Don’t get me wrong, it’s lovely owning a seaside holiday cottage. The downside is that whenever we visit we don’t get to relax for very long, there always small jobs to get on with, things to mend, check or change. Our latest trip was no exception. A spot of painting, chopping back stuff in the garden, fitting a new doorstep and a new toilet seat. The list goes on…
There were a couple of interesting additions to the cottage too. See the photo above. It’s a new picture for the twin bedroom made from vintage playing cards.
Also, we replaced the old TV with a new one. This time bigger and SMART. Plus there’s a separate DVD and Blu-Ray player there now.
We did get time to try out a couple of places in Bridport we’ve never visited before. An Asian food restaurant called Dorshi and a friendly pub, the Tiger Inn. We enjoyed them both and look forward to returning on another trip so I’ve added them to our Fantastic Food and Drink page.
Are you interested in finding out about West Bay’s history? Then please read on. Best make yourself a hot drink and find a comfy chair before you begin, you have a lot of years to get through…
Thanks to the author of the westbay.co.uk website. Much of the information was gathered from it, as well as a couple of the vintage photos. If this post leaves you wanting more then just go to that website where you will definitely find a lot more. A labour of love I think.
I have highlighted all the buildings which are still around in BOLD so that next time you wander about the harbour with other people you can make yourself look extremely knowledgable and clever by pointing out the landmarks whilst you impart a little bit of their history!
A while ago I tried to draw online a seagull to sit on the lifebuoy “o” in the “West Bay Cottage” logo at the top of the website. It wasn’t as easy as you might think. After quite some effort I was rather proud of my bird. I’d look fondly at him whilst pottering around on the website. There he was, squawking away happily.
But oh, the abuse the poor thing got from friends. “What’s that?” “It looks like a dinosaur.” “A pigeon?” “Why hasn’t it got any wings?” etc. etc. The fact I’d actually traced online a photo of a real West Bay seagull didn’t appease anyone one bit. Even my husband, who knows better than to criticise such things, said he “wasn’t sure about the seagull”. Obviously a seagull only a mother could love.
So, ta-dah, welcome to our brand new seagull. The old squawking one is no more. I showed my husband. “Nice…. I miss the old one”. So do I, so do I.
Increasingly online listing sites such as AirBnB, TripAdvisor and Owners Direct (a misnomer if ever there was one) and holiday letting agencies are charging owners sizeable commission and guests heavy booking fees. It’s a win-win situation for them and a lose-lose one for guests and owners.
They are also making it more and more difficult for the potential guests to communicate with owners. This ensures they can’t be bypassed before they grab your money. But what a shame. Who knows the accommodation and local area best? The owner. The obvious person to ask questions to make sure it’s the right accommodation and the right destination for you.
So, how do you avoid steep online fees when booking your holiday? Just book direct. Save money and get a personal booking service.
Finding holiday properties that take direct bookings
There are several ways to do this. Here are some suggestions:
Look for niche sites which cater for either a type of holiday (e.g. dog-friendly holidays) or a particular area. The site we use, www.westbay.co.uk is a great example of this. It has lots of information about the area and listings for cottages, apartments, b&b’s etc. It’s aim is to be informative and helpful, not to make money.
Use Google wisely. Type in the area you are interested and a few suitable words like “self catering” or “holiday” or “cottage”. Scroll past the first page or two. These are dominated by the big online travel agencies (OTAs) who have the marketing budget. Then click away.
Local tourist information sites such as Visit Dorset have lots of information about your preferred area as well as listings for accommodation providers, restaurants and local businesses.
Have a look at simple listing sites like Owner Holidays, Dorset Holiday Cottages, The Holiday Let and Independent Cottages. These still allow you to contact the owner directly and book with them privately, just like the original idea behind Owners Direct before they were bought by HomeAway.
Be a detective! Look for the name of any property that takes your fancy on one of the OTA sites. Many owners have dropped hints in their listings about their own websites. Then google the property name to find the owner’s website.
TripAdvisor also have some ‘direct booking only’ listings but they are usually at the bottom of a search list. Look for the ones that do not say ‘payment protection’. These owners pay a subscription to list their properties instead of TA taking a commission per booking from guests.
On some OTA sites you can still communicate in advance of booking. Make an enquiry rather than going directly to ‘Book it Now’. Ask owners if they are willing to book with you privately.
Peace of Mind
If it worries you that you are not booking with one of the “big names” you can always give a property owner a ring to have a chat about their property. If they have plenty of information on their website, a Facebook page and some other listing sites, then this, supported by a phone conversation, should reassure you that they are genuine holiday homeowners. Many owners, including ourselves, can take credit cards, which gives you similar payment protection to that offered by the OTAs.
