Blue Monday made you mardy? Discover the UK’s happiest places!

January 26th, 2015
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There was a debate at Sykes HQ on when exactly the fabled Blue Monday phenomenon occurs. Some “celebrate” it on the third Monday of January, others on the fourth, whilst some resolute Debbie Downers are crying into their cereal by the second. At Sykes, we like to think we’re more glass half-full than that, so don’t let Mondays get us down ‘til the fourth – AKA – today.

And so far, it hasn’t been that bad. Yes it’s cold and dark. And yes, parting from our slumber was such sweet sorrow. But in retrospect: things could be worse.

If you’re struggling to see the light at the end of a long, dark January, visit one of Britain’s happiest towns this January and feel your spirit soar. Here’s a look at five of our favourites.

Harrogate, North Yorkshire

Image by Phil Beard is licensed under CC 2.0

Image by Phil Beard is licensed under CC 2.0

The people of Harrogate laugh in the face of Blue Monday and for good reason. On a number of occasions, this northern town has been crowned the happiest place to live in the UK, and residents aren’t going to let some crummy Monday in January mar their reputation for jubilance. Even the most miserable wretches will feel a smile work its way on to their face at the sight of this charming spa town, which is often thought of as Yorkshire’s prettiest settlement. From its stylish shops to its Roman relics, a trip to happy Harrogate could be just what you need.

Taunton, Somerset

Image by Somerset Photos is licensed under CC 2.0

Image by Somerset Photos is licensed under CC 2.0

Somerset’s always struck me as happy-go-lucky sort of place, so it’s no surprise that Taunton – Somerset’s county town – is ranked among Britain’s happiest places to live. This endearing market town has all the right credentials when it comes to contentment: welcoming pubs, family friendly restaurants and lots of things to see and do. Plus, it’s warmer than other towns on the happiest places shortlist, making it a winner for those in need of some Vitamin D. Taunton’s countryside isn’t too shabby either, with two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the Exmoor National Park on your doorstep – sigh no more.

Inverness, Scottish Highlands

Image by Dave Conner is licensed under CC 2.0

Image by Dave Conner is licensed under CC 2.0

Despite being the UK’s northernmost city, Inverness is often ranked among the country’s cheeriest places to live. The plucky Scots have learnt to live with the city’s infernal weather, a feat which alone deserves your R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Then again, with such a backdrop, it’s easy to see why locals can live with a downpour or two. Inverness is encircled by some of Britain’s most beautiful landscapes, making city life a less bitter pill to swallow. Speaking of cities, Inverness itself is really rather special; once the stronghold of Scotland’s much-feared Picts and site of many a bloody battle, Inverness is a proud city whose heritage rarely fails to raise a smile among visitors.

Blue Monday? What Blue Monday?

In a few hours, Blue Monday will be over, and the anxious, crest-fallen and dejected will have no grounds for sullenness. But what comes next? Terrible Tuesday? Woeful Wednesday? Or will you – like the inhabitants of Harrogate, Taunton and Inverness – take the remainder of January each day as it comes?

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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.

Walk the Scenery that Inspired Robert Burns

January 25th, 2015
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Did you know that tonight is Burns Night? Tonight, Scots and non-Scots all around the world will be holding their own celebrations in honour of Robert Burns, who is widely regarded as Scotland’s National Poet. Here at Sykes, we thought we’d join in the celebrations in our own way- by having a look at some of places in Scotland that inspired his beautiful poetry and exploring the walks on which we can visit them!

The River Ayr Way

The longest of all our routes, The River Ayr Way spans a considerable 44 miles and is Scotland’s first source to sea path network. This beautiful part of the country is said to have inspired Burns in many ways, not least because it was the setting for his poem ‘Highland Mary’, an ode to Mary Campbell who the poet had a brief fling with before her untimely death in 1786. There’s the sheer scenic beauty of the place too; think sleepy woodlands, castle-strewn heath and wildlife rich stretches of coast. If you plan to tackle the full route, give yourself two days so as to enjoy the scenery as Burns would have two-hundred years ago.

Burns’ Trail

Burns’ Trail is a short, circular route around the leafy village of Alloway, once home to Robert Burns himself. In Alloway, you can find the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, which encompasses the building in which he was born, known as ‘Burns Cottage’, new museum buildings housing original manuscripts of his poetry, and the Burns Monument, which is a sixteenth century memorial created by Thomas Hamilton. Other places of interest in Alloway include Alloway Auld Kirk and the Brig O’Doon, which both feature in Burns’ poem, ‘Tam O’Shanter’. Walking Burns’ Trail should take around 2 hours although walkers should allow extra time to investigate the attractions on route.

The Birks of Aberfeldy

This circular walk in Perthshire was the inspiration for one of Burns’ most popular poems of the same name, ‘The Birks o’Aberfeldie’, which he wrote in August 1787; he is said to have found his inspiration for the poem while visiting Aberfeldy on a tour of Scotland with his friend, William Nicol. The Birks were originally named the Dens of Moness but were actually re-named after the success of Burns’ poem! The walk itself is fairly short – about 2 miles long and will take around 1-2 hours to complete. The path is well-defined and takes walkers through a beautiful array of mature trees including birches and elm trees, before offering spectacular views of the waterfalls.

