Romantic Valentine’s Recipes for Two

February 11th, 2016
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Are you thinking of making a meal for your loved one this Valentine’s Day? Here are three delicious recipes that you can easily make to get you in their good books! Whether you fancy a steak, seafood or a vegetarian delight, these recipes are sure to go down a treat.

Rump steak with mushroom and red wine sauce

This quick and easy recipe from BBC Good Food will give the impression you’ve slaved over a hot stove for hours. It should take around 15 minutes in total to make.


  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 2 rump steaks
  • 2 thyme sprigs, leaves removed
  • 140g mushrooms, chopped
  • 150ml red wine
  • 1 tbsp butter


  1. Season the steaks then put into frying pan with pre-heated oil. For a medium rare steak, fry for 2-3 minutes on each side or you can fry for more/less time to suit your liking. Take out of the pan and set aside.
  2. Add mushrooms and thyme leaves to the pan. Cook until softened then pour in the wine and bubble until syrupy.
  3. Turn off the heat then stir in the butter. Season.
  4. Serve steaks with sauce poured over. Complement with creamy mashed potato and crunchy green vegetables.


Mussel linguine

An extra special Jamie Oliver recipe as told to him by his adopted Italian grandfather! Love is definitely in the air with this recipe and it’s sure to impress your date. It should take around 10 minutes to cook, plus preparation time.


  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 pinches crumbled dried chilli
  • 1 anchovy fillet
  • 12 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 250g linguine
  • 1kg mussels, washed and debearded
  • Small bunch of parsley, chopped
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Put pan of salted water on to boil. In a separate pan, add extra virgin olive oil on medium heat. Add the garlic, chilli and anchovy then add the cherry tomatoes as the garlic begins to fry. The garlic shouldn’t take on any colour but the oil needs to be hot enough to fry the anchovy. Juice from the tomato and oil should make a light sauce.
  2. Add linguine to the pan of boiling water and cook.
  3. Add the mussels to the tomato sauce. Stir, place a lid on top and cook until all of the mussels are open. Add handful of chopped parsley to the pan.
  4. Drain the pasta al dente and then pour the pasta and mussel sauce back into the pan, mixing everything together.
  5. Put back onto a low heat for an additional minute or two so the pasta sucks up the mussel juice. Serve with drizzle of olive oil and season to taste.


Miso roasted aubergine steaks with sweet potato

If your date this Valentine’s Day is vegetarian, try this delicious BBC Good Food recipe for a visually-pleasing and filling meal. It should take around 20 minutes to prepare and an hour to cook.


  • 1 aubergine, around 375g
  • 350g unpeeled sweet potatoes, cut into wedges
  • 2 tbsp brown miso paste
  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • Small piece of ginger, grated
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • Pink Himalayan salt, pinch
  • 8 spring onions, sliced
  • Small pack of parsley, chopped


  1. Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas 4. Peel aubergine and spread miso paste all over it.
  2. Put aubergine and sweet potato wedges into a roasting tin. Pour 225ml of boiling water into the base of the tin and add oil, ginger and garlic. Sprinkle pinch of salt over the wedges then put into oven for 30 minutes.
  3. After 30 minutes, add another 125ml boiling water to the base of tin and put back into the oven for a further 20 minutes.
  4. After the 20 minutes, add 50ml boiling water and the spring onions. Roast for 10 more minutes. Check the aubergine is cooked by sliding a knife into the centre- if it’s cooked the aubergine will be soft.
  5. Sprinkle chopped parsley over the wedges. Slice aubergine into 2cm thick ‘steaks’ and serve on top of the sweet potato wedges. Make sure there is sauce in the tin- if not, add 3tbsp of water to loosen up the miso then pour the miso gravy over the aubergine. Sprinkle with cracked black pepper and serve.

For more recipe ideas, head over to the ‘Food’ category on our blog here. You’ll find plenty of tasty dishes and desserts to whip up and create the perfect meal this Valentine’s Day.

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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.

Discover… Dame Barbara Hepworth

February 9th, 2016
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Few artists have ever been able to sculpt materials in quite the sweeping, organic yet modernist way that Dame Barbara Hepworth managed during her career. Her work is often presented as the finest example of its genre, and she was even appointed DBE in the mid-60s – but who was the woman behind the artwork?

Hepworths Cornwall

The iconic Hepworth style

It’s not hard to identify pieces belonging to Hepworth, and that is solely the responsibility of her distinctive style. Creating sculptures from materials such as alabaster, bronze and marble, Hepworth’s curved forms almost defy the hard, robust materials they’re made of, and articulate many things, from relationships to landscapes.

