Category Archives: News

Great places to visit in Sussex

 

It’s great to visit Camber Sands during a stay 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  –  something for everyone.  A plus point in our view is how fabulously easy it is to get to from London, train travel just takes the strain – plus maybe, a little something from the buffet for the journey?  Gaze out the window and watch the countryside come into view.  Even by car, you’re really not going to have much of a journey at all.

So, once there.  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 Fido is with you, he will approve of this outing.

One of the few beaches in Sussex to be sandy, it doesn’t even get too crowded in the summer which is a bonus.  There’s windsurfing and kite-surfing here and the sporty among you can book in for lessons – not surprisingly a windbreak might be handy if you’re planning on spending the day at the beach!

Around Rye, it’s definitely 1066 country, you can bring your suit of armour with you, but the locals are pretty friendly now. You get the benefits without the war games!  Rye is especially attractive, and we’d recommend you visit.  It’s a charming mediaeval town with cobbled streets, (is this where the infamous Hovis advert was filmed we ask ourselves), delightful buildings full of character.  This is no bland high street, its full of independent shops contained within historic buildings – quaint tea shops just must be visited!  Regular markets take place and these are especially attractive in the run up to Christmas.

Rye has an enchanting 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. Alternatively, Rye has quite a yachting fraternity, so you might want to get on your sailing shoes or even hire the equipment for some windsurfing lessons at Rye Watersports.  For the nature lovers among you, the area around the harbour is of special interest and is one of the most important conservation areas in Britain.  The walks through the nature reserve are wonderful and you will see some amazing wildlife too.

Great Dixter House & Garden near Rye is a horticultural gem and a wonderful place to visit if you love colour, design and style.  The garden was the life-long creation of the late Christopher Lloyd (famous gardener & writer) and will surely inspire any gardener, even if it’s just the window boxes outside your flat!  The gardens were laid out Lutyens style, but the planting is unique in its style and is rigorously adhered to by the charitable trust that now runs it.  It has a world-wide reputation for excellence and to be in Sussex and not drop by would seem a pity.

If this sounds a place you’d be packing your bags and heading towards, you might want to grab your friends and hire our house in Sussex, spend a few days exploring and enjoy each others company.

 

New Years Eve – only a few party houses left!

If you’re still undecided about your plans for New Years Eve, we might suggest you think about a house party!  Chances are good that your friends haven’t made any plans either and you could all have the most marvelous break in the countryside at a large manor or country house.

One of the best things about this New Years Eve is that it’s over a weekend, so if you aren’t keen to use up your holiday allowance there is no need.  However, why not make it a really indulgent long weekend and add a couple of days – it’s a great way to recharge the batteries ready for the start of 2018 and a whole host of other celebrations and parties you’ve probably got lined up.

Berry House

On the wild and windswept North Devon coast, it’s a time of year to fully embrace the idea of walks along the coastal path, lung fulls of fresh air and the prospect of a roaring log fire on your return to the house, perhaps followed by a gorgeous dinner.  Berry House is a super party house with a games barn for indoor fun if you don’t fancy venturing out – with a pool table, table football and TV room there is plenty to amuse you and your friends.  New Year price £5245.

 

Berry House, perfect for a New Years Eve party

Sussex Manor

This is one of our new big houses and we think it will be popular when you’re looking for a “smaller” big house.  Sussex Manor is available from 30th December and it’s a very glamorous party pad, traditional on the outside, but all high tech and sleek lines inside.  Gorgeous, colourful squashy sofas, a long dining table – perfect for a candlelit dinner party, a cinema room for movie time and all discreetly tucked inside a 17 acre estate that is completely private.  New Year price £5500.

Majestic Sussex Manor, a lovely house for 16

Devon Farmhouse

Set in the heart of rolling countryside Devon Farmhouse will give you a great venue for a party to remember.  The stylish design will be certain to delight your group and all the bedrooms are en-suite too.  The main house sleeps 16 and if your group size grows there are separate individual barns to hire that can accommodate extra guests.  The house is located in the South Hams so you might want to explore the delightful harbour town of Dartmouth, with it’s excellent pubs and restaurants.  New Year price £4500.