If you’re planning on walking one of these fantastic Scottish walking routes then head to our holiday cottages in Scotland page, where you’ll find a wide selection of cosy cottages perfect for walking holidays!

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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.

Book Your Easter Holiday Today!

January 24th, 2015
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Come March you can pretty much guarantee that here at Sykes we’ll get absolutely bombarded by requests for a last minute Easter break. As much as we’d love to be able to help everyone the sad truth is that quite often the requests come in too late and that one cottage that people have had their eye on has already been booked up. This all means that in order to get your dream Easter holiday you’ll have to beat the rush and get in early! Handily we’ve put together a page that lists all of our cottages still available for Easter so take a look and see if one catches your eye. Or, if you still need convincing as to why you should book yourself a break, read on as we’ve listed some of the fantastic things that you could do on your Easter cottage holiday!

Celebrate Spring

Easter always seems to be a bit of a watershed moment in the year. The winter chills have vanished, summer is inching its way closer and of course there are signs of new life everywhere that you look. Here at Sykes we’re lucky enough to have a wide range of properties situated right on the owners farmlands! And if you want, many of our owners will happily take guests out on the rounds with them, something that always goes down a treat with the little ones as it let’s them get closer than ever to all of the baby animals!

Fantastic Easter Events

There are so many things that you could get up to come Easter time. Pretty much every attraction will put on a special event that the whole family will love, and surprise surprise the vast majority of them involve copious amounts of chocolate! In recent years the National Trust and Cadburys have worked together to put on a series of Easter Egg Hunts throughout many of the beautiful Trust owned properties around the country. Or maybe you fancy having a go at making chocolate yourself? If so have a look at our guide on the best chocolate workshops around the UK and you’ll be a master chocolatier before you know it!

Kick Back and Relax

Or maybe you’d just like a little R&R? Well who can blame you, by that time Christmas is a distant memory and it seems like a long time since you’ve had a decent break. Our cottages come in all shapes and sizes from cosy bolt-holes perfect for couples to properties big enough to house the whole extended family. And with features ranging from open fires to swimming pools and even hot tubs you’d be forgiven for just wanting to take it easy.

So if you want to enjoy this Easter in one of our cottages you’d better get booking! You can either do it online from the Sykes website or if you’d rather do it over the phone our Holiday Cottage Advisors are on hand 7 days a week, all you have to do is give us a call on 01244 356695!



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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.

Britain vs. the World: Choose Britain for your next break

January 23rd, 2015
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Oi you! Yes, you! Where are you heading for your 2015 summer holiday? Spain?! France?! Italy?! Well what if I told you you’re making a bad decision? What if I said you should be staying right here, on the shores of dear old Blighty?

Think about it: we’ve got more beaches than the Bahamas; a longer history than Hungary; prettier countryside than Croatia; and some of the best bars, restaurants and cafes this side of the Atlantic.

To prove Britain ought to be 2015’s most popular holiday destination in, I’ve pitted it against some of its closest rivals to see how it fairs in a battle of facts and figures. So let’s get down to business.

Coast, coast and more coast

Jurassic Coast, Dorset - Via Flickr

Jurassic Coast, Dorset – Via Flickr

Plenty of folk are lured to the Mediterranean by the promise of sun kissed beaches and turquoise waters, but is the coastline of the Costa del Sol and the South of France really all that better than the beaches of Britain?

Coastline lengths certainly suggest otherwise. The UK’s coast is approximately 12,429km, whilst the French and Spanish coasts are considerably smaller, at 3,470km and 4,964km respectively.

Yes, the UK may have fewer Blue Flag beaches than France and Spain, but it makes up for it in its sheer number of secluded coves, windswept bays, and vertigo-inducing seacliffs. There’s literally thousands of miles of coastal walks available in the UK too, where you, the sand and the sea can be almost completely alone – beat that, Espagne.

History aplenty

Stonehenge, Wiltshire - Via Flickr

Stonehenge, Wiltshire – Via Flickr

Whether sightseeing in an ancient city or exploring a dusty old museum, historic attractions play a huge part in most people’s summer getaways. Visit any country in the world, and you’ll likely find yourself drawn to the discovery of its ancient treasures. Here in the UK, we’re swamped in relics dating back thousands of years, and our history is one of the most diverse in Europe.

From the Vikings to the Victorians, hundreds of cultures have shaped the history of Britain, and there’s a stack load of evidence to prove it. Visit any of the historic attractions of England, Scotland or Wales and you’ll uncover the country’s glorious, turbulent and often violent past.

Sure, most European countries have a long and interesting history, but wouldn’t you prefer to discover your own?

