Author Archives: Victoria

Great outdoor places to visit in the Cotswolds

Cycling in the Cotswolds countryside

If you are on holiday or having a weekend break in the Cotswolds you will find it’s a delightful region for a range of activities – sailing, walking, horse riding, canoeing, cycling.

The beautiful countryside is criss crossed with footpaths and the quieter lanes are worth exploring by bicycle to enjoy the stunning views. There may be a few undulating hills to contend with, but the effort is worth it for the cream tea you might enjoy afterwards, or the relaxing pint in the pub garden as feel a sense of satisfaction for your efforts.

There are woodlands to explore and rivers to follow – shady places for picnics and lakes for boating too.

Walking in the Cotswolds

The Cotswolds is often described as the walking capital of England and it certainly rates up there in our book. Stunning views, not too hilly and with plenty of interesting places to incorporate into your route. We particularly like the idea of the self guided walk – where a local expert has done all the hard work for you in planning the route. All you have to do is follow the instructions. 

We particularly like Stow on the Wold, the highest of the Cotswold town, with a famous antiques trade and a fantastic market square. There are plenty of circular walks from here and afterwards you can relax in Englands oldest Inn. 

Cotswold Park Farm

Adam Henson’s (from Countryfile fame) outdoor farm is a wonderful family day out and a special place to interact with the animals and learn about farming – past and present. It’s a centre for rare breed conservation including Gloucester Old Spot Pigs and Highland Cattle. Don’t forget to explore the farms safari route and the maze. For the adults there is beer brewed on site, to take home as a treat. 

Gardens to visit in the Cotswolds

Have you own space and take your time sauntering around some of the most beautiful and inspiring gardens in England. 

One of the must see gardens in the Cotswolds is Highgrove House, the home of HRH the Prince of Wales. An inspiring place that has been carefully designed and developed over the years with environmental considerations in mind and now even includes its own filtered sewage system. There are charming touches of family life too, such as the tree house that the young princes used to play in. 

Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Winston Churchill, is an impressive sight to behold and has featured in many films and TV shows. You may wish to enjoy a tour of the grand interiors, but if you prefer to stick to the great outdoors you won’t be disappointed. The Palace is central to a grand undulating parkland with 2 lakes and the Grand Bridge, created by Capability Brown. As well as the parklands, there are formal gardens of clipped hedges and statues.

Cotswold Water Park

Set in an area of 40 square miles and containing 150 lakes, it even has it’s own inland beach for paddling and swimming. With no tides or currents to concern you, the water park is an ideal place for trying your hand at a water sport for the first time. Lessons are available or you can hire only. 

There’s sailing, windsurfing, kayaking, water skiing, wake boarding and paddle boarding. You could spend days here and not get bored.

If you want a break from the water sports, there’s miles of tracks for walking and cycling – or if you want other sports, there’s archery, golf, fishing, shooting, paint balling and rally driving. The 40 acres of water park are a haven for wildlife and a bird watchers paradise with up to 20,000 water birds feeding here over the seasons. 

The Cotswolds is an ideal base for a self catering holiday in the UK. It has plenty of the great outdoors, wonderful scenery and plenty of opportunities for exploring it, charming villages to pass through and majestic cities to wander through. If you want to share all of this with family or friends and rent a big house, have a look at our property in the Cotswolds …..


Big holiday cottages for the best Staycation ever

We’ve always been big fans of UK staycations – seeing a different part of our beautiful country for a weekend or a family holiday. Not being stuck at the airport, waiting in queues, frustrated by flight cancellations and delays – just hit the road, or travel by rail and you leave all those hassles behind.

Staying in the UK also makes it easy to combine your vacation with another family. A large holiday home gives everyone plenty of space to enjoy under one roof. Lots of bedrooms to chose from, plenty of bathrooms and large grounds to roam in. Stay near the coast and enjoy the beach or stay inland and explore rivers and valleys – book a house with a swimming pool, perhaps.

A UK staycation also allows you to stop en-route to your destination too – if you’re heading for Somerset or Devon, we’d always recommend the brilliant Hauser & Wirth at Bruton, enjoy the ever changing contemporary art gallery, the garden designed by Piet Oudorf and feast in the fabulous Roth Bar & Grill.

Whether you’re looking for party houses to celebrate in, or an escape for a large family holiday, have a look at these 4 properties that come highly recommended by our past guests. All of these houses are exclusive hire, you’ll never share with another group – we don’t operate like a holiday cottage complex.

Tone Dale House – brilliant party house in Somerset

This is a big, big house with lots of fun in-house. There’s a party room with wide screen TV, ideal for dancing one day and watching movies the next. Two sitting rooms, 2 dining rooms and 2 areas of kitchen! The Long Room gets its name because at one end there’s table tennis and the other a pool table. It’s next to the large sitting room – so you can mix and match your entertainment, or wander out to the 4 acre garden to enjoy the hot-tub, croquet and badminton – maybe play hide and seek behind the ancient plane tree.

Tone Dale House is a big house to rent in Somerset, available through The Big House Company

There are 10 bedrooms or 15 (depending on whether you want to hire the Stables too), but you’ll never share with another group whatever you choose.

Widcombe Grange – top spot for a big house holiday

This is a lovely house for a summer break in particular. The enormous grounds are stunning and just draw you outdoors to wander around the 2 lakes (the larger of which has a rowing boat), the woodlands and the orchard. There is plenty of space for a game of rounders or football, or if you wanted to have a really big party there are some stunning locations for a marquee, if you’re celebrating something special.

Aerial view of this big house in Somerset with outdoor pool and spacious grounds.

