Wednesday, 30 March 2011

An introduction to Padstow

Padstow, a small fishing port packed with Cornish character, is more than deserving of its national reputation as a year-round holiday destination.

Situated on the North Cornwall Coast on the west bank of the River Camel Estuary, it is perfectly located for beach lovers, cyclists and wildlife enthusiasts, and as it is just ten miles to Bodmin and the famous beaches of Newquay, there is plenty of variety in places to visit and things to do.

Padstow life still centres on the harbour, though now it is popular with yachts as well as fishermen. It is known to many as the favourite haunt of celebrity chef and fish connoisseur Rick Stein. He owns a selection of caf├ęs, restaurants and shops in the town and knows it's well placed to offer some of the freshest fish around. Just sitting at the harbourside, watching the fisherman come in with their catch is to witness Padstow's tradition at work.

Walkers will appreciate the location of this holiday cottage in Petherick Creek, 2 miles from Padstow. The creek-side footpath to Padstow joins the famous Camel Trail and the property itself offers great views for wildlife-watching: swans, egrets, herons and kingfishers are frequently seen in the creek. The garden is in particularly bright bloom at this time of year, attracting all sorts of birds.

A little further north is the hamlet of Tremail, positioned along the river Inny valley on the northern edge of Bodmin Moor. This detached house has a garden and shared access to a tennis court.

Why not plan your trip for May, when Padstow has some of its best festivities? The Obby Oss festival is described by some visitors as England's quirkiest tradition. Since the 14th century, Padstonians have welcomed in the month of May with a musical parade through the town, wearing white and decorated with red ribbons and headscarves and following a man dressed as a horse (or an 'oss). 

If you can't wait that long for your Cornish break, head down in April and take part in the world premier of the live Shaun the Sheep Championships at the Eden Project from Saturday 9 April – Monday 2 May 2011. This sports day themed event is the perfect activity for the Spring school holidays.

Take a look at our other properties - we have more than 600 across the West Country: www.helpfulholidays.co.uk.
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Friday, 25 March 2011

Best beer and pubs in the West Country - your verdict

One of the best things about the West Country is the fantastic range of coastal and countryside pubs, perfect for supping on a well-deserved ale after a bracing walk or a hard day’s sightseeing. We wanted to take a look at some of the local beers you might find available, so we thought we’d start by asking our followers on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

We asked: “Happy Monday HH followers! Any beer lovers out there? What's your favourite West Country malt-based tipple?” We were delighted with the enthusiastic response!

On our Facebook page, Andy Brown commented: "My vote goes for Otter Brewery near Honiton. Incredible range of bright, quaffable, clean beers. Yummy!" 

Also on Facebook, Ian Watson offered: “St. Austell Tribute is my favourite, makes a good holiday even better.”

We even had renowned beer blogger Mark Dredge join us on Facebook: “There are some great breweries in the South West - St Austell and Sharp’s both make some excellent beers. Wooden Hand make some nice stuff too. If there's anything from Bath Ales or Bristol Beer Factory around then that's also well worth drinking!”

Our very own Moray Bowater also weighed in: “Doom Bar goes down well in our local and The Cleave in Lustleigh does a very good pint of Otter AleJail Ale from the Dartmoor Brewery is always pretty good.”

And the folks from Green Sparks Electrics offered: “Tribute is the stock choice although I enjoyed a lovely pint of Betty Stoggs from Skinners yesterday."


The nice people operating the Twitter feed for the National Trust’s Killerton Estate found time to recommend St Austell’s Proper Job and O’Hanlon’s Yellow Hammer, as well as their very own Killerton cider.

On Twitter, Andy Mogg recommended Sharp’s Doom Bar, and Sharp’s DW. Doom Bar got a lot of mentions – perhaps not surprisingly given its widespread availability across the UK.

Ed Beck recommended: “Beer - Teignworthy's Reel and Gundog. Pubs – the Northmore Arms, Wonson & Rugglestone Inn, Widecombe are both gems.”

Another recommended pub came from Dave Jenkins on Twitter: “Keep an eye on The Globe & Red Lion in Chumleigh.”

Dave also gave a shout for cider recommending Cornish Orchard Blush along with Julie R on Twitter who said: “I love Rattler when I'm in the West Country and I love The Welly in Boscastle”.

So it’s clear that the thought of good beer really gets people talking! If you’ve visited any of the above pubs, or feel that we’ve missed your favourite beer, we’d love to hear from you…

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Holiday cottages that are very 'moorish'…

Picking a holiday cottage on Dartmoor or Exmoor takes you right to the heart of the West Country: perfect for absorbing the region's unrivalled views, whether it's from the comfort of your country retreat or while out walking through the luscious landscape.

This delightful barn cottage is one of four on this friendly farm just outside Lustleigh on the eastern side of Dartmoor. The beautiful location is secluded yet sociable: visitors to the cottages share an indoor heated swimming pool, play area and games room and are welcome to explore the 35 acre farm with its moorland, reservoirs and abundant wildlife. You can enjoy plenty of lovely walks without even leaving the farm or venture further into the open moor to discover pretty villages, river valleys and tors.

