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Vacation Rentals in the United Kingdom

Pauline Kenny

Holiday rentals, holiday cottages, self catering in Britain, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Northern Ireland.

The United Kingdom is very well organized for vacation rentals, because people in the cities have been staying in vacation rentals in the countryside for decades. There are many websites with listings by owner and there are many agencies with good websites and catalogs. Most rentals are by the week, starting Friday or Saturday, but you will also find places that offer short breaks (weekends or a shorter number of days).

Searching for Vacation Rentals

In the UK, vacation rentals are called self-catering, holiday cottages or holiday rentals. Use these terms when searching on Google. They also use the term "holiday" instead of the American term "vacation".

How to search for vacation rentals in the UK:

Saturday to Saturday - Friday to Friday

Most vacation rentals in the United Kingdom rent by the week, starting either on the Friday or the Saturday. Keep this in mind if doing more than one vacation rental week, back to back; they will need to have the same start days.

Short Breaks

Since many people from the cities want vacation rentals just for the weekend, the idea of "short breaks" came about - vacation rentals that you can rent for less than a week. Many places offer rentals for short breaks year round, but some only do this in the off season. Rural Retreats, one of the more expensive agencies, offers their cottages with a 3 night minimum year-round.

ETC Star Ratings

Provided by English Tourism Council

The English Tourist Council officially rates all vacation rentals on a 1 to 5 star rating. Pay attention to these ratings, they are a good indicator of quality and amenities. But they do not rate location. We recently were in a 4 star vacation rental, that was located over a parking lot! The master bedroom looked out on a bicycle repair yard and their toilet.

The ratings are described on their website as follows:

  • One Star: acceptable overall level of quality. Adequate provision of furniture, furnishings and fittings.
  • Two Star: good overall level of quality. All units self-contained - 2 bathrooms where there are eight or more guests.
  • Three Star: good to very good level of quality. Good standard of maintenance and decoration. Ample space and good quality furniture. All double beds with access from both sides. Microwaves.
  • Four Star: excellent overall level of quality. Very good care and attention to detail will be obvious throughout. Either access to washing machine and drier, if not provided in the unit, or a 24 hour laundry service.
  • Five Star: exceptional overall level of quality. High levels of decor, fixtures and fittings, together with excellent standards of management efficiency and guest services. Excellent range of accessories and personal touches. *

* From the English Tourist Council website: www.visitbritain.com/usa/resources/accom_ratings.htm

What to Expect

The quality of vacation rentals in England is usually good. We have only had "bad" rentals a couple of times. Towels and bedding are always provided (it will be mentioned if they are not provided). Kitchens will be fully equipped.

Supplies (toilet paper, dish soap, etc.)

As in other European countries, most vacation rentals give you enough supplies to get you started but expect you to purchase these yourself (toilet paper, soap, paper towel, dish soap, etc.). Better rentals supply dish soap and dishwasher soap and a couple of rolls of toilet paper, but you cannot be sure what will be provided. Plan on checking in to your rental, seeing what is provided, then making a trip to the supermarket.


Many vacation rentals in the United Kingdom do not have telephones or have coin box phones that you cannot use with your computer. Since most renters are from the UK, they assume people will bring their cell phones if they want a phone. If you need a phone you can use with your computer (as we do when traveling), ask the agency/owner the type of phone. Most agencies list the type of phone for each rental.

Face Clothes (Towels)

Bath and hand towels are provided, but face cloths are not always provided. This is a more personal item and it is expected that you would bring your own.


Check the listing to see what appliances a place has. Many will have dishwashers and washer/dryers. See Instructions: Appliances for more information.


Many vacation rentals allow dogs.


www.travelbritain.org: Official tourism site for American visitors to the UK.

www.visitbritain.com/usa/resources/accom_ratings.htm: For a description of the English Tourist Council ratings system for vacation rentals.

www.multimap.com: Good maps for the UK.

www.lady.co.uk: Magazine: The Lady, a weekly magazine with lots of vacation rental listings (also job listings).

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