Devon Farmhouse, sleeping 16+

Wherever you will be for New Years Eve, we hope you have a wonderful time!

 

 

 

 

Cream of the Crop. A house with all the toys, fully refurbed, from Easter 2018

 

A taster of Tatham House

It’s always a pleasure to be invited to look around a new large house and this one was a particularly exciting prospect for the team at Big House.

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Proud to be an agent

In the gig economy there’s a growing trend for going direct – supplying products and services straight to each other – you rent my parking space from me, I rent your holiday home from you.  Not dealing  with a middle man can often feel like a great way to go.  Direct contact, maybe the price will be more competitive, or just because that’s what everyone else is doing!

We started the Big House Company with just Tone Dale House – and so, essentially, that was what we offered our guests – direct contact with us, the homeowner.

As our business expanded we felt, and we still do feel, that as a business representing other home owners we add value to the customer experience by being the middleman.  We’re proud to be an agent!

So, here’s what we think we add to the whole equation when you book a large house via us rather than going direct to the owner?

Our knowledge

Every house we’ll ever talk to you about, has been visited by at least one member of our team.  If you have specific requirements, (accessibility, bedroom layout, secure garden for Fido, location) we will be able to recommend which house is best for you.

There’s no hard sell, because we aren’t just representing one property – we can remain unbiased in our recommendations.

Our relationship with the owners

We’ve met the owner, we work with them regularly, we revisit them and that all builds into a good working relationship that benefits our guests.

Peter makes the initial visit to see a new house, speaks to the owners and then takes a decision as to whether this is a Big House that would be great for our guests.  Although that sounds simple, there’s a lot of interaction with an owner before we represent them – any changes that we would like to see have to be discussed and implemented.  Currently, we are working with an owner on a 2 year renovation project – the end result will be a splendid 10 bedroom, all en-suite property in Somerset with plenty of fun facilities.

Constantly consistent

There are certain things that we think make a “Big House” experience and we look for those features in any house that joins us.  We want you and all your guests, for example, to sit and eat comfortably around the same table, we want you to enjoy a high standard of cleaning and comfort, we think your welcome should be extremely friendly and helpful, with any problems during your stay being attended to promptly.  The list is longer, but what we’re saying is that we know our houses will deliver that experience and that although you may choose a different house each time you have a different celebration you know that those fundamentals will still be the same.

Small enough to care big time

We are a small agent and always intend to stay that way, so that we can give our guests the advice they want, because we know all our houses and owners so well.  We are passionately committed to ensuring you have a great house that suits your needs.  We believe every aspect of your stay (from your first contact with us, to your final farewell) should be an outstanding, memory exploding house party that you never forget.

Our past guests give us the thumbs up!

We’re well established and have already eaten the 20th birthday cake to prove it!  So you can be confident that hundreds of guests before you had a great experience booking through us and partying at the houses we suggest.

Our past guests really recommend us, in fact some don’t leave.  Anthony, General Manager and often the first person you speak to, celebrated his wedding here in 2014 and joined the company 18 months later.  Peter & Caroline, partners in the business, took a similar route in 2004.

We listen to you

We love to hear what you think and we act on that.  We feed back to owners, so they can constantly improve what they offer.  We always want you to have a great time celebrating your special occasions – that’s the most important thing to us.  If necessary, when a house really isn’t working for our guests, we will take the decision to part company.  We don’t believe in keeping a house on our website so that we can keep taking bookings if it isn’t right for your needs.

 

So yes, we are an agent and proud.  Part of the rental charge you pay will be a commission to us, and we think you get a lot of bang for your buck!  Price doesn’t vary whether you go direct or via us, but you will get our level of customer service, our impartiality, our expertise from the last 20 years.

 

Weddings – Widcombe Grange style

 

Widcombe Grange is great if you’re looking for a relaxed, chilled vibe to your country house party wedding weekend, with your ceremony at the heart of it. Set within 22 acres of private grounds, with heated pool and hot-tub, you have exclusive use for your entire stay.

