Wednesday, 30 November 2011

A Christmas recipe from River Cottage...

We were delighted to attend a preview at the new River Cottage Plymouth Canteen before it opened earlier this month. What a treat that was!

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has kindly given us his roasted Brussels sprouts with shallots recipe to share with you. A perfect choice as we head for the traditional sprout battleground at Christmas!

Hugh describes this dish as one to "convert sprout shirkers" so give it a go and let us know what you think.



400g Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved (or whole if small)
350g shallots, peeled and halved, or small onions, peeled and halved or quartered
3 tablespoons rapeseed oil
Several sprigs of thyme
A squeeze of lemon juice
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 190°C/Gas Mark 5. Put the Brussels sprouts and shallots or onions into a large roasting dish, trickle over the oil, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat, then tuck in the thyme sprigs.

Roast for about 35 minutes, giving a good stir halfway through, until everything is a bit crispy, brown and caramelised.

Squeeze some lemon juice over the roasted sprouts, along with a sprinkling of fresh thyme if you like, and serve.

For a change, try a sprinkling of cumin or caraway seeds instead of thyme.

More delicious recipes can be found in Hugh's latest book River Cottage Veg Every Day! and we've got a copy to give away. An inspiring addition to your own bookshelf or perfect gift for a foodie friend.

Simply email by 5pm on Monday 5th December with the word "sprouts" in the subject line and we'll pick a name from the hat.

Hot on the heels of the successful Axminster Canteen and Deli, the brand new Plymouth Canteen and Deli (pictured) opened on 15th November in a fantastic waterside location in Royal William Yard. We loved it - relaxed atmosphere; friendly, attentive staff; tasty  and inventive dishes (yummy warm salad of mushroom, squash and goats cheese and you must try the chocolate and beetroot brownie!) using local, seasonal, organic and wild produce.

If you're thinking of booking a table during your next holiday in Devon, and are looking for a place to stay nearby, here are some ideas for holiday cottages in the South Hams and holiday cottages in East Devon.

Now, don't forget to eat your veg :-)

Monday, 28 November 2011

HH Poetry Competition 2011 - our winner...

Congratulations to Jeanne Elkington! Here's the poem that captured our hearts and minds, written during Jeanne's stay at The Old School House in Lustleigh this summer. Thank you, Jeanne, for sharing your memories and capturing the timeless beauty and magical spirit of Dartmoor.

So I Return To The Moors

For the plush pile denseness of breeze strewn bracken
And the tannin streams that smooth and caress
To the flip-book greens of soft carpet swatches
And the blueprint smudges of bilberry spoils.

For the flickering flashes of smithy and miner
And the effortless compass swirl sweep of a buzzard
To the cross-party banter of chat and of swift
With the pestled fresh scent of fern and grass downed.

For the scone bite of moon and scarlet surrender
And centurion tors in their granite domain
To the welcome friend handshake. The sharing of stories
With memories forged 'til I once more return.

Looking across Lustleigh Cleave from Hunter's Tor towards Easdon Tor.
Courtesy of Dave Bellamy

Friday, 25 November 2011

Devon Tourism & Taste of the West Awards…

As our customers well know, there are lots of good reasons for people to holiday in Devon, and this was celebrated this week at the Devon Tourism Awards.

Michael Caines
Gidleigh Park, one of the UK’s most renowned country house hotel and restaurants (and just a stone’s throw from HH HQ in Chagford), walked off with three awards including that of overall winner. Run by the Michelin starred chef Michael Caines, Gidleigh won Gold for the Taste of Devon award as well as a joint Gold award for the Hotel of the Year together with Bovey Castle – a luxurious country hotel on a stunning estate where we let a number of self-catering lodges. Organic Riverford Farm Foods picked up Gold for Producer of the Year.

Pennywell Farm
Pennywell Farm, near Buckfastleigh in south Devon, won the Gold Award for Visitor Attraction of the Year, and farm founder Chris Murray was presented with an award for his Outstanding Contribution to Tourism. Other Devon attractions praised were The Big Sheep, Bideford and River Dart Adventures, Ashburton. All can be found on our ‘Explore the Area’ map to help you spot the places to go and things to do near each of our cottages.

In the Tourism Activity, Sport & Experience category, Gold went to the Calvert Trust Exmoor, which offers a wide range of adventurous outdoor activities to people of all ages with physical, sensory and learning difficulties.

Dartmoor Farmers
The winners were also recently announced at the Taste of the West Awards, which celebrates the region’s exceptional food and drink industry. Amongst the winners in Devon were Dartmoor Farmers, who produce free range, slow grown West Country beef and lamb from family farms within Dartmoor National Park.

