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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.

Cottages for a Family Holiday this Half Term

Monday, October 20th, 2014
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It may seem like yesterday the kids went back to school but, believe it or not, the October half term is creeping up on us – and there’s no better time to take a break! You get to see the UK in all its autumnal glory with long country walks and warming comfort foods being the order of the day. We’ve tracked down some of the cottages that are still available to book for the school holidays, so that you can have a look and start planning your autumn escape.

Berian Cross, Pembrokeshire


Berian Cross, ref. 14417

First up  is Berian Cross in the sleepy hamlet of Brynberian, around five miles from Newport in south Wales. A chocolate box cottage, Berian Cross features three bedrooms which sleep up to seven people between them. This property is perfect for a lover of the outdoors; situated in the heart of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, it gives easy access to walks, bike rides and even boat trips. And what’s better, back at the cottage there’s a luxury kitchen waiting for you to rustle up a nice warming meal at the end of the day!

The Granary, Norfolk


The Granary, ref. 14213

Or there’s The Granary, a grade II listed cottage in the town of Downham Market, not too far from King’s Lynn in Norfolk. A cosy property with an open fire in the living room, a wonderful country kitchen, and a bay window looking out over the cottage garden, you’ll never want to set foot outside! Should you venture out, you’ll be spoilt for choice with spots like the RSPB reserves at both Snettisham and Titchwell Marsh, as well as a range of stately homes a short way away, including Sandringham Estate and Holkham Hall.

Bwthyn Awel, Anglesey


Bwythyn Awyl, ref. 913963

Finally there’s Bwythyn Awyl on Anglesey; a delightful property that can sleep up to ten people throughout its five bedrooms, two of which come with their own en-suites! There’s a luxury NEFF kitchen too, which leads to a raised deck where you’ll find stunning views over the sea. And that’s not all; within a few miles, you’ll be able to find the palatial Plas Newydd Country House, as well as the South Stack Lighthouse, one of the most iconic sights of Anglesey.

But don’t forget those properties are just a few examples of the fantastic cottages that are still available over the half term period! We’ve got everything from cosy cottages in the countryside to houses big enough for the whole family, so if you fancy taking a break then have a look at the full selection or call us on 01244 356695 and we’ll help find your dream holiday cottage!

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.

Autumnal Recipes for National Apple Day

Saturday, October 18th, 2014
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Can you think of a more autumnal flavour than the humble apple? From crumbles to pies, sauces to chutneys, apples and autumn go hand in hand. This explains why National Apple Day always falls around this time of year. In honour of this year’s apple day, we’ve tracked down some recipes for our favourite apple dishes that you can try at home!

Mini Apple Crumbles

via Flickr

via Flickr


  • 125g of flour
  • 75g of unsalted butter
  • 75g of caster sugar
  • 50g of oats
  • 750g of apples
  • 2 tsp of caster sugar
  • 2 tsp of unsalted butter


  1. First up preheat your oven to around 200°c.
  2. Place your flour in a large bowl and add the butter. Rub the butter and flour together until the texture resembles breadcrumbs and then mix in the 75g of caster sugar and the oats.
  3. Next take your apples, peel them and chop them before mixing in with the rest of the sugar.
  4. Divide the mixture between the jars and top with the crumble mixture.
  5. Place in the oven and cook until the crumble topping is golden brown and crisp.

Toffee Apples

toffe apples

via Flickr


  • 8 apples (preferably Granny Smith)
  • 4 tsp of golden syrup
  • 1 tsp of vinegar
  • 400g of caster sugar


  1. First, put the apples in a bowl and cover with boiling water. This will remove the natural waxy cover and will make the toffee stick. After they have soaked, dry them and push a skewer through the core of the apples.
  2. Place your sugar into a pan with 100ml of water and cook over a medium heat until the sugar has completely dissolved.
  3. Add the vinegar and golden syrup and turn up the heat. Using a thermometer, wait until the mixture has reached 140°c.
  4. Once that temperature has been reached, take each of the apples and dip into the toffee mixture. Place them on a sheet of baking paper and leave to cool.

Classic Apple Pie



via Flickr

via Flickr

  • 250g of plain flour
  • 75g of caster sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 125g of plain flour
  • A pinch of salt.


  • 1 kg of Cox Apples
  • 250g Granny Smith Apples
  • 250g Bramley Apples
  • 200g of caster sugar.


  1. Start by making the pastry. Put your butter, sugar, flour and salt in a food processor and blend until it looks like breadcrumbs. Then, add in your egg yolks and gently pulse the mixture until it is dough like.
  2. Knead this mixture on a floured surface until it is smooth and then wrap in cling film and refrigerate.
  3. Next peel and core all of your apples and slice them up. Add them to a saucepan with the sugar and gently heat the mixture until the apples begin to break down.
  4. Next take your pastry, split one third away from the mixture and roll out both pieces until they are a few millimetres wide. Take the bigger portion and use it to line a pie tin before blind baking it for 20 minutes at 200°c.
  5. Spoon your apple mixture into the pie dish and cover with the remaining third of the pastry. Return to to oven and bake for another 25-30 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown.

Well there you go, some simple recipes for our favourite autumnal apple dishes. Next time you’ve got family or friends coming round to dinner why don’t you give them a go. They’re easy enough to do and I’m sure they’ll bring out a few smiles around the table!

