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The Sykes Cottages Haggis Championships 2014

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014
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Are you a bit squeamish when it comes to the ‘great chieftain o’ the puddin’-race’? No? Well you’re in the minority according to a survey that we ran with the Great British public just a few weeks ago. Amongst questions exploring peoples’ opinions on holidaying in Scotland, we asked whether or not they would order a haggis dish if they saw it on the menu of a Scottish restaurant. When we got the results back, almost two thirds of people replied saying that they wouldn’t and this didn’t sit quite right with us! After all, haggis is one of our national delicacies and so we decided to see if there was anything that we could do to change this, which led us to launch the inaugural Sykes Cottages Haggis Championships!

We turned to the food blogger world to see if anyone could think up an alternative to the classic haggis, neeps and tatties that would change people’s minds, and the response that we got was fantastic. An amazing array of dishes came back; brunches, dinners, you name it we got it. From the Italian inspired right the way through to a touch of Indo-Scottish fusion food and they all looked delicious! Sadly we were given the unenviable task of picking a winner from the ranks so why don’t you take a look through the entries and see if you agree with our choice?

The Entries

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Hodge Podge Days’ Haggis Brunch

First up was Harper from Crumbs and Petals who decided to turn the traditional Burns Night dinner on its head and came up with a recipe that would be perfect for a glorious summer afternoon, her Haggis and Vegetable skewers which can be cooked either under the grill or out on the barbecue if it’s a nice day! Then we had Jane from Hodge Podge Days who, rather than going down the typical dinner route, decided to produce a hearty, haggis themed brunch where the main attraction was accompanied by a beautifully poached egg as well as a home-made potato cake, something that would definitely get you up and running in the morning!

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Vohn’s Ulster-Scots Pasties

Agata from Bark Time decided on a more healthy approach and cooked up a “Haggis in the Hole” with a sweet potato and potato mash and a side of steamed vegetables. Whilst Chloe, the Nine Grand Student, went all continental with her entry and rustled up her haggis carbonara for us that was both easy to put together and looked delicious. On the other hand Vohn, from Vohn’s Vittles, went back to her Irish roots with her Ulster-Scots Pasties, a Scottish take on the classic Ulster Pastie using haggis in the place of the the traditional sausage-meat mixture, and she even tracked down a locally sourced beer that she used in making the crispy batter!

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The Weegie Kitchen’s Haggis Samosas

Then it was the turn of Mairi in her Weegie Kitchen. She decided to use the influences of the Asian communities in the hustling city of Glasgow and came up with her Haggis Samosas, that are perfect either as an afternoon snack, or accompanying a plateful of curry. Next we had Cheryl from The Glasgow Scullery. Cheryl really went above and beyond the call of duty in getting people to try haggis out and produced what can only be described as a two course haggis bonanza. The first course was made up of her Haggis ravioli complete with a port wine reduction and then it was time for the pièce de résistance, a beef and haggis wellington served with haggis bonbons and a potato rosti!

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Ananyah’s Haggis Bonbons

I think that everybody here at Sykes was expecting The Edinburgers to come up with some kind of haggis inspired burger and so we were all a bit shocked when instead they produced their haggis and goats cheese filo parcels that go down a treat with some chilli dip! Then there was the entry from What Claire Baked. Like the Nine Grand Student, Claire turned to the continent for a bit of inspiration and came back with her “Great Haggis Lasagne” the perfect comfort food for a cold winter’s night. Our final entry came from Michelle over at Ananyah, who put together a couple of stunning dishes that were designed to be the perfect introduction to haggis. First up were her Haggis bonbons with a garlic and chilli dip, followed by some haggis won tons with a home-made red wine and wholegrain mustard sauce.

The Sykes Cottages Haggis Champion 2014

So after much deliberation we finally managed to pick our winner, and the illustrious prize went to The Edinburgers! We loved the imagination behind their dish of haggis and goats cheese filo parcels and thought that the flavour combinations would work brilliantly, especially with the locally sourced chilli jam.

haggis and goats cheese filo parcels

Our Winner – Haggis and Goats Cheese Filo Parcels

We’d just like to say a massive thank you to all of the people who set aside some of their time to take part in the  competition, we wish that we could have picked all of them as winners! And if any of you reading this fancy having a go at the recipes listed above then don’t forget to take a look at the bloggers’ posts where you’ll find everything you need to know!

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.