The pool in the walled garden is often the focal point of sunny summer days. Sun loungers and a barbecue for the adults and a large heated pool for everyone. Then there’s the coach house, with large doors to fling open, it’s the place to be for table football, table tennis and a pool table.

The house and cottage combined have 12 bedrooms and 8 bathrooms.

Tatham House – luxury holiday house in Somerset with an indoor pool

When you’re looking for a house that has all you could wish for – this could be the one. Every one of the 10 bedrooms has a luxurious en-suite – the bedrooms themselves, are beautifully furnished with thick curtains and incredibly comfortable beds. Downstairs, your group can spread out in the 2 sitting rooms, cook in the stylish kitchen and dine at the large oak table overlooking the garden.

Tatham House has an indoor pool, tennis court and 10 en-suite bedrooms.

If you don’t want to leave the grounds, Tatham House is ideal – it has an indoor pool with bi-fold doors out to the walled garden and all-weather tennis court beyond. The hot tub sits beside the sun loungers on the terrace and looks towards the pretty orchard. Summer meals outside are at must at this house, the built-in barbecue and outdoor dining furniture all make the most of the distant hills.

For those who want to get out and about, Tatham House is close to the Quantocks, for biking, riding and walking. Or, hop on the steam train from the village and travel back in time, all the way to the beach on the north coast, maybe stop off in Dunster and explore the castle.

Berry House – perfect for North Devon summer surfing fun

The remoteness of Berry House makes a dramatic setting for this big house. Its Wuthering Heights location gives it views over the surrounding countryside to the distant cliffs and coastal path. It has a very homely feel, carefully looked after by its team of housekeepers. The dining room is grand and spacious – it just puts you in the mood for a celebration dinner and the kitchen is an ideal place for preparing it, all the mod cons with a carefully preserved country vibe.

Berry House in North Devon, is in a stunning countryside setting and has 10 bedrooms.

For your entertainment head upstairs to the games area for petit-football, the pool table and a large screen tv. Outside, the large games barn has table tennis, basketball and 5-a-side footie and if you want something more relaxing, head to the walled garden for a soak in the hot tub.

North Devon is famous for its surfing beaches. Some are best left to the experienced surfers, but there are plenty of sandy beaches with surf suitable for all ages and abilities. There are plenty of lessons available and kit to hire.

Read our blog to the best beaches in North Devon here

Berry House has 10 bedrooms and 7 bathrooms and is a rare find, in that during the summer months, it can be booked for a 2 night weekend break or a 7 night summer holiday.

If you’re thinking of staycationing at a big house in the UK and want some help or further information, either email our friendly team at or click here for our contact form.

Luxury Hen Party Weekends to remember


Hire a hen party house and enjoy a memorable weekend

Hire a hen party house and enjoy a memorable weekend

With summer weddings on the horizon our attention has turned to one of our favourite girly events, a get together with our besties for a hen party.

Make it a Hen Party Weekend

Fun, laughter and good times, not just confined to a single evening. but spread out over an entire weekend. Bliss. Here are some of our ideas to make it a memorable hen party weekend.

Book a Hen Party House

It’s so special, spending time with your group, privately in your own hen do house. Hotels are great, but hiring your own hen party house gives you the opportunity to enjoy all the space to yourselves, operate your own timetable, have complete privacy – wander down and make a cup of tea in your pajamas, or spend all day in your pajamas, if that’s what you fancy! Our hen party venues with hot tubs go down a storm – whatever the weather, at any time of day, it’s a facility to enjoy for a relaxing chill out.

A Hen Party with lots of entertainment

A hen party weekend that’s action packed might be just perfect for the bride to be. So pick your hen party house with that in mind. Some have loads of onsite entertainment already – like Tatham House, a luxury hen party house in Somerset. Whether you’ve got a swimming pool, tennis court, hot tub or cinema room, it gives you lots of options for what you do during your stay and crucially, when you do it – we love flexibility! Lounge by the pool in the sunshine, or grab a movie afternoon if it rains.

Alternatively, arrange some activities away from the house – mountain biking, clay shooting, fishing, learn how to be a barista pro or try your hand at ax throwing. There’s so much choice and fun to be had. Once you’re back at hen party home base, something relaxing might be in order – booking a beautician could be the start of your pre-wedding prep and it’s always a good chance for a natter.

A hen party with great foodie options

Cooking together can be great fun, especially if your big house has a well equipped kitchen. The cooks can do their things and the non cooks can watch on and keep the glasses topped up – when it’s ready to eat, set the scene, get the music on, light some candles and enjoy a feast. If you’re keen on a bit of after dinner dancing, Tone Dale House has a separate party room just perfect for this, with lighting, speakers and air con you’ll be dancing the night away.

A little indulgence is also called for at times and hiring a chef to cook a special dinner can be a lovely way to celebrate your hen party weekend. It also means no washing up! Or perhaps you’d sooner put your budget towards a casino night, some gin tasting or a murder mystery – both memorable and great fun.

If this sounds like your sort of weekend, get in touch and we can help you find the right hen party house, in a location that works for you. Either email us, on, call 01823 662673 or fill in the contact page. We’d love to help.






What to do with my Big House?

Tone Dale House is a big house to rent in Somerset, available through The Big House Company

Tone Dale House – is a successful big house rental, marketed through The Big House Company.

At the Big House Co, we are finding an increasing number of people are considering the possibility of joining the holiday rental market and with the rise of the ‘staycation’ the market is thriving. Maybe you’re rattling around in a big house and want to earn an income from it, or converting an old Barn, or maybe you’ve inherited a large pile somewhere.

We have helped several of our current Home Owners all the way through this process, advising them on the type of rooms and facilities they should have if they want to maximise the earning potential of their property. Knowing the large, luxury house rental market the way we do, we know exactly what guests are looking for and the more boxes your house ticks, the better.

