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 days, lovely walks, toasty open fire

Looks like we are going to get more snowy weather in the run up to Christmas. We had some guests come for the lovely walking, and it sounds like they'll be back for a break to include Alton Towers theme park when it reopens for the 2011 season. Not sure when that is right now, but last year Alton Towers did open for a while during the February half term. In the mean time our appeal to holiday-makers looking for a long weekend break is the fabulous walking in the Churnet Valley and a cosy evening in front of the open fire. Then of course there's my next favourite: the Alton Towers spa - nothing like it after a vigorous hike in our hills and valleys.

Barks Holiday Cottage, 01538 703436


Biddulph Grange Gardens

Did you see Alan Titchmarsh on telly the other night?  Lovely programme exploring Victorian gardens and clever the way it was all referenced back to a great example of garden design - our local Biddulph Grange gardens (National Trust) in Staffordshire.  If you didn't get to see it, you never know, it might be on BBCi.

We had some guests staying back in May 2010 who are keen gardeners and they visited Biddulph Grange and Trentham Gardens.  Not only a keen gardener but also a keen blogger . . . so very handy for me that I can send you off to her blog for lots of lovely pictures and a good review from a first time visitor there. .  Good to note that some people do come here for amusement other than Alton Towers, indeed as I commented on the article, to VegPlotting AT stands for Alan Titchmarsh not Alton Towers.  Love it!

For my part, I visit Biddulph Grange a couple of times each year - rhododendron season and dahlia season - and always enjoy the Chinese area with the huge fish in the pond.  So even if you are a dedicated Alton Towers fan, maybe Biddulph is somewhere to consider for day 3 of your stay.


Walking disaster

This weekend we went on a lovely walk that is not our normal route - well it started out as lovely, but ended up a nightmare.  I persuaded Other Half to keep his phone handy to collect me,my son and and 2 dogs when we phoned. We set off down into the valley towards Froghall to enjoy a different route.  We stopped to admire the unusual track that used to be a railway line, used to ferry the lime from Cauldon Lowe to the canal basin at Froghall. 

I noticed a single string of barbed wire draped rather pointlessly a few yards away from the path into the woods and said to my son "what's the point of that wire?  All it's going to do is injure animals!"  I had in mind foxes and deer.  Then we heard a frantic yelping. 

My poor dog had been busy sniffing out squirrels and, nipping back to the path to find out what was delaying us, she slashed herself on the wire.  I'll spare you the details of the blood, the crying 7 year old, my having to run carrying the dog to the nearest road to meet Other Half, who had thankfully picked up our call (for once!), and all the stress at the out of hours vets surgery.  She is now recovering thank goodness.  Somehow she managed not to sever a major vein, which was lucky. 

For those that know my dogs, it is the shy black one who is the sweetest and best behaved dog ever.  She doesn't deserve this to happen, no dog does. 

Why is there a single strand of barbed wire draped around in the undergrowth?  Shall I go out with my wire cutters and get rid of it?  Or shall I kick up a fuss with Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, whose volunteers I have seen working nearby?  I am absolutely not the sort of person to do criminal damage to working fences (this is not a working fence), on the other hand I am thinking that lobbying is pointless simply because I let my dog off the lead. 

I will think about this for a while and try and calm down.  Meanwhile I need to take another two weeks bookings just to pay for the vets bill.  Ho hum.


Accommodation for Alton Towers Scarefest and Fireworks

I have just posted an update to our availability during the Alton Towers finale season.  Alton Towers has a peak season for Scarefest and puts on a splash.  Last year I really enjoyed the late opening.  Not just the big rides but some of the extra bits - we spent ages after dark watching a guy juggling with fire.  He was great.

Our guests have been very organised and half term was booked up quite a while ago - it really is a peak season around here!  Scottish half term is earlier and calls from north of the border are starting to come in.

Fireworks nights are firmly in my diary, but at this point we still have two mini break self-catering options available to make the most of the season finale. 

Please check our availability and contact us directly by phone (01538 703436) or by email


Autumn colour appearing in Churnet Valley woodland

It's gorgeous walking weather this morning. I was tempted to wear layers of warm clothing but thank goodness I haven't as it is so mild again. A walk is such a great way to start the week. A walking weekend is even better.
We have mini breaks available during the autumn which should be ideal to stretch your legs in glorious countryside (and maybe even improve fitness before Christm... - stop too early for that word yet!). Autumn walking weekends - perfect!
Please check our Availability page for latest dates.
Barks Holiday Cottage, 01538 703436


Alton Towers Waterpark - a great winter mini break idea

Alton Towers used to describe the Waterpark as the beach holiday without the British weather, or something similar anyway.  I took my son there the other day and was reminded of this.  It was in fact a gloriously sunny day so we made the most of the outside areas. I sat in the hot pool with my face turned towards the sun, and we spent many an hour sliding down the outside shoots.  Not sure I would have laid out on a beach towel though.  Needless to say, I have spent many a session there when it has been too horrible to do anything outdoors (and you have to trust me when I say the weather has to be really bad to drive me inside).  So with the approach of winter, Alton Towers Waterpark comes into its own as a family weekend break, staying at Barks self-catering cottage.  When you've had enough of the poolside fun, come back to the holiday cottage warm your toes on the underfloor heating, the radiators and even the open fire!

