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Last Minute Cottages for Christmas

Monday, December 15th, 2014
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Christmas is almost upon us. From here on out, ‘tis the season to be jolly. The majority will be prepped, ready and waiting for the arrival of Little St Nick. If you’re not, or if you’ve been umming and ahhing about where to host Christmas this year, there’s still time to book a cottage for Christmas with Sykes. We’ve got plenty of holiday homes with availability over the Christmas period, some of which are offering great discounts on selected dates. To give you a taste for the cottages we have on offer, take a look at these five wonderful holiday cottages.

Clove Cottage – Ref. 917424

Appleby-in-Westmorland, Cumbria

Nestled in the beautiful Cumbrian countryside, just four miles from the ancient town of Appleby-in-Westmorland, Clove Cottage is an idyllic holiday home, with space for up to four guests to enjoy a comfortable and relaxing break. The property feature two spacious bedrooms – double and twin – a cosy lounge and fully fitted cottage kitchen. Original period features, such as exposed brick walls and oak beams, add character, whilst the property’s location makes it a great base for exploring the nearby Lake District. In short, Clove Cottage is ideal for a relaxing family Christmas.

Miller’s Lodge – Ref. 2470

St Keyne, Cornwall

Couples longing for an isolated Christmas away from everyday stress should take a closer look at Miller’s Lodge, a characterful property in St Keyne, Cornwall. This lovingly restored barn is situated in the Looe Valley, an area of outstanding beauty renowned for its peace and tranquillity. Miller’s Lodge features one double bedroom, a shower room, and open plan living area with galley-style kitchen. Couples will love the property’s tasteful front room, which is the ideal place for opening presents come Christmas morning. To top it off, you’ll receive a discount of £100 on seven night stays from the 22nd December.

Bronwydd – Ref. 996

Llanbedrog, Wales

Gather your friends and family and make for the bracing Welsh coast this Christmas with a break in Bronwydd cottage. Accommodating up to seven guests, this spacious Welsh holiday home is the perfect destination for families or a group of friends. Bronwydd is located in Llanbedrog, a coastal village three miles from the popular village of Abersoch, and has a number of superb coastal walks right from the door – perfect for walking off the Christmas dinner. The property features four bedrooms, a spacious sitting room with exposed beams, and well-equipped kitchen with everything you need to cook up a memorable Christmas feast.

Waterside Cottage – Ref. 2661

Hovingham, North Yorkshire

Enjoy a relaxing family Christmas this year and rent Waterside Cottage, a wonderfully charming holiday home in the midst of North Yorkshire’s picturesque Howardian Hills AONB. For a family of four, this Yorkshire holiday cottage proves perfect; one king-size double and one twin room can comfortably accommodate up to four guests, and the cosy sitting room – complete with real, woodburning stove – is a luxurious place to debunk after a big Christmas lunch. The rolling countryside of the nearby Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty offers a playground for outdoor pursuits, and is the ideal place for little’uns to try out the toys that Santa has brought them. Book now for Christmas, and you’ll receive over £100 off the weekly rental price.

Rent a self-catering holiday cottage for Christmas

If you’re convinced by a cottage break this Christmas, now’s the time to make a booking. Many of our Christmas holiday rentals also offer last minute discounts, which are now valid on breaks booked for the 22nd December, and will give you a great reduction on the weekly rental of your chosen cottage. To find out if a property accepts last minute breaks for Christmas, scroll to the bottom of the property page and look out for the Last Minute Break icon.

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Jonathan Tuplin

By Jonathan Tuplin

Jonathan is a lover of books, music and good food. Originally from Yorkshire, there's nothing he likes more than a cycle in the country. One of his favourite spots in the UK is Tenby, where he spent many a happy holiday as a child.

Festive Drinks to Enjoy this Christmas

Friday, December 12th, 2014
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Christmas: a time for giving, eating and of course, drinking. Whether nestled by the fire with a steaming mug of something delicious or sipping on a yuletide cocktail, festive beverages make Christmas. Here’s a few you can – nay, must – try this festive season.

