Outdoor Activities for Children This Summer

July 30th, 2014
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The summer holidays have just started and with over four weeks of summer activities to organise, keeping the kids entertained is no easy task! Here at Sykes Cottages, we want to help you out so have come up with a delightful selection of outdoor activities that your children are sure to love. The following activities are suitable for individuals or groups and have been selected to suit all budgets.

Lawn art

Picture via Flickr.

Picture via Flickr.

Encourage your child’s inner artist this summer with a spot of lawn art; all you need is an old bed sheet, a few items to weigh the corners down and a selection of paints to create a giant floor canvas. Ideal for making colourful footprints children of all ages are sure to enjoy this activity.

Hopscotch

Picture via Flickr.

Picture via Flickr.

Hopscotch is a classic British game which never fails to entertain children. Simple to set up, all you will require is a hard surface and a piece of chalk. You can have hours of fun creating funky hopscotch designs before getting a good dose of exercise as you jump from square to square.

Build a den

Picture via Flickr.

Picture via Flickr.

Building a den this summer is not only a fantastic activity for the children but also a welcome hideaway to shelter sensitive skin from the sun. From blanket forts in the back garden to twiggy dens in the local woodlands, you can build a den almost anywhere from almost anything!

Treasure hunt

Picture via Flickr.

Picture via Flickr.

Become part of Jake’s crew as you lead the children around the garden in search of gold doubloons on a “Jake and the Neverland Pirates” themed treasure hunt! Create a simple treasure map and hide small sweets or toys around the garden to create an exciting activity for children this summer.

Teddy Bears picnic

Picture via Flickr.

Picture via Flickr.

The iconic Teddy Bears picnic is a fantastic way to liven up the average lunch time this summer. Along with the usual afternoon treats, why not introduce a few new tastes? Children who normally dislike trying new things will feel more inclined to join in if Teddy is eating them too.

Garden camping

Picture via Flickr.

Picture via Flickr.

Make the most of our crystal clear skies this summer with a garden camp out. Safe in the back yard, your children can enjoy sleeping under the stars, roasting marshmallows and telling ghost stories as you keep a watchful eye from the comfort of the sofa!

If you decide to try out any of these activities then we would love to hear about it; you can connect with us via Facebook and Twitter, so please do not hesitate to share your summer fun with us!

nicole.westley

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.

Sykes Cottages’ Changeover Checklist

July 29th, 2014
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Nothing beats a first impression right? Well we’re more than aware of the fact that the same thing goes for a holiday cottage! You want to make a good impression when the guests arrive at the property and have their very first look around, and there is nothing more important for doing this than making sure that you get everything sorted out during the changeover. Having said this, at the peak periods things can get a bit hectic and this can occasionally lead to the odd little job slipping the mind. And this is why we’ve put together a checklist of the jobs that when done will make any holiday cottage feel like a true home from home!

Kitchen

Kitchen of Stable Cottage

Stable Cottage, East Anglia, ref. 3505

  • Check inside the dishwasher in case any dishes have been left in there, if so put them away.
  • Clean the fridge and freezer inside and out, removing any items left behind. The freezer may need defrosting and so it is worth doing this early on in the clean.
  • Give the counters (including under any work-top appliances) and cupboard doors a good wipe down.
  • Clean both the microwave and oven inside and out. Empty any crumbs out of the toaster.
  • Vacuum and mop the floors.

Living Areas

Living room of Grove Cottage

Grove Cottage, North Yorkshire Moors, ref. 12465

  • Clean and vacuum/mop the floors, make sure to do under the furniture as well.
  • Give the surfaces, window sills,  the TV, e.t.c. a dust.
  • Remove any magazines, newspapers that might have been left behind.
  • Make sure that things like fuel for fires e.t.c. are stocked up.

