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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

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.

Woolacombe

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.

Broadsands

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.

Also:

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.

Also:

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!)

Also:

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:-

https://www.thebighouseco.com/our-big-houses/tone-dale-house/

https://www.thebighouseco.com/our-big-houses/widcombe-grange/

https://www.thebighouseco.com/our-big-houses/tatham-house/

Great family days out in Somerset

Fabulous days out in Somerset

 

If you’re hiring a large holiday home in Somerset for a family break, you’re bound to want a few ideas for a day out or two, especially if you’re having a week-long staycation. Here are some of our suggestions for our favourites that we hope you will enjoy.

 

 

 

 

West Somerset Steam Railway

Steam and Diesel trains run along this beautiful 20 mile line from Bishops Lydeard to Minehead on the North Coast for a fabulous step back in time. There are quaint stations along the way for stopping off points, if you wish, with plenty to do in the surrounding areas. The line takes you through gently rolling fields beside the Quantock Hills, beside charming villages to the open landscape of the coast and views of the Bristol Channel.  The end of the line at Minehead is ideal for beach fun, cafés and walking.

Dunster Castle

Set on top of Dunster hill in Somerset, it’s a picture perfect castle – easy to imagine it defending against invaders. Today you can approach more gently, even by steam train if you feel like adding to your adventure. The Castle is worth exploring to discover more about it’s 1000 year history, dating back to William the Conqueror. In the winter months, the Castle is open for behind the scenes tours of areas and aspects of it’s upkeep that visitors don’t often get to peek into!

For summer time visits, the subtropical gardens are ideal for children to roam in and there is a rare working watermill in the grounds dating from medieval times. Since an extensive restoration, the mill has been producing wholemeal flour that is available to buy from the shop.

Fleet Air Arm Museum

There’s a fabulous array of aircraft of all types here in 4 large exhibition halls. It’s well laid out and imaginative in its use of display, with lots of facts and play areas. The first Concorde to fly is housed here, as well as very early planes, Hawker Jump jets and the largest collection of Royal Navy aircraft in Europe.

The Aircraft Carrier experience is very engaging as you walk down corridors which are created from the interiors of 3 carriers, to see the control rooms and flight Ops. There’s a simulated helicopter ride that takes you onto the flight deck itself, which is recreated with a number of exhibits and big screens showing a landing and take-off.

There’s an indoor and outdoor picnic area, a café and a play area based on the new HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier.

Wookey Hole Caves

These stunning caves are the largest and most spectacular show caves in England. Within the caves, the Witches Kitchen houses the largest stalagmite in the world, where legend has it that a witch was turned to stone. The Great Hall is over 70 feet tall and is one of the tallest chambers, there are more stalactites to marvel at in here. In areas of the caves, you’ll find yourself over 200ft underground with more than 11,000 tonnes of rock overhead.

Hauser & Wirth

Is a world class contemporary art gallery set in delightful Somerset countryside with a rolling programme of exciting, innovative exhibitions. Situated within a working farm that provides produce for the restaurant, the buildings are a work of art in themselves, the new and renovated elements blending stylishly. Piet Oudolf, the internationally renowned landscape gardener created the landscaping scheme for the entire site, with his trademark swathes of soft planting, creating an enchanting outdoor area and meadow with all year round appeal. The restaurant is definitely worth stopping in, (booking essential), decorated with quirky works of art it has an eclectic vibe and delicious food!

Noahs Ark Farm

We particularly love the zoo keeper experiences here. So, if you’ve ever dreamed of looking after giraffes, big cats, bears or elephants, this is a really fun treat that can be arranged on a one to one basis with a keeper. For a more general look around the zoo, you can enjoy over 100 species of animals, both large and small. Within the farm animal section there are animals to pet, feed and cuddle, and depending on the time of year, cute chicks or other babies to admire.

Glastonbury Abbey and Tor

It’s not just famous because it can be seen for miles and miles around, but also because it has huge spiritual significance for many people. The conical shape of Glastonbury Tor is natural and thousands of years ago it was an island. It’s worth climbing for the views and if you start from the western side of the tor will take you about 15 minutes, if you decide to walk from the town, the whole journey to the top will be about an hour.

