self-catering holiday cottage, holiday rental near Alton Towers and Peak District

Self-catering near Alton Towers and Peak District - Call Barks Holiday Cottage 01538 703436 email or book online.


Snowy round here - proper Peak District

Feb 2018 - we were checking the road conditions
We've had a lot of snowy days this winter. The Churnet Valley has been looking spectacular, particularly from the vantage point of our hill top.

This morning I wasn't sure about getting off our hill as it is 16% descent in all directions! We have a 4x4 but it is rubbish at this sort surface - just a heavy old car that slides towards the ditch given half a chance. Anyway, we made it after a bit of effort throwing grit around. My son was only and hour or so late for school. Oh well.


Cockadoodle doo

Say hello to the handsome new addition to our little flock. We can't decide what to call him. He has a lovely crow and seems to be good natured. But he has a hard act to follow...
New cockerel struts his stuff outside Barks Holiday Cottage
We said a very sad farewell to Stewart our cockerel of about 9 years. We had raised Stewart from an egg and he had been a good fellow to have around. Very friendly indeed. He used to come and hang out near us if we were sitting in the garden. He was starting to get a bit tired and was clearly feeling his age, but sadly it wasn't time that did for him but either a fox or a neighbour's dog. Truly not a fitting end for such a fine bird.

Our new chap is not very confident and is a rather short of hens following a second attack, this time definitely by the neighbour's dog. He is on the mend and re-growing his tail feathers, but dare we name him yet???

Just in case you are thinking that you don't want a self-catering cottage where you are going to be woken before dawn by a cockadoodle-doo, fear not, the hutch stops him stretching his neck and getting full volume and they are not kept on the bedroom side of the cottage.

You may however wish you were woken at dawn so that you can get to Alton Towers and be first on the rides. The early bird catches the worm and all that.


2018 bookings have opened

High Season 2017 is now over, it has been very busy! Some very organised people have already booked their repeat visit to Barks Holiday Cottage for 2018. They booked before they left, which is the sort of endorsement that speaks volumes.

We have just published our prices for next year. Please check our availability page for rates for 2018 and get in touch if you would like to check any facts about the cottage or surrounding area

Barks Holiday Cottage - 2018 bookings have started.


The garden is not dog proof

There is no fenced in garden. Just to be really clear .... the garden is not fenced in.

We are down a quiet track and well off the road, but - I shall say it again in a slightly different way - the garden is not dog proof. There are chickens and hens pecking about the place. We think we have made all this crystal clear, everywhere. Dogs are welcome, we love dogs, we will dog sit while you go to Alton Towers or wherever, we have an award for being dog friendly... but there is no fenced in garden!!!

Large child-friendly garden - but not dog proof! Spot the free range duck posing in the picture! You can see the fencing between us and the neighbours on each side, but it's open access behind this picture to the track. Well behaved dogs welcome.

This summer we had a bad review and this was one of the gripes. The lack of fences, a wifi issue we fixed there and then and the 'dust behind the radiators'. Yes indeed, we were advised there was dust behind the radiators. Needless to say, thanks to this eagle-eyed feedback, the dust is now cleared away. The wifi is slow round here, and we offer no guarantee of speed or availability as who knows what BT might be up to along our lanes. Most kids seem to manage and their online worlds don't collapse while they are here. When faster broadband comes this way, we're snapping it up. But... we have no plans to turn the garden into Fort Knox. Well behaved dogs and owners are welcome ... but there is no fenced in garden.  So that's that sorted out then!

