The UK’s top mountain biking areas part two

There are few better ways to explore the country than on two wheels. Mountain bikes are a fantastic way to see sights you wouldn't normally see as they can literally go anywhere. That's just one of the many reasons why mountain biking is so popular and why so many holiday cottages cater for them.

Today we're continuing with our coverage of the UK's top mountain biking areas. On Tuesday, we covered Dalby Forest, Yorkshire, Swinley Forest, Berkshire, Coed y Brenin, North Wales, Rhyd Ddu, Snowdon, Wales and Glentress, Scotland.

Grizedale, Cumbria

The entire county of Cumbria is great biking but Grizedale forest has some of the best. The North Face Trail is the pinnacle of that at 16km. It offers everything, climbing, technical descents, fast descents and some amazing scenery. All topped off with some black downhill runs to top off the day.

Fort William, Scotland

Fort William is probably the most famous mountain biking area in the UK but it is hard to get to. Set in the Highlands, the trek is worth every mile and once you're here, you'll wonder why you haven't tried it before. The site of the Mountain Bike World Cup, trails are a mixture of tough, technical trails that take in some of the best of the local area. This is mainly for experienced mountain bikers.

MTB Shropshire

MTB Shropshire is set in the lovely Shropshire Hills and covers some amazing parts of the countryside, including some Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. There are a few trails here that take in a range of types for all abilities. There is plenty of climbing and descending with some long singletrack action too.

Exmoor, Somerset

Some of the best trail riding anywhere is across our many moors. One, Exmoor is particularly rewarding. Beginning in Porlock, you can ride all the way to Brockwell across the moor and on to Stoke Pero and on to Porlock Weir. It's a challenging route with plenty of climbing and some technical descending. It is also tougher than it looks

Surrey Hills, Surrey

Surrey might not be the first place you think of when thinking about places to mountain bike but there are lots of trails in the area. It's an extremely popular mountain biking area with lots of custom-made trails and forests, notable those on the Hurtwood Estate. These are mainly wooded trails with plenty of hills. Lots of loose trails and exciting downhills to be had here!

Those are just a few of the many places to ride mountain bikes in the UK. As always, we have holiday cottages within easy reach of each of these areas, so if you feel like a weekend away on the bike, we can help. Check out the map to find yours!

The UK’s top mountain biking areas

Mountain biking is an exciting and growing sport across the UK. With more trails and more trail centres opening up across the country, there hasn't been a better time to explore the countryside on two wheels. This week's two posts will list the top ten mountain biking areas in the country to help you make the most of what's on offer.

If you're planning to take your bikes with you when using one of our holiday cottages, here are some great places to ride. Alternatively, if you're looking for some holiday inspiration. We have holiday cottages close to each of these locations that would welcome mountain bikers with open arms!

Dalby Forest, Yorkshire

Dalby Forest is one of the newest trail centres in the country and is already very busy. It is currently England's largest trail centre with a range of trails for all abilities. Beginners can try the blue runs, those who have been riding for a while might try the red, while those who really know what they are doing can try the World Cup XC Course.

Swinley Forest, Berkshire

Located close to Bracknell, Swinley Forest is one of the oldest mountain biking trail centres in the country. It has had something of a makeover recently though with better trails, better trail markings and a mix of green, blue, red and black trails across the entire 2,600 acre forest.

Coed y Brenin, North Wales

Coed y Brenin is widely credited with being the birthplace of the British trail centre. It's one of the most established, with café, workshop, showers and miles and miles of trails to enjoy. Being Wales, there is plenty of climbing but there is also plenty of descending to reward all that hard work.

Rhyd Ddu, Snowdon, Wales

Staying in Wales, this awesome trail up and down Snowdon is for those who know their limits and can comfortably surpass them. The first climb is tough, up to Bwlch Maesgwm then down to Llanberis, up again to the mountain and then single track all the way back down. It's steep, open and contains some ridge riding which more than pays for all that climbing!

Glentress, Scotland

Glentress is regarded as having some of the best mountain biking of anywhere in the country. There are over 50 miles of trails, good facilities, fantastic scenery and even a north shore section for those who like that kind of thing. Trails range from green to orange extreme, so there really is something for everyone.

Join us on Thursday for the final part of the UK's top mountain biking. Remember, if you feel inspired or want to find a bike-friendly holiday cottage, check the map on the website. There are literally hundreds of cottages to choose from!

Britain’s top ten picnic spots part 2

Welcome to the second part of our series on Britain's top ten picnic spots. If you missed the first part, you can find it here. We covered Somerset House in London, Avebury Stone Circle, Wiltshire, Corfe Castle and Brownsea Island in Dorset and Bodmin Moor, Cornwall.