The abbey was founded in the 7th century. It was destroyed by a major fire in 1184, but subsequently rebuilt and by the 14th century was one of the richest and most powerful monasteries in England. It is the legendary resting place of King Arthur and Guinevere, and for centuries people have visited to see the grave of the mythical fifth-century King of the Britons and his bride.

 

If you are heading to Somerset for a summer holiday or a weekend with friends or family and are looking for large houses for rent do have a look at our collection, by clicking here – they are ideal for  big group accommodation with plentiful entertaining spaces, delightful bedrooms and plenty of on site entertainment too.

 

What the people at the Big House are doing this Christmas

Beverley….

Beverley Will be having a vegetarian, gluten free Christmas. Is this why she looks so young, we ask ourselves? No recent fad for her, this has been a lifestyle choice for decades!

Bev will also be beaming with pride watching her grandson in the school Christmas play (his part is Chuck the Chicken), taking some chill out time in her hot tub and having a very family centred break from all the usual routines.

Ben & Victoria….

Ben and VictoriaAre having a big family Christmas at their house – they will be morphing into The Borrowers in search of chairs, cutlery, plates etc!!

After lunch on Christmas Day there’ll be a secret Santa and countless games of the hilariously funny Sketch Party game on the Apple TV. But before all that, there is still a lot of shopping to do, decorations to put up and mince pieces to eat. The Christmas tree is up

On Boxing Day, Ben will be out on his road bike – some of his favourite rides are around the Culm Valley in Devon with a traditional stop at The Strand Café in Culmstock for a piece of flapjack. There’s bound to be a lunch time spent in a local pub playing skittles too with family and friends.

Martha….

MarthaWill be taking some time out with her horse. Taking a ride, enjoying the countryside around the Blackdown Hills. For Martha’s sake we hope the weather is kind – the gorgeous hot, dry summer is a distant memory, when you’re sliding around in a muddy field.

The seaside may beckon for Martha, with perhaps a trip to Lyme Regis to watch the New Year’s Day swim – eccentricity at it’s best. Afterwards, fish and chips may prove hard to resist or the Alexandra Hotel for a cream tea – delicious.

Anna….

AnnaThis Christmas, Anna is trying her hand at ice skating. We’re eagerly awaiting the video highlights and wish we were there to cheer her on – but it’s family only ☹, so she says!

One of Anna’s regular Christmas traditions is a trip to Longleat with her family. The safari is fun and best of all, you stay warm in your car! At this time of year there is the Festival of Light (until 6th January) with chinese lanterns ranging in shape from from space ships to Egyptian camels. Her children love it.

Caroline & Peter ….

CarolineCaroline will be cooking a locally raised turkey, all the trimmings (her favourite part of the meal) and then making her world-famous Coronation Turkey for indulgent easy lunches for Boxing Day and beyond. Past down through the generations, Caroline has shared this family favourite – she fries red onions, adds red wine, curry powder and tomato puree and reduces that down, lets it cool and then adds the mayonnaise, apricot jam and the turkey!

Boxing Day, Peter is going to watch the hunt on the Quantocks, with far reaching views over to the Bristol channel, which makes it quite a spectacle. He’ll also slip into the Carew Arms to enjoy some mulled wine and a pub lunch. Tatty, their trusty cockapoo will be there hoping to pick up some of the leftovers.

Steve….

SteveWhen he’s not got his Mr Fixit hat on at Tone Dale House or Widcombe Grange, Steve runs his own DJ business. He’ll be busy hitting the turntables over the festive period and getting those parties moving. At the Big House Company, we’ve enjoyed plenty of parties with DJ Steve supplying the music and 2019 will be no exception. We can’t wait.

Think BIG for 2019?

It’s that time of year, when the Christmas panic hasn’t yet descended (or are we in denial!), and there’s the anticipation of the next year approaching. Exciting plans come to mind, things that we’ve always wanted to do, family events that are to be celebrated, milestone birthdays and just general good stuff that sounds fun and seizing the moment seems the right thing to do. Let’s make 2019 a year to remember, no more same old…..

