Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Celebrating artistic talent in Devon…

Did you know that Devon has more working artists than any other county in the UK? From 3rd to 18th September 2011, the Devon Open Studios project, with over 370 artists exhibiting in 146 venues, creates an ideal opportunity for art lovers to visit Devon. You can meet the artists in their studios and even see them in action. It’s a phenomenally successful venture - there were over 25,000 studio visits during last year’s event – and we’re delighted to be sponsoring the project again this year.

For 2011, we’re also proud to support their Emerging Artist Bursary Scheme to help fresh talent develop their young careers. Our bursaries are going to the five impressive artists below who express their creativity through a variety of media, ranging from photography and mosaics to crayon:
  • Amy McCarthy - glass (pictured)
  • Kirstie Benbow - mixed media
  • Melanie Beer – painting and glass
  • Nigel Waters – mixed media
  • Francesca Dawson – drawings
We’ll take a closer look at each of these five artists over the coming weeks, starting with Amy McCarthy. Amy’s stained glass and mixed media is inspired by the beautiful Devon landscape and she produces striking, simple designs which reflect her love of colour. Waste glass and recycled or found objects are incorporated in to her mixed media mosaics which have been exhibited around the South West.

Amy set up an online shop and art glass studio in 2009 after a career in mental health. In a remarkably short time, she has built up a thriving studio with a steady stream of commissions and a busy exhibition diary.

Recycling and environmental art are a dominant passion; last summer she won ‘South West Water’s Artist Prize’ for a large public sculpture that utilised an old bath and discarded glass to create a vibrantly coloured sail boat cruising on a mosaic sea! She intends to create more large sculptures by casting recycled glass. This is a very experimental area of glass art and she’s keen to develop her skills in enamelling, fusing and slumping glass by investing in a kiln for her studio.

The bursary will help Amy with the cost of a gazebo to exhibit her work in this year’s exhibition and with the preparation and promotion of her private view event.

You can watch Amy demonstrate her technique in this video – as you’ll see, her creations are full of colour and vigour and we can’t wait to see more of her work throughout the year.

View our holiday cottages in Devon to book a cultural break in September and follow the studio trail to visit some of the most beautiful, unexplored parts of this county.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Holiday cottages in Chagford - our home town!

We’re lucky and proud to work in the bustling, friendly town of Chagford. Helpful Holidays has been based here since 1999, and we’ve lots of lovely holiday homes in and around the town for you to enjoy.

Chagford has a vibrant local community, an easy-going way of life and a picturesque setting on the edge of Dartmoor. Around the pretty square and 'pepper pot' market house, the town has more than 25 shops, four pubs, three restaurants and three churches - one of which dates back to the 15th century.

The town also has a fantastically fresh open air swimming pool (open daily from May to September), the largest in Devon. Nearby is the river Teign (good for fishing), which hurries through woods and meadows below Castle Drogo (a grand National Trust property). The whole area offers excellent walking and superb views. If you're around in July, Chagstock is a rather special ‘chill-out’ music festival and if you're around in August, the Chagford Show is a local phenomenon - a great day out for the whole family, showcasing the very best of Chagford and the surrounding area.

On the moorland side of Chagford, almost 1½ miles from the square and high on a hill with the most terrific views towards Meldon Hill and the surrounding moor, is Down Cottage. This recently and carefully refurbished granite cottage is part of a magnificent estate built in 1911 for the Jameson whisky family. The cottage has been renovated with sensitivity and style, with muted tones and beautiful furniture. A highlight is the spacious kitchen, with those fabulous views – perfect for lazy breakfasts. This is a really exceptional moorland cottage, in the most elegant setting. Sleeps 6.

Just 2 miles from Chagford in a very peaceful setting with lovely views is Yelfords Cottage, a superbly renovated, detached cottage with its own enclosed garden, within the 15 acre grounds of the owner’s country house and hidden by a high screen of rhododendrons. From inside the cottage there are plenty of lovely views of Meldon Hill. With open moorland within walking distance, this is a walker's dream - there are many lovely walks straight from the cottage. Sleeps 4. 

Why not take the time to browse our holiday cottages in Chagford - we guarantee you'll be tempted!

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Saving you money on West Country attractions…

Entertaining the kids is a crucial part of any family summer holiday and luckily, the West Country offers a wealth of choice, whether for toddlers or teenagers.

When you book a holiday with Helpful Holidays, you’ll receive a copy of our “What Shall We Do Today?” guide, full of recommendations and discount vouchers to use at 80 of the region’s attractions.

So, how did we choose our Top Ten attractions for children? We find that the key test is the volume of protest when the words ‘time to go home’ (TTGH) are uttered.

