8 of the best holiday cottages to book in the UK and Ireland this summer

Wanting to take a UK holiday to escape to the countryside or coast? Read our pick of some of the best cottages to book in the UK in 2020, including popular destinations, and family and dog-friendly options.

Exterior of a cottage

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Tired of scouring your local supermarkets for something exotic to eat? The time has come to stray beyond your postcode and enjoy summer’s bounty in some of Britain’s best culinary corners.

These days, self-catering doesn’t mean loading up the car with cornflakes and frozen chilli, or making do with a camping kitchen.

Increasingly, UK holiday rentals are the very definition of imaginative – converted barns, quirky seaside apartments, rustic-luxury cottages, shepherd huts, safari tents, architectural treehouses, and organic farmhouses.

They’re often equipped with kit for kids, from high-chairs and stair gates, to bottle warmers and DVD libraries. Plus, high-spec kitchens stocked with locally sourced food; hampers bulging with everything from fresh cheese and homemade yogurt, to local honey and English wines, and breakfast sausages made on-site.

With the UK’s delis, farm shops, seafood shacks and food markets itching to get back into action, exploring the local area for groceries will reap great rewards. 

Operators have seen a sharp rise in bookings since the UK government gave the go-ahead for English holiday rentals to re-open on 4th July (Northern Ireland, Ireland and Scotland having already done so; Wales slated to re-open rentals by mid-July).

At the time of writing, our reviewed properties still have some availability for this summer and autumn, but as with any peak season, demand for coastal properties and those around inland tourism hotspots – near national parks, lakes and postcard pretty villages and towns – will be at its highest. As there's also a newly found appetite for remote rentals, and you’ll likely need to be flexible with your destination choice.

With lockdown cabin fever at a peak, it will be hard to avoid getting caught up in the rush to book, but we advise some caution. Check your property’s refund or rebooking policy before you pay your deposit; many operators are now offering very reasonable terms for short-notice cancellations or rebooking.

Holiday cottages on the beach

Carbis Bay holiday rentals in Cornwall

Carbis Bay Hotel & Estate

Carbis Bay, Cornwall, England

Visit the Carbis Bay website

With views of its own Blue Flag beach, near St Ives, the Carbis Bay Hotel & Estate combines its Victorian heritage with super-slick modernity.

Visited by the likes of Virginia Woolf, the original hotel dates to 1894, but it has since been added to. Among the contemporary accommodation, eight super-luxurious beach lodges offer open-plan living areas, hot tubs, private gardens for al fresco dining and direct beach access.

Spread over three floors, beach lodges sleep up to eight in three or four en-suite bedrooms (all with sea views).

You can relax on sofas beside remote-controlled fires, with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the sea. High-end kitchenettes are equipped with inbuilt appliances (there is no hob, but there is an oven and microwave), smart Belfast sinks and hot water taps. 

Carbis Bay hotel beach lodge interior with sea view
A private chef is available for parties, and the hotel has some great dining options; the Sands restaurant has two AA rosettes, but feels relaxed and informal, with Cornish wine, crab and scallops on the menu, while the Beach Club serves Mediterranean-style dishes.

Aperitifs arrive before dinner and you can order a breakfast hamper to your lodge. Other self-catering options include the family-friendly Beach Houses (coastal) and Apartment Suites (in the woodland behind the hotel), both with two separate bedrooms, sleeping up to four. 

You’ll be surrounded by some fantastic producers. A mile along the coast path, St Ives Farmers’ Market runs Thursdays (9.30am-noon), offering Cornish cheeses, meats, eggs, bread and pasties – plus free local delivery on orders over £25. St Ives Cider and Polgoon Wine also deliver.

Penzance and the fishing port of Newlyn are a 20-minute drive south. The Shore Restaurant has takeaway Saturdays offering indulgent lobster, and mac & cheese, while The Cornish Crab Company sells dressed crab for £5.20. Devour at sunset back at your lodge. 

Prices and booking details:
Carbis Bay Beach Lodges cost from £1,200 per night (sleeping up to eight in three or four en-suite bedrooms) including breakfast. Beach Houses cost from £408 per night (sleeping up to four in two bedrooms). No minimum night requirement on Lodges; seven-night requirement over summer for Beach Houses. Dogs are welcome. 

