Five Favourite British Beaches

August 30th, 2014
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With 11,075 miles of coastline, it’s no wonder that we have a number of incredible beaches here in Britain. Whether you fancy a long walk, a lounge or to try your hand at water sports you are spoilt for choice on our fair isles. After our last blog post listing ten of the top beaches in the UK we turned to social media and asked you to tell us what your favourite beach was, and we weren’t short of responses! It’s true, us Brits love to be beside the seaside and below are five British beaches as chosen by our Facebook fans.

Woolacombe, North Devon

Devon Beach

Image from property 19669

Stretching for three miles, it is no wonder that this golden sanded beach in North Devon made it into our top five. Woolacombe village has a number of pubs, restaurants and places to stay so even when you’re not on the beach there is plenty to keep you entertained! Woolacombe beach is clean, has a high level of water quality, fantastic facilities and holds the accolades to prove it; including a gold award for best family resort, the Blue Flag award and Premier Seaside Beach award.

Llangennith Beach, Swansea

South Welsh Coast at Sunset

Image via Flickr

Llangennith Beach, located on the Gower Peninsula is great for water sports, families and is also dog-friendly. The beach is a short distance away from parking and refreshments, so is often almost isolated; so perfect for a day of relaxation or to get some serious surfing done!

Fistral Beach, Cornwall

Fistral Beach in Cornwall

Image from property reference 903500

One of the best surfing beaches in Europe is Fistral Beach, located in Newquay. This beach is one of the busiest in the country and for good reason; it has a number of places to eat, a state of the art lifeguard station and adequate car parking, which makes it ideal for families! As you would expect from one of Europe’s best surfing beaches, Fistral beach also offers keen surfers and amateurs alike the chance to ride the waves with equipment hire and lessons available.

Seaburn Beach (Whitburn North), Sunderland

Image from property reference 30438

Image from property reference 30438

The sandy Seaburn Beach is ideally located near the city of Sunderland, and is perfect for a family day out. Not only does the beach hold a Quality Coast Award but it also has a large choice of facilities and activities, so there is bound to be something for everyone to enjoy! Whether you fancy wind surfing, kayaking or just lazing about on the sand, you are spoilt for choice at Seaburn Beach.

Aberdour Silver Sands Beach, Fife Coast

Silver Sands Beach Fife

Image from property reference 911872

Silver Sands is not just a Blue Flag beach but has also been awarded the Green Coast Award and is a popular choice for families and water sports fanatics alike. There is a lot to do including fishing, canoeing, sailing and surfing. If you’d prefer to keep your feet on dry land then never fear as Silver Sands is connected to the Fife Coastal Path which offers some stunning views and a very pleasant walk.

Book a British Beach Break

If this short list of some fantastic British beaches has got you dreaming of being beside the seaside, why not book a stay in one of our beach cottages? Have a browse on our website or give us a call on 01244 356695 where  our friendly advisers are on hand from 9am until 9.30pm daily to help you book your perfect self catering holiday!

Leanne Dempsey

By Leanne Dempsey

A lover of reading, eating and shopping Leanne will often be found spending time with her two pugs or snapping away on instagram. A big fan of the city, She likes nothing more than getting away for a weekend break in the UK, her favourite places being London and Bath.


August 29th, 2014
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Here at Sykes Cottages we feel extremely privileged to be nominated for “Best UK Holiday Cottage/Self Catering Booking Company” in the upcoming British Travel Awards, especially seeing as we won the title of “Best Large Cottage/Self Catering Booking Company” in 2013. The staff at Sykes can’t wait to find out the winners of this year’s competition and would love it if you could vote for us! To help convince you that we deserve to win this fantastic award, here’s why our staff are voting for Sykes…

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Always happy to help – Charlotte

Our offices are open daily between 9am and 9.30pm; we even work on Boxing Day to guarantee that our customers are always provided with helpful, happy assistance whenever it’s needed.


