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Weird and Wonderful Attractions around the UK

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014
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For today’s instalment of the Sykes Cottages blog, we’re having a look at some of the unusual yet wonderful places to visit around the UK and Ireland. You should be warned, it’s a truly eclectic mix that you probably wouldn’t find in any tour guide around the world; but don’t let that put you off. All of these attractions are well worth a visit, they just don’t seem to get the attention they deserve. So if you fancy taking a tour around some of the more off the wall places you can go when you’re stuck for something to do, have a look and see what catches your eye!

Museum of Witchcraft

museum of witchcraft

via Flickr

First up we’ve got one of the spookiest spots in Cornwall, the Boscastle Museum of Witchcraft. Featuring one of the world’s largest collections of magic related bits and pieces and telling the tales of witchcraft through the ages, it certainly makes for a different experience to your standard museum!



via Flickr

Or what about a stop off in Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch?  Unsurprisingly, it’s the longest place name in the UK and translated it means ‘Saint Mary’s Church in the hollow of the white hazel near a rapid whirlpool and the Church of St. Tysilio of the red cave’, so either way, it’s a bit of a mouthful!

Colmans Mustard Shop and Museum

colmans mustard museum

via Flickr

Or if you’re a bit of a foodie then you might want to head down to the Colman’s Mustard Shop and Museum in Norwich. As one of Britain’s best loved brands, Colman’s have been doing their best to spice up ham butties and roast dinners around the country for 200 years now. Whilst you’re there, be sure to get yourself on the outside of a few of the samples that are laid on for you!

The Forbidden Corner

via Flickr

via Flickr

Then there’s the Forbidden Corner in North Yorkshire. Featuring a temple of the underworld, the eye of the needle and countless other oddities. You’ll have to find your way through the labyrinth of twists and turns and dead ends to try and find all that this truly bizarre spot has to offer!

The Gnome Reserve

gnome reserve

via Flickr

Next up we’ve got one of the stranger attractions that you could possibly think of. If you head down to West Putford in Devon you’ll find what could be you’re typical nature reserve, except there’s one key difference – all of the inhabitants are garden gnomes! But it’s not just the thousand gnomes, there’s also a wild flower garden to have a wander in as well as the option of tucking into a delicious Devon Cream tea!

Wharram Percy

wharram percy

via Flickr

Or if you fancy something a little less novelty there’s the village of Wharram Percy in Yorkshire. It’s pretty much like any typical English countryside village except for one thing; nobody has lived there for hundreds of years! Deserted way back in the 15th century, Wharram Percy now makes for an ideal spot to get away from it all with a quiet afternoon stroll and a picnic.



via Flickr

Next up we’ve got Puzzlewood down in the Forest of Dean. This particular spot was one of the main inspirations behind J.R.R. Tolkien’s middle earth, and with its mysterious pathways and gullies you can certainly see why! There’s also a small petting zoo not to mention the willow maze made up of over 4,000 willow trees!



via Flickr

Finally we’ve got Bekonscot, the oldest model village in the world. Dating back to the 1930′s, Bekonscot has grown over the years and has become a miniature metropolis sprawling over two acres of the Buckinghamshire countryside. It features 6 separate towns, a race course, castle and even a fully functioning railway!

So there we have it, a truly bizarre mix that encapsulates some of the weird yet wonderful attractions that can be found around Britain and Ireland, and if you’ve seen anything that you fancy be sure to take a look at our list of unusual cottages so that you have somewhere to stay 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.

Sykes’ Take on the Ironman Triathlon

Sunday, September 14th, 2014
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Today saw one of the most challenging events in the UK sporting calendar the Ironman Triathlon in South Wales. Consisting of a 2.4 mile swim, a 26.2 mile run and a 112 mile bike ride and with a strict time limit of 17 hours it’s not one for the faint hearted. Now here at Sykes we know that this kind of undertaking isn’t everybody’s cup of tea and so we’ve decided to put together our own, admittedly more sedate, version of the triathlon featuring some of the best places around the UK for swimming, cycling and running. So take a look at it and see if we can tempt you into giving our triathlon a go.


swimming llyn gwynant

via Flickr

There are so many places in the UK where you can pop out for a dip, we’re absolutely spoilt for choice. From the Lake District through to the Lochs of Scotland, the options are seemingly endless. However we’ve picked out Llyn Gwynant, a beautiful lake in the shadows of Snowdon. Both ends of the lake are nice and shallow meaning that you’ll never be out of your comfort zone, but unless your heading down in the height of summer make sure that take along a wetsuit as the water can get rather chilly, and a thermos of tea certainly wouldn’t go amiss!


running new forest

via Flickr

For the running section of the Sykes triathlon we’re going to head down to the New Forest National Park in Southern England. With it’s unspoilt natural beauty there’s nowhere better to enjoy a brisk morning jog and if you time it right you can witness some of the most beautiful sunrises around, what more could you want?


cycle lake district

via Flickr

For the final leg, the bike ride, we’re heading up to one of the most beautiful parts of the country, the Lake District. This particular route was voted the best in the UK by the Telegraph last year, and that comes as little surprise. With the stunning scenery up in the Lakes you’ll never struggle to find something to look at whilst pedalling away. The route is a 40 mile loop starting and ending a the quaint little village of Broughton in Furness and along the way you’ll find yourself coasting along the shores of Coniston Water.