Festival style house party weekend weddings

Weekend house party weddings at Widcombe Grange

The lakeside gazebo is particularly appealing for an outdoor wedding ceremony. Afterwards choose between a marquee reception, the rural barn or the characterful coach house. Within the beautiful grounds there are several positions that are wonderful for your marquee and you might want to consider a fabulous festival style wedding if you’d like more of your guests staying onsite over the weekend in a tipi village.

When you choose a house party weekend wedding you’ll be able to enjoy so much more than just a one day event.  You’ll usually arrive on a Friday afternoon and perhaps crack open a bottle of champagne to kick off your celebrations, or maybe you’ve decided to add a very personal touch by decorating your marquee with the help of some of your friends.  By evening, the hot tub will probably be central, giving you a fun, relaxing night before your big day.  Don’t forget, if you want a hand with supper, we can put you in touch with a local chef – Michelin star or homely comfort food, the choice is yours.

 

Channel your Glastonbury at your festival style wedding

Tipi village at a festival style wedding at Widcombe Grange

Saturday, you’ll wake up feeling like you’re getting married in your own home, not a hotel where you follow their timetable.  Pad downstairs in your pj’s and have breakfast whenever you want, wherever you want it – perhaps arrange something fun for the morning, like clay shooting, or relax with an indulgent massage.  As your ceremony approaches, our team start to discreetly do their thing, making sure you have your dream day just how you want it.  During the months leading up to your wedding, you’ll have had several meetings with us and a menu tasting, so you know the only surprises will be good ones!

Part of the beauty of the wedding weekend is that the day after, the fun still isn’t over, you won’t be packing up and saying your good-byes. Sunday allows you to carry on for one more day.  Reminiscing, laughing, relaxing by the pool.  Maybe a barbecue; get your friends and family to pitch in, or we’ll be happy to arrange help.  However you decide to spend your weekend here, you’ll have so many memories to cherish – it won’t feel like it’s over in a flash, it will feel like you’ve had the best weekend of your life and married the love of your life.

 

House party wedding weekends at Widcombe Grange

Charming views from the marquee towards the tipi village at Widcombe Grange

 

What’s great about a weekend away?

Party at a big house with your friends

Take a relaxing short break with friends this autumn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s your favourite part about getting away for the weekend?  Is it one of these? …..

 

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6 top tips when choosing your wedding food!

 

Wedding party food for a fabulous wedding day

Delicious wedding party food by Milkshed Catering at Tone Dale House & Widcombe Grange

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting married is such an exciting time and planning for your wedding can be a lot of fun for you and your partner to enjoy.  Once you’ve chosen your wedding venue, your attention will be turning to your wedding food.  We’d like to offer a little advice, based on the hundreds of lovely weddings we’ve had the pleasure to help married couples enjoy at Tone Dale House & Widcombe Grange.  So here are some of our top tips…

#01 Choose Your Style

Decide on what style of meal you want.  Would you like a formal served meal or something more casual, say shared platters or a “carve your own” at the table?  This is very much down to your personal style, there’s no right or wrong about it.  But it’s good to think about this in advance of meeting with caterers.  You may change your mind as your decision-making progresses, but it will at least give you the basis for a meeting or phone call to start things off with your caterer.

We’d suggest that buffet style (at least for your main course) doesn’t work for wedding numbers – you’ll end up with a queue of people waiting for food, the top table having finished eating, while others won’t have started.  This can prolong the meal a lot and speeches can’t start until everyone has finished eating.

#02 Your budget

Be open about your budget with your wedding caterer and they can usually work with you to achieve as much as your budget can allow.  It’s surprising what little tweaks to your food choices can do to the overall value for money you’ll achieve.

#03 Special to you

Bride & Grooms, we really think it’s important that you choose at least some food for yourselves that you love or that means something special to you. It’s your special day so don’t just choose what other people would like …..they can have that at their own special event!!  What you select will also be part of the personality of your wedding that is uniquely you.

#04 Keep the food coming, as well as the alcohol!

