Friday, 27 May 2011

Our new videos...

The web has given us a fantastic opportunity to 'tell it like it is': lots of big photos, mapping, information about local areas, customer comments – and now, some new videos.

First is a video explaining the ethos behind Helpful Holidays, you'll find it top right on our About us page. Our job is simple - to do all we can to make sure you have happy holidays, but as our new video explains, there’s an awful lot that goes into that!

Next, we've some videos showcasing some of our holiday homes on Dartmoor...

Weddicott Barn - watch the video

Parford Cottage - watch the video

The Old Dairy - watch the video

Sampsons - watch the video

And don't forget, to compliment the information we provide online, we've a free 220-page colour brochure and a friendly, unbiased, expert telephone team you can ask, "Do you think this is the right place for me? Will I be happy there?" and from whom you will get a straight answer.

We hope you like our new videos and find them useful. Do let us know what you think. 

If you need any help, email us on or call us on 01647 433593.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Star ratings - helping you choose the perfect place...

By rigourously inspecting and correctly star rating our holiday homes, we aim to provide comfortable, well equipped and safe places for people to enjoy and feel they've received value for money.

We've star rated all the properties in our brochures since we started in 1982 (the first agency to do so) and our holidaymakers tell us they rely on our star ratings above all else in their search for a perfect holiday place.

Our star ratings are unique in that they rely on the experience of the inspectors, members of our staff who have seen hundreds of houses. They check everything we can think might be relevant to your holiday enjoyment, from basic cleanliness to whether the colour of the curtains goes with the duvet covers.

The ratings remain, however, strictly personal assessments, in the best of faith, of interior quality and ambience. They have nothing to do with the outward appearance or situation, nor they number of 'gadgets'. Mostly it's about ‘feel’ and ‘comfort’, all looked at with a good dollop of common sense.

You can read what the different stars mean on our website and here are some example properties: 1 Star2 Star3 Star3½ Star; 4 Star4½ Star; 5 Star.

As quality standards continue to improve, we constantly review to ensure that our star ratings remain useful. More people say we malign places than we over-rate them. We welcome your opinion.

Whenever you book a holiday cottage through us, we want your expectations to be absolutely fulfilled, hopefully exceeded. Our star ratings, along with features such as large photos (and lots of them), full and frank descriptions and holidaymaker comments, help us deliver on this.

And, of course, if you need some 'human' help whilst choosing your holiday home, you can always chat with our knowledgeable telephone team (01647 433593), all visitors to our properties and happy to guide you.

With over 600 high quality holiday cottages in Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and Dorset, you've plenty of choice. Happy hunting!

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Cornish charm and Devon donkeys…

From an eco-friendly haven to a former village sweet shop, we've some fantastic and unique holiday cottages to add another dimension to your next West Country break.

Rainwater harvesting, heat reclaim ventilation and an air source heat pump for heating and hot water give the recently refurbished The Linhay in the South Hams an attractive, forward-thinking quality many holidaymakers seek. On the site of an ancient settlement and surrounded by five acres of fields with distant views to Dartmoor and south to Noss Mayo, the proximity to nature - including a private woodland with a stream and sightings of rabbits, pheasants, a barn owl, woodpeckers and buzzards - is superbly fitting.

The Linhay is a detached, upside-down property near a collection of small villages. Essential shops and good food pubs can be found in Newton Ferrers. At low tide, follow the footpath across the creek or use the pedestrian ferry to coast walk to the secluded beach at Wembury. Mothecombe has the nearest sandy beach and is 4 miles by car.

Collaton Farmhouse and Collaton Farm Cottage are on the same site as The Linhay and can be rented together. A semi-detached and more traditional building, Collaton Farmhouse is clad with roses and wisteria, with a large and lovely, sheltered enclosed walled garden and sun trap terrace. Collaton Farm Cottage is a pretty, part slate-hung, west-facing end of the original house, with its own entrance and sunny, lawned garden with terrace looking over fields and woodland beyond.

