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.


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.


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 .

Alton Towers - Merlin annual pass sale

Lots of the families that stay at Barks Holiday Cottage use their annual Merlin passes to visit Alton Towers. One family stayed at Barks three times during the autumn as they were especially keen on Scarefest.  I think they got value out of their Merlin pass!
The Merlin pass is currently on sale with Individual passes reduced from £169 to £119 and Family passes reduced from £129 per person to £99pp, allowing up to 3 adults to be on the pass. Premium and VIP passes are available for extra - click the image above to compare costs and benefits. I couldn't actually see when the sale ends though.


Alton Towers Scarefest 2015

We have a few half term dates available for self catering for Alton Towers Scarefest when the theme park is open late into the dark nights.

Please check our availability page for the latest update or call us on 01538 703436 or email

Scarefest - Saturday 17th October - Sunday 1st November

Alton Towers Scarefest is back for 2015 and is promised to be scarier than ever before with two brand new spine-tingling horror mazes, including for the first time ever a chilling hooded maze - The Haunting of Molly Crowe. Molly’s house lies empty, but her tormented soul is yet to depart. Travel back to Molly’s childhood in this theatrical experience that will heighten the senses as you attempt to cleanse the house of evil spirits…

‘Sub Species: The End Games’ is where you’ll need your wits about you to race for survival from the post-apocalyptic sewer dwelling community. Choose your own path and work your way through a sewer - your decisions will seal your fate as you find yourself alone in a maze that could take you to many different endings. Also new for Scarefest 2015, set in the Sub Species maze, is Operation Lockdown -  described as an intense new horror escape exclusively for those wanting to extend their scares into the late evening! With dark confined spaces, this physical and immersive two hour escape room puts you at the heart of your very own horror movie. Strictly for over 18’s who have nerves of steel, the experience combines real life gameplay, extreme performance and hands on interaction where destiny is in your own hands.

Returning for Scarefest 2015 is the fearsome favourite, ‘Terror of the Towers, What Lies Within’. Set inside a new route, it will once again reveal its dark and horrifying secret and will have two startling scare zones - The Dark Apocalypse where a deadly virus has infected Forbidden Valley and Nox: Infernus in the Dark Forest, where the underworld rises again.

For brave young visitors there’s a chance to learn how to spook with Phil’s Ghoul School then meet up with the famous freaky four for more Halloween excitement with Skelvin’s Spooky Storytime and Patch’s Trick or Treat Party. With frightening family fun and many spine-chilling attractions open until 9pm, there are lots of Halloween horrors to be enjoyed by everyone, including the chance to experience many of our amazing rides and attractions in the dark.


Alton Towers Scarefest & Fireworks - Self Catering

The 2015 Alton Towers Scarefest and Fireworks is nearly upon us. Should be a good season as I have heard that Alton Towers is going all out to make this the best Scarefest EVER!  Good for them, we say.

Barks is the ideal self catering holiday cottage accommodation for your Alton Towers Scarefest break because we are very conveniently located in the next village from the gates of the theme park - we are ST10 3DX and the park is ST10 4DB if you want to check on Google Maps.

We have a gap for 3 night breaks between 18th - 22nd Oct and arrival 31st Oct for Fireworks. Please check our Availability page for more details


Alton Towers Scarefest accommodation

Alton Towers Scarefest and Fireworks display will soon be upon us. We are taking self catering accommodation bookings for family of 5, including pet dog.

If you would like to bring your dog please take a look at our 'dog sitting' unattended pets arrangements because if you are going to spend a long day at Alton Towers you may need us to look after the dog. Give us a call on 01538 703436 if that is of interest.

Please take a look at the latest bookings on the Availability page.


Last minute Alton Towers break?

Last minute holiday cottage availability due to cancellation ! The elderly couple arrived from Wales but sadly a family emergency meant they had to leave almost immediately (luckily they had holiday insurance cover). We really don't get many last minute cancellations, as you'd imagine.

Grab a last minute break if you can! All enquiries to for mini breaks arriving now, departing Friday 12th June.


Iron Man Staffordshire

I think maybe it is a bit late for me to start training for the Ironman competition that is being held in Staffordshire in June. Aw there now! I just checked the distances and saw swimming 1.2 miles and thought, yup that is manageable.  But then there's the rest:

Swim: 1.2 miles
Bike: 56 miles
Run: 13.1 miles
Totaling 70.3 miles

Anyway, I expect we'll be needed at the holiday cottage that day ;-)

So hats off to the competitors who are coming to Staffordshire to compete in this gruelling challenge. I hope you see something of the lovely countryside!


Sunny times at Alton Towers

What a joy it is to have some lovely sunshine again! The birds are singing, the lambs are dancing around in the fields.

We have a family staying who are enjoying the sunny terrace after they return from their adventures. Visits to Alton Towers have been paid, of course, but also Heights of Abraham and Chatsworth House have proved popular.

Summer is nearly upon us, the swallows have returned and we are getting quite booked up. If you would like to check our availability and make a booking please do get in touch.  or by phone 01538 703436


Summer 2015 holiday cottage bookings

Availability at Barks Holiday Cottage near Alton Towers

As ever the summer holidays are booking up fast for family trips to the Peak District and Alton Towers. If you would like a three night break for a trip to Alton Towers  please contact us as soon as possible. Call us on 01538 703436 or email