Of course, not all houses will suit all people, and not all people will suit all houses! We’re fairly picky about who we entrust your house to – we wouldn’t take a booking for your house that we wouldn’t take for one of our own.

Flexibility though, is good. For example, we are a nation of dog lovers and many families want to bring their pooch on holiday with them. We do charge for this, to cover any possible additional cleaning, and we advise customers that Fido must adhere to the rules!

The Big House Company worked with Tatham House for 18 months prior to launching this big holiday house.

The Big House Company worked with Tatham House for 18 months, prior to launching this big holiday house.

Think about providing as many additional luxuries as possible, a hot tub, swimming pool, tennis court and barbeque for example. Ideally you would have a good safe garden or outdoor area for children to play in.

Widcombe Grange is a popular big house to rent through The Big House Company.

Widcombe Grange is a popular big house to rent with an outdoor pool, hot tub & games barn.

The advantages of having us help you are many – even if your house isn’t ready yet we can start marketing as soon as we have some images and descriptions to put on our website and you can hit the ground running once you launch.

Why choose a smaller Agency?

We are not a large Agency, we are dedicated to the properties we represent and want to keep small enough to give our personal service to all our Home Owners, offering a concierge service as well if you want to keep as hands off as possible. When potential customers look on our site they can find what they want easily, rather than ploughing through hundreds of houses and losing track of what they have seen. Read our blog, on why we think choosing to be represented by a small agency benefits our homeowners and guests.

Our customers and our Home Owners regularly tell us that our response times are faster than some of the bigger agencies, so why not start a conversation with us and see if we are right for each other?

Cheltenham gold cup festival – what a party!

Race horses jumping over fences

It won’t be long until this great racing festival at Cheltenham is underway. It’s one of the highlights of the National Hunt season and crowds of 250,000 converge to enjoy the buzz. You don’t have to be a seasoned race goer to take part in the fun and tickets are still available (at a discounted price until 31st January).

With 4 days of great racing from 10th – 13th March 2020 it will bring together some of the best horses and jockeys of the jump racing season.  The prize money runs to an eye watering £4.5m for owners and jockeys to battle over.

Set in the beautiful Cotswolds, Cheltenham racecourse lies in a scenic amphitheatre below the Cotswold Hills and makes a fabulous backdrop to some great racing.

The course has a wide range of facilities and tickets are still available for most of the enclosures.  Dining in one of the course side restaurants makes it a very special day, but needs to be booked in advance. New for 2020 is “The Park”, set in The Club and Tatersalls enclosure, with live music, entertainment and bars showing live racing all day.

Enjoy the Shopping Village too, particularly if you’ve had some luck on the horses. It has a large variety of trade stands to suit most tastes.


The Hall of Fame is definitely worth a visit, with winners’ silks and trophies from years gone by, fascinating information about the history of Cheltenham and a hologram of the great horse Desert Orchid.

Champion Day

The first day of the meeting and features the Stan James Champion Hurdle, with prize money of £450,000.

Ladies Day

A great excuse for the ladies to dress up and have a good time with your friends.  There’s even a best dressed ladies competition! With 7 races to watch, there’s never a dull moment.

St Patrick’s Day

Celebrate the day with plenty of Guiness on tap and live music flowing.  Maybe watch some Irish winners too.

Gold Cup Day

This is the famous Grade 1 National Hunt horse race run over 3 miles 2.5 furlongs, with 22 jumps and is the most prestigious of the calendar. In 2020 the total prize money for the race will be £625,000.

Scene of Arkle’s historic 3 consecutive wins in the 60’s, this race is the highlight of the fixture list.

Make a break of it and stay in one of our big houses to hire

Why not make an occasion of it, get all your friends together and stay locally for the whole of the racing week. Staying a week would enable you to explore some of the beautiful countryside and wonderful towns of the Cotswolds.

Cheltenham House is a 12 minute drive (5 miles) away from the course. It’s an elegant party house that’s got character, plus all the mod cons of super stylish kitchen and high spec bathrooms. A lovely dining room to celebrate together at the end of the race day and a hot tub for relaxing and chatting over the highlights of the festival.

Cotswold Manor is only 30 minutes away from the course.  It’s a wonderful, quintessential country manor house, a superb retreat to enjoy after a day at the races. Full of character and a very popular party house with our guests.

Veganuary party house in Somerset

Veganuary catering at a party house to hire in Somerset

If you’ve embarked on Veganuary, or just fancy a tasty plant based dinner party during your house party in Somerset, we have news for you!

The Big House Company has teamed up with the national award winning, Somerset based, catering company Vegan To You, for our house party guests to enjoy during Veganuary 2020.  Anna, the owner of Vegan To You and her talented team produce consistently superb vegan dinners, drop-off supers and large event party meals that guests adore.

Vegan catering from Vegan To You is available at Tone Dale House, Widcombe Grange and Tatham House, 3 of our party houses to hire in Somerset, with an extra 10% off for any meals booked during January.


Somerset Manor – a wonderful large holiday house to hire in Somerset

Somerset Manor is a large Georgian house available to rent through The Big House Company

Recently, we had a field trip away from The Big House Company office, to visit Somerset Manor and meet Jenny, the new house manager. Somerset Manor is one of our most popular party houses in Somerset and feedback from guests is always glowing! So, it was great to be going to have a look around.

It was a former rectory, so this gives you an idea of the fine Georgian proportions that greet you as you approach up the tree lined driveway. This felt very much like, to the manor born. The house is on the edge of the village and the local pub is just a stone’s throw away – ideal for a pre-dinner drink or when you want to have supper out and about.