Now here's a thought for families with pre-school children.  Alton Towers Waterpark has a midweek deal for children aged 6 and under.  It is just £5 for the morning session for you and your toddler.  Two parents, two children: it is £10 for an excellent morning of fun.  I am very familiar with this session and used to take full advantage of it when my son was of qualifying age. 

I remembered these Waterpark 'toddler sessions' very fondly, when I was there last week.  My son is not a natural swimmer and it has taken time and patience to build his water confidence.  We haven't been to formal lessons for a while because he was starting to complain about them, so I stopped them for a while before it became an outright refusal.  So last week I was keen to assess his abilities.  There is no swimming pool as such, just an abundance of water in the form of shallows, slides, landing pools, hot pools, waterfalls, moving rivers.  The actual swimming took place after he landed in a pool off a slides or tunnel.  Big splash, swim to the side and out again to go back to the top.  Adults can just about keep a dry face, but children will get wet all over and strangely they don't really notice.  Fantastic for water confidence.  My son even asked me for a diving lesson - sitting dive from a step.

If you want a midweek change of scene and you have toddlers then please enquire about our midweek winter rates.  Tell the office that you are 'working from home' and hook your laptop onto our WiFi - we won't tell on you! email

(and don't forget the off season spa deals . . . entry to the relaxation rooms for £10 midweek - no kids allowed there though)


Alton Towers Fireworks season finale 2010

The fireworks are back with a bang for 2010. 

We have self-catering accommodation available with three night holiday cottage mini breaks designed to meet the demand for the Alton Towers Fireworks spectacular in November.

3 nights self-catering allows 2 full days at Alton Towers including a night or two at the fireworks.  Of course you could spend one day at Alton Towers and the other enjoying something quieter, like the spectacular autumn walking or a visit to the Trentham Gardens or our local National Trust properties .  I am always trying to stress that there is a lot more to do around here than visit Alton Towers.  I am starting to realise that Alton Towers lovers only truly clock the holiday potential in the Churnet Valley after their first visit.  So if you haven't been before, the season finale is nearly upon us and it is time to book and sample the delights the Staffordshire Moorlands has to offer at all times of year.

I am not a fan of roller coasters, but I do like the fireworks.  In previous years we have watched the display from across the valley, but this year we will be flexing our Merlin passes.


A Churnet Valley gem - Dimmingsdale

It has been change over day at the holiday cottage today. Our last guests were two couples and Millie the dog, who were all keen walkers.
Our new arrivals are three generations of one family with Oscar. I have yet to meet them because I am enjoying an evening walk in the heart of the Churnet Valley.
I love to nip down the hill to Dimmingsdale and enjoy having this beauty spot all to myself after the weekend visitors have gone. I just thought I'd pause during my walk and share this lovely view of the lake.

Barks Holiday Cottage, 01538 703436


Holiday cottage guests sent us this photo

This is what the hens get up to when you go out! Cheeky or what? I think they are just reclaiming 'their' space while the holiday cottage guests go off to Alton Towers or Trentham Gardens or wherever . . .

Thanks very much Phil for sending us this snap.

for latest self-catering holiday availability - visit our availability page
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Last minute Alton Towers accommodation

AUGUST availability

We have only two self catering mini breaks available during the school summer holidays.  The perfect way for a family of five to enjoy a couple of days at Alton Towers and some lovely Staffordshire countryside.  Tidy rural cottage just a couple of miles to Alton  Towers.

7 - 9 August: Weekend 3 night mini-break: arriving Saturday 7th and departing Tuesday 10th is £295.

10 - 13 August: DISCOUNT OFFER: Mid week 3 night mini-break arriving Tuesday 10th and departing Fri 13th is 15% off - now £240.

For more availability later in the season please check the Availability page.


Rural Holiday Cottage - nature update

A near tragic event became a very moving experience yesterday.  I heard a thump at the front of the house and recognised the sound immediately.  A young bird had flown into the front window, the third to do so this season.

Previously a finch went crash, gave itself a headache and flew away, somewhat wiser I hope.  Later a recently fledged woodpecker did the same, but it didn't make it.  I felt its little heart beat its last beat, and my own heart break just a little.  I kept one of its feathers for sentimental reasons.

So yesterday I wandered round to the front of the house to check what had misjudged its flightpath and was horrified to see it was another of the woodpecker brood.  Without letting it see me I quietly picked it up and felt its heart was beating.  Beak open and eyes closed, I didn't really fancy its chances and wasn't surprised when its heart starting beating less vigorously.  I sat still and kept it warm to give it some recovery time.  I was there for quite a long time and worried when it didn't react to the chirp of another passing woodpecker.  I felt hopeful when it started shaking its head.  Its heart beat firmly again. Then it sneezed.  Clawed feet suddenly gripped my finger firmly, although there was no sign of it wanting to fly away.  On the contrary it twisted its head round and hid it under its wing.  Ah, the restoring powers of sleep!