From Yorkshire to Cornwall

Hepworth’s legacy is a vital part of the wider British art scene, of course, but it is in the two places she spent her working life that you’ll see the most impact the environment had on her work. The Cornish coastline inspired many sculptures – something we explore more within Isle of Inspiration – and she is perhaps best immortalised within St Ives thanks to the Tate St Ives-owned Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden. This was once known as Trewyn Studio, where Hepworth described finding the place as “a sort of magic. Here was a studio, a yard and garden where I could work in open air and space.”

It wasn’t just the magical qualities of Cornwall that encouraged Hepworth’s work. The county of Yorkshire was also home to Barbara – in fact, Wakefield was Hepworth’s birthplace in 1903, and she only moved south in 1939. It was in Yorkshire that she began to curate her skills at the Leeds School of Art, and befriended Henry Moore, a fellow art student. Little did they know that they were to be the pioneers of sculpture within the brackets of modernism.

A lasting legacy

Further study, travel, relationships and awards soon formed the tapestry that was Hepworth’s accomplished life. Though Hepworth died at the age of 72 in 1975, her work is by no means forgotten.

Along with the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden in St Ives, Hepworth’s legacy lives on in Yorkshire at The Hepworth Wakefield. Opened in 2011, the museum proudly displays many previously unseen pieces from the Hepworth Estate, and houses the work of many other British artists too.



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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’ Filming Locations

February 8th, 2016
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Today on the Sykes Cottages blog, we’re taking a trip to Hollywood as we explore some of the biggest films, either just released or set to hit the screens in 2016. But it’s not just any random collection of blockbusters; instead they’re all films that showcase the UK at it’s finest, whether it’s through using the Gloucestershire countryside as the scene of alien planets or bringing a touch of magic to Merseyside. So if  you like to think of yourself as a bit of a film buff, why don’t you take a look and see what you think?

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Where else is there to start than with the highest grossing film of all time? Yes that’s right, sections of the latest instalment in the ever popular Star Wars series were filmed in our very own Forest of Dean. Now Puzzlewood is no stranger to the limelight, having served as locations in both Doctor Who and the BBC’s Merlin, as well as inspiring both Tolkien and J.K Rowling’s famous works. However this is its biggest stage yet. This time round, the forest plays the role of the planet Takodana in one of the film’s most important sequences. As well as the Forest of Dean, you might be able to catch glimpses of Skellig Michael off the West Coast of Ireland and RAF Greenham Common.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Next up, we’ve got Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the latest foray into J.K Rowling’s world of Harry Potter. Based on the 2001 book written in aid of Comic Relief, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them follows the adventures of Newt Scamander around 70 years before Harry et al studied his books at Hogwarts. Nearly all of the filming took place in the Leavesden Studios, the site of the Harry Potter studio tour, however the film did see St George’s Hall in Liverpool transformed into a snow covered New York city for the visit of the renowned “Magizoologist” amongst plenty of others.

Dad’s Army

Of course we’ve got to include the reboot of the British institute that is Dad’s Army. The remake for the big screen follows the mishaps of everyone’s famous bungling Home Guard platoon and features an array of household names from Sir Michael Gambon to Bill Nighy and Cathering Zeta-Jones. It might be set in the fictional Walmington-on-Sea on the south coast but the filming actually took place in the delightful seaside settlement of Bridlington, as well as the nearby spots of Beverley and Flamborough.


And finally we’ve got the upcoming re-imagining of Roald Dahl’s famous novel, The BFG. The collaboration between Steven Spielberg and Disney will see snozzcumbers and frobscottles all-round north of the border, with some of Scotland’s most dramatic scenery serving as the settings for Giant Country. From The Quiraing to Fairy Glen on the Isle of Skye, as well as spots in the Outer Hebrides and Orkney, they’ll all be used as the home of the BFG and the other giants.

So there you go, a short highlights reel of the various starring roles that the UK is playing in some of the biggest films of the moment. I’m sure that you’ll get to see them at some point on the big screen but you could still visit them and experience it all in person! We’ve got a wide choice of cottages in Scotland, on the Yorkshire Coast and around the Forest of Dean that are perfect for a trip, so why don’t you have a look?

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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.

