Friday, 11 March 2016

Last Minute Holiday Cottages To Rent In The UK

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Holiday Cottages - Late Availability - Special Offers - Cancellations - Bargains - Discounts

Looking for a last minute self catering holiday.  Perhaps surprisingly, one of the best places to find last minute cottage bargains is the auction site ebay.  Property owners often have late availability due to cancellations and to try and ensure they get a booking, they list the property on ebay, often with a big price reduction.

Last year was one of the busiest on record for holidays in the UK with cottages and caravans top of the list.  This year, with all the uncertainty in the world, it looks like even more people will be staying put and holidaying closer to home  

The list below is a live rss feed from ebay showing the current availability of last minute cottages to rent in the UK .  Some have fixed prices and others are listed for bidding.  The feed is constantly updated so if you can't find anything today, check back again soon. Good luck and hope you find a bargain.


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Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Short Breaks In Santiago de Compostela

 Short Breaks In Santiago de Compostela

Santiago de Compostela cathedral is said to be the final resting place of the apostle James

The Imposing Santiago de Compostela Cathedral

Santiago de Compostela is the capital of Spain's Galicia region on the rugged Northwest coast in an of outstanding natural beauty. Galicia is about as far removed from the baking Costas featured in the holiday brochures as you can get. 

Regarded by long distance walker's as the Holy Grail, Santiago de Compostela's medieval Cathedral is believed by many to be the final resting place of the apostle James and has been a place of pilgrimage since the middle ages. 

Ancient  trails dating back to medieval times meander across the countryside of northern Spain and beyond. These well trodden paths were created over the years by  thousands of devout Christians  making the gruelling pilgrimage to Santiago Cathedral. Some of  these pilgrim trails or "caminos" originated as far away as France and Portugal and many are still used by modern day pilgrims who arrive in Galicia from all over the world to follow in the footsteps of the original walkers.



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Once their final destination had been reached, medieval pilgrims flocked into the cathedral to pay their respects at the shrine of St James.  Mostly unwashed and after  weeks or months of walking, the pilgrims were less than fragrant. To counteract the unsavoury odour inside the cathedral, a large incense holder known as a botafumeiro, suspended from the ornate ceiling, was swung over the heads of the congregation gathered below by a group of eight men known as tirabeleiros. This ritual is still carried out today albeit as a  tourist attraction

Modern day pilgrims travel in relative comfort compared to the harsh times endured in the past. In medieval Spain, it wasn't uncommon for pilgrims to fall ill or even die during the arduous trek. Charitable places of rest were set up on the popular routes offering food and somewhere to sleep. 


Santaigo de Compostela pilgrim's museum has lots of interesting information and artefacts

Statue Of  A Medieval Pilgrim In Santiago de Compostela Pilgrim Museum


Modern Day Pilgrim's Paraphernalia In Santiago de Compostela 

Walking the Camino to Santiago de Compostela has grown in popularity over the past twenty years.  From a handful of enthusiasts who walked the ancient Camino Frances footpath from France back in the 70's and 80's, pilgrims walks today have become big business with specialised holiday companies offering walking holidays on a variety of routes.   

The most popular walk is still the Camino Frances which originates in the French Pyrenees and is 780kms long.   Obviously, it would be impossible to walk the whole route during a fortnight's holiday so specialist walking companies provide a number of other starting points  which allow walkers to  reach Santiago in the time available . 

A growing number of accomplished walkers wanting to travel the full length of the Camino Frances (which takes approximately six weeks) but who only have limited time available, travel to Galicia every year starting off where they finished the year before until the entire length of the walk has been completed.  Walkers with plenty time on their hands, can undertake the whole journey in one go, an experience they are unlikely to forget.. 

It is quite common for proficient walkers to plan their own journey by calculating a moderate distance to  walk each day and booking hotels or hostels along the route but the majority of today's would be pilgrims choose an organised walking holiday.  If you want to plan your own route, the Confraternity of Saint James website has lots of information on everything you need.