Elegant group accommodation in Somerset

The hallway is laid with flagstones, made smooth by the passage of time, giving an air of something rather special lying beyond. From here, we walked through the sitting rooms with large floor length sash windows, letting in beautiful south light and overlooking the splendidly tended herbaceous borders. We felt that these rooms would be wonderful in the winter too, with a log fire to enjoy, original shutters to close and a cosy atmosphere for your group.

The dining room with its handsome grandfather clock, has a long, antique table – perfect for candlelit, birthday celebration dinner parties. Jenny, the house manager, can recommend excellent local chefs, should you wish to make an evening into an extra special event and enjoy the best of locally sourced fare.

One of our favourite rooms was the Orangery. A large open and airy space with great views over the garden and very versatile for either sitting or dining in – with twinkling fairy lights in the evening, it is a magical space. From here, the stairs go down to the entertainment zone, with a cinema room and table tennis. For a family group, this could be your teenagers favourite spot.

A party house to rent in Somerset with 10 bedrooms

“Boutique hotel” is what came to mind as we wandered around the bedrooms. Calm colours, beautiful furniture and high-quality bedding, textiles and cushions. The interior design and fit out of Somerset Manor is stylish and tasteful – there’s a skilled eye watching over this lovely large party house.

The bedrooms were spacious and elegant on the first floor – with a very special en-suite for the master bedroom, with its large clawfoot bath. We loved the bedrooms on the second floor too, again spacious, comfortable and very tasteful. It was hard to say which was our favourite – we’ll leave that up to you!

Over in the Dovecote, just across the courtyard are 2 bedrooms, with its own very stylish kitchen, sitting and dining area. This could ideally be used for a family suite, or perhaps, for elderly relatives, who want a little peace and quiet on the odd occasion. All the accommodation in the Dovecote is on the first floor, so bear that in mind for your room allocation.

A large holiday home with plenty of outdoor entertainment

When renting a large holiday home for a big family group, it’s ideal to have a property that’s got onsite fun and we think Somerset Manor has this in spades. The gardens are superb and extend to 15 acres – a gardener’s delight. Within this well-tended oasis, the outdoor heated pool is sure to be a summer focal point for enjoyment (open May – October), there are sun loungers around it, or the lawns to spread onto.

Next to the pool is the hot tub and sauna – which are open year-round. Children will love the trampoline on the far side of the garden. There are new garden games of Jenga to enjoy, 13 bicycles for pedalling peacefully around the lanes and a football pitch & tennis court – probably not so peaceful, if you’re the competitive types.

It was a pleasure to visit Somerset Manor. It’s a beautiful, big house to rent for all sorts of occasions that is cared for by a dedicated team and Jenny, the house manager, was extremely welcoming and knowledgeable about the area.

Somerset Manor, our big party house to hire

How to plan your wedding reception for a stress-free day

Wedding venue Somerset

Wedding venues Somerset

Your big day has finally arrived and you’re looking forward to all the fun and great times about to happen – and that’s how it should be. You can pretty much guarantee yourself a stress-free wedding day if you have thought about and planned in advance the time line of your wedding reception and communicated that to everyone involved. It’s definitely worth the effort and can be part of the fun in the build up to your wedding day. It gives you the opportunity to think in detail about what you really want to happen and when, plus highlighting any areas that might have been forgotten.

Here are a few pointers to consider when you making your plans:-

Cocktail time

The ceremony is over and you’ve exchanged your vows, this is the moment the emphasis switches from the wedding ceremony to the wedding reception. If you’ve chosen an unusual wedding venue in Somerset, you may like to consider having drinks outside, making the most of your quirky venue or enjoying the wonderful countryside views. Discuss with the venue organiser when you would like the drinks served and how, for example, by waiting staff mingling or from serving tables. Have a time limit for your guests to chat and then your MC will invite everyone into the main reception area.

Making an entrance

Once all your guests have found their seats, this is the moment you can make your entrance. Perhaps you’ll be sweeping down a grand staircase at a wedding venue in Somerset, or entering the marquee in the beloved garden of your family home –  your entrance can be as personalised as your choice of venue. Maybe have a favourite song playing, some instrumental music, or even a fanfare! On the other hand, be casual and simply stroll in.

The wedding meal

You’ve probably spent a great deal of time thinking about the menu, so enjoy it and the company of your guests at the top table – there will be plenty of opportunity to spend time with your other family and friends later. If you would like more tips on choosing your wedding food and caterer, please click here.


This is often a much anticipated moment at a wedding. But, if for you, it’s nerve wrecking, perhaps consider having the speeches earlier in the day, or part way through the meal. Traditionally the father of the bride speaks first, followed by the groom, the bride and then the best man. It’s good for everyone speaking to have a time allocation, particularly if this is during the meal – the quality of the food may suffer if there is a long over-run. Ideally, the speeches should be held, while your guests are sitting down. They will enjoy them to the max, if they are comfortable and relaxed.

Cut the cake

And make a wish! Ask your MC to announce this if you’d like an audience, but it’s ok too, to make it a private moment and don’t forget to add this to the photographer’s list, if you want a special keep sake. Ensure you have enlisted someone’s help to look after any cake not eaten at the wedding, especially if you are hoping to celebrate your first anniversary with the top layer.

Let’s dance

Once you’ve had a chance to circulate among your guests it’s time to have your first dance as a married couple. With the music selected, just get someone to give you the nod at a chosen time and then strut your stuff. Thereafter, it’s party time on the dance floor and all ages will be having a great time together. Give the band a list of all your favourites and spare a thought for making sure they have some food and drink provided for them, you will gain enormous goodwill.

And finally….