Cornish charm is found in abundance in Mousehole, on the western tip of Cornwall. This pretty fishing village is a horseshoe of granite cottages, shops, good restaurant, cafés and pub round its harbour. Fisherman’s Haven, an enchanting 18th century Grade II listed cottage,nestles in a tiny cobbled lane and the interior reflects its artistic owner’s flair and imagination. Plenty of good walks on your doorstep and the superb Minack Theatre and sandy Sennen cove within 10 miles.

Hartland in north Devon is home to The Olde Sweetshop, a 17th century terraced cottage, once the village sweet shop through which donkeys walked to be shod at the back (now a lawned garden). Hartland itself is an attractive village with shops, pubs and a lovely former abbey set in a remote, beautiful area with spectacular cliffs at Hartland Quay; an ideal base for exploring the coastal path. The nearest town is Bideford and closest beach is Westward Ho! - the only place in the British Isles with an exclamation mark in its name!

Search our selection of more than 600 West Country holiday cottages to find a special place to stay.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Take to the seas with West Country regattas…

The world’s most prestigious and thrilling yacht racing is coming to Plymouth after it was announced as a host city for the 2011 America’s Cup World Series. The event in September will attract thousands of international visitors and large crowds are expected to watch the world’s best sailors in the world’s fastest boats competing in the spectacular natural amphitheatre of Plymouth Sound.

So if the high-energy, wave-crunching excitement of the America's Cup has given you a hunger for a spot of sailing, the West Country has some other top class events for you - and we've highlighted a few nearby cottages...

Henri Lloyd Falmouth Week takes place from 6th to14th August. The event includes a variety of courses during the week followed by fun on dry land - teas, prize givings and entertainment at a different host club every day. Its organisers state many of the competitors combine the racing with their annual family holiday. With its National Maritime Museum, the town is a prime location for holidaymakers who want to enjoy sailing and the sea. Set sail for S34.

Fowey Royal Regatta transforms its tranquil host town into a hive of activity for one week each August. Hailed one of Britain’s premier sailing events, it is also a fun-filled week for all the family, sailors and landlubbers alike. Previous visitors include Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and Queen Elizabeth II and the Red Arrows have been making an appearance for over 30 years. It will take place between 14th and 20th August this year. Make R392 your port of call at the end of each day.

Henri Lloyd Salcombe Yacht Club Regatta attracted more than 250 boats last year and is expected to be as popular this year from 7th to 12th August. Located at the southern tip of Devon, the large sheltered estuary is very popular with dinghy sailors and holidaymakers and is known to many as a departure point for the Channel Islands and France. The celebrations continue during Salcombe Town Regatta from 14th to 20th August. Get your land legs back at L901.

Dartmouth Regatta is a must for anyone in the region from 25th to 27th August. The RAF Red Arrows Display Team and the Black Knights Army Display Parachute Team have already confirmed their attendance, proving this is far more than a water-lovers celebration. A new competition has been added to the extensive programme this year - Pensioners Crab Fishing Competition. According to organisers, pensioners have watched in excess of 200 children annually crab atregattas over the years, and now feel it is time the 'old uns' showed them how it’s really done. Take your catch back to L119.

Use our Advanced Search to find holiday cottages in Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and Dorset.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Helpful fund raising for the Marine Conservation Society

As we mentioned earlier on this blog, Helpful Holidays has chosen the Marine Conservation Society as its charity for 2011. As part of this initiative we’re delighted to be working with Catherine Forshall, a gifted and highly regarded painter, to raise funds for the important work of MCS.

Catherine has been invited to produce five signed, limited edition prints to be sold on an exclusive basis by the Marine Conservation Society. The prints can be viewed, together with several of Catherine’s original paintings, at the Monks Withecombe Gallery, one mile outside Chagford, and purchased from Catherine's website.

