Welcome To Wessex

Rent a Wessex cottage

If a place were specially designed for a country cottage holiday it would be Wessex. Its history, its geography and its location make Wessex ideal for vacation rental. It is the favourite region for Britons’ second homes. Many if not most of these are available for holiday rental.

The visitor from abroad can be easily confused by the cottage rental situation in Britain. Unusually, rental cottages are not required by law to be licensed or registered or inspected or graded.

There are many reputable rental operators collectively now offering some 2,000 rental properties in Wessex. Each of these operators has its own dedicated web-site, giving details on individual properties and special offers. There was a time when cottage rental was restricted to entire weeks, starting and ending on Saturdays. Now there is a wide choice of "change-over" days and of "short breaks", including weekends.

With few exceptions, property owners interested in attracting guests from abroad belong to one or more of the private sector marketing operations specialising in vacation rental. Although the word "cottage" is often part of the brand name, and is particularly appropriate in the case of predominantly rural Wessex, their inventories usually include a significant number of apartments in urban centres such as Bath, Bournemouth, Dorchester, Salisbury and Winchester.

National Operators

Most widely known are six major national franchise operators. Each of these publishes a catalogue, typically with several thousand properties, usually in the twin form of both a massive printed annual directory and a web-site. The printed catalogues can be ordered on-line or by phone or fax. Retail travel shops in Britain will usually have copies of most print catalogues on file but will usually have on display only one or two favoured brands. The web-sites tend to include more information and illustration for each individual property; they also include properties that were not signed up in time for inclusion in the printed catalogue.

Brand National properties* Wessex properties* Website
Blakes Country Cottages 3200 200 http://www.blakes-cottages.co.uk/
Country Holidays 4000 270 http://www.country-holidays.co.uk/
English Country Cottages 2500 300 http://www.english-country-cottages.co.uk/
Hoseasons Country Cottages 1600 150 http://www.hoseasons.co.uk/
Rural Retreats 600 50 http://www.ruralretreats.co.uk/
Welcome Cottages 2100 90 http://www.welcomecottages.com/
*these numbers (and those in tables below) are approximate and indicative only.

These franchise operators are financed by fees paid by each property owner, mainly as a share of rental revenue (typically between 20 and 40%). All inquiries, bookings and payments are handled entirely by the agency. The catalogues do not give exact locations, addresses or contact details of any individual properties, thus preventing direct prior contact between prospective client and cottage owner.

Other National Operators

In contrast to the above six operators, three other national operators oblige customers to contact the cottage owner and arrange their booking direct. In these cases the rental operation is financed by advance payment by the property owner of a fee for entry in the operator’s catalogue. Each of these direct operators also has its own web-site. As these operations are based on the avoidance of intermediaries, their catalogues -- unlike those of major franchise operators -- are seldom if ever visible in retail travel shops.

Brand National properties* Wessex properties* Website
Farm Stay UK 500 50 http://www.farmstayuk.co.uk/
Premier Cottages Direct 600 60 http://www.premiercottages.co.uk/
Stilwell's Guide 2000 200 http://www.stilwell.co.uk/

Regional operators

Also in Britain there are well over 100 regional operators, each concentrating on its own locality. In the case of Wessex, this includes six main operators. All six restrict their properties to central/southern England. The distinguishing feature of these regional operators is that their customers benefit from the very close personal relationship that exists between regional operator and property owner. This personal quality is not easy to achieve by national operators whose listed properties are numbered in thousands.

Brand National properties* Wessex properties* Website
Classic Cottages 500 30 http://www.classic-cottages.com/
Dorset Coastal Cottages 90 90 http://www.dorsetcoastalcottages.com/
Helpful Holidays 300 40 http://www.helpfulholidays.com/
Hideaways 300 60 http://www.hideaways.co.uk/
Lyme Bay Holidays 140 140 http://www.lymebayholidays.co.uk/
New Forest Cottages 130 130 http://www.newforestcottages.co.uk/

Charitable Trusts

One peculiarly British group of rental operators are charitable trusts that restrict their properties to historic buildings that they usually own. The two major operators, Landmark and the National Trust, each have several hundred properties in their portfolios. Details are available on their web-sites but they also each have handsome catalogues. Unlike these two, Vivat has only twenty properties, only one of which is in Wessex (a 14c stone chantry in Bridport), and these are not owned but leased. All three trusts are conservation based and view rental as an integral element in the process of restoring and preserving historic buildings.

Trust National properties* Wessex properties* Website
Landmark Trust 180 10 http://www.landmarktrust.co.uk/
National Trust 300 25 http://www.nationaltrustcottages.co.uk/
Vivat Trust 20 1 http://www.vivat.org.uk/

Two Final Tips

For print enthusiasts - buy or borrow a copy of the annual Good Holiday Cottage Guide (editor Bryn Frank); and for web enthusiasts - visit http://www.cottages4you.co.uk