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 703163 email


2021 holiday cottage season opens

It is very exciting that lockdown is easing off a bit and people can get out, go places and see people. Rule of 6 makes things a bit complicated. It caused me some difficulty this week. We have a family of 8 wishing to see my mother on her 95th birthday - but rule of 6. As you can imagine, this has not been easy to resolve. In turn I think each of us offered to stand aside so that we meet the requirements of the Rule of 6. Even my mother offered to stand down, which didn't make a lot of sense really as it's her birthday! We are very grateful that my brother-in-law and my other half are both true gentlemen.

Anyway, family time commences across the nation, albeit a lot easier to manage for smaller families. We are all about family time. As Barks Holiday Cottage sleeps 5, this is not going to cause any issues for our bookings. And if another household wishes to visit, there is a good sized terrace and large parasol for comfortable, compliant outdoor get-togethers.

So, let family time commence.

We have short breaks available in May. Check availability

For the latest availability please check online or contact us -

2021 self catering cottage availability

If you look at our calendar on the major booking sites we look fully booked in the 2021 school holidays, but actually I have just blocked those dates off so that our regular guests and direct bookings get first dibs on their preferred dates.

How we are managing 2021 bookings

In the strange season that was 2020 we closed for a night between all bookings as part of our Covid policy. We felt a lot better managing change over after the cottage had been fully aired for a couple of hours. We also found that arriving guests were reassured that the cottage had again been fully aired after we had finished ready for their arrival. We even gave all the pillows and duvets an outside airing, as well as freshly laundered mattress and pillow protectors between each booking. So with all this airing and the extra time required for laundry and cleaning, 24 hours between bookings was about right. 

This year, with good vaccine uptake we think the situation is sufficiently different that we are going back to on-the-day change-overs. We will however be giving ourselves a bit more time than previous years by having 5pm arrival and 10am departure for all guests. And we shall ask our guests to do a few extra Covid prevention measures in addition to the standard tidying to leave the cottage as they found it. Nothing complicated, just a spray round in the bathroom and to leave the doors and windows open as they leave.

We appreciate the later 5pm arrival time can seem frustrating when you just want to arrive and get on with your much-needed break, but I do hope that everyone understands that we need the time to offer our services safely in these times.

To check dates for long and short breaks please see our self-catering availability
If you would like more information about our Covid policy for 2021 please don't hesitate to contact us.

Special offers to fill the gaps in holiday cottage bookings

Spring time special offer at Barks Holiday Cottage

We have two special offers:

24th - 26th May
This 3 night mini break is £350

 13th June - 18th June.
We are only looking to fill this with a 4 night break arriving any time after 13th and departing by 18th at a cost of £460.

If you would like more information or to book this break please email

πŸ•Two dogs welcome 
🎠Really near Alton Towers 
☀️Great for walkers and getting outdoors 
🍰Nearby tea rooms
🌳 Peak District & Churnet Valley await
πŸ˜ƒ Family time 

Generally speaking we work on a Friday change over, but we like to try to be flexible about when people can arrive and that sometimes leaves a gap. To encourage our lovely self-catering guests to book the gaps, we're making last minute special offers at Barks Holiday Cottage
Please check latest availability and email us at


Winter cottage rental

In the winter we take longer bookings of 21 to 28 days. The maximum length that any single booking can be is 28 days, so as not to affect our status as holiday accommodation.

We can be flexible in how the rooms are laid out. We have 3 single beds and a double bed.
  • Gas CH.
  • Open fire
  • Electric blanket on double bed
  • Hairdryer
  • TV - large digital TV.
  • Microwave
  • Dishwasher
  • Fridge-freezer
  • Use of washing machine - available for winter bookings 21 to 28 days only.
  • Wifi - not superfast broadband but good enough to stream TV favourites.
  • Parking for 2 cars
  • Pets welcome: we accept dogs - please check that the situation regarding Pets is acceptable to you.
  • Sheets, duvets and towels are supplied


'Good to Go' certificate

We have followed government and industry COVID-19 guidelines for our holiday cottage business, have done a Risk Assessment and created a process to maintain cleanliness and aid social distancing. And after much time planning and making changes, and a few hours of necessary (but strangely bizarre) bureaucracy, we can now show everyone a certificate to prove what we've been doing πŸ‘ŒπŸ‘. 
I feel a bit like I am back at school πŸ˜ƒ

We are sending our revised guest information pack to everyone that books at Barks Holiday Cottage. If you would like more information about our processes when considering making a booking, please contact us.

For the latest availability please check online or email us


Holiday cottage is open again

It's been a long wait, but we are now advised that we can open again. Yippee. 4th July sees guests return to Barks self-catering holiday cottage.

We have put in place revised procedures, and taken away 'non essential items' in line with advice to holiday cottage owners. We are also going one step further and for the next couple of months, when possible, blocking out the night before and after guest bookings. We will then be able to give the cottage a good airing and take extra time cleaning and preparing it for our self-catering guests.