Alcoholic Festive Drinks

Christmas Snowball

Festive Drinks – Snowball

Via Flickr

Be the bell of the festive ball with this classic Christmas cocktail. The Christmas Snowball has been a firm favourite among yuletide revellers for years, and is wonderfully simple to make, with just a handful of ingredients. Here’s how it’s done.

You will need

25ml golden caster sugar

A handful of sliced ginger

25ml advocaat

25ml ginger syrup

Babycham – to taste

How to

  1. To make ginger syrup; combine 25ml of water with the golden sugar in a pan, add the sliced ginger and bring to the boil. Strain the mixture through a sieve and set aside to cool.
  2. Fill your favourite glass with ice and, using a cocktail shaker, blend the Advocaat with the ginger syrup. Pour into the glass before topping with Babysham – enjoy!

Mulled Wine Cocktail

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Many of us will enjoy a mulled wine or three this Christmas, but only a few will sample the delights of a mulled wine cocktail. This take on the traditional festive tipple is served chilled, and features the same spices you’d find in your run-of-the-mill mulled vino. Perfect for parties!

You will need

100g of muscovado sugar

1 star anise

1 cinnamon stick

4 cloves

150ml water

1 lemon

2 clementines

150ml Cointreau

750ml light red wine

How to

  1. Add the muscovado sugar, star anise, cinnamon stick, cloves and water to a pan and bring to the boil. Stir well until all the sugar has dissolved.
  2. Simmer for 2 minutes, then decant into a jug and set aside to cool. Finely slice the lemon and clementines and add to the jug, along with the Cointreau and red wine.
  3. Chill for two or more hours and serve with a twist of orange zest. For a warm mulled cider, skip the chill and heat the mix gently, without bringing to the boil.

Mince Pie Martini

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Sound delicious? We think so too. That’s right, everyone’s favourite festive pastry can now be enjoyed as a boozy cocktail. Your guests will be delighted by this cheeky cocktail, which contains all the classic, spicy flavours you’d expect from the humble mince pie.

You will need

100g golden caster sugar

50g mincemeat

4 tbsp caster sugar

4 tsp mixed spice

4 tsp mincemeat

100ml gin

100ml sweet red vermouth

20ml dark rum

How to

  1. First, make the mincemeat syrup. Add the mincemeat and sugar to a pan and pour over 100ml water. Bring to the boil. Strain through muslin and a sieve to remove any lumps.
  2. Muddle the mixture in a cocktail shaker. Add the ginger, vermouth, syrup and ice. Shake well and strain into four martini glasses – enjoy!

 

Non-alcoholic Christmas beverages

Cranberry Sparkler

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

For a classy alternative to a coke on the rocks, opt for the Cranberry Sparkler. Designated drivers will love this holiday thirst-quencher, which combines cranberry, blackberry, mint and sparkling water. A great NYE tipple.

You will need

45ml of blackberry puree

60ml of white cranberry juice

75ml of sparkling water

A sprig of mint

How to

  1. Add blackberry puree and cranberry juice to a champagne flute. Top with sparkling water and garnish with mint.

Candy Cane Hot Chocolate

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

On a nippy December eve, reach for the cocoa and make yourself a delicious peppermint hot chocolate. This warming recipe, which infuses indulgent hot choc with the sweet, zing of a peppermint candy cane, is sure to warm your cockles on even the blusteriest night.

You will need

1/3 cup of cocoa

1 cup of milk

A few chocolate chips

3 peppermint candy canes; 2 crushed, 1 whole

Pinch of salt

How to

  1. Add the cocoa to a pan and gradually whisk in the milk. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and crushed candy cane and stir. Simmer for 8 to 10 minutes or until the chocolate and peppermint has dissolved.
  2. Add salt, bring to the boil and remove from the heat. Serve in your favourite mug, and garnish with a full festive candy cane.

Apple-Pie Cider

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

With all the flavours of a spiced apple pie – cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg – and the wintry comfort of a hot mulled wine, this delicious apple-pie cider is sure to put a smile on your face come Christmas. Serve with scrumptious gingerbread for the ultimate festive combination.