So there we have it, Sykes’ very own triathlon. It might not be anything on the Ironman in terms of the difficulty however I’m almost positive that you’d have more fun taking part in ours! And if you manage to complete it you could always reward yourself with a week of R & R in one of our holiday cottages!

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’ Horrible Histories: The Romans

Monday, September 8th, 2014
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So the kids are back in school and the learning will have begun. Back in the day my favourite lesson was always history but far too often the classes seemed to be made up of reading boring passages from old textbooks, and there’s no reason why learning about history should be anything like this! Here in the UK we’re lucky enough to have easy access to some brilliant and interesting attractions and museums. And so we’re going to be having a look at some of the most exciting periods in British History and where you can go to get a taste of it, starting with the Romans!

Veni, Vidi, Vici


via Flickr

To start with we’re going to have to go all the way back to 55 BC when the most famous Roman of all, Julius Caesar decided he fancied adding Britain to his long list of conquests. However things didn’t quite go to plan and two invasions later he headed back to Rome. However around a hundred years later, in 43 AD to be precise, the Romans finally managed to seize the islands. They were in charge for the next 350 years, until in 410 AD they officially left the Britons to fend for themselves in a period known as the Dark Ages.

What Have the Romans Ever Done for us?

hadrians wall

Hadrian’s Wall, via Flickr

Quite a lot as it turns out! It might have been over 1500 years since the Romans left Britain but you can still see many of the things that they left behind them. You might not know it but every city with ‘chester’ in its name was founded by the Romans, from Manchester through to Colchester and even the home of Sykes Cottages – Chester! They also built the first roads in the country, many of which form the base for the ones that we use today. And then there’s the small manner of a wall built all the way from one side of the country to the other, all to keep the pesky Picts up and out of the way!

Where Can You Go?

chester amphitheatre

Chester Amphitheatre’s Mural, via Flickr

There are still plenty of spots in the UK where you can get a glimpse of some Roman handiwork. Hadrian’s wall is the obvious one, many sections of the wall are still standing so you can walk in the footsteps of soldiers from almost 2000 years ago. Whilst you’re there make sure that you pop into Vindolanda, one of the old forts along the wall that is now home to a fantastic museum filled to the rafters with fascinating exhibits. Or you could always swing by Chester where you’ll find the biggest amphitheatre in the country and will have the chance to be given a tour of the city by a Roman soldier!

Hopefully you’ll have enjoyed our whistle stop tour of the Romans in Britain, if so make sure that you keep your eyes peeled for the next instalment and if you have any ideas for something that would make a good blog then please let us know, either over Facebook or Twitter and we’ll do our best!

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’ Spotlight on Farm Cottages

Sunday, September 7th, 2014
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Well it seems as though the summer holidays have flown past in a flash and the kids are already back in school. It might seem as though from now on evenings will consist of washing uniforms, helping out with homework and the like but as it happens there’s no better time for booking a holiday, and here at Sykes we have just the thing to keep the kids happy; our holiday cottages on farms. With all the space to play in and animals to see, never mind the fact that a lot of our owners will be more than happy to take people with them on the rounds, farm cottages are perfect for keeping the kids occupied when on holiday. Because of this, we’ve decided to have a closer look at a few of our favourites to see what they offer.

The Milking Parlour

The Milking Parlour

The Milking Parlour, ref. 12658

The Milking Parlour is tucked away on the owner’s 250 acre working farm together with the four other cottages that make up the Westhope Country Retreats. There’s plenty to do around the Milking Parlour with the Severn Valley Railway, Stokesay Castle and the Roman City of Wroxeter all within reach, not to mention the Acton Scott Working Farm which you might recognize from the BBC’s Victorian Farm. Or if you would rather just hang around the cottage itself then there are plenty of options with a private hot tub, a shared games room and even a gym!

Emma’s Dairy

Emma's Dairy

Emma’s Dairy, ref. 14922

Then there’s Emma’s Dairy, part of the Alkington Grange Barns group just a few miles from Whitchurch. All of these properties share access to an indoor heated swimming pool,a multi-use games area for football, tennis or badminton, a toddler’s play area and even a fishing pond, what more could you ask for? Or if you fancy a day out then there’s the Cheshire Ice Cream Farm, RAF Cosford, Ironbridge, Chester Zoo, all just a short drive from the property, not to mention the pub just 1 mile away!

Turnip House

Turnip House

Turnip House, ref. 1020

Or there’s Turnip House, one of the Grade II listed barn conversions that make up the Plaish Park Farm Cottages which sleep 31 people! The cottage shares access to a full sized tennis court, children’s play area and even go-karts! If that’s not enough, the owners will happily take you along to feed the chickens or even have a ride on the donkeys! Then there’s also stabling for any horse riders with hacks and cross country jumps; Turnip House really has it all!

So that’s that, our spotlight on some of our favourite farm cottages. But remember we do have others and you can browse the full selection on our Farm Cottages page where you’re sure to find one that is just right 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.

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


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!


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!


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!


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.