If you’ve got one of these coming up in 2019, a BIG house offers lots of possibilities….

A stag do or a luxury hen party weekend

The big, fun event, before the even bigger event! We’re seeing the dynamic for stag and hen groups getting older and an increase in the number of requests for something a bit more chilled and luxurious. A big house to rent in the country can be an ideal way of getting all your friends together under one roof, in a very special and memorable location. Hen do houses give you lots of opportunity for pampering, such as enjoying lounging in the hot tub at Tone Dale House, having some beauty sessions organised for you and making the most of the party room for some after dinner dancing. 

For stag do accommodation, one of the big advantages of booking your stay in a BIG house is the flexibility it offers. There is no timetable to follow and you can design your own itinerary, entirely to suit yourselves. Activities are often really popular with UK based stag weekends and Berry House offers an ideal location for some surf action at some of North Devon’s finest beaches. Lessons and equipment are easy to book, and there’s the added bonus of a hot tub at the end of the day to soak any aching muscles.

A family / group staycation in the UK

Whatever your politics, 2019 might prove the ultimate year for a staycation, given continued uncertainty over Brexit. A holiday in the UK is certainly proving good value for money with the pound falling against other currencies.

However, there are lots of great reasons to hire a large holiday house. Travelling from different parts of the country to a central destination for all your group can be easier and less stressful for families with young children, than the hassles of the airport. Once you’re in your BIG house, it’s exclusively yours, no other guests or hotel timetables to limit your plans and it will really feel like your own home for your large family holiday. That informality creates a very relaxed atmosphere – chilled out breakfasts that merge into lunch, evenings spent soaking in the hot tub, space for everyone to be together and cosy corners for a little quiet time too.

Having plenty to do at a large house is a ideal for families with children.  Then there isn’t always the need to load up in the car and go out for a day trip. A wonderful large country house to rent in Somerset is Tatham House, with an indoor pool, games area, tennis court and hot tub. You might find you never leave it! Although that would be a shame, given the steam railway line just down the road and all the other delights that Somerset has to offer.

A special wedding day

A BIG house makes an unusual wedding venue in Somerset and because you hire the entire property you can create the atmosphere you have always dreamed of and set the pace to match – relaxed picnic hampers on the lawn or fully served meals in a marquee. You stay in the house for the entire weekend with close friends or family and the rest of your guests join you for the wedding day.

One of the beauties of the weekend house party wedding is that come the morning after the wedding, you’re not saying your goodbyes and heading home. The fun carries on all weekend. You could have a “chill out brunch party” the following day with volleyball and croquet competitions, hot tubs and head massage in the garden. Widcombe Grange works very well for a boho themed wedding with a tented village for guests in the extensive grounds and a swimming pool for fun during the weekend. 

A corporate away day

Team building days can be challenging for the organiser to come up with an original idea that suits the goals of the event and meets the budget. Hiring a BIG house can be a great solution that’s not a hotel and therefore provides a different experience, something unique and a creative atmosphere.

The flexibility of staying at your own big house means the only schedule you follow, is your own and your entire stay can be a team building exercise, if you want it to be. Everything about having a large group of people staying together requires co-operation, even making the tea! But a total DIY event might not be entirely your thing and that’s where a big house gives you the best of both worlds – catering and a wide range of activities can all be arranged for you, if required.  Tone Dale House is a great example of this, where the concierge service can tailor an event to your needs. It’s a very popular house for corporate parties in Somerset.

2019 is fast approaching, so spare some time to think BIG about what your wish list is for the next year and whatever you end up doing, have a great time!

Ping pong tables and funky furniture

Why high performing teams want meaningful conversation, not ping pong tables

Ping pong tables, funky furniture and advanced ways to share work and communicate, may be seen as indicators of an innovative workplace and a high-performance culture.  However, the ‘window dressing’ often doesn’t deliver the desired results.

Perks and environment don’t drive performance – they support it.  It is delivered through behaviours and relationships.  People who are crystal clear on what they need to deliver for their organisation and how they deliver it to their customers.  People who understand how to continuously improve – together.

Business leaders often focus upon structure, process, environment, sexy marketing.  New systems are implemented, processes redefined. A ‘ra ra’ launch for the new product or branding to get people excited – and they are – in that moment.