Think about having canapes served with drinks, particularly important if your wedding ceremony time means people won’t have had lunch!  Likewise, consider how many hours there will be between your wedding meal and the end of your party and think about whether your guests will need evening food.  Particularly important if the alcohol is flowing!

#05 Have a tasty tasting

Arrange a tasting with your wedding caterer.  Just you, your partner and the caterer.  Don’t be persuaded to attend a group tasting, as that just generically gives you an idea of the caterer’s food. You want to sample the food that you will be eating on your wedding day. It really allows you to know what you’re getting and for the caterer to be able to know what adjustments you would like – no surprises on your big day!  Milkshed Catering (a fabulous supplier to Tone Dale House & Widcombe Grange) go the extra mile here and prepare everything for your tasting, exactly as it would be on your wedding day.

#06 And don’t forget…

This is an obvious one, but just a reminder to think about the special dietary requirements of your guests and this needs to cover all elements of the catering – canapes, evening food etc, as well as the main meal. You can also introduce a fun element into the children’s food if you are having a separate menu for them.

Above all, enjoy the process and remember if you put yourself in the hands of a great wedding venue and an excellent caterer you can relax and let their expertise guide you through.

Have a big group weekend away

 

Hire a big house and have a great time catching up with friends!

With so many of us living at a distance from friends and family we often don’t see as much of them as we would like.  Jobs can take us to distant parts of the world even, where we establish new connections and new lives.  It’s great keeping in touch though, via technology and seeing what our loved ones are doing.  Sometimes too, the years can fly by and your twenties have suddenly become your forties!

Make a plan

It’s all very well, just thinking about the idea of getting people together and talking about the “if onlys” but the first step really is to get a date in the diary, however far ahead.  Get your group of family or friends to commit to the idea of meeting up and put it in the diary.  Organising a big group can be very rewarding and with any luck there is probably someone amongst you who just loves that sort of thing, it’ll be worth the effort for the fun times you have.

Think about a big group holiday

Deciding what will suit your group best is really your next step.  Maybe it’s just meeting up for the evening! But often, if it’s a milestone event to celebrate a birthday, anniversary or reunion a long weekend or a week’s holiday together makes for a very memorable time away.

Planning an extended break gives you all the chance to truly unwind, have fun and spend a significant amount of time together creating wonderful memories.  There’s no rush; meals can be leisurely, activities can be relaxed and even a couple of days away from your normal routine can have a really re-charging effect.

Large group accommodation

There is a whole variety of accommodation to look at.  Hiring a big house can work really well for a big group and be quite cost effective. It also gives you the flexibility to make your own schedule and the space to make your own fun.  Some of our Big Houses have great party rooms for dancing and wonderful games rooms that can become the hub of the house for competitive after dinner challenges.  Each of our houses are unique and we can guide you to which might suit your needs best.  But one thing they all have in common is exclusive use – you will not be sharing with another group on site.

Make it a tradition

We usually find with groups that have come to stay in one of our Big Houses there is an overwhelming desire to do it all over again. They’ve had such a great time, they don’t want to leave!  So why not make it an annual tradition? It gives everyone something to look forward to and keeps relationships with family and friends strong and those good connections can pass down through the generations.  It might make sense for your group to always holiday together at the same time of year or perhaps experiment and try a different season – you might find that low season works for you, in which case accommodation will be less costly too!

At the Big House Company we helped hundreds of guests to arrange their house party events, so do get in touch if you would like to know more.

 

Stunning large party house in Norfolk joins the Big House

We’re excited to welcome Cliff Barns as a new large house at the Big House Co. The owners originally stayed in one of our own houses (Tone Dale House) and loved the concept so much they decided to do the same thing for themselves – albeit a few years later!  The idea of having a ‘weekend’ place for big groups of friends and family to stay is no longer new but being able to offer clients a variety of properties with unique features to suit the needs of their group is a big part of what we do.  The stylish approach at Cliff Barns is certainly a superb addition to our portfolio.

