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.

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.

Great British short breaks

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The kids are going back to school and then we’re going into the ‘long haul’ before Christmas. Whilst the clamour grows to introduce a bank holiday during the autumn months, for now we must make the most of what remains of the year and what better way than by enjoying a short break in some of the UK’s most spectacular and relaxing locations. So for this post we’re going to highlight three places in the UK that are seemingly tailormade for a short getaway.

Short Breaks in York

There is something about the bustling vibe in York that is addictive. There seems to be a perfect balance between the overt history that manifests across the city and the essentials of modernity with a great selection of bars and restaurants. The ancient Roman ruins blend with the gothic cathedral and the 18th century timber clad lanes that make York famous. The history of the city literally stares you in the face and this extends to the subterranean with the hidden Viking city exposed in the fascinating Jorvik Centre. York’s past is also intertwined with the story of the steam train and the National Railway Museum is located conveniently close to the city centre and is a great way to entertain fascinated children and adults alike. With great links to the rest of the country, York is eminently accessible making it a great choice for your next short break.

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Short Breaks in the Cotswolds

The beautiful rolling Cotswolds is home to some of the most charming rural villages in England. This part of the world is renowned for its limestone cottages, traditional village inns and of course the ubiquitous village green. Set against the backdrop of beautiful greenery the tranquil village surroundings are a perfect haven of peace for any summer break.  Villages such as Chipping Campden, Lower Slaughter and Stow on the Wold exude ‘Englishness’ and quite rightly are considered some of the prettiest in the country. The Georgian spa town of Cheltenham by contrast has an excellent range of shops and modern cuisine with Michelin star restaurants and wine bars.  With London within very easy reach, the Cotswolds are perfect for a few days away.

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Short Breaks in the Peak District

Late summer is a time when the Peak District is at its striking best. Whilst the weather is clement the spectacular natural surroundings are perfect for long summer walks across a National Park.  Rocky outcrops and scenic moorland make the Peak District the destination of choice for walkers and cyclists alike, or for the more intrepid, the landscape is also home to some of the best caving sites in Britain.  It is as if the raw power of nature inspires an active spirit, drawing on our innate sense of adventure.  These hills are steeped in history, whether it be the ‘plague village’ of Eyam or the majestic stately house at Chatsworth there is plenty to keep an inquisitive mind occupied. For a memorable activity based holiday, head to the Peak District for a Great British short break!

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Cottage of the Week – The Meads, Edale

It’s like Christmas morning in the cottages4you office every time we find a new addition to our portfolio that impresses us as much as The Meads & Garden Wing in Edale, the Peak District. Not just blessed with an incredible location at the foot of the Kinder Scout Mountain Range, these properties (The Meads and the equally lovely ‘Garden Wing’, ref: REES) were built within the idyllic Arts and Crafts style of the late 19th and early 20th century and boast absolutely wonderful interiors.
How wonderful? Well, just take a look at the photos. The Meads boasts stunning ‘wrap-around’, encaustic-tiled, Shaker-panelled verandahs and was built in the Great War as a shooting lodge to the adjacent moors. In the winter months, come and sit by blazing log fires, or in the summer take a glass of wine and explore the 4 acres of fantastic woodland gardens, with a large expanse of heart-shaped lawn, imaginatively laid out as parkland for guest to enjoy.
Since it’s located in such a lovely outdoor area it’s perhaps not surprising to find the outside of the property works so synonymously with the surrounding area. The gardens are designed to lead visitors along meandering, stepping stone pathways from ‘room to room’, over rustic bridges, through picnic areas, barbecue areas, campfire site and topiary rooms with lots of swing seats and outside ‘Chesterfields’ with cushions to sit on, catch the sun and view the mountains. Or best of all, in the evening, take a lantern and sit on the rustic benches by the campfire to a backdrop of stars.
What’s more you’ll find the gardens are a perfect introduction to the beauty of the surrounding area. The Penine Way, the start of the longest footpath in England, is located on your doorstep in the village of Edale. The village also boasts stunning cycle routes, packhorse bridges, stiles, footbridges, rivers, gorges and streams into woodland, mountains, moors and famous landmarks. Head further afield to Chatsworth, Haddon, Hardwick Halls, Buxton with its opera house, Bakewell with markets, Castleton with jewellery shops, the Blue John Caves, and Hathersage with its outdoor pool.
The Meads is also beautifully furnished and decorated in a great mixture of contemporary, colourful, cosy, country house style with hand-dragged, Shaker-painted panelling, solid oak floors and encaustic tiles. You will also enjoy huge, blazing indigo blue Austrian wood-burning stoves in the kitchen, dining hall and living room, generously stocked gourmet kitchens, Aga ranges and American fridge/freezers as well as Belfast sinks and underfloor heating.
A wealth of relaxing leisure options also awaits. Bedrooms have panoramic views into the gardens and mountains, sleigh beds, fur throws and modern bathrooms with double-seated steam shower rooms. Guests can enjoy Sky TV with sport and three Freeview TVs. There is an indoor games room with computer, X-box, jigsaws, board games, DVDs and CDs. Outside is a small, well-equipped gym, as well as laundry and drying rooms for wet gear, areas for a BBQ (gas supplied for each property) and an outdoor summerhouse with outdoor games, croquet and cricket.
If you’d like to find out more or make a booking at this truly lovely property, or its smaller sibling, please visit the listing on our website. Make sure you let us know what you think by leaving a comment below. You can find more stunning cottages in our Luxury Collection.

Cottage of the Week – Thornleigh in Hathersage

Sometimes choosing a Cottage of the Week means no more than finding a lovely property in an equally lovely location with plenty of availability to let our readers’ experience the loveliness for themselves.

Not to take anything away from this stunning property, but that’s exactly what we’ve done with Thornleigh in Hathersage. The village itself lies on the north bank of the River Derwent in the Peak District. The unparalled beauty of the Hope and Derwent valleys are just a short distance away while literary lovers will be delighted to discover the village’s ties to Charlotte Bronte. The author stayed in Hathersage whilst writing Jane Eyre, and many of the novel’s locations match those in the village. Finding out which ones is one of the many joys of holidaying in Hathersage!

Hathersage also has your basic holiday needs covered. You will find cafés, shops, bars and restaurants – even an outdoor swimming pool if you’re feeling hardy! Take the train from the village to Manchester or Sheffield for museums, galleries and shows, or stop off in Edale and walk the Pennine Way. Chatsworth House, Haddon Hall and Eyam Hall are nearby.

As you can probably tell, Hathersage and the Peak District aren’t exactly short of stunning sights and wonderful activities. So we should probably talk a little about the property…

Hathersage has been wonderfully restored to offer an exceptional level of comfort whilst retaining its period features. So you can enjoy the comfort offered by gas ‘wood burners’ whilst also enjoying the unique timeless ambience that Thornleigh affords. You will also find an incredibly inviting, stylish and comfortable décor throughout, while your entertainment needs are catered for with a TV and DVD player.

In the warmer months your options are expanded through a large enclosed lawn with furniture. There’s also a bike store if you’d like to explore the beauty of the Peak District on two-wheels.

As you can see from the photos, Thornleigh ticks all the boxes of a fantastic holiday property in the UK. If you’d like to make a booking or find out more info please take a look at the property’s listing on cottages4you.