I wanted to summon assistance for the camera, but couldn't call out.  I needed to search online for what to do when you have a sleeping woodpecker in your hands - Chris Packham must have mentioned it somewhere - but my hands were full.  I needed to go on the school run . . .

Little woodpecker stayed sleeping when I transferred him to the covered birdtable.  I was away on the school run for half an hour and by the time I was back the little woodpecker had gone from the bird table.  Clinging to the birdfeeder outside the holiday cottage bedroom window, however, was a young woodpecker.  Normally so keen to fly away at the slightest movement this bird hid around the pole and bravely took its time.  I like to think it was the same woodpecker having a peanut breakfast after a restoring snooze. 

Meanwhile, Ashes, one of last years chicks, has become broody and has been given an enormous new and expensive hen house all to herself.  She is now sitting comfortably and is recovered from her initial separation anxiety.  If I remember correctly eggs take 19 - 21 days to hatch so expect a blog update on this subject in about 3 weeks if she stays the distance.


Last minute August self catering holiday near Alton Towers

My goodness what has happened this week to make everyone pick up the phone and make enquiries?  World cup over, sun went in for moment so people were forced to come inside maybe.  Who know?!  Trouble is that we don't have very much availability left for our self catering cottage in August so it is first come, first served.

7 - 12 August:  We now have 6 nights available for £405 in Barks Holiday Cottage to sleep up to 5 people
Plus the Annex suite is perfect for another couple to join you on your holiday if required for 3 nights at £150 or £225 for all 6 nights.

28 - 31 August Bank Holiday:  £295 for 3 nights plus £50 for extra night.
September is quiet for now, as always.  When the children have gone back to school I expect we will see some exhausted parents recharging their batteries.  I recommend some good country air and scenery, then maybe an evening session in the spa followed by a lovely meal out.  Doesn't that sound relaxing?


A special July welcome to the holiday cottage

I just feel like showing off a little bit! I hope that is allowed. We have a family of five arriving shortly for a week's self catering holiday and I have just put the finishing touches to the holiday cottage ready for their arrival. They are coming from Sussex which is a fair old trek. I just had to take a photo because the seasonal touch for July included some strawberries from our garden. Love July!

I had a Nigella moment and thought I'd pick some strawberries to go with the choc chip muffins I made using eggs from our free range hens. Fresh coffee and a cafetiere, a tea pot with some Earl Grey, a jug of milk in the fridge and some fragrant flowers from the garden; what could be lovelier on a sunny July day? Well . . . they can take their afternoon tea into the garden if they so choose.

We still have a July weekend available - 10, 11, 12th July.
And there is another July gap that I'd love to fill with a short or long break anytime between 20th - 26th. Can't promise strawberries though!

01538 703436
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Barn owl hunts around the holiday cottage

Not the best ever photo but a quick snap with the camera phone just to share the beauty of our resident barn owl. I'll keep trying with the photography. It is on the hunt right now, but it is too dark for my camera.
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Insiders Guide to Alton Towers

Keep an eye out for the Unofficial Guide to Alton Towers that has been published by another Staffordshire local.  It has lots of discounts and offers.  It is sold locally and on Amazon.  Check on this website for some top tips when visiting Alton Towers and other famous attractions - worth adding to your favourites!

I was having a tidy up and came across a way to get reduced price Alton Towers tickets.  2 for 1 with your AA membership card.  You have to sort it all out online, of course, via tha AA website but definitely worth checking.  I have put the details of the offer into our Holiday Cottage welcome pack.  Our self-catering guests can then get booking, using the cottage WiFi no less.

A lot of our holiday cottage guests have Merlin annual passes and stay at Barks because it combines the best of both worlds:  really near Alton Towers and also a lovely tranquil countryside location.  A couple of days of high adrenalin, a couple of days of completely chilling out.

Holiday Cottage Rental:
3 nights:  £295
7 nights:  £450
sleeps 4 or family of 5 on a self-catering basis
for accommodation reservations please call 01538 703436 or email

For summer availability  - follow the navigation above or click here

From Barks Holiday Cottage, ideal for Alton Towers and Peak District, sleeps 4 or family of 5


Walking . . . pottering . . . pondering

As a holiday cottage owner I have to mention the holiday cottage at every opportunity because in truth most of our enquiries and bookings are made via this blog.  And on top of that every article needs to mention Alton Towers a million times too.  Not because my readers are in any way missing the point about this being a holiday cottage just a jot away from the nation's favourite theme park . . . yes you guessed it . . . aka Alton Towers!.  (Gosh that was a lot of mentions in one sentence, maybe now I'm free . . . )  It's all driven by that search engine thing and in truth I am grateful to the world's favourite search engine for bringing us so many interesting cottage guests.

If this morning I am sounding a little weary of these subjects (I'll pass this opportunity to repeat my keywords)  it is because in the last couple of days I have read some lovely blogs.  Blogs with no agenda, no constraints, just words emerging from the mood of the writer.  Envy has overtaken me.  So I thought what the heck, we are almost solidly booked this month and have a gap or two in July and August so I am going to just write, for the sake of it.  And see how it has ended up so far - almost perfect keyword density!

