Thursday, 29 August 2013

Get along to Devon Open Studios

Over 200 artists working across Devon are throwing open their doors and waiting to welcome you to their unique workspaces this month during Devon Open Studios, which runs from 7th to 22nd September. 

There is so much to explore; painting and printmaking, ceramics and textiles, sculpture, jewellery, photography and more. We’re proud to sponsor this spectacular event once again.

Devon Open Studios is a unique opportunity to meet artists in their studios in some of the most beautiful, unexplored parts of Devon. In addition to being able to buy art direct from the creator, many demonstrate, give talks or give you a chance to have a go.

In 2012 over 300 artists took part in 160 locations across the county. Artists are able to show their artwork, exactly as they wish, whilst retaining 100% of their sales.

free event guide is available by post or online showing all the artists and venues, colour coded by area, so you can plan a tour of the studios that interest you. And if you need a place to stay, take a look at our holiday cottages in Devon available during the event.

You can also find Devon Open Studios on FacebookTwitter and YouTube.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Enter our painting competition

Are you one of those holidaymakers who always has their eye out for creative inspiration? For some, it's essential to leave space in the suitcase for brushes and paints - and maybe a sketchbook or canvas or two. If that sounds like you, why not enter our painting competition?

Anyone taking a holiday with us can enter, all you have to do is send us your favourite painting, drawing or sketch - in any medium you prefer - lovingly created whilst on holiday at one of our holiday homes.

You could win a £400 Helpful Holidays voucher, so entering is well worth the effort. The lovely watercolour above was painted by a Mrs Allwright whilst on holiday in Woodleigh back in 2009. The painting is of the pretty South Hams village of Woodbury.

We've received some excellent entries so far, and the usual standard for all competitions is excellent. Do send your submissions with a short comment – it’s always interesting to hear the stories behind the paintings. To enter, post your painting to us at the address below by the end of September:

2013 Painting Competition
Helpful Holidays
Mill Street, Chagford
Devon TQ13 8AW

If you're not a painter, don't worry - we run a competition every year, last year was photographic, the year before a poetry competition. Next year will be a poetry competition again - so get composing!

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Playground or Training Ground: How Do You Use Dartmoor?

Dartmoor National Park has long been known as a haven for nature lovers, from walkers to climbers and horse riders. But did you ever think of it as an Olympic training ground?

Olympic pistol shooter Georgina (Gorgs) Geikie, who won a place on Team GB at London 2012 as the first ever British women’s pistol shooter, stars in a new promotional video extolling the virtues of this vast and varied terrain as a natural training ground. She says in the film: “It’s the greatest playground for so many activities and days of adventure.”

We have sponsored Gorgs – a local talent who has grown up with Dartmoor National Park – for several years and we think nothing shows the attraction of this much-loved space better than the variety of ways to enjoy it. Her fitness can, in part, be attributed to the park she has always run, jumped, climbed and walked in. As Gorgs puts it, staring out at the sunset from atop a granite tor at the end of the short promotional video: “Beats running on a treadmill”.

A little of an understatement perhaps, after seeing Gorgs running, climbing, horse riding and geocaching her way through the landscape. Geocaching is the least known of these activities. Based on an old past time of leaving notes in boxes as you reached certain locations, for the next walker to find, the new version involves downloading coordinates and taking your technology with you to map your progress. Gorgs likens it to a treasure hunt.

The Royal Marines train here, it’s the site of many a school trip and adventure holiday and it is home to some of the most important Bronze Age landscape in Western Europe. Dartmoor has also been chosen numerous times to be part of the Tour of Britain, offering challenging rides for experienced riders alongside traffic-free space for more casual cycling. It is perfect for picnicking and kite flying, for those more enticed by the chance to simply enjoy the surroundings.

We recently announced we have signed a new four-year sponsorship deal with Gorgs as she begins the long road to Rio 2016. As the sport can offer no funding to the competitors, Gorgs must self-fund, and she is therefore campaigning rigorously to find sponsorship for the next four years. We have taken on the role of principle platinum sponsor.

Read more about our involvement with Gorgs on our website.

If you head out on Dartmoor, keep an eye out for Gorgs in training mode. You can also follow Gorgs' progress on her website and on Twitter.