Bedrooms

Bedroom of Willow Garth

Willow Garth, North Yorkshire Moors, ref. 27571

  • Remove all of the bedding from the used beds, check the mattresses.
  • Dust the surfaces and check all of the wardrobes and drawers for any personal items that might have been left behind.
  • Clean all of the mirrors.
  • Give the floors a good vacuum, making sure to get right under the beds and behind any furniture.
  • Make all of the beds up with clean bedding.

Bathrooms

Bathroom of The Paddock

The Paddock, The Lake District, ref. 11219

  • Vacuum and then mop the floors.
  • Clean the showers, bath tubs and sinks, throwing away any soaps, shampoos, etc. left behind by guests.
  • Clean the toilets thoroughly.
  • Clean the mirrors.

We hope that you all find this to be a handy little resource, but you should also remember that there are plenty of little touches around the house that you can do to make your guests feel more at home. From just checking the light bulbs to replacing any dud batteries, they might not seem that important but guests will definitely notice if they’re left undone! But if you do any changeover jobs that seem to go down well and aren’t on our checklist then do let us know, either over Twitter or via Facebook and we’ll pass the tips on!

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’ Guide to UK Theme Parks

July 28th, 2014
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If you’re looking for a fun filled family day out this summer then why not visit one of the UK’s many theme parks? With dizzying highs and terrifying lows, UK theme parks have been entertaining families for generations and with numerous parks dotted about the country, you’re never too far from one of these marvellous attractions. For the best theme park in your region keep reading and discover the Sykes’ guide to UK theme parks

M and D’s in Scotland

Picture via Flickr.

Picture via Flickr.

M and D’s in Scotland offers a fantastic day out for the whole family and has well and truly earned its title as ‘Scotland’s Theme Park’.  The park boasts five white knuckle rides and no less than twenty children’s rides and attractions. M and D’s is a must for thrill seeks but makes sure to include a number of activities for those among us that prefer to keep are feet on the ground; these activities include a miniature golf course, indoor bowling alley and a gigantic soft play centre.

Flamingo Land in North England

Picture via Flickr.

Picture via Flickr.

Not content with being simply a theme park, Flamingo Land in North Yorkshire has the added bonus of housing over 140 species of birds, mammals and reptiles in their very own zoo! Children love to see all the animals at the zoo and learn about their natural habitats before whizzing through the air on one of the parks eight extreme rides. With so much to do at this incredible attraction, you may find yourself making several trips there this summer.

Alton Towers in Mid England

Picture provided by Holly Magoolagan.

Picture provided by Holly Magoolagan.

With ten rides designed to thrill, nine rides devised for laughs and frights and six rides especially for children, it’s no wonder that Alton Towers in Staffordshire is regularly voted the best theme park in Britain! A trip to Alton Towers can see you spiralling through 14 loops on ‘The Smiler’ or making a splash as you twist and turn around their marvellous waterpark on ‘The Master Blaster Water Coaster’. However you decide to spend your time at Alton Towers, it is sure to be unforgettable!

Oakwood in Wales

Picture via Flickr.

Picture via Flickr.

For a fabulous family day out  this summer head for the second star to the right and continue straight on to morning; that’s right, we’re off to Neverland! Neverland in Oakwood theme park that is. During 2013, Oakwood built a number of rides and attractions based on the adventures of Peter Pan in Neverland, now children can enjoy a number of themed rides which include Skull Rock, Crocodile Coaster and of course, the Jolly Roger.

Flambards in South England

Picture via Flickr.

Picture via Flickr.

If you’re heading down south this summer make sure visit Flambards in Cornwall. This stunning theme park offers a winning combination of both high energy thrill rides and exciting family rides, making it the ideal location for a family day out. If the south west is unfortunately hit by a spell of bad weather then there is no need to worry as Flambards offers two award winning exhibitions, Britain in the Blitz and their Victorian village, where children can learn all about Britain’s history!

