In preparation for the Easter hols, Molly’s been having a chin-wag with Beth Bailey, the Chairwoman of Premier Cottages and owner of the must-visit Kernock Cottages. Premier Cottages is a collection of independent holiday let owners with more award-winning luxury homestays than you can shake a stick at! Based all over our green and pleasant land, Premier Cottages, like us at the Secret Linen Store, believe quality is key and are passionate about providing a fantastic holiday experience, whether you’re searching for accessible cottages, dog-friendly venues or a little slice of hot tub heaven. Thanks, Beth!
Describe what you do in 3 words.
Create family memories.
Why do you love what you do?
For the challenge, the variety and the ever-changing environment. The luxury self-catering market is constantly changing. The standard is fantastic at the top end, which means having to pedal furiously to keep up; and life is always throwing curve balls at you, be it the weather, industry consolidation, regulatory hurdles, or unknowns like B****t!
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
The dawn (we have no curtains in our bedroom), followed by the dog, the children and a very long To Do list!
Are you all about long lie-ins or do you get up with the lark?
I’m generally a night owl, but I don’t really do lie-ins. By 6.30 I’m usually wide awake.
What’s the best thing about holidaying in the UK?
How long have you got? Apart from the obvious lack of airport hassle, traveller’s tummy and language barriers (except in Scotland ha, ha, ha! And before I get a barrage of abusive tweets, I have red hair, green skin, and my maiden name is Ogilvie!), we live in one of the most beautiful places on the planet.
I’m a bit of a landscape fanatic, and pretty well-travelled globally, but I think the UK has more than its fair share of stunning and varied countryside; but also – for lovers of urban landscapes - some of the most fascinating towns, cities and villages. Put those against our long and rich cultural and historical backcloth and you have a compelling combination. There really is something for everyone, and our relatively compact size makes it all very accessible, so it’s a shame that for many the idea of a holiday is automatically associated with abroad. We’re missing a trick!
What are your top tips on packing for a trip?
Pack your suitcase, then remove half the contents and take twice as much money. If you are venturing abroad, take a travel kettle – they don’t exist in hotel rooms outside the UK.
Can you tell us about a hidden destination gem we shouldn’t miss out on?
I am really lucky to have made South East Cornwall my home some 20 years ago, after nearly two decades working in The City in London. As we are fairly close to the Devon border, the majority of the holiday crowds coming to Cornwall tend to head either West towards Penzance, or North towards the surfing beaches. South East Cornwall is definitely a hidden gem, particularly the stunning Rame Peninsula, which is known as Cornwall’s forgotten corner. Large swathes of our local area landscape are classified as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Gentler in character than the North Coast - with its dramatic cliffs and windswept landscape - our part of Cornwall is more about rolling hills, hidden coves, sheltered beaches and quaint fishing villages. Just as beautiful as the North or West of the county, but without the crowds (and with more trees!). But shhhh… don’t tell anyone. We rather like it this way!
What makes a holiday cottage feel like home?
It’s all in the detail. Obviously, it needs to have character, charm and individuality, and be immaculately clean and fabulously equipped, but the small things are just as important to get the guest’s holiday off to a flying start.
As well as chairing Premier Cottages, I also have my own luxury holiday cottages in Cornwall (Kernock Cottages), and I always assume that my guests will have had a long and stressful journey, and may be tired and anxious when they arrive, so ensuring they are immediately welcome and relaxed is key. Things like making sure the lights and the heating are on before guests arrive, the fires are lit, and the door is unlocked (if they are arriving late). Nobody wants to arrive in the dark to a dark cold house and have to scrabble around under a stone for the key.
Given they are likely to be tired and a bit cranky, including a welcome pack with at the very least basics like tea, coffee, milk and sugar and loo rolls is essential. The restorative powers of a nice cup of tea are well known, and you really don’t want to have to unpack the car after a long journey with your legs crossed! And remember that there is a lot for guests to take in when they first arrive, so bombarding them with too much information will likely fall on deaf ears. Give them the essentials, such as the WiFi code, and how the heating works, and have plentiful information and an easy means of contacting someone for further information.
What UK beauty spots should be on everyone’s bucket list?
