5 Fun New Year’s Resolutions – and how to keep them!

Why are New Year’s resolutions so difficult to keep? Every year we start off with such good intentions, but, according to research, only around 1 in 10 of us stick to our resolutions.

This is because most of us set unrealistic goals at the start of the year that we can’t possibly keep…and that makes us reluctant to set any more.

The key to keeping your New Year’s resolutions is to make them small, easy to maintain and fun! So here we’re taking five common New Year’s resolutions and recommending a fun way to make your aspirations a reality.

1. Travel more

mountain path leading to lake at Cwm Idwal, Devils Kitchen

First off, forget expensive, faraway destinations and those stressful hours trapped in the departures lounge. There are plenty of unexplored gems right here in the UK, just waiting to be discovered.

In fact, for breathtaking mountain scenery, an intriguing local language and and even a dormant volcano, you need only go as far as north Wales and the beautiful Snowdonia National Park. If you want to avoid the crowds of Snowdon itself, explore the rich natural and cultural treats of the rest of the park, including the ancient castles and events celebrating Wales’ ‘Year of Legends’.

2. Get fit

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The bad news is that spending money on a gym membership you’ll hardly ever use will not get you fit. Amazingly, millions of pounds are still wasted in this way every year in the UK. The good news, however, is that a sure-fire way of making exercise work is to make sure you enjoy it. Instead of a sweaty, crowded gym, get yourself fit out amongst some of the outstanding natural beauty that Britain has to offer.

The Forest of Dean, just north of the River Severn and close to the Welsh border, is the perfect location for a fitness break. There’s a simply incredible number of activities available in this spectacular location, including cycling, caving, climbing and canoeing. There’s even diving at one of the UK’s newest inland dive sites. Plus, of course, there’s the simple pleasure of walking and hiking around one of England’s surviving ancient woodlands. You’ll be so captivated by the amazing scenery, you won’t even realise how fit you’re getting!

3. Learn a language

Le Mont Saint Michel
They say the best way to learn a new language is not in the classroom, but to immerse yourself in the culture. With a self catering break in the gorgeous countryside of France or Italy, you can escape the stifling cocoon of hotels, cities and resorts, and mingle with the locals. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you can pick up the basics in a supermarket or cafe. Plus, by visiting a stunningly beautiful location, you’ll give yourself even more motivation to persevere with the language.

An ideal place to start your learning is the stunning Armorica Regional Natural Park in Brittany. From the mountains to the sea, you’ll discover some incredible wildlife and breathtaking views. Here, you can forget the old French stereotypes: the local Bretons are very friendly, and fortunately they’re rather used to helping Brits struggling with the language!

4. Relax more

Bamburgh Castle and seat

To truly achieve relaxation, you need to give your body the most peaceful stimuli: creature comforts, natural beauty, and calm, quiet surroundings. Likewise, there are a few things you need to avoid at all costs, such as long-haul flights, stressful airports and lost luggage.

How about a holiday let with a hot tub, surrounded by the rugged beauty of Northumberland? In this most northerly part of England, you can really get away from the crowds, with miles of stunning coastline and woodland to enjoy.

5. Spend more time with the family

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Spending more time with the family does not mean staying at home in front of the telly! Jobs, housework and the distractions of normal life mean that getting away is the best option for renewing those family bonds. Getting everyone from the kids to the grandparents in one place is a great idea, and there’s no easier way to do so than by renting a large holiday cottage.

There’s no better choice than the Peak District, Britain’s first national park. If you’ve got family members spread far and wide, its location right in the heart of Britain, nestled just between Manchester and Sheffield, will ensure it’s easy to get to for everyone. With so much to see and do throughout its 500 square miles, there’ll be something to keep the whole family entertained, before you all come together for some real family bonding.

We hope this has given you some inspiration for how you can keep your New Year’s resolutions this year, whilst at the same time exploring some of the wonderful countryside right on your doorstep.

Our top romantic spots for St. Valentine’s Day

When did you last send a Valentine’s Card? As far back as the 18th century, lovers gave tokens of their affection on this day, and despite the commercialisation it’s still a great reason for spending time with your loved one.

You needn’t venture far as the UK has all the stunning scenic locations, cosy eateries and dark starry skies to guarantee a good time. And what’s more in the winter season it really will be just the two of you.