You will need

200ml non-alcoholic apple cider

½ tablespoon light-brown sugar

2 whole cinnamon sticks, 1 for garnish 1 for taste

½ teaspoon allspice

A pinch of ground cloves

Grated nutmeg

A pinch of salt

How to

  1. Add the cider, sugar and spices to a saucepan and whisk together. Simmer over a medium heat, stirring continuously. Remove from heat and strain solids. Serve in a mug and garnish with the remaining cinnamon stick.
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Jonathan Tuplin

By Jonathan Tuplin

Jonathan is a lover of books, music and good food. Originally from Yorkshire, there's nothing he likes more than a cycle in the country. One of his favourite spots in the UK is Tenby, where he spent many a happy holiday as a child.

5 of the UK’s most festive destinations

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014
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Some Christmas cards make me jealous. You know the ones: blanket of snow, cosier-than-cosy cottage, bulb-lit Christmas tree and flawless snowman – I always want to dive right in. The same goes for some of the UK’s towns and villages. Take a daytrip to the countryside and you’ll probably come across one; row-upon-row of quaint cottages, their windows lit with fairy lights and smoke curling from their stone chimneys – they’re quite magical, and ever-so Christmassy. But where might you find one of these festive settlements? Let’s take a look.

Broadway, Gloucestershire

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Visit the village of Broadway in the summertime and chances are you’ll still feel festive. This exquisite Gloucestershire village, once voted the prettiest in Blighty, is renowned for its no-nonsense approach to all things Christmas, with an annual Christmas tree festival, village green ice-skating, horse and carriage rides and enchanting display of decorations. Visit and be merry before the 25th!

Lincoln, Lincolnshire

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Right, not a village; but for a city, Lincoln is about as close to village-like as you’ll get. From its towering, world-renowned cathedral to its 13th century alleyways, candlelit pubs and timber-framed shops, Lincoln has a Dickensian finesse that makes it worthy of any Christmas card. The Cathedral Quarter is the city’s most Christmassy district, with traditional whitewashed pubs and Edwardian shops standing side-by-side in the shadow of the cathedral. A warren of cobbled streets lead to an assortment of independent shops, where you’ll find all manner of festive trinkets.

Carhampton, Somerset

Festive Towns - Carhampton

Via Flickr

Stop by the village of Carhampton on the twelfth night and you’ll likely witness an unusual spectacle. Since the 1930’s, residents have partaken in the quirky celebration of wassailing, whereby they form a ring around a large apple tree, hang toast from its branches, and proceed to fire a shotgun into the air to ward off evil spirits. The event has become very popular, with people coming from across Somerset to witness it. Should you not be in the village on the evening in question, Carhampton’s pubs offer a great place to relax and get out of the cold.

Helmsley, North Yorkshire

Via Flickr

Image via Google Images – Labelled for reuse

Yorkshire is chock-a-block with charming towns and villages, many of which would be the ideal base for festive celebrations. For die-hard Christmas fans however, the market town of Helmsley is the place to be. Each year on the 19th December, the town hosts a Christmas tree festival, which sees revellers following a trail of trees through the town. There are usually around 30 trees in total, and for those who embark on the trail, it’s a great way to see the sights of the town.

Falmouth, Cornwall

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

The coast may not be your first port of call for Christmas festivities, but visit the Cornish town of Falmouth before the 25th and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the festiveness of the place. Each year, a live nativity is played out through the streets, with everything from the three kings to real donkeys in attendance. Locals get into the swing of things too, with many dressing in nativity wear for the occasion.

Rent a cottage in the UK over Christmas

If you don’t feel like staying home this Christmas, it isn’t too late. We’ve still got lots of cottages that are available to rent over Christmas, in a number of destinations throughout the UK and Ireland. Click the link to find yours today, and make this Christmas one to remember.

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Jonathan Tuplin

By Jonathan Tuplin

Jonathan is a lover of books, music and good food. Originally from Yorkshire, there's nothing he likes more than a cycle in the country. One of his favourite spots in the UK is Tenby, where he spent many a happy holiday as a child.

Britain’s Top 10 Christmas Markets

Monday, December 8th, 2014
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Aside from St Nick’s workshop, there’s nothing more magical than a Christmas market. These festive fairs originated in Germany in the Late Middle Ages, and were adopted by neighbouring countries before spreading across the world. The UK hosts over 150 Christmas markets each year, but which are its best? Let’s find out.