Our Protected Landscapes, which in England and Wales are made up of our 11 National Parks, 14 AONBs, 31 World Heritage Sites and all the Coast Paths are a great place to start, especially if – like me – you enjoy a stomp. The AONBs make up nearly 16% of the land area of England and Wales, and 13% of Scotland, so we are tremendously well served, and nowhere is very far away from some spectacular scenery.
How do you think people can be eco-friendlier on holiday?
My own business is very green (we hold a Green Tourism Business Scheme Gold Award), and a large percentage of Premier Cottages’ members also have fantastic eco credentials, so sustainability is very important to us.
To a large extent – as owners – we try to do the thinking for the guest and make their holiday footprint a bit lighter. Lots of Premier Cottages members have biomass boilers, wind turbines, Air Source Heat Pumps and solar power; and as we are the ones paying the electricity bill, we do tend to ensure that our appliances and light bulbs are highly energy efficient. However, guests also have a part to play, and while most embrace our eco credentials, it is always a little depressing when the (fortunately only occasional) guests are wandering around in T-shirts in December with the heating cranked up to 30 degrees and all the windows open; or when they go out all day and leave all the lights on. Mostly it is common sense.
One of the most sustainable things you can do on holiday, though, is to buy local. If you really want to make a difference to the local economy, then please don’t buy all your food from the supermarket at home and bring it down with you. Go to the farmers market, the fishmonger, the craft shop, the tea room, the gallery, the ice cream parlour, the pub, the butcher, the fish and chip shop and the restaurant. When you buy local from our small businesses, remember that you aren’t just increasing the revenue line of a multinational corporation. You are paying for a little girl’s ballet lessons, for someone’s car to be MOT’d, for a new school uniform, and to put food on the table. Supporting the local economy keeps the local community vibrant and viable. If small communities aren’t supported, then the places we love to come to on holiday will lose what makes them appealing in the first place.
What’s your dream interior and your worst nightmare?
My dream interior would be high ceilings, with natural stone floors and walls, open fires, not too much furniture, sumptuous rugs and fabrics, and lots of glass giving onto elegant terraces, water and long views. Oh, and can we throw in some decent weather too, please (but not too hot… green skin and all that). It is very much a dream though – in my family we all have slight hoarding tendencies and all pretty untidy, which is wildly incompatible with minimalist living! Pet hates are orange pine, patterned carpet, and chintz, though if flares and platforms can come around again, then these will probably all make a comeback at some point too!
If you could pick any dream view from your bedroom window, what would it be?
See above, but with unicorns.
Seaside stays, countryside cottages or city breaks, what do you prefer and why?
All of the above. We have access to all of it, so why have to choose? I spent a fabulous week in Seville in November with a girlfriend, and we walked about 20km a day – it is the perfect city for walking in. I love the seaside too. Not so much in the summer (green skin, suntan lotion and sand maketh not good bedfellows), but we are lucky to be close to the coast, so I do a lot of coast and beach walking, and I also love the British countryside.
What do you love most about the UK?
The landscape, the humour, the spirit, the freedom and the opportunity. And the NHS. And the tea. We Brits spend a lot of time moaning about the things that are wrong with the UK, but we would do well to remember that we pretty much won the lottery of life ending up here, compared to much of the world. I am daily very grateful (well, mostly, until I hear the Br***t word again).
Real, fictional or animal, who would you invite on your dream holiday?
I plead the 5th on the grounds I may incriminate myself.
What are your 3 favourite Instagram accounts or bloggers for travel inspiration?
@premiercottages, because we have a mouth-watering collection of stunning places to stay.
@tinboxtraveller, who documents travelling en famille with small(ish) children – I admire her energy and envy her holiday count (though I might leave the children at home more often than she does ha, ha, ha!).
@kernow_coastal because his stunning images remind me that we have so much beauty right on our doorstep.
You’re off for a weekend away, what’s one luxury you would take from your bedroom?
My electric blanket – I hate being cold.
What’s the last thing you do before going to bed?
Lie on my bed of nails acupressure mat. I have no idea why, and it seems rather counter intuitive, but helps me sleep.
Tell us a secret?
Now that would be telling.