Cottages for a Family Holiday this Half Term

October 20th, 2014
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It may seem like yesterday the kids went back to school but, believe it or not, the October half term is creeping up on us – and there’s no better time to take a break! You get to see the UK in all its autumnal glory with long country walks and warming comfort foods being the order of the day. We’ve tracked down some of the cottages that are still available to book for the school holidays, so that you can have a look and start planning your autumn escape.

Berian Cross, Pembrokeshire

14417_05

Berian Cross, ref. 14417

First up  is Berian Cross in the sleepy hamlet of Brynberian, around five miles from Newport in south Wales. A chocolate box cottage, Berian Cross features three bedrooms which sleep up to seven people between them. This property is perfect for a lover of the outdoors; situated in the heart of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, it gives easy access to walks, bike rides and even boat trips. And what’s better, back at the cottage there’s a luxury kitchen waiting for you to rustle up a nice warming meal at the end of the day!

The Granary, Norfolk

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The Granary, ref. 14213

Or there’s The Granary, a grade II listed cottage in the town of Downham Market, not too far from King’s Lynn in Norfolk. A cosy property with an open fire in the living room, a wonderful country kitchen, and a bay window looking out over the cottage garden, you’ll never want to set foot outside! Should you venture out, you’ll be spoilt for choice with spots like the RSPB reserves at both Snettisham and Titchwell Marsh, as well as a range of stately homes a short way away, including Sandringham Estate and Holkham Hall.

Bwthyn Awel, Anglesey

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Bwythyn Awyl, ref. 913963

Finally there’s Bwythyn Awyl on Anglesey; a delightful property that can sleep up to ten people throughout its five bedrooms, two of which come with their own en-suites! There’s a luxury NEFF kitchen too, which leads to a raised deck where you’ll find stunning views over the sea. And that’s not all; within a few miles, you’ll be able to find the palatial Plas Newydd Country House, as well as the South Stack Lighthouse, one of the most iconic sights of Anglesey.

But don’t forget those properties are just a few examples of the fantastic cottages that are still available over the half term period! We’ve got everything from cosy cottages in the countryside to houses big enough for the whole family, so if you fancy taking a break then have a look at the full selection or call us on 01244 356695 and we’ll help find your dream holiday cottage!

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.

Top 5 Scenic Drives in Ireland

October 19th, 2014
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Ireland is well known for its stunning scenery; the Emerald Isle’s dramatic landscapes, lush green countryside, remote beaches and breath-taking cliffs are high on most people’s must-see list. One of the best ways to see as much of this beautiful country as you can, in all its glory, is to drive. There are many roads in Ireland – away from the main motorways – that reveal the most spectacular views to those who visit them, so we’ve listed our pick of the best Irish drives below.

1. Wild Atlantic Way

Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland

Via Flickr

The Wild Atlantic Way requires a tad more commitment than the rest of our drives; this newly unveiled touring route has been hailed as not only one of the longest coastal routes in the world but also one of the most beautiful! This 1,553 mile route stretches from the Inishowen Peninsula in Co. Donegal, down the west coast of Ireland, to Kinsale, Co. Cork. Along the way, you’ll encounter some of the highest sea-cliffs in Europe, the most picturesque beaches in Ireland and maybe even catch a glimpse of some friendly bottlenose dolphins! If you don’t fancy driving the Wild Atlantic Way, you can see our guide to walking short sections of it, here.

2. Ring of Kerry

Ring of Kerry, Ireland

Via Flickr

The unspoilt, rugged beauty of the Ring of Kerry means it has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in Ireland, behind Dublin. This 115 mile tourist trail follows the N70, N71 and R562 around the Iveragh Peninsula, taking in a wealth of breathtaking sights including the spectacular views from Ladies View (named after Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting who fell in love with the scenery) and Bog Village, a unique village made up of 6 properties which have been restored to their original setting, including thatched roofing.

3. Causeway Coastal Route

The Causeway Coastal Route spans 120 miles between Northern Ireland’s most vibrant cities, Belfast and Londonderry, tracing the winding curves of the spectacular coastline in-between. The route takes in sprawling coastline, picturesque seaside villages and forest highlands. Make sure to stop off and experience wonders unique to this part of the world along the way, including the extraordinary Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge (not for the faint hearted!) and the breath-taking UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Giant’s Causeway.