Lovely walks and picnics in the Churnet Valley and Peak District await our guests.

For the latest availability please check online or contact us.


It is so quiet in lock down

We have stayed at home, as directed, since the big announcement. The garden is starting to look quite tidy and we are only on day 3 of Lock Down. This glorious sunshine means that spring has sprung and everything is taking off.

I have been chopping and pruning as if I need to get it done quickly. Pacing myself would be a lot more sensible. It's not like I'm about to rush off to a gym class, after all. So I made a deliberate effort every now and then to stop and take stock. In these anxious times it is good to identify moments of joy every day.

Even though we are really lucky to be isolating ourselves in such an idyllic spot, we are still having to adjust from our usual routine, including the lack of holiday guests in the cottage. The sunshine helps a lot and having so much space to be quietly outside is a blessing that I am aware others do not have right now. It is almost like a holiday. (Here's an idea... why don't we run a holiday cottage? Ah...maybe later!)

With everywhere so quiet, this bee was quite a noisy visitor.

As a result of my gardening labours I have cuts on my arms from some aggressive roses and have blisters on my hands and fingers from the secateurs and the trowel. With blood dripping down my arm it was time to reach for the soap and Savlon, it being a particularly bad time to bother the NHS with an avoidable case of sepsis.


Social distance walking

A friend and I went for a walk today. It was lovely weather and we needed to get out. We were meant to be going out to a favourite restaurant, booked months ago to get a good upstairs table. Last night's announcement put paid to that plan. So we arranged a walk instead. Since we did not want to share a vehicle, in the times of strange new rules and etiquette, we set out from her house in Alton.

The wind gusted and my ancient, threadbare map was hard to study. I suppose I could have been on an app and known exactly how far off the footpath we strayed, but that would have been unsatisfactory in today's mood. My friend left the erratic map reading to me, as both of us handling the map doesn't work these days. We could also have walked in the usual favourites, but it is a weekend and the nation seemed to be out walking today, so we headed off the beaten track. And we were rewarded!

Without realising, we had ambled to a high point where there were spectacular views all around of the Churnet Valley, and further to the horizon in neighbouring counties. It was extra gusty at the top, and my friend doesn't like walking through fields grazed by horses, so we diverted from the planned route to a clear path, following the hedge, back towards Alton. It was a treat, with magnificent views over the village and Alton Castle. We were also very conveniently returned near to her house.

Walking is the new social. Plus, our little trek was precisely 10k steps. Perfect in every way.


Insurance update

Insurance claims: The Government declared COVID-19 a notifiable disease, a key criteria to allow insurance claims. If you have booked a holiday cottage and need to cancel, it is worth confirming this position with your insurer.


Bio-security measures at the holiday cottage

We have been reviewing what we need to do at the holiday cottage to ensure the safety and comfort of our guests and our team. Here are some of the things we are committing to doing in the months ahead.
Stocking up on bleach for the cottage

Deep cleaning. We have stocked up on bleach and will be cleaning all surfaces, door handles and hard surfaces between bookings. Obviously we always deep clean between bookings, now extras like every door handle will be routinely included in the cleaning schedule.

Extra time for change-overs. To enable us to achieve these extra measures we need more time. We have delayed check-in until 5pm. Check-out remains 10am.

Also, we have removed all non-essential items, in line with the advice provided to holiday cottage owners.

Social distancing. We will not be greeting our guests with a handshake or fussing our canine guests. 

We are able to offer people a place to get away from it all. If you like walking and fresh air and not seeing people, Barks Holiday Cottage is the place for a break.


Walkies from the holiday cottage

We so enjoyed having Albie and his owner staying here for a couple of weeks. On their last day on Thursday we all went for a lovely walk together in the afternoon sunshine. We had been through the woods and were heading back downhill through an open field.  "Albie has impeccable manners", I say, because he is being very polite to my senior lady.

Then we go through a field gate and he finds the muddiest puddle ever and is very pleased with himself as he achieves maximum mud coverage. 

Albie's owner is hoarse with remonstrations, but he gives that puppy look that says this is just too good to miss, however cross she gets. Aww, he's only 9 months old!

And we have an outside tap! Bad luck Albie 🐢

For the latest availability please check online


New Booking Form for 2020

Sometimes when outdoors is wintry and uninviting, I am happy to sit down at my PC and do techy things. So a couple of days ago I created a new holiday cottage booking form using SurveyMonkey rather than Google Forms. Quite a satisfying way to spend a couple of hours, if you like that sort of thing.

There isn't anything very complicated about our booking form, it is just a way of keeping details of our bookings in one place. Helpful when we need to check the party size of arriving guests as we prepare for holiday cottage change over.

Anyway, the good thing is that so far we have definitely received notifcations of new holiday cottage bookings, which was the reason I wanted to swap systems. As you can imagine, knowing when people have filled out the form is not something that we want to be hit or miss. And I had lost confidence in the previous system.

