Smaller holiday cottage providers trounce the biggest names amid dramatic drop in prices for UK accommodation, Which? reveals

As new research from Which? finds thousands of last-minute UK bookings available at cut-rate prices, the consumer champion reveals charity Landmark Trust has topped its annual poll of holiday cottage providers, while the country’s biggest brands fail to make the top ten.

In a survey of over 3,000 Which? members, small and independent holiday cottage providers triumphed, with all five of the firms rated as Which? Recommended Providers having fewer than 1,500 properties. Meanwhile, the UK’s biggest providers struggled to make an impact.

The ratings are revealed as Which? found over eleven thousand cottage holidays still available in the month of August, with ‘staycation fatigue’ contributing to average price drops of around 11 percent, compared to if you had booked in April.

Languishing in the bottom three in Which?’s survey is household name Sykes Holiday Cottages. As one of the biggest firms in the country, with as many as 22,000 cottages, Sykes is a go-to provider for thousands of families, yet rated just three out of five stars for customer service, and scored a refund satisfaction score of just 62 per cent, the lowest of any provider. It received an overall customer score of 72 per cent. Rounding out the bottom three were Norfolk Hideaways, also with a score of 72 per cent, followed by Suffolk Secrets, with a rating of 69 per cent.

Despite having over 40,000 properties across the UK, Awaze-owned brands and Hoseasons both also failed to make the top ten, ranking at numbers  11 and 14 respectively.

Landmark Trust leapt to pole position and was awarded Which? Recommended Provider status for the first time, after scooping an exceptional customer satisfaction score of 92 per cent. 

With around 200 properties, the Landmark Trust offers holidaymakers the opportunity to experience their own slice of history, restoring and letting castles, follies, forts and towers that might otherwise have been left to decay. From stays on the Sandringham Estate to a lighthouse on Lundy Island, travellers told Which? they appreciated the ‘memorable’ and ‘unique’ holiday experiences on offer. 

The charity achieved five-star ratings across the board, including on value for money, customer service, booking process, quality and cleanliness of cottages, accuracy of description and ease of searching online.

Family-run firm Classic Cottages made it into second place, with over 1,400 properties to choose from across England and Wales. Guests appreciated the ‘beautiful’ locations and high standard of customer service on offer, with respondents remarking on the ‘professional’ and ‘efficient’ standards of care received.

Also in the top five were Sally’s Cottages, the National Trust and Rural Retreats. Achieving customer satisfaction scores of between 82 and 85 per cent, all were ranked 5 stars for value for money, cleanliness, and quality of cottages on offer. 

Operating solely in the Lake District, Sally’s Cottages offers a plethora of choice for those seeking a peaceful Cumbrian holiday. The National Trust and Rural Retreats meanwhile both excelled in offering holidaymakers unique stays. Those looking to get away from it all can find some special properties on offer with the National Trust, including a former observatory in Wales and even a Cornish water tower, while Rural Retreats pride themselves on offering luxury stays, which in the words of one traveller, are ‘beyond all expectations’.

For those still looking to bag a bargain break, analysis by Which? found it really is all about location, location, location, with further savings on offer depending on region. Since April 2022, Which? has been comparing the prices and availability of holiday cottages in England listed by the three biggest companies, between 17th and 30th August, with Cornwall and Shropshire having the most properties still available.

If you are in the mood for a walking holiday, packing for the Peaks could save as much as £354 per week compared with a stay in the Lake District, with the average cottage rental coming in at £829.  The Lake District meanwhile was the fastest selling region in England this year, with prices to match – on average a week’s stay in a cottage could set you back around £1,183.

Cornwall tops the charts for most expensive rental region, with average prices of £1,401. While still pricey, swapping a Cornish holiday for a trip to Devon could nonetheless save you around £118 a week, with an average cost of £1,283. 

Alternatively, holidaymakers seeking a coastal retreat might want to consider Northumberland, with the region offering unspoilt beaches and fewer crowds than resorts in the South West, plus accommodation which is a little kinder on the wallet, with an average week’s stay coming in at around £872. 

Guy Hobbs, Editor of Which? Travel, said:

“The UK has a wealth of unique properties on offer for a memorable stay and our research shows that thousands of properties have come down in price over the course of the year as people opted to brave the travel chaos and head for sunnier climes.

“Readers told us they value the personal touches, hand-picked properties and excellent customer service you get from smaller companies, which triumphed over the household names.”


Notes to editors

  • Between 16th March – 5th April 2022, Which? asked 3,025 members about their recent stays at UK holiday cottages. 
  • Since April, Which? has tracked the price and availability of holiday cottages in England from the biggest providers Sykes, Awaze and between 17th and 30th August. Average prices are based on one, two and three bed properties.
  • In recent Which? polls, Bamburgh was crowned the UK’s best seaside town for the third consecutive year, while the Northumberland Coast ranked number two out of 34 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
  • Guy Hobbs is acting editor of Which? Travel while Rory Boland is on leave.


Full table of results:

UK price map:


About Which?

Which? is the UK’s consumer champion, here to make life simpler, fairer and safer for everyone. Our research gets to the heart of consumer issues, our advice is impartial, and our rigorous product tests lead to expert recommendations. We’re the independent consumer voice that influences politicians and lawmakers, investigates, holds businesses to account and makes change happen. As an organisation we’re not for profit and all for making consumers more powerful.

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