Rhiannon Batten, The Guardian, October 19, 2015
Good for couples
The Welsh Gatehouse, Monmouthshire
Built by the memorably monikered Sir Bogo de Knovil in the 13th century, this gatehouse near Chepstow (on the Welsh side of the border) isn’t short on romance if you’re looking for somewhere to hole up with your other half. It looks every inch the miniature castle from the outside; inside it’s surprisingly modern and light thanks to white-painted walls and high ceilings. It’s cosy, too, with a galleried bedroom (access is via ladder-like steps) and a wood-burning stove.
• Sleeps 2, £675 for five nights over Christmas, welshgatehouse.co.uk
Idlers Cottage, Somerset
A studio space lined with patterned rugs, mismatched furniture and well-stocked bookshelves, this cottage in the small Somerset town of South Petherton is cosy and unshowy. There’s no fireplace for Father Christmas to clamber down, but there is a little wood-burning stove. Set at the bottom of the owner’s garden, with plenty of privacy, it’s a good base for walks in the Blackdown Hills, or along the river Parrett trail. Fill up at Provender, the village deli, or hike to the Railway Carriage Café for homemade soups and steaming bowls of dhal.
• Sleeps 2, from £339 for five nights over Christmas or New Year, sykescottages.co.uk
The Tack Barn, Sussex
The name conjures up velvet hats and riding crops, but the vibe in this woodlands cottage is more hipster hideout than pony-club jamboree. Contemporary and sustainable, it wins eco points for its wood-burning stove, solar hot water, triple glazing and reed-bed drainage – and aesthetic points for its one-off furnishings by local artists and makers, many of whom work on the estate. If you’ve left your Christmas shopping late, simply look around you, then phone the relevant artist to make a purchase, from Allan Fielding’s wooden candlesticks to Mary Fellows’s colourful tea towels. Local pies, veg boxes and artisan ice-cream can also be delivered.
• Sleeps 2, £660 a week over Christmas or New Year, upperlodgesussex.com
Eilean Shona Cottages, Argyll
A private island just a couple of miles long, Eilean Shona is the closest you can get, this side of 1958, to a Famous Five-style holiday. It’s a five-minute boat journey from the mainland but decades away in atmosphere, with no TVs, just woods, hills and white-sand coves. Go seal-spotting, fish for your supper from the pontoon, or slip a homemade readymeal (they can be pre-ordered) into the oven, light the fire and settle in for a game of chess. Until now, the island’s cottages haven’t been available in the depths of winter, but this year, the owner is opening several of them up – plus a communal games room – over Hogmanay.
• £400 a week over New Year for White Cottage (sleeps 2), or £500 for The Bothy (sleeps 4), eileanshona.com
The Cow Shed, Derbyshire
It might have been built in the 17th century but this former cow shed, in the hamlet of Riber, near Matlock, is now a cosy cottage for two (plus baby). A glossy red and white kitchen, smart grey sofas, wood-burning stove and wet room are set against ancient stone walls and cheery blue exterior paintwork. On the edge of the Peak District, it’s great for walking; at the very least drag yourself the mile or so to Lea for a pint of Hartington in the Jug and Glass, or double that to Cromford to seek out local provisions at Huntley Green deli.
• Sleeps 2, £620 a week over New Year, thecowshedlittlemoor.co.uk
Good for families
Drumskinny Farm, Fermanagh
You’re more likely to have a green Christmas than a white one at this elegant, dog-friendly Irish farmhouse in lush Fermanagh. Painstakingly restored, it now has pretty painted beams, tongue-and-groove panelling and a vast stone fireplace (as well as air source heat pump-powered underfloor heating and electricity). Walk out to Drumskinny stone circle, or along the Ulster Way, which passes the property, then return for Christmas dinner cooked on the Aga and eaten around the kitchen table.
• Sleeps 4, £579 a week over Christmas or New Year, underthethatch.co.uk
Peggy’s Cottage, Brecon Beacons
Ideal for families with grandparents or teenagers in tow, this secluded stone hideaway sleeps four in the main house plus two more in an annexe with its own shower room. Remote but not at all rustic, despite its gnarled stone exterior, the space is surprisingly modern, with an electric blue fridge, framed posters and colourful textiles. If you’re dreaming of waking up with a view on Christmas morning, you won’t be disappointed with the widescreen proposition here.
• Sleeps 6, £1,050 a week over Christmas or New Year, sugarandloaf.com
The Old Club House, Isle of Wight
A timber pavilion with a long veranda, this cottage was formerly the clubhouse for the Royal Isle of Wight Golf links. Overlooking the sea at St Helens Duver (local dialect for sand dunes), it’s a simple but practical cottage, suitable for disabled visitors, with great winter twitching on the doorstep. The neighbouring village is home to a pub and to Dan’s Kitchen, a husband-and-wife-run restaurant with a short but meticulous menu that teases local ingredients into unexpected territory; this year’s Christmas menu includes catch of the day with spiced vegetables and onion bhaji.
