The Best of British Holiday Companies

Top 4 UK Country Cottage and Self Catering Websites

Compare the best UK self catering Companies 2024

Country Cottages - Holiday Apartments - Forest Lodges - Self Catering Cabins.

Holiday Cottages Logo

Top 5 Features - Holiday Cottages

  • Country cottage specialist
  • Cottages with hot tubs
  • Dog-friendly cottages
  • North Devon HQ. Est 1989
  • Larger properties available
Sykes Cottages

Top 5 Features - Sykes Cottages

  • Award Winning Holiday Experts
  • Late Deals & Special Offers
  • Dog-friendly Log Cabins
  • Winter Short Break Deals
  • Luxury Cottages
Rural Retreats Logo
Rural Retreats

Top 5 Features - Rural Retreats

  • Stylish & full of character
  • Large cottages for groups
  • Cottages with swimming pools
  • Unique holiday properties
  • Luxury barn conversions
Forest Holidays Logo
Forest Holidays

Top 5 Features - Forest Holidays

  • Luxury Forest Log Cabins
  • 12 Secluded Forest Locations
  • Forest Lodge with Wood Burner
  • Young Forest Ranger Activities
  • Dramatic Woodland Views

Best UK country Cottage and Lodge websites compared

Author: Chris Booth - Date: 12/11/2023.

Affiliate Disclosure & Disclaimer. We may use affiliate links, you can view our affiliate statement and article disclaimer here.

Our aim is to help you find the perfect holiday accommodation - whether you're booking a country cottage in England, a rural retreat in Wales, a luxury lodge in Scotland or a family adventure in Ireland - we're here to help.
Our review includes the following self-catering holiday suppliers:, Rural Retreats, Forest Holidays and Sykes Cottages - our review is based on the following criteria:

  • (1) Best company for self catering cottage choice and variety.
  • (2) Best company for UK luxury & character properties.
  • (3) Best company for UK outdoor family lodge experiences.
  • (4) Best company for value, deals and special offers.
  • (5) Best company for consistently good guest reviews.
  • (6) Best company for accommodating pets.

The four companies reviewed offer some of the best choices in UK holiday rentals - including country cottages, lodges, cabins and apartments. Most companies support sustainable operations, including nature conservation, people & wildlife and local rural economies. (see individual company websites for details).

All four companies reviewed are industry leaders, and while they all provide similar services, there are differences in the types of holiday experiences they offer. Each operator has unique strengths that can enhance your overall holiday experience and expectations - we look forward to sharing our findings with you.

Top Tips: If you're taking your pet on holiday with you, check out our How to Plan & Book Holidays with Dogs article for practical tips & advice. Alternatively, check out the UK Pet-Friendly and Self Catering Website review - it can help you find the perfect pet-friendly holiday accommodation.

Windermere Marina Village Apartments

(1) Best cottage company for choice and variety.

For the first category, we concentrate on those companies offering the most choice regarding accommodation options and facilities. We look at accommodation types - including the different styles of cottages, family lodges, woodland cabins, forest parks, apartments and townhouses - and the areas they cover throughout the UK.

We also looked for companies offering a good selection of tailored stay options, including stays tailored for couples, romantic escapes and active families, plus accommodation for outdoor adventures and groups. We also checked for online search tools and productive filter options that help quicken and 'narrow down' the search process.

Most companies reviewed provided good property descriptions, including local area information, nearby places of interest and general guides. Our favourite operator in this category provided the most in-depth property descriptions, including if a property is well-located for outdoor activities, such as hiking, riding, cycling and fishing, or if a property is close to a village or within walking distance of a real-ale pub or farm shops.

Holiday4 found to be the 'Best Company for choice and variety'. offers an extensive rental portfolio, offering everything from romantic cottages with hot tubs to properties with swimming pools and tennis courts.

With over 30 years of experience and hundreds of thousands of guests each year, HolidayCottages have adapted and grown their portfolio of self-catering accommodation to offer 1000's of quality holiday homes across the UK.

Holidaycottages is part of Travel Chapter Group, a network of lifestyle and regional accommodation brands. Brands include Canine Cottages (for dog-friendly holidays), Sally's Lake District Cottages, Cottages & Castles (for the perfect Scottish escape) and Gorgeous Cottages for luxury holiday cottages in Yorkshire - and many more.

Stand-out features for
  • DIVERSE PROPERTY PORTFOLIO - Accommodation types available, include boats to barns, tents to treehouses, cottages to castles, plus your own sprawling countryside mansions to explore.
  • AREAS COVERED - Multiple choice with Countryside, Forests, Coasts and Towns in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.
  • MORE THAN JUST COUNTRYSIDE - Cottages, homes and apartments covering many budgets, sizes and locations - including town centre boltholes and stylish apartments.
  • DEALS & LATE OFFERS - For bargain hunters - look out for late availability discounts.
  • EASY SEARCH TOOLS WITH FILTERS - has excellent search tools & filter options to help quicken the search. Filters include search by price, property makeup, dogs allowed, property facilities, property type, location and star rating.