Skilgate, a sleepy village off the beaten track on the southern edge of Exmoor, is home to this pretty and cosy 18th century cottage. It’s an ideal place for some peace and quiet and yet there’s lots to explore on the doorstep. As well as the natural pull you are likely to feel to explore wider Exmoor (the visitor centre at Dulverton is a good starting point), the property is just a mile from Wimbleball Lake where sailing, fly fishing and walking are popular pastimes. This is the owners' favourite spot for a getaway and it's easy to see why.

We’ve a diverse choice of holiday cottages on Dartmoor and holiday cottages on Exmoor and many are pet friendly, so you’re sure to find just the right place for a happy holiday at any time of year.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Make the most of the Royal Wedding…

Thanks to the Royal Wedding, Easter and the days on which UK Bank Holidays fall, you can enjoy 11 days holiday by booking just three days off work this April. All you need to decide is the best way to use your free time: a trip to the coast or the country?

View from Lower Stables
Lower Stables is in a spectacular location in Cornwall’s Med and will guarantee a memorable getaway. An amazing view across Maenporth beach competes with the attraction of the property itself. This modern building on the Maenporth Estate boasts a large indoor heated swimming pool, sauna, jacuzzi, table tennis, pool table and two tennis courts in 29 acres of landscaped gardens with large barbecue area, woodland walks and children’s play area.

It's just a short walk along the beach to the nearest restaurant. Other nearby facilities include a scuba school, beachside cafe and bar. Mawnan Smith is just a mile away and the larger harbour town of Falmouth is just over two miles. The area is good for watersports, golf, riding and fishing and many of Cornwall's famous gardens are within easy reach.

Inland retreats like The Coach House (right) in Ottery St Mary, east Devon offer the best of British countryside. The small market town nestles in a wider scene of farms and woodland: scenery that inspired Coleridge to write a sonnet to the river.

The holiday cottage itself is converted from the original coach house in the grounds of Cadhay and offers light and roomy living space with plenty of beams and antiques for character. Guests at The Coach House can tour Cadhay on a Friday and find out why it was named one of Simon Jenkins’ ‘England’s Thousand Best Houses’ and was one of 16 shortlisted by Country Life for their ‘Finest Manor House’ award. The cottage has its own small patio and grassy area overlooking a walled garden, now filled with beautifully kept allotments. This place is exceptional for garden and country lovers with good walks right on your doorstep.

Whether you want to soak up every bit of excitement about the Royal Wedding or escape all the hype, we’ll help you find just the right place for a relaxing spring break. Take a look at the holiday cottages still available for Easter and the Royal Wedding week or give our team a call on 01647 433593.
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Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Put a West Country spring in your step this Easter…

Not long until the Easter school holidays and the opportunity to have a big catch up with family and friends or simply head off for a quiet break. Whether you're looking for a first class venue for a once-in-a-blue-moon get together or a homely hideaway for your nearest and dearest, we can help you find a holiday cottage in the West Country to suit your needs and your pocket.

Take Maristow Barton on the outskirts of Dartmoor, for example. This exceptional Georgian country house sleeping 16 is tucked away in its own grounds and has everything from a jetty for a small boat to a games room to keep the family entertained.

Part of a 6,000 acre estate close to the river Tavy, the property has a beautiful sunny living room and a striking red dining room in which to relax and socialise. There are five double rooms (two with a slipper bath in the room) and three twins, each brightly and luxuriously decorated, giving any holiday here a hotel feel without the cost. You will no doubt appreciate the no-expense-spared approach the owner has taken refurbishing this home.

The peaceful location boasts stunning countryside, great for exploring by bike along the Plym Valley cycle track. The house is also perfectly situated for visiting Plymouth and Tavistock, both eight miles from Milton Combe, and a great range of National Trust properties, fishing villages and sandy beaches all within 15 miles.

The impressive view from Dolphins
If you’re looking for a smaller retreat, take a look at Dolphins in a quiet location in popular St Ives. The picture-perfect town is nearly surrounded by superb beaches and steeped in fishing village history. From exploring the narrow cobbled streets to tracing the story of art movements that made their name here, you will be spoiled for choice for things to see and do. There are stunning cliff walks to Zennor, with Penzance and Land's End only a short drive away.

The home itself is stylish, uncluttered and comfortable and enjoys long views over Porthmeor Beach and ‘the island’, as it is called. On the seaward side is an open piece of lawned garden with seats and great views, and, at the back, a neat enclosed little paved courtyard with table, chairs and barbecue ready for use. There is one twin room and one double, making this an ideal bolt-hole for a small family or a group of four adults.

Professional catering is available at both of these properties.

From grand houses to cosy cottages, deep in rolling countryside or by the coast, you’re sure to find just the right place for your Easter getaway. View a list of the holiday cottages still available or give our knowledgeable telephone team a call on 01647 433593 and we’ll help you search.
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Thursday, 3 March 2011

More stunning springtime gardens...