Towns and cities? That’s covered, too

Castle Combe, Cotswolds - Via Flickr

Castle Combe, Cotswolds – Via Flickr

There’s an annoying assumption among those visiting the UK from overseas that London’s the be-all-and-end-all of this fair isle. How wrong they are. Yes, the capital’s a delightful place to visit for a day or two, but escape the M25 and there’s so much more to see. We’ve got an uncountable selection of top cities – Manchester, Liverpool, Edinburgh, York, Chester – to name but a few. Then of course, there’s the towns and villages: Straford-Upon-Avon, with its ties to Shakespeare; Harrogate, with its charming storefronts; Haworth, which gave us the Bronte sisters; and Whitby, whose ancient cobbles hark back to yesteryear – need I say more?

Book a break in Britain in 2015

Brits do it best, so if you’re looking for an easy and affordable escape this summer, why not book a cottage break in the UK? There’s never been a better time to enjoy a home-away-from-home holiday, with thousands of self-catering holiday homes to choose from in coast and country destinations throughout Britain. Click here to view our complete range of British holiday accommodation.

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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.

What to pack for a UK walking holiday

January 22nd, 2015
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Walking is one of the UK’s most popular outdoor pursuits, with millions partaking in this wayfaring pastime each year. Whether setting out on an intrepid walking break or taking a stroll in the local park on a Sunday afternoon, we Brits love to pound the pavement – or trail – on our own two feet.

If, like me, you like the sound of a walking break but aren’t sure what kit you’ll need to enjoy doing it, have a read of our guide on what to pack for a UK walking holiday.


Image by Andrew Bowden is licensed under CC 2.0

Image by Andrew Bowden is licensed under CC 2.0

Walking Boots: The most important piece of kit you’ll need to enjoy a comfortable walking break is a decent pair of boots. Invest in a quality pair, and you’ll be rewarded with years of pain-free walking. If you don’t plan to do a lot of off-road hiking, walking shoes or trainers might be a better choice thanks to their weight and breathability.

Waterproofs: No walk, no matter its length, should be attempted in Britain without some trustee waterproofs in tow. Essential waterproofs include a jacket and over-trousers, both of which should be carried with you even during the summer months. When choosing an outdoor jacket, opt for one with a hood – you never know when the heavens may open.

Base Layers: Keeping your core warm is essential when out in the sticks, so start your walking attire with a good quality, skin fitting base layer. Depending on the temperatures, a long sleeve thermal base layer is a great choice, but may get a little sticky during the summer months. If it’s warm, wear a short sleeve synthetic base layer to help you stay cool and dry.

Hat & Gloves: Having numb fingers and throbbing ears is never fun, especially when you’re miles from the nearest source of heat. That’s why, it’s important to wear a pair of gloves and a hat when you’re out walking in the winter months. If it’s warm, ditch the gloves and woolly hat for a sun-hat that’ll keep the midday sun off your face and head.

Hiking Socks: Don’t plumb for any old pair of socks when packing for your walking holiday. Instead, buy a few pairs of top-notch hiking socks, that’ll keep your toes warm and wick moisture away. Walking socks also provide extra cushioning, so if you can’t afford a new pair of boots, a snug pair of socks could do the trick.


Image by Tony Roberts is licensed under CC 2.0

Image by Tony Roberts is licensed under CC 2.0

First Aid Kit: Walking may not be the most strenuous of outdoor pursuits, but as they say, accidents can happen. That’s why, it’s important to carry a first aid kit whenever you go walking, even if you never have to use it. From grazed knees and migraines to bumps and blisters, ailments can crop up at any moment, and you’ll be relieved you remembered the first aid kit when they do.

Food & Drink: You should carry water whenever you go out for a walk, but it’s particularly important to do so if you’re planning a long day’s hike. Food is just as important for longer walks, and a flask of your favourite hot beverage is sure to put a smile on your face after a gruelling ascent. If you plan to eat, eat little but often throughout the day.

Rucksack: A rucksack is the perfect partner for a long walk in the wilderness, helping you carry your kit efficiently and comfortably. If you plan to buy one especially for future hikes, make sure it’s waterproof and big enough for all your gear.

Walking Poles: An optional extra; walking poles are a godsend for some and an irritant for others. If you’re not sure whether to invest in a pair, there are things you ought to know before you make a decision. Firstly, they can make you walk faster and increase your overall speed. Secondly, they’re great for providing extra stability. And thirdly, they allow you to walk further in a day than you otherwise could – what’s not to like?

Maps & Navigation: How’s your sense of direction? If like me you’re prone to getting temporality lost during your travels (I stress temporarily), carry a map or a GPS device. OS remain king of the maps among amateur and pro walkers, and their large, easy to use regional maps now feature a waterproof coating, making them ideal for walkers whatever the weather. Alternatively, trust technology and use your phone’s built in GPS to help you navigate from A-B.

Book an invigorating walking holiday with Sykes Cottages

What to pack 3

Like the sound of a walking break? Then why not check our range of cottages that are perfectly placed for a hiking holiday. We have self-catering holiday rentals in some of the UK and Ireland’s best-loved walking spots, including the Peak District, the Scottish Highlands and North Wales, so browse our selection today!

Prefer pedal-power? Here’s an in-depth guide into what to pack for a UK cycling holiday.

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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.