Santiago de Compostela City Breaks

In 2014 my wife and I were fortunate enough to spend a few days in Santiago de Compostela. We  weren't walking the pilgrim's route and just decided to have a short break after spotting a cheap Ryannair flight from Valencia airport.  If you're planning to visit Santiago de Compostela from the UK, Ryanair fly from Stanstead airport and easyjet from Gatwick. Based on our experience, I've listed a few tips below to help anybody planning to visit.

We didn't know it at the time but Santiago is on two levels, the busy new town which incorporates the university campus is on the lower level and the old historic part is on the upper level. The modern town isn't particularly interesting and you're likely to spend most of your time exploring the historic centre. The walk from the new town to the old town is very steep and not recommended for anybody with walking difficulties or heart problems.  

We made the mistake of booking a hotel in the new part without doing our research and although not young we aren't past it yet but found the walk to the old city very strenuous, the hotel also had extremely thin walls but I'll leave it at that.  If we were going again, I'd definitely book somewhere in the old part.


Booking.com have well over a hundred hotels and guest houses listed in Santiago de Compostela  you can view them here


Don't  plan to stay longer than about three days in Santiago itself, the historic centre and the cathedral are fantastic but  three days is more than enough time to see just about everything.  If you wanted to spend more than a few days or have a holiday exploring Galicia or other areas of northern Spain, I would seriously consider renting a house or an apartment rather than booking a hotel, this  works out much cheaper and offers a greater sense of independence.  



Galician Seafood

Santiago de Compostela market has a fantastic fish section

Fresh Seafood In Santiago de Compostela Market 

Galicia is famous throughout Spain for the quality of its seafood. There are some excellent seafood restaurants in Santiago's old town.  Prices aren't for the faint hearted but your paying for the privilege of eating what is some of the best seafood  in the world.  

The small market in the historic centre has a seafood section where you can spend a good hour inspecting the variety and freshness of the daily catch.


When in Santiago de Compostela do as the Galician's do and try a plate of pulpo washed down with a glass of wine.

Pulpo And A Glass Of Wine

In a UK or U.S  city, we might pick up a hot-dog from a street vendor  to snack on as we window shop but in Galician cities, you're more likely to find vendor's dispensing a plate of octopus!! Octopus ("pulpo") is a Galician speciality which can be found in most tapas bars and seafood restaurants. The street vendors boil the octopus in large drums, then pulverise them until tender, cut the strips into small pieces with a large pair of scissors and sprinkle with smoked paprika, don't let the appearance put you off, it's delicious.   

Percebes or goose neck barnacles are a Galician speciality

Goose Neck Barnacles Or "Percebes" In The Fish Market

Another famous Galician  seafood speciality are goose neck barnacles or "percebes" . These strange looking delicacies are harvested from the rocks around the rugged coastline, a dangerous and time consuming occupation which results in a high price in the restaurants and markets.  

Holidays In Northern Spain

If you enjoy the great outdoors and want to try somewhere a bit different, the north of Spain is a   paradise for walkers and cyclists. There are secluded bays with beautiful beaches, quiet country roads, historic monuments and of course, wonderful seafood restaurants.  Galicia is one of the four regions which make up the green north and would provide an ideal base for exploring this unspoilt part of Spain.

If your picture of Spain is crowded beaches, wall to wall sunshine, jugs of sangria and tea like mother makes,  the north of Spain will come as something of a shock.  The scenery is the polar opposite of what most people conjure up when they visualise a holiday in Spain. 

The Picos de Europa mountain range separates the lush north and the baking south and if you were parachuted into this mountainous area without knowing where you had landed, you'd probably guess  Switzerland.  There are stone chalets with ornate wooden balconies bedecked with geraniums and surrounded by acres of green pastures dotted with grazing sheep and cows.  

