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Sykes’ UK Filming Locations – Harry Potter

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015
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Calling all wizards and witches, muggles and squibs! Today, the Sykes Cottages blog is getting a bit magical as we delve into the wonderful world of witchcraft and wizardry with a Harry Potter themed tour of the United Kingdom. Sadly, despite our best efforts, we weren’t able to track down Hogwarts itself so we’ve had to make do with the next best thing. That’s right, we’re going to be taking a look at the places that were used as sets in the Potter films, finding out a little bit about them and what you can do there, so read on and see what you think.

Alnwick Castle

Remember all the way back in the very first film when Harry first tried his hand at a broomstick during Madame Hooch’s flying lesson? Well this, amongst many other scenes, was filmed at the glorious Alnwick Castle in Northumberland! One of the true treasures of the North East, the castle has resplendent gardens that are opened to the public during the summer months and offer a true Potter extravaganza. Not only can the little ones put themselves at the helm of a broomstick during a flying lesson, they can also meet many famous face from the series, from Dumbledore to Hagrid and even Harry himself!

Lacock Abbey

The glorious cloisters and corridors of Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire are featured several times throughout the Potter series. Perhaps the most recognisable section of the Abbey is the Sacristy, which hosted the Potions lessons in the dungeons with Professor Snape.  The Abbey’s warming room doubled in the films as Professor Quirrell’s Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom and the particularly keen-eyed of you might also recognise the Chapter House as the hiding place of the Mirror of Erised in the Philosopher’s Stone.

Bodleian Library

Then it’s down to Oxford and the stunning Bodleian Library in particular. Established way back in 1602, it’s the second largest library in the country and the main research library for the University of Oxford, housing treasures such as four copies of the Magna Carta and Shakespeare’s first folio. However the Bodleian is also quite an important spot for the Hogwarts students! Duke Humfrey’s Library doubled as the Hogwarts library in the films, whilst the Divinity School was the setting for the infirmary!

Warner Bros Studios

Or if you want to get the full Hogwarts experience, head down to the Warner Bros studios in Leavesden! Featuring countless props, sets and costumes that were used by the cast and crew during the filming of the series, the studio tour is a paradise for all Potter fans. Whether it’s trying out a tankard of Butterbeer, exploring the Hogwarts Express and platform 9¾ or even having nose around Professor Dumbledore’s office!

So there you go, the Sykes wizarding tour of the United Kingdom, hopefully you’ve enjoyed reading but do let us know if there are any spots that we’ve missed out! You can get in touch either over Twitter or Facebook and we’ll be sure to include them in our next blog!

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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.

Walk of the Month: Ashdown Forest

Monday, May 11th, 2015
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For our May Walk of the Month we’re going to be taking a trip down to the South East and revisiting some childhood memories with a wander through Ashdown Forest – the home of Winnie the Pooh and friends!

Once a royal hunting ground established not long after the Norman conquest, Ashdown is now one of the gems of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Made up more of open heathland than actual forest, Ashdown has become one of the country’s more ecologically valued areas, having status as both a Special Protection Area for Birds and also a Special Conservation Area for Heathland Habitats. It is this abundance of wildlife coupled with the stunning scenery, that make a hike through Ashdown well worth it!

The Walk

The walk is quite a long one clocking in at around ten miles so you’ll want to set aside a bit of time for it. Added to this is the fact that much of the route is woodland path so it might be unsuitable for prams if you’re planning on taking the little ones with you. Along the way you’ll be able to see plenty of names that you’ll recognise from the tales and take in many beautiful sights – remember to keep your eyes peeled for the wildlife that calls Ashdown Forest home!

The Route

Starting off at the village of Groombridge you’ll want to head west towards the B2188 and join the Sussex Border Path, follow this path for a couple of miles past the village of Balls Green.

After another mile or so, you’ll reach the village of Hartfield – where A.A. Milne and Christopher Robin lived – you’ll want to head just past the village and take the bridleway heading south.

A mile down this bridleway will take you to Pooh Sticks Bridge where Winnie first invented the sport in The House at Pooh Corner.

