Year round holiday retreats that you can Trust
PUBLISHED: 13:18 20 January 2011 | UPDATED: 20:31 20 February 2013
If you're looking for comfort, style, and maybe something a little different from your break, take a look at National Trust holiday cottages, says Claire Graves
If youre looking for comfort, style, and maybe something a little different from your break, take a look at National Trust holiday cottages, says Claire Graves
The National Trust is undoubtedly blessed with some of the finest settings in the East of England, as our millions of visitors each year will hopefully agree. There is always the option of capturing that moment and making it last, whether for a long weekend, midweek break or longer.
Our range of holiday cottages spans cute flint barn conversions in the Norfolk Broads, picture perfect Mustard Pot Cottage on the Felbrigg Estate, near Cromer, and Coastguards Cottages at Dunwich Heath with views out to sea.
Last year saw the addition of two new holiday cottages in a new location, the fabulous Ickworth Estate. The idyllic Round House and Gardens House are the first ever self catering holiday cottages on this National Trust estate, former home of the Earls of Bristol.
For garden-lovers, the Gardens House is within the red-bricked walled garden in the middle of the estate, and looks out across Ickworths working vineyard, vegetable garden and orchard. There is an ornamental lake, known as The Canal, adjoining the garden and the house is surrounded by rolling parkland, laid out in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Wildlife-lovers or people wanting a secluded holiday can choose to stay at the Round House. This intriguing building is in the heart of Ickworths woods where visitors wake to birdsong and often the sight of wild deer grazing in the garden.
The cottage is accessible only by car down a long woodland track, but, as with Gardens House, is within easy reach of local pubs, restaurants, and the medieval and Georgian streets and squares of the ancient market town of Bury St Edmunds. There are miles of walking and exploring to enjoy direct from the door.
Both cottages were built for staff at Ickworth when it was a busy working estate. The Round House is a perfectly circular cottage and was built in the mid-19th century as a shooting lodge and gamekeepers house. The Gardens House formerly the Head Gardeners residence dates from the early 1800s and has an elegant frontage and its own secluded walled garden within the wider walls.
Both the Gardens House and the Round House accommodate families or parties of up to six. Guests have free access to Ickworth House and the Italianate gardens to learn about the Hervey family, who built the extraordinary house and estate.
Keeper of our holiday cottages, Debbie Crawford, is National Trust holiday cottage manager for the East of England, and clearly relishes her job.
Ive worked for the National Trust for nearly eight years, always looking after our holiday cottages. The job has developed from a straightforward supervisor role, widening recently to include projects and marketing, and taking a more strategic approach to what we want to achieve.
An extra pair of hands has become essential as our portfolio of cottages has grown, and I couldnt get the job done without the support of my colleague Diana House. She not only helps with the new and existing cottages but also shares the out of hours calls and handles admin.
My career has been quite varied, having started out working for my father keeping cattle and driving a truck! Ive worked for an estate agent, in hotels, with caravanning and camping sites, and undertaken accounts work for solicitors. Before coming to the National Trust, I worked for another local holiday cottage company.
Its been fabulous to be able to buy sumptuous Sanderson fabrics, which I certainly couldnt afford in my own home
I love my job, the diversity and flexibility. Its definitely not nine to five and its not office based. Our 34 holiday cottages are widespread geographically, covering Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, so I travel around, keeping everything flowing, making sure our caretakers and customers are happy.
Developing the holiday cottages at Ickworth was our first project going it alone in the region, and its been really exciting seeing the projects develop, working closely with our buildings surveyor Philip Tew and enlisting the help of our cottage caretakers too.
We looked closely at other cottages and work in the region, seeing what transformations had been achieved. Paying close attention to what our customers like and what they really want, we combined this understanding with the experience of how best to furnish places from a practical point of view to deliver an end result of which were all really proud.
To fit with the setting and history of Ickworth, we wanted to put in period furniture. The Round House, being round, came with its own special challenges trying to find pieces of oak furniture to fit. We simply couldnt get a rectangular dining table in and had to find something which worked with the flow of the walls.
Weve tried to source as much as we can as locally as possible. We spend happy hours, often in our own time, scouring antique centres, auction houses and second hand shops. Id say weve ended up with 95% purchased locally. The sofas for the Round House were the only thing which came from further afield.
Its been fabulous to be able to buy sumptuous Sanderson fabrics, which I certainly couldnt afford in my own home, putting bold colours and patterns together. My colleagues have been very patient (not to mention direct) with me when Ive sought their reactions to the various samples. Their feedback has been tremendously useful; both the positives and the frequent oh no not that responses!
There are more holiday cottage conversion projects in the pipeline. They not only give people very special access to our places, but provide such an important revenue stream for our property managers to plough back into keeping special places alive forever, for everyone, as the saying goes. Look out for new places at Blickling, Felbrigg, Peckover, and Ickworth, over the coming year.
Being a real outdoors person, living on the Felbrigg Estate suits me down to the ground. I spend as much time as I can outside with horses, cattle and my dogs. Its surprised me in some ways just how much Ive enjoyed focussing my attentions on the indoors.