I'll try and photograph the barn owl and blog about him/her another time. Baby birds are fledging all around and our family of bluetits have done well.  Two fledgelings have hit our windows.  The nuthatch learned from its ordeal but sadly the woodpecker expired from either a broken neck or shock. I left it on the wall and something else came along and has left me some fluff and the odd feather.  I feel sentimental and will keep the feather for a while. The forage harvesters are busy across the Peak District and the lush swishing June fields will be a shocked light green bareness for a while. The last few weeks have been wonderful for walking, pottering and pondering - my favourite activities.

The picture is the view from the holiday cottage so you can see that this is a good destination for walking, pottering and pondering (as well as Alton  Towers!).


Last minute breaks to Peak District or Alton Towers

2012 last minute summer availability: Reservations 01538 703436 or email

Barks Holiday Cottage has a few gaps between bookings in July 2012 that we are offering as last minute mini cottage breaks.  We are ideally placed for exploring the Peak District.  This area is known as the Churnet Valley in the Staffordshire Peak District.  Famous landmarks like the Stepping Stones at Dovedale are only a few miles away.  Barks Holiday Cottage is ideally located for Alton Towers at just 2.6 miles from the entrance.

Our normal summer self catering rates are £495 for a week or £295 for 3 nights. The holiday cottage sleeps 5 and accepts dogs.  There is superb walking in the surrounding Churnet Valley and Peak District.

last minute availability accommodation near Alton Towers and Peak District  - as at 1st July 2012.


Holiday cottage guests set off walking to Alton Towers

Barks Holiday Cottage, self catering accommodation is 2.6 miles near Alton Towers and sleeps 4/5.

Walking to Alton Towers might not seem notable if you're unfamiliar with the area around here.  It is worth knowing that there are only a handful of places you could possibly stay that are easy walking distance - all in Farley.  People searching for accommodation near Alton Towers are under a false impression of convenience if they opt for Alton.  As I say, the entrance to Alton Towers is in Farley, midway between Oakamoor and Alton.  And we are just outside Oakamoor.  Travelling to Alton Towers by public transport, wherever you are staying, should be regarded as the start of a full day of adventure.

Our holiday cottage guests have just set off.  I offered them a lift (it would have taken two cars) and gave them the local taxi number, but no, they fancy a walk and public transport.  Good for them, I definitely approve.  I drew them a map so that they could walk through the fields and woods, but they showed me the children's buggy, fully loaded for the day.  Ah!

There are three children and three adults and a buggy straggling down the hill to Oakamoor to catch the 32A bus up the hill the other side to Alton Towers.  I asked if they had checked the bus times and our guests thought maybe the bus came every 10 minutes towards Alton Towers, rather than every 2 hours which is the reality.  They are are now goal oriented, the 12.10pm is their mission.  Welcome to the countryside! 

They also have the idea that taxis queue up outside the exit of Alton Towers like they do at city train stations.  I can't recall this scene at Alton Towers, but hopefully they do.  I insisted they take our telephone number because we will fetch them, no problem.  Essential I suspect.

Meanwhile some readers of Ethical Traveller have contacted us for Alton Towers accommodation.  I must remind them to bring stout shoes. Ethical travellers will relish the challenge that awaits them.


Alton Towers 80s concert

Alton Towers cheesy 30th birthday was actually a good day out. The park was really quiet so we snuck in some rides before the concert started and then soaked up the sun while listening to the music of my heyday. All the acts were great and didn't take themselves too seriously. Midge Ure doing Vienna was a highlight.
There were loads of other parents who were, like me, proving to their kids that we had real, fun lives before we grew up and became responsible.
So now here we are running our holiday cottage near Alton Towers and the Peak District, as well as doing the day job. Great when festivals in the sun arrive on your doorstep. Happy days.

Barks Holiday Cottage, 01538 703436



Accommodation for the concerts at Alton Towers - or a walking weekend?

The concerts at Alton Towers are proving very popular with visitors.  We could have taken bookings for the 2010 Pink Concert several times over.  The cottage and the Annex were both booked by an extended family.  The 80's concert was another matter.  We had no enquiries.  Not one.  Zip.  I went to the concert and rather enjoyed it!

More concerts are planned for 2011, kicking off with  McFly, JLS, Eliza Doolittle and The Saturdays. Then in July The Black Eyed Peas are booked to play.

The holiday cottage is self-catering and handily near Alton Towers.  Being in the next village, the holiday cottage is just 2.6 miles away from Alton Towers and takes just a few minutes. 

I hope for 2011 concerts the parking nightmare is sorted out.  Surely they can't make the same mistake twice.

Barks Holiday Cottage sleeps 4 or 5 in the main cottage and another couple in the Annex.  Book for 3 nights or more.
Check our availability online or drop us an email or ring 01538 703436.



Bluebells in the woods between here and Alton Towers

Holiday cottage enquiries - 01538 703436
Alton Towers in the next village only 2.6 miles away.
Great walking country here in the Churnet Valley and Peak District - as you can see the bluebells are heavenly just now.
From Barks: self-catering holiday cottage accommodation near Alton Towers
Self catering accommodation for 5 people. Please visit our information pages for more details or just give us a call.