Just half a mile on from Pooh Sticks Bridge, you’ll find yourself at Five Hundred Acre Forest – or Hundred Acre as A.A. Milne renamed it in the books. Follow the northern edge of the forest and you’ll soon find yourself at Fisher’s Gate; from here you’ll want to follow the path for another half mile or so until you get to Friar’s Gate.

At Friar’s Gate, you should rejoin the road and head down towards the village of Littlebrook where you’ll be able to head along the High Weald Landscape Trail, which you’ll follow and find yourself in the village of Eridge. It’s then just a couple of miles up the Eridge road and you’ll find yourself back at the start point of Groombridge.

Rent a Sussex Cottage with Sykes

But you should remember that wandering around Ashdown Forest isn’t the only thing to do in Sussex, you could take a trip to the seaside or spend an afternoon exploring Brighton! To get all of that in, you’ll want to have somewhere to stay, which is where we come into it! Here at Sykes we’ve got a wide range of Sussex cottages available which can give you that real home-away-from-home feeling, so take a look and see what you think!

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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’ Summer Hitlist

Friday, May 8th, 2015
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Looking out of the window here at Sykes HQ, it seems strange to say that summer is nearly here but the truth is that it’s just around the corner! The days are slowly getting longer and even though today certainly wasn’t, there’s already been a couple of t-shirt weather days. This got me thinking about what makes a great British summer, so I asked the rest of the team and we put together a short list of activities for families to check off this summer; take a look and see how many you fancy trying out.

Hit the beach

Where else is there to start? Here in the UK, we love nothing more than a trip to the seaside when the sun finally comes out- whether it’s an afternoon spent settled down with a good book, tucking into an ice cream or even testing out your architectural skills with the biggest sandcastle possible

Get out in the Garden

Or another way to get the kids out in the great outdoors is by getting them interested in the garden. Not only does it get them away from the iPads and Playstations but it also teaches them some new skills. You can even give them their own corner of the garden to look after and see what happens over the course of the summer!

Fire up the Barbie

Let’s be honest, it isn’t a proper British summer without dusting off the old BBQ is it? Whether it’s a lovely sunny evening or one of those nights when you have to battle the elements in order to get the barbie up and running, it’s become a cornerstone of the British summer and the kids love it! With the novelty of eating a meal outside and different foods to what they’re used to, you can understand why!

Go For a Bike Ride

But what if you’re wanting to get the whole family out in the great outdoors for a bit of exercise? Well what about a group bike ride? If you pick out a good day and a route easy enough for everybody, it’s the perfect family activity! If you remember to put together a picnic you can even turn it into a day-long adventure!

Have a go at Geocaching

One of the more recent crazes, geocaching, has transformed the old-fashioned treasure hunt into something for the digital generation. Geocaching involves the tracking down of containers filled with hidden goodies (caches) with the use of a GPS system.  There are well over 2 million of these caches hidden all around the world with plenty in the UK. It’s the perfect way to liven up a summer walk!

Take Part in The Summer Reading Challenge

What if the ever temperamental British weather has its say I hear you ask!  One option would be to try and get a spot of reading done. The Summer Reading Challenge encourages children between the ages of 4 and 11 to read six books during the school holidays rewarding them with stickers and other goodies for completing books, and if they manage to get through six, they’ll get a certificate at the end!

Make some Homemade Ice Lollies


Crunchie Banana Cream Ice Lollies

Or one more option would be to try and getting the kids together in making themselves a homemade treat. As a result of a competition last summer, we’ve got some cracking recipes for you to try out, from hidden veg lollies containing cucumber, celery and avocado, through to an attempt to create the old family favourite the Fab, you can see all of the recipes here.

Have a Break

Alternatively, you could book the whole family in to a holiday cottage and escape it all for a few days. We’ve still got hundreds of family friendly cottages available to book this summer, click here to take a look through them and pick your perfect break.

So there you have it! A short guide on making this summer one to remember for the kids, or maybe you have a few extra suggestions that you think could be added in, if so let us know either by Tweeting us or getting in touch over Facebook and we’ll spread the message.