Catherine is donating 50% of the value of her print sales to the Marine Conservation Society, and says, “I have always felt that the sea is part of me. I think of the sea as this huge benign nurturing force, a source of food and energy, refreshing and invigorating. I don't want it to be poisoned for our children. That’s why I support the Marine Conservation Society. I think the work they do, raising public awareness, getting parts of our sea around Britain fully protected, improving the cleanliness of our beaches, and supporting sustainable fishing policies- is fantastic.”  

You can make a donation to MCS when you book a holiday through Helpful Holidays. All funds raised will go towards the protection of our glorious and vulnerable coastline and the preservation of the marine environment.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Here comes another Bank Holiday!

Is your first full week back at work giving you Bank Holiday withdrawal? Luckily, the West Country is getting ready for the next one at the end of May, which coincides with Whitsun half term. We’ve still some lovely holiday cottages available over half term so it’s not too late to get away and enjoy some of these fabulous events.

The Fal River Festival runs from 27th May to 5th June in 2011, with over 150 events varying from music, drama, arts and heritage to gig racing, swimming, walking and lots more. The event gets underway when the St Mawes ferry leaves the King Harry/Trelissick pontoon on 27th with the festival beer. We’re sponsoring Day 2 with events including ‘3 Choirs and a Ferry’ in the middle of the river and ‘Them Beatles’ later in the evening. Join in the singing from S210.

Run to the Sun is a Mecca for Volkswagen lovers. The rarer and more outlandish VW cars and campers will head to Newquay for the late Spring Bank Holiday weekend to take part in this popular festival from 27th to 30th May. These spectacular cars compete for the 'show and shine' title while drivers and passengers make the most of four music arenas. Rest your engines at Q324.

The Royal Bath & West Show is one of the biggest events in the rural calendar. Taking place near Shepton Mallet in Somerset from 1st to 4th June, you might decide to go back more than once to make the most of the magnificent award winning food and drink (including 'The Beast' a prize sausage made by West Country firm Westaways), the livestock on show and the glamorous Ladies Day. Sizzle your sausages at E7.

If you’re heading to Exmouth, you can choose from a range of art, music and culture events spanning the nine days of this popular seaside town's festival. Enjoy the street performances, open house galleries, golden beaches, pubs, clubs and family entertainment at the main venue, Manor Gardens, from 26th May to 3rd June. Watch out for bands Souled and the ten-piece Joey and the Lips! Plenty of soul at G28.

Visit to search for holiday cottages in Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and Dorset or give our bookings team a call on 01647 433593 for some friendly advice. Don't forget, you can check for other events, attractions and activities by using our Explore the Area map on each property details page.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Venus SUP Championship proudly sponsored by Helpful Holidays…

Stand up paddle boarding (or SUP for short) seems to be taking the West Country by storm, so we’re delighted to announce our sponsorship of the second annual Venus Riders Family SUP Championship in south Devon at the end of May. 

Stand up paddle boarding is one of the best sports for the whole family to enjoy. Standing on top of a long board, you glide along the surface of the water using a long paddle, a little bit like a gondolier! It's a perfect way to see the West Country coastline and great exercise too.

It sounds idyllic, doesn't it? But there is a competitive side too, as the event at Blackpool Sands proves. The Championship will attract experienced and beginner SUP boarders of all ages between Tuesday 31st May and Friday 3rd June 2011. Contestants aged 8 and above can take part in qualifying heats with the aim of making it through to the grand final on Friday, where three eventual winners will be crowned. Registration for the heats is at 9:30am on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for all wannabe SUP champs and it’s free to take part.

Hosted by the Venus Company, the event aims to put the South Hams firmly on the map as THE place for SUP in the UK. Building on the runaway - or paddleaway - success of the 2010 four-day competition, it is hoped hundreds will come along to participate again this year. It makes a great spectator sport too, for those who want to stay firmly on dry land.

The Venus Company has six environmentally friendly and socially responsible cafés, five in stunning beachside locations in south Devon and north Cornwall - Blackpool SandsEast PortlemouthBigbury-on-SeaTolcarne and Watergate Bay – and their most recent enterprise at the shops at Dartington centre near Totnes. Venus also has a watersports arm to the business based at Bigbury-on-Sea and Blackpool Sands and demand for SUP tuition has never been higher.

