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Book Now for the February Half Term

Friday, December 19th, 2014
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Believe it or not Christmas is just around the corner, in fact it’s less than a week away – where did all that time go? But get the festivities out of the way and the time will start to fly by yet again; before you know it it will be February and the schools will have broken up once more. The February half term always seemed like a bit of an anti-climax for me when I was growing up, with it being wedged in between Christmas and Easter it always seemed to be a bit overshadowed, but book yourself holiday cottage for the break and you’ll never find this to be the case!

Why book in December?

It may seem strange to be talking about booking yourself a February break during the Christmas holidays, but there’s no better time. It tends to get a touch hectic here at Sykes HQ just before the schools break up with people trying to snap something up at the last minute, and sadly a lot of our properties have already been booked by that point. So why don’t you beat the crowds and get in there early? Also, if you book in December you can take advantage of the time off from work and get the family together to make sure that you pick the right cottage for everybody!

Where to go?

Well it’s entirely up to you! We’ve got cottages throughout Britain and Ireland, from the Scottish Highlands right the way down to the Cornish Coast, so it all depends on what you’re after. Lovers of the great outdoors will be right at home in places like the Lake District with stunning scenery and bracing walks. Or alternatively you might fancy a city break where the culture vultures will be able to get their fill, not to mention the option to sneak in a touch of retail therapy!

What to get up to on your cottage break

You’ll never be short of something to do when you go away to your holiday cottage. From rustling up warming winter meals in the kitchen to settling down in front of the fire to watch a film. And then there’s all of the fantastic days out and activities that you can try out whilst you’re away! Websites like the National Trust and Day Out With the Kids are usually very good for finding out what’s on in the area, and many of our owners will leave various leaflets and information packs in the cottage listing some of the local attractions.

So there we have it, just a few of the reasons that you should book yourself a cottage break for the February Half Term this Christmas time. It’ll be less hassle, you’ll have a wider choice and there’ll be no mad rush come February; what more could you want?

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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: The Tolkien Trail

Saturday, December 13th, 2014
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Today sees another instalment of our Walk of the Month series, and for December we’re going to head to the Ribble Valley in Lancashire and follow in the footsteps of one of the country’s literary greats, J.R.R. Tolkien. His son attended Stonyhurst College, one of the main sights to see on the walk, and Tolkien used to visit him often. In fact he wrote sections of the Lord of the Rings whilst staying at the school and drew plenty inspiration for Middle Earth from the surrounding countryside, with places like Hurst Green, Jumbles Farm and Cromwell’s Bridge all coming together in his head to form parts of the Shire.

via. Flickr

via. Flickr

You can expect to see plenty of stunning scenery whilst making your way around the Tolkien Trail, from the lush woodlands to the commanding presence of Pendle Hill in the distance and of course the lazy meanderings of the Rivers Hodder and Ribble that frame the route.

The Walk

The Tolkien Trail follows a circular route with plenty of flat terrain and easy pathways so that it should be easy enough for all, although at just under six miles long it will take around 3 hours to complete.

The Route

via. Flickr

via. Flickr

Starting off in the village of Hurst Green, head over towards Stonyhurst College, the domed turrets on the roof of the school will guide you along.

Once you pass the College Observatory you’ll want to head right down the path towards Hall Barn Farm. Then take a left just before the gate of the farm and follow the line of the buildings. Here you’ll find a couple of outstanding views, to the left you’ll be able to see the College in all it’s glory and in the opposite direction there’s the profile of Pendle Hill and also Clitheroe Castle.

Now follow the path all the way until you reach Woodfields, once you’re there cross the road and head down the lane between the rows of houses. Soon after this lane veers to the left you’ll want to take the right hand turning and follow the edge of the field alongside Over Hacking Wood.

Then head down to the River Hodder and follow the pathway all the way along to Cromwell’s Bridge. From here take a right and follow the road for a short while. Once you reach the first junction head over the stile to the left and cross the field.

From here you’ll want to head on to Winckley Hall Farm where you’ll rejoin the Hodder as it converges with the River Ribble. Then continue following the river for quite a distance passing Hacking Hall, Jumbles Farm and the aqueduct.

Not long after the aqueduct youll come to a small wood and at this point you should leave the riverside path. Cross the small wooden bridge and head up the stepped pathway, climb the stile and keep walking with the fence on your left.