South facing terrace - not fenced

Award for being Dog Friendly - despite the lack of fences


Stowaway at Barks Holiday Cottage

This little one was trying to stay at the cottage a little longer than planned but we think he needs reuniting with his owner. I suspect there might be a crisis when they get home, unpack and discover he's missing :-(

Catherine Doel
Henmore Marketing

01335 289075


Summer holidays begin

I have set the auto-response message on my phone to 'Summer Holidays 😊'

I want to make the most of my son's summer hols and don't intent to chain myself to my desk 9 til 5 over the next few weeks. However, the reality is that we will simply be a parent taxi service unless we make an effort. Or worse than that, we will walk past his human form slumped on the sofa with a mobile device obscuring the view of his face. I suggest a walk with the dog or a cycle ride and generally get a negative response. Been there, seen it, done it! I need to book in some family time and plan some activities that we will all enjoy!

Once upon a time a trip to Splash Landings was a brilliant family activity, but now he is a teenager he is more likely to go with a couple of school friends ... and we are the taxi service! But this is only because Splash Landings and Alton Towers are on our doorstep. If we were travelling it would be a suitable family activity.

I've discussed this with some other mums staying at Barks to visit Alton Towers. We reckon the key is to get everyone away from home. Grown ups stop thinking about work and chores, teenagers seem to switch on and engage with the rest of the family and younger ones just love everyone doing something all together.

School holidays take some planning! I hope the smiley face emoji on my auto reply turns out to be the right choice 😕

(at the time of writing we have one mini break left in the school holidays - 3 or 4 nights from 21st August please check availability).


Award winning holiday cottage in Staffordshire!

Oh my goodness we won an award in the Staffordshire Tourism Awards.
Silver award in the Staffordshire Tourism Awards
We are thrilled to have won Silver in the Dog Friendly Business of the Year category. We were up against some stern competition, and the Gold award was deservedly won by a dog friendly pub in the south of this huge county of Staffordshire. Apparently they know all their doggie regulars by name and shake paws when they come in etc etc so of course we can't compete with that. But we do our best to enable families to stay together during their holidays, including taking the much loved family dog.

I know from experience it is really hard to fully enjoy a holiday break without my dog. Sometimes, however it is difficult to please all tastes. Your kids want to be riding the rollercoasters at Alton Towers, your dog ... not so much! The dog wants to be hiking the hills of the Churnet Valley, your kids... not so much, especially after a hard day at Alton Towers! Even couples with a dog want to visit country houses and do some shopping and if it is a hot day, the car is not an option and after a long day out sometimes the woods and fields seem too exhausting.  So who hikes the hills with the dog... we do! All part of our 'dog-sitting' service.

We understand that Barks Holiday Cottage is not suitable for all dogs because of the lack of fences and the free roaming chickens and ducks, but the dogs that come here are wonderful. We have met some real characters over the last few years and we look forward to seeing who the year ahead brings.


Last minute self catering availability August

18th August: - 
7 nights is £495
3 nights is £375
3 nights breaks available from Fri 18th or Mon 21st

We don't very often get cancellations, but Tracey and family have had to change plans. So there is a last minute availability in August that is ideal for families to stay for a 7 day holiday or grab a 3 day break.

A 3 day break with the kids in the summer holiday can be jam-packed with entertainment round here. There's a theme park (Alton Towers, no less), two water parks, steam railway, zoo etc etc. And there is loads of walking or more extreme outdoor pursuits like bouldering and rock climbing. After you've done all that, let the kids carry on burning energy on our playing field playing penalty shoot out while you have a cup of tea (or something stronger) on the terrace. Sorted!


Holiday Cottage football pitch

Playing field, ideal for kicking a ball about.
All the meadows are looking wonderful just now, but soon they will be cut for hay. The playing field behind the cottage is kept mown all year as a play area. As you can see there are some bumps to contend with, but most kids seem to want to do penalty shoot outs. The goal in the picture is just behind the tree on the left.

Dear Mrs Duck, she seems to have been left behind by her two friends, the other Mrs Duck and Mr Duck! Or maybe she just waddled along to see what I was doing and photo bomb my picture!