So for the final five, let's explore some of the rest of our island. If you're staying in one of our holiday cottages this summer and fancy a day out, there is plenty to choose from here!

1.  Glenkiln Sculpture Park, Dumfries and Galloway

The Glenkiln Sculpture Park is around eight miles west of Dumfries and mixes modern sculpture with ancient highland in a most beautiful way. There are six sculptures located around the park to add interested while the park itself is lovely. It's an excellent place to have a picnic as modern meets ancient in a most fascinating mix.

2.  Stenness Loch, Orkney

Stenness Loch is probably the most isolated place you could have a picnic, but also one of the most beautiful. Visit the Stones of Stenness, the oldest known stone monument in the country, enjoy local produce and enjoy the beautiful isolation on this lovely little island. It's a trek to get there, but well worth the effort.

3.  Tollymore Forest Park, County Down

Tollymore Forest Park is comprised of ancient woodland at the foot of the Mourne Mountains in County Down. The park is full of ancient trees, trails, caves and grottoes, making this an ideal place to bring the kids. Once they are all worn out, spread the blanket under the canopy of an oak or redwood and enjoy the tranquillity of the forest.

4.  Top Withens, West Yorkshire

It's fitting that Top Withens fits into our top ten because it is another place full of dramatic scenery and history. The ruined farmhouse on Haworth Moor is eerie and fascinating at the same time. Allegedly it is where the inspiration for Wuthering Heights came from, it's also a significant local landmark. The surrounding moor isn't bad either!

5.  Arbroath Abbey, Angus

Last and certainly not least is Arbroath Abbey close to Angus, Scotland. This is a 12th century abbey with soaring sandstone walls, nice grounds and a nice, relaxed atmosphere. Local shops also have a wide range of produce, making for that extra special picnic experience. has some excellent holiday lets around the country close to all ten of our top British picnic spots. Check them out to find yours!

Britain’s top ten picnic spots

In selecting Britain's top ten picnic spots, we thought about what makes a great location. To us, it's a combination of landscape, location, convenience, and experience. We want to be in a nice part of the country and we want to be somewhere remote but not too far away from the car that our arms ache carrying the hamper. We also want to be able to eat our food while marvelling at the world around us.

We think we get all those things with these top ten spots. Plus, we have holiday cottages close to each. So as always, you can enjoy the items on the list from a top quality holiday let.

1.  Somerset House, London

The capital is surprisingly full of picnic spots, but one of the best is Somerset House on the Strand. The courtyard has some amazing fountains, there is always something going on and there are plenty of places to explore while you're there. If you're in London and are looking for somewhere relaxed but don't want to share a park with thousands of others, this could be the place for you.

2.  Avebury Stone Circle, Wiltshire

Avebury Stone Circle is something completely different. Located in deepest Wiltshire, Avebury is a lovely little village with a pub, some houses, a shop and the stone circle. The circle itself is over 4,000 years old and is one of the largest remaining anywhere. It's also quite calm and close to other nice places to visit too such as Marlborough and Salisbury.

3.  Corfe Castle, Dorset

Enjoying a picnic in the ruins of Corfe Castle in Dorset is a great way to spend a day. Located close to Wareham, once you cross the long causeway to get there, the large expanses of grass are the perfect place to enjoy a bite to each before exploring the castle that overlooks the village. As it's a National Trust property, there are usually things going on too.

4.  Brownsea Island, Dorset

A second picnic spot in Dorset is Brownsea Island. It's car-free and accessible by ferry. It is where the Scout movement began and is a lovely place to spend long summer days. You can explore the island, visit sandy beaches or partake in a wide range of outdoor activities from archery to orienteering and much more besides.

5.  Bodmin Moor, Cornwall

Cornwall is so full of fantastic places to visit that choosing any single one is difficult. However, Bodmin Moor has to be one of the best picnic spots around. A short distance from the centre of Cornwall, the desolate landscape is as dramatic as it is interesting and is well worth the trip. With plenty to see and do, it's an ideal place to picnic.

Those are the first five of our top ten picnic spots, join us on Thursday to see the final five. As always, we have holiday cottages close to all of these locations, so check out our selections to find your next holiday home!

Top ten British scuba diving sites part two

Continuing our series on British scuba diving sites, we cover the final five of what we think are the top ten British scuba areas around our fair island. While not as exotic as the Bahamas or Egypt, British shores have an amazing amount of life and variety to offer divers of all levels.

Last time we covered Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands, Eddystone Reef and the James Eagan Layne, Plymouth, M2 off Portland and Lundy Island in the Bristol Channel. So let's see what else our island has to offer.

