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So you've been handed the unenviable task of finding a large enough holiday property, for the right price, with the right accommodation layout and the right gizmo's to keep your particular group entertained whilst on holiday. Where do you start?!
It's not just finding a property, it's organising and communicating with your group that can be quite time consuming. Given we've helped groups of families and friends book holidays for over 26 years we thought it might be helpful to impart some advice on where to get started. Whatever your budget, there are the inevitable logistics you might need to consider from transport arrangements to food and entertainment. Below you'll find some Tips on all these things to help make your life easier.
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Some people may relish the idea of cooking up a storm every day whilst on holiday, but for others it's just a bit of a chore. If booking a self-catered venue ticks all the boxes except for the actual catering, don't be put off; we can still make this work for you! We will be able to help you to hire the services of a cook for your holiday. This can range from assistance catering for one meal, one day, or the whole thing; whatever you require.
Planning your catering is going to be the biggest step to getting it sorted! You and your group need to decide if you would like assistance for just one or two meals, or for full days or the whole holiday. If you are holding a function during your stay you may just want something extra special arranged for this one day. Once you have decided when you want it, you have to decide what you want. Are you looking for a set menu, a certain number of courses, or a buffet style meal? If you are looking for a full catering service, do you want cooked breakfasts or packed lunches on any days? There will be a variety of options that will be available to you, and the caterers will be able to help you work through the details, but it is a good idea to have some ideas ready.
Setting yourself a budget is going to be a good move. If you are catering for one special meal, maybe the financial contributors of your group could decide a price per head, so your caterers know what they are working towards. For a full catering service there will be a variation of option available that will impact on the total cost, so working out what you want to spend will be imperative.
You and your group will need to decide on your menu. The caterers will be able to assist you if you don't know where to start, as they will be able to suggest options that fit with your plan and budget. If you wanted something particular now is the time to say. Do any members of your group have any dietary requirements that will need to be taken into consideration? Once you have a good plan in place, you are in a better position to make your arrangements with the caterers.
Don't forget to consider any extras that maybe required when it comes catering for a big group. Your holiday house will be equipped to cater for the number of guests that it can accommodate, but remember if you are planning a 5 course meal, that you may run out of crockery and cutlery. Talk to your caterers or the owners of the property; they may have spare supplies available, or may be able to put you in contact with a hire company. If you are organising a special function, would you like waiter services? Or help cleaning up afterwards? This may not come as standard with a catering firm, so make sure you consider this.
Many of our large holiday houses have accommodated catering services before, so if you decide you would like to look into catering options, please just let us know. Some properties provide their own cook, others have preferred local catering companies they use, and we will be able to put you in contact with them directly to make your arrangements.
Planning a self-catered holiday in Scotland may not just be about getting away for a break. If you have a particular reason for booking your holiday, you will want to make sure your trip goes according to plan, and that your celebration goes off with a bang!
A week or weekend away with family and friends is a great way to celebrate a special birthday, whether it is a 21st or a 60th, we know you will want it to be a memorable holiday. Wedding anniversaries are also a popular celebration, but it could be retirement, engagements or just a one off reunion of a large and widespread family! Whatever your reasons for having a bit of a 'knees up' we understand this event will be important to you, so here are a few things to consider when planning your stay.
The best place to start if you are planning a special celebration at the house, is with us! Please let us know what you are planning, and we will do our very best to help you out! The owner will also need to know if you are planning a big one! Most of our properties are fantastic for a bit of a party, but some have their limitations, rules about inviting additional guests, and potential extra charges depending on the function, so to avoid disappointment it is always worth checking the property will be suitable for what you want to do.
Catering is a massive part of hosting a party. You may want to do this yourselves, or hire a company to take the job off your hands. If you want to do it yourself, consider what foodstuff you will be able to buy at home, and what you will need to buy fresh. Make a plan with the other members of your group. It will be easier to share out the catering, but you don't want to end up with 10 quiches, and no deserts! If you plan a really special meal, consider the expectation on the kitchen! All our properties are set up and equipped to cater for a group on holiday, but if you are planning a 5 course sit down meal, you may need to hire additional crockery and cutlery, to avoid washing up half way through! Also things like oven space, if you are cooking lots of dishes, can anything be cooked in advance? And fridge space? Again the house is set up to accommodate a large group, but you may find that you are pushed for space if you are cooking a larger than usual meal! If you chose to outsource this, we will be able to get you connected to the best people to help you. In some cases you will need to arrange your needs with a catering firm, but many owners have preferred caters and cooks that they use regularly, who are local and know their way around the kitchen. Caters will be able to work with you to get the best for your requirements and budgets!