When this fence takes a sharp left keep walking straight on, after crossing a couple of bridges and another stile cross the stream on your right. Now all you need to do is follow the field boundary and you’ll find yourself back in the village of Hurst Green.

Download the comprehensive route and map for this walk here.

Rent a Lancashire Cottage with Sykes Cottages

If you’re struggling to think of a location for a winter break then Lancashire is right up there! With it’s rolling hills and lush forests the scenery is spectacular. Add to this the great transport links with the Lake District, and Western Dales, not to mention the bustling cities of Liverpool and Manchester, should you need to get in that last bit of Christmas shopping, and you’ll never find yourself short of something to do. So if you fancy taking a break in the Lancashire countryside why not take a look at our wide array of cottages there, from romantic boltholes to properties big enough for the whole family we’ve got them all!

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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.

Give the Gift of a Sykes Voucher this Christmas

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014
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Well it’s that time of year again! Believe it or not, Christmas is well and truly bearing down on us, and that means that for many people the perennial panic about Christmas presents will be starting to come into effect. I learnt my lesson last year after it ended up as a mad dash around the shops on Christmas Eve – not an enjoyable experience – and I’m sure that a few of you reading this ended up in a similar situation! Whilst I made myself promise that I wouldn’t let it happen again this year I’m still struggling to think of ideas of what to get everyone, but luckily here at Sykes we may well have something that might help out in these situations – the Sykes Cottages Holiday Gift Voucher!

Why pick a Sykes Gift Voucher?

Sykes’ Gift Vouchers are perfect for everybody, whether it’s that lucky person who already seems to have everything or a certain someone who you think deserves a special treat. And what’s even better is that you can’t make a wrong choice! There’s no need to worry about picking up the wrong size or choosing a colour that they don’t like as it’s up to the lucky recipient to make all of the decisions! Maybe there’s somewhere in the UK that they’ve always wanted to visit, or they might have talked about going back to where they used to spend their childhood holidays. Well with over 5000 cottages across the UK and Ireland I’m sure that we’d be able to help make that wish come true!

How to buy a Sykes Gift Voucher

It really couldn’t be easier! All you have to do is give us a quick ring and a member of the Sykes Cottages team will happily guide you through the process. The vouchers are available in denominations of £25 which gives you all the flexibility that you could want in terms of how much you’re looking to pay and they can be used as part or full payment against any Sykes Cottage holiday booked within two years of the voucher being purchased. So you can help treat your nearest and dearest to one of our cottages, from summery beachhouses in Cornwall to cosy boltholes up in the Scottish Highlands!

So if you think that a Sykes Cottages Christmas voucher could be the answer to your Christmas shopping woes then do give us a call on 01244 356695. Or maybe you’d just like a little bit more information about it all? If so then do have a look at our website where you’ll be able to find out all you need to know!

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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.

Best Indoor Days Out for Families

Monday, December 1st, 2014
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Who can believe it’s actually December? It seems to have come around quicker than ever this year and what with the weather worsening and the school holidays bearing down on us we thought that we would have a look at some of the best indoor attractions around the United Kingdom. So if you’re struggling to think of something to do to keep the kids occupied why don’t you take a look here and see if you can find any inspiration.

Chill Factore

via. Flickr

via. Flickr

First up we’ve got the Chill Factore just outside of Manchester. With the UK’s longest real snow slope (18o metres if you were wondering), climbing walls, restaurants and even a miniature shopping centre it’s got something for the whole family.

Chatsworth House

via. Flickr

via. Flickr

Or maybe you’d prefer a rather more sedate afternoon? If so then why not try out Chatsworth House in Derbyshire. You may well recognise it as Pemberley from the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice but over the holiday period it will be transformed into various scenes from Lewis Carroll’s classic, Alice in Wonderland.

The Blue Planet Aquarium

via. Flickr

via. Flickr

For all of the animal lovers out there there’s always the option of an aquarium. We’re lucky enough to have one of the UK’s finest just down the road from Sykes HQ in the Blue Planet, which is home to over 100 different displays including Europe’s biggest collection of sharks!

Our Dynamic Earth

via. Flickr

via. Flickr

Or if you’re north of the border you could pay a visit to Our Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh. Telling the story of our planet from birth to the present day through various exhibits and galleries, not to mention the 360 degree showdome!

