Our Favourite Forest Cottages

November 28th, 2015
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Today we’re taking a sneak peek at some of our favourite cottages, all of which are within a short distance from a famous forest. From Kielder right up in the north of Northumberland through to the Forest of Dean down in Gloucestershire, they all combine the beauty of the great outdoors with a cosy cottage, so why don’t you take a look and see which you’d like to pay a visit to?

Kielder Forest – Greystead Old Church (ref. 23575)

Situated just a few miles from Kielder Water, right in the heart of the Kielder Forest Park, Greystead Old Church is a stunning Grade II listed former Georgian church. Lovingly restored just a couple of years ago, the property was transformed into beautiful holiday cottage whilst retaining plenty of the original features including the stained glass windows, Georgian panelling and the Gothic archway. With four bedrooms, Greystead Old Church can comfortably sleep up to eight people making it perfect for family get-togethers or breaks with friends alike, and with the Kielder Forest right on the doorstep you’ll never struggle for something to do. With the darkest skies in the whole of the country, Kielder is one of the best places to do a spot of stargazing and you could even pop down to the famous observatory, which is just a little way up the road.

Grizedale Forest – 3 Vale View (ref. 25709)

Or alternatively, we’ve got 3 Vale View which is just on the outskirts of the Grizedale Forest in the Lake District. It’s a traditional whitewashed property in the picturesque hamlet of Hannakin – the perfect place to catch some stunning views. In fact the property is geared towards making the most out of these panoramas with the upside down arrangement meaning you’ll be able to enjoy uninterrupted vistas from the living areas. Just down the road, you’ll be able to find the quaint village of Hawkshead, famously the former home to both William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter. These literary links mean that Hawkshead is a veritable haven for all of the book lovers out there, offering tours of Wordsworth’s old school and the Beatrix Potter gallery where you’ll be able to find many of her original illustrations. Or if you’d count yourself as more of an adrenaline junkie, then there’s always the Go Ape and mountain bike trails in Grizedale Forest itself.

The Forest of Dean – Ciderpress Cottage (ref. 24803)

And finally we’ve got the Forest of Dean and Ciderpress Cottage. A detached barn conversion situated in an idyllic rural location, the ground floor of the cottage features a cosy living room full to the rafters with charm, and up just a couple of steps you’ll be able to find the magnificent kitchen complete with all of the mod cons that you could ask for. Upstairs there are two comfortable bedrooms which between them can sleep four people, making it a great cottage for a family break. In the Forest of Dean itself, you’ll be able to try out a huge array of activities and things to pass the time, ranging from segway riding to bushcraft and maybe even a trip around the Westons Cider Mill.

So there’s just a small selection of some of our favourite forest cottages, we hope that you liked them but don’t forget you can always have a quick look through to the full collection – we’re sure you’ll find something to suit you!

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Jamie Tomkins

By Jamie Tomkins

Jamie is a big fan of long weekend walks with the dog, especially when there is the chance to refuel with lunch in a country pub. Living in Lancaster for three years gave him the perfect opportunity to spend a lot of time in the Lake District.

Sykes’ Tea Reviews: Everyday Tea

November 27th, 2015
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You may have noticed that here at Sykes Cottages, we’re big fans of a good cup of tea. In fact, we worked out that as a company we drink 131,000 cups of tea a year! If you’re passionate about tea too, then we recently conducted a survey on British tea drinking habits which brought up some really quirky facts, as well as an infographic on tea in British culture, which you might like!

Tea party

Today though, we’re putting three of our favourite everyday tea brands to the test- which one will be crowned ‘Best Everyday Tea’? We used Yorkshire Tea, Tetley Original and PG tips Original in our experiment. We brewed all of the tea bags for 4 minutes with water just off the boil and added a dash of milk to each cup to keep it as fair as possible.

Everyday tea

The three contenders: Yorkshire Tea, Tetley and PG tips

Yorkshire Tea

The box promises to bring us “a proper brew” and assures us that Yorkshire Tea goes to great lengths to “make tea properly”, as well as making sure they trade with a conscience. It is part of the Rainforest Alliance and has also pledged to save an area the size of Yorkshire with its Yorkshire Rainforest Project. Yorkshire Tea is the tea of choice for much of the marketing team here at Sykes HQ, so we’re expecting good things.

Overall, the taste was the best out of the three. The tea bag made a good, strong cup of tea with a good colour and a full-bodied, refreshing taste. Everyday tea doesn’t tend to have the strongest smell so we’re happy to overlook its lack of points in the smell category.  A proper brew indeed!

Colour: 2.5/3

Smell: 1/3

Taste: 2.5/3

Tetley Original

The nice folk at Tetley describe this tea as “blended ‘til it’s lovely” on the box, promising us a cup of tea made from the finest tea leaves to give us a full flavoured, smooth and refreshing cuppa. Tetley is part of the Rainforest Alliance and the Ethical Tea Partnership, which means we can enjoy our tea guilt-free too!

