Holiday rental companies are among the many businesses facing losses since the UK went into lockdown last week. Some hosts saw a surge in interest at the start of the coronavirus outbreak, as international travel restrictions and flight cancellations were imposed, but sales are now falling dramatically.
In a bid to keep business going, travel companies are calling on those with with existing bookings to change their dates rather than scrap trips altogether. Taking a holiday might still be a way off but many rental companies are now also offering increased flexibility when it comes to changing dates.
“The best way to help the industry right now is to look ahead. It might feel like a strange time to book a holiday but do consider it if you can,” said Mike Shields, managing director of Sawday’s and Canopy & Stars. “Many of our owners are offering vouchers or credit notes that can be redeemed at a later date and are a great way to show your support. It’s encouraging to already see some of our owners are planning now for when we come out of the crisis, to take advantage of the likely pent-up demand and interest in staycations.”
Darling How, Whinlatter Pass, Lake District
The instructions for reaching Darling How are clear: catch the Honister Rambler bus over the Whinlatter Pass from Keswick and ask the driver to drop you at the end of the forest track.Darling How is at the end of a forest track, then a further half-mile into the hills, almost surrounded by long-established pine plantations. On arrival, hunt down the key safe on one of the barn walls. With the wind moaning in the trees and the looming skyline to the west – the ridge formed by Graystones, Broad Fell and Lord’s Seat – it feels properly remote, even though the owners do live next door, the only other humans within an hour’s walk.
The cottage is perfectly snug: an air-source heat pump does the heavy lifting, while a logburner adds the final warm touches in the upstairs open-plan kitchen-diner-living area. Laminated maps and a full set of Wainwrights are on the window ledge awaiting the evening planning session, although the DVD selection might cause some distractions. Bedrooms and bathroom (with full-size bath, I’m happy to see) are downstairs.
Next day we settle on a circuit that will take us up the forested valley then out on the tops for a return along the ridge. However, when we get to the summit of Lord’s Seat, the west wind is ferocious and has added a little scouring powder of hail that confuses the dog, Wilf. He can’t walk into it and keep his eyes open, so closes them and stumbles around blindly. We huddle on the summit for a while, enjoying long vistas across the Solway Firth to Scotland, but the wind only gets stronger so we retreat back to the valley, missing out on that ridge. At this point the hot water and the bath are much appreciated. Darling How has definitely delivered on the remoteness, and provided the perfect amount of cosiness to best appreciate it.
• Sleeps 2, from £390 a week, sallyscottages.co.uk
The Cragg, Hawkshead, Lake District
Across Windermere on the western shores is the area where Beatrix Potter settled and began farming back in 1905 – when The Cragg was already long established. It’s a big house, with a big slate-floored kitchen, lots of old beams, latched doors and window seats to gaze over the pretty garden.
This is an area of gentle walks rather than your big fell classics: head down to Esthwaite Water, or an old favourite, Claife Heights, which follows a lovely woodland way up to High Blind How with views over Windermere and several small tarns. In summer, this can be a busy area, but out of season it is wonderfully peaceful.
• Sleeps 8, from £586 a week, heartofthelakes.co.uk
The Byre, Deepdale, Lake District
If I had to pick a base for some great fell walks, The Byre would be a perfect location. It sits on a working farm right under St Sunday Crag and Kirkstone Pass, two places where I’ve also enjoyed rock climbing and cycling challenges, and Helvellyn is also close at hand. The converted byre is on Deepdale Hall Farm, which dates back to the 17th century, and the farm location certainly enlivens most visitors’ stays with its peacocks, Indian runner ducks and – of course – sheep. Inside The Byre it’s a spacious open-plan conversion with leather sofas, oriental rugs on boards and a logburner. The bathroom has that essential post-long walk item, in my opinion at least: a bath.
• Sleeps 4, from £520 a week, sallyscottages.co.uk
Sally Port Cottage, St Mawes, Cornwall
The much-indented coastline of Cornwall does not easily lend itself to quick access by public transport, but in summer this gem of a lighthouse cottage is linked to Truro by three ferries. First, catch the service down the long fjord to Falmouth, nip across to St Mawes, then (having done your shop for the days ahead) jump on the Place Ferry across the Porth Creek, finally stepping off onto the Roseland peninsula. From there, you have a mile to walk on the access lane, or you can take the longer but more beautiful coastal path.
The reward for all this effort is clear when you first spot the lighthouse, perched on rocks above the sea, a fabulous white beacon of comfort and warmth. Inside, the place is well designed and practical, as befits a working lighthouse – there are even ear plugs for when the fog horn blows.
• Sleeps 4, from £928 a week, hostunusual.com
The Nap, Langabridge, Devon
Sitting in delightful isolation amid Devon’s fields is this handmade cabin with views down to the River Taw, a trout stream followed by the Tarka trail and the Tarka railway line, two rather large clues that this was the stomping ground of Henry Williamson’s fictional otter. A firepit and hot tub sit a few steps away from this neat Scandinavian-style place complete with logburner and full-length glass doors looking out on the bucolic surroundings.
