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From hen party pads to couple retreats across the country, there are lots of options when it comes to renting a beautiful, relaxing cottage for a weekend break in the UK. Here are some of our top suggestions to help you on your way to finding your new cottage getaway:
MOORLAND VIEW, NORTH BOVEY, DEVON
One of the most charming villages in the UK, North Bovey, is a living vision of straw roofs and stone longhouses; a 14th-century parish church, a manicured green and a traditional country pub, the Ring of Bells.
It is an old-fashioned place where the spirit of the village is as alive as it was when the property was built in 1705 as part of a row of cottages for thatched workers. What the original tenants would do with today’s Georg Jensen salad bowl, a sink in the mother-of-pearl-tiled downstairs lavatory, is anyone’s guess.
The Grade II-listed flagstone floors, lath-and-plaster walls and wooden beams are part of the restored interiors. Sophie Conran’s crockery, Brissi’s linens and pastel Colefax & Fowler’s prints add the feel of new Provence to Notting Hill.
Sit in the garden, surrounded by the smell of roses and jasmine, in warm weather. On a chilly afternoon, start the supply of marshmallows to be barbecued on the wood fire.
THE ANGMERING-ON-SEA BEACH HOUSE, WEST SUSSEX
This is an exceptionally good-looking beach house, covered in Hamptons y clapboard. The aesthetic is very cool and swanky, with countless pale wood, mirrored chests, various kinds of chandeliers, brass lanterns, a huge elephant made of driftwood and a mass of white leather sofas. And yet, somehow, it’s hardy enough that you can take your kids and not freak out.
Inside, it’s so big that kids can, and will, play hide and seek all day. There are a lot of TVs, which might just be the thing you’re trying to avoid while you’re on holiday but late in the day when the wind is blowing, it’s not a bad thing to set up one gang around the PlayStation and another one in front of the soccer.
Outside, there’s a bubbly hot tub facing the sea, in which everyone is from morning tonight. And right there, on the edge of the deck (so many decks – sunbathing decks, lunch decks, sun-drink decks) is the beach. This section of the south coast is shingly and pebbly, wild and empty, but for an occasional dog and a galloping horse.
TREBARRIED MILL, BRECON, WALES
Trebarried Mill is situated on the outskirts of the Brecon Beacons, 6.8 miles from the historic cathedral town of Brecon, within extensive grounds with a 17C Mill wheel and runs along one boundary along the Dulas Brook.
There are seven bedrooms and 5.5 bathrooms in this holiday home.
A barbecue is available at the holiday home too, and if you want to explore the town, cycling and hiking are possible in the surroundings, and a bicycle rental service can be arranged at Trebarried Mill.
THE COTTAGE, CORNHILL-ON-TWEED, NORTHUMBERLAND
A tiny border village under a cross commemorating the biggest war ever fought between England and Scotland doesn’t seem to be the atmosphere for a weekend break. But beyond Flodden Field, there’s a world where sheep graze, bracken and pine-forested hills roll to the sea and chocolate-box two up and two down – line the streets.
The Cottage in Branxton would probably have once hosted a whole family; today it’s a sweet homespun hideaway for two, dotted with antiques and trinkets. Beyond the garden’s white picket fence, there are rooms for hunkering down on a puffy sofa and a leather armchair beside the open fire, around an antique oak table in the dining room lined with an enticing wall of books (alas faux) or in a pretty pink-and-white bedroom.
If the weather is bad, the shaker-style kitchen is well equipped to cook up a feast (or heat up a local cook’s delicious homemade meals if you feel lazy). There are plenty of games, books and a DVD player while you’re waiting for the rain to stop and, when the sun shines, a little garden with a summerhouse and a barbecue. That’s if you’re not drawn to the beaches, walks in the Cheviot Hills, the Holy Island Castle, country pubs and the Old Dairy Antique Shop, where you might need a van to get home.
THE CABIN AT BLISS BLAKENEY, NORFOLK
Right on the edge of the salt marshlands just outside Blakeney village, this cute seaside shack is a new kind of hideaway. Built-in, just seven weeks from sheets of Scandinavian pine and spruce wood, pieced together like a Jenga puzzle, the finished cabin is an eco-warrior’s paradise.