Over 5,000 properties across the UK and Ireland – Jamie

With a dedicated team of regional managers across the UK and Ireland, Sykes Cottages are constantly taking on new holiday properties. We currently offer 832 Irish properties and 4480 UK properties.


Rated “Excellent” on Tripadvisor for the past 3 years – Louise

Being rated “Excellent” on Tripadvisor for the past three years is an amazing privilege, but what’s even better is knowing that our customer’s fantastic feedback has allowed us to reach this high standard.


Family owned company with a friendly atmosphere – Nicole

Working for a family owned company means that there is always a friendly atmosphere in the office. Everyone knows each other which allows us to work together really well providing the best service possible for our customers.

Large Groups

We have large cottages for large groups…– Jonathan

Sykes Cottages has a wide selection of large cottages which are perfect for a family getaway, with properties sleeping up to 24 people and groups of cottages sleeping up to 82 there is plenty of room for everyone!


…We also have small properties, perfect for two! – Leanne

The Sykes Cottages website also has a selection of smaller properties which can accommodate just two people, perfect for a minimoon or a surprise romantic holiday with you and your other half.

These are just some of the reasons why we think Sykes Cottages should win the 2014 BTA award for “Best UK Holiday Cottage/Self Catering Booking Company”. If like us you think Sykes deserves to win this wonderful award then please visit our British Travel Awards page for more information on how to vote.


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.

Meet Nigel: Our Competitor for the Chester Duck Race

August 28th, 2014
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This time last month, the Sykes Cottages office welcomed a very special guest who, on September 20th, will hopefully lead us to victory in the Chester Duck Race. As the newest member of the Sykes Cottages team, we thought we’d let you get to know Nigel in his very own blog post! Keep reading to learn all about Nigel, the charity he supports, and how he’s been spending his time here at Sykes.

About Nigel

Nigel before

Nigel came to Sykes Cottages on a fund raising mission and has been training daily to perform in the big duck race, where he will be raising money for the Babygrow Appeal. Nigel strongly supports the Babygrow appeal and its aim to raise £3million, which will help build a new neonatal unit at the Countess of Chester Hospital. Nigel knows that all babies need special care but also that some need it more than others, and so, he is privileged to be competing in the big race as part of the Sykes Cottages team!

Nigel’s Make Over

Nigel make over Redo

During his time here at Sykes Cottages, the team were set the challenge of giving Nigel a makeover; there was much discussion surrounding Nigel’s new look but seeing as his race is taking place on the iconic River Dee in the historic city of Chester, we decided to transform Nigel into a sight-seeing, fact-finding tourist! Nigel’s new look comes complete with a Sykes branded shirt, a camera to capture his favourite race moments, and a visitor’s guide to the city itself! We think Nigel’s new look is rather dashing, don’t you?

Nigel’s Time at Sykes Cottages

Nigel working Redo

Since his arrival here at Sykes Cottages, Nigel has thrown himself into fundraising activities and, as well as undergoing his makeover, he is currently planning a bake sale to raise more money for the Babygrow Appeal. Nigel has also been learning all about Sykes Cottages and has really enjoyed browsing our selection of properties; he especially likes Duck Cottage and Puddle-Duck Lodge! Although Nigel has been extremely busy he’s made time to get to know the people here at Sykes and has made a lot of new friends.

What’s next for Nigel?

Group & Nigel Redo

Nigel’s time at Sykes Cottages is almost at an end and our little quacker will soon be leaving the nest, for his next big adventure! Shortly after the bake sale, Nigel will depart to meet up with his friends from the bath tub, he is due to make his first public outing in September when he and his friends will be hogging the spot light at Chester’s Grosvenor Shopping Centre. They will be on display at the centre for a week from September 13th before heading off to the big race on September 20th!

We can’t wait to see Nigel race in September and if you’d like to come along and show your support I’m sure he would love to see you too! For more information on the appeal please visit the Countess of Chester website or to make a donation to the Babygrow Appeal you can visit their just giving page.


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.