Search Filters: Our research found HolidayCottages has a highly effective property search filter system - which can quickly help find your perfect holiday home. Our favourite and most used filter is the "Collections" filter, which includes a dedicated search by property type, including Family friendly, Luxury, Romantic, Quirky, Working farm, Glamping, Complex of properties and Green properties.

To sum up - has one of the largest property rental portfolios in the UK - their portfolio is vast and includes working farm holidays and luxury escapes, plus romantic cottages with hot tubs to larger properties with swimming pools and tennis courts - and everything in between.

Country Thatched Cottage

(2) Best cottage company for luxury & character properties.

For this category, we looked at companies specialising in luxury self-catering holiday accommodation, with a preference towards well-presented properties - with lots of charm and character - and set in beautiful locations.

Out of the four companies reviewed, one company stood out as the clear winner. The company offered a portfolio of lavish properties, all with unique charm, elegance and character. Property types include manor houses and stylish barn conversions to idyllic rural farmhouses and quaint thatched cottages.

Holiday4 found Rural Retreats to be 'Best company for luxury & character properties'.

Rural Retreats

We found the Rural Retreats portfolio represents some of the best luxury self-catering holiday cottages to rent across the UK - with properties having unique charm, elegance and character, along with high standards of comfort and furnishings.

Headquartered in Gloucestershire, Rural Retreats was launched in 1983 and offers holiday homes in locations throughout the UK.

Stand-out features for Rural Retreats:
  • HANDPICKED LUXURY - The Rural Retreats portfolio showcases over 600 luxury self-catering holiday cottages.
  • AREAS COVERED - Multiple choice, with deep in the countryside cottages, or closer to villages and towns - to a small selection of exceptionally fine city flats and apartments.
  • DOG FRIENDLY - Choose from over 300 dog-friendly self-catering properties - ideal selections for a break in the British countryside with a loyal friend.
  • EXPERT ADVICE - Rural Retreats have a dedicated team that can advise on luxury self-catering properties.
  • LUXURY & CHARACTER - Choose a grade II listed building, beautifully refurbished to contemporary standards - or an idyllic rural farm cottage with exposed beams, stone floors and a wood-burning stove.

Search Filters:

The Rural Retreats website features a highly efficient search & book filter system - that can quickly help find your perfect holiday home. You can start your search by selecting from a convenient filter menu, which includes an Inspiration category - containing options such as cottages near beaches, properties with electric vehicle charging points, perfect for engagements, historic retreats, manor houses - plus many more.

You can also filter your search to include special offers or choose to display availability by property type, including cottages with swimming pools, hot tubs, shepherd’s huts, large cottages for groups, plus an abundance of rural retreats for guests wanting to escape the hustle and bustle of city life - to enjoy the simplicity of comfort, peace and quiet.

To sum up - we discovered Rural Retreats caters well for property styles, prices and group sizes. Generally, we found property rental prices to be on the high side (compared to other cottage rental programs); however, when you factor in the high level of services received and property uniqueness, elegance and luxury - prices then appear to be fair value.

(3) Best holiday company for UK outdoor family experiences.

As UK summer family holidays continue to increase in popularity - we've noticed a change in the way families spend their holiday time together - read on to find out more.

With the number and variety of UK holidays increasing and as British summers become warmer for longer, many families are opting to spend more time being active and holidaying at home. Other reasons for UK holiday popularity include - travelling abroad has become more complicated, more expensive and carries the risk of long delays at peak times due to disputes at airports and ferry terminals.

UK Holidays have evolved. UK family holidays have grown and developed massively over the years - they have become sophisticated, adventurous, highly enjoyable and more environmentally friendly.

Many new and existing holiday developments are now eco-friendly, green and sustainable - making a UK summer holiday the perfect way to escape, explore and reconnect with nature. You can now experience miles of beautiful coastline, countless picturesque villages, dozens of forest country parks and tonnes of activities for the whole family.

Family Adventures. Our research has found that UK tourism has quickly adapted, developed and grown to meet the demand for new (family-led) adventure tourism - as a result, the UK now provides a stockpile of new active holiday experiences waiting to be discovered.

Discover new 'modern and well-designed' activity holiday parks, plus dedicated forest lodges for active families - all conveniently based to help create amazing holiday memories - in the most scenic, exciting and tranquil locations.

Holiday4 found Forest Holidays to be 'Best company for UK family holiday experiences'.

Forest Holidays

A Forest Holiday allows the whole family to escape, explore and reconnect with nature - stay in your own forest log cabin with a private outdoor hot tub, outdoor dining & gas barbecue and log burner in the living area.

Forest Holidays has family activities available at all of its locations - choose from kayaking to archery or rifle shooting to forest biking - you can even book spa treatments in the comfort of your cabin.

Every location is slightly different, and every location has a resident expert forest ranger who will introduce you to local wildlife, share their knowledge and help you enjoy forest adventures (see individual location description for available activities).

Other forest adventures and activities include (1) Forest Ranger adventures. (2) Cycling. (3) Kayaking & canoeing. (4) Go Ape. (5) Forest Bathing. (6) Walking & hiking.

