Thursday, 31 October 2013

Bonfire Night in the West Country

A West Country bonfire night can be unlike any other you will have seen…with lots of traditional events to choose from, too.

Visitors to Devon can head to Ottery St Mary for the spectacle of flaming tar barrels. This tradition, its exact origin unknown, dates back hundreds of years and could have begun as a warning of the approach of the Spanish Armada. The barrels would once have been rolled through the streets but are now carried by those authorised to take part in the procession.

The Guy Fawkes Fireworks Party at The Big Sheep in North Devon may sound like a much more traditional way to mark the November 5th but the Catherine wheels and rockets are not the only highlight. Families can bring their own Guy Fawkes to be judged in the annual competition and the indoor play area will be open until 9.30pm.

Polperro Harbour is a great place to see fireworks pop over the water. A smaller affair than many, the bonfire is built and burnt on the beach, with the firework display planned for 7.30pm.

The annual Bodmin Bonfire and Grand Fireworks Display includes a Guy Fawkes competition. Taking place on the football field at Priory Park, the organisers ask that no sparklers are used.

Further west, Heartlands in Redruth holds a free bonfire event, with plenty of fairground rides, hot dogs and attractions for younger visitors to spend their holiday money on.

For ideas on where to stay, visit

Image credit: Dan Taylor

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Join the Cornish Santa Fun Run Series

Santa Claus is coming to town! Or rather, hundreds of Santa Clauses will be running through six Cornish towns as part of the Cornish Hospice Care’s annual Santa Fun Run series this November and December. Get into the festive spirit – and your Santa suit - and run with them!

Cornwall Hospice Care has planned six runs, each one with a slightly different twist to suit different timetables, locations and abilities, held between 27th November and 14th December. Join the Santa Night Run in Truro on the 27th; a dash the most westerly point in the British Isles at Land's End on the 30th; a beach run on 1st December in Newquay; a cycle and run in Padstow on the 7th; another run at Heartlands in Pool on the 8th; or experience Super Santa Day in Falmouth on the 14th December.

Each entrant is asked to raise £20.13 for the 2013 event and will receive a Santa costume to run in and a mince pie and a hot drink when they have finished.

Applications are available from the website or you can register online. Entry costs £10 for adults and £5 for children (under 14), except for on the Santa Cycle and Run, which is priced at £15 for adults and £10 for children (including bike hire if you haven't got your own with you).

The hospice provides specialist care and support to adults in Cornwall with life-limiting illnesses, along with their families, friends and carers.

If you plan to do one or more of these runs, check which holiday cottages we have near each location. Go to or call 01647 433593.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Have a Scream in the West Country this Halloween

Scary witch's nose, a white sheet with holes cut out for eyes, trick or treat bags….add them all to your suitcase if you are heading to the West Country over Halloween - you'll find plenty of chances to use them. There is even an alternative Jollyween event to counter all the screams with smiles.

Devon proves it’s as spooky as it is scenic, with numerous popular attractions getting their creep on for October 31st and half term week. But it’s not all frights and tricks. Crealy Adventure Park has invited Casper the Friendly Ghost to enjoy Halloween at the venue, meeting visitors throughout the day on the 31st.

The Big Sheep near Bideford (pictured top) has created an entire festival for Halloween fans as part of its 25th Anniversary this year celebrations. Horror-seeking holiday makers can chose from the Fun by Day events or the Scary by Night options from Saturday 26th October until Sunday 3rd November 2013, 10am until 6pm Daily. Attractions include a smelly version of trick or treat, with Heaven Scent or Smell from Hell, and the Haunted Hayride on a tractor, which does not include jumps and frights so is bound to be popular with all ages. There is even a Witches Flying School and free face painting.

Stop off in Seaton for a ride on the Tram of Terror between 26th-31stOctober. From gruesome drivers to spooky entertainment, you’ll work up an appetite for the revolting refreshments available from the Tramstop CafĂ©.