Where to book:
Carbis Bay Hotel website
Booking.com
Expedia

Words: Ellie Ross

The Sandcastle holiday apartment in Pembrokeshire Wales

The Sandcastle

Freshwater East, South Pembrokeshire, Wales 

Visit The Sandcastle website

The Sandcastle, set on the sands of Pembroke National Park’s Freshwater East beach, is accessed via private steps; the Pembrokeshire Coastal path skims right past the back door. At night you are lulled to sleep by the sound of the ocean.

From the 10-metre-wide living space, sliding glass doors open onto a vast balcony and coastal view. It sleeps 14 in six en-suite bedrooms occupying a lower ground floor (some are family rooms).

Each has a sea view and French windows opening onto the lower deck. The sustainably heated saltwater infinity pool has a remote-controlled telescopic enclosure for all-weather swimming, plus, there’s a steam room, hot tub, cinema and snooker clubroom with a bar. 

The Sandcastle holiday let in Pembrokeshire Wales
The place exudes a casual Caribbean-chic style, inspired by the owner’s years in St Lucia, which also influenced his London pub of many years, the much-loved Portobello Gold. A tropical-styled outside shower and dog wash is planted with banana trees and screened off with bamboo. 

This is a self-catering house. Private catering is possible, and it's directly arranged between guests and local chefs, which are recommended by the owners. Dine on the sea-facing balcony, around the 12-seater table inside in the walled garden, on the wind-protected veranda, or around the fire pit.

World cuisine takeaways from We Love Curry and Love Rustic Catering are available on Friday and Saturday.  

South Pembrokeshire is becoming a serious culinary hub, with its fresh food markets, local wine, up-and-coming seafood restaurants and local fairs.

When you’re not devouring Tenby crab, you could be cruising around a few award-winning Welsh vineyards. There are plenty of gourmet pubs, from the new Dial Inn at Lamphey, and The Stone Crab to The Griffin.

On Freshwater West, Café Mor sells crab & lobster sandwiches and seaweed ginger cake out of a colourful beach van, fashioned like a fishing boat. Simply Seafoods is another good fish shack (5-6 Bridge Street; 07828 046047), this one in Tenby port. 

Or stay put in the house, jump into the hot tub, onto the paddleboards, the kayak or the sailing dinghy. Or go large: the Sandcastle’s 1952 Buick convertible is available for chauffeured sightseeing trips into Tenby or further afield. 

Prices and booking information:
The Sandcastle sleeps up to 14 in six bedrooms, and costs from £3,011 per week in low season to £7,094 in high season, with discounts for direct booking, and minimum three-night stay. Dogs are welcome.

Where to book: 
The Sandcastle website
Booking.com
Sykes Cottages

Words: Lydia Bell

Fir Chlis holiday let in Harris, Scotland

Photo: Christopher Swan

Fir Chlis

Seilebost, Harris, Outer Hebrides, Scotland

Visit the Fir Chlis website

Overlooking the sands of Luskentyre, Fir Chlis is a stunning property that combines sleek Scandinavian lines and contemporary Hebridean artwork with the cosy furnishings of Harris Tweed and a wood-burning stove.

Fir Chlis is Gaelic for 'northern lights', and while you may well see those in winter, it's beautiful in summer, when the sands, rivulets and tides – best enjoyed from the open-plan upper floor – seem to change shape and colour with every hour that passes.

The house sleeps up to eight in three bedrooms, with one en suite, and one main bathroom. There’s a cinema room and an extensive, fully equipped kitchen (while the dishwasher is small, the views from the kitchen sink window may get you volunteering to do the washing-up).

You can eat on the balcony or simply swing back and forth in the sheltered hammock, grazing your way through the welcome pack of locally made chocolates and drinks.

Fir Chlis holiday let interioer

Photo: Christopher Swan

Beach walks start just across the road, while the house is positioned in the middle of the Harris Riviera, six miles of unbroken beaches and headlands. 

For other food options, A D Munro in Tarbert, eight miles away, is a licensed community shop that takes pre-orders and arranges delivery in advance of your arrival. The store sells local ranges of salmon, oatcakes, cheese, whisky and beer as well as fresh meat.