Whether you’re staying at home this summer or touring the UK on a family holiday, make sure to to visit one of these top theme parks. If you’re still unsure on your summer plans then why not visit our summer cottages page? With hundreds of cottages still available throughout the UK it’s never too late to book a holiday the whole family will enjoy!

nicole.westley

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.

Top 10 UK Conservation Sites

July 27th, 2014
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Today is World Nature Conservation Day, a global event dedicated to highlighting the importance of protecting and safeguarding our natural world. Here in Britain, we’re blessed with some truly remarkable pockets of countryside that are protected by the government to safeguard them for future generations- here’s a pick of our favourites from around the UK.

Flamborough Head, East Yorkshire

Flamborough Head- Via Flickr

Flamborough Head- Via Flickr

With its 19th century lighthouse and majestic white chalk cliffs, Flamborough Head is a remarkable area for a stroll both day and night. The government first designated this headland a Site of Special Scientific Interest in 1952 due to the 189 habitats and 788 species which call this picturesque promontory home.

The Lizard, Cornwall

The Lizard- Via Flickr

The Lizard- Via Flickr

Stunning good looks aren’t the only thing that Cornwall’s The Lizard has to shout about. Along with its award-winning beaches and wonderful time-forgotten hamlets, this evocative finger of land is also a Special Area of Conservation thanks to the diversity of its flora.

Solway Firth, Dumfries & Galloway

Solway Firth- Via Flickr

Solway Firth- Via Flickr

Lagoons, mud flats and tidal rivers are just a handful of the natural features which await in Solway Firth, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty famous for its frequent dolphin sightings. Solway is one of Scotland’s most stunning bodies of water, and there has been talk of the region becoming the UK’s second marine national park.

North Norfolk Coast, Norfolk

Hunstanton Beach- Via Flickr

Hunstanton Beach- Via Flickr

Ribbons of soft sand and miles of undulating shingle dunes make the North Norfolk coast one of the best in the UK. Coastal highlights in the region include Holkham Beach and nature reserve, as well as Hunstanton Beach, a sandy stretch of coast renowned for its unusual red and white cliffs.

The New Forest, Wiltshire

The New Forest- Via Flickr

The New Forest- Via Flickr

Take coniferous woodlands and water fringed fens and what do you get? The New Forest of course! A designated Special Area of Conservation, the New Forest is an ever popular base for tourists thanks to its numerous walking, cycling and adventure trails, which criss-cross for miles across the woodland.

Simonside Hills, Northumberland

Simonside Hills- Via Flickr

Simonside Hills- Via Flickr

Located in the nether regions of Northumberland lie the Simonside Hills, a band of uplands protected for their biodiversity and wild, untamed landscapes. From atop these rugged hills, hikers are granted a panoramic view of the neighbouring Cheviots, making the 430m ascent well worth the effort.

Peak District Dales, Peak District

Peak District- Via Flickr

Peak District- Via Flickr

Perhaps the most famous protected land mass in the UK, the Peak District is by far the most popular designated Special Area of Conservation on this shortlist. For decades, people have flocked to the region to indulge in any number of the outdoor pursuits on offer, yet the Peak District’s main appeal comes from the sheer beauty of its natural backdrop.

Quantock Hills, Somerset

Quantock Hills- Via Flickr

Quantock Hills- Via Flickr

As England’s first designated Area of Oustanding Natural Beauty, the Quantocks have a lot to prove. Thankfully, the area’s spellbinding vistas and rare flora more than live up to this prestigious mantel, and to top it off, the area’s been designated a Special Area of Conservation too- what more could you want?

Dartmoor, Devon

Dartmoor- Via Flickr

Dartmoor- Via Flickr

Synonymous with sturdy mares and rich moorlands, Dartmoor is the ideal place to escape the daily grind and venture out into nature. Walkers will love cherry-picking their favourite routes from over 450 miles of public footpaths in Dartmoor, whilst mountain biking, horse riding and geocaching provide fun alternatives for the more adventurous.