Remember, we have holiday cottages within easy reach of all of these dives so if you need somewhere to stay while exploring, you know what to do!

Farnes Islands, Northumberland

While the brown waters of the North Sea doesn't initially look like they could provide good diving, it does have a few surprises up its sleeve. The Farnes Islands off the coast of Northumberland is an exposed set of islands home to some 5,000 seals who love to play when they aren't feeding. It's a great experience that really does lighten the soul.

Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire

Skomer Island is another dive for those who like to experience sea creatures in their own habitat. It's a marine reserve, so is full of fish, crustaceans and life of all kinds. There is also the Lucy, a local coaster around 40m down for those who like to fully explore where they dive.

Bouley Bay, Jersey

Bouley Bay in Jersey is an excellent place to dive. The sheltered bays have reefs, rocks and wrecks aplenty and the sea is warm and pleasant if you time it right. Fishing has now been banned here and life is starting to return. Octopus and sunfish have been spotted, as have seahorses and creatures of all kinds. There are a few wrecks to explore too, so have something for everyone.

SS Missouri, Anglesey

The SS Missouri sank in 1880 off Porth Dafarch, Anglesey and is an excellent beginner wreck dive. It's on sand, at a depth of only 13m and sheltered from the current. It's a gentle dive in relatively clear water and there is a surprising amount of this four-masted steam ship left to see.

Sound of Mull, Scotland

The Sound of Mull is a very popular diving spot with lots of companies offering dives out there. There are a few wrecks, including The Hispania, Thesis, Shuna and Rondo and plenty of sea life to see too either on the wrecks or around them. The waters aren't the warmest you'll ever dive, but the variety of life makes bearing with it well worth your while.

If you fancy a little something different this summer, why not rent a holiday cottage and explore some of the British coastline. Either on top or under the water? Check out these dive sites and then our interactive map to fins a top quality holiday let nearby. It's a great way to spend summer!

Top ten British scuba diving sites

You may not believe it but the UK coastline is full of sea life and fascinating places to explore underwater. Water we have plenty of, we are an island after all. But we also have some of the best scuba diving sites of anywhere in the world. A holiday cottage and a wetsuit, what's not to love!

While nothing can beat clear, warm seas with visibility for miles, our own shores have interest aplenty. From old wrecks, reefs to wildlife and creatures you wouldn't expect to see around the cool waters of the UK. So this week's posts are going to focus on the top ten British scuba diving locations.

Scapa Flow, Orkney Islands

Scapa Flow has to be the most popular diving area in the country, if not Europe. The remains of the German High Seas Fleet was sunk here in 1919 and many of the ships remain. Along with more recent wrecks, this is definitely a place where any diver worth their salt is going to want to tick off their to do list.

Eddystone Reef, Plymouth

Moving away from wrecks for a moment, let's try a reef. Just 12 miles off the coast of Plymouth is Eddystone Lighthouse and Reef. Set at around 50 metres depth, this reef is full of life and colour, including jewel anemone live there and if you're lucky, you'll also get to see a 17th century anchor lying close by.

James Eagan Layne, Plymouth

The James Eagan Layne was torpedoed off the coast of Plymouth during World War 2 and sits under just six metres of water. It is a very accessible wreck, making it suitable for divers of all levels and the water around Devon and Cornwall is lovely and clear most of the time.

We also have hundreds of holiday cottages around the two counties, so you're not short of choice either!

M2, Portland

Just along the coast from the James Eagan Layne is the M2 experimental submarine lying in 36 metres of water in Lyme Bay. It's an unusual vessel with an aircraft hangar attached. It sank in 1932 with all hands and is a fascinating dive to see what is a very unusual creation.

Lundy Island, Bristol Channel

Lundy Island is full of life and so are the waters around it. Time it right and the water is clear, warm and teeming with fish, sea creatures and maybe even some very playful seals. It's a no-take area, so there really is a lot of marine life to see!

We have holiday cottages in close proximity to all of these dives, so if you're looking for something a little different for your summer break, you know what to do!

Top ten UK summer walks part 2

In this, the second part of our series on our top ten UK summer walks, we cover some other great locations. Any "top ten" list is purely subjective and this one especially so. In a country resplendent with fantastic landscapes and places to hike, our top ten isn't necessarily going to be your top pick but they are all worth trying.

So, having covered Ben Nevis via Carn Mor Dearg in the Scottish Highlands, Hadrian's Wall Path, Northumberland, West Highland Way, Scottish Highlands, River Severn, Shropshire and the Lizard Peninsula, Cornwall, let's move on to some others.