It’s incredibly well-isolated and energy-efficient. Crafted by Lisa and Daniel Broch (the man who introduced sofas and drinks to the London film scene with the Everyman), the property has a smart, hotel-style versatility.
If there are only two of you, rent the master suite, which comes with a scoop-shaped, free-standing bathtub and a private terrace, and use the open-plan kitchen and sitting room with pink flashes (bright cherry-shaped cupboards, candy-painted chairs, a coral-coloured record player), a cocktail kit and a log fire.
Or if the whole nest is in tow, there are three more double bedrooms, all with their own bathrooms, floral Arne Jacobsen wallpaper and funky fresh local furniture that you might want to take home – which can be arranged. The most appealing are the antique bedspreads and industrial lampshades from Nixey and Godfrey in Holt.
The living area is well thought out, the poured-concrete and latex floors are good for sandy feet, and instead of the traditional welcome, there’s a brown paper bag overflowing with produce: quail eggs, sloe gin and freshly picked strawberries from the Wiveton Hall farm.
There are masseurs on call, a fire pit and an outdoor shower in the backyard. And beyond that, high jinks on the coast: crab and mud sliding in Blakeney harbour at high tide, trips on the afternoon seal spotting boat in the afternoon, and long walks on the nearby Holkham Beach.
CLEABARROW COTTAGE, WINDERMERE
Offering accommodation with a patio and free WiFi, Cleabarrow Cottage is situated in Windermere. This holiday cottage offers views of the mountains and is just over 4 miles away from Kendal.
This cottage has six bedrooms, a kitchen with a microwave and a dishwasher, a flat-screen TV, a dining area, and six bathrooms with a hot tub.
Guests will enjoy hiking locally or making the most of the garden at the holiday home.
Ambleside is 11.8 miles away from Cleabarrow Cottage and is 6.2 miles away from Bowness-on-Windermere.
CALDER COTTAGE, NORTHUMBERLAND
This spacious one-bedroom cottage across from the village pub in Embleton has a crisp simplicity that perfectly complements the ascetic charm of the Northumbrian coastal scenery in which it is located. Half-panelling, a cast-iron wood-burner and the kind of sofa that invites you to sprawling create a comfortable living space that is especially welcome after a day of exploring beaches and dunes. Alexa speaker, a container full of DVDs, and a board games shelf will keep guests entertained when it’s a little too wild to venture out. The bathroom is elegant and wet, and the sunny, sea-facing kitchen is ideally fitted down to the knives, which are durable and sharp enough to meet the approval of the chef.
The calmly muted colour scheme of the bedroom is enhanced by a stylish Ercol chair with bright, geometrical David Hicks cushions. The owner, local farmer Guy Douglas, supplies eggs from his free-range chickens and a welcome beer or two from one of the excellent local craft breweries. He can also lay on delicious home-cooked ready meals from The Stable Yard in the nearby Craster. Calder Cottage has charm and dozens of well-chosen touches – posters of exhibitions by artist Victor Pasmore, who spent most of his working life in Northumberland, and – who else? – Alexander Calder; Ian Mankin ticking fabrics; kilim rugs. At the end of the day, though, as Douglas himself cheerfully admits, no interior, however finely judged, can compete with the views from the rear windows or the outside deck where you can eat breakfast if you wrap up warm, gazing across the rolling fields to the poetic ruin of Dunstanburgh Castle. It’s a place for Byronic romance. By Harry Pearson
57 NORD, SCOTLAND
At first sight, the glass and larch exterior of 57 Nord has such distinguishable and careful simplicity that you might think it was an individual yoga studio or a hallowed new meditation space. It is situated on a jag of private land in the north-west of the Highlands that leads down to the shores of Loch Duich, in the shadow of the Kintail Mountains, and its view is perhaps the most evocative and immutable of any holiday cottage in the United Kingdom. Reeds and moss along the edge of the loch glister with scarlet stabs of irises. A two-masted sailboat moves by itself on the vast immensity of water, where the poetic 13th-century Eilean Donan Castle glows down the centuries along a stone-paved bridge (the McLeod Clan marched over here in the movie Highlander, swathed in tattered tartan, beating ominous drums).