Croft 36 at Northton is best described as a high-end, self-service wooden roadside shack. Use the honesty box to pay for crab ravioli, rabbit stew & dumplings, soup and cakes.

For condiments, pop along to an even smaller seaside hut, home to The Hebridean Mustard Company. The homemade organic mustard is flavoured in varied ways, from honey to chilli, and is the work of Heike Winter, who lives in the adjacent house.

For seafood chowder or Hebridean crab with soda bread, visit the caravan at Rodel that is the take-away kitchen of Sam’s Seafood Shack.

Prices and booking information:
Fir Chlis costs from £1,400-£2,400 a week in summer; £1,100-£1,500 in autumn.
Out of season, short breaks cost from £100 per night for two, £150 for groups, subject to a minimum booking of £500. No pets.

Where to book:
Fir Chlis website

Words: Mark Rowe

Dog-friendly holiday cottages

Old Gateway Cottage National Trust holiday let

Photo: Mike Henton

Old Gateway Cottage

Minehead, Somerset, England

Visit the National Trust website

This enchanting National Trust Cottage, squirrelled away on the peaceful Holnicote Estate on Exmoor, has all the ingredients for a satisfying holiday, from bracing coastal and moorland walks on the 240km of paths that criss-cross the estate, to picnics on the vast beach at Bossington, and pints of local cider at the pub in Porlock.

Refurbished in 2017, the 18th century cottage adjoins the 15th-century gateway that was once the threshold to the estate, and overlooks a pretty, walled garden complete with a shaded patio area for meals al fresco. 

As you’d expect from the National Trust, there’s a warm welcome: visitors are greeted with a tray of tea, coffee and biscuits on the large kitchen table that sits next to a grade II listed inglenook fireplace; in cooler months, the wood-burner adds an even cosier atmosphere to the well-equipped kitchen.

The lounge, too, has a wood-burner and, like the three bedrooms (sleeping six in total), is decorated in tasteful tweeds and herringbone fabrics in colours attuned with Exmoor: purples, yellows and greens.

National Trust Cottage Old Gateway Cottage interior

Photo: Mike Henton

When it comes to fuelling forays beyond the house, visitors can stock up on the bounty available from local producers in the friendly town of Porlock. The Big Cheese delicatessen sells an array of cheese and picnic provisions, as well as local ciders and the excellent Wicked Wolf Gin, distilled on Exmoor.

For local lamb or venison, call into the well-stocked Clive Downs Butchers. Meanwhile, the Edible Exmoor website lists other producers that deliver.

For a treat, order some Porlock Bay Oysters: this small company has resurrected the oyster farming industry that thrived there during the 19th century. They deliver, but you can also collect from Porlock Weir, which is a gorgeous spot to visit, with a pebbly beach, harbour and quayside pubs and cafes. 

Prices and booking information:
Old Gateway Cottage costs from £448 for three nights (three-night minimum stay), or £689 for seven nights. The cottage sleeps six in three bedrooms, and dogs are welcome.

Where to book: 
National Trust website

Words: Carolyn Boyd 

Bibury Farm Barns exterior in Gloucestershire

Bibury Farm Barns

The Cotswolds, Gloucestershire, England

Visit the Bibury Farm website

Barn conversion hideaways may be commonplace in the Cotswolds, but few can match the calibre and class of those at Bibury Farm.

Launched in summer 2019, the five self-catering properties were crafted from the derelict outbuildings of a working arable and livestock farm.

Surrounded by rolling countryside, the sensitive renovation has retained much of their 18th century charm with honey-stone walls, wooden beams, and statement pieces, such as stable doors upcycled into quirky coffee tables.

Such rustic elements are matched with a contemporary aesthetic that brings an air of Scandinavian chic to the English countryside. The result is a thrillingly high-end escape that's big on both quality and comfort (with plenty of useful kit for kids, including stair gates and Baby Bjorns). 

Ranging from three bedrooms to five, each barn is slightly different in style and size from its stablemates, and bears a name that hints at its former function – Grain Store, Bull Pen, Old Hay Barn.