Next time you are hunting for a holiday please give these suggestions a go. Save booking fees and a whole heap of commission and support your independent holiday home owner to boot!
Fancy a girls-only weekend away? A chance to get together, to chat, laugh, catch up, relax, reminisce and recharge your batteries. A getaway to our cottage is great for just that. I speak from experience as, at least once a year, I’m lucky enough to spend a weekend there with three of my oldest friends (in every sense of the word oldest, ha ha!).
Eating Out – The Blow-Out
There’s not much actual cooking in the cottage these weekends. Nuh-uh. The fridge is full of bottles and nibbles. With so many places to eat out we are spoilt for choice. Decisions, decisions. We treat ourselves to one blow-out meal each trip. It’s been The Station Kitchen for the last two years. Having sat in the train carriage last year we really had to go back to try the waiting room too. I went very retro with prawn cocktail followed by a great steak. My friends were very happy with their scallops and lamb dishes. Sadly we were too full this time for puddings. One year we made the very short walk to The Riverside for a special treat (we did have “significant” birthdays to celebrate). Another time we took a trip to Lyme where we had a lovely lunch at Mark Hix’s place with the views over the bay. We’ve also over the years had great Saturday evening meals and Sunday lunches at The West Bay Hotel. I’ll gloss over the not-so-good Sunday roast we had a few years ago at another local hotel!
More Eating – Lighter Bites
We need to fit a visit to a cafe or two into the weekend. A few weeks ago we had a yummy lunch (crab sandwich, mussels and two moroccan chicken salads in case you’re wondering) at the Soulshine Café in Bridport. We were lucky enough to stay dry in their little garden out the back. Last year we raved about Rachel’s (one of the wooden huts at The Mound) for Sunday lunch (sadly not possible this year as you do need the weather to behave). We recommend The Seasider too if you fancy fish and chips back at the cottage, Friday evening perhaps.
The Watch House Café fits the bill for a nice breakfast, lunch or brunch on the beach. Or indeed a slice of cake in the afternoon, including Dorset apple cake.
This year we added pasties to our repertoire, with the new kid on the block, The Cornish Bakery, a couple of minutes walk away in the old Harbour Stores building. A pasty and a Portuguese tart provided a cheap and tasty lunch eaten back at the cottage. I really did have to go back the next day, home alone now, for another one.
Another pull to the area is shopping. A wander around the Customs House one time made Kate’s day when she found a vintage book about Richard Burton (she’s his biggest fan). One Sunday we ambled around the Car Boot Sale (Mel is still using her salt pig bargain!). Or Bridport for some proper retail therapy with the Saturday Market and mix of independent galleries, books shops, boutiques and chain stores too.
Things To See
Each year there is something different to visit. A food festival at Hive Beach one year. This year the Open Studios event was being held so we spent an enjoyable hour or two wandering around several of the St Michael’s studios in Bridport as well as the ones in West Bay. It was a Dorset heritage weekend too. We braved climbing to the top of St Mary’s Church with rather a small opening at the top to clamber though, best for Kim the climbing wall enthusiast! It gave us a 360 degree bird’s eye view of the town, down to West Bay and across to Colmers Hill too. Next year the Hat Festival maybe?
It’s not all eating and drinking. We walk, a little anyway. Up to Bridport or around West Bay. The stroll along the pier to breathe in that sea air and get that view of the honeyed cliffs. If we are feeling energetic (or to walk off all the food we’ve been eating) we take a quick hike up East Cliff. We’ve walked the other way too, to Eype with the glorious view of the Golden Cap and Lyme Bay in the distance.
With the Electric Palace and Bridport Arts Centre up the road you might think I’d mention the shows we’ve been to, the variety of film, theatre, music and comedy evenings we’ve packed into our weekends. Nope, we like to spend time relaxing in the cottage, time just to chill. Open a bottle, watch some DVDs. We did have an eclectic mix of them this year, the Good (The Birds), the Bad (Sharknado) and the Ugly (Machete). Don’t worry, we didn’t leave the DVDs behind!
Sound like your sort of a weekend? Well then, book a short break at the cottage, one for just the girls, and start planning now. Take a look inside the cottage, or head to our Book With Us page for availability, the rates and how to book.
Ta-dah! Our old website has had a good life but it didn’t work very well on phones and tablets, plus we were keen to give people a bit more information and more pictures of our cottage and the local area, so we have bitten the bullet and built a new one. I hope you like it? Please look around and let us know what you think.