I hope your new year activities are as satisfying, and possibly more adventurous than mine πŸ˜€



Alton Towers Waterpark

Another great activity on the doorstep... Alton Towers waterpark

If you have already maxed out on the theme park, or it isn't quite your thing, then think about adding in a visit to the Alton Towers waterpark. There is something for all ages.

I used to go a lot when our son was pre-school age because it was like an indoor beach holiday with lots of action and distraction. Then later he would go in groups with other families and come home exhausted. As a young teenager he met up with a few mates, getting dropped off.

On a sunny day it really worked for me when the children would go off to all the chutes and activities and I would lie on an outdoor lounger minding all the stuff, and reading a book. Tough life!

You don't have to pay for parking at the Waterpark, (might be best to check, but last time I went you didn't anyway). And the waterpark is only 10 minutes from the holiday cottage if you want to drop children and come back and put your feet up.

Please check our self-catering holiday cottage accommodation availability


Coffee shop walks

At this time of year the media is all about health and wellbeing. We are being told to walk 10k steps and give up alcohol etc etc! Roll on spring when the story changes. Don't get me wrong, I really like walking (and a glass of wine!!).

If you need an incentive to do some walking, then a coffee shop is the answer. In the summer, one that also sells great ice cream can be a winner with the whole family, including the dog. Our countryside cafes have lovely outdoor seating and also sell dog ice cream. If only your dog could read this blog it would be booking πŸ˜€πŸ•πŸ•πŸ•πŸ¦
A step in the right direction? #motivation
Lovely walk in Churnet Valley, over the bridge from the Ramblers Retreat cafe.

A stroll along the Caldon Canal, from Hetty's tea room to the Black Lion.

We have destination tea / coffee shops in all directions for long and short walkies. And pubs, of course.


Poor ducks

We have been foxed. Poor ducks met their end last night, which is really sad. James went out to feed them and let them out of their hut and he knew something was up because they were suspiciously quiet. The fox had dug his way in. Foxes are hungry at this time of year and three big ducks must have been worth the effort. RIP lovely ducks.

Mrs Duck photo bombing my garden photo


Off season breaks

Walking from the doorstep at Barks Holiday Cottage, Churnet Valley

Off season short breaks are becoming increasingly popular as an entertaining getaway. If you can't decide between a spa retreat or a country cottage break here is a possible answer - do both at Barks Holiday Cottage.

  • Alton Towers spa which has entry to the sauna and relaxation rooms
  • country retreat, open fire, great views
  • walk in the Peak District and Churnet Valley - great walks from the doorstep
  • lovely pubs and restaurants in the local area.

Please check the latest availability and book online directly with us



Getting organised last minute for Christmas 2019

As yet we don't have a Christmas booking. I have just checked back on last year and the booking then was last minute too.  We have a change over to do today when our current guests depart, so once we've finished coffee we'll start rootling about for the box of decorations.

The cottage is available for 4 nights from 23rd December for £470. There is some flexibility in those dates (however we are already booked for New Year).

We can also be very flexible as to how much we decorate the cottage for our Christmas guests. We'll put a tree on the terrace and we generally do some indoor decorations, unless asked not to, and give our Christmas guests a box of chocolates.

Please email or ring us to check Christmas 2019 self catering availability


Alton Towers October opening times 2019

Opening times at Alton Towers over October 2019 including the school half term holidays. Below is our availability over October. So far the second week of the half term period is booked, but lots of people have an earlier half term and we have availability for the week commencing 18th October. 

Lots of fresh air, walks, tea rooms, pubs, and Alton Towers to please the inner teenager in everyone.

For the latest availability please check online or contact us.


Is it autumn? Peak walking season?

Even though everywhere is green and lush, there is the hint of autumn in the air. Especially in the mornings and evenings. This is my favourite time of year for walking in the Churnet Valley. Soon colour will appear in the woodlands and there might even be those breathtaking early frosts. Not too soon on that, my bean row won't cope!

So we have moved the holiday cottage into autumn mode too. The family room is now laid out as a twin room as its default setting. One twin, one double. With the children back at school this week, the guests we have booked in for September are adult groups or couples. Probably with a dog.

Because it is peak walking season, and where better to walk than round here, in the Churnet Valley woodlands and the hills of the Peak District?

Is it walkies time?

For the latest availability please check online or contact us.


Holiday insurance for your self-catering break.

It is always very sad when a family have to cancel their holiday plans or leave early because there is a crisis. It is rare, possibly once or maybe twice a year.

This year we had a group leave early because of health issues and have just had a cancellation email from the family that booked the August Bank Holiday weekend.

We can only presume that people have some sort of holiday insurance to cover their costs. A non-returnable booking deposit is just that - non returnable - so this is where holiday insurance comes in handy.

I hope I am wrong, but I have a suspicion that people don't take out insurance for UK holidays. Is it something about taking a flight that makes a holiday worthy of insuring?

Sometimes there is insurance bundled into your bank account fee - it is worth checking. But if not, can I just remind people that holiday insurance can be a good idea to cover any costs of a cancelled or curtailed holiday.