Tennyson Down, Isle of Wight

Tennyson Down- Via Flickr

Tennyson Down- Via Flickr

Named after Britain’s late poet laureate, Lord Tennyson, the Tennyson Down is a chalk ridge forming part of what has come to be known as the ‘backbone’ of the Isle of Wight. Here, rare seabirds nest in the shingle sea cliffs and cows and rabbits graze on rich, emerald grasslands that extend right to the very edge of the headland.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our shortlist of Britain’s best conservation sites. Of course, this is but a sample of all the protected areas that are publicly accessible here in the UK. To find out more about Britain’s special areas of conservation, please visit the JNCC website. Alternatively, if you’d like to get involved in World Nature Conservation Day, click here.

Jonathan Tuplin

By Jonathan Tuplin

Jonathan is a lover of books, music and good food. Originally from Yorkshire, there's nothing he likes more than a cycle in the country. One of his favourite spots in the UK is Tenby, where he spent many a happy holiday as a child.

British Marine Life: Where to Find it?

July 26th, 2014
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From 26th July to 10th August 2014, the Wildlife Trust is celebrating the fascinating sea animals and plants that live in the UK’s marine environment for National Marine Week. This event takes place annually, taking on a different theme every year. The theme for 2014 is centred on five of the most common types of starfish found in the UK: the cushion, the bloody Henry, the common, the spiny and the brittle. Here at Sykes Cottages, we’re huge lovers of all things nature so we’ve decided to write a guide to some of the best places in the UK to see marine wildlife.

Where to find the best rock pools

Wembury Beach in Devon

Via Flickr

If there’s one thing kids love to do on a beach holiday, it’s explore the rock pools; there’s nothing more exciting when you’re a child than spotting a crab or finding a particularly pretty shell. Our pick of the best rock pools in Britain is Wembury on the south coast of Devon. Wembury is renowned for its fantastic rockpooling opportunities. Here, you can find a wide array of wildlife including Cornish Sucker Fish, Velvet Swimming Crabs, Long-Spined Sea Scorpions and both cushion and spiny starfish. There are many safety considerations to bear in mind when you’re rockpooling (both for yourself and the wildlife) so be sure to read the Devon Wildlife’s Trust Seashore Code before you head out.

Where to see seals

Seals at Blakeney Point, Norfolk

Via Flickr

Seals are one of the most popular forms of marine wildlife for tourists to seek out and luckily, they can be found in lots of places along the British coastline. One of our favourite spots to go looking for seals is Blakeney in Norfolk. From the quay, you can catch a boat out to Blakeney Point where you will find around 500 Common and Grey seals basking on the sandbanks. The peak seal-watching period lasts from April until October so make sure you bear this in mind when you book your trip!

Where to discover whales and dolphins

Dolphins

Picture provided by Holly Magoolagan

Scotland is one of the best places in the UK to see whales and dolphins. If you’re looking to catch a glimpse of a Minke Whale then head to the east coast of the Shetland Islands between May and September, or to experience the majestic Sperm Whale, you can catch a boat from the Outer Hebrides to just west of the continental shelf edge. Scotland also offers one of the most iconic colonies of dolphins in the UK, the bottlenose pods in the Moray Firth. The best place in the Moray Firth to see dolphins is at Chanonry Point, Cromarty, which is where the highest number of sightings have been reported.

Where to encounter birds

Puffin At Skomer Island

Via Flickr

Skomer Island is home to one of the largest colonies of sea-birds in the UK and is just 15 minutes off the stunning Pembrokeshire coastline. Skomer boasts the world’s largest population of Manx Shearwaters, a cousin of the wandering albatross, with an estimated 120,000 breeding pairs inhabiting the island. However, these birds only leave and return to the island under cover of darkness so in order to get the chance to fully experience these incredible birds, you will need to book one of the guided night walks organised by the Wildlife Trust. Skomer is also home to a large number of puffins, razorbills, guillemots and short-eared owls, to name just a few!

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.