When the shiny newness wears off people fall back into the status quo – where it feels comfortable and familiar.  Back into their ‘to do’ lists and work silos – particularly if there is a heavy workload.  There isn’t time to consider the bigger picture, to worry about whether their outputs are aligned with those of their colleagues.  With the best of intentions, they believe that as long as they do a good job, the customer will be happy.

Business leaders become frustrated, because despite their investment, the front-line people who can make a difference are not delivering their highest performance levels.  Continuous improvement is seen as a project, not a day to day norm.

The counter-intuitive solution to continually engaging people with the organisational strategy, with continually finding ways to be better, to look outside of the ‘to do’ list and day to day tasks is to STOP!

  • To facilitate conversations which create openness, constructive review, understanding of others challenges
  • To build and endorse collaborative behaviours
  • To create solutions together, which everyone buys into
  • To remind of the bigger picture the silo of their work hangs upon
  • To make the links between their list of tasks and the purpose of why they are doing it.

This is not internal comms, an update, or a team build.

It’s about considering simple, key questions on a regular basis, which will facilitate the above, such as:

  • What’s going well, what’s not going so well and what could we be doing differently?
  • Are we keeping our promises to our customers?
  • Where are we dropping the ball and why?
  • Do our ‘sales pitch’ promises match what we deliver further into the relationship?
  • What projects, what specific tasks, would require collaboration to deliver the best results?  (Carlos Valdes-Dapena used this question when improving collaborative working at Mars)

Culture is something that needs to become part of the material of a team – the invisible ingredients that everyone consumes without realising, but getting there and keeping it alive needs focus, attention, time and space.  Time to STOP!

The Big House Co. have the ideal settings for putting the brakes on the ‘to do’ list. With big comfortable spaces, plenty of equipment and spacious dining areas, The Big House will take care of the practicalities, so you can concentrate on spending time together.

An experienced facilitator can be extremely beneficial in enabling constructive conversations, honest dialogue and the building of trust and collaboration.

Lyn Paxman has over 20 years experience of facilitation, working with corporate leaders and teams. She helps teams to have better conversations, which lead to better decisions and better results.

Her facilitated Customer Journey Review is a powerful way of exploring whether promises to your customers are being kept further down the line. Website:  www.evolveyou.co.uk  or contact Lyn on 07950 914328, lyn@evolveyou.co.uk .

Alternatively, get in touch with us at the Big House Co. about your away day and we’ll organise for Lyn to be part of your experience.

What’s great about large holiday homes

big holiday house to rent

A big group needs a large house to rent

It might be stating the obvious, but one of the best ways of having a summer holiday with all your family is to be under one roof. Unless you’ve struck lucky, most of us don’t have a relative with a big pad in a convenient location for a summer holiday with the whole family. Or even if you do, perhaps they might not want to host!

A great choice of big houses to rent

These days many big houses aren’t lived in by their owners. We know – we found the heating bills way too high! So, the upside is that there are a fantastic number of properties around the country where you can have a memorable big house experience. Manor houses and castles, barn conversions and farm houses – take your pick. Locations can often be memorable too, but sometimes convenience is the main factor when your group are coming from far flung locations.

Large houses to rent for parties

If you are planning a special celebration, a big holiday house can be the perfect location to base yourselves. With that as your starting point you can plan your guest list, organise your activities and fine tune the itinerary. Having helped many groups with their house parties over the past 22 years we would suggest, it’s never too early to start. Pick our brains, we love it….ask us about local top notch chefs, unusual activities, the best pubs, where to take the dog for a walk – or what kitchen equipment you’ll need to bring – in our houses, the answer to that is usually none. They are very well equipped.

Big house rentals

A large holiday home can be an ideal alternative to hotels or cramming all your guests into your own home; more relaxed, in charge of your own timetable, plenty of space to be together and apart! Often these big group holidays can turn into an annual event that’s looked forward to by all generations with great anticipation.

If we can help at all, with your selection of a large house to rent as the starting point for your big house experience, do get in touch and make the most of our friendly impartial advice.