Click on an image below to start the tour – and find some stunning last minute romantic accommodation 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.

 

The UK’s Best Christmas Events

A selection of the Britain’s finest festive attractions to get you in the Christmas spirit. Enjoy Edinburgh’s mix of stunning seasonal events, take a walk on the wild side in Chester, marvel at gorgeous garlands in Cornwall and get fit and raise money for charity…

A pre-Christmas treat

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Thursford: putting the spectacle in spectacular

If you’d like a break to get yourself ready for the festivities, then Norfolk can be a great choice. There’s the chance for head-clearing walks on stunning beaches, cosy lunches in country pubs and much more. This would also give you the chance to enjoy the legendary Christmas Spectacular at Thursford. It’s the biggest Christmas show across the country, with 130 singers, dancers and musicians, offering three hours of stunning entertainment. It’s set in an amazingly created atmosphere full of fairground carousels and mechanical organs, and folk travel from all across the UK to enjoy a happy and memorable festive experience.

A night with the animals

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Monkey business by The Lantern Company

Many folk have been recently charmed by the BBC drama series Our Zoo – telling the story of Chester Zoo. This Christmas, there’s a chance to visit the place itself and enjoy one of their festive season lantern workshops. Youngsters can design their own lantern, and then everyone sets off on a night-time journey, listening to sounds of animals as they prowl the darkness. There’s an illuminated trail created by The Lantern Company, leading to a display of stunning animal themed lanterns. Hang your Christmas wishes on the Giant Wishing Tree before you visit Fruit Bat Forest and the Elephant House. There are 14 pre-Christmas dates, but many are selling out fast so do check now.

A day at the races

There has been a long tradition of festive season race meetings across the country gathering large holiday crowds. If you’ve never been, it could be a great time to pay a fist visit. Among the many meetings, there will be plenty of atmosphere on Saturday 27th December at Chepstow for the famous Welsh National. On Boxing Day itself, you’ll be able to choose from eight locations, including Huntingdon and Kempton Park, Wetherby or Towcester.

The power of flowers

Photo by Adrian Platt

Photo by Adrian Platt

At Cotehele, a magical National Trust Tudor property in gorgeous Cornwall, the garden staff spend most of November creating a truly amazing sixty-foot long Christmas garland. It contains more than forty thousand flowers, and right through December, you have the chance to visit the hall and admire its unique beauty. If you’re on a pre-Christmas break, you’ll also find musical events under it most days.

A walk in the park

Unless you have small children and buggies, then there’s a great way to clear the head on Boxing Day morning if you are enjoying a break in the wilds of Kent. You could join a group of like-minded souls at Ightham Mote to tuck into a full English breakfast to prepare you for a bracing and informal guided walk around this magnificent estate, just a few miles south of Sevenoaks. After your trek, you might choose to look round this romantic moated manor house itself. Noted historian Dr David Starkey has described it as “one of the most beautiful and interesting of English country houses”.

Your capital choice

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Edinburgh has Christmas covered

Staying in many beautiful countryside locations in central Scotland would give you the chance of a visit or two to Edinburgh, where there’s a huge choice of festive things to do. You and the family might visit the superb Santa Land in East Princes Street Gardens. There’s a grotto and train, tree maze, and terrific rides such as the North Pole Slide, Swan Lake and Race-a-Rama. There’s also a roller coaster! You might also book sixty minutes of circus acts and mischief makers in a youngsters’ treat at the Brat Kids Carnival in St Andrew Square. There’s also an ice rink there, and another in Princes Street Gardens – if you are brave enough!

An adventurous time

A Yorkshire break would give the whole family an excuse to enjoy great fun times at Stockeld Park, located between Harrogate and Leeds. Their packed Christmas Adventure can include either a stroll, or you could try Nordic Skiing, through the amazing Illuminated Enchanted Forest; a mix of theatre, fantasy and great lighting effects. Who knows who you might meet? Then you can lose yourself in the amazing Snowflake Maze. If you have a youngster who wants to try ice skating, but is a bit unsteady, they can even gain the support of their very own supportive penguin!

