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Large Cottages for a Family Christmas

Friday, November 21st, 2014
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We all know that Christmas is a time to be with the family but have you considered going away together for the festive period? Think about it, you’ll get to spend more time together and there will be plenty of reinforcements on hand for prepping all the Christmas veg! In order to give you a helping hand, we’ve had a look and managed to find some of the fantastic properties that still have availability over Christmastime and are large enough for the whole family, so why don’t you take a look and see if you fancy booking any of them.

Plas Gwynfryn, Llanbedr near Harlech

Plas Gwynfryn, Wales, ref. 5051

Plas Gwynfryn, Wales, ref. 5051

The first of our properties is the delightful Plas Gwynfryn, an Edwardian country house tucked away in the Snowdonia National Park. Comfortably accommodating 16 people, there should be enough space to unwind over the holiday period, even with all of the family there! And when the big day comes, you’ll be thankful for the fully equipped kitchen complete with AGA, as well as the spacious dining room where you can all tuck into your Christmas dinners in luxury.

Ranford, Rhosneigr on Anglesey

Ranford, Rhosneigr, ref. 25867

Ranford, Rhosneigr, ref. 25867

If you fancy a couple of bracing coastal walks over the Christmas period, you might want to have a look at Ranford. Situated in the beautiful seaside village of Rhosneigr on the island of Anglesey, it looks like the perfect place for the whole family to get together over the holidays. With five bedrooms that can sleep ten people between them, plus the option to turn the cosy snug into an extra bedroom with the sofa bed, it’s big enough for a large group to call home over Christmas.

River House, County Kerry

River House, Co. Kerry, ref. 3740

River House, Co. Kerry, ref. 3740

Or maybe you fancy spending Christmas on the Emerald Isle? If so, make sure you take a look at River House in the delightful village of Sneem. The cottage sleeps twelve people in its six beautifully furnished bedrooms and really shows off the best of both worlds, mixing more traditional features and more modern fixtures and fittings. There’s the feature maple flooring and open fires that will keep the whole family nice and cosy on even the chilliest of December nights.

There you have it, a brief preview of some of the fantastic cottages that you could be spending Christmas in this year. If you like the look of them, you’d better be quick as they’re booking up fast! Or maybe they aren’t quite what you’re looking for? If not, no worries; there are still plenty of others available – you can find them all here.

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.

The Mountains of Britain and Ireland

Friday, November 14th, 2014
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For today’s instalment of the blog, we’re looking at the biggest mountains of the United Kingdom and Ireland. From the North of Scotland to Snowdonia and all the way to Macgillycuddy’s Reeks in the west of  the Emerald Isle, we’ve tracked down the highest peaks in order to give you some information about them.

Ben Nevis

via. Flickr

via. Flickr

  • Height – 1,344m
  • Location – Grampian Mountains, Scotland

Overlooking the stunning scenery of Loch Linnhe, Ben Nevis is the highest peak in the whole of the British Isles. Its name derives from the Gaelic Beann Neibheis although no one is quite sure what this means with suggestions ranging fromVenomous Mountain to the Mountain of Heaven. With an estimated 100,000 climbers making their way up to the summit, Ben Nevis is one of the most popular mountains in Britain as well as the highest; if you join them, you’ll be able to find some of the most stunning panoramas around as well as the remains of deserted observatory used around the turn of the twentieth century.

 Carrauntoohil

carrauntoohil

via. Flickr

  • Height – 1,038m
  • Location – Macgillycuddy’s Reeks, Ireland

Standing at the heart of the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks mountain range in Co. Kerry is the highest mountain in all of Ireland – Carrauntoohil. There are three main pathways to follow if you fancy pitting yourself against it; the Devil’s Ladder, Brother O’Shea’s Gully and the Caher route. If you are going to try it, make sure you’re well prepared as the proximity to the Atlantic Ocean makes for extremely changeable weather condititions.

 

Scafell Pike

scafell pike

via. Flickr

  • Height – 938m
  • Location – Southern Fells, England

It may only be a few metres taller than its similarly named neighbour, Scafell, but it’s enough to make Scafell Pike the highest point in all of England. As climbs go, it isn’t the most strenuous, so when there’s the opportunity to experience the views that inspired Coleridge, Wordsworth and plenty others you certainly won’t regret setting aside a few hours to make your way to the summit. On a clear day at the top you may be able to catch a glimpse of Wales, Ireland, Scotland and even the Isle of Man – there can’t be many places that can make that claim!

Snowdon

snowdon

via. Flickr

  • Height – 1,085 m
  • Location – Snowdonia, Wales

The highest peak in Britain that isn’t part of the Scottish Highlands, Snowdon is probably the busiest mountain in the country with hundreds of thousands making their way up it every year. With a state of the art visitor centre at the top, not to mention its own railway, it draws in droves of people wanting to get a taste of the stunning views from the top. However depending on the time of year it can be quite a tricky climb, with Sir Edmund Hillary even using some of the steeper sections in his training to best Mount Everest!