Churnet Valley next to Alton Towers

I took my car to the garage in Alton and walked back with the dogs. A stream of traffic was leaving Alton Towers across the valley from us; I hope they noticed the beautiful views, but I know they missed the birdsong. I really enjoyed a peaceful walk through the lovely Churnet Valley.

Barks Holiday Cottage, 01538 703436


Spring views at the holiday cottage

Daffodils in the sunshine outside the holiday cottage bedroom windows.

If you are heading to Alton Towers and want to add some romance, privacy and peace and quiet, then this is the place to stay. We have midweek and weekend Spring special offer until 20 May:
Weekends: £222 for family of 4/5.
Midweek: double room £50
Call 01538 703436 to book
Barks Holiday Cottage, 01538 703436


May deals to Alton Towers

There are great deals floating around for entry to Alton Towers. 
If you are prepared to wait and save up then Tesco Clubcard is useful - and brilliant for getting your hands on a reduced price Merlin Annual Pass.

If you find you can escape to Alton Towers at the last minute then I have two money saving tips to offer:
1.  Join the Alton Towers Facebook Fan Page and print off your own 2 for 1 vouchers.  As many as you need.  While you are on Facebook please join the Barks Holiday Cottage page and keep up with our special offers and updates.
2.  The couple that were here at the weekend said they got a 2 for 1 voucher at WH Smith.  Check it out.

If you can grab a deal and escape to Alton Towers at the last minute then check out our May mid-season special accommodation offer, available from now until 20th May:

Weekends - £222.  That's 25% off our usual price for a 3 night stay.
Add some romance to your Alton Towers visit and stay over in a lovely country cottage in the next village to your favourite theme park at ST10 4DB.
May Midweek Facebook special room rate*: - double room £50 per night.  
*This offer is for Fans of our Facebook page, but you could join our Facebook page now and get this mid-season deal and maybe more like it during the season ahead.  Midweek is Monday - Thursday.  Payment is cash on arrival.  Telephone for availability or post your dates on our Facebook wall.


Rural holiday cottage - the lambs are so cute now

Barks is a lovely, rural holiday cottage even though it is less than 3 miles from Alton Towers. I suppose those that know Alton Towers well will have walked the Woodland Walk and seen the great views over the Churnet Valley and therefore appreciate the loveliness of our surroundings.

Well our holiday just took on an even more rural and lovelier quality because the ewes and lambs are now in the fields.  They are jumping about for no particular reason other than the sun is shining over the Staffordshire Moorlands.  It is such a lovely scene, you must come.

3 nights £295
7 nights £450

email us or call 01538 703436
Join our Facebook Fan Page and receive a discount on midweek visits before 20th May - just scribble the dates you would like on the 'wall' and we'll get back to you asap.


Got drenched at Alton Towers

We went to Alton Towers again and got completely drenched.  Not by the weather, by the log flume.  The sun shone gloriously, it was 18C.  Too early to herald the arrival of summer, but a reminder of the Alton Towers fun and sunshine that we are holding out for.


Good Friday Fun at Alton Towers

Barks Holiday Cottage - 01538 703436

We finally made it to Alton Towers with our passes.  We thought we would nip in early and avoid any holiday queues but that didn't work when we hit the rush hour for the monorail, which promptly broke down.  Took ages to get in.  Once in, however, Alton Towers was really quiet.  No further waiting required. 

I was expecting Alton Towers to have a relatively quiet day and was discussing this with one of the ride handlers, another local Alton resident.  Apparently it is always relatively quiet on bank holidays (even though Good Friday isn't a bank holiday).  The weekend should be quiet too, so we may go to Alton Towers again. Lots of the local Alton Towers accommodation providers of self-catering and B&B have told me the same story:  vacancies now, fully booked accommodation from Sunday.

self-catering from 3 nights 11th April - 18th April
short break and weekend self catering for Alton Towers visits available from 21st April

While at Alton Towers we made use of our Merlin Annual passes and said hi to the fishes in Sharkbait Reef aquarium, pottered around on some of the old favourites at Old MacDonalds Farm and gave ourselves a mini adrenalin kick on the Dragon junior rollercoaster.  Really I am quite relieved that my six and a half year old can still be amused by these tame rides because I am not going to manage Thirteen, Air, Nemesis etc  Next time we go I think we will just nip to Cloud Cuckoo Land.  Handy to be only a couple of miles away in the next village.


Easter holidays near Alton Towers

What a gorgeous morning.  We are about to set off on the school hike and I bet it is going to be beautiful across the fields and through the woods.  Last day of term here.  Then a chocolate fest no doubt.

We have last minute self-catering availability for Alton towers tonight until Monday.  Then another gap between 11th - 18th.  Please give us a ring on 01538 703436 if you would like to book in for some country air.  I doubt the snow will still be here but it is lovely walking around here at the moment.  And of course Alton Towers is only a couple of miles away in the next village.