Lights at the borderlands

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Alnwick Garden’s stunning Sparkle show

As the festive season draws to a close, the magnificent Alnwick Garden in Northumberland is lit up with a truly stunning Sparkle lighting display. The whole family can celebrate the New Year in a traditional way with street entertainment, giggle-inducing party games, much music and a traditional Hog Roast Carvery, plus a DJ party or a quieter and more relaxing option in the Pavilion. There’s also an awesome landscape of windswept coastlines and castles, sweeping moorlands and charming towns to investigate as you make your way into another great year!

Run, Santa, Run

Ted tried it last year

Even Ted’s tried it

If you tend to over-indulge in the festivities over the Christmas period then our next choice is the perfect preparation for a New Year Resolution to get fit – and raise money for charity in the process! The annual Santa Fun Run, in aid of Bosom Friends, takes place in Barnoldswick every year. This year’s event takes place on December 7th near to our office and the emphasis is on the fun, so whether you try to beat your ‘PB’ or are happier completing the 5k as a strolling Santa, we’re sure you’ll have a good time whilst raising funds for a very worthy cause.

Find fantastic festive accommodation with cottages4you

Britain’s Best Castles

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Caerphilly Castle: spot the ‘leaning tower’!

Unless you’ve been on a desert island for the last couple of weeks, you’ll know that the much loved, critically acclaimed and epic series Game of Thrones has returned to our TV screens. Filmed in a number of locations, including both Scotland and Northern Ireland, there’s no denying that there is some fantastic scenery used, not least of all the many glorious castles featured.

To celebrate the return of this fantastic series, we give you a brief look at some of Britain’s best castles. Plan your next holiday at home and take advantage of some of the most fascinating sights right on your doorstep.

Doune Castle (Stirling, Scotland)

Let’s begin with one of the castles in which the series is filmed. The castle as it stands now was built sometime in the 1400s, although history shows that the castle was originally built at some point in the 13th century, but was most likely damaged during the Scottish Wars of Independence. Designed with a number of features including a courtyard, a 100ft gatehouse and a tower house, it was intended to represent the elegance and status of the royalty who lived there. Visitors can enjoy the grounds following the nature trail that runs through Doune, enjoy an audio tour guided by actor Terry Jones from Monty Python’s Holy Grail, which was also filmed at the castle.

Caerphilly Castle (Caerphilly, South Wales)

Caerphilly Castle is the largest uninhabited castle in Britain (and the second largest castle after Windsor), which features a spectacular moat which is known for being one of the most impressive in the UK. The castle was designed using concentric defences by Gilbert de Clare in 1268. Situated in the heart of the town centre, the castle’s most famous feature is without a doubt its ‘leaning tower’, forming an important part of the town’s landscape. Visitors can also enjoy sights such as the Great Hall and follow the story of the Green Lady who haunts the castle grounds. Caerphilly Castle is often used as a filming location, and most recently has been used to film BBC shows Merlin and Dr Who.

Warwick Castle (Warwick, England)

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Warwick Castle

Built in 1068 by William the Conqueror, Warwick Castle is an important historical castle which was used as a stronghold for centuries and served as a key location throughout many wars. Today, Warwick Castle is one of the most popular castles with tourists in the UK, and offers plenty of activities and festivals throughout the year. Visitor’s won’t want to miss sights such as the Dragon Tower, the Gatehouse and Barbican and of course, the Gaol. This year celebrates 1000 years since the castle was built, and there will be a number of celebrations at the castle to mark this landmark occasion.

Dunluce Castle (County Antrim, Northern Ireland)

If it’s spectacular scenery you’re looking for, you’ll find it all with Dunluce Castle. Located right on the Antrim Coast, the castle sits overlooking the sea, offering some fantastic views both day and night. Visitors can explore the castle on foot, as well as enjoy an audio tour, detailing the history of the castle, which was once the home of the MacDougall clan and was built in the 13th century. Recent archaeological studies have shown that the location was also a former merchant town, possibly destroyed by a fire. The castle is also thought to be the inspiration for Cair Paravel in the Chronicles of Narnia series by CS Lewis. A truly stunning castle, Dunluce is a must see for those travelling to Northern Ireland.

Alnwick Castle (Northumberland, England)

If you’re a fan of the fantasy genre, you will no doubt recognise Alnwick Castle as one of the filming locations for the Harry Potter series, serving as the location for a number of interior and exterior shots of Hogwarts. A large castle which is still partly inhabited by the Duke of Northumberland, it is open to visitors throughout the summer, offering the chance to explore areas such as the Postern Tower, the Knight School and the Sanctuary. The castle is also located next to The Alnwick Gardens, which are also worth a visit if you’re in the area, featuring many different kinds of plants and flowers and an amazing fountain feature.