Here’s our pick of the best, thoroughly tested over the years by close friends and relations…

Paignton Zoo, Paignton, Devon – first class zoo – TTGH rating 8.

Pennywell Farm, near Buckfastleigh, Devon – not the biggest, but the best and friendliest ‘hands on’ children’s farm – TTGH rating 9.

Miniature Pony Centre, North Bovey, Devon – cute and cuddly – you bet! TTGH rating 7.

Woodlands, near Dartmouth, Devon – can you tame ‘The Twister’? – TTGH rating 8.

National Marine Aquarium, Plymouth, Devon – very impressive main tank – TTGH rating 6.

Crealy, near Exeter, Devon and Newquay, Cornwall – yup, the kids love them both – TTGH rating 7.

The Big Sheep, near Bideford, Devon – watch the sheep race at this north Devon ‘ewetopia’ – TTGH rating 7.

Combe Martin Dinosaur and Wildlife Park, near Combe Martin, Devon – wolves, dinosaurs (model ones), a train ride and butterflies – TTGH rating 8.

Pecorama, Beer, Devon – games and trains and perhaps England’s best miniature railway – TTGH rating 7.

Diggerland, near Cullompton, Devon – boys, this is just what you’ve always wanted to do. Yes, you really do get to drive a digger – TTGH rating 7.

Dairyland Farmworld, near Newquay, Cornwall – great for younger kids – TTGH rating 6.

You can use our Advanced Search to find holiday cottages near the above attractions or use our ‘Explore the Area’ map to spot great days out near each cottage.

If you need any help searching for a cottage or planning your summer holiday with us, do give our friendly bookings team a call on 01647 433593 or email on

Friday, 17 June 2011

Idyllic cottages for summer holidays…

If you've been toiling away all year, you'll be heartened by the thought that summer holiday time is almost here - and we’ve some excellent coastal and country cottages to help you experience the best of the West Country.

Enchanting Creek Cottage, in Cornwall’s Med, is an old cob, semi-detached cottage in a wonderful position with uninterrupted views. At the front of the house a lane leads to the shore with quiet, sheltered picnic spots beneath trees, and a slipway where small boats can be launched - it is thought that Creek Cottage was once a fisherman's cottage. It has since been enlarged and updated to make a very comfortable family home - an ideal place to relax and enjoy the area. There are many beaches nearby and the quaint town of Falmouth is just 6 miles away. Sleeps 6.

On the north coast of Cornwall, pretty Courtyard Cottage is one of four terraced, stone cottages looking out from upstairs over the Camel estuary to Padstow and the sea beyond. Just nearby is an excellent family pub and a little-used lane runs one mile down to the estuary (great for birdwatching) and the Camel Trail (coastal cycleway). Sleeps 4.

For larger groups, how about The Manor House on the edge of Exmoor? It’s a big detached Victorian house facing out over its extensive gardens and surrounding farmland, originally built for a life of hunting, fishing and shooting, and now a great family home. Inside is roomy and comfy with some lovely pieces of furniture and a few clues to its history. A big kitchen with an oil-fired Aga and a walk-in pantry will enable you to cook up a feast and there’s plenty of space to either socialise or find a quiet corner. There’s private fishing on-site and lovely moorland walks on the doorstep. And if that leaves you in need of a drink, it's just 400 yards to the local pub. Sleeps 18.

The Coach House in east Devon, is tucked away in a corner of the original walled kitchen garden of the grand house Cadhay. It has been finely converted with flair and thought, and is light and spacious with plenty of beams. This is an exceptional place for garden and country lovers - there's good walking from the front door. Not far away is the small market town of Ottery St Mary, set amid rolling farmland and beautiful woods beside the river Otter, where Coleridge was born and wrote a sonnet to the river. Sleeps 6.

To find a place that’s just right for your summer break, browse our holiday cottages with availability during July in DevonCornwall,Somerset and Dorset.

Or if August is the month for you, here's what we have available in DevonCornwallSomerset and Dorset.

If you need help with your search, simply email us on or call us on 01647 433593.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Helpful cricket sponsorship for Chagford’s youth section...

We're delighted to be sponsoring the youth section of Chagford Cricket Club for the next five years.

Moray Bowater, our General Manager, says, “Thanks to the energy and commitment of many people in Chagford, we have a cricket pitch and pavilion which would be remarkable anywhere; for a town as small as Chagford to have such an outstanding facility is truly wonderful.”

Chris Mount, Cricket Youth Development Officer for Chagford Cricket Club, adds, “We’re aiming to take cricket into local schools to broaden participation in the game and involve more local children. Chagford Cricket Club is paying for coaches to go to Chagford Primary School, and then to North Tawton and South Tawton Primary Schools. The idea is to give the children a chance to play the game. If they enjoy playing cricket, they can come to the Chagford cricket ground to develop their skills in a safe, friendly and encouraging environment. With parental involvement and support, this project will be able to provide a tremendous opportunity and benefit to children in the area. We need drivers, sandwich makers, fund raisers and assistant coaches, and will find a role for anyone who’d like to take part!”