Wales 2016: The Year Of Adventure

February 6th, 2016
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This year, Visit Wales are encouraging you to embrace adventure on your next Welsh getaway. As a country bursting with sweeping valleys, imposing mountains and fast-flowing rivers, there’s no better place to experience a bit of adventure. Feel the adrenaline pulse through your veins as you try your hand at extreme sports, water sports or bush craft activities amongst some of Britain’s most spectacular scenery. Below, you’ll find just some of the activities that you can get involved in to help celebrate Wales’ Year of Adventure.

Mountain Biking

When it comes to mountain biking, there aren’t many better places to go than Wales. With everything from wild natural trails escaping into the wilderness, to purpose built tracks designed for beginners and families, there’s something to cater to every level of mountain bike enthusiast. If you’re new to mountain biking, take a look at the fantastic centres available throughout Wales like Bike Park Wales or Afan Forest Park to get you on your feet before you start tackling the wilderness on your own!


Less acknowledged than fellow surfing spot Cornwall, many people don’t realise that Wales is actually home to some of the UK’s best surfing beaches. Glamorgan, Gower and Pembrokeshire are all brilliant places to hit the waves and there are plenty of well-respected surf schools in the area to lend a helping hand if you’re new to the sport. Further north, areas such as Anglesey and the Llyn Peninsula also offer some great surfing spots. If you’re not sure about braving the outdoors, you can always try Surf Snowdonia, the world’s first inland surf lagoon. Re-opening in the spring, this surf centre offers impressive two-metre waves that peel for 150 metres.

Survival Courses

For the ultimate adventure in Wales this year, why not try your hand at one of Bear Grylls’ Survival Courses? One of the most recognisable faces in the world of outdoor adventure and survival, Bear launched his own Survival Academy in 2012 and there are now centres across the UK. Take part in a 24 hour family survival course in the Brecon Beacons or an adult day course in Criccieth, where you’ll learn how to light fires, rope skills, how to build emergency shelters and how to forage for grub and rodents.

White Water Rafting

Explore Wales from an exciting new perspective and have a go at white water rafting this year. There are places all across the country where you can get involved in white water rafting amongst beautiful scenery. In North Wales, try White Water Active in Llangollen or for Mid Wales, try Black Mountain Rafting on the River Wye. For a completely new experience in South Wales, visit Cardiff International White Water where you can enjoy the thrills of white water rafting in a purpose-built water centre.

If you’re tempted to book an adventurous break in Wales then don’t forget to take a look at our large collection of cottages in Wales. We’ve over 1,400 holiday cottages across Wales for you to choose from that would make the perfect bases for all of your adventures!

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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.

Discover… William Wordsworth

February 5th, 2016
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One of Britain’s best-loved poets, William Wordsworth’s works have stood the test of time, inspiring generations of people with their highly romantic take on England, nature, and the relationship between the two. Wordsworth and the British Isles were inextricably linked – a relationship that can be explored further at Sykes’ Isle of Inspiration.

Wordsworths Lake District

Rural beginnings

Born in 1770 as the son of a lawyer, Wordsworth’s formative years were spent in Cockermouth in Cumbria. Living among the fells, peaks, lakes and forests, Wordsworth developed a close affinity with nature, an adoration that would later inform and feature heavily within his poetry. The young gentleman’s parents both passed away before he was 15, leaving him in the care of relatives until he was accepted into the University of Cambridge to study.

Study and reflection

While studying at St John’s College, Wordsworth embarked on a number of hiking tours around Britain, after which he took walking tours of France, Switzerland and Germany in 1788. In 1791 he trekked through Wales after graduating from Cambridge, all the time soaking in the landscapes and atmospheres of the wild and natural places. Later that year he travelled to France to lend his support to the French Revolution, though after fathering an illegitimate child and running out of money, he returned to England.

Poetic beginnings

Although he had always been interested in writing poetry, the young Wordsworth only began writing in earnest until the mid-1790s when he met Samuel Taylor Coleridge, a prominent poet of the time. Together they wrote a number of works, the most important being “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” – known now to mark the beginning of England’s Romantic movement. Throughout this time Wordsworth produced a great many works of which he achieved fame, but a great many personal troubles in the early 19th century led him to become far more conservative than he had been in his youth.

Late acceptance

Retreating to the calm climes of Ambleside in 1813, Wordsworth began to gain greater acclaim for his writing, though after 1835 he wrote few pieces, despite being made poet laureate in 1843. Still living in his much-loved Lake District, Wordsworth passed away in 1850, prompting the release of his autobiographical poem, The Prelude, which he began penning in 1798.

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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.