Holiday cottages in the UK and beyond: your self-catering cottage directory

Frequently asked questions

Q. As a couple, we find the standard 4ft 6ins double bed too small. How can we ensure that we'll get beds comfortable enough for us?

A. Look out for 'king size' or 'super-king' beds in owners' details. But note too that 5' beds are increasingly common, and owners don't always specify that they have those. Note too that bed-settees and sofa beds, even when described as doubles, are rarely wide enough for more than one person.

Q. When a pub, shop etc is described as 'in walking distance', how far is 'walking distance'?

A.  We reckon on a maxium of about 20 minutes, or about a mile.

Q. We only like very quiet cottages. How can we be sure of those?

A.  People have differing ideas of what 'quiet' means.  For example, owners tend to notice traffic noise that bothers many holidaymakers. A close look at Google maps should pick up busy through routes. And the phrase 'working farm' might send out a warning - think of those gas-gun bird scarers.

Q.  If we make room for them, can friends and family travelling in the area join us in our cottage for a couple of days?

A.  No, mainly for insurance reasons, but look out for places whose owners officially offer 'Bed and Breakfast' in their own homes or nearby.

Q.  How important are tourist board gradings?

A.  This is hotly debated. A good number of cottages owners whose  properties would be awarded ten stars -  if those existed - find the tourist board gradings schemes bureaucratic and ineffective, and avoid them. At a less exhalted level, the gradings give a degree of reassurance: it is generally agreed that they protect holidaymakers from exploitation.Their checking system is rigorous, and they always follow up complaints.

Q.   For our autumn and winter holidays we like the idea of an open fire or a log burner. Are logs and/or coal supplied?

A.   Usually just an initial supply, with an ongoing supply at cost.

Q.   What is meant by 'on a working farm'?

A.   Usually, tractors, livestock - sometimes noisy and smelly - lots of activity, sometimes restrictions on movement. However, some farms make a 'farm stay' into a special experience in its own right, with ponies to ride, eggs to collect, lambs to bottle feed, and more.

Q.  How can I ensure our cottage has a bath as well as a shower?

A.  You might need to check with the owner. Unfortunately, in the cottage business and throughout the hotel and cruising industry, the phrase 'ensuite bathroom' often means 'shower only'. If you ask about a 'bath tub', that will usually get round any misunderstandings.

Q. If we book a big house, sleeping say 18, will all the accommodation be of the same quality?

A. Not necessarily,  especially with major conversions of old country houses or castles. Somebody will have the master bedroom, others will have to settle for the original servants' quarters!

Q. Are arrival times approximate. or can we arrive earlier or later than specified?

A. Arrival times - eg 3pm are generally very precise. Arriving earlier than the official time is a cardinal sin, partly because cleaning may be going on until five minutes before you turn up. Similarly, you should leave by the required time - usually 10 am.

Q. Will the cottage owner mind if we phone about any special requirements we might have, or any concerns?

A. Definitely not. Those conversations will often smooth the way to a happy and successful holiday, and can save time in the end. And a chat on the phone might save ten emails.

Q. Can I expect to pay a security/damages deposit?

A. In about half the properties available to rent, yes. We wish it was more than that, as damage, especially unreported, can be very demoralising for owners and inconvenient for incoming guests.

Q. Should we tip the cleaner?

A.  Generally, no, but if she has put herself out to make your stay more comfortable, say with cleaning up after babies, getting extra blankets, picking up items from the local shop etc, a cash offer is welcome.

Q. Are there discounts for reduced occupancy in big properties?

A. Occasionally. Out of peak holiday times perhaps or on the off-chance at short notice. One or more bedrooms may be closed off.

Q. Will we be expected to socialise with owners?

A. You might be invited in for drinks, or you can do the same. Regular visitors sometimes become almost part of the family.

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