I mentioned earlier that it would be worth considering a self catering apartment or house if you plan to spend some time exploring Galicia.  This site  lists literally hundreds of properties across northern Spain including Galicia, The Basque Country, Asturias  and Cantabria 




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Friday, 4 March 2016

Holidays In Javea Costa Blanca

Javea

Javea Port

Javea is just a few miles south of the Costa Blanca's most northerly resort Denia, from which it is separated by a rocky headland  jutting out from the port area.

 Sculpture On The Side Of Javea's Port Building

Javea is split into two resort areas, the historic old part which is made up of narrow streets flanked by shops and bars and overlooked by mountains.

The newer resort is approximately two miles south of the old town and is a popular tourist destination.

Javea is one of the most popular destinations on the Costa Blanca for villa holidays.  Most of the villas are perched on the hills overlooking the old town and the bay.

Javea Villas
 Villas On The Hills Above The Old Town

What's a bit odd is that the two halves of the resort don't have a promenade connecting them, just a road, which makes it feel like you are travelling between two completely different towns.

The promenade in Javea old town is a favourite place to eat out, there are lots of excellent restaurants overlooking the large bay. 

The new town has a completely different atmosphere, and caters for a younger age group.

Promenade Area Of Javea's New Resort Area

Unusually, Javea is quite a distance from the motorway and the main N332 which are both approximately 5 miles inland from the resort.  The majority of Costa Blanca resorts are usually only a mile or two away from the main roads.

To sum up, Javea is a pleasant resort which is ideal for a villa, apartment or package holiday,  quieter than Benidorm but with lots of amenities to suit  young and old.  

If you're looking for somewhere quiet to relax and enjoy meals out, try the old town area. For younger people the newer resort has a sandy beach and some good night life but isn't too rowdy.

Javea Holiday Apartments And  Villas To Rent

On our Apartments Spain website, we've listed some superb holiday apartments and villas to rent with plenty bargains available.  

Apartments Spain has thousands of holiday properties available in mainland Spain, the Balearic and Canary islands.



Benidorm Information And Apartments To Rent

 Benidorm Levante Beach And Promenade


Mainly because of the perceived danger of travelling to some destinations which were once thought safe, bookings for hotels, package holidays, and apartments in Spain have increased dramatically. Benidorm in particular has seen a huge upsurge in bookings for 2016. If you are considering Spain for this year's holiday we strongly advise you to book as soon as possible. Many of the popular hotels are now fully booked for 2016. 

For self catering holiday apartments across Spain including the mainland, the Balearic and Canary Islands you can find 1000's of apartments and villas still available to rent in 2016 on our Apartments Spain website.

Love it or loathe it, Benidorm on the Costa Blanca  is Spain's most popular holiday destination, attracting thousands of visitors from across Europe every year. At night, with thousands of lights glowing in the towering apartment blocks, Benidorm resembles a miniature version of Manhattan. 


Benidorm is constructed around two large bays, separated by a rocky headland which is home to the atmospheric old town. On the north side of the headland is the two mile long Levante (sunrise) beach, spotlessly clean with a backdrop of mountains and very similar in appearance to Rio de Janeiro's Copa Cobana. 

 
Benidorm Poniente Promenade

To the north of the headland is the equally spotless Poniente (sunset) beach flanked by an impressive newly constructed promenade. The Poniente beach is popular with Spanish visitors and has a slightly more genteel atmosphere. 

Benidorm Hotels

As you would expect, Benidorm has an abundance of hotels to choose from ranging from luxurious 5star to the more basic 1 and 2 star establishments, something to suit most tastes.

The internet has made hotel booking simple, checkout over 100 Benidorm hotels including reviews and the best prices on Booking.Com 

Benidorm Apartments

Over the past ten to fifteen years, Benidorm has seen a huge increase in the number of privately owned self catering holiday apartments to rent.  

More and more people seem to be choosing self catering over package holidays.  The internet is probably 99% responsible for this shift in behaviour it
 has made booking flights, private accommodation and hotels extremely easy, saving a lot of money in the process. 