Woodlands has declared 26th October – 3rd November Halloscream week. Dare to get lost in the Phantom Maze or carve pumpkins and make scary masks at the Weird Workshops but leave time for the ghost train and to see the creepy crawlies at the zoo-farm. There is an especially scary time to be had at Fright Night on 1st November from 5pm-7.30pm, when you will be glad you brought your costume.

Pennywell Farm has seen the brighter side of Halloween – mystical marvels like flying pigs, funny-faced pumpkins and brilliant nocturnal animals like bats and owls are the highlights of this event, called Jollyween. Featuring the all new Batty Bat show in the Pennywell Theatre on 31st October, find out about a character who gets scared sometimes and needs help from her friends to face her fears – ideal for little ones who want to escape the spookiness.

In Cornwall, the Eden Project boasts Room on the Broom – the witchy favourite from Julia Donaldson. Special Halloween activities include a trail to find things the witch needs to cast her spell, workshops to make wands, mud monsters and protection charms, storytelling and face painting. On Tuesday 29th and Wednesday 30th October, there will be a Little Monsters’ Ball Halloween disco, and the 31st October and 1st November sees one biome become haunted at night. Ice skating is also available during half term.

Bodmin and Wenford Railway will hold a Halloween Murder Mystery on 29th October, all set on a steam train journey through the Cornish countryside.

Find a safe retreat from the ghoulish goings on. Go to or call us on 01647 433593.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Well done to our intrepid runner Nicky!

Nicky Heyworth is one of our booking advisors. This week she ran her second Royal Parks Half Marathon, raising money for mental health charity MIND. Here's her story of the experience:

At the start of the year I realised I had developed a substantial "office bottom" and that none of my clothes fitted properly anymore.

Since January I've been eating fresh fruit and salads and averting my eyes from cakes,  walked to (and whenever possible) from work. We live about 1.5 miles away from Helpful Holidays, and my commute takes me across the fields, along the river, and up the hill into Chagford. Our Labrador Beau has been a major beneficiary - he is looking very trim and pleased with himself. 

Sometime in May I was late for work, and ran some of the way - and discovered that I was already much fitter than I'd realised. The running was fun, and meant that I arrived at work feeling fresh and relaxed. Since May I've run to work 5 times a week, and started running at weekends too - gradually building up to the point where I could run 5, 6 or 7 miles without journeying on.

I ran in the first Royal Parks Half Marathon back in 2008. I'd been whining about getting tubby after giving up smoking, and my daughter decided I needed a challenge and a goal.  She signed me up to run, and we ran the Half Marathon together, raising money for Help for Heroes. This time, when once again I felt tubby and disgruntled, I signed myself up to run for MIND. We have friends who've suffered with depression, and the Mental Health services are the always short of funds. 

I've shed a couple of stone, raised nearly £400.00 for MIND and had a wonderful time on running through the most beautiful bits of London with an astonishingly varied group of 16,000 strangers, united only by their determination to complete a personal challenge and benefit a cause dear to their hearts. 

It was an absolutely beautiful Autumn day and a wonderful atmosphere - bananas, Daleks, large men in tutus running beside people supporting a huge range of causes. It was very moving reading people's vests and realising how many people care passionately - for the old, the homeless, the ill, the young, the environment, education - and of course the Royal Parks - those wonderful green spaces in the heart of our capital city.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

We've won a Sunday Times Travel Editor’s Choice Award!

Moray (centre) with Sir Ranulph Feinnes and Stephen Bleach
We're delighted to report that we scooped The Sunday Times 2013 travel editor’s choice award, which was presented at a glittering evening event overlooking Valetta’s Harbour in Malta.

Stephen Bleach, Travel Editor of The Sunday Times said: “Renting a property through Helpful is like having it chosen by a like-minded friend” and that we “offer a simple service done superbly well”.

Our General Manager Moray Bowater travelled to Malta to receive the award and says: “We’re thrilled to have been honoured with such a prestigious award and with such kind words because small company care with big company efficiency is what we aim for. 
Great credit too must go to our diligent band of owners and caretakers whose hard work creates holiday homes of great quality and who dependably deliver on the promises we make. 

