Green light for Singles Holiday in Portugal

Singles specialist Friendship Travel is delighted to be able to operate its planned Hosted holiday for single travellers at the five-star Real Marina hotel in Olhau, departing 13 September.

Olhau is an authentic fishing port in the less-touristy eastern Algarve in the Ria Formosa Natural Park where the fabulous tidal estuary is sheltered by low-lying sandy islands like Culatra.

The town’s best-known landmark is the Gustav Eiffel designed fish market on the attractive quayside. Baroque facades and cobbled streets make the old town a delight to explore on foot.

The 144-room Real Marina Hotel faces the spectacular estuary and has a superb rooftop pool. It’s a 500m level stroll along the waterfront to the market and old town.

The holiday includes excursions and activities on four days of the seven night stay. These are:

  • A guided walking tour of Faro with a local guide.
  • A half day boat trip around the islands to enjoy the wildlife and swim from Culatra’s idyllic beaches.
  • A morning in cookery school, learning how to cook local dishes, and eating the result for lunch.
  • A full day trip by rail to Vila Real de Santo Antonio.

The price: Seven nights departing 13 September costs from £1290 to include flights from Stansted to Faro, transfers, a standard double room for sole occupancy, breakfast every day, four dinners with wine during the week, the excursions and the support of a Friendship Travel Host throughout.

Friendship Travel is operating ‘sociable but socially-distanced holidays’ for single travellers, following WHO recommendations with seats 1m apart at meals and for sunbeds around the pool. The operator’s ticket wallet includes two disposable masks for the flight, as well as a travel-size bottle of sanitising gel.

All Portuguese Covid-19 protocols are being followed by the hotel and transfer company.

Friendship Travel, 0289 446 2211, www.friendshiptravel.com

New Somerset Pop-up Campsite with a Festival Vibe

Wild Canvas Camping is a pop-up camping experience opening 13 August for summer breaks with a family-friendly festival vibe in Somerset’s Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

For 12 fabulous days the wildflower meadows at eco-conscious Fernhill Farm will host Wild Canvas’ gorgeous traditional Tipis and modern Tipi Tents suitable for couples and families.

The luxurious Tipis are all made locally by Glastonbury favourite Hearthworks, using responsibly sourced materials. Hand-woven rugs, mattresses and wool blankets, LED lanterns and low tables deliver cosy comfort, with rustic seating just outside.

People who have their own tents are also very welcome, with generously-spaced pitches for ‘DIY’ campers.

Shower units and compost WCs are located in central facilities, will be cleaned at least three times a day and all Government advice on Covid-19 hygiene and distancing will be followed.

The festival vibe is provided by Wild Canvas Radio which will ooze out a gentle summer soundtrack from the Barn HQ and feed the soul for those missing Glastonbury.

Socially-distanced entertainment and wellness offerings – virtually all of them free of charge – range from yoga sessions (including specific sessions for kids) to morning Taiji and Qi Gong classes, plus farm tours, lettering/sign painting workshops and outdoor cinema screenings at weekends. Additional crafting workshops, such as wool felting, are at extra cost. The boutique campsite also has a stone circle chill out zone and a central fire pit.

Home-made takeaway food, ranging from vegetarian meals to the farm’s Mendip mutton Curry, is available from the onsite café. Guests can also enjoy local ales and ciders in the pop-up Baa Rum Baa. The farm has a well-stocked shop with local produce, farm-reared meat and basic amenities. A dedicated Concierge Service means Tipi guests can pre-order breakfast hampers for ‘tent delivery’.

Wild Canvas Camping is organised by festival veteran Serkan Cetin and friends, previously responsible for Turkey’s SunSplash music festivals and holidays.

“All through lockdown in London my family fantasized about getting out in the fresh air, sleeping in a field, listening to music and hanging out with friends round the fire,” says Serkan. “Wild Canvas is our lockdown dream made real.”

PRICES

A deluxe furnished Tipi costs £175 per night for a couple, or £200 per night for four people, with a minimum stay of four nights.

Modern Tri-Lodge Tipi Tents are also available, both ‘bare’ with just floor covering or ‘furnished’ with beds: prices from £100 per night with minimum stay four nights.

Tent pitches for ‘DIY’ campers are £22 per person per night (three-night minimum stay), with toddlers free and 3-15 year olds paying £5 per night.

