November is my absolute favourite time of year to go on holiday. There is no expectation of good weather, although I have invariably found it to be wonderful, so it’s hard to be disappointed. You either have inclement weather and have no choice but to hunker down in front of the fire for the duration, eating crumpets and watching DVDs. Or the weather is gorgeously sunny and you can feel that you are winning at life by making the most of it. 

And the brilliant thing is that no one else has had the same idea so the roads, pubs and walks are deserted. Everyone is thinking too much about Christmas by now to be planning trips away so you can get some semblance of having the place to yourself.

While at Christmas I want to be in a nice hotel and be looked after, November holidays feel much more about tramping through the countryside, conquering mountains and eating stew. I always veer towards renting a cottage as you can cook for yourself - it’s the only time of year I take any pleasure in cooking really, and enjoy the anticipation of eating a stew you put on the stove before you left for your walk. You get to sit by the fire in your pyjamas which you can’t often do in a hotel as the fire seats are often taken and pyjamas tend to be frowned upon, no matter how chic they may be.


Wi-fi in cottages is notoriously rubbish or non-existent so trying to download something whilst you are there will remind you of what it was like to have dial up broadband. And though sometimes relying on the cottage DVD collection comes up trumps, other times not so much. It depends on your attitude to danger and living on the edge. So download something gripping to your laptop before you go, something in the vernacular perhaps – An Agatha Christie in Devon, Miss Potter in the Lake District or a Daphne du Maurier in Cornwall.


I think that the National Trust is what makes British holidays bearable. You are never very far from one (particularly if you use their excellent app), they have great tea shops and are the best place to bide your time while it’s raining or just to warm up for a while. The free car parking alone can cover the cost of membership and the properties often give a point of focus for any walk. Plus you wherever you call in on you know it’s going to be stylish and elegant even if you happen to be holidaying in a hotbed of normality.


And while in the National Trust bookshop, buy a book related to the place you are staying - a biography of Beatrix Potter perhaps or the history of smuggling in Devon, all of which will enhance the atmosphere of your holiday. Even if it is a novel, you will still get such a great feeling for a place.


We have a pretty standard set of recipes for when we do November breaks: Breakfast fry-ups, a packed lunch to die for, Daylesford’s stew recipe, Delia’s shepherd’s pie recipe, Apple Crumble, lots of crumpets and the odd slice of cake. I have all the recipes downloaded and saved into my iBooks so I don’t need to take a recipe book or access wifi to get hold of them. If you are super organised you can arrange a food delivery to arrive at your holiday cottage at the same time as you but if you are not, plan a food shopping stop along the way. When we are going North we stop at the Waitrose in Knutsford and have lunch on the high street too as it’s the perfect place to break up the journey and is not far from the motorway and avoids stopping at a service station.


After quite a few years of autumn getaways we’ve honed the essentials we will always need. These are: a casserole dish, a pie dish, a sharp knife (the ones that the cottage supplies will always be blunt), a chopping board (they are always glass - shudder), a cafetière, and boxes of matches (my husband once had to light a fire at 10pm on a cold October evening in Snowdonia with a toaster). We also take a corkscrew, though its supremely unlikely that a cottage will be short of one, you really don’t want to be caught short.


Walking can be a bit haphazard and if you are only there for a few days you want to do the best walks you can. A books of walks, like the Pathfinder series, enable you to plan your ambles and trecks according to ability, length, duration and terrain, giving you a higher chance of success.


If you are anything like us you will still manage to get lost even with a book so always, always have an OS map with you. Besides which, they are just so stylish and cool and are by far the best way to navigate and far better than google maps. It’s just the OS maps can’t tell you what is a pretty walk and what isn’t which is why you need the book too.


We live in a small flat, that is only half done. We both suffer anxiety over cooking and the judgments of our home and so we often do our entertaining on holiday. We usually go northwards and so it’s a great time to catch up with friends and family who live far away. We invite them for the night so they can help cook and we get to spend some proper time with them. There is something about it not being being on holiday helps ease the anxiety we feel in London. And if this seems odd it was absolutely the way that Agatha Christie entertained. London was for work, her Devon bolt hole, Greenways, was for entertaining.


Stopping at a roadside pub in the UK is not for the faint-hearted. Proximity to a thoroughfare is no guarantee of quality and usually the best pubs are hidden from view. Research them before you go and make a list, and make reservations if necessary. I find the Guardian and Telegraph blogs the most useful for tracking down these secret gems and saving their ‘Lake District’s best pubs and inns’ type articles in your iPhone reading list will ensure you always know of somewhere lovely to stop for a pint even when you don’t have any 4G or WiFi.


At this time of year it's far easier to have a dog in a cottage than it is to have a dog in a hotel. You don't have to worry about muddy footprints across the lobby and up the stairs and they don't need to make themselves look presentable for cocktails before dinner. You can get the place shipshape again at the end of your holiday rather than having to frantically tidy up before your bed is turned down in the evenings and the staff discover your dog has been sleeping on it. 

Our travel dog bed will help your dog feel at home, and works wonders for the inexplicably large number of holiday cottages that don't have rugs in front of the fire. Our dog blanket will protect the bed linen from those mucky paws. Our dog water bottle, dog coat and dog jumper will keep your dog toasty warm and all of this can be carried in our dog travel bag so that your dog's grubby belongings don't have to be carried in either your luggage or a bag for life.


Any adventure needs the right clothing, to enhance the experience. The right walking boots, woolly jumpers, hats and scarves and of course a great coat, a rucksack, water bottle and thermos will all ensure your outdoor adventures are super stylish. And don’t forget that loungewear for sitting in front of the fire is just as important, because at the end of the day that’s really what getting away from it all in autumn is about. You, in front of the fire, reading a book as the stew bubbles away, smug from a day’s activity and feeling good about life.

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Great article, Annabel. I’m a big fan of contrarian holidaying too, and your tips are very similar to my own.
I’d just add the significant benefit of prices in winter – we stay in beautiful cottages at around a third of the price of the summer, when everywhere is crammed.
Have a good time in the North!

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