Lancashire Holiday Cottages News and Offers
Lancashire Design and Living Magazine
We love to visit them... but what is it like to own a holiday cottage?
Painted mice tiptoe along wooden beams, the scent of honeysuckle and roses, plus an extraordinary view of countryside stretching from the Fylde coast to the Lake District is the welcome that awaits you at Barnacre Cottages, near Garstang.
It's hard to believe that Barnacre Cottages was once a dilapidated farmhouse and outbuildings which had lain derelict for 13 years - but Terry and Sue Sharples saw its potential and beyond.
What they didnt realise at the time was that while seizing the opportunity to create a perfect family home, that they were opening their doors to a new enterprise which would change their lives.
A few years down the line they would be welcoming people from as far as Australia and China and as near as Wigan, Chorley and Preston - and achieving five star status - the first five star rating for cottages in Lancashire.
Barnacre Cottages are set in 10 acres of meadow, bordered by woodland in the Forest of Bowland with an abundance of visiting wildlife such as pheasant, partridges and deer.
It's 11 years since the couple first saw Arkwright Farm, which was originally part of the Barnacre Estate. Terry, a builder by trade, and his wife Sue saw it as a project with huge potential but never imagined their dream family home would eventually turn into a full time business.
While delving into necessary planning permissions to transform the derelict outbuildings, they discovered two had conditions attached. Out of the six cottages, planners stipulated that two were to become holiday cottages.
'It was something we had never even thought of', Sue said. 'But we loved the idea and it's surprising how such accidents can change your life.'
So from the building trade they entered the tourist industry.
Beautifully decorated and equipped to the highest standard, it is easy to see why the four cottages, each with their own individual character - The Piggeries, Partridge Cottage, Pheasant Cottage and The Old Stables have been awarded five star status.
Wood burning stoves, homely Agas, kitchens gleaming with granite, these cottages have every mod-con, including washing machine, tumble dryer, dishwasher, microwave, television and dvd player.
And there are exquisite Villeroy and Bosch dinner services and crystal wine glasses, which glimmer in the cupboards for those special dinner parties.
Each cottage is decorated and furnished with a Mark Wilkinson designer kitchen, while Miele and Neff appliances adds to their elegance and splendour.
There is certainly no expense spared within the unique interior design of each cottage with terracotta tiles, slate and wooden floors, plush leather sofas and comfortable pine bedrooms.
Painted playful mice and pigs trotting along kitchen walls in the cottage named Piggeries add great character.
Each of the cottages are home to a hidden menagerie thanks to artist Janet Whittaker who was commissioned to paint hundreds of tiny mice.
Within the grounds also lies an all-weather tennis court and children's playground with timber climbing frames. Children and their families are encouraged to feed the chickens.
Each cottage has its own paved patio area seeping in climbing honeysuckle, scented roses and lavender, which makes a peaceful haven during the summer months.
Terry and Sue welcome each new customer personally - and sometimes go beyond the call of duty. It's a case of wearing very different hats - ie taxi driver, cook, plumber - and not forgetting operating what seems like a chinese laundry on changeover days, making holiday cottage ownership a varied role.
'Some of our customers have arrived late at night and are starving', says Terry. 'But at 10.00 pm the local takeaways are closing so we've offered to put a pizza in the oven or given them bread and cheese and a bottle of wine, and they're really grateful.'
And it's these little extras that make visitors come back again and again.
After starting their business with the help of holiday agencies, Terry and Sue are going it alone this year.
'We are confident at promoting Barnacre Cottages but we do have to work hard to promote Lancashire - despite it being beautiful countryside it's often shunned in favour of the Lake District. Visitors who dont't know the area have asked us: 'do you have electricity?', 'do you supply cafetieres in the cottages?' They think it's all flat caps and clogs.'
'We have visitors from as far as Australia and as near as Preston. And when we ask people from Preston 'why come to Barnacre?' their reply is simple, 'You could be anywhere when you look at this view'.
The peaceful seclusion, high woodland and narrow lanes first attracted Terry and Sue to the site - and that sense of peace has stayed with them ever since.
'The cottages are a home from home', says Sue. 'We want our guests to be able to relax in comfort, live as they live at home and enjoy their stay.'