Cotehele estate near Saltash makes the most of a scenic sheltered spot - albeit 1,289 acres big - on the west bank of the river Tamar. The 15th century house with its historical garden and woodland has inspired artists, keen gardeners and wildlife enthusiasts throughout the centuries. The formal gardens outside the main house overlook a valley garden with a medieval dovecote, pond, Victorian summerhouse and 18th century tower. The estate is dotted with interesting historical buildings including Cotehele Mill, Cotehele Quay, the Chapel in the Wood, the ruins of Danescombe's Sawmill and Papermill and the mines of Danescombe Valley. Being so close to the Devon border, you can praise the floral assets of both counties with a stay at this unique converted chapel.

A spring ramble through Burncoose Gardens and Nursery, part of the Caerhays Estate in Redruth, is a great opportunity to see this hilltop horticultural hotspot covered with snowdrops, primroses and wild violets, and later the daffodils and blankets of nodding bluebells. Like Lanhydrock, Burncoose works wonders with the cooler version of Cornwall's microclimate and has gold medals from Chelsea, Hampton Court and many other nationwide flower shows. Its sprawling woodland gardens and old flower garden are rich with the likes of camellias, azaleas and rhododendrons, as well as over 20 species of bamboo. When you've ticked those off your checklist, compile another one in the tranquil wooded gardens of this homely apartment in St Agnes.

The Japanese Garden and Bonsai Nursery takes the bamboo theme and elaborates, bringing authentic Eastern gardening styles and exotic varieties to the West Country.
Japanese maples, azaleas and rhododendrons and ornamental grasses make this a little slice (one-and-a-half acres) of Japan, just outside Newquay. Add to that the specialist Bonsai store and you can take a piece of Japanese horticulture home with you. This all-Cornish cottage at Mawgan Porth is the ideal place to ‘zen out’ afterwards.

Glendurgan Garden near Falmouth is listed by the National Trust as one of its top springtime gardens, and we agree. Described as a little bit of heaven on earth, this sub-tropical valley garden blooms with magnolias, wild flowers and woodland flora. You can wander through the garden down to the beautiful hamlet of Durgan on the Helford River. You can walk back to this comfy holiday home and enjoy the lovely, long rural views.

There are over 60 amazing gardens in Cornwall to visit, so you’re sure to find one or more within easy reach of your holiday cottage in Cornwall.

We've focused on Cornwall here but there are, of course, many beautiful gardens in Devon too which have glorious springtime displays, like Killerton, Coleton Fishacre and RHS Garden Rosemoor.

Which are your favourites?

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Stunning springtime displays…

Cornwall is overflowing with stunning gardens; a real home-from-home for exotic plants and flowers that wouldn't survive elsewhere in the UK. Take the mild climate, the history of proud garden-rich estates and the regions' spectacular scenery and you have some unrivalled visitor attractions. Here’s our pick of wonderful springtime displays you can enjoy on a spring break in the West Country…

The Cornwall Spring Flower Show at Boconnoc, Lostwithiel, highlights the high calibre of gardening skill in the county and gives the public the rare opportunity to see the garden at Boconnoc itself. Gardeners embrace their competitive spirit to offer some exuberant displays. 

The Eden Project and the Lost Gardens of Heligan are two of the big names signed up for the show on 2nd and 3rd April, where aside from 'show garden' entries, the camellias, daffodils, rhododendrons and ornamental shrubs and trees guarantee a colourful spectacle. With over 100 trade stands, talks and demonstrations, there’s plenty to keep you amused. Entry also includes free access to the garden at Boconnoc, not normally open to the public. Whether visiting for the show or soon after, Treburtle Cottage in north Cornwall is ideally located for visiting gardens in Devon and Cornwall.

For a historic garden with a touch of adventure to its heritage, Trewithen, near Truro, is a must see. Much of its flora and fauna has grown from the seed collections of early seed hunters. It has been described as "perhaps the most beautiful woodland garden in England" and is internationally famous for camellias, rhododendrons and magnolias. Families will find plenty to do here: all ages are left wide-mouthed by the magnolia fountain while a play area, camera obscura and tearoom are also popular. When you have exhausted all the views the 28 acre site has to offer, you won't be disappointed to go home to pretty Lilypond Cottage in Feock to enjoy its lovely lawned garden and lily ponds.

A more formal garden can be found at the National Trust's Lanhydrock. It has a different climate to deal with, situated inland and 130metres above sea level, and still manages to put on colourful spring shows with over 120 species of cream and white magnolias and wild blooms that carpet the woodland. The house itself has more than 50 rooms open to view. As well as the walk from the house to theriver Fowey at Respryn Bridge, there are 30 acres of formal and informal woodland to explore, with the garden opening out onto an extensive network of footpaths zig-zagging through 900 acres of beautiful countryside. Rest your weary legs at comfy Merryfield Farmhouse and spot the spring lambs prancing in the adjacent fields.

You can use our advanced search to find holiday cottages in Cornwall and find nearby gardens to visit on our ‘Explore the area’ map. Don’t forget, if you can’t stay for a full week, short breaks are available at many of our cottages.

Look out for some more of our favourite springtime gardens later this week.
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