Book at www.wildcanvas.uk

IMAGES may be downloaded from this folder https://www.dropbox.com/sh/os9vw52frrdt7w7/AAA1O9wQaR7G2jY0MTc7j7Z5a?dl=0

Working from Home – as Usual

Apparently the new word for a garden shed home office is SHOFFICE and the ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos of mine are now available for all to see at the bottom of this personal finance piece by Grace Gausden for This is Money, the Mail’s finance focus.

https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/mortgageshome/article-8471577/Shed-offices-new-conservatories-outhouses-increase-popularity.html

You’ll have to scroll down past the posh sheds though: my humble former pigsty (its first life before I started storing my lawnmower and slug pellets in it) is at the bottom, one of two ‘real life’ case studies.

I love ‘going to work’ in this office. The great thing about being self-employed as a Travel PR specialist is that I can work for clients as far flung as Northern Ireland and Kent from the comfort of my garden office.

My phone and email is always available to travel writers and clients, and I can be totally flexible about my work/life balance. Happy to be contacted out of ‘office hours’ for the right opportunity!

Green light for domestic tourism: UK holidays are GO!

Today’s announcement has got everyone excited, especially travel editors. Suddenly my inbox is pinging with Journalist Alerts for camping, glamping, holiday cottages, mobile home parks and more. And the industry is more than ready!

It is great news, but one thing I do know: there is going to be a shortage of holiday cottages for peak season and those who were (understandably) waiting for a Government announcement before booking could be disappointed.

copyright coastalcottages.co.uk

If families are looking for a holiday home in West Wales, Cornwall, Devon, the Lake District or North Norfolk, then be prepared to compromise. It will not be easy to find a beachfront property with jaw-dropping views like this (but journalists note that there may be some new renovations emerging from lockdown and ready for August).

Why is there a shortage of holiday cottages?

The shortage of peak-season holiday cottages is down to the fact that customers with bookings for Easter, for either of the two May Bank Holidays or for June getaways transferred in their droves to dates later in the season. The high level of repeat business for honeypot destinations (and great properties) means that most people were content to transfer their bookings to later in the year. And of course the true ‘wow houses’ were already booked for the six weeks of the school holidays.

I have worked with holiday cottage companies large and small for 15 years, from small, independent agencies that are embedded in the local community to national brands with cottages across the UK (two of which have been in the headlines recently for treating customers very badly indeed. If you’re in the industry, you know who they are).

Which UK destinations might have availability?

So step into the spotlight ‘unfashionable’ parts of the UK this summer – dare I mention some? The Yorkshire Wolds, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Leicestershire, Warwickshire, Essex, Lancashire, the Welsh Border counties of Powys, Herefordshire and Shropshire and the beautiful Scottish Borders: your time has come!

Extending the season on Crete: a swim in November?

Villa specialist Freelance Holidays is keeping some of its villas on Crete open until the end of the year to compensate for the season’s late start.

“Villas are usually ‘put to bed’ after October half term but we are working with local owners to keep selected properties open until the end of the year,” says director Paul Fogg.

Crete is on the same latitude as winter sun destinations Tunisia and Cyprus. November days are typically 18 – 21˚C with sea temperatures to match and December days reach highs of 17˚C.

“Crete is a superb experience out of season as our team knows from living here, and I don’t only mean empty beaches for an afternoon swim,” says Paul.

“Chania’s Venetian harbour and narrow streets are quiet but ‘open for business’ year-round. There are no queues at the Palace of Knossos and other museums. The grape harvest is at its height in September; olive picking doesn’t get going until November and it is December before the oranges and mandarins ripen. These are all experiences that peak season visitors miss but our guests this year can enjoy.”

The selected villas all have an open fire, heating, WiFi and are within easy reach of villages with at least one taverna open for locals, “which means it’s good” adds Paul. Swimming pools will be maintained throughout, though are not heated.

Villa Vangelis is a traditional stone house (sleeps four) has far-reaching sea and mountain views and a cosy open-plan living space and a well-equipped kitchen. The covered terrace is furnished for both eating and relaxing. Stylos village, two kilometres away, has mini-markets and tavernas: the kalitsounia (filo pies filled with mountain greens) at Faraggi are highly recommended. Seven nights’ rental in November is £1083.

On the edge of Armeni village is stylish Villa Amvrosia, chiselled out of the hillside with the house on three levels, including a lower ground floor room with a heated spa pool, and the garden on two levels.  The pool deck has great views and smart seating areas; on the next level is a big covered BBQ kitchen and dining ‘room’ and another deck with a swing seat, hammock and table tennis.  Sleeping six in three bedrooms, a week in November is £1643.