Don’t forget to consider when you are going to throw your bouquet. This usually happens towards the end of the reception and if you’d rather not be parted from your bouquet, a fake one provides the fun while you can still keep the original! Let your MC know the time for last orders at the bar and he can announce this to your guests. So with glasses refreshed it’s time for the last dance to be declared – one last opportunity for grooving and then your departure. Organise a trusted friend to ensure that all the keep sakes from the reception are put somewhere safe for you.

If you are still in the early stages of your planning and are looking for wedding venues in Somerset, then do have a look at our 2 wedding venues in Somerset, that offer huge flexibility and are great for a house party weekend wedding where your celebrations carry on for the whole weekend.



Peace of mind when booking

The team at the Big House Company, outside Tone Dale House, Wellington, Somerset

There has been some recent coverage in the press about Airbnb scams.

Sadly, some holidaymakers have fallen foul of these scams and been persuaded to pay for accommodation that either doesn’t exist or they have arrived at accommodation, where nothing is known of their booking. For the guests, the money they have paid has disappeared to an unknown third party, who claimed to be the owner and is untraceable.

Hopefully, Airbnb will sort this problem out, or compensate – they do, after all, earn commission on these bookings, made in good faith. Nothing, though, can compensate for the stress or the loss of a much looked forward to holiday or weekend break.

The vast majority of listings on Airbnb are, of course, legitimate. We advertise some of our properties via Airbnb and want to be clear about our genuine right to do so, with the large party houses that we hire to big groups of friends, family, bridal couples and corporate groups. We have chosen to list on Airbnb because it has huge reach – something, that as a small company we can’t compete with. Many of our guests, wouldn’t have heard of us otherwise.

We are homeowners as well as agents. Ben and Victoria Fox first started running the business in 1996 with Tone Dale House in Wellington, Somerset, which they own. Together with Peter and Caroline Insall, who joined as partners in 2002, they bought Widcombe Grange, at Culmhead in Somerset

With the other properties that we have on our website, we act as agent. With us, this means that we have visited all the properties, met the owners and have contracts in place. That’s one of the beauties of a small portfolio, there are close connections with the owners and good knowledge of their properties – handy if you have a question about something specific.

We also believe that all the houses we represent need to meet a high standard. So sometimes we won’t represent a house or we end our working relations with an owner if these standards aren’t met or maintained.

We hope, given the recent closure of Thomas Cook and the cases of bad publicity surrounding Airbnb, that this gives you peace of mind to book with us. Please give us a call (01823 662673) if you would like to ask us any questions.

Choosing your wines for your wedding day

Champagne bottles chilling in an ice bucket for a wedding celebration

We all worry about which wine to choose at a wedding, trying to keep everyone happy …when really it should be the time to have fun and relax. So we’ve put together a few pointers to steer you in the right direction. Above all though, our advice to you would be, as the bride and groom, go with what you like, it’s your day after all.

There is nothing wrong in choosing the classics and best well-known wines, such as Rioja, Pinot Grigio and Malbec.  The advice here is if you do, try to find examples that are best in class (and often no more expensive).  Also try and buy on sale or return so you don’t have to guess how much to order for your wedding meal.

Pinot Grigio – look for single estate or organic as these tend to be fuller and richer in flavour…and try for high altitude northern Italy wines (not Sicilian or southern fruit).

Rioja – always best to choose a medium weight red, probably Crianza – where there is enough oak ageing to soften the style without being too old for most palates.

Malbec – as with other heavier reds, always try to find wines from higher altitude where the wines ripen more slowly and the fruit is better balanced.

Sparkling wines are usually a must have for the wedding toast – with Champagne still being the obvious choice for the toast.  Many of us do find the dryness of Champagne too much though, especially on a warm summer afternoon. This is partly the reason behind the success of Prosecco with its softness and fruit charged character.  The best Prosecco are also from single estates, often organic and if you can find one from Valobbiade – the high vineyards of Italy – you will find a style more closely aligned with the richer styles of France.

If you are not a Prosecco fan and Champagne is not desired – the best value for money, quality sparkling wines are Cremants from France…from Burgundy for the richer Chardonnay (and their Rosés which are luscious) and the Loire for more fruit from Chenin Blanc.

Of course, do not overlook our own home grown English sparklers…these are becoming more and more popular, with a style akin to the high quality of the French Cremants but with perhaps a little more character reflecting their sense of place.  While these are generally not cheap, they rarely disappoint.

We’ve been lucky enough to help a lot of couples with their wedding preparations, so do ask us if you need some help. Peter, the author of the blog, has overseen hundreds of weddings and he has a great personal interest in wine, too – so you are in safe hands!

The best beaches in North Devon


Summer holiday fun from our large holiday house in Devon

Wonderful beaches to visit when you’re staying at our big holiday house in Devon

Summer’s here and North Devon is one of our favourite places for enjoying time at the beach. Weekends with friends, family holidays, hen and stag parties, – it’s a great part of the UK for so many types of groups and who doesn’t love being at the beach?

If you’ve never been to North Devon then here’s our guide to some of the best beaches and even if you’ve visited before, we’ve added a few suggestions that might be of interest too.


Croyde Bay is a beautiful sandy beach with rolling sand dunes behind it – great for shelter, sunbathing or hide and seek. It’s rated one of the top beaches in the UK for surfing and locals would say, it’s definitely the best. So if you’re an experienced surfer it’s the place for you – for beginners, there are better beaches to learn at, but outside of the summer peaks, it’s ok too.

Croyde is popular with swimmers too and there is an RNLI Lifeguard service available from May to September, during Easter weekend, October weekends and October half term holiday. Children love the rock pools at either end of the beach and there’s loads of space for games of cricket, beach hockey and rounders. There are brilliant walks as well, if you have time, walk out to Baggy Point and enjoy the fabulous views.