Why a Christmas and New Year break is a great idea

New Year House Hire

It’s one of the best times of year to organise your loved ones to be together and with December fast approaching we’re getting excited about Christmas holiday ideas and the possibilities for lots of festive fun.

So take a look at all the brilliant reasons why you should rent a large house for Christmas.

You’ll all be under one roof

These days we generally all live in smaller houses, so getting everyone together can be a squash or just impossible. Especially if you have to provide overnight accommodation for guests travelling a distance to spend Christmas with you. The beauty of hiring a large house for Christmas is that none of this is an issue. You’ll have space in spades.

Everyone can help out

A big family Christmas in a large house is a good opportunity to spread the workload. Divide the jobs well in advance and everyone knows what’s expected of them, that way tensions are avoided. Perhaps each family unit takes a turn at cooking one of the meals, why not have a bake-off competition too? Creativity, with plenty to eat afterwards – happy days.

Or perhaps you prefer that everyone has a set job during the Christmas break – put Grandad in charge of party games and the younger ones can lay the table. Why not get them making the Christmas crackers in the days preceding.

So much fun to be had

A family that plays together, stays together and the bonds really strengthen when you spend time in a big house, enjoying each other’s company. A large house to rent for Christmas such as Widcombe Grange gives you the possibilities of some excellent fun – hide and seek, murder mystery evenings, table tennis competitions, football in the garden, and hopefully even a snowball fight.

Spaces to be together & apart!

Stay with a large group for New Year’s or Christmas provides the opportunity for a multi-generational break that your family may not often have the chance to experience. It provides you with the opportunity to enjoy a superb Christmas lunch all together around the same table, plenty of space for chilling out on the sofas, or for fun and laughter in the games room. Sometimes too, let’s face it, we might need a bit of “me” time and a big house has those places for some down time – small snugs, little libraries, cosy corners – before it’s time to get back into the heart of the party.

Great memories

It’s pretty certain that none of your group will ever forget the big house, luxury Christmas holidays, and those memories will be special ones to treasure. The laughs you had, the games you played, the fun you enjoyed.

So now that summer is officially over, it’s worth spending time thinking about what you’re going to be doing this Christmas and New Year break and if you are interested in seeing our availability please click here.

Having fun at a boot camp in Somerset

Weight loss retreats in Somerset

Enjoy a boot camp holiday in Somerset

We run a fitness and weight loss boot camp for women called Who Dares Slims. We combine Special Forces training and survival techniques with fun games and activities to deliver truly effective weight loss which can be maintained when our customers go back to their normal lives.

This May we launched our business with our first boot camp at Widcombe Grange. It was the perfect venue for it.  Not only was the Boot Camp in Somerset, which has access to areas of outstanding natural beauty, but the house had superb grounds, 22 acres of woodland and lawns, for us to run circuit based training as well as trail runs. Perfect for a weight loss holiday. We used the outdoor heated pool for pool games and aquacise classes – which everyone adored. And to make it even better we had perfect weather for the occasion, meaning during downtime the ladies not only enjoyed the pool, but hot tub was a firm favourite.

Our chef, who designs our healthy and nutritionally balanced meals for the boot camp, loved the kitchen. It was perfectly equipped for catering for big groups.

A weight loss holiday is fast becoming a favourite amongst people who want to get out and do something new and make new friends – but getting fit while they do it. Why not book yourself in and have a go?

The key to innovation – Team appraisals and collaboration

Corporate Venues Somerset

‘Cognitive intimacy’ leads to collaboration, according to Lyssa Adkins in ‘Coaching Agile Teams’.  Team communication is so in flow, it’s almost Vulcan mind meld quality.   There is trust, the willingness to be vulnerable and put forward stupid ideas, which can be built upon to become great ideas.  Risks are taken, feedback is given, people say it, how it is and mutual accommodation and respect is encouraged.

In his fabulous podcast ‘WorkLife’ Adam Grant talks about how the Newsnight team and Trevor Noah are so relaxed in the company of each other that they engender ‘burstiness’. When generating ideas for new jokes and story lines they laugh and accept seemingly stupid ideas, along with those which appear clever and inspiring.  They are willing to be vulnerable, knowing that sometimes it’s the silliest idea that inspires the best thoughts.

