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Newton Abbot, DevonFamily Easter break in the Lake District

Each week, Mystery Shopper calls on agents across the UK. Shops are judged on five criteria:

Agency appearance (15%)
Brochure racking (10%)
Product knowledge (25%)
Sales technique (25%)
Staff attitude (25%)

The top-scoring agency receives a Travel Weekly certificate of commendation. Agencies must score a minimum of 60% to qualify. Any agency that scores under 30% will be named and shamed as this week’s Shop of Horrors. Please note, no additional information will be given about Mystery Shopper’s visits.

20 Courtenay Street

All the consultants were with clients but after a few seconds another consultant appeared. She picked the Blakes Country Cottages and Hoseasons Holiday Parks and Lodges brochures off the rack and asked me to wait for a seat. She disappeared into the back office again and when one of her colleagues was free she went to find her for me. The same colleague returned clutching the brochures and handed me Blakes’, saying “There you go”. I asked if I could see her colleague again, but she had gone to serve someone else. So why had she asked me to wait?

Score: 36%

12 Courtenay Street

A consultant gave me the Hoseasons Country Cottages and Blakes Country Cottages brochures. When I asked whether they featured quality accommodation she ignored the question. I suspected she didn’t know the answer. She said she could book the train and car hire, but checked with her colleague who said, no, she could only arrange the car, though she didn’t seem very sure. The same colleague suggested I selected five properties, adding that if they were all booked she would “definitely find something available”. She gave me her business card.

Score: 45%

22 Courtenay Street

While I was waiting to be served I picked up copies of the Blakes Country Cottages and Hoseasons Country Cottages brochures. When a consultant became free she also recommended the Hoseasons Holiday Lodges and Parks brochure. Taking all three, she said they would give me a good idea of the type of accommodation available. She didn’t bother to open any of them to tempt me with their wares. She said I would have to book the train myself and that she might not even be able to book car hire in the Lakes, but she didn’t check that.

Score: 49%

8 Queen Street

This was a small agency with only two consultants who were both busy. While waiting, I noticed there were some gaps in the UK section of the brochure racks. A third consultant appeared after a few minutes. She went into the back office and returned with Hoseasons Country Cottages and Hoseasons Holiday Parks and Lodges brochures. She said both featured quality accommodation. She stressed the holiday parks were more upmarket than caravan parks. Flicking through the brochure she showed me one in Keswick that she said was of a high standard with good facilities for children. She suggested that if I decided to go for a cottage instead, I should consider booking one on a farm or as part of a group of cottages so there would be some entertainment for the children. She showed me several possibilities in the Country Cottages brochure. She said she could only book car hire for me if there was a Hertz outlet at the train station in the Lakes, which she seemed to think was unlikely. She urged me to consider the cheaper option of driving, which she said would be less hassle than the train.

Score: 81%


Tip 1: The White Cross Bay Holiday Park in Windermere has a play area and amusements for children, plus its own watersports centre. Accommodation is in pine lodges. The park is sold by Blakes and Hoseasons.

Tip 2: Hoseasons has two holiday parks at Silloth on the coast north of the Lake District, which have many facilities.

Tip 3: Customers will find the nearest major car hire outlets in Barrow-in-Furness, and the Avis branch there will deliver to Windermere.

Tip 4: Windermere has its own railway station. The journey from Newton Abbot takes about six hours.

Tip 5: There is a two-hourly train service from Newton Abbot, with one change at nearby Oxenholme. By also changing at Birmingham and/or Crewe, there is a train every hour.


Mystery Shopper was looking for self-catering accommodation in the Lake District for the Easter break. She was considering booking a cottage or a lodge within a holiday park. She stressed to agents that the accommodation must be of a high standard and she would not consider a mobile home or a park with mobile home accommodation. As she had two young children, she wanted somewhere with good facilities for the kids and lots of activities, either on-site or available locally, but she wasn’t looking for any adult or evening entertainment. Unwilling to contemplate the long drive from Devon to the Lake District with the children, she also wanted to know if she could book rail travel from Newton Abbot to the Lakes, and car hire when she arrived. Most of the agents stuck to giving out brochures, but one knew the Lakes well and used this to her advantage.

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