Do you dream of a place of your own temporarily while you're away? Renting a holiday property means you can come and go as you please, and enjoy all the comforts of home. It's a great option for Christmas and New Year, as well as all year round whether for your family holiday, a gathering for a special birthday, or a romantic rural retreat. There are properties to suit everyone: from city-centre bases for lively groups of friends, to romantic built-for-two hideaway. And with last-minute deals often available, it's not as expensive as you might imagine.
By Adrienne Wyper
Despite the name, the compny offers over 3,000 properties in England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, France and Italy, from converted farmhouses to medieval castles. They've been in business for over 30 years and two-thirds of customers rebook with them The availability search allows you to select by region, dates, size of property, number of people and preferences including pets, cots, open fire, pool and pub nearby.
For information visit www.english-country-cottages.co.uk or call 0845 268 0785.
Reputedly very good value for money, www.imagineireland.com (0870 220 2697) has been in business for 10 years, and has 1,500 properties to choose from. The website offers searchable flight, ferry and car hire options. You search by county, and the properties appear on a map. On this map you can click on the camera icons for a panoramic, moving picture of the area.
If you're planning a big gathering, you can hire properties sleeping from 10 up to 96 people – from the Youth Hostel Association. The YHA's properties – like Caldbeck in the Lake District (left), which sleeps 38 - are in stunning locations, with sea views, mountain vistas, bustling towns and forest retreats. Visit www.escape-to.co.uk to see the mansions, lodges and cottages, then call 01629 592700 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your stay.
A charity founded in 1965, the Landmark Trust gives over 180 at-risk historic buildings a new lease of life by turning them into holiday homes. Some of the buildings are quirky, like The Bath House (left) near Stratford-upon-Avon, which sleeps two, and was designed in 1748 to enable people to reap the health benefits of a cold bath.
You can check property availability and book online at www.landmarktrust.org.uk. Some properties also have open days, when you can visit.
With 16 properties, English Heritage is the government's advisory body on the historic environment now has online booking. Despite the historic exteriors, the interiors are contemporary in style, and on your arrival you'll find a hamper of essentials including milk, tea, coffee, local produce and a bottle of wine, along with toiletries.
For information, visit www.english-heritage.org.uk or order a brochure on 0870 333 1181
This is the 'search engine' for holiday cottage sites, at www.cottages.co.uk, giving you the choice of over 10,000 holiday cottages from over 100 quality independent agencies. There's a long menu on the left, with choices including cottages near London, designer holiday cottages, log cabins, and much more. Clicking on one of these brings up the companies that offer these, then you click through to the company website to look for what you want. The 'Cottage Supersearch' button on this site allows you to be very, very specific about what you want. For example, we found a selection of properties that sleep 20, have an open fire, and are near a beach and moorland.
A unique collection of over 350 properties in outstanding locations in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. In the 'last minute' section at www.nationaltrustcottages.co.uk you can find properties available within the next two weeks.