Friday, 24 February 2012

First place in Which? holiday cottages and villas customer satisfaction survey!

Good news! We’ve swept the board in the recent Which? Travel magazine member survey of holiday cottage and villa booking companies, beating both national and West Country specialist booking agencies in the process.  

The panel of 2,678 Which? members who had booked a villa or holiday cottage in the past two years were asked to rate the companies they’d used. Helpful Holidays came out top, achieving a customer score of 92% (based on overall satisfaction and the likelihood to recommend) and the highest marks in each of the categories covered by the survey:
"Nearly 3,000 members gave us feedback on cottage and villa booking companies - Helpful Holidays stood out, receiving an outstanding customer score overall, with members impressed by the excellent customer service   and easy-to-use website."
Lorna Cowan, Editor, Which? Travel

Thrilled to receive this unbiased endorsement, our General Manager, Moray Bowater, said, "Which? is the UK’s pre-eminent and most trustworthy barometer of consumer attitudes and opinions and we couldn’t be more delighted to get this feedback from them. The values of honesty, integrity and attention to detail that Helpful Holidays puts into practice every day are recognised and appreciated by customers in this report. Ultimately, trust is the currency that really counts and earning that of our customers has been the purpose of Helpful Holidays for the last 30 years."

This recognition is all the more noteworthy since it follows hot on the heels of our recent Silver Award in the Best UK Cottage/Self Catering Booking Company (UK Properties) category in the prestigious British Travel Awards.
We won’t rest on our laurels. This is great news for the whole team and will spur us on to continue the careful work we do.

76% of Which? members surveyed booked their holiday online. We recognise the importance of having an easy to use website with a fast search facility. If you have any suggestions on how we can improve our website, we'd love to hear your feedback.

(Which? Travel is a subscription only magazine, so the full article is only available to subscribers.)

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

You can’t beat a beautiful view…

Whether you’re a coast lover or a land lubber, most people appreciate a good view – from seaside scenes to rolling countryside. Some views are good to sit and enjoy with a drink, others are ideal as the backdrop for more active pursuits.

View from Chy Bre
Chy Bre, looking out over St Mawes in Cornwall, has a fantastic area of decking with table and chairs, perfect for alfresco dining whilst taking in the long views across the Percuil River and countryside beyond. In fact this detached, timber-style, single-storey house has beautiful sea views from all front rooms.

The excellent location means that it’s less than 10 minutes’ walk from the shops,  restaurants, harbour, two sandy beaches and castle in the beautiful village of St Mawes.  Set at the end of the lovely Roseland Peninsula, this area is great for both watersports and country walks, as well as being an ideal base for visiting Falmouth. Sleeps 4.

Seccombe Barn
Seccombe Barn is set in a stunning location just a stone’s throw away from Roadford Lake, a spectacular 730-acre reservoir and country park in beautiful, sparsely populated farmland in Devon. This attractive cottage, carefully converted from a barn, has a patio to the front with long views over the surrounding countryside where you can while away the hours.

There’s plenty of opportunity to get active with windsurfing, kayaking and climbing on your doorstep, or perhaps some more leisurely birdwatching, fishing or walking will suit? If you’re out in the evening, you’ll appreciate views of a slightly different sort – the area is great for night sky watching. This is a really comfortable, friendly base in a lovely, timeless area; easily accessible with lots to explore within a half hour drive. Sleeps 6.

Take a look at our holiday cottages with sea views and our holiday cottages with countryside views.

If views are your thing, our friendly telephone team can help you locate the best fodder for your camera, your binoculars or just your eyes – call them on 01647 433593 for a chat.

Friday, 17 February 2012

48 new holiday homes to choose from!

As regular visitors to our Facebook page will know, we’re always introducing fantastic new holiday homes to our portfolio and it’s great to see that our ‘new property’ galleries are so popular with our fans.

We hope you’ll give an equally warm welcome to our first colour supplement of 2012 - one of our biggest ever, with 48 new and returning properties since we published our main brochure. As always, we've star rated and inspected them all and can wholeheartedly recommend them. Our telephone team (01647 433593) are all experienced property visitors and will be delighted to guide you to just the right place.

There’s an exciting selection too, sleeping from 2 to 17 and with prices ranging from £290 in early February to £3,850 in peak season – something to suit all tastes and budgets.