Bibury Farm cottage interior
Inside, expect giant sofas, sheepskin throws, bold artworks and views into private outdoor spaces, while common to all are wood-burning stoves, high-thread-count bedding and bathrooms stocked by 100 Acres, a local company whose products are packed with fragrant British botanicals.

Particular praise is reserved for the spacious open-plan kitchen-diners, each of which is equipped with gadgets to satisfy even the most ardent of chefs. All have outdoors dining areas; some with a gas-fired BBQ.

Breakfast hampers with local eggs, bacon, granola, milk and honey are provided, and there are plenty of top-up supplies available via a short walk or drive.

Nearby, Cheltenham and Cirencester have weekly farmers' markets, including The Organic Farm Shop, selling dairy and meat from the resident Shorthorns, and a much-loved veggie café, a campsite with yurts and huts to rent, as well as cookery courses.

Better still, go foraging at Bibury Trout Farm to catch your own fish, or buy it fresh or smoked from the counter, along with regional cheeses and produce.

Bibury itself is a 15-minute stroll across the fields, lined with quintessentially pretty Cotswolds cottages, and exemplary high-end pub grub and lavish afternoon teas as The Swan Hotel. Or hit the popular Daylesford Organic Farm, half an hour’s drive away. 

Prices and booking details:
A three-night stay at Bibury Farm Barns in the Cart Shed (sleeps six in three bedrooms) costs from £1,575 (or £2,475 for a week). Dogs are welcome.

Where to book:
biburyfarm.com
handpickedcottages.co.uk

Words: James Litston

The Mission holiday let in Chale, Isle of Wight

The Mission

Chale, Isle of Wight

Visit The Shacks website

Tucked away in a southerly part of the island known as 'Back o’ the Wight', The Mission is a stylish hotchpotch that you might call retro-contemporary. Originally a tin tabernacle (a prefabricated church made of corrugated iron, dating to 1895), the building has been restored with panache.

The interior is dominated by a modern mezzanine level with two bedrooms, which overhang a spacious ground floor furnished in eclectic but comfortable fashion (think comfy sofas and refurbished cinema seats).

The former baptismal font is now a luxurious sunken bath. With four bedrooms, and two bathrooms, the Mission House comfortably sleeps up to eight and dogs are welcome.

A dining area spills into a vintage 1950s metal kitchen (known as a Rose Kitchen, these were made by Spitfire factories after WW2), fitted with a modern cooker and fridge-freezer. 

Leading from the kitchen is the 'Sunday school' annexe, with one double room and a bunk bedroom. Outside, there is a decked courtyard with seating, a BBQ area, and tree seat. Coastal footpaths, and those inland onto the high downs begin at the steps to the front door. 

The Mission Isle of Wight interior image
The island has more than 50 local food producers. If you arrive by ferry in Yarmouth, you can pre-order food from the Yarmouth Deli, including sourdough bread and homemade brownies.

Ventnor is a short drive from the house, and you can pick up and order fresh crab meat from the Ventnor Haven Fishery. Depending on how busy they are, they will either deliver or take pre-orders to be passed to you in your car.

The excellent Farmer Jack’s, a farm shop at Arreton Barns that sells local soft cheese, island meats and tomatoes, as well as a substantial stock of Italian specialities, such as cured meats, antipasti and stilton biscotti.  

Should you wish to venture out for food, then the Buddle Inn at nearby St Catherine’s Point has won the Island’s coveted best pub garden in bloom award in recent years and has plenty of space overlooking the coast. 

Prices and booking information:
In summer, the Mission costs from £1,525 a week in summer; £450 for two nights in autumn. One dog per booking is welcome.

Where to book: 
The Shacks website
Sykes Cottages

Words: Mark Rowe

Holiday cottages in the countryside

Hawthorn and Hazel cottage in County Clare Ireland

The Hawthorn & Hazel

County Clare, Ireland

Have you been dreaming of an Irish escape? If you want to breathe sea air and escape the crowds but surround yourself with a subtle spread of mod cons to kick back, cook-in and stay connected, this restored Irish farmstead in Co Clare could be just the ticket.

The Hawthorn (sleeping eight in four bedrooms) and The Hazel (sleeping four in two bedrooms) are a pair of cottages set 5km from the lively village of Doolin, with views over the Aran Islands and Galway Bay.