Pickle the blogger dog

We live and work in the heart of the Churnet Valley. Such a wonderful area, full of natural landscapes and heritage features. Over the last few years £3m has been invested in enhancing and restoring the area, mostly due to Staffordshire Wildlife Trust and a partnership group winning a Heritage Lottery Fund grant. One of the projects is brilliant for visitors, as well as being fascinating for locals - the Churnet Valley Guide. I would encourage guests to take a peek.

Anyway, shh, don't tell anyone, but... Pickle, our 10 year old terrier,  has set up an account and has written her first blog post. Personally, I think she has skills. See what you think. Here's her piece: Too Much Mud

Pickle the blogger dog! Read her blog on


Getting fit in the countryside

Churnet Way, Oakamoor to Alton

At this time of year gyms are packed with people burning off the seasonal excess that clings persistently to our midriffs. I am actually a member of two gyms! I justify that on the grounds that the spa at Alton Towers is shut while they do yet more building work there. The gym in Cheadle has fabulous classes and equipment, but no spa...and I do love a spa!

Probably the most effective way I find to kick off the calories is to walk. And the best place to walk is definitely out in the countryside. I was walking my dog along the Churnet Way between Alton and Oakamoor on a misty morning and saw a runner and dog coming towards me. My camera phone hasn't done the scene justice, but the silver birches made a stunning backdrop. To my slight embarrassment it turned out I was photographing another mother from my son's school. So we had a little chat and she is in training for a marathon and getting fit by running along the Churnet Way almost daily.

For cycling, horse riding, running and walking and pushing buggies, this is a lovely route through the valley. And unusually round here, it is on the flat!

Alton Towers 2017 season details

I have just received the Alton Towers 2017 opening details:-
The Theme Park will re-open on Saturday 25th March and close on Sunday 5th November next year. Scarefest dates haven’t been confirmed yet, but it will be back in October and they'll be running the fireworks again on the 4th and 5th November. The mid-week quieter trading period closed dates are also still being firmed up, apparently. Please also note that the Alton Towers Spa will be temporarily closed from January whilst building works take place on the new CBeebies Land Hotel. The Spa will re-open in Summer 2017.

Barks Cottage is very close to Alton Towers and a number of our guests will be planning their visit to us around these Alton Towers opening times. We hope this is useful information.


Last Alton Towers fun for 2016

Barks Cottage, less than 3 miles to Alton Towers

On the 31st October Alton Towers is open 10am - 9pm with rides in the dark. The theme park is then closed the rest of the week until the weekend of 5th and 6th November when it is the dazzling Alton Towers fireworks spectacular, plus the 9pm closing time.

Despite the fact that the theme park is closed, Alton Towers Waterpark, Splash Landings is open from 10 - 4pm all week. And there are lots of other things to do in the area.

The last of the autumn leaves will be on the trees in the Churnet Valley so why not take some air before a lovely tea room visit?

Please call 01538 703436 or email


Half term Oct 2016 and Alton Towers Scarefest

Funny how flurries of bookings come at once. Suddenly, the mini breaks over half term are booked. The last available is for two or three nights from Friday 28th October.

Scarefest is still on at Alton Towers. In fact Scarefest is different this year as there are some weekends before half term when it is on. We currently have availability for 8 & 9th and the 15th & 16th.

Check our availability or email us on or call 01538 703436

Autumn is here... dog walking time

Where did the summer go? It seems to have gone by in a whoosh. I didn't go anywhere this summer because I was in charge of the cottage and our pigs, ducks, hens and dogs. My poor, poorly dog...

But luckily the holiday atmosphere comes to me and we met lots of interesting and friendly people. It is lovely. We had a family from Holland stay for two weeks so had quite a few chats with them, and best of all they had boys who liked a kick about with my son round the football nets. The days of my son vetting booking enquiries according to the exact age and gender of the children are pretty much passed, but he still lights up when sporty lads are staying.

