Calais – 9-17 April

Kite festival

Put your feet on the sand and your head in the sky at this International Kite Festival! The huge beach at Berck has hosted all kinds of spectacular and colourful kites for over 25 years. Learn to fly and make kites for the first time or watch the biennial (falling on even years) world team championships. www.cerf-volant-berck.com

World Puppet Theatre Festival, Charleville-Mezieres, Champagne – 16-24 Sept 

The lead event in the world of puppet arts! Every 2 (odd numbered) years, 250 companies from 5 continents meet to present the latest puppet creations and productions. Visitors can enjoy over 200 puppet shows, from traditional to contemporary. Suitable for adults and children. www.festival-marionnette.com

Carpentras Truffle Market, Provence – Nov – March

In the foothills of Mont Ventoux, Carpentras is famous for its black Truffles. Every Friday morning from November until March, local foragers weigh in and sell their delicious finds at the weekly Truffle Market. www.carpentras-ventoux.com

International Garden Festival, Chateau Chaumont-Sur-Loire, Loire Valley – Apr to Nov

The chateau estate is transformed into an open air landscape art museum, showcasing the work of 30 landscape artists from around the world. Each year the gardens offer a new theme and transform beautifully throughout the spring, summer and autumn seasons. The gardens are lit at night using candles and beautifully bright LEDs, creating a magical visitor experience. www.domaine-chaumont.fr