Renting a cottage for a short break or an extended retreat may seem like the perfect getaway from the daily grind, but it is important to get it right so the experience isn’t ruined. That said, the beauty about living in the 21st century is the easy access to reviews, flights and climates to suit whatever whim the cottage-break traveller seeks to indulge.
What is Available?
Cottages come in all shapes and sizes and suiting most budgets. Many owners live part-time in their idyllic abodes and often rent out the property for a little extra cash. This provides a range of properties with varying amenities available. In some instances there is little difference to a metropolitan apartment with instant hot water, excellent cell coverage and fully serviced central heating.
On the other end of the scale some properties can be a little more work and may require changing habits and lifestyle for the duration of stay. This could mean relying on a single fireplace as the main source of heat and hot water. It may even mean chopping wood to keep that fire going. Cell tower signals may be a distant dream and lighting may come through use of a generator.
Before booking, just ask the question. Is it about getting back to nature and doing some work on those soft city-abs or is it about the comfort of an outdoor Jacuzzi with a chilled bottle of something fizzy?
How difficult can it be?
For many urban dwellers today the idea of a septic tank can be both strange and quaint. Essentially this is a large, buried, concrete room which collects all the drainage from the cottage. The liquid drains away naturally into the land whilst bacteria break down the remaining matter into soil.
The thing to remember here is most detergents, soaps, and sometimes even cooking oils can kill those useful bacteria, preventing the septic tank from working effectively. This may mean an expensive call to the local waste agents to empty it all out so the process can start afresh, so to speak.
Some systems may not be able to handle toilet paper either, meaning it goes into a bin rather than the bowl. If this seems like a nightmare to deal with make sure the owner explains clearly how their drainage system works and whether this is something to be avoided or embraced.
Despite being the most abundant resource on the planet, clean potable water is so easily taken for granted. Whilst remote cottages may seem like the perfect place to sit back with some tea or nestle into a warming bowl of soup they are often many miles from the nearest main supply of water.
Well water is often an excellent option, offerring the purity of being filtered through layers of sand and stone. It is worth checking that the well is regularly serviced to ensure no contamination from outside sources. Generally, regularly used wells are often sealed with a pump bringing the water direct to the tap just as it does at home.
Sometimes water is sourced from a nearby lake, and whilst this may seem sensible, always check that the cottage has its own filtration system ideally one using reverse osmosis. The main drawback to lake or river water can be run off from the surrounding fields in the form of fertilizers, manure or just plain old grit.
Most water will be fine for washing with, but it there is any doubt as to the source or purity of the water, it is always best to stock up on enough drinking and cooking water for length of the holiday.
Location Location Location
Depending on how strong the need for adventure is, check with the owner how easy it is to access the site. Will it involve leaving your transport and hiking for several miles through the forest; perhaps it means canoeing down a river or across a lake? These may be a great attractor to some whilst for others they are a definite downside.
When a cottage sits in a remote location there may be other things to consider, such as what to do in an emergency. Again this may be as simple as making sure that there is a good phone signal or access road.
Additionally, remoteness may mean an encroachment of wildlife. Depending on where the cottage is situated, this could be as irritating as a blanket of mosquitoes or as terrifying as an approaching bear. Be clear about what else is likely to be part of your surroundings and whether you can cope.
Enjoy the Change
Perhaps the most important thing to remember about renting a cottage is the disruption to the status quo. The different scenery and additional considerations such as wildlife or clean water may seem to be negatives but they can also be agents for development. Not everything about a cottage holiday is perfect, nor should it be and once this idea is embraced all that’s left to do is sit back, be happy and fully experience the difference in life.