To plan you stay in Dartmoor or elsewhere in the West Country, go to

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

The South West's best seaside pubs

Even though many of our holiday cottages boast spacious and luxurious kitchens, many of our holidaymakers enjoy treating themselves to a hearty pub meal at least once during their stay - after all, it's impossible to resist the lure of something warm and filling served with thick chips and a local ale to wash it down with.

With that in mind, and your tastebuds tingling, read on for a guide to the best seaside pubs in the South West.

The Watering Hole, Cornwall
Reputedly the only bar in the whole of the UK situated on a beach, the Watering Hole at Perranporth in Cornwall sits right in the heart of some of the region's finest coastal scenery. With it's prime location in the centre of this enormous expanse of golden sand, the views from the pub are second to none. Enjoy steaks and seafood accompanied by a cold beer as you watch the sun set over the Atlantic Ocean.

Hartland Quay Hotel, Devon
If you're seeking unspoilt Devon, you'll find it at the Hartland Quay Hotel near Bideford, which is perched right at the tip of the rugged, wave-battered headland.
On a sunny day you can sit on a bench outside and look over the rocky shore towards Lundy Island, and then after lunch, walk off your Sunday roast by taking a stroll along the South West Coast Path which runs right past the hotel.

The Anchor Inn, Dorset
This pretty whitewashed pub is situated right on the seafront in the tiny hamlet of Seatown, replete with thatched cottages. It commands fantastic views of not only the Jurassic Coast, but also of Golden Cap - the highest point on the south coast. After scaling the 191 metre-high cliffs, head back to the inn for a well-deserved meal of pan fried sea bass sourced from Bridport or griddled lamb from the oldest butcher in the country.

The Ship Inn, Somerset 
(pictured above)
This traditional thatched roof pub is set in the tiny 17th century settlement of Porlock Weir overlooking the Bristol Channel, views across to the south of Wales on a clear day. There is extensive outside seating, which is perfect for soaking up the sun and breathing in the coastal air while tucking into a ploughmans and a beer. After lunch, venture onto the aforementioned South West Coast Path and hike along to Porlock Marsh and Culbone, home to England's smallest church.

To plan your next visit to the West Country and to find a holiday home, go to

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Cornwall Hosts the 11th World Bellyboard Championships

If you thought the West Country was full of resident and visiting surfing fanatics, wait until you witness the World Bellyboard Championships.

That’s right, bellyboard. Traditional wooden bellyboards are ridden in the surf. No wetsuits, no leashes, just, well, bellies, swimsuits and boards!

The Championships are open to all, with online registration for new users opening on 1st August. It takes place at Chapel Porth Beach, St Agnes, and is run by the National Trust, in memory of Londoner Arthur Traveller, who loved visiting that particular spot with his wooden board. This year – the 11thyear of the event – it will be held on Sunday 8th September and more than 300 participants are expected.

"We are delighted to once again welcome visitors to take part in this unique event at one of the most beautiful beaches in Cornwall and therefore the world," commented Bill Makin, the National Trust Head Ranger who looks after Chapel Porth Beach.

"Our Mid Cornwall team, based in St Agnes, will once again be pulling out all the stops to make this small part of Cornwall the centre of the bellyboarding world."

The WBBC, as it is known, is a fun event but a world title is at stake. Some like to wear vintage swimming costumes and there is even a prize for the Best Swim Cap. Points are awarded in eight categories: World Champion, The King Arthur Challenge Cup, Over 60s, Under 60s and Youngsters. Style and design are also important, with awards for Best Finish, Best Patina, Best Paint, Best Artwork, Best Vintage, Longest Ride, Most Stylish, Best Trick, Spirit of Belly Boarding and the Long Distance Award.

Judges are looking for smooth directional changes, innovative manoeuvres, finesse and enjoyment levels. For traditionalists, the Arthur Traveller Challenge Cup rewards a more conventional style.

If you are an entrant, be sure to arrive before 10am on the day so you can check the board for your heat time.

There is no parking at Chapel Porth on the day but a shuttle bus will run between St Agnes Head and the event.

To plan your next visit to the West Country and to find a holiday home, go to