As always, we have top class holiday cottages within a short drive of these walks so if you need somewhere to put your feet up afterwards, you know where to come!

1.  Helvellyn, Lake District

Choosing any one single walk somewhere as fantastic as the Lake District is tough, yet we think the area around Helvellyn is one of the best. It's the most popular of the mountains in the area with a relatively flat top, some amazing views, some tough climbs and even a few scrambles.

It's another walk that's not for the faint of heart, but it's one that makes it all worthwhile.

2.  Dancing Ledge, Dorset

The romantically named Dancing Ledge in Dorset is just 5 miles long, making it much more approachable than some of the walks we have featured. Summer is a fantastic time to see the sea, the coast, seabirds and even a sea lion of dolphin or two if you're lucky.

Begin in Worth Matravers and walk along the cliffs to the Dancing Ledge, then take a quick swim in the warm sea before returning. An excellent afternoon all round!

3.  South Hams, Devon

This is another short walk ideal for summer. It's only 3.5 miles on forgiving terrain so can be enjoyed by walkers at all levels. Begin in Bantham and walk along the coast through a nice little valley and out onto the Channel.

The path follows the final leg of the River Avon out into the sea, so is ideal for bird watching along the way.

4.  Tryfan, Snowdonia

Wales has hundreds of lovely walks, but again we had to choose our favourite. It was hard, but we selected Snowdonia for obvious reasons. The weather isn't often your friend here, but summer offers the highest chance of sunshine and great views across the park.

Climbing Tryfan is a challenge that includes some very steep walking and a little scrambling. It's a real eye opener once you reach the summit though!

5.  South Downs Way

The South Downs Way traverses the south of England from Winchester all the way to Beachy Head. It's an historic walk with ancient woodland, iron age forts, fields and countryside and is quite an undertaking to walk from end to end. However, it is conveniently broken up into much smaller stages suitable for walkers of all abilities.

We haven't chosen a specific part of the Way as it's all beautiful and each element has something different to offer.

Top ten UK summer walks

Say what you like about Britain, but there is no question that we have some of the best landscapes of anywhere in the world. It's all too easy to stay within grey cities or urban sprawl and think there's nothing more to life, but there is and summer is the time to explore it.

Over the next two posts, will be listing our top ten UK summer walks. As usual, we have holiday cottages close to each of them so if you're staying with us over the summer, you're within easy reach of some of the best scenery our country has.

So let's not delay you any further here are our Top ten UK summer walks!

1.  Ben Nevis via Carn Mor Dearg, Scottish Highlands

There are a couple of routes to the top of Ben Nevis but the route Carn Mor Dearg is always the most popular. We have walked it and can affirm that it is very, very pretty. It's also challenging with lots of steep slopes, a little scrambling and some tough sections.

Despite all that, the views are spectacular and during summer the climate is friendly enough to make the effort worthwhile.

2.  Hadrian's Wall Path, Northumberland

Hadrian's Wall Path is something of an epic. Running 84 miles from Newcastle to Solway Firth across moor, field and fell, this really is a walk to admire. Not for the faint of heart, but it does reward your efforts with some amazing views and the opportunity to get up close and personal with the remains of the Roman wall.

It's another challenging walk but also well worth the effort. It can easily be broken up into more manageable sections too, which is nice.

3.  West Highland Way, Scottish Highlands

The West Highland Way is 95 miles long and stretches from the outskirts of Glasgow all the way to Loch Lomond. While the walk does begin in the suburbs it quickly opens out into the wild lands we know and love. You get moor, lock and mountain all in one simple walk.

If you're in the area enjoying the West Highland Way, Ben Nevis is only a short journey away if you haven't had enough of walking. We also have a number of quality holiday cottages within a short drive of both!

4.  River Severn, Shropshire

Bringing the mileage and effort level down a bit, the River Severn walk is only 7 miles and fairly flat. It follows the River Severn from Highley to Bewdley and is a fantastic walk during spring, summer and autumn. It has a different character for each season and is an excellent place to spend time before rewarding yourself with a cup of tea and slice of cake.

5.  Lizard Peninsula, Cornwall

The Lizard Peninsula unfortunately, has no lizards. But what it does have is miles and miles of lovely coastline and some of the best climactic conditions in the United Kingdom. The paths around the Lizard form part of the larger South West Coast Path which is 600-odd mile patch that takes in most of Somerset, Devon, Cornwall and Dorset.

If you love the sea and want to see some unforgettable coastline, this is the walk to try!

Join us on Thursday for the second part of our Top ten UK summer walks. See you then!