3 miles of sandy beach to enjoy; sandcastle heaven!  Or if you’re into water sports this beach has so much to offer – it’s been a firm favourite with visitors for years and is renowned for its high-water quality.  When the North Atlantic waves are rolling in, the surfing and body boarding are excellent and even on calmer days the kayaking and paddle boarding are really fun.  Sign up for surf lessons, or hire equipment at the beach, ice-creams and snacks are available too. The beach has lifeguards on duty to ensure safe family swimming usually from Easter to the end of September.

There’s plenty of car parking (enough for 2000 cars) with easy access and with such a long stretch of beach it’s possible to find a quiet spot, even in the height of summer. It’s a very family-oriented beach and dogs are allowed year-round with some restrictions in the summer. The surrounding countryside is managed by the National Trust, so worth exploring and the nearby village has a relaxed and friendly atmosphere with shops, cafes, several pubs and places to buy or hire beach kit, as well as at the beach.

Putsborough Sands

Something of a hidden gem, even though it’s at the southern end of Woolacombe, it’s a quiet oasis. This means it doesn’t have the facilities of it’s busier neighbours, but that means the crowds won’t be there either. There is a carpark nearby, however.

Beautiful golden sand and a large expanse of beach make this an ideal choice, if you already have your picnic and beach equipment with you. Putsborough is on the lee-side of Baggy Point and has the advantage of being sheltered from prevailing south-westerlies – that can sometimes be a blessing for surfers and beach-lovers. The surf is great and the surroundings spectacular, a definite winner in our book.

Barricane beach

Barricane is a charming cove, sitting sheltered between rocks on either side. Quite a sun trap and an escape from the wind on a blustery day. You’ll need to be aware of the tides here and plan your visit accordingly. It’s a popular beach for surfing and the rock pools are wonderful and numerous, but be aware, there is no life guard here. If you have young children in your group, they’ll love the cowrie shells that collect upon this small inlet – allegedly having travelled thousands of miles on the tides,  from a Caribbean island.

The tiny, quirky café has a fine reputation for food and it’s worth staying on at the end of the day and queuing up for the Sri Lankan curry, in the evening. Take a bottle of wine with you and enjoy your supper, while watching sunset over an exquisite ocean view.


A tiny shingle beach, compared to the long sweeping sands of many north Devon beaches, but all the better for it. Broadsands has a south sea island vibe to it and is delightfully secluded and private. You can hire a kayak from Combe Martin and paddle your way round, which is a fun way to arrive, or count the 200 steps down from the road above. Take you bbq and enjoy quiet evenings here.

If you’re looking for a big house experience to enjoy the delights of the North Devon beaches with your friends or family, or both, have a look at our big holiday cottage in Devon.

Best party house locations in the UK

When you want to get together with a big group, location can be one of the most important factors in your choice of property. Here’s our top pick from around the UK ….

Group accommodation in Norfolk

Group accommodation in Norfolk

Norfolk is such a popular location for a short break or a holiday. It’s got the best climate in the UK, so you can enjoy balmy days on the beach at Wells, or if you feel a bit more Swallows and Amazons, then hoist the mainsail and enjoy some boating from its harbour. There are glorious rivers and the Norfolk Broads, big skies and wonderful countryside – the nature watching is superb. But it’s not all about the rural scene in Norfolk – Norwich is UNESCO’s first city of literature and the best-preserved medieval city in the UK. You can dip into the eclectic mix of shops in The Lanes and visit the Norman Castle and cathedral.

Our big house to hire in Norfolk sleeps 18, around an elegant courtyard that’s home to a hot-tub, barbecue, seating and games. Inside you’ll find a beautifully designed space for a large group to enjoy a perfect house party.

Party houses to rent in the Midlands

Party houses to rent in the Midlands

If you’re looking for a location convenient for the NEC, but well away from the hustle and bustle, this could be the house for you. Major pop stars have stayed here after performing – so you know you’re in good company, booking this party house near Birmingham. As well as its proximity to the city and all the delights and excitement it has to offer, there is a wealth of other entertainment too. You’re never too old for Cadbury’s World in our view and likewise, the National Sealife Centre is sure to bring a smile to anyone’s face watching the seals cavorting. Stratford upon Avon is 40 minutes away and worth a visit to see the famous medieval sights of Shakespeare’s birthplace, Ann Hathaway’s cottage, the theatres and the canal.

Our big house to hire near Birmingham is a glamorous oasis with an outdoor pool, tennis court and fabulous outdoor dining with open cooking area. The interior is exquisite, with a range of social spaces for a large group to enjoy, including a cinema room, snooker room, stylish kitchen and a light filled dining room.

Large holiday homes in Devon

Large holiday homes in Devon

Life’s a beach, or at least an integral part of a summer holiday in Devon. The north coast has some of the loveliest beaches as well as top UK spots for surfing. Saunton Sands is a vast expanse of sandy beach, with dunes at the back of it. Colourful beach huts can be rented for a small charge, where you can watch the Atlantic waves from. The surf here is mellow – great for surfing and boogie boarding. Croyde Beach is a world class surfing venue for experienced surfers, rock pools and dunes for children’s fun and a café with a sheltered walled garden. Inevitably in the UK, there will be the odd rainy day and North Devon has plenty to offer for families and groups – the Big Sheep, Barnstaple Pannier Market, Ilfracombe Aquarium, to name but a few.

Berry House, our big holiday home to rent in Devon has panoramic views over the surrounding countryside and towards the coast. There’s loads to do at the house, with a table tennis, a pool table, hot tub and a huge games barn that’s great for games of 5-a-side-football. The dining room is perfect for a grand occasion dinner and the sitting room has plenty of sofas and an open log fire for a relaxing evening with your family.