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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.

Flexible Short Breaks with Sykes Cottages

Thursday, April 30th, 2015
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Here at Sykes Cottages, we’re always trying to find different ways in which we can make it easier for our customers to book themselves a holiday cottage break. One problem that we noticed was that people were finding it difficult to get the dates that they wanted, and so we’re delighted to announce our new short break scheme that is aimed at solving just that: our Flexible Short Breaks!

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Spend a weekend in luxury in the Corwen Old Police Station

Flexible Short Breaks offer you more choice than ever before when it comes to booking your holiday! Unusual arrival date? Only wanting to stay a few nights? Not a problem, all of these issues can be solved through the scheme! There is a minimum stay of just two nights so they’re perfect for that weekend away that you’ve been lining up. There’s no need to stick to the classic changeover days meaning you can escape it all with a midweek break if you want; after all, breakfast in bed followed by a long countryside walk definitely sounds better than the 9-5 doesn’t it?

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Escape to the Seaside for a couple of days at Berlin House

There is a wide variety of properties that offer Flexible Short Breaks, from the North of Scotland right the way down to the Cornish coast, and they come in all shapes and sizes. So whether you’re looking for the perfect spot for a romantic break or you’re planning a get together with friends, you’re bound to find something for you.

Our Flexible Short Breaks are bookable from now onwards, on breaks taking place at any time between the 30th of May and the 18th of June, offering more versatility than ever before and at a discounted price! If you want any more information on the scheme you’ll want to have a look at this page, or alternatively you can give us a call on 01244 356695 and speak to one of our holiday advisers who will be able to explain it all to you.

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Find some peace and quiet at Tan Y Graig Hall

So if you’re considering treating yourself to a cottage holiday using the Flexible Short Break, make sure you take a look at the full selection of cottages that are available to book and see which one takes your fancy.

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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.

A Day of Traditional British Food

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015
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For today’s instalment of the Sykes Cottages blog, we’ve decided to delve into the world of great British food. For some reason our neighbours over on the continent seem to look down on our cuisine, so here at Sykes we’ve decided to try and come up with a selection of traditional British dishes that we think best showcases our grub. We’ve picked out three, one for each of breakfast, lunch and dinner, in order to make up a menu for the perfect day of British nosh; why don’t you take a look and see what you think.


Smoked fish, rice, curry powder and hard boiled eggs, doesn’t exactly sound like your typical breakfast dish now does it? Well that’s exactly what kedgeree is! Starting off life on the Indian subcontinent as the rice and lentil dish of Khichari, it quickly became a favourite of the British living in colonial India. Over the years they gradually added ingredients that were a bit more familiar to the British palate and the name was eventually Anglicised into the kedgeree that we know today. The dish was so popular with those serving in the Raj that it was brought back when they returned home and became a breakfast staple in Victorian Britain.

Welsh Rarebit

For lunch we’re heading over to Wales and the classic dish of Welsh Rarebit. Although the name might suggest otherwise to the unknowing, there isn’t actually any rabbit present in the dish. Instead, a proper Rarebit is made up of a savoury, cheese-based sauce and toasted bread. Various additional ingredients are often added to the sauce to give that little bit extra, from mustard to cayenne pepper, Worcestershire sauce to paprika and even a bit of beer!


Now we couldn’t really write a piece about classic British dishes without taking a trip north of the border for a spot of haggis! This archetypal Scottish dish is mainly reserved for special occasions such as Burns Night (where it even has a poem read for it), although in recent times it has seen something of a renaissance that has put it back on the everyday dining table. Made using minced sheep’s pluck (I wouldn’t read too much into this if I were you!) packed into casing, a haggis is normally either simmered or cooked in an oven until piping hot and served up with “neeps and tatties”. However, if you’re looking to try out something different you’ll want to take a look at this collection of recipes.

So there you have it, the perfect selection of dishes for you to rustle up in order to celebrate some of the best British grub. We’d love to know if you decided to try and put together any of the dishes, just make sure that you send us a picture over Facebook or Twitter so that we can have a little nosey!


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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.