Achieving burstiness and cognitive intimacy: 

  • Are your team objectives driving the behaviours of collaboration, which are essential to innovation?
  • How do you encourage the sharing of ideas and learning within your team?

It’s important to ensure that individual objectives don’t sabotage team success.  For example, objectives which encourage an individual to ‘take something and make it your own with evidence of you driving results’, will encourage work grabbing, limelight hogging and credit taking, rather than giving away ideas which enable team improvement or acknowledging the skill of others so the best result can be delivered.

Reviewing and appraising performance together will enable open discussion and the sharing of ideas and challenges.  It will build trust and understanding and make sure that individual and team objectives are aligned.

Spending time away from the pressures of the everyday can give this way of working a tremendous boost.  A yearly team review and appraisal brings together and acknowledges the contribution and learning of everyone.   You can explore questions like these:

  • What value have we delivered this year?
  • How do we know we have made a difference?
  • Where could we have made more impact?
  • We know we have grown because?

Review the past years activities together as a team – milestones, challenges, failures, learning, achievements. This begins to build a shared understanding – a perspective where the sum of its parts come together, so everyone can see the bigger picture.

The opportunity to explore ‘do differently’s is opened up – identifying improvements and team objectives for the year ahead.  Affirming the growth of the team as a whole, encouraging support as everyone works toward the same aligned purpose.  Mis-alignments in objectives are highlighted, where if one person ‘wins’ this could be at the expense of another.

The Big House Co. have the ideal settings for a corporate away day where you can take time out for a team review and appraisal. With big comfortable spaces, plenty of equipment and spacious dining areas, The Big House will take care of the practicalities, so you can concentrate on spending time together.

Some reflective conversations may get intense (in a good way), so take some time to have fun together too – reinforcing trust and positive relationships to take back into the workplace. Every large house has onsite fun, ranging from games rooms, cinema rooms, to hot-tubs & pools, we can even put you in touch with excellent local chefs if you want a helping hand with some cooking!

Setting the boundaries around open and honest review is very important to productive conversations.  Lyn Bayley-Paxman has over 20 years experience of facilitation, working with corporate leaders and teams. Her mission is to help teams to work in an environment where they thrive not strive. If you have a specific objective for your corporate away day she will design a bespoke day with you, facilitate a specific meeting, or use her proven process for a ‘Team Pause’ day, where teams reflect and understand, before considering their future shared vision.

Here is her Linked-in profile or contact her on 07950 914328, lyn@evolveyou.co.uk .  Alternatively, get in touch with us at the Big House Co about your corporate away day and we’ll organise for Lyn to be part of your experience.

 

Brilliant things to do in North Devon

Hire a large party house in Devon and enjoy the beach life

The temperature keeps rising and we’re thinking what could be better than beautiful Devon with it’s wonderful coastline and vast beaches to cool your hot toes!

We are very pleased to have the stunning Berry House in North Devon as a wonderful party house to rent for family gatherings, holidays and corporate events. But why should you stay in North Devon?

The Hartland Coastline

This coastline is brimming with wild scenery and dramatic cliffs. It is world recognised as an area of outstanding natural beauty, providing a paradise for walkers and those wishing to explore the coastlines and open moors. Hartland Abbey is perfect for those who wish for a tranquil day out in this pretty valley. Explore its beautiful gardens and the Abbey with it’s fine collection of art and memorabilia (open Sunday to Thursday).

Hartland Village

Unspoilt and charming are the best words to describe this rural village that has been a key part of social and community life for over a thousand years. As with any traditional village you will find local shops, friendly pubs, cafes, restaurants but most of all history and lots of heritage!<

Water Sports

The North Devon coastline is a mecca for superb sandy beaches and rugged coastlines that are fantastic for water sport activities. We can arrange these activities for you during your stay at our country house, if you wish. There are many great fun sports to try in Devon, even at beginner level such as surfing, windsurfing, kayaking, coasteering and more.<