4. Dublin-Wicklow

Wicklow Mountains

Via Flickr

Escape the bustle of the Irish capital by heading south to the natural beauty of the Wicklow Mountains, known as the Garden of Ireland. Take the Military Road to get the best views; it can be a little windy and bumpy but the view is worth it. By taking Military Road, you’ll cross over the mountains and drive through the extensive heath-clad moors and bogs of the surrounding area. Turn east at the small village of Laragh to experience the delights of Glendalough Valley, home to Ireland’s oldest monastery settlement and picturesque teal corrie lakes.

5. Cooley Peninsula

Cooley Peninsula

Via Flickr

The Cooley Peninsula in County Louth provides an alternative to some of the more well-known scenic drives in the country. This beautiful but remote peninsula was awarded a European Destination of excellence award for its “intangible heritage” and is well worth a visit. Take a drive on the R173 which circles around Cooley Peninsula, and discover the sweeping Mourne Mountains, mysterious Carlingford Lough and the medieval town of Carlingford which is brimming with rich historical heritage.

If you fancy getting in your car and heading to the Emerald Isle, make sure you check out our fantastic selection of self-catering cottages in Ireland. With over 750 properties across the country, we’d be more than happy to help you find somewhere nice to stay along the way!

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.

Autumnal Recipes for National Apple Day

October 18th, 2014
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Can you think of a more autumnal flavour than the humble apple? From crumbles to pies, sauces to chutneys, apples and autumn go hand in hand. This explains why National Apple Day always falls around this time of year. In honour of this year’s apple day, we’ve tracked down some recipes for our favourite apple dishes that you can try at home!

Mini Apple Crumbles

via Flickr

via Flickr

Ingredients

  • 125g of flour
  • 75g of unsalted butter
  • 75g of caster sugar
  • 50g of oats
  • 750g of apples
  • 2 tsp of caster sugar
  • 2 tsp of unsalted butter

Method

  1. First up preheat your oven to around 200°c.
  2. Place your flour in a large bowl and add the butter. Rub the butter and flour together until the texture resembles breadcrumbs and then mix in the 75g of caster sugar and the oats.
  3. Next take your apples, peel them and chop them before mixing in with the rest of the sugar.
  4. Divide the mixture between the jars and top with the crumble mixture.
  5. Place in the oven and cook until the crumble topping is golden brown and crisp.

Toffee Apples

toffe apples

via Flickr

Ingredients

  • 8 apples (preferably Granny Smith)
  • 4 tsp of golden syrup
  • 1 tsp of vinegar
  • 400g of caster sugar

Method

  1. First, put the apples in a bowl and cover with boiling water. This will remove the natural waxy cover and will make the toffee stick. After they have soaked, dry them and push a skewer through the core of the apples.
  2. Place your sugar into a pan with 100ml of water and cook over a medium heat until the sugar has completely dissolved.
  3. Add the vinegar and golden syrup and turn up the heat. Using a thermometer, wait until the mixture has reached 140°c.
  4. Once that temperature has been reached, take each of the apples and dip into the toffee mixture. Place them on a sheet of baking paper and leave to cool.

Classic Apple Pie

Ingredients

Pastry

via Flickr

via Flickr

  • 250g of plain flour
  • 75g of caster sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 125g of plain flour
  • A pinch of salt.

Filling

  • 1 kg of Cox Apples
  • 250g Granny Smith Apples
  • 250g Bramley Apples
  • 200g of caster sugar.

Method

  1. Start by making the pastry. Put your butter, sugar, flour and salt in a food processor and blend until it looks like breadcrumbs. Then, add in your egg yolks and gently pulse the mixture until it is dough like.
  2. Knead this mixture on a floured surface until it is smooth and then wrap in cling film and refrigerate.
  3. Next peel and core all of your apples and slice them up. Add them to a saucepan with the sugar and gently heat the mixture until the apples begin to break down.
  4. Next take your pastry, split one third away from the mixture and roll out both pieces until they are a few millimetres wide. Take the bigger portion and use it to line a pie tin before blind baking it for 20 minutes at 200°c.
  5. Spoon your apple mixture into the pie dish and cover with the remaining third of the pastry. Return to to oven and bake for another 25-30 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown.