Weir Cottage
For those drawn to the coast, how about Weir Cottage, a charming, stone-built cottage in Millbrook, south Cornwall, or Trevarna, a Grade II listed, recently renovated four-storey house in Cawsand? Both have stunning waterside locations and lovely views.

If you’ve got a big brood or a wide social circle, gather together at handsome Abbots in Combe Raleigh, east Devon, a comfortable family house with room for 16, or host a celebration at beautiful Soldon Manor in Bradworthy, north Devon, a historic mansion house sleeping 14.

Those who crave five-star luxury will feel right at home at Sunnybank, an excellent, large Grade II listed house in Dittisham, South Hams. This lovely property has stunning views and sits in a fabulous location for sailing, walking and beaches.

And speaking of location, right in the middle of Dartmoor National Park you’ll find the remarkably cosy Swallow’s Nest, perfect for two, with superb walks available in all directions from the door.

Browse the supplement online or call us on 01647 433593 to request a free copy to be sent to you by post. We hope you like our latest selection – which is your favourite?

Monday, 13 February 2012

‘What Shall We Do Today?’ 2012 guide…

The cover of our 2012 guide features Lynmouth
If you’ve ever researched a holiday in the West Country, or perhaps read some of the posts on this blog, you’ll know that there are many diverse events, attractions and activities on offer in this unique corner of Britain.

We know that the time you spend on holiday is precious and choosing what to do can often be bewildering, so each year we put together our popular ‘What Shall We Do Today?’ guide to help you make the most of your stay and guide you to places you might otherwise overlook.

The guide is sent to all of our holidaymakers with their booking confirmations, and it’s just been freshly updated for 2012.

Sharpham Estate
We’ve negotiated special discounts for you to enjoy at 76 of the West Country’s leading attractions. None of them paid us to be in the guide; they’re there on merit and because they’re willing to provide our customers with an offer of some sort. New attractions featured this year include Sharpham Wines and Cheeses, Cotehele, Paignton Zoo, World of Country Life, Seaton Tramway and Stone Lane Gardens.

A perennial favourite is our Top 10’s – walks, beaches, places to eat, gardens and houses, attractions for children and West Country wonders. The recommendations are, of course, personal, based on our local knowledge, but we’re always keen to hear from our holidaymakers about places or things to do that they think we should consider.

Also included is an events calendar for each county featuring many of the major events, such as the Royal Cornwall Show, and lots of those quirky ones, such as the Westward Ho! Pot Walloping Festival.

Plus, you’ll find a list of award-winning ‘Blue Flag’ and RNLI lifeguarded beaches, ideas for walks and trails to explore and our pick of the best pubs and restaurants for each county.

On our website, you can use our Advanced Search to find holiday cottages in a specific region near your favourite attractions, or use our ‘Explore the Area’ map to spot great days out near your favourite cottage.

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

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

More food, drink and arts at Moretonhampstead…

Food, drink and the arts are a large part of the reason our holidaymakers keep coming back to the South West, so it’s natural that we at Helpful Holidays aim to support related events as much as possible.

With that in mind, we’re delighted to be the main sponsor of the Moretonhampstead Festival of Food, Drink and the Arts this year, set to take place on Saturday 10th March.

The first food festival of the year and a celebration of the arrival of spring, it sees the community of the picturesque Dartmoor town of Moretonhampstead turn out in force to honour local food in all its glory. From farmers to bakers, the one day event champions produce and suppliers from across the South West. 

Michael Caines
Over 80 food and drink exhibitors and 20 artists took part in the 2011 event with 5,000 visitors enjoying the festivities. This year’s event will be officially opened by celebrity chef Michael Caines from the two Michelin star Gidleigh Park.

Other celebrated local chefs will be sharing the tricks of their trade in the festival kitchen, whilst upwards of 100 stalls will line Cross Street for visitors to taste, try and buy everything from pickles to pies. The festival will also showcase local artists and craftspeople with open studios.

The festival will run from 10am until 6pm and Helpful Holidays will have a stand in the information tent, so do stop by to say hello! For more information visit You can also follow their festival news on Twitter and Facebook.

If you’re interested in staying nearby, you can browse our holiday cottages in Dartmoor  or call 01647 433593 for human help.

Get ready to tantalise your tastebuds!