Our cup of Tetley tea had a wonderful, rich colour and a delightful, smooth taste that we all enjoyed. We felt the smell was the most tea-like out of the three contenders, although it still didn’t offer much. A very nice cuppa overall.

Colour: 2/3

Smell: 1.5/3

Taste: 2/3

PG tips Original

The PG tips packaging offers a “lovely cup of tea” made with a fancy pyramid tea bag, which apparently gives lots more room for the tea leaves to move than a standard tea bag does. PG tips carries the Rainforest Alliance seal too, which we approve of!

The colour of the PG tips brew was the best of the lot- a full-bodied colour that looked exactly how a cuppa should. However, we didn’t feel the flavour was quite as up to scratch as the other two, it tasted a little on the weak side, even though it was brewed for the same length of time.

Colour: 3/3

Smell: 1/3

Taste: 1.5/3

Cups of everyday tea

(Left to Right) Yorkshire Tea, Tetley, PG tips

When we totted up the scores, it was Yorkshire Tea that came out on top. Scoring highly for both colour and taste, we are delighted to crown Yorkshire Tea our ‘Best Everyday Tea’.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter, we’d love to hear your opinions. Make sure to keep a look out for other tea reviews in future! Next week, we’ll be testing Green Tea and Earl Grey.

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Louise O'Toole

By Louise O'Toole

Louise loves reading, shopping, baking and cosy country pubs with log fires. A nice cup of tea will never be turned down. She has spent many childhood summers on the beach in Cornwall and walking the hills of the Lake District.

Why London has a lot in common with the rest of the UK

November 27th, 2015
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Great Britain is home to both remarkable countryside, and invigorating cities – but what happens when you pair the two? We’ve taken some of our treasured cottage locations and paired them with what we think could be their London twin!

Whether they’re twinned because we think they share the same buzz, are keen on the same activities or own similar landmarks, we’ve tried to summarise the quirks of these places to show that, really, the big smoke and the countryside aren’t so far apart after all…

Shoreditch and Hastings


With Hastings having been described as the “Shoreditch of Essex” in the past, we’ve paired these two areas for their love of art and the keen creative scene.

Notting Hill and Hay-on-Wye


Thanks to the movie of the same name, there’s no disassociating Notting Hill from bookshops – and the small town of Hay-on-Wye in Wales is renowned for its high number of them, too. A match made in a book lover’s heaven!

The East End and Whitstable


Seafood is the common denominator in these two places. East London is the perfect spot to try some jellied eel, but head to Whitstable, and you’ll surely find some Whitstable Oysters to sample.

Ham and Kirtlington


Both Ham (located on the outskirts of London) and Kirtlington (just north of Oxford) are home to respected polo clubs. As well as being a centre for the game, both bring a tremendous sense of community to their respective homes!

Westminster and Dulverton


Believe it or not, both Westminster and Dulverton are home to keen stargazing communities. Regent’s Park in Westminster is home to the Baker Street Irregular Astronomers who aim to make the most of the poor darkness levels and in Dulverton, there is Exmoor National Park which was the first International Dark Sky Reserve in Europe.

Sutton and Cheltenham


Perfect for parents and their kids, both Sutton and Cheltenham have been singled out as family-friendly areas! Thanks to the beautiful parks and community facilities of Sutton, it’s known as one of London’s friendliest areas, and Cheltenham has been ranked as the top place in the UK to raise a family.

Putney and Cambridge


The relationship between Putney and Cambridge is a watery one – in the strongest sense of the term! Each year, Putney hosts the Oxbridge boat race but Cambridge is also home to its own water sport activity – the annual Dragon Boat Festival.

Hampstead and Buttermere


Open-water swimming fans in London may have already experienced taking a dip at Hampstead Heath, but how about a trip to the Lake District? Buttermere is one of the best places for those who like swimming al fresco – but be sure to don a wetsuit outside of the summer months!

Clapham and Skipwith


Both Clapham and Skipwith are home to large commons, making them perfect destinations for those with families and furry friends. Skipwith Common is also Natural England’s newest Natural Nature Reserve.

Richmond and Harrogate


In 2009, Richmond was declared as London’s “happiest borough” and recently, it was announced that Harrogate is home to the happiest people in Britain – a happy twinning indeed!

Dulwich and St Ives


Art appreciators, assemble! While Dulwich is known for the Dulwich Picture Gallery, head to the Cornish coast and you’ll find the Tate St Ives, as well as many other boutique galleries.

Tom Lowes at Sykes Cottages, adds: “We’re incredibly lucky here in the UK. We’ve got large cities and vast countryside on our doorsteps – but we want to highlight that you don’t have to head into London to experience something a little different. In short, the essence of city life can be found further afield – you just have to know where to look for it!”