So there you go, the lowdown on the highest peaks of the British Isles. We hope that you’ve enjoyed reading it, and maybe even learnt something new about them – and who knows, maybe you even fancy climbing on of them yourself! If that is the case make sure you take a look at our website so that you can find yourself a nice cosy cottage to put your feet up at the end of the day.

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.

Watersports to try away from the sea

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014
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Today we’re going to look at the fantastic watersports you can try away from the seaside. This may seem a strange idea considering we’re an island nation and there’s never more than 75 miles between you and the coastline, but there are so many other waterways that you can take advantage of. With more rivers, canals and lakes than you could shake a paddle at, you’ll be spoilt for choice; take a look and see if we can tempt you into trying out any of these fantastic activities.

Paddle Your Way Along the Great Glen Canoe Trail

via. Flickr

via. Flickr

OK, it might start and end at the seaside, but after reading about this one we had to include it; after all, who knew you could canoe right the way across Scotland? Covering 60 miles of the Caledonian canal from Fort William to Inverness, the Great Glen Canoe Trail might take five days to complete but it’ll definitely be worth it. You’ll paddle through four of Scotland’s famous lochs (Ness, Lochy, Oich and Dochfour in case you were wondering), 22 miles of man made canal and, if you’re feeling intrepid, you can also have a crack at the rivers Oich, Ness and Lochy for a change of scenery.

Water-ski on Windermere

via. Flickr

via. Flickr

If you fancy something faster paced then you can always head over to the Lake District. As the name suggests, you’ll find a haven for all sorts of watersport enthusiasts, and at Windermere you’ll find the perfect spot for water skiing.  There is of course a speed limit at Windermere which means you won’t be allowed to go at full throttle; however, coupled with the calm waters this makes it a fantastic place to get some practice in before you head on to more changing waters.

Go Surfing in Snowdonia

via. Flickr

via. Flickr

Yep, you read it right. From next year you won’t need to be at the seaside to go surfing; instead you can just head into the mountains of North Wales and Surf Snowdonia. That’s because they are currently in the process of building an artificial surfing lagoon amongst some of the most stunning scenery that you could hope for. With waves varying in size from 2-6 feet, and a 300 metre channel, the project promises to be something special and will cater for all levels of ability from absolute beginners through to die hard surfers, so make sure you pop down to give it a go!

So there you go,  a small selection of the amazing activities that you can have a go at on our country’s countless rivers and lakes. We’d love to know if any of you have been inspired to try them out so make sure you stay in touch either over Twitter or Facebook and don’t forget to take a look at our website where you’ll find a cosy cottage for a bit of R&R after a day out on the water.

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.

Fun Facts for Bonfire Night

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014
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Remember, remember the fifth of November; gunpowder, treason and plot. That’s right it’s bonfire night and that means fireworks, sparklers and toffee apples! We all know the story about a certain Guy Fawkes being caught red handed in the basement of the Houses of Parliament with a large quantity of gunpowder. But what else do you know about the big night? For me the answer was not a lot, so I scoured the web to find out more about it all. So why don’t you take a look at my findings and see how many of these facts you know.

1. To this day, before the state opening, the Yeomen of the Guard search the Houses of Parliament just in case anybody tries to take a leaf out of Guy Fawkes’ book.

yeoman of the guard

Image via Flickr

2. The first time fireworks are recorded in this country was the wedding of King Henry VII back in 1486.

fireworks

Image via Flickr

3. Up until 1959 it was considered illegal to not celebrate Bonfire Night. However there is one place in the UK that has refused to take part in the festivities nonetheless. St Peter’s School in York has always abstained as a mark of respect to Guy Fawkes who was a pupil there in his youth.

bonfire

Image via Flickr

4. It’s still possible to see the lantern that Guy Fawkes was carrying when he was caught in the Houses of Parliament. Nowadays it’s housed in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.

guy fawkes lantern

Image via Flickr

5. Queen Elizabeth I loved fireworks so much that she created a title for the best firework maker in the country. The lucky person was known as the “Fire Master of England,” how about that for an accolade? 

fireworks no.2

Image via Flickr

6. The village of Ottery St. Mary in East Devon sees a time honoured tradition where the locals take turns to carry large barrels of burning tar on their shoulders in celebration of Bonfire Night – maybe not one to try at home.

ottery st mary

Image via Flickr

7. Your average sparkler burns at between 1000-1500°c which means 3 of them burning together can reach the same temperature as a blowtorch. So make sure you put them out in a bucket of water to avoid any accidents!

sparklers

Image via Flickr

8. Lewes in Sussex may be your usual sleepy town for most of the year, but come November the 5th it sees a complete transformation! Tens of thousands of people travel there to take part in the famous celebrations making it the biggest Bonfire Night event in the country.  

lewes bonfire night

Image via Flickr

9. He may have been part of plot to commit high treason and destroy one of the most iconic buildings in the UK, but it seems people rather like Guy Fawkes. Back in 2002 the BBC ran a poll to find the greatest Briton in history and he came in at no. 30!

guy fawkes 2

Image via Flickr

10. In official firework lingo, different designs tend to be named after flowers. For example there are peonies, dahlias and chrysanthemums!  

fireworks 3

Image via Flickr

So there you go, 10 facts about Bonfire Night I know I certainly wasn’t aware of, but how many of them did you know about? Let us know over Twitter or Facebook, or if you know of any other interesting facts do get in touch!