Nestled next to a strawberry farm in Norfolk the property forms a quadrangle around a central courtyard with all the accommodation cleverly arranged on the ground floor.  The owners are interior and set designers to the stars and have put more than the usual ‘barn conversion’ formula into Cliff Barns.  The impression you get as you enter is one of rustic hunting lodge meets boutique hotel but with an overall feeling of squishy comfort.  The living spaces are generous and open out through folding glazed doors to the central courtyard which contains more seating, alfresco dining, hot tub and games area.

Sumptuous Cabana bedroom

Up to 18 people can be accommodated in eight stunning bedrooms and everyone can sit around the dining table.  There are great self-catering facilities but you can also let the local caterers take the strain instead.  It is possible to hold larger events such as weddings by arrangement and the team can look after all your needs and manage the event for you.

Make an effort to leave the property at some stage and explore the beautiful coast line with miles of sandy beaches, or enjoy some of the many local attractions and fabulous gastro eateries close by.  Ideal for families, birthday groups, hen weekends and corporate away days.

Stunning open plan living area, perfect for large groups.

Glastonbury Festival.…the alternatives

It’s got to be Glasto!

Come the third week in June, hundreds of music lovers will be flocking to Worthy Farm in Somerset.  There’s always a great line up at the Glastonbury festival and it’s a memorable occasion to be a part of.

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Somerset – top UK summer holiday destination

 

Somerset is fabulous for summer holidays

Enjoy a fantastic summer holiday in Somerset

A summer holiday in Somerset is more popular than ever this year.  The fall in the value of the pound certainly makes going abroad far more expensive. Not having to go to the airport reduces stress levels too – no delayed or cancelled flights to contend with and what about the long haul flight in the seat next to the crying baby, not this year!

We think Somerset has a lot to offer for a summer holiday.  With so much coastline and a hugely varied landscape from the Somerset Levels to the Quantock Hills there is lots to explore and enjoy.

Stunning Cheddar Gorge in North Somerset is a great place to visit in an area of outstanding natural beauty.  It’s Britain’s biggest limestone gorge, with cliffs rising to 450ft and a designated walk along the top of them, guaranteed to blow the cobwebs away!  With a stalactite cave, an open top bus tour and a look-out tower adults and children alike will have a great day out.  For the more courageous, there’s adventure caving and rock climbing.

A trip to the beach is a summer holiday tradition for many and in Somerset there’s loads of choice.  Burnham-on-Sea is a classic seaside town with an Edwardian backdrop of buildings overlooking the wide sandy beach, perfect for getting out your buckets and spades – you can even have a donkey ride on the beach and why not enjoy an ice-cream on the shortest pier in the UK.  Further along the coast is Kilve, a fossil hunter’s paradise and a great place to investigate the many rock-pools that appear at low tide.  There’s a lovely grassy area at the back of the beach for picnics, barbecues, cricket and all sorts of fun and games.

Now, let’s face it, sometimes the weather does get a little damp in the UK, so your summer holiday may not be end to end sunshine!  Grab those opportunities and visit some of the excellent indoor attractions that Somerset is home to, you’ll be glad it rained!

Why not keep with the watery theme and visit SeaQuarium at Weston super Mare?  We particularly liked the moon jellyfish, just like watching aquatic ballet and the underwater tunnel with a huge selection of creatures circling above you.  There’s so much to learn about here and you can get hands on involved too with some of the rock pool creatures.

Another of our favourites is Fleet Air Arm Museum showing the history of the airplane from the very early days of the biplane (you get a real sense of their fragility and the bravery of the pilots), through to the modern day. Along the way you can learn the physics of flight from a model plane inside a wind tunnel and hear about the military and human stories of the second world war.  There’s plenty here to make a day of it.

Whatever you choose to do during your summer holiday, we think Somerset has a lot to offer, we know you’ll enjoy it, come and take a look.

Fabulous hen party houses in the South West

Hen party house parties in Somerset

Fabulous hen parties in Somerset

Your hen party is a great, fun event to look forward to.  It’s all about getting your closest female friends together and having a brilliant time…..