Visiting some of Britain’s best castles gives you the chance to enjoy beautiful grounds and gardens as well as step back in time and absorb Britain’s rich history. Take a trip to any of the castles mentioned above or any of the other fantastic castles located across the UK to get your own taste of Westeros and Essos.

101 places to go – The Farne Islands

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Our new recommended destination is a true one-off and, since it re-opens in the spring, truly one to look forward to. There really is no other destination like the Farne Islands; located off the beautifully desolate Northumbrian coast, they offer sumptuous landscapes, fascinating history and, through their native inhabitants, one of the most spectacular wildlife attractions you could hope to enjoy on a UK holiday cottage break!

There are 23 species of seabird located across the twenty-eight islands, including terns, 37,000 pairs of puffins, razorbills and more. Last year, for the first time in 87 years, visitors to Staple Island were granted the opportunity to meet the native seal colony, comprised of 4,000 Atlantic Grey seals and their 1,500 pups. A sea tour setting off from Seahouses on the mainland will typically land at both Staple in the morning and Inner Farne in the afternoon.

Alongside their wild inhabitants the Farne Islands offers some wonderful displays of man-made heritage. There’s an old pele tower that houses the National Trust’s bird wardens throughout the year. There’s also St Cuthbert’s Chapel which dates from the 14th century and commemorates the hermetic life of the medieval saint and two lighthouses, one of which, the Longstone Lighthouse, has a connection to a very well-known piece of British folklore…

In 1838 the Forfarshire paddle steamer ran aground whilst sheltering from a storm off Big Harcar. Grace Darling and her father, Longstone lighthouse-keeper, William Darling took to the waters and rescued 9 people from the wreckage. The 22 year old received several commendations and her tale eventually passed into folklore as an example of selfless heroism. Today, the life and actions of Grace Darling is one of the many reasons people pay a visit to the Farne Islands.

Spring to September is the best time to pay a visit to the Farne Islands. Ensure you wrap up warm and check local weather conditions to make the most of your time there. Other accessible attractions include Bamburgh Castle, Alnwick Castle and Gardens and the majestic Cheviot Hills.

If you fancy flocking to the Farne Islands this springtime take a look at our featured holiday cottages in Northumberland for a fantastic selection of holiday homes in the region.

Staff Blog; Relaxing and Peaceful holiday in Northumberland

by Corinne Moore, Owner Services

“Northumberland, wild and untamed with so much to offer from Old Roman Forts, Castles, Walking and Wildlife to long sandy beaches.

I love Northumberland because of all the variety of attractions it has, for all ages.

I have stayed many times at a property called Oak Cottage ( ref:16498 ) on Whitelee Farm.
There are 3 holiday cottages on the farm, which enjoy panoramic views over Whitelee Fell, which has been designated a National Nature Reserve.

This is a truly unique place and the owner’s Mr & Mrs Wilson have done much to protect the local wildlife, and to make the farm a “Green” place to be, energy for the cottages is provided by a small wind turbine and solar panels. The farm has been awarded the Silver award from the “Green Tourism Scheme”.

Being keen on nature and walking, I love the many fabulous walks that are available from the front door. There are so many birds to watch from the surrounding farmland and in the cottage garden.

My favourite has to be the “Wildlife cameras” which feed live images into the cottages onto the TV. I have spent many a happy evening sipping my wine watching Badgers, Foxes, Owls, as well as a plethora of smaller birds and mammals on “Owl and Fox cam”

For all those who love to explore, the cottages is only 5 minutes from the Scottish border, Hadrian’s Wall, Edinburgh, the Northumberland Coast, all approx 1 hour away and half an hour away is Alnwick Castle and Gardens, where some of the Harry Potter scenes have been filmed, a must for all children and grown up Potter fans alike, followed by dinner in the Treehouse Restaurant is a must.

I would really recommend this area for people of all ages, families and couples and pets alike, especially for those who just want to relax and have some well deserved quiet time.”

Feel free to look at our wide range of holiday cottages in the UK in the Northumbria region.