The quality of holiday apartments has increased dramatically as people's expectations have risen.  To see what's available this year, have a look at the Benidorm Apartments section of our Apartments Spain website.

   Benidorm Town The Levante Beach And Promenade 


To the north of the headland is Benidorm's  main tourist area comprising of the Avenido Mediterraneo boulevard lined with shops, bars and restaurants and behind the Avenido del Mediterraneo, the main hotel, bar and restaurant area. 

Some of the streets in this area are notorious for attracting large groups of stag and hen parties, they are quite easy to spot and avoid.  
Despite numerous attempts by the council to give the town a more upmarket image, they seem to be fighting a losing battle. Benidorm is what it is. 

The latest outlandish rumour is that Benidorm is applying for Europe's "Capital of Culture" award, which has to be a wind up. As well as the town, there are more bars, restaurants, shops and hotels lining the Levante promenade. The bars are busy day and night.  If you enjoy your music loud, try the Daytona rock bar or the Heartbreak hotel about halfway down the promenade, these bars often have live bands playing. 

The amazing guitar virtuoso  Rafa Raposo, often plays the Heartbreak Hotel on Friday nights or on Sundays around 5pm when the motorcycle enthusiasts roll up on their their Harley Davidsons and other famous bikes complete with leathers emblazoned with their club insignias.

Raffa Raposo Playing Live At The Heartbreak Hotel
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Poniente Promenade


The bay on the southern side of the headland is the more sedate Poniente (sunset) promenade which is where the majority of Spanish holidaymakers choose to stay. 

In 2009 the Poniente underwent a major reconstruction at a cost of millions of euros which was mostly funded by a European grant. 


The work took around three years to complete during which time a substantial number of  bars were forced to close due to lack of business caused by the extensive road works. 


The ones which did manage to survive during the reconstruction are benefiting from the increase in people using the promenade for early morning jogs, evening strolls, cycling, roller blading, mobility scooters and even the occaisional segway.  


The Poniente has areas of the beach where you can join in with large groups of mainly elderly people doing exercise or line dancing.

Park Elche
At the northern end of the Poniente promenade is Park Elche, famous for it's white doves or "paloma blancas" which all seem to congregate around a large fountain. Adjacent to a kiosk selling seeds and nuts is  a sign saying "don't feed the animals" 

Benidorm Church On The Headland
Just beyond Park Elche is Benidorm headland, a large rocky outcrop separating the Levante and Poniente promenades, most of the headland is home to Benidorm old town.  

If you can manage the rather steep walk to the top, you will be rewarded with stunning views of the Levante and Poniente beaches. The 18th century church of San Jamie which is a popular wedding venue is in a small square close to the summit.   


The iconic old town is a maze of narrow streets lined with tapas bars and shops.  On summer evenings, Spanish people flock to the old town for a cold drink prior to their evening meal.  After lots of publicity in a multitude of websites,  the old town has become increasingly popular with tourists.

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Benidorm Theme Parks
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Terra Mitica 2014
Benidorm now has three major theme parks, Terra Mitica, Terra Natura and Aqualandia. Terra Mitica and Terra Natura are situated outside the main town near the La Nucia dual carriageway.  

Terra Mitica is a large Mediterranean themed fairground with a range of impressive rides, with daily shows, and themed restaurants. Nearby Terra Natura is a large zoo which also contains a small water park. 


The well established Aqualandia is a huge water theme park on the outskirts  near Benidorm Palace.
 
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An Introduction To The Yorkshire Dales

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   A row of cottages in the village of Clapham

When it comes to mass tourism, the Yorkshire Dalesunlike the nearby Lake District remains virtually undiscovered.  The winding country roads are  rarely busy and you can often travel a fair distance without encountering another car. 