The first practice sessions of the season have got off to a great start with around 40 children taking part.

It was the Dartmoor Inter-Primary Schools Cricket Cup tournament on Tuesday and, blessed with a beautiful sunny day, we went down to the ground to watch 60 energetic youngsters having fun and showing competitive spirit. Well done to the Chagford Primary School team who won the cup!

We'll be avidly following their progress during the season and looking forward to some summer evenings lazing in front of the pavilion...

If you’d like to find out more about the cricket initiative, please call Chris Mount on 07703 542697.

If you're staying in one of our holiday cottages in Chagford, check the fixtures and pop down, you'll be made very welcome.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Summer holidays - we all deserve them!

Not long now to those lazy, hazy days of summer - it will soon be time to dust off the suitcase and pack it to the brim for another year's break. We’d love to welcome you to the wonderful West Country for a week (or perhaps two) away in one of our fabulous holiday cottages.

There’s plenty to do; think of the endlessly different beaches and coves, and the rock pools to rummage around in. Shake the sand from your toes and venture upwards to explore vast expanses of high moorland. 

Drink in the terrific views, sample the delicious local food and enjoy our unique and quirky festivals. But remember to put your feet up, tune in to a quieter pace of life and relax in this wonderful corner of England.

We’ve a huge variety of properties for you to choose from (such as this charming house with its own outdoor pool), scattered throughout Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and Dorset; from toes-in-the-water cottages to grand country houses for those special holiday gatherings. All have been carefully inspected by us, star-rated for quality and come with our wholehearted recommendation as good places for happy holidays.

View holiday cottages available during July and August on our website where you’ll find lots of big photos and can check live availability, make a shortlist and email it to your friends or book and pay securely online. 

Our telephone team (01647 433593) are regular visitors to all of our holiday homes, so do make use of their expertise and experience to help you make a good choice. Don’t forget, you can also request our FREE 224-page brochure online or ask us to pop one in the post when you call.

We look forward to welcoming you here soon.

Friday, 10 June 2011

How do you entertain your kids on holiday?

Choosing a holiday that your children will enjoy as much as you can take a certain amount of planning. Is there outdoor space and entertainment at the holiday cottage? How far is the nearest beach? Where can you go for a fun day out?

A holiday in the West Country offers a diverse choice of family-friendly attractions. At the Eden Project in Cornwall, alongside the iconic Biomes, is The Core, a fantastic education centre full of interactive displays where both children and adults can press buttons, windhandles and peer inside things. There are also zoos and animal centres such as Pennywell Farm in Devon, ideal for children to get involved and learn about farming life. 

Or how about the National Maritime Museum (pictured) in Falmouth or an adventure park such as Devon's Crealy with theme park rides, an adventure zone and a Magical Kingdom?

Make the most of the wealth of natural assets too - miles of sandy beaches and open moorland, perfect for children to burn off all that energy. The coast and countryside is a spectacular backdrop for outdoor activities such as surfing, sailing, horse riding and rock climbing, or just the simple pleasures of walking with your pet dog or exploring rock pools.

Many of our holiday homes are well-stocked with kids entertainments, such as Lower Toft Farmhouse in Devon with an indoor swimming pool and a table tennis table and Compton House (pool room pictured) in Somerset with table football, a pool table, an outdoor pool and even its own adventure playground. At Ingle Tor, within the grounds of Bovey Castle on Dartmoor, seven to 14 year olds can join the 'Bovey Rangers' and enjoy activities ranging from rock climbing to survival skills.

You can use our Advanced Search to find more holiday cottages with pools, gardens and games rooms or those which are on a farm or near a sandy beach. And, don’t forget, our ‘Explore the Area’ map will help you spot the places to go and things to do near each cottage. If you need any extra advice, give our telephone team a call on 01647 433593 – they are all visitors to our properties with local knowledge to help you find the one that’s right for you.

Which attractions, locations and HH holiday cottages would you recommend for entertaining your kids on holiday? We’d love to hear from you.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Venus Riders SUP Voucher Winner: Connor Cranfield

We wrote in a previous post about our sponsorship of the second annual Venus Riders Family SUP Championship in south Devon at the end of May.

Over 60 competitors took to the sea to compete for the chance to be crowned the Venus Riders Family SUP Champions of 2011. The event, which was launched in 2010, aimed to introduce locals and holidaymakers to the thrills of stand up paddleboarding, a sport very much suited to the coast and estuaries of south Devon.