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.

Healthy Halloween Treats Competition

Thursday, October 30th, 2014
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We aren’t daft at Sykes Cottages; we’re well aware that Halloween and healthy don’t go hand in hand – especially when it comes to the kids. With the spoils of the trick or treating, it can seem like all kids eat over Halloween is sweets. We’ve decided to see what we can do to change this by launching our Healthy Halloween Treats competition. We’ve asked a select group of bloggers to see if they can create an alternative to the usual sugary fare that will still keep kids happy. This isn’t an enviable task; we all know how much the little ones love their sweets, but the ideas we got back were fantastic. From snail porridge to spiders web pizzas and many more gruesome delights, take a look at our healthy Halloween treats and see what you think.

The Entries

the mummy diary

The Mummy Diary’s eyeball cupcakes and spider bites

Niki at Play and Learn Everyday put together some healthy pumpkin cookie bites using oats, honey and pumpkin purée, and she also made some fantastic pumpkin teething biscuits so even the younger children can get in on the Halloween fun. Then there was Ellie at The Mummy Diary who came up with some delicious looking banana and chocolate chip cupcakes, complete with an eyeball topping (maybe not quite so delicious looking), and also some spider bites made from a healthy and easy to make fruit and nut mixture.

hijacked by twins

The spiders web pizza from Hijacked by Twins

We also had a brilliant entry from Tina from Trials and Tribulations of a Brummie Mummy who made some mini pizzas made to look like witches hats, spookily shaped Halloween sandwiches, chocolate witches fingers and the classic toffee apples! Next up was Kirsty from Hijacked By Twins. She whipped up some pizzas with a spiders web topping made from carrot strips and olive slices, as well as some creepy banana ghosts and a batch of delicious looking mini pumpkin pies. Another top idea came in from Donna at Red Head Baby Led. Donna turned an ordinary pack of oranges into some fantastic miniature pumpkins complete with a sugar free jelly filling and of course some scary faces carved into them!

married to a geek

Married to a Geek’s fruity blood bath

Then there was a particularly ghastly graveyard scene produced by Angeline at Daft Mamma! Featuring a witches cauldron, pumpkin patch, gravestones and even some slimy eye balls made from grapes, it’s one that’s sure to get the little ones tucking into their five a day over Halloween! Simone from Married to a Geek went all out with her entry making strawberry ghosts, a goblet full of ‘Devil’s Drencher’ and marshmallow eyeballs, and she even threw them all together to make a fruity blood bath! Then there was Louisa from Eat Your Veg who produced two cracking recipes. First up was her mini orange pumpkins with a blood sorbet (don’t worry it was just frozen raspberries and honey) and also a cauldron full of blood soup served up with Halloween inspired cheesy toasts.

mummy memories

A spiders web cake from Mummy Memories

Up next we had Mary-Kate at Mummy Memories who made a healthy version of a classic chocolate cake using a natural sugar alternative. The cake was topped off with a homemade peanut butter icing and a scary spiders web made from YoYo Bears and raisins so there’s plenty of fruit in there too! Otilia from Romanian Mum came up with two devilish desserts, first up was a set of cake pops featuring pumpkins and ghostly faces followed by her own take on the Bruce Bogtrotter cake from Matilda with an extra creepy Halloween topping! And finally we had Louise from A Strong Coffee. Louise made a selection of creepy delights that the younger kids would enjoy. From a ham sandwich disguised as a spooky spider to some snail porridge, and even a witches brew with ogre’s eyes made out of kiwi fruit, what more could you want?

 Our Runner Up

Now came the hard bit as we were given the difficult task of picking out a winner and also a runner up to the competition. As you can see all of the entries were fantastic so it took some real deliberation amongst the increasingly hungry team here at Sykes HQ however there were two that we kept going back to. Just pipped to the post was Louise from A Strong Coffee. We absolutely loved her spooky spider sandwiches, and thought that the use of kiwi fruits as ogre eyes were fantastic!

spider sandwiches

A Strong Coffee’s Spooky Spider Sandwiches

 The Winner

This meant that our winner of our Healthy Halloween Treats Competition was the entry from Louisa at Eat Your Veg. They looked, and sounded, suitably terrifying and were full to the brim with copious amounts of fruit and veg – all in all the perfect Healthy Halloween Treat!

mini pumpkins

Mini Pumpkins with blood sorbet

blood soup

Blood soup and cheesy toasts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So there we go, hopefully you’ll agree with our choices but make sure you keep your eyes peeled for any future competitions that we’ll be running. We’d also like to say a massive thank you to everybody who took part! All of the entries were brilliant and they’ve certainly inspired all of us here at Sykes HQ!

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.