Well there you go, some simple recipes for our favourite autumnal apple dishes. Next time you’ve got family or friends coming round to dinner why don’t you give them a go. They’re easy enough to do and I’m sure they’ll bring out a few smiles around the table!

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’ Autumnal Best Bits

October 17th, 2014
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We’re having a bit of an autumnal moment here at Sykes Cottages. Perhaps it’s the chill in the air, the view from our window or our Autumn’s Best Bits competition, but we’ve been talking constantly about the best things of the season. Not ones to be left out of the fun, we thought we’d share what our favourite bits of autumn right here on the blog.

Jacket Potatoes

A picture of Jonathan's delicious jackets; made with potatoes straight from his father's farm - yum!

A picture of Jonathan’s delicious jackets; made with potatoes straight from his father’s farm – yum!

Spuds: aren’t they good. Fried, mashed, boiled – even sautéed – the humble tatie’ is our most versatile veg. At this time of year, there’s only one way to serve this starchy superfood: jackets. As a farmer’s son, I spent many an autumn day picking spuds, and learnt a thing or two about them in the process. For the perfect jacket potato, opt for a King Edward. When cooked, this variety develop a fluffy middle, making them the ideal candidate for a jacket. On a nippy night, nothing will warm you faster than a steaming spud loaded with your favourite filling – and don’t skimp on the cheddar, it’s autumn after all. – Jonathan

 Autumn Picnics

Autumn Trees

A picture of the view from Nicole’s favourite autumnal picnic spot.

You may think I’m mad but one of my favourite things to do in autumn is to go on a picnic. I wrap up warm, make some sandwiches, a flask of tea and head off into the Cheshire countryside. I love the slight chill in the air, the animals preparing for hibernation or migration, and of course the amazing array of autumn colours. This time of year really inspires me, so with a steaming hot tea and a pen in hand I get a lot of writing done and tons of ideas for my upcoming wedding. - Nicole

Seasonal Drinks

Autumnal Drinks

Leanne’s favourite way to enjoy a seasonal drink… with a side of biscuits!

Perhaps it stems from spending my university days working at a certain well-known coffee house, but my favourite thing about the autumn season is warming up with a sweet, seasonal drink. Adding cinnamon and pumpkin spice syrup to a coffee may not ring in the bells of autumn to everyone, but to me the season doesn’t truly begin until I have sipped my first pumpkin spiced latte. Plus there is nothing quite like stopping to pick up a takeaway coffee in the middle of a chilly dog walk! - Leanne

Wrapping up Warm

Wrapping Up Warm at Autumn

A picture of Louise getting all snug in her autumn scarf.

There are so many things to love about autumn but my personal favourite is the clothes. There’s a lot of excitement surrounding rooting out the cold-weather clothing from the depths of my wardrobe! It’s fun to re-discover the old favourites that I’ve not worn since last winter and for me, there’s no greater comfort than wrapping up warm. Think winter coats, cosy jumpers, huge scarves, ankle boots and bobble hats! – Louise

Homemade Soup

A bowl of warming soup is Jamie's best bit of autumn.

A bowl of warming soup is Jamie’s best bit of autumn.

I’d have to say, my favourite thing about autumn is soup. Think about it: the nights are drawing in ever earlier and the temperature is starting to drop, so what more could you want than a piping hot bowl of soup? I absolutely love the stuff, from leek and potato through to Scotch broth, there’s nothing better. And there’s the best type in the world: my Grandma’s homemade chicken soup, you just can’t beat it! – Jamie

So, there we have some of our favourite bits of autumn as inspired by our latest competition. Unfortunately we can’t enter, but you can, so if you’re a fan of autumn, have a camera and write a blog, take a look at all the details on the competition page.

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.

Top 10 Taverns You Must Visit in Ireland

October 16th, 2014
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The Irish like their drink. They wouldn’t contest this. Since humans could lift a glass and pour a pint, the Irish have done just that. And where do they do this drinking? Down the pub of course.