• Sleeps 5, £867 a week over Christmas or New Year, nationaltrustholidays.co.uk
Letterbox Cottage, Cumbria
The Lake District’s answer to the Flatiron building, this almost triangular cottage is at a junction in Far Sawrey, close to Beatrix Potter’s former home in neighbouring Near Sawrey. Its relatively small size means it works well for couples but there’s a second bedroom with bunk beds, too. Underfloor heating and an open fire keep things cosy inside, while walkers can make the most of scenic trails around Coniston and Windermere. If that leaves you too tired to stuff a turkey, the (family-friendly) village pub, the Cuckoo Brow Inn, serves lunch on Christmas Day.
• Sleeps 4, £665 a week over Christmas, cumbrian-cottages.co.uk
St Aidans, North Yorkshire
Midnight mass may no longer be held at this Grade II-listed church, but a stay here will help put a spiritual spin on your celebrations. Built by Gothic revival architect Temple Lushington Moore in 1882, the original building now has a sleek contemporary extension housing a kitchen, bathroom and second bedroom. It’s in the hamlet of Carlton, a mile or so from Helmsley (home to the Feversham Arms if you fancy a classy five-course lunch on Christmas Day), and you stride out over the North York Moors or drive to the coast, an hour away, for salt-flecked strolls.
• Sleeps 4, £750 a week over Christmas, gorgeouscottages.com
Bayview Cottage, Wester Ross
This tasteful, tartan-free, renovated four-bedroom cottage in pretty Plockton (accessible by train) is great for groups with different interests. Seafood restaurants, pubs with live music, wild hills and lochs, mountain-bike trails, historic attractions and gardens are all easily reached. Inside, it’s smart enough to pander to the most pernickety guest, with spaces for socialising but bedrooms large enough to escape to, and plenty of character for those who like their holiday rentals with a sense of place.
• Sleeps 8, £1,479 a week over Christmas, £1 more over New Year, scottish-cottages.co.uk
Farthings, Cornwall PR Photograph: PR
This four-bedroom cottage in Fowey caters for children of most ages (though parents of toddlers should be aware there are lots of stairs). From blackout blinds, books and games to travel cots and booster chairs, all the essentials are provided and, as one room has bunk beds and two children’s singles, it’s a good option for large families. It’s almost right on the beach, so lovely walks and sandcastle-building marathons beckon, while inside all is clean and contemporary in a New England kind of way (white plantation shutters, cabin-style bunks and driftwood sculptures).
• Sleeps 6, £1,500 a week over Christmas or New Year, bluechipholidays.co.uk
Good for larger groups
Little Barton, Devon
Little Barton, Devon PR Photograph: PR
This cosy, organically run farmhouse west of Bideford sleeps 10, plus six more in a converted shippon (cowshed). It may be just outside Exmoor Dark Sky Reserve but its position, on the wild Hartland peninsula, makes it a great spot for winter star-gazing. Pull on your wellies and pick your way along coastal footpaths, splash in the surf on empty beaches or just lounge around inside. Light the fire, play the piano or cook a hearty casserole and eat it around a long wooden table. Christmas guests get a real tree and four bottles of prosecco thrown in.
• Sleeps 16, £3,125 a week over Christmas (both properties also available individually), sawdays.co.uk
Charleston House, Wester Ross
Charleston House, Wester Ross PR Photograph: PR
Great for big groups of friends, with its rustic bar area and industrial-looking kitchen, this 18th-century house near Gairloch harbour is also suited to family get-togethers. Stylishly renovated, with teal-and-grey paintwork and clawfoot baths, it’s homely enough for guests not to worry about making a mess (though there’s a useful boot room and bike storage for mud lovers). The area is renowned for its sealife: if you’re lucky, you may spot bottlenose dolphins and harbour porpoises. For seafood and live music, the Old Inn is a short walk away.
• Sleeps 10, £1,450 a week over Christmas, wildernesscottages.co.uk
Red House Barns, Suffolk
A collection of three rustic barn conversions, with lots of exposed brick and timber, these cottages north of Aldeburgh each have their own bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens and hot tubs, but share a games room and dining room big enough to seat everyone for a blowout New Year’s Eve dinner. Two of the cottages have two bedrooms while the third, which is also wheelchair accessible, sleeps just two. If you have children in tow, they’ll like the resident reindeers. For home-reared or allotment-grown meals out, it’s a 40-minute walk to the Crown Inn at Snape.
• Sleeps 10, £2,205 a week over New Year, bighouseholidays.co.uk
This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk
This article was written by Rhiannon Batten from The Guardian and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.