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By Nicole Westley

As a food lover Nicole can often be found in the kitchen, covered in flour and experimenting with new tastes! When not making a mess she loves to explore her Celtic roots by roaming the Scottish countryside or exploring the bays along the Anglesey coast with her fiancé.

2015 British Travel Awards: Sykes Cottages Win For Third Year!

November 26th, 2015
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There are more than a few happy faces here at Sykes Cottages today as we’re absolutely delighted to announce that we’ve won a British Travel Award for the third year in a row! Yes, we are the proud owners of a shiny new trophy after winning the award for Best Large Self Catering Holiday Booking Company last night at a glittering awards ceremony in London.

British Travel Awards

Our three British Travel Awards

The British Travel Awards have been described as the ‘British travel Oscars’ and are the most prestigious event of the year for the UK tourism industry. Over a million votes were cast in a record-breaking year for the awards and it’s truly been an incredible event to be a part of.

We received this award in recognition of our excellence within the holiday cottage sector and it was voted for by you- the public- which makes this accolade even more special to us.

British Travel Awards

Trinity Mirror Commercial Director, Andy Atkinson, and our Chief Executive, Miles Hill, at the British Travel Awards 2015

We are incredibly proud to have won for a third year, after winning in 2014 and 2013, and would like to sincerely thank everyone who took the time to vote for us over the past few months. It means the world to us that we have your support and we promise to continue striving to be the best at what we do and provide you with fantastic cottage holidays for many more years to come.

Thank you all, from all the team at Sykes Cottages.

Sykes Cottages Staff

The Sykes Cottages Team

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Louise O'Toole

By Louise O'Toole

Louise loves reading, shopping, baking and cosy country pubs with log fires. A nice cup of tea will never be turned down. She has spent many childhood summers on the beach in Cornwall and walking the hills of the Lake District.

5 Family Cottages Still Available for Christmas

November 25th, 2015
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Now we’re not looking to scare you but today marks just one month until Christmas Day. It’s ok if you haven’t bought all your Christmas presents yet and it’s definitely ok if you’ve not yet written your Christmas cards, but if you’re hoping to go away in a cottage over Christmas then you need to act fast! Our holiday cottages do book up in advance for the Christmas period so if you’re considering a Christmas getaway or if you need accommodation while you visit family, then now is the time to get planning. For a bit of inspiration, here are five wonderful family-friendly cottages that are still available.

White Moss, Wood Close, Lake District

White Moss, Wood Close is a delightful ground floor apartment on the outskirts of Grasmere- one of the jewels of the Lakes and the former home of William Wordsworth. The property overlooks Grasmere Lake with wonderful views from the living room window, making it a magical setting in which to spend Christmas; see if you can spot the resident red squirrels, badgers and deer! White Moss is pet friendly too, so you won’t have to leave any furry members of the family at home.

Woodstone Barn, Devon

This cosy barn conversion on a Devon farm is the perfect place for a family Christmas in the countryside. Sleeping up to 8 guests, Woodstone Barn is large enough to bring the grandparents too and if you need even more space for aunts, uncles and cousins, there’s an additional cottage sleeping 4 next door (Owl Barn) which is also still available for Christmas week. Take in the spectacular views across Dartmoor National Park, cosy up in front of the woodburner and spend your Christmas holiday enjoying the company of your family amongst beautiful surroundings.

The Mount, North Yorkshire

The Mount is a charming terraced cottage tucked away in the small Yorkshire village of Swinton. If your idea of the perfect Christmas is a characterful bolthole away from the crowds then The Mount is for you. There’s a roaring fire in a cast-iron Victorian fireplace to curl up in front of, a Rayburn nestled in a brick alcove to cook Christmas dinner on, and a children’s playground to the rear of the property to keep the kids entertained. Swinton’s lovely local shops and pubs are also within 5 minutes’ walk.

Westgate Retreat, Norfolk

Westgate Retreat is a bright first floor apartment in the coastal town of Hunstanton, just a few minutes’ walk from the beach- the perfect place to wrap up warm and walk off all those mince pies on Boxing Day! This lovely holiday rental would make the ideal home-from-home in which to spend Christmas if you’re visiting family in Norfolk and there’s plenty of room for everyone to congregate in the spacious living area to open presents.

Eglwys St Cynfil, Llyn Peninsula

If you’re looking for somewhere a bit quirky, how about this beautiful converted church in Penrhos?  With a double height beamed ceiling, mullioned church windows and original features including a pulpit, Eglwys St Cynfil would make for a characterful Christmas getaway. The cottage sleeps 6 and is ideally situated in a tranquil location, yet within easy reach of the Llyn Peninsula’s stunning beaches and coastline.

Book a family cottage this Christmas

To browse our full range of holiday cottages still available over the Christmas period, visit our website.

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Louise O'Toole

By Louise O'Toole

Louise loves reading, shopping, baking and cosy country pubs with log fires. A nice cup of tea will never be turned down. She has spent many childhood summers on the beach in Cornwall and walking the hills of the Lake District.