If it’s just dawned on you that maybe you could get away at Easter after all, you’ll have to be quick. The reopening of self-catering properties during the Easter school holidays, coupled with months of pent-up demand, means the rush on properties is already well under way.
Single households will be allowed to stay in self-catering accommodation in England from Monday 12 April, the second week of the school holidays for most English schools.
Those who live in Wales can book a single-household self-catering stay there from 27 March, so could go away for the Welsh school holiday weeks, which run between then and 12 April. It has not yet been announced when non-Welsh residents will be allowed to holiday there: everyone must go by the dates and rules of the country they live in, and check advice regarding crossing borders. It’s safest to book just for your own country at the moment. In Scotland, tourist accommodation will not open before 26 April; Northern Ireland has not yet specified when domestic travel will resume but the “stay local” message is expected to continue after a review of regulations on 15 April.
Here are some of the best self-catering websites and providers to try for English and Welsh breaks and an overview of what was left for the Eester school holiday period at the time of going to press.
This cottage agency was set up during the pandemic and partners with Trees4Travel, a carbon offsetting scheme covering travel and accommodation, whose cost is included in your booking. A few places were still available during the English Easter school holidays, many for shorter breaks than the full seven days. Porter Bridge House (sleeps seven, £1,960 for seven days) in Penistone, north of the Peak District in South Yorkshire, is a smartly done-up barn with hot tub, outdoor shower and a river flowing through the large garden. Beeston Stables (sleeps three, £564 for four nights) in Cheshire has oak beams and views of Peckforton and Beeston castles. In Cumbria, just outside the Lake District, the small and smartly done Byre Cottage (sleeps six, £784 for seven nights) is nine miles east of Penrith, perfect for exploring Ullswater and the northern Lakes, or the North Pennines.
Kent and Sussex Cottages
Collating an interesting collection of cottages, glamping and other self-catering, this regionally focused website still has more than 20 properties available for the Easter holiday week. Fun-looking options for families include several in the Brighton area, for the beach and hikes into the South Downs. See Ivy Mews in Hove (sleeps three, £725 for seven nights), a mews cottage with courtyard; Kemp Town Mews (sleeps three, £735 for seven nights) in the eastern seafront area or Marina Central (sleeps four, £937 for seven nights). Others in rural Kent and around Canterbury include the polished Westgate Cottage (sleeps four, £1,054 for seven nights), contemporarily styled in chalky greys with a small paved garden.
The range and scope of the quirky properties on this brilliant site usually spoil you for choice, but there’s only a handful left for the Easter holiday week, and only for short breaks. Among the options are a jolly turquoise circular cabin at Coastal Cabins (sleeps four, £69 a night, four nights available), a glamping site in north Devon. Ten are spread around a field with a fishing lake, barbecue cabin and hot tub, above the Hartland coast with the South West Coast Path a mile from the door. Mad Dogs and Vintage Vans, a collection of kitschy cool caravans done up with twee aplomb in rolling fields near Ross-on-the-Wye in Herefordshire, has two nights (12 and 13 April) in either Monty (sleeps five, £250) or Sybil (sleeps five, £210). Or opt for the rustic chintz of the 1940s-style Cherry Pickers Cabin (sleeps four, £480 for four nights) with its own orchard and paddock near Lynsted in the Kent countryside.
Specialising in swanky-doodle pads across the south-west of England, Luxury Coastal had 10 properties of its usual 300-string repertoire left at the time of publication. The ultra-modern Huxham View Annexe (sleeps four, £635 for two nights) near Exeter is an industrial-style dark grey cube of a building, with a massive roof terrace overlooking green fields, dotted with Fat Boy beanbag seats for chilling while listening to the outdoor music system. If there are just two of you, Stargazy (sleeps two, £1,002 for seven nights) is a fisherman’s cottage in the centre of Padstow, where you can eat top-notch fish and chips on the quayside and go for chilly dips and surfs at Butterhole beach and Polzeath.
Crabtree and Crabtree
Most of the lovely and unusual properties with this Northumberland specialist have been snapped up, except for short breaks. One still available for a week is The Cottage (sleeps four, £714.50 for six nights) in Branxton, near the Scottish border, with an adorable sage green timber summerhouse and a white picket fence. In stunning Bamburgh, near the castle, great delis and the beach, Windley (sleeps four, £1,133 for four nights) is a new pad with teal interiors and mid-century furniture. The company intends to add more properties over the next couple of weeks, so check back.
One Off Places
Caves, churches, roundhouses and towers are the bread and butter of this accumulator of atypical abodes, though it has plenty of lovely cottages too. More than 350 properties were still available during the Easter week, including a 16th-century thatched cottage near Beaworthy (sleeps seven, £639 for six nights) in north Devon, 12 miles from Dartmoor. A four-bedroom cottage near St Austell (sleeps seven, £753 for six nights) is only a mile from the golden sands of Gorran Haven, and a great base for exploring the Pentewan valley, the Lost Gardens of Heligan and the South West Coast Path.
