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What Do You Look For in a Holiday Cottage Website?

In spite of the long silence and apparent inactivity a great deal has actually been happening behind the scenes and there is a lot to tell you all about. I am sorry to be away for so long…

The first item to report is that our new website is one stage nearer being born (still early days). Like all these things, it takes time to decide what one wants (and then find someone who is able and free to take on the project). Styles and expectations change, so we have been conducting some spontaneous research of Tom’s and Douglas’s Barn guests and friends who search for holiday cottage accommodation on Google. It has been intriguing.

“What is the first thing you look for?” we asked. There has ben an enormous variety of responses, although good photos did crop up several times. ‘A quick loading website” said one, who says if a site doesn’t load instantly he will turn away. ‘Photos” said another. ” I always want to see good – realistic looking – photos that one doesn’t feel have been photoshopped to death.” “The first thing I always want to see” said another, “is what the cottage actually looks like. It’s got to appeal to me or I’ll not bother to look at anything more”.

“I need to see the prices and availability before I look any further” said another, not wanting to get excited about a property that was out of their league. Several said their priority had to be free WiFi, as like so many these days they needed to be able to keep in touch with work; others cannot bear the thought of missing out on emails or their Facebook friends.

“A property that is easy to get to” was another requirement from someone anxious not to spend too much of their precious holiday time on the road; “Safe parking” surprised us, but this (female) guest was adamant that she would not go anywhere where parking, or the secruity of her car, could be an issue.

The final chunk of requirements probably point more to the need for the honesty and quality of photos than anything else. “Cleanliness” came up several times, “a good bed” too, and “excellent cooking gear”. One can only get a sense from photos, which leads us neatly to the opinions of guests who have already stayed at the property in question.

Not surprisingly, lots of people said they wanted access to the property’s TripAdvisor reviews, without which they would not go further. As we know, we owners can bleat on and on about how wonderful we and our properties are, but if the punters don’t agree, one is not going to attract many guests.

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A free Jag with every booking?

No one suggested the latest Jaguar was an essential requirement although perhaps some wouldn’t say no. Certainly for a brief moment last week our daughter, Ruth, felt quite at home in one she was invited to sit in at a wine tasting we went to in London last week! I couldn’t resist throwing in this photo!

More Fine Dining Recommendations from Tom’s and Douglas’s Barns

We’ve been very preoccupied during the last few days working on ideas for the newly rebranded Tom’s Barn website. Do hope it will be worth waiting for. It’s still some way off so meanwhile there is nothing other than my excuses to show for my silence on the blog.

However, we have not been so preoccupied that we could not find the time to accept our friends Gill and David’s suggestion that we have dinner with them a few evenings ago at the Duncombe Arms. The Duncombe Arms describe themselves very accurately as ‘a charming country pub with great food and drink’ and we’d been meaning to check them out for some time so were delighted to have the opportunity.

And on the strength of one delicious meal, with friendly service, we can certainly endorse that and happily recommend it to you all. It is at Ellastone, the other side of Ashbourne, on the road towards Uttoxeter so not exactly on the doorstep but a very relaxed 25 minute drive, and well worth it.

They are open every day for lunch and then dinner, although on Sundays and Bank Holidays you’d have to dine earlyish as they stop serving at 8pm. I should imagine it is always wise to book, but you might be all right for lunch – although it would always be better to give them a ring on 01335 324275 to check.

For all our guests it would be well worth considering, perhaps especially if you’re planning a day in Ashbourne, or going over to Staffordshire to explore the charming market town and antique centre of Leek (speaking as a website expert (!) the website is rather startlingly bright but nonetheless pretty informative at the same time!).

Drinking Award-Winning English Wine in a Derbyshire Vineyard

Sparkling wine from Renishaw IMG_5272Did you ever imagine setting off during your holiday in Tom’s and Douglas’s Barns to visit a Derbyshire vineyard? Or possibly even less likely, that you’d be drinking some very attractive English wines? Or even liking them so much that you bought some to drink at home…?

John and I did all three yesterday and thoroughly enjoyed it too! So that’s another thing to put that on your list of possible fun ‘To Dos’ while you are here.

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Derbyshire Wines at Renishaw

We went thanks to a Visit Peak District & Derbyshire invitation to go on a ‘Familiarisation’ vineyard tour at Renishaw Hall, ancient Derbyshire home of the Sitwell family.