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 Whirlwind Tour of the Irish Coast

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014
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Today we’ll be taking you on a whistle-stop tour of the Irish Coast, from Donegal in the north down to County Cork in the south, stopping off in some of our favourite places along the way.  We’ve taken it upon ourselves to list some of the best spots of the Irish coastline with awards going to our favourite beach, seaside town and, of course, the best spot to soak up some scenery. As you can imagine, this was no mean feat; after all, the Irish coast is one of the most spectacular going.

Best Beach

via Flickr

via Flickr

We decided to jump in at the deep end and pick our favourite beach first. Now you should know there’s over 1,000 miles of Irish coastline and a whopping 76 blue flag beaches, so this was never going to be an easy choice. However, we decided on a beautiful spot on the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry. Dingle itself was once labelled as the most beautiful place on Earth by National Geographic, so it must have something going for it. This becomes apparent when you head to Inch Beach, a three mile stretch of golden sand perfect for a stroll in the sun, some surfing or even a touch of sunbathing. A worthy winner of Ireland’s best beach!

Best Scenery

via Flickr

via Flickr

For the best spot to enjoy scenery on the Irish coast, we’re heading towards the northernmost tip of Ireland. Up there you’ll find the cliffs of Sliabh Liag, some of the highest accessible sea cliffs in Europe. They tower 600 meters above the sea making them almost twice the height of the Eiffel Tower and around three times that of their famous rival, the Cliffs of Moher. With picnic areas at the summit, walking paths all around and of course the various companies running boat trips around the base of cliffs, there’s so much to do, although you’ll probably prefer to just sit and enjoy the view!

Best Coastal Town

via Flickr

via Flickr

Now this really was a tough one. There are so many delightful seaside towns dotted around the Irish coast, but in the end, we plumbed for Kinsale in County Cork as our favourite. One of the jewels of the southern Irish coastline, well known for its winding streets, colourful shops and countless little cafés, you can see why Kinsale is popular with tourists. There’s a multitude of things to do there with an annual Gourmet festival, numerous art galleries and of course the marina where you can hire a boat for the day.

Well hopefully you agree with our choices, but if you’ve got any suggestions of other spots that deserve a mention let us know, either on Facebook or on Twitter! And hopefully reading this blog has got you in the mood for a trip over to Ireland. If so, we’ve got just the thing for you: a page full of Irish coastal cottages, so have a look and see if you can find your dream holiday home.

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’ Food Tour of Britain

Thursday, October 9th, 2014
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If you’ve tuned into the Sykes’ blog this week you might have noticed there’s been a foodie theme going on. Well today isn’t any different as we’re heading out on a tour around the UK looking at some of the best regional foods going, from the classic Cornish Pasty through to the Welsh favourite, Bara Brith.

Melton Mowbray Pork Pie

pork pie

via Flickr

Where else could we start but with the classic picnic food, the pork pie. We’re not talking about any old pie, instead we’re going to be looking at the king of the range, the Melton Mowbray. These pies are one of a handful of foods protected by Protected Geographical Indication, meaning they can only be called Melton Mowbrays if they’re made within a specific area using traditional techniques. One key difference between a Melton and your standard pie is that they use fresh rather than cured meat, giving them their distinctive flavour.

Cornish Pasty

cornish pasty

via Flickr

Next we’re going to be taking a trip down to the south-west for the old favourite, the Cornish Pasty. Originally a luxury meal for the rich, the pasty became a staple food amongst Cornish tin miners during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and has since become one of the nation’s favourites. A good pasty should be full to the brim with a mix of beef mince, swede, carrot and onion and should have a peppery kick to finish.

Cheddar Cheese

via. Flickr

via Flickr

We’re sticking in the south west for this one too as we look at Britain’s most loved cheese. Apparently, over half the cheese produced in this country is a variation of cheddar, but can only be called West Country Farmhouse Cheddar if it’s produced in one of the four West Country counties using locally produced milk. One of the reasons cheddar is so popular is its versatility; no matter how you serve it up, whether it’s part of a classic ploughman’s lunch, melted on toast or simply with a couple of crackers, it’s absolutely delicious!

Bara Brith

bara brith

via Flickr

Next up is a Welsh classic, Bara Brith. Translated into English, Bara Brith means Speckled Bread, however there’s some dispute as to whether it’s actually a cake – no matter what it is, we think it’s delicious! Traditionally it would have been a hodge podge mix made from left over bread dough with some fruit and cooked in the embers of the weekly bake. Nowadays, it’s flavoured with tea and basted generously with honey giving it it’s lovely flavour.


via Flickr

via Flickr

Finally, we’re heading north of the border and to the home of shortbread. A traditional Scottish biscuit made with just flour, sugar and butter, shortbread is the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea. The Scots have been making this tasty treat since the 12th century, but it’s Mary Queen of Scots who is credited with refining the recipe to one we all know and love today. A good shortbread should have a light buttery flavour and be crisp yet crumbly when you bite into it.

So there we go, Sykes’ food tour of Britain. Hopefully you enjoyed having a read of it and like our choices, but if there’s anything you think should have been included then let us know, either over Facebook or on Twitter, and we’ll do our best to get it in next time!

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.