Now term has started and the demographic of our guests changes. The last few weeks we have had couples staying, often with their dog. The last people had a rescue collie, Mr Darcy, and he lived up to the name of Jane Austen's handsome character. He was a friendly boy who considered burying a bone in the long grass, but then sat in the sun and chewed it instead... contentment. Mr Darcy's owners reminded me that if you have a dog vacancy in your family, to hold out for the right dog. They visited the collie rescue place a few times until Mr Darcy chose them. Perfect fit I'd say - and they can come again!

September is fully booked at the cottage and even November has the odd booking. October is a bit of a peak season what with school half terms in England and Scotland and round here it is SCAREFEST at Alton Towers.
Stellar 2007 - 2016


Summer holidays 2016

We have just had an enthusiastic enquiry from a lovely lady wanting a date in August and it is so sad to have to turn someone down when we have no availability that week. Aagh, we have the weeks either side ...

This is the situation as of today.  Please check the availability page or contact us on for the latest for school summer holidays 2016.

Alton Towers beckons, the Peak District is near and the Churnet Valley is on the doorstep...

Staffordshire Way in Churnet Valley

Our holiday cottage is in the Churnet Valley - an area of natural beauty that is starting to become better known. Recently I was commissioned to re-write the guide to the Staffordshire Way. So I decided to start with the sections near to home. It has been a lovely piece of work that will continue as budgets allow during the year.

Today, my son was playing cricket in the north of the county so I set off at the beginning of the Staffordshire Way at Mow Cop. Armed with my map, a hat and scarf and a bottle of water my two dogs and I left the little folly castle and headed up the Gritstone Way / Staffordshire Way. Well we thought we did...

I am actually very proficient with a map but was lured the wrong direction without consulting it by the style of track and the various way markers. Half an hour later, I was back to the point where I went wrong and off we went again. Another 15 minutes later I was back studying the map at that same point and finally got going along the right track.

It really is a disgrace that such an important walking route is badly and in some cases misleadingly marked. So far my commissions have focussed on the best bit of the Staffordshire Way around us in the Churnet Valley but I shall have to make a strong case to the 'powers that be' that the beginning of the walk needs to be sorted out. I'll make that call tomorrow...

Meanwhile, it is lovely weather for walking and our cottage is well placed for walkers as well as being handy for Alton Towers. Please do check availability and enjoy a walking break from Barks self-catering holiday cottage - pets welcome.

Call 01538 703436 or email
Check availability

Last minute Spring holiday cottage, Peak District and Churnet Valley

We have a change over at the holiday cottage tomorrow and then the rest of April currently is available.

Barks Holiday Cottage is perfect for walking in the Churnet Valley and the Peak District and is pet friendly.

The spa at Alton Towers is excellent and only a few minutes away. The local towns of Cheadle, Ashbourne and Leek have much to offer - each is different. Antiques, heritage, dining and snacking, shopping...

Please enquire: or call 01538 703436
Check latest availability and book online


Snow drops in the frost

I left husband in charge of the solar panel fitters who are lodging in the holiday cottage and went on a half term jaunt with our son. Even after just a week away things looked different on my return. Spring has inched a little nearer.

This morning was a very chilly frosty day, with -5C registering in the car. The birds were particularly eager on the nut feeders and the snowdrops in the lane opposite the holiday cottage were droopy in the frost.  The sun stayed out all day and the snowdrops revived. I hope the birds did too, there have been huge numbers flocking round the feeders all day.

Roll on proper Spring with more of this sunshine - combined with a bit of warmth.


Solar panel installers

It is quite unusual to get long bookings, but we have just said hello to a team of solar panel installers needing self catering accommodation in this part of Staffordshire while they work on a job somewhere round here for three weeks. Perfect! Things can be quite quiet at this time of year.

We have now had our own solar panels on the roof for a while and they are great. We have set the underfloor tile warmer to come on in the kitchen and bathroom when the sun shines. This is not designed to be a full heating source, but just makes it nice to pad about in bare feet. The main heating is the gas central heating, which warms the place up in trice and keeps everyone cosy .