The new one-storey house is a marvel of crisp, clean luxury. The interior colours are both subdued and luminous, contrasting the morning mist outside and the beautiful splashes of dappled light on far, daunting peaks, the rowan trees leaping dramatically from the cracks. A wide, warm-boarded living room is all glass, opening onto an infinitely private bedroom and (perfectly stocked) bathroom – but all the doors between can be opened to create one rolling, gentle space. A pillow-piled and huge four-poster bed are impossible not to retire almost permanently, particularly when the weather is falling and the rain is increasing against the powder-coated steel roof and the windows beyond. You’re going to fall asleep here to the crooning of wind and water.
Owner and designer Mumtaz Lalani trained as a sommelier and spent most of her childhood in Norway and Finland: her Scandinavian presence is obvious (a pale board, a Danish wood burner, a fireplace in the garden) but her welcome provisions are all perfectly selected, strictly local touches. Moist, brown seed bread wrapped in a monolith of salted butter comes from a bakery, Manuela’s, just across the fields (which also sells home-distilled gin flavoured with angelica roots and meadowsweet that reaches the front lobe like late-summer fireworks).
Fisherman Duncan in the loch shed will bring you lobsters (very fat and sweet) if you ask. Manni Nössing ‘s wine refrigerator is full of delicate, mineral whites that Lalani has chosen to pair with seafood. This part of Ross-shire, on the edge of the region known as Wester Ross, is very close to the Kyle of Lochalsh and the Isle of Skye, and not far from Applecross or the breathtaking Ratagan Pass. The airport of Inverness is less than two hours away. And yet, as the lane bends down towards the property, you feel so suddenly packed with scenery, so get wrapped up in its ever-changing stage backcloth of distant waterfalls and its loch banks with the colour of amber, it’s as though you’ve never seen a town or a city in your life. A place of intense and constant solitude and romance. Antonia Quirke
THE CRAFTSMAN’S COTTAGE, WILTSHIRE
A chocolate-box cottage with nothing chintzy inside. Owner Amanda Bannister has created a living, stunning celebration of home-grown craftsmanship inside the Shaftesbury-stone walls of the 19th century. Designs by British ceramists, English cartographers, Irish carpetmakers and Welsh painters are set alongside Victorian chests and Edwardian consoles in rooms decorated with wallpaper by William Morris. It feels comfortable, smart and modern. Practically anything you can sit on or pick up can be bought – with a little discount too – but it’s not just a matter of substance style. There’s a Roberts radio on every bedside (there’s three bedrooms in the main house and a one-bed studio next door to spill over), stunning Bramley products in the bathrooms, a deVOL-style gadget-filled kitchen, and a Netflix in the living room. You’ll also find a bookcase of classic paperbacks, tweed Guillotine gilets hanging under the stairs to be borrowed, and a knock-your-socks-off hamper on arrival, packed full of craft food and drink, such as homemade chicken pie and freshly ground vegetables (garden stews and carrots) plus freshly baked bread and freshly baked eggs (both still warm) and butter and milk from farm to table. This is a charming country living done to the highest specification.
THE MALTHOUSE, DEVON
After a cup of tea and a lie-down to recover from the windy road to this beautiful part of the world, you will begin to understand the architectural trickery that is going on inside this 200-year-old house. Owners Misha and Lucy Smith purchased a forlorn property four years ago. The home, part of the terrace a short walk from the Kingsbridge Estuary, dated back to the 1800s and was in need of a full rethink. Devon-raised Misha, who left his architect’s job in London to focus on the project, took much of the renovation, adding windows, extra floors and a courtyard garden, giving light and a sense of space to previously dark corners.
Then there is the fun part. Former chef Lucy, formerly from London’s River Café and Moro, packed the house with antique Spanish tapestries found on Etsy, linen bedding from the Australian brand Castle and paintings by Dartmouth-based artist James Stewart. Everything that wasn’t purchased was handmade by Misha, including the bed frame and kitchen table. All this wood, plus vibrant accessories, works with polished concrete floors and a soothing paint scheme – a combination of brilliant white emulsion, Farrow & Ball Middleton Pink and Purbeck Stone – to create a good blend of style and practicality.
