Self-Catering Cottage Holidays in South East England
Discover the excitment and tranquility of the South East
South and South East England is an area as spacious as it is beautiful. It's the perfect holiday destination for millions who live in the Greater London area and who want to get away without the hassle of actually travelling very far. In less than two hours you can be enjoying the peace and serenity of ancient woodland, watching yachts skim across the surface of sparkling waters, or be tucking into a hearty meal made from produce so fresh and local you probably drove past the farm on the way in.
Take a read of our guide below, or browse through all cottages in South East England
East Sussex is a county of two extremes. On one hand, you have the vibrant nightlife of Brighton. Its clubs, shows, and festivals attract party lovers from around Britain who come to have a weekend they won't forget (if only they could remember it!). On the other hand, it is a county of rolling waves and chilled out beaches, of rolling countryside dotted with pubs both posh and traditional, and places of historical significance such as Battle and Rye.
As Brighton and Hove are just over an hour from London's St Pancras station, they are a popular choice for commuters to live, and city dwellers to escape London after a busy working week. It means that many attractions are quieter between Monday and Friday, and that the quality of cafes and restaurants is superb.
The South Downs was formally declared a national park in 2011, making it Britain's youngest. What it lacks in age it more than makes up for in character, covering 260 miles across Hampshire, and East and West Sussex, and incorporating the South Downs Way foot, cycle and bridle path.
There's so much on offer in Hampshire, you can't help but want to go there. Many of the county's features are about enjoying the great outdoors. Just look at the New Forest National Park, for example. Despite its name, it has been used for recreation since William the Conqueror hunted there in 1079. It isn't all trees, either, as the New Forest has over 25 miles of coastline, and swathes of heath and pastureland. New Forest ponies and villages speckled with thatched cottages add to the bucolic appeal.
Winchester, Hampshire's largest city, was once England's capital and boasts an impressive cathedral, however it's dwarfed in size by Hampshire's other cities, Portsmouth and Southampton. If you're the bookish type, you can visit Steventon Church, where Jane Austen worshipped and where her father and brother were rectors. Foodies will be delighted with the variety and quality of farmers' markets, and should not miss the Hampshire Food Festival in July.
Separated from Hampshire by the Solent, the Isle of Wight is only approachable by air or water. Taking the ferry from Portsmouth or Lymington is just the way to unwind at the start of what will be a fun and relaxed holiday. Sailing is a very popular pastime, while the island's clean beaches appeal to families. Whether it's because it's surrounded by water, or because there are no cities, the pace is languid on the Isle of Wight. Lush green farmland is ringed by beaches and harbours. Be sure to see The Needles on the south coast, even if you don't take the chairlift down to the beach.
Less well known, but no less enjoyable, than the Isle of Wight music festival is the annual Garlic Festival. It's hugely popular with lovers of tasty food, with plenty of entertainment for all ages.
Kent has historically been called the Garden of England because so much of British fruit and hops were grown there. The agricultural industry may have declined, but the warm and sunny weather which help make it so fertile are ideal for holidaymakers. If it's gardens you have come to see, make a beeline to Quex Gardens, and Penshurst Place.
Given its strategic position overlooking the English Channel, Kent has numerous defensive castles and forts. Dover Castle was built in 1160 and used as late as the 1950s, with underground tunnels used for conveying secret messages during WWII. Tonbridge Castle, Hever Castle, and Leeds Castle are all equally impressive. The latter two have acres of fantastic gardens as well as fascinating buildings. It's worth taking your passport on a holiday to Kent, as a day trip to France and Belgium is just a ferry trip away, however it will be hard to beat the shopping on offer at Bluewater and Ashford Designer Outlet.
West Sussex is a gem. It's the perfect blend of countryside and convenience, beaches and bohemia. Stop by the local markets, walk through wildflower strewn meadows and along hedgerow-lined lanes punctuated by sweet cottages and farmhouses, or catch a game of cricket on the green. Chichester has been a bustling town since before the Romans arrived and has a wonderful Cathedral, while Arundel and Horsham are also thriving towns with boutiques, cafes, and shops. Parts of West Sussex form the South Downs National Park, while Worthing and Bognor Regis offer a great day at the beach.
Stop by Bosham and see if you can perform the same trick King Canute tried with the tide, or simply browse the numerous art and craft shops. West Sussex has dozens of lovely villages to explore - you're sure to find a favourite of your own.
The countless charms of the south east prove that there is far more to this corner of England than London. Go and experience them for yourself.