Britain’s top ten secret beaches part 2

Welcome back to the second part of our series on Britain's top ten secret beaches. As holiday cottage specialists, we are naturally interested in finding great ways to spend our valuable holiday time. This list of beaches is just one of many ways to do that.

Last time, we covered Broad Sands, Combe Martin in North Devon, Blackpool Sands, Devon, Sandy Mouth, Bude, North Cornwall, Speke’s Mill Mouth, Hartland, North Devon and Church Bay, Anglesey. So let's head back to Wales for another secret beach.

1.  Porth Wen, Bull Bay, Anglesey

Porth Wen is a lovely little beach a short drive from Bull Bay. It's a small beach that shares the coast with a disused harbour and brickworks and is a dramatic backdrop to a lovely beach with clear green water. It's a quiet spot, only locals and a few visitors seem to know about it so while space is short, you don't have to share it with many!

2.  Porth Iago, Llyen Peninsula, North Wales

Porth Iago, close to Rhoshirwaun in Wales is a lovely, serene piece of beach that has a narrow stretch of golden sand, calm turquoise water, a hill fort, dunes and cliffs. All the ingredients of a good beach with the added bonus of dolphins if you're lucky. It is an excellent beach to spend time, thankfully one that not many others know about.

3.  Embleton Bay, Craster, Northumberland

Embleton Bay is overlooked by Dunstanburgh Castle and includes acres of golden sands, rock pools, sand dunes and more to enjoy. It is without doubt one of our favourite beaches of the north and thankfully, one of the quieter beaches. There are plenty of good restaurants around here too.

4.  Sands of Morar, Arisaig, Scotland

Despite not quite having the same climate as the south coast, Scotland does have its fair share of lovely beaches. One of the fines examples is the Sands of Morar close to Arisaig. Here you can find lovely white sand, blue sea and a lovely backdrop of hills, dunes and meadows.

5.  Dunwich Heath, Minsmere, Suffolk

Minsmere is a well-known nature reserve that also has miles of sandy beaches. The area includes shingle and sand beaches, dunes, lagoons and miles of wild land. It's also very flat and easily accessible. There is also a convenient National Trust tea room a short walk from the beach too.

If you're planning to stay in one of our fantastic holiday cottages this summer and are looking for something to do, why not spend the day enjoying one of these beaches? As far as we're concerned, it's the perfect way to spend a sunny day!

Visit Britain’s top ten secret beaches this summer

With summer upon us and the weather warming, thoughts naturally turn to getting out and about and making the most of the good weather. If you, like us, tend to gravitate towards the beach this time of year, this is the post for you!

The team at have got together to build a list of the top ten secret beaches in the UK. Secret is of course a subjective term and here we mean lesser known or quieter beaches that escape the rush of tourists. If you're staying in one of our holiday cottages around Britain's coast, there's bound to be a secret beach near you. So for the next two posts, we are going to share our top ten secret beaches.


1.  Broad Sands, Combe Martin, North Devon

Many of our top ten secret beaches are on the south coast and we begin near Combe Martin in Devon. Broad Sands is a cove with lovely stretch of beach, beautiful clear water and lots of rocks, coves and caves to explore. Accessed by steep steps, this is a very quiet beach with a lovely outlook, perfect for a peaceful day in the sun.

2.  Blackpool Sands, Devon

The confusingly named Blackpool Sands in Devon is another hidden gem that deserves recognition. This is a shingle beach that fronts onto lovely clear water that allows you to almost think you're in the Mediterranean. The tide doesn't move much so is safe for little ones to play and there are lifeguards patrolling during summer. Despite its beauty, it doesn't get as busy as it should.

3.  Sandy Mouth, Bude, North Cornwall

Sandy Mouth is a lovely little beach nestled between the sea and cliffs. There is a nice National Trust café at the top of the cliffs yet is another quieter beach, even during high season. If it does get busy, just walk a mile north to Duckpool or a little further to Stanbury Mouth. All three beaches are lovely at any time of year!

4.  Speke’s Mill Mouth, Hartland, North Devon

Heading back to North Devon, Speke’s Mill Mouth beach is a dramatic piece of coastline that also includes the highest waterfall in the area. It's a wild beach with rock pools, shipwrecks, cliffs, coastal paths and the very handy Wrecker's Retreat Bar in Hartland Quay a short walk away.

5.  Church Bay, Anglesey

Heading up to Wales now and to Church Bay in Anglesey. Known as Porth Swtan locally, this stretch of coastline has white sands, rocks, meadows and relatively calm seas. It also has The Lobster Pot close by for some of the freshest seafood around.

We have holiday cottages close to all of these areas, so if you're looking to spend time by the seaside this summer, you're in good hands. Join us Thursday for part two of our top ten secret beach series!