Stand-out features for Forest Holidays:
  • HOLIDAY EXPERIENCES - Check the Forest Holidays website for the latest experiences on offer, such as - winter lights at the Forest of Dean, in-cabin spa treatments, in-cabin entertainment, personal chef, recommended things to do, seasonal things to do.
  • OUR FAVOURITE LOCATIONS - North Yorkshire, zoom above the treetops on a zipwire or go pony trekking. Nottinghamshire, get creative with a watercolours art class or swing through the trees at Go Ape. Gloucestershire, run wild on an assault course or treat yourself to a gin tour at the Silver Circle Distillery.
  • PRE-BOOK ACTIVITIES - Save time and pre-book your favourite activities and extras before you arrive.
  • PLAN IT YOUR WAY - Whether you’re after action-packed adventures or simply want to unwind from the every day, it's your choice.

What Impressed us!

Forest Ranger Activities: A good family forest adventure starts with the Forest Rangers and their many outdoor skills and talents - from bushcraft and survival skills to mindfulness and forest bathing. Plus the willingness of rangers to pass on their skills & knowledge to others.

Ranger group activity includes Forest Survival | Mini Forest Rangers | Nocturnal Adventure | Nature Tots and Wildlife Wonders.

To sum up - we found Forest Holidays caters well for those looking for a 'back to nature' outdoor active break. It's an ideal holiday for those who enjoy the feel of the outdoors but also like the luxury of a hot tub and personal chef if required. Please note! This isn't a Center Parcs type holiday, with onsite restaurants, bars and indoor wave pools; however, if you are looking for a more natural break (especially with active families) - we think it's an excellent choice.

Lake Windermere

(4) Best company for value, special offers and promotional deals.

Compared to an overseas two-week package deal to the Meditteranean, holidaying in the UK used to be the more affordable option - but not anymore.

As UK holidays evolve to become more luxurious and inclusive, with amazing indoor facilities and outdoor adventures, they also become more appealing and expensive - so keeping the costs down by finding the right deal is worthwhile. During our research, we found plenty of special offers, low deposit incentives and late deal discounts that can all help lower the overall cost.

Book an out-of-season stay: Many UK cottages, parks and forest lodge sites now prefer to remain open all year round and not close sites down over winter - so look out for good savings during the colder months.

We found lots of (out-of-season) availability, with many properties providing generous discounts. The following are examples of the special offers we found for property rental start dates towards the end of the 2023 season: (offers are subject to availability - T&Cs apply).

  • (1). Rural Retreats. Between 10-20% off selected UK properties (subject to availability & T&Cs).
  • (2). Forest Holidays. At the time of our review, Forest Holidays had a 'subscribe and save' and enjoy an extra 10% off your forest holiday - applicable to new bookings from 12 April - 29 September 2024.
  • (3). HolidayCottages have a dedicated section on their website for last-minute availability and offers.
  • (4). Sykes Holiday Cottages. Sykes offered last-minute deals, plus up to 30% off for half-term dates on selected properties. Festive Deals with up to 25% off selected properties for 2, 3, 4 and 7-night stays.

Holiday4 found Sykes Cottages to be 'Best company for value, special offers and promotional deals'.

Sykes Cottages

Holiday4 found Sykes Cottages offered some of the best deals and discounts across all four seasons; they also have an easy to navigate 'special offer search facility' that helps to find deals applicable to particular property types.

Sykes also provides a comprehensive "Inspire Me" travel guide section; this section provides holiday tips and destination inspiration throughout England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. The Sykes inspiration guide also provides tips on places to eat, the best activities, the best beaches, the best walks, best pubs - plus lots more to help you plan the ultimate UK break.

Stand-out features of Sykes Cottages:
  • HOLIDAY EXPERIENCES - Skes has one of the largest and most comprehensive Inspiration Guides - we suggest the Sykes guides are essential reading when planning a UK holiday.
  • POPULAR LOCATIONS - Popular Sykes destinations include the Lake District, Cornwall, Yorkshire, Devon, Anglesey, North Wales, Snowdonia, Isle of Skye, Dumfries and Galloway, Fort William, Edinburgh and the Scottish Borders.
  • HOLIDAY TYPES - Try the Sykes search by holiday type. For example, for UK Family Breaks, search the Sykes recommended Top 10 Family Locations - a list of fantastic locations, which shouldn't be overlooked. You can also search by Activity, Couples, Family, Pets, UK Beach Holidays and best for Walking.
  • SPECIAL OFFERS & DISCOUNTS - Our research found that Sykes Cottages provided some of the best Special Offers & Late Deals compared to other companies reviewed.

What Impressed us!

Sykes Cottages Special Offer Search: The Sykes website lets you conveniently search for special offers by property type, including pet-friendly cottages, properties with hot tubs, luxury cottages, log cabins, properties with character, remote locations, plus offers by special occasion.

To sum up! We recommend you check out Sykes Country Cottages for destination inspiration and for out-of-season special offers.

Swan on Lake Windermere