Alton Towers first weekend open

Alton Towers opens this weekend (unless of course you are Calum Best who tweeted that he was here on Friday).  Well, the big day came and it was raining, so we wimped out of going to Alton Towers and didn't make use of our Merlin pass.  Then today was glorious and sunny, so much so that we didn't make it to Alton Towers because we were too busy in the garden.  Oh dear . . . I hope our investment in an Alton Towers pass pays the expected entertainment dividend.

For those with more commitment to coming to Alton Towers, and looking for some family-friendly self-catering accommodation near to Alton Towers - it is just 2.8 miles to ST10 4DB aka Alton Towers Resort -  please take a look at the pictures and prices etc and give us a call or email with your preferred dates.  We look forward to hearing from you and offering you a warm welcome at Barks Holiday Cottage.


Easter weekend availability

Anyone fancy an Easter break?
  • How about a couple of days fun at Alton Towers?
  • Tempted by an indoor beach holiday at the Waterpark?
  • Need some pampering at the Alton Towers spa?
  • Is your spirit crying out for some peace and quiet and country air?
  • Need to entertain the family with days out?
April Availability (as at 28th March)
Barks Holiday Cottage has last minute availability for short breaks over Easter
3+ nights availability between now to 5th April departure
11th April - 17th April (7 nights Sunday to Sunday or for 3+ night breaks)

Barks is fully booked between 5th - 11th April and 18th - 21st April

Barks is child and pet friendly.

Call me now on 01538 703436 or email


Easter Eggs

Our remaining hens are in a flap following the loss of Speckedly Brown.  Our neighbour slammed his shed door and Cinders flew onto the roof.

They are still happily laying eggs so we should have plenty for Easter.  Might have to work on them being chocolate ones.

We still have some availability during the Easter school holidays for self-catering breaks of 3+ days starting at £295.  I need to update our Google Calendar, but in the meantime please drop us an email with your preferred dates or give us a call on 01538 703436


Speckedly Brown and the fox

The foxes have been busy, with their minds on the matter of spring.  A big golden dog fox has been seen quite frequently and we have been worrying for our free range hens.  He is a handsome, countryside fox, who looks you in the eye, unafraid.

Yesterday, as we set off on the hike to school, we heard a squeal from the woods and identified it as the fox.  We nipped back and put the hens into their run.  We let them out on our return, and they fluffed up their feathers, shook indignantly and set off purposefully up the track towards the cottages; on a mission to raid bird tables I rather suspect. 

Dear Speckedly Brown, my trusty broody hen, seemed to be the one leading them away.  Stuart, the cockerel, considered coming back to my call, but his duty was to stay with his girls and he followed them away.  I watched them leave.  I felt at the time their journey was high risk and intended to find some treats to tempt them back home but once indoors I was distracted by other matters.

Poor Speckedly Brown did not return.  We hunted for her at dusk, but there was no sign.  We looked for evidence of her demise, but there is not even a stray feather. 

Cinders, Ashes, Fenny and Suart .... stay close please.



Alton Towers opens 20th March

Many of our holiday cottage guests are families 4 of 5 who are looking to wrap a holiday around a couple of days of fun at Alton Towers.

Others are small groups of friends who want nothing more than a couple of packed days at Alton Towers.

To all you Alton Towers lovers . . . prepare for the season to start in earnest on 20th March.  There was a taste of the action over half term. 

We are ready!  The cottage is ready!

We have bought our Merlin Entertainments annual pass and have already been onto the London Eye.   If you have your Merlin pass, all you need now is some comfortable accommodation just a short nip from your favourite theme park.  Look no further  . . . please check out our 3 night and 7 night self-catering breaks.

Give us a call on 01538 703436 or email us to check availability on your preferred dates. 


Nearly Feb half term already

Feb half term - Alton Towers is open on reduced hours and ticket prices.  We have availability please enquire on 01538 703436 for dates and prices

March 20th - Theme Park opens in earnest.  If you are looking for self-catering accommodation near Alton Towers please do drop us an email to check availability at our holiday cottage on your preferred dates.  3 nights or 7 nights self catering lets available.


Walking the Moorlands seasonal update

I can't believe it is nearly half term.  The school hike is going well.  We set off at 8.25am in a bit of a rush.  It takes about 10 minutes to get ready.  A 6yr old needs to be constantly hurried along and questioned about progress - teeth cleaned?  wellies on?  school shoes in rucksack?  coat? waterproof trousers?  bookbag?  Then I need to check my layers are warm enough for the downhill start and adjustable for the upward return - woolly hat, necker, ski jacket seems to be working at the moment.  Dog leads?  rucksack?  phone?

Whatever the time of year there is something marvellous about walking around the Churnet Valley.  The sunrise and cloud formations over Beelow Hill, on the other side of the valley, have been wonderful the last week or so. 

The wildlife is preparing for spring.  I have noticed that the birds are singing more.  This morning the woodpeckers were in action, clattering against some trees.  Yesterday there were foxes everywhere.  We shut the hens into their run even though the foxes had other seasonal matters on their minds.

The extra daylight is welcome.  And to add to our sparkling sunny morning was a sprinkling of fresh snow.

We only do the school hike going to school.  It is one thing for a 6yr old to kick a tennis ball along a downhill track for 20 minutes, but too much after a hard day at school to walk 40 minutes up a steep hill.  And sadly we have to fit some real work into our day.