"For over 30 years, the Helpful Holidays team's aim has been to ensure our holidaymakers have happy holidays and it’s great for all of us to have had our particular ethos and work recognised in such an encouraging way”.

Many thanks to all our friends and customers for your support.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Boot Up for the Fal River Autumn Walking Festival

The crunch of crisp Cornish leaves under foot is just one reason the Fal River Autumn Walking Festival is proving so popular; the unrivalled West Country scenery adds an unforgettable element for all who take part.

It’s back for its third year from October 18 and promises to be bigger and better than ever, so if you are heading to the West Country, choose your walk from the Fal River website and don’t forget to pack your walking boots.

We are sponsoring a walk again this year – the stretch from St Mawes around the headland is a relatively short one and rewards our visitors and other walkers with views of St Mawes Castle and across the Carrick Roads to Falmouth.

The festival runs until November 3 so if you are visiting for a week, you may have time to try several. Portscatho for Lunch is an all day loop with – as the name suggests – a beautiful spot to refuel. The Sloe Berry Stroll is a great choice for budding foragers, the route along the banks of the Helford giving a chance to see some wildlife before the weather turns too cold. Some good advice from organisers – take bags or buckets so you have something to take your berries home in.

The walks take in historical points of interest, picturesque coastal scenes and pass through areas of outstanding natural beauty as well as world heritage sites. As well as the self guided walks, special events are planned to celebrate these routes at their autumnal best. All the walks are graded and the descriptions on the website include a printable PDF.

Running now for three years, the festival has grown into one of the biggest walking festivals in the country.

To plan your stay within easy reach of these walks, go to

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Top 5 Reasons Why Cornwall Holiday Cottages Offer The Best Rural Escape

For centuries Cornwall was a land apart from the rest of Britain, with its own language, dress and folklore and the beautiful Tamar River forming a natural border. Today we speed there with ease, but Cornwall still gives that magical feeling of escaping from the rest of the world, with the thrill of leaving the pressures of modern living behind for a while.

We’ve picked out the five main reasons we think Cornwall holiday cottages offer the best rural escape – not a simple thing to do from a land with myriad delights. See if you agree …

1. The holiday cottages. Cornwall holiday cottages come in all shapes and sizes. We’ve traditional cottages in pretty fishing villages, swish penthouse apartments and rambling country houses with smuggling history. Whether it’s a simple romantic break, a family summer holiday that dreams are made of, or a jolly gathering of friends – there are holiday cottages in Cornwall for all.

2. The beaches. At over 250 miles, Cornwall has more coastline than any other county and its beaches are amongst the best in the world. Hidden coves surprise you and great stretches of sand glow, all edged by azure sea. Many are dog friendly, promising fun and larks for four-legged friends staying in our dog friendly holiday cottages.

3. The activities. A rural escape doesn’t necessarily mean lounging (although we all love a bit of that!), especially when the great outdoors is so inviting. Walking the iconic South West Coast Path, surfing, coasteering, SUPing, even swimming on horseback, recharges your batteries and sends you home buzzing.

4. The places to visit. History, heritage, culture and sheer quirkiness – Cornwall has them all in spades! From iconic landmarks like St Michael’s Mount and the Eden Project to the Minack Theatre and a profusion of art galleries, there’s so much to explore. And for the ultimate escape, the great gardens are places to lose yourself in and dream. This is a county of surprises and revelations which stay with you long after you leave your Cornwall holiday cottage.

5. The food and drink. A cottage holiday in Cornwall isn’t complete without the gastronomic adventure! The food and drink are fresh, bountiful and delicious and after buying fish direct from the boats, supermarket shopping is never the same again. A feast fit for kings can be whipped up at a self catering holiday cottage in Cornwall. Or welcoming pubs and award-winning restaurants tempt you to dine out – top chefs are flocking here for our fantastic produce.