The Sykes Cottages Haggis Championships 2014

August 27th, 2014
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Are you a bit squeamish when it comes to the ‘great chieftain o’ the puddin’-race’? No? Well you’re in the minority according to a survey that we ran with the Great British public just a few weeks ago. Amongst questions exploring peoples’ opinions on holidaying in Scotland, we asked whether or not they would order a haggis dish if they saw it on the menu of a Scottish restaurant. When we got the results back, almost two thirds of people replied saying that they wouldn’t and this didn’t sit quite right with us! After all, haggis is one of our national delicacies and so we decided to see if there was anything that we could do to change this, which led us to launch the inaugural Sykes Cottages Haggis Championships!

We turned to the food blogger world to see if anyone could think up an alternative to the classic haggis, neeps and tatties that would change people’s minds, and the response that we got was fantastic. An amazing array of dishes came back; brunches, dinners, you name it we got it. From the Italian inspired right the way through to a touch of Indo-Scottish fusion food and they all looked delicious! Sadly we were given the unenviable task of picking a winner from the ranks so why don’t you take a look through the entries and see if you agree with our choice?

The Entries


Hodge Podge Days’ Haggis Brunch

First up was Harper from Crumbs and Petals who decided to turn the traditional Burns Night dinner on its head and came up with a recipe that would be perfect for a glorious summer afternoon, her Haggis and Vegetable skewers which can be cooked either under the grill or out on the barbecue if it’s a nice day! Then we had Jane from Hodge Podge Days who, rather than going down the typical dinner route, decided to produce a hearty, haggis themed brunch where the main attraction was accompanied by a beautifully poached egg as well as a home-made potato cake, something that would definitely get you up and running in the morning!


Vohn’s Ulster-Scots Pasties

Agata from Bark Time decided on a more healthy approach and cooked up a “Haggis in the Hole” with a sweet potato and potato mash and a side of steamed vegetables. Whilst Chloe, the Nine Grand Student, went all continental with her entry and rustled up her haggis carbonara for us that was both easy to put together and looked delicious. On the other hand Vohn, from Vohn’s Vittles, went back to her Irish roots with her Ulster-Scots Pasties, a Scottish take on the classic Ulster Pastie using haggis in the place of the the traditional sausage-meat mixture, and she even tracked down a locally sourced beer that she used in making the crispy batter!


The Weegie Kitchen’s Haggis Samosas

Then it was the turn of Mairi in her Weegie Kitchen. She decided to use the influences of the Asian communities in the hustling city of Glasgow and came up with her Haggis Samosas, that are perfect either as an afternoon snack, or accompanying a plateful of curry. Next we had Cheryl from The Glasgow Scullery. Cheryl really went above and beyond the call of duty in getting people to try haggis out and produced what can only be described as a two course haggis bonanza. The first course was made up of her Haggis ravioli complete with a port wine reduction and then it was time for the pièce de résistance, a beef and haggis wellington served with haggis bonbons and a potato rosti!


Ananyah’s Haggis Bonbons

I think that everybody here at Sykes was expecting The Edinburgers to come up with some kind of haggis inspired burger and so we were all a bit shocked when instead they produced their haggis and goats cheese filo parcels that go down a treat with some chilli dip! Then there was the entry from What Claire Baked. Like the Nine Grand Student, Claire turned to the continent for a bit of inspiration and came back with her “Great Haggis Lasagne” the perfect comfort food for a cold winter’s night. Our final entry came from Michelle over at Ananyah, who put together a couple of stunning dishes that were designed to be the perfect introduction to haggis. First up were her Haggis bonbons with a garlic and chilli dip, followed by some haggis won tons with a home-made red wine and wholegrain mustard sauce.