Let the kids draw on the blackboard walls of the kitchen while preparing some locally sourced eggs and bacon from the Stokeley Farm Shop (near the stunning Start Bay). To eat out, you’re right in the heart of Kingsbridge, the capital of South Devon. After crabbing along the quay, have a tapas lunch along the river at The Old Bakery or a nice Indian at Kerala Delicates and stop for coffee and cake at Coasters on your way home.
SALT COTTAGE, NORFOLK
This one-up one-down bolthole is the newest addition to the seriously smart set of cottages in a former cartshed in Sharrington Hall. The walls are freshly painted in a piece of contrasting colours, reflecting the changing horizons of the North Norfolk coast just 15 minutes down the road. Upstairs, at the end of the elegant four-poster, is a massive bathtub. And on the bed are thick white towels wrapped with a ribbon – yours to hold, because owners Steve and Katie King don’t think anybody should use a stiff old towel on vacation. The interior designer Katie is responsible for coastal aesthetics: bleached driftwood floors, salt-washed fabric, sea-grass rugs and wicker lampshades, as well as potted succulents and blush velvet cushions. Clever’s mirrored accents in the alcoves draw the sky and the leaves from outside, and the ancient woods retrieved from the home of the Kings (Jacobean Sharrington Hall) were used to build cupboard doors. Downstairs, an antique oak butcher’s table is neatly tucked into a nook, making a perfect breakfast spot for two.
Days can be spent walking from the vast beaches of the United Kingdom at Holkham to Wells-next-the-Sea, where The Globe Inn, on a beautiful tree-lined square, is a spot for fish and chips. Or head for Morston’s marshes and stop in the garden at Stiffkey Stores for a flat white in a paper cup and a still-gooey brownie. Then stock up on supplies from the Back to the Garden Farm Store, which has everything you’d expect from a good butcher’s shop, wine, fresh fruit and vegetables to home-baked cakes, and hunker down for the evening under a blanket in front of a massive log-burning stove (laid and ready to be lit upon arrival).
THE GABLES, BUXTON
The Gables is a holiday cottage in the Peak Forest. It has a private landscaped garden and sits within the Peak District National Park. Buxton is also within 5 miles of the house.
There are six suites, a games room and Three dining rooms in the accommodation. The kitchen is fitted with a dishwasher, and there is a dining area to enjoy family meals or want a more sociable place to sit and work.
A popular local activity is hiking. Bakewell is 10.6 miles away, while The Gables is 13 miles from Chatsworth House. Sheffield is within 15.5 miles of the house. Manchester Airport, 18.6 miles away, which is the closest airport to the property.
THE GRANARY, GLOUCESTERSHIRE
Temple Guiting Manor is not very large, but it is so amazingly beautiful that it has been called ‘one of the finest of the smaller manor houses of Tudor’ by those who can claim to quantify such things. It’s showing up incrementally. Here and there, you’ll get a glimpse of the 15th-century gabled roofs and mullioned windows through the foliage, from Jinny Blom’s cheerful gardens of velvety, heavy-headed peonies, irises and lavender humming with bees. There are Wonderland shapes in a trimmed yew, and unexpected gateways to more gardens: wild with a shepherd’s hut; formal with an exquisite pond; walled with a tennis court, the arbiter’s chair wedged in the flowerbeds. The five-bedroom manor itself has been available for rent for some time; now the owners have been constructing other properties on the estate to rent out, too, most recently, The Granary. What a surprise its interiors are: chic and contemporary, mature dark grey and white, monochrome with art and photography on a vaguely African theme.
An oversized tribal portrait hangs on the stairs next to a delicate stool. However, it’s furnished like a home: no mean miniatures here, but the Cire Trudon candles and the large bottles of Green & Spring.
There are three bedrooms with deep high beds. The top floor space is the one for dreamers – a copper rolltop bath in the bathroom, a vintage typewriter on the most beautiful desk in the attic window. Early risers can open the coops to find eggs in the straw; late risers can find them in the refrigerator. Signposts down the lane point to Stow-on-the-Wold, Bourton-on-the-Water, the Slaughters, but we’re going to stay put.