Another worthy winner was the Sharpham Partnership, producer of classic English wines and a range of English cheeses on the Sharpham Estate on the banks of the River Dart near Totnes in south Devon.

Too many winners to mention, but congratulations to them all!

Browse through our holiday cottages in Devon and come and enjoy all this glorious county has to offer.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Top spots to celebrate New Year in the West Country…

There are lots of towns renowned for New Year frivolities in the South West – thousands of revellers hit the streets in fancy dress, making for a fun, friendly and irreverent night, culminating in spectacular firework displays, often reflected in the black, inky sea below.

Bideford Fancy Dress
If you can think of it, someone will be wearing it in Bideford, from grown men in nappies to ladies in rabbit costumes. 20,000 visitors mean all the Quayside pubs are packed, and people mingle and dance in the streets. As midnight approaches, many gather on the medieval Long Bridge to watch the fireworks and listen to the parish church bells ringing in the New Year. Get into costume at Peelers Cottage.

Said by The Times to be in the top four places in the UK to celebrate New Year, the small Cornish town of Looe again sees huge numbers of people in fancy dress fill the pubs, restaurants and streets before a fireworks display on the Banjo pier. If fireworks are your thing, prime viewing spots are the promenade and beach at East Looe or the eastern end of Hannafore promenade. Start your countdown at Samuels Cottage.

Revellers in Looe
People from miles around flock to Cawsand as the entire village dons fancy dress and goes promenading before fireworks on the beach at midnight. Large groups often have themed dress: there were 24 carrots one memorable year and someone dressed as a policeman was teased all night until he revealed himself to be the real thing!  To wash away the hangovers, there's a charity fancy dress New Year's Day swim, with prizes for the best dressed. Peel your carrots at Draystone.

The New Year arrives with a splash in several other West Country towns, and last year more than 100 people braved the elements to celebrate New Year's Day with a dip in the sea in Wembury, Devon. The swim is an annual event – now in its 8th year with more people taking part each year. Dry off at Creek House.

Newquay Fancy Dress
Other hot spots famous for their atmosphere and antics include Exmouth, Dartmouth, St Ives and, of course, Newquay.

Search our holiday cottages with New Year availability in Devon and Cornwall, or give our telephone team a call on 01647 433593 to discuss your requirements. From a party on the seafront with the crowds to a cosy gathering with friends and family, we’ll help you find a special place to celebrate.

Friday, 18 November 2011

HH photography competition – the winners…

Thanks to everyone who took part in our photo competition on Facebook over the summer. We received lots of fabulous photos, predominantly coastal shots so we can tell you love to be beside the seaside!

After using last year’s winning shot on the front cover of our dog friendly mini-brochure, we were on the lookout for another captivating image that we could use in our marketing material for 2012.

The super shot by Natalie Chapman of a child jumping for joy on the beach at Hope Cove made us smile and is now featured in our 2012 Collection mini brochure (pictured). 

We picked an overall winner too - the lovely landscape by Lorna Alsop of the ponies at Godrevy Head which now sits on the header of this blog.

There were so many good pictures; we had several other favourites which we’ll try to include in our marketing material over the next few months if we can.

We love seeing your snaps, so if you’d like to share your favourite moments and memories of the West Country, please feel free to post them on our Facebook wall.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Big houses with professional catering for New Year…

As you see in the New Year with friends and family, we’re betting that you’ll be eating and drinking well too. But you don’t want to miss out on the fun whilst slaving over a hot stove, so how about relaxing in one of our huge holiday homes with professional catering available, so you don’t have to lift a finger?
The former shooting lodge of Sir Francis Drake’s estate near Yarcombe in east Devon, Sheafhayne Manor, sleeps 24 in ten bedrooms with ten bath/shower rooms. This  Grade II listed Elizabethan manor house has been in the same family for some 400 years and is surrounded by 2,500 acres of farmland and its own large garden. The oak panelled drawing room has a cosy open fire, there’s also a billiard room with a full-sized table and games room for children and the dining room has a big table for 24 - perfect for a celebratory dinner. Pets welcome.

We’ve a big detached house for 12, large enough to make up a party for New Year week at Mevagissey on Cornwall’s south coast. Penpol has a stunning contemporary interior and superb panoramic views overlooking the colourful harbour. Top quality and elegantly simple, this house has been designed to relax in and have fun and it’s just a two minute walk down to the village pubs, cafés, shops and harbour.

Or how about Parnacott, a handsome detached Georgian house sleeping 14 guests near Holsworthy, north Devon? The house is set in 12 acres of gardens and grounds, and is ideal for a family group or friends planning a break together, with fine furniture, portraits, an open fire and pool table; plus it’s also decorated for the festive season. Pets welcome.