The first walk will be the mile up from King’s Nympton station on the Exeter-Barnstaple route, and after that there are many trails through the woods and valleys of this tranquil corner of the county. It’s on a working farm with a pedigree herd of Dexter cows, pigs and chickens that supply guests with some food, otherwise there’s a 20-minute walk to a community shop. There’s camping in the field, too, for a party too large for the cabin.
• Sleeps 4 (space for 2 more on an air mattress), from £135 a night, canopyandstars.co.uk
Galatea Cottage, Whitby Lighthouse, North Yorkshire
I’m pushing the limits on this one, since the walk is definitely over a mile, but what a walk! From Whitby set off southward along the cliffs, and be warned: the Dracula Steps up to the Abbey are steep – I wouldn’t think of carrying anything but a rucksack. Once up, however, the Cleveland Way footpath is an undulating gem with magnificent sea views if the weather’s good.
The lighthouse, a bright white structure sitting above a huge cliff, is a working building with an important navigation mark for mariners. Take binoculars – there are gannets and whales out there, and in winter short-eared owls hunt the tussocky clifftops. Peregrines are often spotted too – in fact, this is a birdwatcher’s paradise. The cottage is a neat, bright apartment within the lighthouse complex with wonderful views.
• Sleeps 5, from £572 a week, ruralretreats.co.uk
Abermawr Cottage, Pembrokeshire
The north Pembrokeshire coast is an old favourite, an exhilarating coastal path takes a rollercoaster ride across a panorama of savage cliffs and sandy bays, with the occasional neolithic monument as a landmark. Abermawr Cottage is a bit more than a one mile’s walk from the nearest bus stop, but the rewards are great. Set in woodland, and it is equidistant (15 minutes) from two superb beaches: Abermawr and Aberbach, which will reliably give visitors either sun-blessed days on the pebbles and sand, or wild wind-blasted walks with an oxygen overdose. To be honest it’s probably going to be the latter, but the former does happen.
The house itself is a single-storey place with large open-plan kitchen-diner-living space complete with log fire and a terrace. No neighbours. Nothing to disturb except birdsong.
• Sleeps 6, from £628 a week, qualitycottages.co.uk
For those aiming to get away from human contact and stay deep in nature, then Hutty, a two-person cabin, could be perfect. It sits in a 14-acre private nature reserve under the Preseli Hills, which the owners maintain alongside an organic farm and, to be truly perfectionist about this lack of human contact, there is no electricity but for the solar supply provided by an adapted boat switchboard. The loo and shower are a few steps away in the trees.
The hand-built cabin itself is a compact ergonomic gem of rustic creativity: recycled timber, a woodburner and a massive bed with windows all around for a bit of stargazing or nature-watching. There’s a small deck for eating outside with views down to the meadows by the Cleddau Wen river. There are plenty of walks along the steep-sided rocky valley with various neolithic monuments to explore (this is the area where, 5,000 years ago, the builders of Stonehenge sourced their three-tonne bluestones).
• Sleeps 2, from £85 a night, qualityunearthed.co.uk
Tigh Anndra, Isle of Skye
For a cottage with an epic mountain challenge on its doorstep, Tigh Anndra is the one. The Trotternish peninsula, a 19-mile finger of basalt that juts off the jagged northern coast of Skye, is home to the Trotternish Ridge walk, a gargantuan 23-mile trek through some of Scotland’s most magnificent scenery. Fortunately, there are shorter alternatives: anyone staying here will want to see the nearby Old Man of Storr, a famous pillar of rock, and the Quiraing, an area of strange rock formations created by an ancient landslip.
The house was once a shepherd’s cottage and is a snug, stone-built retreat with a great patio view towards the hills. There’s a logburner in the kitchen-diner-living room plus a TV and DVD, but no one would come here wanting to be indoors. The location is everything Access is by the bus from Portree, – just ask the driver to drop you at the door..
• Sleeps 2, from £279.50 for 3 nights in winter, £389 a week at other times, ihcottages.com
Signal Box, Newtonmore, the Highlands
My commitment to public transport access reaches its ultimate destination: a cottage that looks like a railway signalbox. It has essential tongue-and-groove cladding and first-floor windows overlooking a working railway line: the north-south route through the Cairngorms. Sad to say guests can’t operate levers and signals from the bed, but it does mean this accommodation has the shortest walk of all our selections – the length of platform one, to be precise.
Old signalmen would no doubt approve of its library, logburner and regular train noises, but they’d find some surprises too – a sauna being one. Local walks include Creag Dubh, a magnificent 756m peak with a north-east ridge that rises up from the village of Newtonmore, as well as the 10km Wildcat Trail.
• Sleeps 2, from £555 a week, skyecottages.co.uk
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