SHEEPSCOMBE HOUSE, GLOUCESTERSHIRE
This place is a beauty, a kind of postcard-perfect country house that people pay for when winning a lottery ticket. It ticks all of the clichéd boxes expected from the honey-hued, wisteria-draped Georgian home.
The façade is mesmerizingly symmetrical, with bell-shaped windows overlooking the Cotswolds countryside. The pale-grey-painted Devol kitchen is straight from the Pinterest board, with a double butler sink, a four-door Aga and a French-style brass oven. The attached garden room is flooded with sunlight during the day and becomes particularly stunning at night when the fairy lights are on.
The rest of the house is substantial (there are five large bedrooms, a large double living room and a large movie theatre room), but it looks fantastically comfortable: Aubusson-style rugs, deep-cushioned sofas, animal hides and battered leather club chairs against the background of the owner’s extensive modern-art collection.
Behind a thick laurel hedge is a heated swimming pool and a wood-burning pizza oven for homemade Margaritas. There’s a field full of alpacas that trots over when it’s called, and a grass tennis court cut into the hillside; it’s an adventure having to find the tennis balls in the adjacent field of waist-high wildflowers.
CRAILING HOUSE, NEAR JEDBURGH, SCOTTISH BORDERS
James Paton, an official of the East India Company, designed Crailing, a magnificent rosy-stone Regency house with high ceilings, in 1803, even though the estate had been in existence for several hundred years. The 1881 census indicates that the Patons employed a flurry of servants, a gardener and a chef, who stayed downstairs in the servants’ quarters with their own families. There’s already an air of Downton Abbey: the live-in housekeeper Linda Coles tiptoes around the ground floor under a mask of invisibility, eliminating all the remnants of the previous night’s dinner before the guests wake up.
Botanical-print designers Guild fabrics were combined with carefully picked antique furniture pieces, and centuries-old portraits were hung side by side with a stormy John Walker canvas. Sprigs of heather in vases, china elephants on mantelpieces and horse-drawn illustrations and sculptures add eccentric touches. Double-height windows frame dreamy James Norie scenes of sheep grazing on a sloping, field. The apples ripen in the orchard by the river.
Come here with your family and friends, your labrador and your pony (there’s a stable and a paddock). This is a holiday home: it may be smart, but it’s also cosy. Little girls are going to make a beeline for rooms with stripey beds, patchwork quilts and lilac and turquoise walls.
There’s a lot of space to spread out into the living room, the sitting room and the study, but eventually, everybody wants to come together in the massive kitchen-dining room. The industrial-size Everhot range is wide enough to provide a Sunday lunch for the whole village or to forget the oven gloves and pick up the sweetest salmon from the Teviot Smokery and homemade fruit tart from the Floors Castle near Kelso.
HEX COTTAGE, SIBTON PARK, SUFFOLK
A ridiculously romantic hideaway, this forester’s cottage right in the middle of the forest is surrounded by foxgloves and cut off from everybody and everyone. There’s no electricity, and heat and hot water comes from the Esse wood-burning range that needs daily stoking (there’s a well-stocked log store outside the stable-style backdoor), so even in the height of summer, there’s a warm, tickly scent of wood smoke.
Gothic-style ledge windows and gnarled veranda contribute to the feel of Hansel and Gretel. The walls are non-painted, the floors are laid brick (except in the bedroom, which is furnished in pitch pine with sheepskin rugs on the canopy bed), and the interiors combine rustic auction house finds with contemporary staples.
The cottage is located in the 4,500-acre Wilderness Reserve, where the trees are inherent to the ethos of protecting the parkland and allowing it to return to a more biodiverse landscape. With more than one million native trees planted, power pylons, arable crops and industrial barns are gone, while native bats, owls and insects are coming back. Book a barbecue breakfast to observe moths with Matthew Deans, a resident ecologist, and be amazed at the beauty of these creatures.
THE PARISIAN, STAMFORD, RUTLAND
Glowing golden in the evening sun and used in many of Cambridge’s old schools, the stone of Rutland is as majestic as that of the Cotswolds, but the area is largely unknown to tourists.