The Sykes Cottages Haggis Champion 2014

So after much deliberation we finally managed to pick our winner, and the illustrious prize went to The Edinburgers! We loved the imagination behind their dish of haggis and goats cheese filo parcels and thought that the flavour combinations would work brilliantly, especially with the locally sourced chilli jam.

haggis and goats cheese filo parcels

Our Winner – Haggis and Goats Cheese Filo Parcels

We’d just like to say a massive thank you to all of the people who set aside some of their time to take part in the  competition, we wish that we could have picked all of them as winners! And if any of you reading this fancy having a go at the recipes listed above then don’t forget to take a look at the bloggers’ posts where you’ll find everything you need to know!

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.

Wild Swimming: Top Spots For An Alfresco Dip

August 26th, 2014
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Swimming pools, who needs ‘em. Chilly, chlorine clogged water. Screaming kids, stealthily ‘bombing’ the deep end. The old chap, who spends his towelling off time in the nud. Not to mention the price, which seems to go up year on year (I’m sure it used to cost 50p?)

Sadly, if you’re into your swimming, there’s no other option but to use the public baths. Or is there?

During my time as a writer in the world of UK holidays, I’ve come to realise that us Brits are pretty wild when it comes to swimming. What with the plucky few who race in the waters of Windermere, to the Irish who spend Boxing Day paddling in the Atlantic, it seems we’re a nation who aren’t afraid to get wet, however cold it may be.

With this in mind, we’ve come up with five places around Britain that are perfect for wild swimming. Naturally, this ‘sport’ isn’t for everyone, and we’d advise those who aren’t fans of getting wet and cold to remain firmly on dry land.

River Trent, Derbyshire

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

A river may not sound the safest place to take an alfresco dip, and rightly so. But choose your spot wisely and there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy a leisurely swim. The River Trent in Derbyshire is famed for its safe ‘lagoons’, which offer a tranquil place to plunge- even for little’uns. Sure, the water will be cold, but it’ll be fresh too. Plus, it’ll be quiet, so quiet in fact that 6th century hermits and saints used to inhabit the nearby rocky grottoes to avoid being seen by unsavoury types, perfect if you forgot your swimwear…

Kailpot Crag, Lake District

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Ullswater may be one of the most popular lakes in the Lake District, but stay clear of the tourist haunts and undiscovered corners remain, including Kailpot Crag. Characterised by its ancient, gnarly foliage, this west-facing outcrop has the makings of a great swimming spot, including a small cliff for fright-free diving. There’s a petite shingle beach too that’s ideal for drying off, and that westerly aspect means you can enjoy the sunset if you wish. The easiest way to access the crag is via a ferry which docks at Howton.

Loch Caoldair, Western Cairngorms

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Bring a wetsuit and thermals if you plan on swimming wild in Scotland because take it from us, it’ll be pretty chilly. Don’t let that put you off though as, thanks to Scotland’s liberal open access laws, you’re allowed to swim in pretty much all of the country’s thousands of lochs. One of our favourites is Loch Caoldair, a tree lined waterway tucked in the western Cairngorms. Home to deep, black water and a lovely wee beach, Caoldair is ideal for an invigorating swim. What’s more, the loch is only a mile from the road, so you won’t have to hike far to enjoy a quick dip.

Lower Ddwli Falls, Brecon Beacons

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Hidden in the south-west hills of the Brecon Beacons lies Waterfall Woods, an enchanting blend of natural pools and ancient woodland; prime territory for open-air swimming enthusiasts. Whilst photographers flock to the Sgws Gwladys- aka Lady Falls- intrepid bathers should make for the Ddwli Falls, where a huge, deep pool and powerful waterfall await. Revitalise in the spray, keeping your eye on the treeline for fleeting rainbows, or head downstream to horseshoe falls to make use of the jump and rope swing.

River Stour, Kent

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Those that have visited Kent’s River Stour may consider this an odd addition, but bear with me. Setting out from the town of Fordwich-reputed to be England’s smallest town- will bring you to an exposed stretch of the Stour, but keep going, and things soon become more secluded. Awash with wildlife and containing a relatively weak current, this river is ideal for a relaxing paddle on a sunny afternoon. The calmest stretch of the river is located beyond the reeds of Stodmarsh nature reserve, easily accessible by canoe.

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.