Friday, 3 February 2012

Romantic West Country retreats for Valentine’s…

The West Country has many places ideal for lovers – pristine beaches, rugged walking paths, quaint homely pubs, beautiful countryside – all perfect for getting away from it all to spend some quality time with your significant other.

If you enjoy being on the water’s edge, you’ll be enchanted by Weir Cottage, located at the head of a creek off the river Tamar near Millbrook, south Cornwall. Soak up the lovely lake views from this charming, stone-built cottage, the whole ground floor of which has been newly refurbished and made completely private and self-contained for your use. Spacious and cosy inside, it’s perfect for two and in an ideal spot to explore the area. There are good pubs in Millbrook and nearby Cremyll, ideal for a celebratory drink after a bracing walk along the sandy beaches at Whitsand Bay and Kingsand, around a mile away.

One of the West Country’s most romantic villages must be Clovelly, with the narrow, car-less cobbled streets perfect for strolling down hand-in-hand. Saltwind Granary is perfectly placed for a visit to this remarkably quaint village, just three miles away. This gorgeous cottage, converted from old barns, is just one field back from this magnificent stretch of coast and path, deep in flower-filled hedgerows. Newly re-vamped to provide the sort of accommodation any glossy style magazine would be happy to feature, from the distressed beams to arty soft furnishings. A stunning location and meticulous attention to detail makes this an exceptional place for a romantic break.

If you want to wow your beloved with something slightly different, how about a stylish log cabin? The Retreat, a deeply romantic escape located within a 70 acre farm just a mile from Chagford, Dartmoor, even comes complete with its own outdoor hot tub. The luxurious interiors provide a warm welcome after a day’s walking on the open moor.

For more ideas, browse our cottages with availability for Valentine’s. If you can’t spare a whole week, many of our cottages will consider short breaks too. Call us on 01647 433593 and we’ll do our best to match-make you with the perfect Valentine’s cottage.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

A special recipe for Valentine's Day...

We’re lucky to have a really good restaurant right on our doorstep here in Chagford, 22 Mill Street. There's a dynamic new team in place - Karla and Ashley - with fresh ideas, new menus and lots of themed evenings in the pipeline to delight locals and holidaymakers alike.

As a treat, they’ve given us a delicious recipe to share with you for Valentine’s Day. Find out for yourself if mussels are an aphrodisiac...

Sea Bass with Mussels and Watercress


1 small sea bass, filleted, or 1 large sole fillet, cut into two
1 glass (275ml) white wine
300g mussels
2 baking potatoes
1 egg yolk
40g plain flour
1 fennel
1 bunch of watercress, stalks picked off
200ml double cream
Salt & black pepper


Put potatoes on to bake for approximately 1 hour until soft.

Meanwhile, clean mussels and put a large saucepan on the heat until hot. Add the mussels and the white wine. Put a lid on the saucepan and steam the mussels. Once the mussels have opened, take off the heat and pour liquor into a jug for later. Remove mussels from shells and set aside.

Slice fennel as fine as you can, season with salt and pepper. Get a frying pan red hot, with a little oil, and colour the fennel. Once coloured, set aside.

Take your reserved mussel and wine liquor and place into a clean saucepan, add the double cream and bring to the boil. Then add the watercress, cook for 1 minute and then blend until smooth, return to the saucepan, and then set aside.

Cut the baked potatoes in half and remove the flesh. Mash/rice the baked potato flesh as finely as you can. Mix with the flour and egg yolk and season, roll into an even sized log and cut with the back of a knife creating inch long pillows. Add these to rapidly boiling water. When they float, remove from the water, plunge into cold water, drain and set aside.

Heat a non-stick frying pan, add oil and place your sea bass skin side down, reducing the heat to low. Put your fennel in the oven/grill to reheat. Put watercress sauce on and add the mussels to heat through. Add you gnocchi (pillows) to the fish pan to gain a golden colour.

Arrange the fennel in the centre of the plates, putting your fish on top. Place gnocchi around the base of the fennels and then add your watercress sauce.

If you prefer to dine out, 22 Mill Street has a delicious Valentine's menu to tempt you too - and there's a 5% discount for Helpful Holidays' customers.

The team uses the best of local, quality produce in their regional and seasonal dishes, so you'll be in for a treat at any time of year.

View all of our holiday cottages available for Valentine's Day or view our holiday cottages in Chagford.