10 ways to upgrade your self-catering stay

·8-min read
Riverside Cabins in Shropshire - Riverside Cabins
Riverside Cabins in Shropshire - Riverside Cabins

With the UK still looking like the best option for a summer break this year – and many Brits wanting greater freedom and privacy from their trip – the self-catering holiday has never been more popular. Unfortunately, swapping a hotel for a temporary home-from-home comes at a cost: the absence of room service, cleaners and kids’ clubs can be detrimental to the quality of your holiday – unless, that is, you base yourself at one of these splendid options, where a range of amazing add-ons mean all the perks of self-catering without missing out on the wow factor (or spending your week at the kitchen sink).

Balloon ride over West Sussex - Honeybridge Estate
Balloon ride over West Sussex - Honeybridge Estate

Go up, up and away on a balloon ride

Head to West Sussex to hunker down in the Honeybridge Estate’s ridiculously cosy cottage, with its Inglenook fireplace and wonderfully wonky tangle of beams. However, there are also plenty of reasons to venture further afield, namely a wide range of personalised experiences that can be added when booking. These include everything from fishing lessons to Pilates classes, although we suggest signing up for a sunset hot air balloon ride. You’ll enjoy a lavish picnic while the balloon is being set up, before taking to the skies for a one-hour float over West Sussex.

How to do it: A two-hour hot air balloon experience costs £900 for two people. A two-night rental of the Honeybridge Estate’s three-bedroom cottage starts at £1,000 (01403 597097; honeybridgeestate.co.uk)

Duncombe Arms' Old Barn chef service - Duncombe Arms
Duncombe Arms' Old Barn chef service - Duncombe Arms

Book a chef for the evening

As much as we love the freedom of self-catering, one potential downside is the challenge of getting to grips with unfamiliar household appliances such as ovens. Our advice? Head to Staffordshire and stay in the Duncombe Arms’ Old Barn, where you can eliminate the risk of incinerating your appetisers by splashing out on a private chef. Your white-hatted hero – a chef from the Duncombe Arms next door, the recipient of a Michelin Bib Gourmand – will whip up a three-course meal for up to six people.

How to do it: The private chef experience costs £75 per person. Rates at the three-bedroom Old Barn start at £300 per night (01335 324275; duncombearms.co.uk/the-old-barn)

North Hayne Farm cottage with hot tub - North Hayne Farm
North Hayne Farm cottage with hot tub - North Hayne Farm

Double down on the bubbles in Devon

Most of North Hayne Farm’s holiday cottages have hot tubs (we recommend the six-person Samuel Whiskers cottage, where you will find the hot tub in a beautiful private garden). For bubbles of a different kind, it’s possible to upgrade your stay with a two-person hot tub pack which contains towels, bath robes, slippers, a bottle of prosecco and champagne glasses. Cheers!

How to do it: North Hayne Farm cottages’ hot tub packs cost from £25. Rates at North Hayne Farm cottages start at £308 for three nights in a four-bedroom property (01769 550807; northhaynefarmcottages.co.uk)

Lanrick Treehouse - Lanrick Treehouses
Lanrick Treehouse - Lanrick Treehouses

Enjoy a spot of bird watching in Perthshire

Stay in one of the beautiful treehouses at Perthshire’s Lanrick Estate and you will have the option to sign up for a two-hour guided tour with a local ornithologist, who will teach you how to identify a wide range of species, including ones you are unlikely to see anywhere else. An ornithology-themed upgrade for this particular getaway is ideal – the five treehouses, all named after bird species, are tucked among trees on the Lanrick Estate, which has been sustainably managed in order to allow the local wildlife to thrive.

How to do it: A three-hour guided ornithologist walk costs from £80 per couple/family. Two nights at the Treehouses at Lanrick cost from £560 (lanricktreehouses.co.uk)

Pamper your pet in Cheshire

Book a stay in one of Combermere Abbey’s self-catering cottages and available add-ons include a pampering treatment for your four-legged friend. Treatments range from nail trimming sessions to entire grooming packages, which include a trim, shampoo, condition and blow-dry, and finish with an all-important ear-cleaning session. Feeling left out? There are plenty of upgrades for humans too, including breakfast hampers and spa packages (ear-cleaning not included, sadly).

How to do it: Prices start at £5 for nail trimming. Full grooming sessions start at £25. A two-night stay in the four-person Empress Cottage costs from £335 (01948 871662; combermereabbey.co.uk)

Rick Stein home delivery box - Luxury Cottages
Rick Stein home delivery box - Luxury Cottages

Feast on Rick Stein’s cuisine

The next best thing to a celebrity chef taking over your kitchen? Their delicious cuisine turning up on your doorstep instead. Stay at one of Luxury Cottages’ properties and you will be able to pre-order a discounted Stein’s at Home delivery box. Choose from dozens of lavish feasts, ranging from cheese and charcuterie boards to spicy curries (we recommend the Indonesian seafood curry). When it comes to accommodation, we suggest the Luxury Cabin – a cosy retreat in the shadow of the Scottish Borders’ Eildon Hills.