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Enjoy a visit to Exeter with our top tips

Things to do in Exeter

Exeter Quay

The city of Exeter makes a great destination in Devon, whether it’s for a day trip or for longer, there’s heaps to do and see.  In a nutshell, Exeter is one of the oldest cities in England, dating back to Celtic times, where it’s location at a crossing point of the River Exe would have been strategically important.  Today it acts as a gateway to the rest of the gorgeousness of the south west.  But enough of that for now, today it’s all about Exeter.

Here are our top tips…..

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5 great places to visit in the Cotswolds

The Cotswolds makes a great location for a relaxing short break or family holiday with a wide diversity of great things to do.

It’s the epitome of rural England with its rolling hills, quaint villages, churches and stately homes built in distinctive, soft yellow Cotswold stone.  Here’s a few of the things we’d suggest you include in your plans:-

Historic villages and market towns

The Cotswolds charm lies in its pretty medieval villages and market towns with their mellow limestone walls – picture perfect rural England full of honey coloured thatched cottages.  Perfect for sauntering around on a lazy afternoon, buying some of the local crafts or indulging in a delicious cream tea of warm scones and home-made jam in a cosy teashop.

Our choice would be Bourton-on-the-Water, often referred to as “the Venice of the Cotswolds” with the River Windrush trickling through its centre, handsome stone bridges spanning it and quaint cottages to admire.  Enjoy a relaxing lunch and a locally brewed ale in one of the cosy pubs and don’t miss the exquisitely detailed model village, which even has the sound of the choir in fine voice, echoing from its miniature sized church.

Highgrove Garden

It’s probably the only garden visit where you take your passport and go through security, but doesn’t that give you the sense of something special on the other side?

The garden of HRH The Prince of Wales certainly offers something unique and it’s well worth pre-booking a tour to see the magical garden that’s been created there.  Surprisingly quirky and innovative – some of the delights include a colourful and elegant wildflower meadow, an idiosyncratic wall created from many of the unusual gifts given to HRH over the years, and the Rapunzel like treehouse of the young Princes.  The tour finishes at a beautiful building housing the restaurant and café.  It’s worth stopping here to savour the food and contemplate the delights of the garden.  The finale to your visit: the opportunity to buy plants that you’ll have seen in the garden, a lasting memory.

Charleston House  

A great family trip where you’ll find yourself stepping into a time capsule of 17th century living at this enchanting manor house, owned by the National Trust.  Built as a sign of prosperity by a rich woollen merchant, you enter the world of a bygone age.  Families will particularly enjoy the explorer packs available, which entice you into searching for the 400 year old mulberry tree, or test your wits by trying to name the cloud shapes clipped into topiary.  Believe it or not (it’s true) the game of croquet was actually invented here.  You can try your hand at a game on the original pitch where it all began.  Both the house and gardens are a joy, but don’t forget your picnic, if you want to enjoy the delights of an alfresco feast spread out on a rug in the sunshine.

Cheltenham Races  

Hear the thunder of the hooves on turf and roar on your chosen horse.  There’s nothing quite like the excitement of a day at the races to get the pulse racing.  Cheltenham is home to the world famous festival of jumps racing.  But, as well as this world class event there are other meetings throughout the year to indulge in.

Part of the great fun of a race meeting is the complete involvement you feel in each and every race; whether you’ve bet £1 or staked the family silver (we don’t recommend this!). Dress up in your finest, sip chilled champagne, enjoy a meal at the Roux brothers restaurant or go for the ultimate and treat yourself to a private box.

Whether you back a winner or not it’s a thoroughly entertaining day out.

Birdland Park

 If your group includes children, then hunting for dinosaurs may be right up your street. The Jurassic Journey transports you back 65 million years into a world where you’ll discover life size creatures, from the mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex to the tiny baby stegosaurus.  Trackers kits are supplied and your inner pre-historic explorer might even come across dinosaur eggs, fossils to dig for and maybe some old bones.

You’ll be tempted to linger but the park has lots more that’s worth exploring – cute newly hatched chicks to cuddle, penguin feeding to watch and if you’re really feeling daring a snake to dangle round your neck.

Whether you choose the Cotswolds for a short break or a longer holiday there’s plenty to see and do and our Cotswold Manor makes a great base for a large group.