The Cake! An important part of any celebration, if you decide you want to provide a cake, this will require a little planning too! Purchasing one or making it before you go may be the easiest options, but if you plan on this, make sure you can keep it fresh for the special day, and make sure you can transport it as well. Cakes don't always travel well in cars that are packed to the roof with holiday stuff! You may find it easier to wait until you are in your holiday house before arranging the cake. If you plan on purchasing one, make sure you can! Remote properties may be a long way from a town that will have a bakery or supermarket, and if you would like to order a cake to spec, it will be worth contacting the owner or housekeeper for recommendations on the best places to look for bakeries that can do this. Making one yourself when you get there may seem like the best option, but again, make sure you plan your ingredients to be sure you can get hold of everything you need, and a quick chat with the owner will ensure you won't be caught short for cake tins when you get to the property.
Depending on the kind of celebration you are having, you may want to plan some kind of music or entertainment . If you would like to hire a band or arrange a ceilidh, please let us know and we will contact the owner. Some properties may not be suitable for this kind of entertainment so it's worth checking and the owner may be able to recommend someone local who won't cost you too much to hire! If you are planning music whether it be a live band, or just an iPod dock, we do ask you to please consider the neighbours. Even our remotest properties may have farmers or estate workers living nearby, and noise can travel. We would ask that you respectfully turn off music at a reasonable time in the evening, even if you intend staying up late!
If you would like some 'easy to come by' entertainment, then have a look at our blog '10 simple party games that will keep adults and kids entertained for hours' for ideas on easy to organise parlour games. Additionally you could take some board games, or a pack of cards to keep a group entertain in an evening!
If you would like to have a few decorations, you will have to plan to bring these with you. Owners are usually quite happy for you to make the party space your own, but be careful not to damage the property! Table decorations and flower displays are a good way to add a bit of flair to a room. If in doubt about suitable decorations, just talk to the owner; they will be more than happy to discuss your plans with you.
You may have chosen a particular venue, as you have friends or family who live nearby. If you would like to inviting additional guests to your party, (who would not be staying over at the house) please talk to us and owner. Depending on numbers and the kind of function you are holding, some owners may charge facility fees for additions, and again extra guests may cause a strain on the house (ie number of chairs around the dining table, crockery etc) so it is always worth checking to avoid disappointment.
And now for the boring bits…
Don't forget, when planning your extra special function, about the clean up! We ask guests to leave the house in the condition that you found it, so if you have a function, you may need to rope all your guests in to helping with returning the property to normal! The vacuum cleaner and mop will usually be easy to find, and you may be blessed with a dishwasher to help with the dishes! Many of our owners have recycling bags/bins for the house, and would ask that you use these as best as you can, to reduce refuse.
We all know accidents can happen, especially when everyone has let their hair down, but we to take a Good Housekeeping Deposit to cover this eventuality. Should you accidentally break anything, please let the housekeeper or owner know, they will be able to start making the arrangements to get it fixed if required. Please also be aware that the GHD also covers the owner for any undue cleaning and tidying required, and you can get charged if the property is not left in a reasonable state.
We want you to get the best out of your property for your planned trip, so please get in contact with the Scotts team to discuss your requirements!
Once you have reached a decision on dates, organised your group and booked your accommodation spare a thought to what you will want to do when you get there.
Whilst some of your group may wish to sit back and relax in deep comfort and splendour, others may wish to occupy themselves more actively.
Tips on planning a house party
Make sure you arrive at the property before your guests so you can get a feel for the home you have invited them to
Scotts will provide you with a floorplan of the property so that you can organise who will sleep where prior to the event
Plan and let your guests know in advance who will be expected to help with things like cooking, cleaning, shopping etc.
Arrange for some provisions to be delivered on the day of your arrival so you don't have to bring supplies with you, or rely on another member of group to remember to do so
Ask your guests what they envisage doing during their stay, so that you can pre-organise activities if necessary.
If you wish to eat out during your stay, ask the owner (or Scotts) if they can recommend somewhere local and then be sure to book well in advance
Research the area a little prior to arrival, if you have chosen to stay in a particularly rural location double check the opening and closing times of your nearest amenities
Phone the local tourist board or visit their website to check opening and closing times and costs of attractions in the local area
Gain an understanding of the terrain, so that you can give your guests an indication of the sorts of items they will need to bring with them
Allow for wet weather, even in the summer months, and have some contingency plans up your sleeve just in case!
Make sure you delegate jobs evenly so that you are not left running around attending to everyone else's needs other than your own on your holiday
Hiring a butler, housekeeper or cook can be a welcome break for those who would also like to feel they are on 'holiday' from those boring but important chores! Some clients like to 'up-grade' their self catered properties and either personally arrange or ask us to find additional staff to offer them a helping hand for the duration or part of their stay.