The Hawthorn was an 18th century Irish farmstead, The Hazel its cowshed, and both have now been restored as luxury, self-catering escapes using local materials and craftsmen wherever possible.

Think luxury, Irish country chic – a solid fuel stove anchors a double-height atrium, in the Hawthorn, where local art is colourful but carefully curated, and a creamily-toned, well-fitted kitchen has marble counter tops, a breakfast counter and a table with mix of banquette and standalone seats for mealtimes.

The cottages can be rented together or individually, and both have private outdoor dining and B&Q areas, too.

Interior of Hawthorn and Hazel cottage in Ireland
Nearby, the haunting moonscape of the Burren National Park unfolds, with coastal highlights including Ireland’s famous Cliffs of Moher.

Surprisingly for such a rocky landscape, the Burren is rich with foodie pickings: velvety smoked salmon from The Burren Smokehouse in Lisdoonvarna, St Tola Goat Cheese, and Flaggy Shore Oysters are just a few of the goodies you can bring back for meals.

Options for eating out range from Ireland’s only Michelin-starred pub, The Wild Honey Inn, to fine dining using an eye-popping array of local, seasonal produce like Burren lamb, honey, Doolin lobster and hand-dived scallops at Gregan’s Castle.

Prices and booking details:
Hawthorn & Hazel cost from €220-€380 (£195-£340) a night (Hazel; sleeping four in two bedrooms); €280-€455 (£250-£396) a night (Hawthorn; sleeping eight in four bedrooms). No pets, or children under 12.

Where to book:
Doolin Village Lodges (Hawthorn)
Doolin Village Lodges (Hazel)

Words: Pól Ó Conghaile

Beechenhill Farm cottage exterior, Peak District

Beechenhill Farm

Peak District, England

Visit the Beechenhill Farm website

Countryside locations don’t come much more perfect than the Peak District’s Manifold Valley, where the hills are hefty, the crowds are paltry, and the cattle are well-fed.

It’s where you'll find Beechenhill Farm, an organic farm (formerly dairy, now beef) with three self-catering cottages (one sleeping six in three bedrooms, and two sleeping two in one bedroom), and a shoulder-loosening sense of remoteness.

This is rural England as you imagine it, with oaky slopes, drystone walls and shaggy meadows that seem to tumble downhill forever.

The farm has serious green credentials, with much of its energy coming from wood-pellet boilers and solar panels.

Don’t expect spartan accommodation though – all three cottages are comfortable and well-designed, with beams, fireplaces and large beds.

The largest, Cottage By The Pond, sleeps six, while both the others sleep two. One of the family living on the farm is a folk artist (Sue Prince, recently featured on BBC Countryfile), and her works are evident in all cottages.

There’s also an outdoor wooden hot tub, with sparkling wine and local handmade chocs provided as part of the package.   

Beechenhill Farm cottage interior
The location means quality food and drink, and plenty of it. Bread, eggs and local sausages and bacon are all available on site, while the brilliant deli service, Sauced Here sells produce from more than 40 Peak District farms and producers, with orders delivered straight to the cottages for contactless, supermarket-style payment.

For meals out, meanwhile, The George at Alstonefield is a dining pub less than three miles away; it appears in the latest Michelin Guide, and also does takeaways. 

Nearby attractions in the Peak District include the famous beauty spot of Dovedale – its popularity a contrast to the hushed but equally lovely realm of the Manifold Valley – and, slightly further afield, the expansive grounds of Chatsworth House, which has an estate farm shop and offers picnic hampers for pre-order.             

Prices and booking information:
Over the summer months, Beechenhill cottages cost a minimum three-night stay, which costs from £620 (sleeping six), while a stay at the two smaller cottages costs (sleeping two in one bedroom) are from £450. No pets.

Where to book:
Beechenhill Farm website

Words: Ben Lerwil

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Can you recommend a UK holiday cottage? Leave a comment below...

All recommendations have been reviewed and approved as of July 2020 and will be checked and updated regularly. If you think there is any incorrect or out of date information in this guide, please e-mail us at goodfoodwebsite@immediate.co.uk.

Travellers are advised to read the FCO travel advice for the country they are travelling to.

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