The stone cottages and narrow streets of the pretty dales villages combined with the unhurried pace of life evoke memories of times gone by.  
The A65 which runs from Kendal to Skipton is a good place to start an exploration of the Yorkshire Dales.  From Kendal, the road passes the picturesque Cumbrian town of Kirkby Lonsdale which lies just on the outskirts of north Yorkshire and then continues into the heart of the dales passing close to a cluster of well known villages, each with its own unique personality. 


The first true dales village a few miles down the road from Kirkby Lonsdale is Ingleton, a small welcoming town which has attracted visitors since Victorian times.  Ingleton became something of a tourist attraction when the Ingleton falls waterfall walk constructed along the banks of the river's Doe and Twiss was opened to the public in April 1885.  The falls walk can be quite spectacular especially after heavy rain. 


Ingleton The Yorkshire Dales

Ingleton is a quintessential dales village,  the narrow main street winds it's way uphill, passing the impressive St Mary's church.  A variety of small businesses line the main street including craft shops, a local butcher, newsagent an estate agent, a few coffee bars and a couple of real ale pubs serving a good selection of hot and cold food. A market is held halfway up the main street every Friday.  

St Maty's church Ingleton
St Mary's Church Ingleton

The river runs through the lower part of the village where you can find Ingleton Pottery ,well worth a visit and Ingleton falls.   

Follow the road down the hill and out of the village, then take the right fork after about a mile and you come to what is one of our favourite dales pubs, the Marton Arms, a 17th century coaching house in a tiny place called Thornton in Lonsdale opposite St Oswald's church which was originally built by the Normans.

Update

I've just discovered that the Marton Arms is "closed until further notice" which is sad news for all the caver's walker's and everybody else who frequented it. My family and I have lots of happy memories of the Marton.

Just before you reach the sign to Ingleton on the A65 there's a  road on the right which takes you to the small town of Bentham passing the pristine Parkfoot caravan site on the way. We owned a static caravan at parkfoot, when the children were young and would try to spend every weekend there, fantastic memories.

Continuing along the main road, you pass a turn off for Clapham, an unmissable oasis of peace and quiet dissected by the enchanting Clapham beck, a sparkling stream which meanders it's way through  a canopy of trees to the village pub. Try Clapham on a warm summer day to really appreciate it's magic.

Clapham beck in the picturesque village of Clapham in the Yorkshire Dales
 Clapham Beck

The A65 ends in the historic town of Skipton but before it arrives, you pass signposts for the pretty little villages of Austwick, Feizor and Giggleswick and the larger town of Settle, close to the iconic Ribblehead viaduct, which carries the famous Settle to Carlisle railway, a mecca for train-spotting enthusiasts.  Recent news reports show the newly refitted Flying Scotsman, hurtling over the Ribblehead viaduct on its way to York. 

The iconic Ribblehead Viaduct in the Yorkshire Dales
 The Ribblehead Viaduct


Walking Holidays In The Yorkshire Dales

If you enjoy walking, the dales are one of the best areas of the UK for a walking holiday.  There are ancient drover's trails, Roman roads and historic footpaths connecting many towns and villages.  

An ideal way of exploring the dales on foot would be to rent a holiday cottage. Choose somewhere in a small town or village which is situated within a reasonable driving distance of all the most popular areas. Somewhere like  Kirkby Lonsdale on the fringe of the dales, or Ingleton would be ideal. You can take your dog by choosing one of the many pet friendly cottages available. 



Ye olde naked man pub in the town of Settle the Yorkshire Dales
Settle

There are so many beautiful dales villages to explore, you would need at least two weeks just to scratch the surface,  to get a feel for the area, a long weekend would be an ideal introduction. 

Ebay is an unexpected source of last minute and late deal cottage holidays. Below you can see the current Ebay data feed for Yorkshire Dales holiday cottages.




For longer stays in a  dales self catering holiday cottage, please try the Yorkshire Dales Section of our Holiday Cottage Getaways website where we have listed a large selection of lovely cottages to rent.