In the website’s “eco homes” category is a pitch-roofed straw bale home near Howden in East Yorkshire, called Bluebell Cottage (sleeps eight in three bedrooms, £250 a night, four nights available). It comes with a hot tub and welcome hamper and is handy for visiting Hull, the fascinating Spurn Head spit and Yorkshire Wildlife Trust nature reserve.
More than 900 holiday pads still had availability on this site that puts travellers in touch with cottage owners directly. The Coach House (sleeps four, £649 for seven nights) in Cowgill, a hamlet in the Yorkshire Dales national park, is within walking distance of England’s highest railway station at Dent, for the Settle-Carlisle line, and not far from Sedbergh. Floor-to-ceiling windows look over rising hills and sheep fields.
It may not have the niche market appeal of other smaller brands but as a mega-cottage website with more than 19,000 properties across the UK, cottages.com is sure to have something left, even if you read this article a week after everyone else. For the week starting 12 April, more than two-thirds have gone, but I still found more than 800 cottages for four, many with last-minute discounts. A sweet stone conversion, The Granary (sleeps four, £475 for seven nights starting 3 April) in Pembrokeshire would see your time filled by walks in the Preseli Hills and trips to the many fabulous white sand beaches.
Another big boy cottage website, Sykes has more than 3,000 cottages left during the English school holiday week, and over 1,000 in Wales for the earlier Welsh school holiday weeks. Done up in pristine white and grey, Y Bwthyn (sleeps six, £888 for seven nights starting 2 April) backs on to fields in Menai Bridge in north Wales. Handy for exploring the Forest of Dean, the Wye Valley and the Offa’s Dyke long distance trail, the Stable (sleeps four, £839 for seven nights from 12 April) in Lydney, Gloucestershire is a cheerful open-plan apartment in a Grade II-listed coachhouse.
Canopy & Stars
With its focus on unusual, rustic stays, the aspirational glamping site Canopy & Stars has almost sold out. A handful of cabins and tents were left for Easter week in England, all sleep two, though a couple have extra space for two kids, including Deer Wood (sleeps four, £375 for four nights), a funky black wood hut with covered deck at the Jollydays site 20 miles north-east of York, and Little Links at Devon Yurt (sleeps four, £825 for four nights) with its own bath tipi, near Dartmoor. For Welsh school holidays, it mainly had one-bedroom places left, but in Ceredigion there’s Ty Mamgu (sleeps four, £395 for three nights), a woodsy lodge with Welsh blankets a little way from the coast, or the contemporary architecture and high-spec style of the Chickenshed (sleeps eight, £2,398 for six nights, shorter stays available) in Monmouthshire.
A few glamping options remain with Quality Unearthed, which covers 200 glamping sites in the UK and France. A series of colourful huts in the grounds of the grand country estate of Samlesbury Hall (sleeps four, £785 for seven nights) in Lancashire, looks good. It’s near the River Darwen and the Forest of Bowland.
Wales Cottage Holidays
Welsh holidaymakers can probably relax – there are more than 350 places for four people left for the first week of the Welsh school holidays with this company, and more than 450 for the second week. Handy for Snowdonia, Gellilwyd Fach (sleeps four, £717 for seven nights from 3 April) sits in a green and secluded spot at the foot of Cader Idris and near Dolgellau, decked in Welsh blankets and antiques.
Under The Thatch
Another Wales specialist (with a smattering of places elsewhere, too), Under The Thatch had more than 20 historic cottages left for both weeks of the Welsh school holidays. Hafan Tresinwen (sleeping six for £1,323 for seven nights) is typical of the collection, a red-roofed stone cottage with bags of rustic charm, just five minutes’ walk from Porthsychan cove near Strumble Head in Pembrokeshire.
Hotels with self-catering
Lots of stylish hotels also have self-catering accommodation that will open at the same time. While the usual hotel facilities and rooms in the main building may not be open until later in the spring, some cottages and self-catering apartments in their grounds will be, and some have kitchens or can provide takeaway breakfasts and other meals. Apartment complexes can also open then too.
On the Jurassic Coast in Devon, Sidmouth Harbour Hotel & Spa (sleeps two from £153 a night B&B) has 20 newly built double/twin courtyard rooms in a separate building to the hotel which are allowed to open, with access to a heated outdoor pool and watersports arranged by staff. In the Cotswolds, the gorgeous Old Swan hotel in Minster Lovell, 15 miles from Oxford, has Swan Cottage (sleeps six, £595 a night), a posh, self-contained retreat with flagstone floors.
In Cornwall, there’s one smart villa left in the glorious flower-filled grounds of Polurrian on the Lizard (sleeps six, £549 for four nights), a hotel with sea views and a path leading directly to a quiet beach on the Lizard peninsula.
At Warwick Castle, families can stay in a Woodland Lodge (sleeps five, £1,405 for five nights plus entry to the castle on one day, and takeaway breakfast) in the grounds and enjoy walks along the River Avon and some castle attractions, such as a new Zog-themed activity trail, based on the Julia Donaldson book, and a Horrible Histories maze.
Manchester’s Native (sleeps two or three from £80 a night), an aparthotel of 166 flats with great modern decor, is a handy base for discovering the outdoor spaces of the city and to make trips into the Pennines.