How to do it: Stein’s at Home boxes cost from £35 for two people. Two nights at Luxury Cottages’ Luxury Cabin cost from £1,125 (0121 517 0350; luxurycottages.com)

Cheshire Boutique Barns - Cheshire Boutique Barns
Cheshire Boutique Barns - Cheshire Boutique Barns

Enjoy an outdoor movie night

The downside to cinemas? Popcorn-strewn carpets, noisy children and the pressure of bagging a decent seat. Not so if you sign up for one of Cheshire Boutique Barns’ movie nights, one of various upgrades on offer. Book one of the three barns and you will be able to request your very own outdoor cinema experience, complete with popcorn, outdoor loungers draped with vintage eiderdowns, hot water bottles, festoon lights and lanterns. Suddenly, cinemas look rather plain.

How to do it: Movie nights for up to four people cost from £75. Two nights at the two-bedroom Old Parlour Barn cost from £599 (07922 277292; cheshireboutiquebarns.co.uk)

Get grilling in Shropshire

There are nine cabins and lodges at Riverside Cabins’ beautiful waterside spot in Shropshire. Our favourite is Roscoe, which sleeps six and has a hot tub, balcony and gorgeous views of the nearby woodland. All of the cabins have barbecues, but if you struggle to select the best bangers or fancy something tastier than a supermarket sausage, upgrade your stay by booking a barbecue hamper, which will be packed with produce sourced from within a 40-mile radius.

How to do it: Barbecue hampers cost from £20; accommodation from £90 per night for a three-bedroom cabin (01939 260495; riverside-cabins.co.uk)

Tapnell Farm safari tent interior - Tapnell Farm
Tapnell Farm safari tent interior - Tapnell Farm

Ramp up the romance on the Isle of Wight

Whisking a loved one away for the weekend? Make a beeline for one of Tapnell Farm’s spacious safari tents, with outdoor firepits, log burners and lots of board games. Ramp up the romance by adding one of Tapnell Farm’s deluxe romantic packages, which include chocolates and a bouquet of flowers.

How to do it: The deluxe romance package costs £55. A two-night stay in one of Tapnell Farm’s eight-person safari tents costs from £367 (01983 758722; tapnellfarm.com)

Reach for the sky in a chopper over the Lake District

If a bottle of fizz and a bit of flower power don’t cut it, why not splash out on a helicopter flight? There are several upgrades available for guests staying in the barn on the Lake District’s Waternook Estate, although the one with the biggest wow factor is surely the one-hour helicopter flight. You will be picked up from outside your barn, but the route is totally up to you – whether you fancy a fly-by over your favourite mountain or a lap around Windermere.

How to do it: A one-hour helicopter flight costs from £2,000. Three nights in the eight-person Great Barn cost from £2,800 (07709 098507; premiercottages.co.uk)

Little Retreats - Owen Howells Photography
Little Retreats - Owen Howells Photography

Take the plunge in Pembrokeshire with open water swimming

Stay at Pembrokeshire’s Little Retreat and you can bed down in a bell tent or a geodesic dome, as well as adding one of several extras to your stay, whether it is an art lesson, a foraging masterclass or a stargazing session. Our favourite upgrade is the wild swimming lesson with local expert Laura Owen Sanderson, who will cover everything from breathwork to stroke style. Lessons take place in the Cleddau estuary and the Black Mixen Pool, a natural tidal pool connecting the Cleddau to the Cresswell River.

How to do it: Wild swimming lessons cost from £35pp; one night in a five-person bell tent costs from £140 (07973 373833; littleretreats.co.uk)

Five reasons a self-catering stay is better than a hotel

1. You can stock up on your favourite tipples to toast your newfound freedom, instead of having to raid the (very expensive) minibar.

2. How many hotel stays have been ruined because the guest from hell is in the room next door? Opt for self-catering and you’ll enjoy more privacy and space.

3. Self-catering properties are more likely to come with extras which, in a hotel, would have to be requested (and often paid for) – such as highchairs or exercise equipment.

4. Generally, you will pay less money for more space when you opt for self-catering. Hotels need to cover much higher costs relating to everything from staff salaries to housekeeping supplies.

5. Self-catering properties are brilliant for getaways with larger groups of loved ones, especially those who might not feel comfortable staying in a crowded hotel filled with strangers.

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