Some of the UK’s Top Road Trips

Saturday, August 23rd, 2014
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Here at Sykes we love a good road trip.  Once you’ve gone through all the hassle of packing the car up, making sure that nothing has been left behind and of course sorting out some snacks for the journey there’s nothing better than finally hitting the open road. In fact you might have noticed that recently we did a round-up of some of the most scenic drives in the United Kingdom. Well whilst we were having a good old think about some of our favourite spots we stumbled across an infographic put together by ATS Euromaster on some of the UK’s best roadtrips. We thought that some of the drives looked fantastic, with stunning scenery and some brilliant stop off points along the way and so we decided to pick out a few of our favourites to share with you!

Caernarfon – Port Meirion

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Caernarfon to Portmeirion – 46.3 miles

The first of the drives takes in some of the best views that North Wales has to offer. Starting outside the walls of Caernarfon Castle, the route takes you to Snowdon, the highest peak of the Snowdonia National Park. You’ll then find yourself cruising along to Portmeirion, where you’d be forgiven for thinking that you were on a road trip through the Italian Riviera rather than the Llyn Peninsula. Then, after a refuel in one of Portmeirion’s cafes, you head along to the rather ominously named Hell’s Mouth, otherwise known as Porth Neigwl, a haven for all of the surfers out there.

Glencoe – Inverness

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Glencoe to Inverness – 106 miles

For the second drive, we’ll be heading north of the border. Starting at the dramatic Glencoe, which you may recognise from either the Harry Potter films or the most recent instalment of the Bond franchise, Skyfall, where it featured as the childhood home of everybody’s favourite superspy. From there you’ll pop up to the highest mountain in the UK, Ben Nevis, before heading on to Fort William. The final leg will take you to the home of one of Scotland’s more famous, albeit lesser spotted attractions, Nessie!

Kings Lynn – Cromer

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Kings Lynn to Cromer – 54.3 miles

The last of our favourites leads you along the beautiful North Norfolk coastline, one of the most picturesque sections of coast in the country. Starting down at Kings Lynn you’ll find yourself heading over towards the pristine sands of Brancaster before moving on to Wells-next-the-Sea which is well known for its countless colourful beach huts. You’ll finally find yourself down at the Holkham National Nature, an eleven mile long stretch of protected coastline that serves as a home for many of the UK’s endangered species.

Hopefully you enjoyed having a read of that, and found it as interesting as we did, but if you want to see a little more you can find the full infographic here with some more brilliant road trips. And if you fancy having a stop off at the end of your road trip make sure that you check out our selection of holiday cottages, they’re perfect for kicking back and relaxing after a long day behind the wheel.

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.

Discount Days Out With The Kids

Monday, August 11th, 2014
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Well we’ve had a few weeks of the summer holidays now and no doubt the kids have already been treated to several days out. Now we know that the cost of these can start to mount up, and so we’ve had a look to see if we could lend a hand when it comes to finding a few ways to save a bit of money.

Check the Internet

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Nowadays there are plenty of sites that you can go onto and find some of the best value trips in a matter of clicks. Day Out With the Kids is one of the easiest as it breaks them down area by area, allowing you to compare various attractions for their costs. Alternatively, you could pop over to a website like Money Saving Expert which will often post which places have got good deals on, allowing you to track down the best value for money.

Collect Vouchers

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via. Flickr

Or you can always collect vouchers and coupons which will help you get a bargain price on your day. Normally, cereal boxes are a good place to start for this, or you can also use those saved up Clubcard or Nectar points. Over the summer, Tesco have been running the voucher exchange which lets you trade your hard-earned points for tickets to attractions, and there are some cracking deals available. For example, you can trade just £4.50 worth of points for a child’s ticket to the Eden Project!

Save Money on the Day

via. Flickr

via. Flickr

Finally, there are plenty of things that you can do to save money when you actually arrive. A big one for doing this is taking food along with you rather than paying for it from the various stalls and restaurants; most of the time they tend to be a touch expensive. Also if there is a gift shop where you’re heading, you might find it quite useful to set a budget before you let the little ones head in, as they tend to have a habit of picking out the biggest or the most expensive thing that they can get their hands on!

So there we have it, a few hints and tips for saving a bit of cash whilst keeping the kids entertained. Hopefully you’ll have picked up a couple of ideas but if there’s anything that you do which we might have missed out then do let us know, either over Facebook or Twitter, so that we can pass it on!