It’s a watersport that can be enjoyed by all ages and picked up easily with little practice. In fact, many competitors simply stepped into their wetsuit and had their first try of SUP during the Championship.

We donated a £500 Helpful Holidays voucher in the free prize draw, and our Marketing Manager Adrian Innocent was at the finals to present the voucher to lucky winner Connor Cranfield, pictured.

Have you tried SUP? Does it look like the sort of activity you would enjoy?

What are your helpful hints for a happy holiday?

Here at Helpful Holidays, we do all we can to make sure you have happy holidays by helping you choose just the right place to stay, in a location where you can do the things you enjoy - and absolutely delivering on the expectations we raise. 

But what are your tips for a happy holiday? From the essential items you always pack to the fastest way you’ve found to unwind once you arrive - we'd love to hear your helpful hints, passed down through generations or picked up after years of self catering.

Here are a few ideas to get you started...

- Turn the batteries around in your torch before you pack it so that if it accidentally gets turned on, you won't run out of power.

- Double up and use a small drinks cooler as a toiletry bag. Once you’ve arrived, unload your toiletries and it’s ready to take your drinks to the beach.

- Hang creased clothes in a steamy shower room. Once clothing is slightly damp, give it a couple of sharp shakes and pull into shape.

We're sure you'll have lots of better hints, so tweet them to @helpfulholidays, post them on our Facebook page, or add a comment on this blog. We look forward to collating and sharing the best ones!

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Father’s Day treats in deepest Devon…

We’ve picked out a couple of ideal cottages for celebrating the father-child bond this Father’s Day. Both options are crammed with Dad-friendly activities to show the old man how much you love him.
Keep active Dads occupied with a week away for a Father’s Day treat at Fixit Cottage near Kingsbridge in south Devon. There’s plenty to keep him busy with on-site coarse fishing in three well-stocked lakes plus use of a shared indoor swimming pool, games room with table tennis and pool, a health suite with a well-equipped gym and therapists offering massage and pamper treatments to calm him down after a busy week. Converted from a farm barn, the bright beamed cottage is quietly situated beside a stream-valley meadow just a mile from the town centre.Sleeping four, it’s priced at £720 (£180 per person) for a week from Friday 17th June.

For a luxury treat, book a week from Saturday 18th June in a stylish granite lodge in the grounds of Bovey Castle on Devon’s Dartmoor. Here, Dad and family can have use of this stunning hotel’s facilities – which means they can enjoy a complimentary round of golf, play tennis or croquet, practice cricket, take a swim, go riding or fishing, try falconry or clay pigeon shooting, learn how to make sloe gin, dine in the hotel and much more (some activities extra). Each lodge sleeps six plus the family pet and is priced from £1,204pw (£201 per person).

Here are some more holiday cottages still available for Father’s Day.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Romantic cottages for June lovers…

Did you know that 1st June  is designated Say Something Nice Day, 11th June  is Red Rose Day, 15th June  is celebrated as Sneak a Kiss Day, and 25th June  is National Celebrate Your Marriage Day? Whilst we don’t necessarily subscribe to the fashion of some of these more obscure celebration days, we can’t argue with their underlying theme – romance.

June is a lovely month to get away and spend some quality time with your loved one – the weather forecast looks good, school summer holidays haven’t started yet, and the days are at their longest.

If you are country lovers, Coast Barn is a stylishly furnished, little terraced cottage high in farmland a mile from Newton Ferrers and Noss Mayo - adjoining small villages beside the lake-like River Yealm estuary, sheltered by oak-wooded hillsides. It’s also just ½ mile from the coastal cliffs and paths at Stoke. Inside, the cottage has an open-plan living room, dining area and kitchen, all beautifully designed in Wedgewood blue, cream and white. This is an enchanting hideaway for two.

If you are lovers of Cornwall’s seafaring history, Smugglers Lane Cottage is 1½ miles inland by footpath from Prussia Cove, most famous for being the base of 18th century smuggler John Carter, known as the "King of Prussia". The cottage, with lovely knobbly walls, has a beautifully fitted little kitchen, ideally suited for cooking up a romantic meal to enjoy in the private courtyard garden – perfect for dining out in the long, warm evenings after a coastal walk.

For lovers of life on the farm, Tregonhawke Farm Apartment is situated on a working farm – complete with horses, hens and Dexter cattle. This comfortable first floor apartment looks over the farmhouse garden to beautiful rolling farmland, and you have your own private decked area for sitting out in the sun. Inside, an open plan living area and a rustic four-poster double bedroom make this a cosy place to relax.

With over 600 holiday cottages in the West Country, we’ve plenty more special retreats for all you romantics out there to choose from.