Port Donnel Cottage, Dumfries and Galloway

This secluded four-star cottage on the edge of a picturesque estuary outside Castle Douglas, is one of the National Trust for Scotland's most popular holiday properties. Reached by a small private road and boasting spectacular views of the water, it also has a beach at the bottom of the garden. With one single and two twin bedrooms, this traditional, white-painted cottage sleeps five comfortably. Castle Douglas is gaining a growing reputation as Scotland's foodie town, so there are plenty of places to eat out if you don't want to do your own cooking. And if it's not sunny enough to laze on the sand, it's just a few miles from the pretty artists' town of Kirkcudbright.

Port Donnel Cottage, Rockcliffe, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland (0131 243 9331; www.ntsholidays.com). Four nights' rental from £210.

Preston House, West Sussex

Open for rental during the summer months only, this vast Dutch colonial-style beachside villa boasts direct access to an adjacent beach and sea views from most of its grand main rooms. Set outside historic Arundel and close to the South Downs, while its interior is largely art nouveau in style, Preston House also has a stunning contemporary kitchen and dining area, as well as six bedrooms and three bathrooms. The garden sweeps down to the beach via a neatly mown lawn and a collection of mature trees and shrubs.

Preston House, East Preston, West Sussex (01386 701177;

www.ruralretreats.co.uk). Three nights' rental starts at £1,245; sleeps 10.

Blue Reef Cottages, Hebrides

A step above your average self-catering properties, Blue Reef Cottages on the Hebridean island of Harris are a pair of turf-roofed buildings with spectacular views out on to rolling Atlantic surf and sugar-white beaches. The cottages both sleep two and, as well as luxurious bathrooms, king-size beds and picture-window lounges, they also have individual saunas. The cottages are in the village of Scarista, which is also home to an award-winning hotel, Scarista House. If you fancy dropping in, its upmarket restaurant does the business with fresh local produce.

Blue Reef Cottages, Scarista, Harris (01859 550370; www.bluereefcottages.co.uk). A week's rental starts at £780 per cottage.

Tavern Rocks, Cornwall

The self-catering equivalent of a boutique hotel, this luxury bolthole in St Mawes features stylish decor, a quirky semi-tropical garden and some of the best sea views in the county, with an open outlook on to Tavern beach. A renovated Victorian villa with three bedrooms, its location in one of Cornwall's busier coastal villages means there are plenty of diversions besides making sandcastles, with shops, pubs, historic attractions and even a ferry to Falmouth within easy reach. The glamorous Hotel Tresanton is also just down the road if your partner's cooking isn't quite up to scratch.

Tavern Rocks, 25 Lower Castle Road, St Mawes, Cornwall (01865 452964; www.tavernrocks.com). Three nights' rental from £550; sleeps six.

Pavilion Cottage, Isle of Wight

Last month, English Heritage began to cater for the demand in historic holiday lets by opening six properties for hire at its sites across the country (in the long-term it's hoped that the number will increase to 100). Don't expect crumbling walls and draughty windows, though. Facilities at each of the properties are luxurious, with furniture sourced from English designers and swanky bathrooms. One of the best of the first batch of properties is Pavilion Cottage in the grounds of Osborne House. Built as a cricket pavilion for cadets at the Royal Naval Cottage, it offers access to a beach once used by visiting royals.

Pavilion Cottage, Osborne House, Isle of Wight (0870 3331187; www.english-heritage.org.uk/holidays). Three nights' rental from £230, including a hamper and entrance to Osborne House; sleeps four.

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