Big houses to hire in Somerset

Big houses to hire in Somerset

Fashionable Somerset is within 3 hours of London and we’d suggest you break your journey at Hauser & Wirth for a fabulous lunch and a look around their ever changing exhibition and stylish architecture, blending beautifully with the Piet Oudolf designed garden. Once here, enjoy exploring the 2 coastlines, the Quantock Hills for mountain biking, horse riding and hiking and of course, our world-renowned cider to sample. Exeter is an ideal shopping destination, mainstream and quirky – some great eating places and a cycle route all the way to Exmouth.

When you want a bigger big house, our large party house in  Somerset certainly fits the bill. Sleeping up to 31 guests, the main house is 200 years old, stylish and grand – across the courtyard the Stables has a contemporary edge to it. The social spaces at Tone Dale House are made for big parties, with a large dining room, breakfast room, a party room for dancing the night away and an enormous games room for table tennis, pool and roulette. The hot tub in the garden adds to the fun.

Hire a large house in Sussex

Hire a large house in Sussex

Sussex offers plenty of great things to do, whether you are having a holiday with your family or a short break with friends and a plus point in our view is how fabulously easy it is to get to from London. The beach is always a firm favourite, stunning Camber Sands, stretching mile after mile, well worth walking along to blow the cobwebs away, smell the salty air and maybe dip your toes in the water for a paddle. If you want something more active, there are plenty of watersports on offer along the coastline, from windsurfing to kayaking.

For a day trip, Rye has an enchanting historic harbour, with an active fishing fleet, which might be an ideal place to stock up on delicious freshly landed fish for a tasty supper for your group.

Sussex Manor is a big party house with plenty of wow factor. It oozes glamour from the moment you approach along the winding driveway to this secluded mansion. Inside, it has a Hollywood vibe, blended seamlessly into its traditional architecture – giving guests a stylish house party pad to entertain friends and family. Outside, the grounds are delightful and the  grass tennis court, swimming pool and bar always prove to be a big hit in the summer. Wintertime, enjoy the log fire, squashy sofas and candlelit dinners in the impressive wood paneled dining room.

If any of these locations sound ideal for your large group, then do get in touch for more information or to book. We have other houses around the UK too, if you’re looking for something different….


Large Holiday Homes with pools

Book a holiday in the UK and there will be no Brexit worries of long airport queues this summer. It also gives you the chance to explore a part of this country that you may never have visited before. When you holiday with a large group of friends or family having entertainment at your large holiday home is ideal. It gives everyone the chance to have some great fun without having to leave your big house. With that in mind, we’ve brought together a few of our top picks among our houses with pools.

Widcombe Grange – Big House to rent

Big house to rent

For a long summer holiday break, a house with plenty of acres to roam through is a great idea, especially if you have high energy children or if you are bringing your dogs with you. Widcombe Grange, with 22 acres fits the bill and is a wonderful house for a big family group. The large outdoor pool is set in the walled garden and provides a perfect sun trap for warm afternoons; sun loungers for relaxation and the lawns beside the pool for extra games or a barbecue. The grounds also contain 2 lakes, one with a rowing boat and one with a pergola, which is a lovely spot for quiet reflection beside the water. Another welcome feature of the house is the hot tub in the courtyard.

The main house with 7 bedrooms and the cottage with 5 bedrooms are close together, but provide separate sleeping accommodation, which works well for several families together and often gives grandparents a quieter space for a little downtime.

Tatham House – Large holiday home

Large holiday home

This is a really popular house with an indoor pool, so whatever the weather your fun in the pool will not be interrupted! The pool house has indoor seating and the bi-fold doors open out into the walled garden with terrace, extra seating and tables and a level lawn for garden games. The walled garden often becomes the focal point of a summer’s day of fun and relaxation, with beautiful views of the Quantock Hills. There are plenty of wonderful features at Tatham House – outside there is the tennis court which has a basketball net too and the hot-tub is perfect for some after dinner chilling and star gazing.

With so much to do outside, it’s easy to overlook the indoor entertainment, but these will come into their own at certain times. For a movie night, there’s the cinema room and for some competitive games, there is table tennis and a pool table. All this and ten en-suite bedrooms.

Sussex Manor – Mansion to rent

Mansion to rent

The winding, gated driveway sets the scene for a very glamorous house, set within private grounds in a hidden oasis, surrounded by woodland. The swimming pool (summer months only) has an outdoor bar, so you can create your own Hollywood party and with sun loungers around the terrace it will certainly be a fun and relaxing environment to enjoy. Children will particularly love the trampoline, play area and games – there is a grass tennis court (summer months) too for everyone to channel their inner Wimbledon ambitions.

Sussex Manor has a stylish, sumptuous interior, with some of the biggest bath and shower rooms we have ever seen! The wood panelled dining room is delightful for a celebratory dinner party and the stunning kitchen is the perfect place to cook up your feast.

Somerset Manor – Large country house to rent

Large country house to rent

The handsome, mellow stonework sets the scene at this quintessentially elegant manor house in Somerset, which is a fabulous back drop to an idyllic summer break. The gardens and grounds of this extremely well cared for property are a beautiful setting for the swimming pool, which sits adjacent to the main house, overlooking the herbaceous borders. Poolside is a great spot to enjoy the sun loungers, where you can chill out, relaxing in the hot tub too. For some extra fun, there is the tennis court, the sauna and a football pitch. Unique to this property, is the on-site horse riding that’s available, by pre-arranging with the owner.

The interior of the house is delightful; an orangery, a farmhouse style kitchen and elegant, spacious bedrooms. There’s so much to entertain you at this house, you may never leave – but, if you decide to, we have plenty of suggestions for great day trips.