Other options are brand new Villa Yoannis at Kissamos (sleeps six; £2238 for a November week), Villa Argiro in Plaka (sleeps six; £1615) and houses in Koukounara, Vrisses, Almerida, Plaka and Gavalachori – all locations where local services remain open. See the villas here: https://bit.ly/3dyTATb

Things to do in Crete in the Winter:

  • Visit a winery such as Manousakis or Dourakis
  • Enjoy Elafonissi or Falassama beach to yourself
  • Eat Cretan food in Drosostalia Taverna in Armeni
  • Hike one of the many way-marked trails: the Samaria Gorge is closed in winter but Sunflower Books’ ‘Western Crete’ guide has more than 40 other routes
  • Join the olive harvest and seeing them pressed at Terra Creta in Kolombari
  • Explore Chania’s Venetian harbour; visit the Maritime Museum
  • Learn to cook Cretan dishes with local cookery school
  • Linger over coffee and cake in a village cafenion

How to travel to Crete in the winter?

There is a host of direct flights from the UK to Chania and Heraklion until the end of October. For later stays Aegean flies daily from Heathrow via Athens to Heraklion and Chania. November fares from £179 return. Freelance Holidays does not book flights.

www.freelance-holidays.co.uk

New Zealand on screen: The Luminaries on BBC One

Specialist holiday company Silver Fern Holidays says the drama is ‘a welcome boost for 2021 travel’

Hokitika’s beach is battered by the Tasman Sea. Photo courtesy Tourism New Zealand

‘The Luminaries’ is the exciting BBC dramatisation of Eleanor Catton’s Booker Prize-winning novel of New Zealand’s 19th century gold rush. The six-part series starts Sunday 21 June 2020 on BBC One 9pm.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/mediapacks/the-luminaries

WHERE WAS THE LUMINARIES FILMED?

The series is set, and at the author’s insistence was filmed, on the West Coast of South Island including the gold rush town of Hokitika. Part love story, part murder mystery, the drama stars Eva Green, Eve Hewson, Himesh Patel and a host of Antipodean actors. 

Specialist tour operator and AITO member Silver Fern Holidays has been looking forward to the series being announced for months! Like John and his team, I have long been a fan of Hokitika, which is set between dense rainforest and the pounding Tasman Sea.

“Hokitika still has a frontier feel,” says managing director John Lightwood, “and we usually recommend a short stay here especially if travelling to the West Coast over the Southern Alps. There are some attractive early buildings, and in our view it’s the best place in terms of quality and value for pounamu carvings and other arts and crafts.”

copyright Jane Williams

Most of the company’s guests stay at Teichelmanns B&B, built in 1910 by Ebeneezer Teichelmann to be both his home and medical rooms. Its clapboard style is straight out of The Luminaries’ era. The breakfasts are legendary, and it is just a few steps from the town’s independent cafes, pounamu workshops and art galleries.

HOW TO DISCOVER NEW ZEALAND’S WEST COAST

Silver Fern Holidays’ 24-day ‘Best of New Zealand’ independent tour starts in Auckland, ends in Christchurch and includes travelling over the Southern Alps by TranzAlpine rail to the West Coast at Greymouth with an overnight in Hokitika at Teichelmanns B&B. 

The holiday starts at £4350 per person (twin share) depending on departure dates. The package includes flights from Heathrow, a stopover, 23 nights’ New Zealand accommodation, car hire and the TranzAlpine rail journey.

Silver Fern Holidays: 01636 813 544 www.silverfernholidays.com

Be King of the Castle at this 800-year old holiday ‘cottage’

Roch Castle is surely Wales’ most impressive holiday ‘cottage’ and the ultimate property to rent for a post-lockdown reunion, Christmas gathering or New Year celebration.

St. Davids, Wales. Roch Castle

Book exclusive use through Coastal Cottages of Pembrokeshire to be king of a six-bedroom castle that sleeps twelve in five-star comfort.  

Crenellations, towers and turret stairs are features of the Grade 1 listed ancient monument and contrast with a contemporary interior that delivers simple luxury.

With floor to ceiling windows on three sides – and a door opening onto the battlements – the Sun Room has fabulous views, plus a tea/coffee station and honesty bar. The professional-standard kitchen is superbly equipped, the formal dining room seats 12 and there is plenty of comfortable seating in the Court Room with its impressive fireplace and high ceiling.

