Grading Schemes and Quality Ratings for Self Catering in the UK

Visitors from overseas and also UK holidaymakers often want further information on grading schemes and what the star ratings on our website mean.  On Country Cottages Online you will find accommodation marked as 5 star, 4 star, 3 star and so on.  You will recognise these star ratings from the red stars shown for individual cottages.  If no star rating is given, this indicates that the self catering establishment has not been rated.  Country Cottages Online are not an agency and we do not have a process of personally inspecting cottages or have our own rating scheme although we do monitor visitor feedback

Award winning and quality rated self-catering accommodation

The ratings shown are those that the owners or agencies of cottages have specified have been awarded by the relevant tourist board.  There are commonalities between the rating systems in England, Scotland and Wales who all use the Visit Britain star ratings system, designed to quality assure certain standards of accommodation. 

The only exception to this rule is Sykes Cottages' ads where this agency run their own rating scheme - which is described on their website as 1- 5 ticks.  This tick assessment is displayed as a star rating on our site.

Ratings are shown on Country Cottages Online as follows.  An explanation of these star ratings are given below.

5 star quality rating

4 star quality rating

3 star quality rating

And so on and so forth.

The awards and system operated by the tourist boards in the UK are as follows:

Visit Britain Ratings for England, Wales and Scotland

  • Star ratings (1-5) are awarded to indicated the quality of the accommodation following an assessment process. 

  • 1 is the lowest rating and 5 is the highest. 

  • There are a number of quality indicators including factors such as standards of cleanliness, the standard of the outside of the property and the grounds, comfort and facilities, customer service and the standard of accommodation.  All these factors are taken in to account with the Visit Britain quality ratings.

Quality in Tourism now carry out the assessment process on behalf of Visit England.  The quality assessment is conducted each year.  Excellence is recognised by a number of special awards.  These include gold awards, silver awards and also green awards specifically for self catering cottages with eco friendly credentials.

Visit Scotland when describing their quality assurance grading scheme describe 1 star as acceptable, 2 stars as good, 3 stars as very good, 4 stars as excellent and 5 stars as exceptional.  They have a Gold award scheme to recognise self catering establishments offering the highest levels of customer service.

Ireland's System for Quality Rating Self Catering

  • Failte Ireland have their own system when it comes to assessing the quality of self catering accommodation.  The Failte Ireland system includes from 1 to 4 stars.

As with the Visit Britain assessment process, the ratings are awarded following an assessment and visit to the property.  Also, broadly speaking the assessment is based on similar quality indicators as with the schemes for England, Wales and Scotland.  Minimum requirements on all the above schemes must be met in order to be awarded even just 1 star.  Those opting in to the assessment scheme also have to follow a code of conduct and must meet basic requirements including health and safety requirements.

Special Awards

Some holidaymakers like to find award winning cottages.  Award winning self catering is that which has been recognised by one of the special awards, awarded by Visit Britain or one of the umbrella organisations. 

Visit England have the following special awards:

Gold awards

These are only awarded where a cottage is recognised as having exceptional standards of customer service, cleanliness and comfort.  Click to see gold award winning cottages in England.

Silver awards

Silver awards are given to recognise a very high standard of cleanliness, comfort and hospitality.  However, these awards are only awarded to hotels, not self-catering properties.

Visit Wales do not have the above scheme.  Instead, the main scheme in Wales is the Visit Wales National Tourism Awards where self-catering establishments can be nominated as 'Best Places to Stay'.

Visit Scotland  and Failte Ireland do not operate a Silver or Gold award scheme.

Green awards

There is also a Green Business Tourism scheme that operates in the UK and Ireland.  This scheme is recognised by Visit Britain.  Again, this system involves an assessment process whereby self catering cottages are assessed but this time on their eco-friendly and sustainability features.  If you are concerned about the environment you may want to research these awards further.  The Green Business scheme awards the levels of Bronze, Silver and Gold awards.

Click if you are looking for an award winning cottage.

Alternatively click for tourist board inspected cottages.


Not all owners of self catering accommodation choose to have their property assessed.  This should not necessarily be interpreted negatively.  There can be a number of different reasons why owners decide not to be rated, one of which can be cost.  To run a ratings scheme, there are charges that must be passed on to owners in order to operate such a scheme.  A number of cottage owners decide not to opt to be rated and rely on their photographs and guest reviews to inform potential holidaymakers.  Running a successful self catering business often relies on getting repeat business and such business is only possible if you offer quality accommodation in any event.  If you are concerned about booking a cottage that has no rating assessment, why not look up one of the review websites and see whether you can find a review on the property which may offer you some reassurance.  Or if you prefer to play it safe with rated accommodation then why not take a look at these 5 star and 4 star cottages.


Related pages:

Top Related Searches for Holiday Ratings and Standards