Large holiday homes

Large holiday homes with pools are fabulous for a spring and summer break – it’s the hub of the entertainment and often means that you don’t need anything else, whether you are travelling as a group of friends or family. But the best part is that all these houses have so much else besides! There really is something for your entire stay, all you need to do is book up and bring your group.

Contact us on 01823 662673 or by email.

Romantic settings to propose at our large holiday homes

So with Valentines day upon us, our minds have turned to romance and the possibility of a proposal, of which, there have been plenty at our big houses. It’s actually a great idea because you’re away with all your friends and loved ones – so it’s perfect that they can help you celebrate your engagement. Remember to pop some bottles of champagne to chill – because we’re assuming the answer will be a BIG yes.

Here’s our pick of the perfect places to pop the question, if you’re staying at one of our large houses to rent.

Ilminster Manor – a romantic BIG House to rent in Somerset

Ilminster Manor - large country houses to rent for weekends This is a house to woo your loved one in. It’s a fabulously stylish, country manor house with a church next door – hey, you could return and get married there! This is where we can just picture a proposal, a picture-perfect spot by the lake to pop the question.

For more information about our Romantic Manor House to hire click here

Somerset Manor – a Mansion to rent, to make your valentine’s dreams come true

Mansions to rent in SomersetThis is one of our most popular houses, it just has so much wow factor. So it’s hard to choose between all the romantic spots for a proposal, but we’ve gone with this charming circular seat underneath the dappled light of the oak tree, overlooking the fragrant walled garden. All you have to do is supply the right words, straight from the heart.

For more information about our Somerset Manor House to rent click here

Widcombe Grange – love is in the air at our large country house to rent in Somerset

Large country houses to rent for weekends, celebrations and weddings We’re a sucker for a waterside proposal and this house has 2 lakes for you to choose from. This is our top spot, with the gazebo giving it an extra romantic element. We could imagine a string quartet appearing here, to serenade you while you celebrate with a glass of champagne. Afterwards, a barbecue beside the swimming pool, with all your friends, would be the icing on the cake to make it the best day ever.

For more information about our Large Country House to rent click here

With 10% of marriage proposals happening on Valentines Day, we hope that if you’re planning to ask for your loved one’s hand in marriage, that you have a special place in mind. Have a great day!



Cycling holidays in Somerset and Devon

Somerset & Devon Cycling

The South West is the perfect haven for cycling. National Parks, forest trails, country lanes and coastal tracks are awaiting your discovery. Disused railway tracks have been converted into family friendly cycle routes.

Below are some Top Pick Big House Company (family and individually tested rides) – time and time again over the past 20 years.

Many areas have been graced by top Tour De France and Tour of Britain Riders – from Froome to Thomas and Wiggins to Contador!

Mountain biking in Devon & Somerset

Mountain biking

Quantock Hills

You get swooping hills, woodland, exposed heathland as well as steep gnarly descents. So be you an XC or a hardened downhill rider you can pull together a great route whatever your preference. Over 100km’s of MTB trails in total. Saying that we are talking about an area that is only 19km by 7km. So it’s well packed in.  The Quantocks is basically a long ridge with a descent of around 250 metres so it is a lot of up and down.

The Quantocks XC Trails

Twisty single track is its signature as are the steep descents. Some of the more well known are best are the Frog Combe descent, Somerton Combe and the Chimney over at Triscombe.

A classic is the Quantocks MBR Killer Loop which is 35km and having ridden many over the years MBR always deliver top routes. This one starts from Triscombe Stone, goes through the Great Wood and the rocky Quantock Combe. It has carved sections, steep descents, tough climbs and rock.


Haldon Hill forest trail – similar to ski slopes marked Blue, Red and Black according to ability

Exmoor & Dartmoor – similar to the Quantocks – 100’s of miles of all abilities.

Road cycling routes in Devon and Somerset

Road biking

Porlock Hill

The headline of this climb is in its steepest gradient, which hits incredibly close to one in three. For most, this might seem like too much – but it’s worth the attempt.

There are in fact two Porlock Hills to ride up, but the toll road is by far the most inspiring. The climb itself is a smash of steep grades and short plateaus, halting any kind of rhythm you might hope to achieve.

There are some lovely routes to the coast – most around 100km i.e there and back to: Seaton, Lyme Regis or Exmouth or on the north coast, to Minehead, Porlock or Lynton.


Blackdown Hills and the Culm Valley – 100’s of miles of deserted country lanes.

Dartmoor and the Quantock Hills – 100’s of miles for all ability road bikers.

Family & Leisure cycling in Devon & Somerset

Family biking

Exe Estuary

A 26 mile, mainly flat cycle route and walkway which runs around the entire Exe Estuary linking Exmouth, Exeter and Dawlish, with fantastic views along the River Exe. The predominantly off-road (80%)* network links Exmouth to Dawlish Warren, via Topsham and Exeter, and forms part of National Cycle Network 2.

This route provides an exciting opportunity for people to experience cycling or walking around the entire Exe Estuary, appreciating the wildlife and passing through some beautiful riverside towns and villages steeped in maritime history.

(*Many alternative routes on this estuary can be 100% off road – please ask!)


All these rides can be a 1/2-day ride or a full day ride – to their natural end and back.

Coffee shops, pub and restaurants are at either end of most of these trails, in some cases mid-way stop off’s – ideal for those tired legs!

Our Top 4:

Exe Estuary: Exeter to Star Cross (passenger ferry to Exmouth) to Topsham

Taunton to Bridgwater

Westleigh to Tiverton (canal path)

Tarka Trail: Barnstaple or Instow to Torrington (all disused railway line)

If you are looking for cycling friendly accommodation, several of our properties are near these excellent areas:-