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Like the UK, Irish pubs are in peril. Over the past twenty-or-so years, 1,000s of boozers have closed their doors, lay slain by the cheap liquor on sale in offies and supermarkets across the Emerald Isle. To top it off – and contrary to belief – the beer served in Irish pubs is crap, steering many-a-thirsty Paddy into the alcohol aisle of the nearest convenience store.

Thanks to a surge in microbreweries supplying pubs with better beer, the future of Ireland’s taverns looks bright. But where should you go to sample the craic on a trip across the Irish Sea? Here’s a shortlist of taverns you should – nay, must – visit during your holiday in Ireland.

Matt Malloys, Westport, Co. Mayo

Matt Malloy's – Via Flickr

Matt Malloy’s – Via Flickr

Owned by Chieftain flutist Matt Malloy, this intimate Westport boozer hosts traditional live music seven nights a week. The ale poured in this Mayo inn are as authentic as the tunes, and the welcome as a warm as the punters squeezing in to listen to them. Visit as soon as possible.

O’Loclainn’s, Ballyvaughn, Co. Clare

Image courtesy of The Irish Whiskey Trail

Image courtesy of The Irish Whiskey Trail

Down an unassuming alley in Ballyvaughn is O’Loclainn’s, perhaps the best pub in Ireland. With the feel of someone’s stove-lit front room and an overwhelming whisky selection, this tavern will warm your cockles on a bracing winter’s night. Musicians often set up shop within, so it can be a pleasantly tight squeeze.

Geoff’s, Waterford, Co. Waterford

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Whoever Geoff is, he’s the proprietor of a bloomin’ good pub. Reading reviews of the place, you’d think it was a classy joint; all speak of the atmosphere, the delicious food, the tasty stout and the good-natured cliental, but in reality, Geoff’s is a down-to-earth pub that’s the perfect place to while away a Saturday afternoon.

Sin é, Cork City, Co. Cork

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Sin é, Irish for “That’s it”, refers to the funeral parlour next door. As macabre as this sounds, there’s nothing otherworldly about this Cork public house. Candlelit and convivial, Sin e’ is the home of traditional Irish music in Cork city, and has kept dry patrons in drink for over 50 years.

The Corner House, Ardara, Co. Donegal

Via Google Images – Labelled for reuse

Via Google Images – Labelled for reuse

There are several reasons you should endure the long drive to Co. Donegal, and The Corner House is one of them. Tiny, cosy, and family run, The Corner House features an open fire that’s stoked during the winter months. Plus there’s regular live music. See you there.

Hargadon Bros, Sligo, Co. Sligo

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Old pub, modern grub. That about sums up Hargadon Bros, a gem of a boozer in Sligo town. Did I mention their wine cellar, packed to the rafters with speciality vinos? Or their excellent range of local and international ales? Or their staff, who are described as “friendly” more times than I can count on Tripadvisor? No? Must have missed those bits.

The Dame Tavern, Dublin, Co. Dublin

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Fancy a sing-along in a proper pub with proper pints? Get yourself down to The Dame Tavern, a Dublin watering hole whose clientele are welcoming to tourists. Located on a historic byway where Google Street View couldn’t tread, you’ll feel at the heart of the Irish capital in this atmospheric wee pub.

Morrisey’s Pub, Abbeyleix, Co. Laois

Morrisey’s Pub is essentially a museum. From the ancient bric-a-brac to the aged clientele, you feel you owe an admission fee before entering the saloon. For the cost of a pint, you can sit and drink amid years of Irish heritage and tradition – what could be better than that?

The Crane Bar, Galway, Co. Galway

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

The Crane Bar: a foot-stomping, violin thrashing, joy of an establishment. From the moment you set foot in this rustic alehouse, you’re encouraged to join in the craic. With top beer, two floors and a good local to tourist ratio, it won’t take long to get in the swing of things.

The Mutton Lane Inn, Cork City, Co. Cork

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Sheep used to sleep in this pub. And, JFK and Johnny Cash drank here. Now that’s out of the way, let’s discuss this admired Cork public house. Candles stuffed in wine necks, torn upholstery, and dire loos add to the charm of this lovable dive. Ask for Sky Sports and you’ll likely find yourself on the pavement.

Has this list left you thirsty or muttering “you feckin’ idiots”? Which pubs would you choose? Let us know your favourite Irish boozer on Twitter or Facebook.

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.