We set off on a dull and definitely autumnal day, which had almost become sunny by the time we reached Renishaw, about an hour’s drive from here. We knew we’d have an interesting time, and were very glad at last to be visiting Renishaw. We weren’t too confident about the wine.

At the Ashbourne Show we had bought some “British Wine” from the Derbyshire Wine Company, and had not been impressed. At the time we had not fully appreciated the significance of the fact that term “British” wine merely indicated that it had been assembled in this country, from concentrates from abroad. English wine has been made in the country, from grapes grown and carefully nurtured in this country; the growers and the winemakers have much more control over everything, including of course the quality.

Tasting the Renishaw wines IMG_4605We learnt this and very much more during the course of a fascinating stroll through the Renishaw vineyards as Kieron Atkinson, winemaker and vineyard manager at Renishaw, explained about the cultivation of the vines, the trials and joys, of wasps and thrips rotting the grapes, good weather and bad playing occasional havoc, and – finally – the tender transforming of the grapes into a beautifully fresh and attractive wine, fit for any table.

We tasted three of their wines afterwards – a still white, and a white and a rose sparkling wine. There were lots of appreciative sighs and nods of approval as Kieron took us through the finer points of each, and a queue at the shop afterwards to buy some to take home.

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Our 3 English Wines from Renishaw

We came home with three bottles, all “drinking well now’ so there’s no need to hold back.

John and I both agreed that it was a splendid day out, interesting and informative. What a lot Derbyshire has to offer: We are so lucky to live where we do, with so many interesting places to visit and things to do for all our guests.

Finally, some useful information… Renishaw is a large house, but modest and very appealing in its ‘quietness’ when one is used to its more famous neighbours, Chatsworth, Haddon and Hardwick. The gardens are by all accounts beautiful but we didn’t have time to go round them. The house is still lived in by the Sitwell family – now represented by Alexandra, the daughter of Sir Reresby. It is only open for tours booked in advance for 12 noon or 1.30 on a Friday so it could well be an excellent holiday-extending-trip for people on their way to us or returning home, living north of us. It is out of the question for us as we are usually at our busiest on a Friday afternoon, so we will rely on you for reports! Please!

There are several wine tours arranged each summer; these too have to be booked in advance.

A Honeymoon to Remember

“We were looking for peace, quiet and luxury and here we found all three.” Tom’s Barn guests August 2013

Tom's & Douglas's Barns are perfect for honeymooners IMG_2650After all the hustle and bustle of the wedding, what next?

You could drive to an airport, queue interminably, go through all the customs and security checks, lose sleep, gain considerable stress and arrive at your destination frazzled and weary. Or you could decide, as many do, to avoid all that and drive for a few hours at the most, and start relaxing together immediately in the holiday cottage of your choice.

Now there are thousands of holiday cottages to choose from, and rather than us blow our trumpet let’s allow the guests (non-honeymooning, to be fair) that left Douglas’s Barn on Friday to do it for us. ‘We have stayed in many self-catering cottages in Derbyshire and Devon/Cornwall, but this is by far the best we have experienced to date”.

We have lots of happy honeymooners staying here, and we love having them.They have a blissful week, relaxing together after all the preparation and planning for the wedding. What better start to married life!

We have nothing to do with weddings themselves, although we will do all we can to make sure your honeymoon is the best. That might well mean nothing more than leaving you alone but we do that anyway: if you want to be sociable that’s fine but if you don’t, we understand – we’ll make ourselves scarce.

There’re lots of positive ways we can help you. Just let us know beforehand and we can recommend suppliers, give you contact numbers, or arrange whatever it is you want. If you want to arrange a special flower delivery we can help you with that; if you don’t want to have to bother with any shopping, you can order groceries through Waitrose and/or Riverford Organics and we’ll put it all away for you before you arrive.

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Tissington Hall and gardens

We can’t marry you, though. Fortunately, lots of people round here do have a licence. The nearest to us is Tissington Hall, which hosts many weddings; sometimes it is the whole caboodle, sometimes they just organise the reception. They have a specially built wedding marquee, set in a delightful trey space behind the hall.The first couple that got married there actually came here afterwards for their honeymoon, which all proved an excellent arrangement!

We bumped into Sir Richard Fitzherbert a couple of weeks ago, when the Hall was busy gearing up for a wedding and reception that afternoon. He very kindly showed us round, and most impressed we were too. The attraction of letting someone else look after the catering etc must be very tempting, as long as one can afford it!

Then of course, you can always come back here afterwards for the most perfect, peaceful and relaxing honeymoon anyone could wish for.


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