Roch Castle holds a commanding position in the National Park in the village of Roch, with sweeping views to St Brides Bay in one direction and the Preseli Hills in the other. Newgale Beach (a favourite with surfers) is two miles and St Davids city is five miles away.

Six king-sized doubles or zip’n’link twin bedrooms – each room ensuite – means Roch Castle can accommodate up to twelve – perfect for a family reunion or group of friends.

Each bedroom is equipped to boutique hotel standard with TV/Sky, kettle, coffee machine, mini fridge, iron, ironing board, towels, robes, slippers, hair dryer, toiletries.

Additional services available at extra cost include daily housekeeping and breakfasts. Complimentary transport is offered to guests making a reservation at the two-rosette Blas Restaurant within Twr y Felin hotel in St Davids.

PRICE Exclusive use of Roch Castle through Coastal Cottages of Pembrokeshire starts at £2,580 for a two-night break, and from £3,870 for three nights. A full week is from £9,450 and this is also the price for Christmas or New Year breaks.

Coastal Cottages of Pembrokeshire, 01437 765 765, www.coastalcottages.co.uk

Availability and prices correct at date of issue. Roch Castle may not be suitable for young children: families with children under 12 years are asked to discuss arrangements before booking.

ENDS

About Roch Castle

  • Founded approx. 1195; first known resident a Norman knight named Adam de Rupe or Adam de la Roche.
  • In the Civil War, the castle was held by Royalist troops, besieged by Roundheads and surrendered in 1644, suffering cannon and fire damage.
  • Uninhabited for most of 18th and 19th centuries, the first Viscount St Davids carried out initial restoration 1900-1902: David Lloyd George was a frequent visitor.
  • Acquired in 2008 by Keith Griffiths, born in St Davids and now head of Aedas Group, one of the world’s leading architectural practices.
  • Restored and given back to the people of Wales in 2013, Roch Castle is managed by The Retreats Group as five-star guest accommodation. The Retreats Group partners with Coastal Cottages of Wales to offer the property for exclusive use.

About Coastal Cottages

  • Wales’ leading holiday cottage agency, since 1982 
  • 500 properties, from a cosy cwtch to a medieval castle
  • Family-run & independent, offering personal recommendations and local knowledge
  • Coastal Concierge service for anything from restaurant reservations to fizz & flowers
  • Find dog-friendly holidays at thewoofguide.com
  • Buying? Let coasty.co.uk find the right Pembrokeshire home for you
  • Run, swim or cycle? Check out activitywalesevents.com

Happy New Year…then Manic March followed by awful April

And it was all going so well…Tremendous clients, supportive travel journalists, bags of story ideas, ways of working and two press trips pitched, set up and turned around for national titles.

And then the world was hit by an invisible tsunami: Coronavirus – Covid-19.

Initially, travel editors tore up their travel pages on an almost daily basis, putting out journalist alerts every five minutes (at least it felt like it) calling for rail and ferry holidays… then UK holidays… then ‘remote places to stay in Britain’… then ‘remote places to stay in Britain where you can self-isolate’.

When I prepared my end of March Contact/Activity reports for clients, my workload for most had doubled; tripled for my domestic clients. No wonder I was exhausted.

And then travel fell off a cliff. Editorial was all about virtual holidays, armchair travel and ‘how we used to holiday’ round-ups. April was a whole new PR game. My clients frantically cancelled Easter holidays home and away. Airlines and overseas hotels immediately sat on the money and how tour operators are supposed to comply with the Package Travel Regulations and refund travellers within 14 days I don’t know.

I’m not sure ABTA got their messaging right, but I also think the Right to Refund campaign started as an opportunistic stunt for a particular company. In a time of crisis like this the industry should have come together, lobbied loudly and not pulled in opposite directions.

Now travel pages have been slashed because there is no advertising to support them. Staff journalists have been furloughed. Freelancers are not being commissioned. Everyone is asking “what is the future for travel?” …. watch this space.

Feeling so grateful

Branching out as a freelance is a bit scary. I’m so grateful to all the clients who worked with me at Beacon PR who have ‘crossed over’ into my new life: it’s wonderful to have such strong relationships. And I’m thrilled to welcome two new clients – looking forward to getting to know you better.

Journalists/Editors, get in touch for:

Sociable Singles/Solo Travel

Gorgeous Villas with private pools on Mediterranean Islands

Beautiful Holiday Cottages in the Lake District

New Zealand Tailor-mades and Escorted Small Group Tours

Coast and Country Cottages in West Wales