Winter warmer – How to make the perfect log fire

One thing that so many of our guests really love about staying in our traditional, cosy holiday cottages is the ability to make fire, indoors. It’s a truly unifying thing, making the perfect fire, it brings together families, sexes, generations even; all under the direction of that alpha male who thinks he knows, and truly believes that you believe he knows, but, in reality, doesn’t really know, how to get the fire roaring. Well alpha males, and the rest of you, kiss good bye to the torment, humiliation and feeling of failure with this definitive guide to preparing, lighting and enjoying the perfect winter fire.


Step 1. You need a fireplace.

While many of our lovely cottages and homes have fireplaces ready and waiting for you, several of the more modern properties do not and our courteous owners would probably prefer it if you didn’t try to make one. So, Rule number 1, choose a property that has an open fire and, preferably, a chimney. These can be identified easily by clicking here.

Step 2. Forage

You’ve located the fireplace, now it’s time to get equipped. You’ll need what’s left of the newspaper you bought for the journey down and, unless you’re Ray Mears, you’ll need something to get it going (a lighter, matches or a pet dragon will suffice – but please, if you intend on using the latter do check that your chosen property allows pets beforehand). Fire lighters make life easy and finally you’ll need something to burn, wood or coal will do fine but we suggest you look beyond the antique pine writing table that looks so tempting in the corner or the room. Much better, if it’s been dry out, why not head off as a couple, a family or just an independent provider and scavenge for kindling. Dried out driftwood is always a winner as is any selection of fallen twigs and branches that aren’t too damp or rotten. Too wet outside? Then bundle in the car, find your nearest supplier of wood and coal and pick up a bag of marshmallows whilst you’re there.

Step 3. Construction

Like anything done well, the key to making a great fire is in the detail. Separate 5-10 sheets of the newspaper (depending on the size of the fire), roll each one up vertically, like unrolled wrapping paper and tie them individually in a knot; this will help each piece burn for longer and create more heat in the middle. Cluster the newspaper in the fire grate and add two or three fire lighters spread out amongst the newspaper. Next, add your kindling, starting with the smallest bits which will combust most easily followed by the bigger bits. NOTE – it’s important here not to overwhelm the paper with wood, by all means add a few lumps of coal and a log for longevity and warmth but allow enough space for the air to travel through the burning materials and up the chimney while the fire is getting started; it’s this airflow that feeds oxygen to the fire and creates a real roarer.


Step 4. “Stand back everyone, she’s gonna blow!”

It’s hands and knees time folks, give yourself room to function and carefully ignite the newspaper, doing so in as many different places as you can manage without burning your fingers. As the paper goes up it shouldn’t take long for the kindling to take with it, but don’t be afraid to provide some extra encouragement with a bit of man-made wind power; as you blow, you’ll create air flow that brings additional oxygen into the fire and causes the flames to get bigger… just remember to move away before breathing back in again.

Step 5. Tenderly does it

Just because there’s flames and smoke it doesn’t mean fire duties are done, you’ve laid the foundations and built the core, now it’s time to finish the masterpiece. With the kindling well underway add two or three smaller logs to the top as strategically as you can so that they benefit from the heat and flames without squashing the fire out. Leaving space beneath the logs for the fire to breath is essential. A little more blowing and you should have the logs going in no time (At this point you might want crack everyone up with a ‘roaring success’ pun).

Offer a little more coal if desired with a view to ending up with a base of red hot coals that can be used to maintain the fire throughout the night as you add logs when required and sip on a well earned glass of something nice.