Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Eating Out in the West Country

The West Country is full of amazing scenery and has a reputation as a foodie destination: many of its restaurants have a great local sourcing ethos and imaginative menus. Why not combine fabulous views with tasty fresh food? A great way to refuel and make the most of your break.

Here is a selection of waterside eateries, to help you fill up on sea views as well as seafood, sandwiches or a good old pasty and a cream tea.

The Venus Café, Blackpool Sands in Devon, is right on the beach and is top of the list when it comes to locally sourced produce. This is one of several Venus Cafes across Devon and Cornwall and it’s popularity keeps it in demand all year round, serving as a café by day and restaurant by night.

Hix Oyster and Fish House in Dorset overlooks the Cobb in Lyme Regis, with stunning views over the Jurassic Coast. The informal atmosphere and simply cooked seafood makes it an easy place to fit in to your itinerary at least once during your visit.

Kota (pictured above), which means shellfish in Maori, is a very popular restaurant in Porthleven, near Helston, Cornwall. It is run by Jude Kereama, who is well known for his subtle Asian twists on local organic produce. This won him awards in his native New Zealand and London before heading west.

The Café, Porlock Weir, Somerset, is in the heart of Exmoor National Park overlooking the 13thcentury harbour. It’s easy to see the local sourcing in action here and the menu ranges from light snacks to full-appetite-busting seafood platters.

To find your perfect spot for restaurant hopping, go to the Helpful Holidays website or call 01647 433593.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Get your skates on in Cornwall

No matter how bad we are at it, there's something about the festive season that makes us want to lace up a pair of skates and head out onto the ice. 

Of course, a big part of the appeal of skating at Christmas is the chance to do it al fresco, so to speak, as opposed to inside a noisy leisure centre.

In Truro, for instance, its temporary ice rink is erected beneath the stunning backdrop of the city's Cathedral - creating an incredibly atmospheric experience for those who take to the ice.

The Cathedral Green rink is open to anyone aged four and above, including those in wheelchairs, from 10am each day, with the last session beginning at 7.30pm on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, and 8.30pm on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

Younger children can enjoy a 'Toddler Woddler' session on either Tuesday or Thursday at 9am between November 26th and December 19th. Regular sessions will run until January 5th. Tickets for one hour cost £7 for adults and £5 for children.

Those who really don't fancy a skate, can revel in the mishaps of others from the comfort of the rink-side viewing area and enjoy drinks and snacks while they watch.

Another spectacular location for a skate is the world-famous Eden Project (pictured above). Its mammoth winter skating season began in October and runs right through until March 2nd. This year, it is offering new sessions for beginners, ice discos on some Friday evenings and rink-side food. Kids struggling with their balance can even hire penguin skating aids, which are pushed along using handlebars.

Tickets for each 40-minute session cost £6 per person and do not include admission to the Eden Project itself. However, on selected days you can enjoy a skate with a friend for half the price, and on Wednesdays during term time between 3pm and 4.30pm you get an extra 50-minutes to skate for the cost of a normal ticket.

Read more information on our inspected and star rated Cornwall holiday cottages

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Alternative Christmas Shopping

Racing Santas at Padstow Christmas Festival

For those of you who prefer to do your Christmas shopping away from the High Street, there are plenty of interesting alternatives across the West Country this year.

You're highly likely to find a host of original and unusual presents at one of the West Country Christmas markets, full of local and authentic produce, often hand-made with loving care. From 21st November onwards, Cathedral Green in Exeter will be flooded with over 50 international and South West traders offering unique, handmade and eye-catching gifts, decorations and food items.

In St Austell, on the site of the old china clay works at Wheal Martyn, you'll find a great selection of food, drink and crafts at the Food and Craft Fair on 23rd and 24th November. Enjoy some relaxed, hassle free shopping at this historic site.

Truro is hosting the Made in Cornwall Fair on Lemon Quay from 27th November to 1st December, celebating the amazing range of Cornish products, from award-winning local food and drink to funky clothing and collectable teddy bears. On 4th December you can get up close to Cornwall's finest livestock when town meets country at the entirely unique Primestock Show.

This year over 30 of the biggest culinary names from around the country will be at the Padstow Christmas Festival - see Rick Stein (of course), Angela Hartnett, Sat Bains, Tom Kerridge, Michael Caines, Phil Vickery and Reza Mohammed to name a few. Visit the marquee on the quayside for festive gift ideas and irresistible local food and drink - including many local specialties: Cornish Duck, Tamblyns Sausages, Duchy Game and Kernow chocolate.