This cottage once formed the stables of the elegant Georgian precinct next door and was restored by the Dovetail & Capstone heritage builders. It’s a Farrow & Ball Tardis, opening onto a lavender-scented terrace overlooking lawns and mature chestnut trees – a sheltered place to stretch out on wicker loungers, read a book or sit with a glass of prosecco watching swallows circle the skies.
The sitting room is full of books, throws and antiques by local expert Hester Cresswell. Oak stairs curve up to one beautiful bedroom with its soft-grey-painted rafters. There is a Westin Heavenly mattress under a wool-and-alpaca-filled duvet, imported from the USA because the well-travelled owners feel that a good night’s sleep is half a holiday.
In the morning, take a trip to nearby Stamford to pick up croissants from British Baker of the Year Julian Carter at the Hambleton Bakery or to Otters Smokehouse and Deli in Oakham for home-smoked salmon. Afterwards, take a stroll down the Four Counties Walk. See our guide to the best things to do in the Cotswolds for more ideas.
NUMBER ONE, DARTMOUTH, DEVON
This is a riverside resort with a distinctly slick, urban atmosphere. It seems as if Kelly Hoppen and her bronze-and-taupe mood board, a van-load of silk-covered cushions and vases of orchids were passing through here, instead of a cottagey cuteness or a coastal bucket-and-spade styling.
The living room, with its high ceilings and pale parquet floors, is full of whizzy boys’ toys: a remote-controlled gas fire, electric blinds and a sound system with built in-ceiling speakers. But there’s no forgetting seaside even with all the gadgetry. When the windows are open, the calls of the seagulls and the morning chorus of the marina flood in. It’s right on the River Dart: look out over the swirling waters of the bathtub or watch the boats sail up the estuary from the rattan chair on the terrace.
The house is operated by the Dart Marina Hotel, so you can tap into the spa (excellent massages and indoor pool) and the restaurant (mackerel and crab right from the sea). Daily maid service ensures that the beds are made, the laundry is removed, and the bath items from Elemis are topped up in the blink of an eye.
THE COB, HOLSWORTHY, DEVON
Here is another unexpectedly contemporary home set in the middle of a working farm. Children are encouraged to gather eggs from resident hens, to make dens in the treehouse in the woods, to pick organic vegetables from the kitchen garden and to run wild in the orchard and flower meadows – if you can pull them away from the steady supply of toys and DVDs.
This seven-acre smallholding was saved from ruin by its new owners, and the derelict stone and cob barn, formerly a 200-year-old milking parlour, was beautifully re-imagined by architect Feilden Fowles. The original building was expanded and remodelled, cattle troughs replaced by polished concrete worktops, straw and mud on the ground revamped with underfloor heating.
Light-coloured flashes have been added in the bright-white-painted, light-filled rooms, featuring the funky Eames seats, the lime-green bloom wallpaper and the satsuma-hued 50’s desk lamp.
It looks urban and crisp rather than rustic, rough-and-ready, while there are traditional touches: a wood-burning stove in the living room, painted beams in one of the bedrooms and a farmhouse sink in the kitchen, but luckily not a horse brass insight.
MONNINGTON HOUSE, HEREFORDSHIRE
This 18th-century, red-brick manor for a new generation has been a three-year labour of love. The smartest thing was the installation of new windows, including a double-height glass pane halfway up the stairs to carry light to previously dark corners.
The interiors are country chic, a mixture of modern and fresh Oka-esque with old family pieces, velvet Day Birger and Mikkelsen cushions on herringbone wool sofas and an oak dining table that seats up to 18 (handy when you take the adjoining three-bedroom cottage at the same time).
The bounty left on the kitchen counter is more than thoughtful: bottles of Chablis, quail eggs and celery salt, locally sliced cheese, bread and a basket of fresh walnuts. Bedrooms are spacious, and no one gets a bum deal, even the two of them in the attic feel spoiled, and each has its own bathroom.
This is cider land, and the village is surrounded by apple orchards. Hereford and its growing cathedral are 15 minutes ‘ drive in one direction and Hay-on-Wye the same distance in the other, which explains why the house is booked months in advance for the literary festival.