A mile or so west of Porlock within Exmoor National Park,  Porlock Vale House is a magnificent, large country house dating from the 19th century with exceptional views across fields and out to sea. A great place for family gatherings and parties, the house sleeps 30 in 15 bedrooms/15 bathrooms. Inside, it’s a wonderful mix of comfort, elegance and space with old oak beams, comfy leather furniture and a large open fire with a handsome mantelpiece. The house is set in 12 acres of grounds and mature gardens for guests to wander while the beach is easily reached on foot across two fields. A former hunting lodge enlarged over the years, it has excellent stables for guests wishing to bring their own horse, or two, and pets are also welcome.

All these properties have professional catering available (at extra cost). Some also have a maid service available. Give our telephone team a call on 01647 433593 to discuss your requirements and we’ll help you find a special place to celebrate.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Big Houses in the West Country for Christmas…

Why spend Christmas tripping over relatives when you can rent a splendid house for a large party?

To that effect, we enjoyed some excellent coverage recently in The Times, with our property Sandridge Barton appearing as one of “20 fabulous festive boltholes”. That property is now booked up for Christmas 2011, but we still have numerous others…
Lilleby, which sleeps 12, is beautifully positioned high on the cliffs above South Sands near Salcombe, with spectacular views. You’ll find a large, elegant drawing room, a sociable dining room and a beautifully fitted kitchen perfect for preparing a festive dinner with all the trimmings. After lunch, step outside into nearly two acres of landscaped garden with mature trees, and walk off those calories along gravel paths winding down through terraces to woodlands and a footpath down to the beach.

As its name would suggest, The Old Mill is a charmingly converted, Grade II listed mill in the hamlet of Blakewell, north Devon. Sleeping 11, it’s full of comfort and imagination inside. There’s a homely living room with a woodburner in a huge fireplace, and a wood floor with a rug to sprawl on. There’s also a games room, with table tennis, pool, air hockey, table football, and even a Nintendo 64 – plenty to keep the children happy while the adults enjoy a bit of peace and quiet as the Christmas pud goes down! There’s even professional catering available if you want to take a break from cooking that turkey.

If you fancy spending Christmas away from it all amongst sheep, cattle, ponies, pigs, chickens and ornamental pheasants, The farmhouse at Burnville Farm, two miles south-west of Lydford, sits amid 250 acres of working farm – where you can roam free and even help out if you wish. There’s also a games room with a pool table, table tennis and a skittle alley, and even a well-equipped gym should you eat too many mince pies! We very much like this farm, and it’s been much praised, with tremendous freedom and an impressive number of things to do for children and adults.

Why not browse all our cottages sleeping 10 or more with availability for Christmas? Or if you’ve a smaller brood, here are all our cottages with availability for Christmas.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

West Country Christmas light shows…

Don’t blink! The annual ritual of switching on the Christmas lights will be here before you know it as the countdown to Christmas gathers pace.

Exeter lays claim to one of the first great switch-ons – 24th November sees Heart FM radio host the entertainment with live music, pantomime favourites and a grand firework finale to kick off the festive season. Enjoy the bright lights from G31.

Truro City of Lights Festival
Truro will once again light up in spectacular fashion as the City of Lights festival delights the crowds on 16th November, with a dazzling procession of lanterns through the streets, carried by professional artists, Cornish school children and local community and youth groups. This year’s theme is ‘wildlife’. Be dazzled by S47.

For something slightly different, watch one of the largest processions of award-winning floats and walking groups in south Devon wend its way through South Brent on 26th November. The procession includes 100ft long floats from the Somerset circuit. Float off to A70.

Dunster by Candlelight
Dunster by Candlelight is holding its 25th anniversary on 1st and 2nd December, and the Lantern Lighting procession of stilt walkers and brightly costumed children starts at 5.30pm on the Friday at The Steep. Treat yourselves to a journey by steam train from Bishops Lydeard on the West Somerset Railway and there’s a courtesy bus transfer from Minehead Station to the village (or you can alight at Dunster Station and it’s a 20 minute walk). Wander by lantern light back to F45.

There are many other glittering events across the West Country, including Clovelly Christmas Lights on 4th December and Mousehole Harbour Lights on 17th December.

Browse through our holiday cottages to find a cosy place for a pre-Christmas break and use our ‘Explore the Area’ map to find festive events near your favourite holiday cottage.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Head to the West Country for some early Christmas shopping!

The bustle of half-term went by in a flash, and now’s your chance to enjoy some calmer days here in the West Country. Why not gently start the run up to Christmas with some leisurely shopping , and treat your friends and family to some authentic West Country Christmas gifts?