North Devon Family Attractions

Whatever the weather in North Devon there are plenty of activities to entertain the whole family. Explore under the sea at Ilfracombe Aquarium, see the animals and dinosaurs at Combe Martin Wildlife and Dinosaur Park or get adventurous at The Milky Way Adventure Park in Clovelly. Depending on how long you are staying we’d also recommend Quince Honey Farm, The Big Sheep, Watermouth Castle and lots more besides.<

Clovelly fishing village

Hanging on a 400ft cliff, the cobbled streets of this world famous fishing village were once seen with donkeys transporting people and goods up the steep hill. Dating back to the 14th century, the quay has an abundance of history surrounding it, with tales of smuggling and pirates. The charming village is still traffic free, with boats bobbing in the harbour, stunning views and a fantastic maritime atmosphere.<

Exmoor National Park

Exmoor National Park is a remarkable area to explore with breath taking scenery. Discover streams, rivers, woodland, farmland and steep cliffs on your journey through this beautiful part of North Devon. It’s wonderful for horse riding, mountain biking, hiking or for a gentle picnic.<

Whatever you decide to do, Devon won’t disappoint you and the upside is, you’ll miss all the airport queues. So if this sounds like your sort of holiday, take a look at our large house for rent, Berry House, in North Devon.

 

 

Reflection – Why slowing down will help you to go faster

Corporate venue Somerset

Organisational life often feels as though we are on an incessantly running hamster wheel.  Deliver to this months targets, get the reports out, have team meetings, react to a problem, fire fight and then – it all starts again.  You don’t have time to stop – right?

Well – not necessarily.  Because when we’re stuck in the constant ‘do,do,do’, it means we neglect our ability to reflect and review.  When we do this there’s a risk that we will just keep on doing what we’ve always done, which may eventually lead to poor results.

Reflection develops our understanding – of what’s working, what’s not and what we could do differently.  It builds our resources to innovate, create, collaborate and improve.

The actions we then take are more considered, focussed, specific – we speed up.  Less firefighting – more problem solving.

In a competitive world it’s essential that organisational teams are agile in the face of change.  This stems from their ability to learn.  Learning happens in both the doing and the understanding.  To understand, you must reflect. John Dewey (psychologist) said, “We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience.”

Reflection isn’t just about understanding what went wrong and how you could do better, it’s about understanding what went well, so you can do more of what works.  It’s honestly and non-judgmentally examining our contributions.

When we’re contained within our work environment and the pressures it presents we’re not always in the right frame of mind to pause, step back and examine with an open mind.

The work environment demands (sometimes covertly) that we demonstrate our competence, our ability to be in control and deliver.  This is what is recognised and rewarded, however, this doesn’t facilitate openness.

The most effective reflection happens in a safe environment.  One where judgement and criticism are suspended and it’s possible to examine a situation openly and honestly.  James Zull (author, the Art of Changing the Brain) said, “Even if we experience something that has happened to us before, it is hard to make meaning of it unless it engages our emotions.”  He also points out that reflection is a search for connections and suggests that we have to seriously consider the role of emotion if we want to foster deep learning.

The Big House Co. have the ideal settings for a corporate away day where you step away from the hamster wheel and take a productive pause. With big comfortable spaces, plenty of equipment and spacious dining areas, The Big House will take care of the practicalities, so you can concentrate on spending time together.

Some reflective conversations may get intense (in a good way), so take some time to have fun together too – reinforcing trust and positive relationships to take back into the workplace. Every large house has onsite fun, ranging from games rooms, cinema rooms, to hot-tubs & pools, we can even put you in touch with excellent local chefs if you want a helping hand with some cooking!

Setting the boundaries around open and honest review is very important to productive conversations.  Lyn Bayley-Paxman has over 20 years experience of facilitation, working with corporate leaders and teams. Her mission is to help teams to work in an environment where they thrive not strive. If you have a specific objective for your corporate away day she will design a bespoke day with you, facilitate a specific meeting, or use her proven process for a ‘Team Pause’ day, where teams reflect and understand, before considering their future shared vision.

Here is her Linked-in profile or contact her on 07950 914328, lyn@evolveyou.co.uk .  Alternatively, get in touch with us at the Big House Co about your corporate away day and we’ll organise for Lyn to be part of your experience.