Wednesday, 21 December 2011

A River Cottage New Year!

River Cottage Canteen & Deli
For anyone planning to visit the Plymouth area over New Year, the new River Cottage Canteen and Deli has announced its plans for New Year’s Eve Dinner - and New Year's Day brunch.

The evening kicks off with a welcome drink and canap├ęs at 7.30pm, with guests invited to take tables at 8pm for a delicious four course menu using the very best local and seasonal ingredients prepared by Head Chef Joe Draper and his team. This will be followed by coffee and a glass of bubbly at midnight to welcome in 2012!

Booking for New Year's Eve is essential and costs £45.00 per head. To reserve your table call 01752 252702 or email
If this sounds like your ideal New Year, we’ve two very tempting 50% offers available in the South Hams area...
Perched high on the cliffs overlooking the remains of Hallsands is Prospect House, with spectacular ocean views across to the dramatic lighthouse at Start Point and along the coast to Dartmouth. Within the house we have a ground floor apartment, elegantly furnished in New England coastal style with an eye to detail by its interior designer owner. This stunning property in a beautiful location sleeps 4.
Quither, a subtly converted detached barn on a hillside in the tiny, peaceful hamlet of Lower Broadaford, has been meticulously converted with many thoughtful touches. This is a great place, comfy and relaxed in a good area for cycling and walking – what better way to start the New Year than in an energetic frame of mind?!

Why not take a look at our other seasonal offers or our last minute availability for Christmas and New Year 2011? Don’t forget, you can always call us on 01647 433593 for human help to find just the right place for your celebrations.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Big houses for big broods!

For all of us at HH, it’s a particular point of pride that we have such a fantastic selection of huge houses, in beautiful locations, all over the West Country. Secluded farmhouses, historic manor houses, vast converted barns, seaside houses overlooking delightful beaches, all available to rent for your exclusive use. Here are two choice examples…

Soldon Manor is new with us for 2012 – 3 miles from the ancient village of Bradworthy, in Devon’s least changed farmland, this is a beautiful, important and historic, 16th century manor house, recently renovated with a huge amount of care and attention to detail to provide a wonderful, comfortable and intriguing place to stay. It has everything you’d hope for approaching a grand house – a gravelled drive, a formal garden, a courtyard, a croquet lawn, huge chess board and spectacular views of rolling countryside.

Inside, the layout and footprint of the house have evolved over the centuries – great fun trying to spot clues to its history and use. You’re greeted by the main entrance crowned by the Cornish Prideaux family coat of arms, leading to a magnificent, double-height dining hall, an oak-panelled drawing room and a sitting/reading room. You’ll also find a concealed door leading to to a servants’ passageway into a large farmhouse-style kitchen with Aga. Up the beautifully elegant staircase are seven bedrooms – the Manor sleeps 14.

This is a tremendous house for gatherings of all sorts, from reading groups to large family celebrations – warmth, masses of space, generous accommodation and wonderful comfort.

Home House, in the sheltered, pretty village of Combeinteignhead, near Teignmouth, Devon, is a quite beautiful Grade II listed, semi-detached, thatched house. Originally the main house to a thriving cider-producing farm, it is now a lovely,  smartly renovated and refurbished home.

Inside, there’s a living room with gorgeous, heavy beams and big inglenook fireplace, plus a lovely snug in which to relax with TV and board games. A smart Shaker-style fitted kitchen comes complete with Aga, smart black granite and oak worktops and a big table, with plenty of room for all the family. You’ll find eight bedrooms – the house sleeps 15 – plus a second living room with a home cinema system with a pull-down screen and DVD/Blu-ray projector, perfect for watching family favourites.

Outside, there’s an enclosed walled garden and, just beyond, about ½ acre of lovely, mature flowering shrub and lawned garden (complete with summer house with grapevine, table & chairs and barbecue). And last but not least, there’s the indoor heated swimming pool – the ultimate indulgence.

For more inspiration, take a look at our new mini brochure, or browse through all of our big houses online. There’s still some last minute availability (and some very special offers) for Christmas and New Year 2011 at some of our big houses, so call us on 01647 433593 to discuss your requirements. If you’re already looking ahead to Christmas and New Year in 2012, don’t delay, as these big houses are so popular, they get booked up way in advance!

Friday, 9 December 2011

West Country pantomimes – the history behind the stories…

Every year, thousands crowd into theatres across Britain to shout “He’s behind you!” and “Oh, no you didn’t!” – but did you know that the very British pantomime has its origins in ancient Greece?