Don’t forget, if you can’t get away for a full week, 2, 3 and 4 night short breaks are now available at many of our holiday cottages.

Start with the Trereife Christmas Gift Fair, 18th to 20th November. Not far from Penzance, this Queen Anne manor house and its spectacular grounds provide an atmospheric venue for visitors to soak up a heady dose of festive spirit, whilst picking up some unique Cornish gifts. Plenty of music, a children’s lantern procession and working craft demonstrations, all in a cosy, heated marquee. Sort through your goodies at Z18.

The Wonderworks craft fair is held at Chagford Jubilee Hall, on 19th and 20th November. Now in its ninth year, the fair has made its mark with an unusual and varied collection of high quality arts and craftware, with everything from designer socks (pictured right) to ceramics. Meet the artists as you wander round and find unique and affordable Christmas presents for everyone. Toast your toes in those stylish socks at A157.

On the banks of the Tamar River, Cotehele is one of the best places to stock up on special Christmas gifts. The £2 entrance cost to the Cotehele Christmas Food Fair, on 26th and 27th November, includes admission to the Great Hall to see the Christmas garland. Or come earlier from 12th to 14th November to join the garden team making the 60ft garland, which runs the length of the Hall. Weave your own garland at J17.

How could you bear to miss this? In Lostwithiel on 27th November there are over 45 stands with hundreds of teddies, new and old, designer and antique, at the Cornwall Christmas Bear Fair. There are free valuations and restoration advice, a teddy bear hospital, bear-making patterns, kits, materials, accessories and demonstrations. Cuddle your favourite teddy at R75.

And there’s plenty more seasonal shopping events to choose, such as Pencarrow Christmas Fair from 19th – 20th November, Padstow Christmas Festival from 2nd-4th December, or Fowey Christmas Market from 3rd – 4th December.

We hope you find time to grab some peace and quiet on a short break before the busy festive period. Check out the special offers on our website and don’t hesitate to call our team on 01647 433593 to chat through the finer details of any holiday home that tickles your fancy.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Helpful Holidays wins Silver at British Travel Awards...

We were delighted to hear last night that we’ve scooped second place and a Silver Award at the prestigious British Travel Awards.

The British Travel Awards are acknowledged as the most definitive and largest monitor of public opinion on the performance of travel and tourism providers. Shortlisted companies are nominated by travel industry professionals, but it is the leisure holidaymakers whose votes finally determine the winners. Over 700,000 votes were cast this year with the results scrutinized and audited by Deloitte LLP.

Our award is in the Best UK Cottage/Self Catering Booking Company (UK properties) category, and we were competing against strong national competition.

British Travel Awards’ Chief Executive, Lorraine Barnes Burton, said, “The British Travel Awards is the largest awards programme in the UK, created to reward travel companies, with the winning accolade being the benchmark for excellence when it comes to finding out who really is the best in the business of travel for the UK consumer. This year the competition was fierce and Helpful Holidays is to be congratulated on its achievement.”

We’re honoured to have been nominated for this prestigious award and immensely grateful to all those who took the trouble to vote for us. Helpful Holidays has always stood for reliable, un-hyped and outstanding service to its customers. This award recognises that in the best possible way – via the votes of those we serve and those who know us.

Delighted with the unexpected accolade, our General Manager, Moray Bowater added, “Ultimately, trust is the currency that really counts and we're happy that earning that of our customers through our straightforward and frank approach has been the touchstone of our business since we started 30 years ago.

“We believe that success and profit are the by-products of delivering outstanding service. The credit for doing the difficult job of always trying to deliver service beyond our customers’ expectations goes to every one of our team - advocates for our holidaymakers and confidants for our homeowners”.

It was a good night all round, as Cornwall won the ‘Best UK Holiday Region”, followed by Devon with a Silver award, St Ives won the “Best UK Seaside Town” and Eden Project won “Best UK Leisure Attraction”.

Here are some of the other awards we’ve won in recent years…
  • Federation of Small Business (FSB) Devon Business Awards 2009 – Service Excellence Award – Winner
  • National Customer Service Awards Team of the Year Business to Consumer 2009 – National Finalist
  • National Business Awards Cable & Wireless Award for Customer Focus 2007 – Regional Finalist
  • 2006 Service Excellence Awards (Management Today & Unisys) – National Finalist
  • South West Tourism Awards 2005 Outstanding Customer Service Award Winner – James Webb
  • The Parcelforce Worldwide Small Business Awards 2005 – Regional Finalist
  • E-Commerce Awards 2005 Best use of broadband – Regional Finalist
To view our portfolio of over 600 places to stay sleeping two to 48 guests in Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and Dorset, visit or call 01647 433593 for a free brochure or to chat with one of our team.