Llechwedd Slate Mines

via. Flickr

via. Flickr

Then there’s the option of Llechwedd Slate Caverns in Wales. Here you’ll be able to get a true taste of Wales’ national heritage as you take a trip hundreds of feet underground on Britain’s longest cable car. Once you reach the bottom you’ll discover many exhibits and attractions showing what life would have been like for the Victorian miners and their families.

The Eden Project

via. Flickr

via. Flickr

Maybe you fancy escaping the cold for a few hours. If so then the tropical biomes of the Eden Project might be your best bet. With the world’s largest rainforest in captivity, countless sculptures and art exhibits and even a canopy walkway where you can wander through the tree tops, it’s definitely worth seeing!

Cadbury World

via. Flickr

via. Flickr

Or if you’ve got a bit of a sweet tooth what could be better than a trip to Cadbury World? With exhibits telling the Cadbury story as well as giving you the chance to see many of your favourite sweets being made it’ll definitely get you in the mood for a bit of chocolate so be careful not to go too wild in the world’s biggest Cadbury shop!

Jorvik

via. Flickr

via. Flickr

Another option is the Jorvik Viking Centre in York. One of our country’s best loved attractions with over 17 million people paying it a visit since it opened almost 30 years ago, Jorvik manages to entertain, educate and disgust at the same time! With the preserved remains of Viking houses which are around 1000 years old, fully recreated streets, and of course a few Vikings, it makes for a great afternoon!

Seven Stories

via. Flickr

via. Flickr

Tucked away in a converted Victorian warehouse in Newcastle is Seven Stories, a centre dedicated to children’s books. Containing many original copies of your favourite childhood story as well as illustrations by the authors and many letters that will let you get in the mind of famous authors throughout the decades.

National Space Centre

via. Flickr

via. Flickr

Opening back in 2001, the National Space Centre is the UK’s largest attraction solely dedicated to the exploration and study of space. With a 42m high rocket tower, lunar landing simulators and even some actual moon rock collected by Gene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon, it’s certainly one for all of the budding astronauts and astronomers out there!

There you go, our round up of some of the best family friendly indoor attractions around the UK. Hopefully it will give you a few ideas for the school holidays but if you have any suggestions we’d love to know so get in touch either via Twitter or Facebook.

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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 Look Back at Scotland in 2014

Sunday, November 30th, 2014
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Seeing as how it’s St Andrews Day, we just had to do a Scottish special for the Sykes Blog. Over the past few months, we’ve done posts on Scottish foods, our cottages north of the border and even one on film locations there. However, with it been such a fantastic and eventful year for Scotland, we thought we’d take a look back at 2014 and all that has gone on in Scotland.

Historic Moments

via. Flickr

via. Flickr

2014 has definitely been a year for all Scots to remember. First of all there was the matter of the Independence Referendum. Taking place in September, it saw a massive 84% of voters have their say on whether Scotland should become an independent country – quite the turnout! And then there was the 700th anniversary of one of the most important occasions in Scottish history: the battle of Bannockburn. To celebrate this moment, a series of festivities were put on at the site of the battle, from traditional arts to the highland games, and then there was the grand opening of a state of the art interactive visitor centre which certainly looks worth a visit!

The Homecoming 2014

via. Flickr

via. Flickr

This year was also the year of the Homecoming, a celebration of Scotland’s national identity, from the arts and culture right the way through to the food and drink. There were countless new events organised to showcase Scotland at its finest, from the John Muir Festival to the Forth Bridges Festival, as well as many old favourites such as the Hogmanay celebrations and the Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

The Year of Sport

via. Flickr

via. Flickr

It’s been a pretty phenomenal year for Scottish sport. Playing host to two of the world’s biggest sporting events in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles certainly helped put the country back on the world stage. And there are plenty of other reasons to be cheerful; Scotland currently sit level with the world champions Germany in the qualifiers for the European Championships, not to mention the rugby team pushing the All Blacks close in their recent autumn test – fingers crossed this rise can continue into 2015!

So there you go, a quick rundown of 2014 in Scotland. It really has been a fantastic year, and let’s hope that it has set a precedent for many more to come. And maybe 2014 has convinced you to take a trip north of the border? If so be sure to take a look at our Scottish cottages – you’re sure to find something perfect for you!

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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.