A special occasion, whatever it may be, demands a special venue – something distinctive and exclusive, with that wow factor
Whatever your reason for holidaying in the UK we know how important it is that you receive value for money in a good quality property that you and your children will enjoy.
As a family-run business, we know what a high level of trust you place on booking your holiday through us. Affordability, security, flexibility, and access to local activities are all important factors to us as well as to you.
Rest assured we visit every self catered property with the family holiday in mind. Does the property have a games room, and if not a games room – have the owners supplied a 'rainy day' cupboard. What sort of in-house entertainment will be available: TVs, CDs, DVDs. What sorts of things can the children do outside, are there activity centres nearby, or if the property is near the coast – where's the nearest beach.
Family reunions, a wedding anniversary, or a birthday celebration - whatever the occasion Scotts can find you the perfect place.
When going on holiday with family or a large group, it's always worth planning a bit of evening or rainy day entertainment! Holidays are not usually considered the place for TV and video games, and you will find all your guests will be up for a bit of silly fun! Here is a list of 10 parlour games that involve little or no planning, and can be enjoyed by everyone…
For additional 'party entertainment', (and if you have space in your suitcase!) you could bring some family board games as well. Trivial Pursuit, Monopoly Cranium and Cluedo are popular options! Perhaps a pack of cards could get thrown in the mix too; brush up on the rules to Gin Rummy before you go! Card games are great for variations on the numbers of guests, as games can be played with one, two, or many players. Your holidays are about having fun, so make sure you are not caught out with nothing to do!
At Scotts we have plenty of inspiring ideas … as well as great accommodation
Why not arrange to have a small event organised during your stay at one of our properties. If you are going to be spending some time with one or two other families, what about introducing a little inter-family rivalry into the fray! It can be great fun to stage an activity like a mini highland games – kids and grown ups alike will love it! Family games days are designed to be fun and all inclusive – even the littlies can get involved in some of the team challenges.
Quad biking, clay pigeon shooting, archery and treasure hunts to name a few can all be arranged for those spirited individuals looking for a little adventure. Professional team building courses, tasks, exercises and games can be arranged by the half day or longer. A good way to enjoy some time in the Great Outdoors which we guarantee will leave a memorably lasting impression.
Removing staff from their comfort zone and introducing them to a variety of well organised, exciting team challenges can help break down barriers and develop inter-departmental rivalry.
The games are designed to promote team spirit, communication, motivation and leadership skills. An ideal platform for management development. At all times experienced Training and Development facilitators are on hand to keep everyone out of trouble and ensure an enjoyable progress through the programme.
We always try to persuade owners to take pets when the property is suitable and you will find they are allowed in several of our properties. However, we cannot accept responsibility for their safety. Pets are only accepted on the strict understanding that they are kept under control, exercised off the premises and are not permitted in the bedrooms or on the furniture. Nor should they be left in the property unsupervised as this can result in considerable damage to the property and distress to the pet.
We would ask everyone bringing a pet to follow our Pet Policy instructions implicitly since any abuse will inevitably result in pets being banned in the future. We should also point out that pets, possibly the owners', may have been in a property despite a notice in the description that pets are not allowed.
It is not only enjoyable but also practical for those who have pets to take them on holiday with them when possible – particularly when travelling in the UK. As such, we encourage owners to accept pets if we feel their property is suitable, however, what you may regard as perfectly acceptable may upset or offend future visitors letting the same property ie the smell or the mess your pet may leave behind.
Some properties we let will accept dogs with the understanding that the following terms and conditions are met as detailed below.
Pets must be flea treated before entering the property;
Pets are to be kept under control at all times;
All droppings on the premises – including and particularly in the garden should be disposed of appropriately prior to departure;
Grooming is important – muddy paws and sandy coats are not welcome indoors;
Pets are not permitted in the bedrooms or on the furniture;
Pets are not to be left unsupervised on the premises as this can result in damage to the property and distress to the pet;
Pets are to be exercised off the premises;
All bedding must be provided for pets to sleep on;
Crockery belonging to the property is not to be used as water/food containers for pets;
Pet hairs must be vacuumed and swept up from the property prior to departure;
Any paw, nose or tongue “prints” to be cleaned from floors, windows, doors etc., prior to your departure.
Please also note that although a property may accept a pet, this does not guarantee that the property has an enclosed garden or is totally escape-proof to all pets.
Clients must inform Scotts Castle Holidays of their intention to take pets to properties prior to arrival, whether or not a pet charge is applicable at that particular property.
Any damage to the property made by your pet, or extra cleaning required (pet hair on the furniture, droppings in the garden or in the property etc) following your departure will result in the loss of part or all your Good Housekeeping Deposit.
