OK so that’s easy isn’t it? It looks like a chocolate box piece of perfect confection, wisteria hanging around the eaves, thatched (of course), perfect lawns, tall chimney stacks, the hint of Gertrude Jeckyl in the garden (too obscure?... 1920’s famed garden designer). Inside, huge fireplace, Aga in the kitchen, mysterious corners for hide-n-seek. Upstairs, beds so deep you couldn’t feel a field of peas, fluffy towels and glorious views of a countryside painted by Turner. Oh, and the price tag; makes you wonder if you paid the mortgage off in a fortnight. The annual mortgage that is!
OK..so coming back to reality I began to think about what actually defines a gorgeous, fabulous cottage in today’s terms, rather than the PG Woodhouse confection above.
Obviously! No…I mean location as in it will be perfect for main hotspots, but will actually be off the beaten track, in a quiet and unexpected corner. So Foxglove cottage in Hutton Buscel meets that requirement. Where? Even if you check google maps, you have to zoom to max to spot the name. Between Pickering and Scarborough. Perfect for the Yorkshire coast, or the North York Moors. Equally it stands up to the dinner-party one-upmanship test….”You probably will not have heard of this place, but we had the most perfect holiday in Hutton Buscel…”
An exception to the above rule is one from a pool or hot tub. So have a look at the Kisdon View cottage in Swaledale?
So don’t look for the obvious location address; look for a cottage “near” to well know destinations.
If the word “chintz” makes you scream then you know the words you don’t want to see! In today’s house-proud, TV-fuelled self-improvement society there seems to be certain phrases and brands that signify quality. Fired Earth, Farrow+Ball, Jack and Jill bathrooms, wood burning stove, Rayburn, under-floor heating and King size. That’s all ok, but for my money there are other words that hint at the perfect balance of luxury and desirability (or you could read, practicality!) What about drying room, multiple bath/shower rooms, patio doors, Sky/Free View, and of course, critical for every family with teenagers, “WiFi”.
When I am looking for luxury I also want practical. So holiday cottages that claim to have “8 beds” but turn out to have only 3 bedrooms and a turn down sofa don’t cut the mustard. When you book for 8 people, and turn up to find the dining room table just about fits 4, the intrusion of elbows in your hollandaise dip can become irritating. Add to that the need to run the dishwasher twice because it only holds 4 plates, 4 bowls and a chipped mug and the humdrum of domestic life is already spoiling my holiday idyll.
We can all book a cottage holiday easily enough. But the memory of a holiday is usually defined by one or two unexpected, or exceeded “touches”. Finding fresh bread, milk, eggs, tea and coffee on arrival is great. I have arrived to find a homemade cake (with cream!) on a cake rack. The Wensleydale cottage that had 2lb of champion Masham sausages waiting in the fridge could have had a leaking roof for all I cared (it didn’t!). Cleanliness always seems to be a key issue as well; impeccable cleaning so there’s no obvious dust, bath tide marks or ancient cheese in the fridge should be a given, but so often is the memory some have when they leave. Fresh flowers (absolutely not plastic) add colour and a smell that reassures the newly arrived, stressed-out driver.
Sum it up…
A cottage that stands out will not rely on just a little “je ne sais quoi.” The owners will instead have ensured they have capitalised on every feature and thought through every facility to ensure expectation is exceeded. The cottage will of course have a unique location, be maintained to a superb standard and the equipment will be first rate and all work perfectly (!) There will be more than enough of everything you need, and there will be elements that surprise every guest, from child to grandmother. The beds will be fantastic, the sofas too comfortable and the guests will not want to leave.
A good holiday cottage is one you would want to return to. A fabulous cottage is one you don’t want to leave….
I found a few cottages that hit the spot on gorgeouscottages.com, which feature a very select offering of cottages in Yorkshire.
Photos used with permission from gorgeouscottages.com