The pantomime was a popular form of entertainment in ancient Greece and later, Rome. A 'pantomime' was originally a group of imitators or impressionists, accompanied by songs and music. Later, in the Middle Ages, plays like the Mummers Play contained many of the archetypal elements of the contemporary panto such as stage fights, coarse humour and creatures.

Poster from 1890
The first performance that would resemble a modern panto is thought to be the 1804 production of Cinderella at Drury Lane, London. Some dispute this, however, arguing that 1870 was the date of the first Cinderella pantomime in England.

Panto story lines and scripts are almost always based on traditional children's stories, however plot lines are almost always 'adapted' for comic or satirical effect. There are lots of traditions, such as gender reversal (the principal boy is traditionally played by a young woman, and the pantomime dame played by a man) and plenty of audience participation. Another tradition is the celebrity guest star, a practice that dates back to the late 19th century, when Augustus Harris, proprietor of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, hired well-known variety artists for his pantomimes.

Here are a few West Country versions for you to choose from this year: 

Lisa Riley, Simon Grant, Buck's Fizz' Heidi Manton and Palm 105.5's Ben Moseby appear in Snow White in Torquay, from the 9th December to 1st January. "Snow White" is perhaps best known as a Brothers Grimm story which features the magic mirror, the poisoned apple, the glass coffin, and the seven dwarves. The dwarves weren’t given individual names as we know them today until Disney's 1937 film.

In Plymouth, Julian Clary is joined by guest stars Keith Harris, Orville and Cuddles in a modern performance of Cinderella, the theme of which may well have originated in classical antiquity, with Ancient Greek historian Strabo recording a 1st century BC tale of the Greco-Egyptian girl Rhodopis who lost a sandal to an eagle. The sandal was dropped into the lap of the king, who sent his men in quest of the woman who wore the sandal – needless to say, she was shortly the king’s wife…

Blue Peter's Peter Duncan stars in Dick Whittington in Exeter, a character based on the real-life Sir Richard Whittington (c. 1354–1423), Lord Mayor of London, a Member of Parliament and a sheriff of London. Unlike the lead character in the story, a poor boy in the 14th century who becomes a wealthy merchant and eventually the Lord Mayor of London because of the ratting abilities of his cat, the real Whittington did not come from a poor family and there is no evidence that he owned a cat!

Check out the events on our Explore the Area map for more ideas near your favourite holiday cottage. Enjoy the panto season! 

Friday, 2 December 2011

Christmas cottages with fun & games attached…

If you’re spending Christmas away from home, something that really adds to the fun is playing games with friends and family. We’ve a number of holiday cottages ideal for this, some featuring converted barns full of dartboards, table tennis tables and board games a-plenty, and some with indoor swimming pools too!

Woolley Cottage, in the Devon hamlet of Woolley, is a handsome Grade II listed, detached, thatched house which has been extended from its 18th century beginnings, making it big and roomy. The beamed living room with flagstone floor and big inglenook with oil-fired Aga makes an extremely cosy room, or upstairs is a gallery-cum-den with day bed and board/card games. The separate games shed has a table-tennis table, dartboard and assorted toys. For those keen to get active and brave the December elements, there’s also an outhouse with plenty of room for bicycles and surfboards. This is a smashing house with bags of space for everyone in a beautiful, unspoilt area.

Orchard Cottage in Stoke, close to the spectacular cliffs at Hartland Quay, north Devon, is a detached, thatched, Grade II listed 16th century house with courtyard, enclosed garden and indoor heated swimming pool. Formerly owned by the Abbey, the house has been beautifully converted and lovingly restored, with a comfortable, beamed living/dining room. Gather round the inglenook fireplace and plot your next family tournament to be played out in the separate games room with table tennis, pool and darts on offer.

Hound Tor Lodge is situated within the stunning grounds of Bovey Castle on Dartmoor (one of six luxury self-catering lodges we offer here), built in 1907 and now a renowned hotel. Many of the hotel facilities are yours to enjoy (some restrictions apply during the festive period) including indoor pool, gym, steam room, sauna, spa and its championship 18 hole golf course. Other optional activities include archery, rifle shooting, fly fishing, falconry, riding and clay pigeon shooting. If you’d rather something a little quieter, there’s the small matter of a 400 acre estate on which you are free to roam (wellies provided).

Why not browse all our cottages with availability for Christmas and filter the search results by games room and indoor pool?