We do expect owners of pets to be responsible and would therefore ask everyone for a little consideration as any abuse will inevitably result in pets being banned in the future.
Many visitors come to the UK to experience its extraordinarily rich and diverse heritage by visiting its impressive castles and large houses, you can go one step further...
If you are bringing your family or friends over for that one in a lifetime vacation, whatever the reason let Scotts take the worry and the work away from you. Once you have told us a bit about your needs, we will use our connections and experience to find your ideal property.
You can be confident that we personally inspect the properties we market
You can be confident that we are not a fly-by-night dot.com business
You can be confident that as a professional agency bound by company law your legal and fiscal rights will be well protected
We take great pride in placing our guests first with a service that is friendly and personal. Our efficient and cheerful staff will do their best to ensure that your stay in one of our properties is a happy and memorable one.
Both the wattage and the shape of electrical sockets is different in the UK. Overseas visitors will be able to use electrical appliances (hairdryer, laptop, etc.) with the help of a plug adapter. These are available from the Internet, hardware and electrical goods stores, some dispensaries and many airports. They also come in sets of adapters for more than one country, useful if the UK is not the only country you plan to travel to. Be sure to buy one with three prongs (US) if your appliance requires it. Men's electric razors sometimes require a unique plug adapter, which should be labeled as such.
Maybe obvious, maybe not: Do not attempt to plug in a US appliance into a UK socket without a plug adapter, as it may result in breakage, injury or fire.
Legal currency in the UK is pound Sterling (£). Please ensure that you have enough local currency during your stay to enjoy the the smaller attractions or amenities that will only accept cash. The majority of supermarkets, eateries, garages, dispensaries, and high street shops throughout the UK accept most or all the major credit cards (although sometimes surcharges may apply). The financial section of most newspapers publish the exchange rates. Our website has a link to a currency converter which you may find useful. Post Offices in the UK now buy and sell currency as well as the leading Banks. If in doubt, ask one of our staff members and we'll be happy to advise.
There is no need to tip cash at the bar in hotels or pubs, although you can offer to buy a barman a drink if you are impressed with the service. As far as tipping for meals goes, it all depends on the establishment and how you feel about the quality of the service provided. You would not be expected to tip for meals if you booked a fully catered property, although on leaving if you felt you had received exceptional service you may choose to give the proprietor a 10% tip to be shared discretely amongst his staff. Some restaurants include a 10% 'service charge' so make sure you check your bill. Minimum wage rules apply in the UK, which means tips supplement income rather than help provide it.
Please note that accommodation descriptions may be interpreted differently from country to country. Below you will find the generally recognised definitions for accommodation as understood by UK citizens. Please note these measurements are a guideline only and may vary slightly from property to property.
Single bedroom: one bed (3ft wide)
Double bedroom: one bed (4ft 6 inches wide)
Twin bedroom: two beds (3ft wide each)
King size bedroom: one bed (5ft wide)
Four Poster bedroom: one bed (4ft 6 inches wide) with canopy
Ensuite bathroom: private bathroom attached to the room via connecting door
Private bathroom: a separate room that may be adjacent to, or a short walk down a corridor not shared with any other guest
Shared bathroom:a separate room that may be adjacent to, or a short walk along a corridor that is shared by the occupants of two or more bedrooms
If you wish to find out more about travelling to the UK, the British Home Foreign & Commonwealth Office website is always a good place to start: www.fco.gov.uk
If you require more specific information about the particular area you plan to visit, our staff can provide you with contact details of your nearest local Tourist Information office.
Organising a group can be as stressful as finding a property to fit them all in! Let Scotts help get your group organised!
You might only do this a few times in your lifetime - we do this for a living. Here are just a few things to consider when sourcing a property for a large group.
Choice. Your friends and family will want to help choose the property. Not only will you be liaising with one of our representatives, but you'll then be relaying that information back to all the various decision makers in your group. Talk about time consuming. And exactly when do you get the time to do all this?
Why not ask us about our group account service. We can facilitate the passing of information to and from other members in your group.
Price. Everyone has a slightly different budget. They will need to know how much their share of the cost will be.
Our quotations are kept as simple and inclusive as possible, so everyone knows where they are. If you want us to copy your group in on the quotations during the 'consultation process' just ask!
Availability. Everyone needs to agree on a date, which isn't as easy as it sounds.
We can help you with this .. just ask one of our helpful staff to provide you with an availability calendar tailored to suit your requirements.
It is worth remembering that the popular school holiday and winter festivity weeks are highly sought after and often book from twelve to eighteen months in advance.
Payment. You may not wish to be responsible for footing the bill if you are planning on dividing the cost of the holiday amongst your group.
Again, we can help with this .. just ask our office about our group payment facility.
At Scotts we very much believe that all the little things add up to make the difference.