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’ Seaside Activities

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014
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Lets be honest, nothing says a summer holiday quite like a day at the beach. Whether it’s tucking into an ice cream, settling down with your favourite book or just catching some rays, it’s easy for us adults to while away a few hours not doing very much but for the kids things can get a bit boring. So we’ve put together a list of some classic seaside activities to keep them entertained!

Make a sandcastle

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via. Flickr

In my eyes, nothing says an archetypal beach holiday quite like building a sandcastle. Whether it’s a one bucket job or something that wouldn’t be out of place on an episode of Grand Designs, I think near enough everybody has built themselves a sandcastle at one point in time. If the kids are planning on building big, remember to tell them to use the wet sand but not to get too close to the sea as you don’t want their handiwork to be swept away by a rogue wave!

Go rock-pooling

via. Flickr

via. Flickr

Another thing that will be sure to keep the kids occupied is a spot of rock-pooling. This is best done at low tide to make sure that the rock pools will be exposed. All you need to take with you is a bucket, preferably a clear one so that you can see all of the critters that you catch and a small net. Be sure to fill the bucket up with water from the pool and be careful not to put more than one creature in the bucket at a time. You’ll have to be gentle with them and remember to take a few photos for the kids before putting them back into the rock pool when you’re done!

Have a Seaside Scavenger Hunt

Or you could take a walk down the beach with the little ones and see how many seashells you can find. If you time it right and the tide is on its way out, there should be plenty of beautiful shells scattered around. Whether you run a little competition to see who can find the most shells or the prettiest, or you just use them to decorate those painstakingly-built sandcastles, the kids will be sure to have a good time and they can even take them home as a little keepsake at the end of the day!

So there we have it, Sykes’ seaside activities, hopefully you’ll find it useful and the whole family will enjoy a little trip down to the beach. But don’t worry if you haven’t got anything organised, you can always take a look at our collection of coastal cottages where you’re sure to find one for you!

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 Cottages’ Changeover Checklist

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014
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Nothing beats a first impression right? Well we’re more than aware of the fact that the same thing goes for a holiday cottage! You want to make a good impression when the guests arrive at the property and have their very first look around, and there is nothing more important for doing this than making sure that you get everything sorted out during the changeover. Having said this, at the peak periods things can get a bit hectic and this can occasionally lead to the odd little job slipping the mind. And this is why we’ve put together a checklist of the jobs that when done will make any holiday cottage feel like a true home from home!

Kitchen

Kitchen of Stable Cottage

Stable Cottage, East Anglia, ref. 3505

  • Check inside the dishwasher in case any dishes have been left in there, if so put them away.
  • Clean the fridge and freezer inside and out, removing any items left behind. The freezer may need defrosting and so it is worth doing this early on in the clean.
  • Give the counters (including under any work-top appliances) and cupboard doors a good wipe down.
  • Clean both the microwave and oven inside and out. Empty any crumbs out of the toaster.
  • Vacuum and mop the floors.

Living Areas

Living room of Grove Cottage

Grove Cottage, North Yorkshire Moors, ref. 12465

  • Clean and vacuum/mop the floors, make sure to do under the furniture as well.
  • Give the surfaces, window sills,  the TV, e.t.c. a dust.
  • Remove any magazines, newspapers that might have been left behind.
  • Make sure that things like fuel for fires e.t.c. are stocked up.

Bedrooms

Bedroom of Willow Garth

Willow Garth, North Yorkshire Moors, ref. 27571

  • Remove all of the bedding from the used beds, check the mattresses.
  • Dust the surfaces and check all of the wardrobes and drawers for any personal items that might have been left behind.
  • Clean all of the mirrors.
  • Give the floors a good vacuum, making sure to get right under the beds and behind any furniture.
  • Make all of the beds up with clean bedding.

Bathrooms

Bathroom of The Paddock

The Paddock, The Lake District, ref. 11219

  • Vacuum and then mop the floors.
  • Clean the showers, bath tubs and sinks, throwing away any soaps, shampoos, etc. left behind by guests.
  • Clean the toilets thoroughly.
  • Clean the mirrors.

We hope that you all find this to be a handy little resource, but you should also remember that there are plenty of little touches around the house that you can do to make your guests feel more at home. From just checking the light bulbs to replacing any dud batteries, they might not seem that important but guests will definitely notice if they’re left undone! But if you do any changeover jobs that seem to go down well and aren’t on our checklist then do let us know, either over Twitter or via Facebook and we’ll pass the tips on!

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.