Fancy an Alton Towers self-catering Spa weekend?

Banish the cold - how about an Alton Towers self-catering Spa Break to warm you up?
At Barks holiday cottage you'll lots and lots of warmth and comfort during the winter season: Open fires, underfloor heating, central heating, electric blankets and freshly baked cakes as part of your warm welcome. Add in the Alton Towers Spa - sauna, steam room, pool, footbaths, relaxation rooms (I love the heated tile recliners) and lots of extra treatment options to add to the indulgence.

With this idea there is no chilly pinch in your toes or your wallet:
2 night winter break at Barks Holiday Cottage £185
entry to the spa from £10 for 4 hours - £18 weekend and £10 midweek
Bring your own champagne for some fireside indulgence . . .

It might be cold outside and the Alton Towers theme park is closed until Feb half term week but there is warmth & comfort in abundance.

Is Barks self catering holiday accommodation near Alton Towers ? Yes - just 2.6 miles away! I checked on my way back from the Spa this week.

Enquire now about taking Barks holiday cottage for your summer Alton Towers and Peak District family holiday.  01538 703436
3 nights £295 - perfect for 2 whole days at Alton Towers
7 nights £450 - max out at Alton Towers and have time to take in the scenery, the local shopping, the zoo, the Opera House. . .

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Winter self catering

Winter view.

The snow has been fantastic here. Yesterday it was 6C but on the north side of the stone walls there was still a line of white snow giving the countryside a quilted effect.

The forecast is for more snow tomorrow. Maybe another school closure and day's sledging.

Meanwhile summer bookings are coming in from families looking for self-catering accommodation near Alton Towers for their summer holidays.

Please email us regarding availability on your preferred dates of 3 nights or 7 nights or just give us a ring on 01538 703436
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Churnet Valley Walks

Barks Holiday Cottage accommodation near Alton Towers is also perfect as a cosy base for a weekend of walking in the Churnet Valley.

I walk down into the Churnet Valley everyday taking my son to school, and then the dogs and I walk back up the steep valley sides through the most magnificent woodland and open countryside.  The exercise is good for the heart, the views are good for the soul. 

This week there has been enough snow that we have sledged to school, which is handy because even the 4x4s were slipping on the untreated road.


Booking a self-catering holiday cottage Tip 7: Dates

Barks self-catering holiday accommodation in the Churnet Valley - ideally situated for Alton Towers fun and Peak District countryside. 01538 703436.

Tip 7. Dates

Finally, think about the date of your holiday. The school holidays obviously book up the quickest so be prepared to book in advance to get the accommodation and holiday you want - the best cottages often book up a year in advance by repeat holiday makers. Alternatively, be prepared to be flexible and change your dates.

Barks - this is good advice. We have already had bookings for the summer 2010 school holidays. Alton Towers is a very popular destination for families. Families that holiday at Barks often spend 2 days at the Alton Towers Theme Park and another day at the Alton Towers waterpark (Cariba Creek). Leaving barely enough time for the mulitude of other activities that abound in the area.

Confirmed bookings are only taken on receipt of a completed Booking Form and require 50% payment on booking (please see our Terms & Conditions & Booking Form)


Booking a self-catering holiday cottage tip 6: Duration

Barks self-catering holiday accommodation in the Churnet Valley - ideally situated for Alton Towers fun and Peak District countryside. 01538 703436.

Tip 6. Duration

Some holiday cottages have specific days of the week for check in and check out (usually a Saturday) so ensure this fits in with your plans - if you're looking for a 10 day break at a property that only allows 7 or 14 day bookings, you won't be able to do this. The same goes for weekend breaks - during peak holiday periods these may not be permitted unless it's a last minute booking or a cancellation.

At Barks we keep it simple. You book 3 nights, 7 nights or longer according to what suits you and our availability. We have, quite honestly, given up trying to work to a Friday change-over day. Just book the dates you need - first come, first served! Please note: Bookings can only be confirmed on receipt of the paperwork and the deposit. To enquire about availability please email us or give us a call.

Tips on booking a self-catering holiday cottage as provided by Travelsupermarket.


Alton Towers Annual Pass - special offer

For a limited period Merlin is offering its Annual Pass at a huge discount.  Book online on the Alton Towers website before 10th Jan.  The good thing about the Merlin Pass is that you get enty to all the other places as well as Alton Towers.  You can buy a pass just for Alton Towers, and also one just for the Waterpark at Splash Landings.  The Merlin pass appears not to allow entry to the Waterpark, which for those of us a couple of miles away is a bit of a blow.

Book now for family self-catering accommodation for the Alton Towers season.  Please call 01538 703436 or email for availability.

Self-catering holiday cottages - Tip 5: Cooking

Tip 5. Cooking

Cottage holidays are generally self-catering. Some cottages are supplied with large, well equipped kitchens while others will have a kitchen corner or kitchenette. You should always have enough pots, pans etc for the maximum amount of people that can occupy the property, but if you are planning on a lot of cooking it is best to enquire about the facilities. The larger the property, the greater your chances of a well-equipped kitchen. Remember to take some basic supplies with you so you don't have to go in search of a supermarket as soon as you arrive.

