The rule of six has a silver lining – last-minute staycations at a (relative) steal

Highland Hall
Bag yourself a stay in the Highlands with over £1,7000 off

Another week, another bout of holiday carnage. This time, as well as the usual international Thursday scramble, the rule of six has thrown holidays on home soil into disarray.

Speaking to Telegraph Travel on Monday, Alistair Handyside, chair of the Professional Association of Self-Caterers (PASC), said that the new rules have caused “carnage”, with enquiries having “fallen off a cliff”. Bookings collapsed as what was a legal booking one week swiftly became illegal the next. 

Confusion also reigned as the laws announced in Scotland and Wales differed from those in England, once again, to exclude children under 12 from the head count. As a result, a larger group holiday in one of the devolved nations suddenly became a much more appealing option – especially for extended families. 

“To see this rule of six restriction being enforced just as the sector was starting to pick up again is disheartening,” Matt Fox, co-founder of Big Cottages (big-cottages.com), told Telegraph Travel. 

Thankfully, though, the industry is much more prepared than when it was first pummelled with the announcement of lockdown back in March. Continuing with the same resilient spirit that they have applied to the numerous obstacles that 2020 has presented so far, they have rallied. As large groups have had to cancel or postpone their holidays into 2021, many companies have swiftly released discounts on their larger properties in an attempt to ensure that they don’t remain empty for the duration.

Gray Manes in Somerset

This means that there are plenty of large homes around Britain available at the last minute with lower price tags than you would usually expect. Availability of self-catering accommodation has been one of the greatest stumbling blocks to last-minute staycations since July, with many companies having completely sold out throughout the summer, so this is good news for those who have missed out on a holiday due to the inability to find somewhere suitable. If you’re flexible with dates and have money to spend, you could bag yourself a luxury UK self-catering break at a (relative) steal.

Many companies, such as Premier Cottages (premiercottages.co.uk), are now offering a reduced occupancy rate, with a number of their bigger properties available at a fraction of the usual price. For example, at the time of writing, Gray Manes in Somerset is available for a week’s stay in October for six people at £1,500, instead of the usual £2,300, offering a saving of £800. Even half-term is available at a reduced rate with the weeks of October 16 or 23 from £2,500, offering a saving of £1,450.

The offers aren’t just a flash in the pan, either. Tregulland & Co (tregullandandco.co.uk) is now offering “As you wish as long as it is six“ deals right up to February 2021. Tregulland Cottage, on the edge of Dartmoor, which has an indoor freshwater pool and normally sleeps up to 22 people, is available for around 50 per cent of the normal price. A one-week stay now costs from £3,630 (was £6,600), while a four-night midweek break is available from £1,815 (was £3,300). Crabtree & Crabtree (crabtreeandcrabtree.com) is offering similar deals up until February 2021, with seven nights at Brunton House available for half price (from £1,700). 

Tregulland Cottage, on the edge of Dartmoor, has an indoor freshwater pool

The National Trust (nationaltrust.org.uk/holidays), which at last count has had 403 nights cancelled as a result of the rule of six, is reducing the cost of its bookings, too. “We’re keeping our larger National Trust holiday cottages and bunkhouses open,” said Laura Shack, of the Trust’s PR team.

“We’re reducing the cost of bookings for our larger holiday cottages and bunkhouses during September and October by up to 30 per cent and are reviewing this regularly for any extension of the discount into November and beyond.” This offer includes applying the discount for those who have already booked – as long as they’re willing to reduce the group size to six. “This means guests with existing bookings can still go on the holiday they’ve been looking forward to – if they’re a group of six or less – and it gives others the opportunity to book a late break in one of our larger holiday destinations at a lower price,” continued Shack.

With many of the Trust’s more popular properties usually booked out months in advance, this is a rare opportunity to book a historic stay at the last minute. The list of such properties that now have availability includes Choristers’ House in Yorkshire, where seven nights over September and October are being offered with 20 per cent off at £1,599 instead of the usual £1,899. 

Rather unusually, Choristers’ House in Yorkshire is available Credit: Chris Lacey

If you’re looking for a Scottish break, these can also be found. At the time of writing, holidaycottages.co.uk has availability at the elegant Georgian Highland Hall in Ross-Shire, which usually sleeps 14, the week of October 10. Seven nights now costs £4,192, rather than the usual £5,962. 

While such options are still rather pricey, as you’re limited in your savings by the fact that you can’t split the cost more than a maximum of six ways, the offers are being snapped up by those desperate for a change of scenery.

“Fortunately, despite a dip in bookings within the last seven days, Big Cottages is still up on bookings compared to last year and I’m confident that the appetite for staycations will continue throughout the autumn and winter months as Brits continue to discover destinations on their doorstep,” said Fox.

It seems that, in spite of the many curve balls being thrown its way, the UK staycation trend isn’t going anywhere soon.