If you fancy yourself as the next Venus Riders SUP Champion, make sure you take part in this year’s event. Go to the Venus Company website - - to sign up for the 'Friends of Venus' newsletter to ensure you are kept up-to-date with event details.

New to SUP? Why not book some SUP lessons with Venus Riders to get in some practice before next year’s competition? Visit the SUP page for more information.

For an added incentive to get down to the Championship at Blackpool Sands and try SUP or watch the entrants, there’s a chance to win a £500 Helpful Holidays voucher in the free prize draw. So, see you there!

View a list of our holiday cottages in the South Hams to find just the right place for a happy holiday at great value.

Friday, 6 May 2011

From historic feasts to heroic feats - which do you prefer?

Planning a trip to the West Country this June? Come and immerse yourself in the ‘fishy’ celebrations during Mevagissey Feast Week... or for the fitness fanatics among you, how about an authentic Iron Man event?

Mevagissey has held a celebration of food for hundreds of years, moving it from its original December slot so it didn't clash with the busy fishing period so important to life in the Cornish village. Adopting St Peter as Mevagissey's Patron Saint, the week-long festival of entertainment has begun on his feast day ever since. 

Events last year included a fishing boat race, sandcastle competition, ‘Big Fish Procession’ and ladies barbershop choir, and it promises to be bigger and better than ever in 2011 from 26th June to 2nd July. Digest the entire event - including the breathtaking firework finale - from the terrace at Penpol, a stunning house with gorgeous views overlooking the harbour.

The Iron Man event taking place on Exmoor on 19th June has to be one of the most picturesque locations for such a rugged competition. This was the first Ironman 70.3, also known as a Half Ironman, to exist and so has a strong following. 

The "70.3" refers to the total distance in miles (113.0 km) covered in the race, consisting of a 1.2 mile (1.9 km) swim, a 56 mile (90 km) bike ride and a 13.1 mile (21.1 km) run. Its reputation as being the toughest 70.3 in the world grows and grows. But fear not! You can happily spectate then put your holiday feet up at The Granary, a handsome, stylish house in an enchanting spot with lovely, long rural views.

To search more than 600 holiday cottages in the West Country, go to

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

West Country gets into holiday mode this May…

Looking to get into the holiday swing? More sunshine is on the way and the West Country has all kinds of events to keep you entertained this month. We’ve picked out a few, plus some superb holiday cottages to match.

The Daphne du Maurier Festival in Fowey, Cornwall, 12th to 21st May, is generating great excitement among literature lovers. “Life is too short to send out invitations." (Rebecca). With that in mind, make your way to the much-loved Festival Village, which will once again play host to a programme of national and international writers and performers, including Robert Hanbury-Tenison, Ann Widdecombe, Port Isaac’s Fisherman’s Friends and Rory McGrath. No drama back at R392.

The Devon County Show, 19th to 21st May, is a must-see, must-taste, must-do bonanza. Three fantastic days of delicious West Country food and drink and the very best horses, goats, sheep, bunnies and cows, including the famous Devon cattle known as Red Rubies. Watch out for the dazzling Bolddog Lings motorcycle display team performing in the main ring. And kids go free on Saturday! Take foodie goodies back to G41.

Or how about trying out the brilliantly named Potwalloping Festival, from 28th to 30th May? Dating back to the 1800s, this event originated when local people ventured down to Westward Ho! beach to throw back pebbles that had fallen from the ridge during the winter storms. This is still performed today, but has developed into a less arduous event with displays, local crafts, stalls and entertainment. Throw your stones from K1!

For more information about upcoming West Country events, take a look at our online Explore the Area map on each property details page. We’ve categorised the events too so that you can search for the type of event that interests you, such as family friendly, food, quirky or music.

Use our Advanced Search to find holiday cottages in Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and Dorset.