Barks - we are self-catering and make available a litre of milk, tea bags, instant coffee, soap. We have a farm shop that will deliver on a Friday, a Morrisons 3 miles away in Cheadle, and recommend those from the south to either come via Ashbourne where you have the choice of Sainsbury's and M&S Food, or stop at the services for M&S on M1 at junction 23A. The Kitchen at Barks is modern and well-equipped. We are next door if you need a particular utensil or pan.

Booking a holiday cottage. Tip 4: Transport

Barks self-catering holiday accommodation in the Churnet Valley - ideally situated for Alton Towers fun and Peak District countryside. 01538 703436.

Tips on booking a self-catering holiday cottage as provided by Travelsupermarket.
Tip 4. Transport
Be prepared for traffic jams if you're travelling in peak season, get directions to the cottage and don't forget your breakdown cover.

Barks - It can be busy getting in and out of Alton Towers at peak times.  Normally the queues are from the Uttoxeter side (south) and through Alton so staying at Barks means you avoid the busiest roads.  I make no claims in favour of the M1 or M6, but at least they are not as bad as going south on the M5 on change-over day.

Directions are provided with confirmation of booking and Sat nav can be relied upon to get you pretty close. 

Booking a holiday cottage. Tip 3: Choose the right-sized property

Barks self-catering holiday accommodation in the Churnet Valley - ideally situated for Alton Towers fun and Peak District countryside. 01538 703436.

3. Choose the right sized property
Think about the number of bedrooms and bathrooms you'll need and check whether any of the beds are sofa beds.  Is it practical for a member of your party to sleep in the lounge?

Barks - we sleep up to 5 all in proper beds. We have a double bed and 3 singles.  There are 2 bedrooms with flexibility as to how the beds are arranged.  There is also a cot if required. 

NB There is also a separately accessed double room with en-suite that can be made available if you need extra stand-alone space e.g for a couple of nights visit from grandparents.  Additional fees applicable, please enquire.

If your party is very large, we know other people in the area with holiday cottages that can accommodate large groups and would suit several families holidaying together.

Booking a self-catering holiday cottage - tip 1 set a budget

I came across these tips for booking a self-catering Holiday Cottage (prepared by Travelsupermarket) and have pleasure sharing them with you, with a few explanatory notes relating to Barks Holiday Cottage near Alton Towers.  All 7 tips will be blogged over the course of the next few days.

1. Set a budget
Taking a break in the UK is often thought of as the cheaper option, but with more and more luxury cottages entering the rental market, it's easy to overspend.  Also, think about the petrol costs for the journey getting to your destination.

Barks adds - and consider the drive time if you have children on board!  To get to Alton Towers takes:

·         3 hours from London

·         4.5 from Glasgow.  (So if you were thinking of travelling to Scotland save yourself that extra 4.5 hours driving and holiday here instead! Countryside is similarly idyllic and easily accessible and you can get that ‘away from it all feeling.)

·         3.5 hours from Newcastle

·         3 hours from Cardiff

Trains can be taken to Stoke-on-Trent or Derby and connecting trains to Uttoxeter where you'll find buses to Alton Towers.  There are buses from Stoke to Cheadle or Alton Towers, local taxis, and as we live nearby we'll endeavour not to leave you stranded if we are around!

To help you with your budget we offer 3 nights at £295 and 7 nights for £450.  We are told it is fair to describe Barks as very smart self-catering accommodation near Alton Towers, but at very reasonable prices.

Barks Self Catering Holiday Cottage in the Churnet Valley
Holiday accommodation in the Staffordshire Moorlands, ideally situated for Peak District walks and Alton Towers fun.
01538 703436

Booking a self-catering holiday cottage - tip 2: choosing where you want to go

Barks self-catering holiday cottage in the Churnet Valley. Holiday accommodation ideally situated for Peak District walks and Alton Towers fun. Sleeps 4/5. 01538 703436

I came across these tips for booking a self-catering Holiday Cottage (prepared by Travelsupermarket) and have added a few explanatory notes relating to Barks Holiday Cottage near Alton Towers. 

Top Tip 2. Deciding where you want to go
Holiday cottages are available to rent in most parts of the UK, the most popular being Devon, Cornwall, the Lake District and The Cotswolds (what about Alton Towers and the Peak District??? Barks). Once you have decided on your location start looking at other details such as do you want to be by the sea, in the countryside or near a city (or a theme park)?  An isolated retreat may seem ideal when you're booking it, but think about the practicalities too - especially if you're with children or a large group - is there a supermarket nearby or a good pub/restaurant?

Barks adds - we are lovely and rural and off-road, but rest assured there is a supermarket 3 miles away, a take-away that delivers, plenty of pubs and restaurants which are child-friendly and lots of family-oriented entertainments, including Alton Towers a mere 3 miles away.  We are not well-placed for the sea though! 


If your group is larger than the 4/5 that we can accommodate please do drop us a line as we know other reputable self-catering cottages in the area to suit various sizes of groups.


I will post all 7 tips over the course of the next few days.