We hope your Christmas shopping goes well - if you manage to pick up some of the West Country treats mentioned above, you'll not go far wrong!

Friday, 15 November 2013

Congratulations to the Pandora Inn

Right in the heart of a beautiful area which is very dear to us - Cornwall’s Med - you'll find a beautiful pub in a wonderful setting on the edge of Restronguet Creek.

The Pandora Inn dates back to the 13th Century and continues to be a roaring success in the present day - we were delighted to hear that it has been named 'Pub of the Year' in the Cornwall Tourism Awards for third time.

The Pandora team picked up the gold award in a very competitive category which this year included Rick Stein’s pub, the Cornish Arms, and The New Inn on Tresco.

John Milan said: “The team at the Pandora - led by managers Catherine and Lester Croft and chef Tom Milby,­ all work incredibly hard to maintain the high standards for food and service that we have set ourselves – to win for the third time is amazing. They absolutely deserved it, and we’re very proud.”

We have a property in Mylor Bridge (S47 - Briony Cottage) and many more close nearby - so you should pay them a visit when you're in the area!

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Carnival Time in Somerset

Somerset is carnival county and this week is your last chance to catch this historical attraction in action for 2013.

Towns throughout Somerset host illuminated processions using floats in a tradition that stretches back as far as the 1600s when many parts of Somerset commemorated the Gunpowder Plot. The ‘circuits’ of processions end with grand fireworks displays and street entertainment making each event a mini festival.

A perfect way to brighten up dark November evenings, the floats are covered by hundreds of lightbulbs, bringing a glow to the county which thousands of visitors travel to see. Wells has the biggest illuminated carnival in the world!

The processions are the work of the Carnival Clubs that run throughout Somerset, preserving this popular tradition by fundraising and building and decorating the floats. The illuminated carts can be up to 100ft in length, 16ft high, and 11ft wide, and some have 20-30,000 light bulbs. The events are free, but donations are collected.

If you are travelling to Somerset this week, head to the carnival in Shepton Mallet on Wednesday 13th, Wells on Friday 15th and Glastonbury on Saturday 16th.

See the Somerset Carnival website for times and details and see the Helpful Holidays website for late availability or to plan your tour of the Somerset Carnivals next year.

Friday, 8 November 2013

See The West Country’s Christmas Lights

From Christmas light switch-on ceremonies to parades of elaborate lanterns, the West Country has a special sparkle at this time of year.

Truro City of Lights (pictured above) is a parade through the Cornish city’s streets on 20th November. Huge handmade paper lanterns are carried by participants, this year following the theme ‘Expect the Unexpected’. Lemon Quay is a great vantage point for the event, which includes the switch on of the festive lights.

Angarrack designs and makes its own Christmas lights, which are added to each year and are unique to the village. Residents like to add their own lights to the display, so there is plenty to feast your eyes on. The main lights have a Twelve Days of Christmas theme and are switched on from 1st December to 4th January.

Mousehole Harbour Christmas lights celebrate their 50th year this December and have become so popular, they have their own website with a countdown to this year’s switch-on. The big day is 14th December and the lights will be turned on at 7.30pm. The evening includes carols from the Mousehole Male Voice Choir, Members of the Mousehole Methodist Church and members of the community with the Pendeen Silver Band. A collection is held to pay for this spectacle to continue.

The well-preserved medieval Somerset village of Dunster holds a special Dunster by Candlelight event on the first Friday and Saturday of December. This year, that’s the 6th and 7th of December from 5pm-9pm and 4pm-9pm. The event is funded by traders and proceeds from programme sales go to the local hospice. The event starts with a lantern lighting procession at 5.30pm on the Friday.

Clovelly makes a big occasion of its Christmas lights switch on. A local brass band leads a procession to the harbour, accompanied by Christmas carols with the Torridge Male Voice Choir. The lights are switched on at 5pm, giving visitors plenty of time to indulge in a hog roast and mince pies before a visit from Father Christmas and a firework finale.

To find a warm and cosy holiday cottage to retreat to after enjoying the West Country Christmas Light switch-ons and festivities, go to the Helpful Holidays website or call 01647 433593.