Manchester Christmas Markets

Manchester Christmas Markets – Via Flickr

Via Flickr

The Manchester Christmas Markets is one of the largest in the UK, and there are several to explore throughout the city. The main, German-style market takes place at Albert Square, whilst smaller offshoots of this are found in St Ann’s Square. You’ll also find French-themed sellers on King Street, as well as a selection of stalls on the city’s busy Market and Exchange streets.

Cirencester Christmas Market

Via Google Images – Labelled for reuse

Via Google Images – Labelled for reuse

The Cotswolds is Christmassy at the best of times, but visit the Cirencester Christmas Market, and the festivities hit fever pitch. This quaint town hosts a number of craft, antique and clothes markets, as well as other festive events including ice skating in the grounds of Cirencester Abbey and an enchanting lantern parade.

 St Nicholas Fair, York

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Reminiscent of ‘A Christmas Carol’, the St Nicholas Fair in York City Centre is a wonderful place to grab a unique Christmas gift. Housed in a hodgepodge of toasty wooden huts, traders flog all manner of festive wares, including speciality food, Christmas decorations and handcrafted toys. There’s plenty of tasty, hot grub too, as well as a selection of warming festive tipples.

Edinburgh Christmas Markets

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Visit Edinburgh this Christmas and you’ll find three distinct festive markets: the Children’s Market, the European Christmas Market, and the Scottish Market. Dotted across the Scotch capital, these unique fairs offer something for the whole family this Christmas; from food and drink, to craft, face painting and a chance to meet Santa!

Christkindelmarkt, Leeds

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Leeds plays host to the UK’s most authentic German Christmas market; the Christkindelmarket. Taking place in Millienium Square, this true-to-life German fair has everything you’d expect from a continental market: Bratwurst, goulash and schnitzels are firm favourites among punters, whilst traditional Bavarian music brings the festive feel.

Dickensian Festival, Grassington

Courtesy of Grassington UK

Courtesy of Grassington UK

For three Saturdays in the run up to Christmas, the charming village of Grassington in the Yorkshire Dales is plunged into the pages of a Dickens’ novel as it hosts its annual Dickensian Festival. Think festive lights and lanterns; traditional stalls selling a variety of unique wares; sights and sounds from a bygone era; and both villagers and entertainers dressed in Victorian costume.

Canterbury Christmas Market

Image via Google Images – Labelled for reuse

Image via Google Images – Labelled for reuse

With over thirty-five stalls and a wonderfully decked-out grotto, the Canterbury Christmas Market is a magical event for all the family. The olde-worlde feel of the town itself only adds to the enchantment of the market, which runs until 28th December – much later than most Christmas events. If you’re in the South East in the run up to Christmas, be sure to pay this wonderful market a visit.

Christmas Gift Fair in Leeds Castle, Kent

Image via Google Images – Labelled for reuse

Image via Google Images – Labelled for reuse

Ever wanted to do your Christmas shopping in a 12th century castle? Now you can, at the breath-taking Leeds Castle in Kent. Take a daytrip to this enchanting castle – once home to Henry VIII’s wife, Catherine of Aragon – between now and Christmas, and the admission fee includes entrance to a large Christmas market, where you can pick up all manner of special gifts.

Waterford Winterval Christmas Market

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

The Irish take Christmas seriously. If you do too, pay a visit to the Waterford Winterval Christmas Market, which runs until 23rd December. The streets of Waterford are transformed into a spectacular Christmas marketplace, with dozens of stalls selling a variety of goods. There’s other festive events taking place around the city too, including the Winterval Illuminates Lightshow, an Elves Workshop and Horse Drawn Sleigh Rides.

Bath Christmas Market

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Visit the extraordinary Roman city of Bath between now and the 25th and feast your eyes on a wonderful market that’s sure to impress with its diverse range of stalls. Over 170 wooden chalets are erected between Bath Abbey and the Roman Baths, with a selection of handmade crafts, goods and food and drink available.

Visit a Christmas Market on a weekend cottage break

December is the perfect time to take advantage of our wonderful winter short breaks, which offer great discounts on selected cottages when booked for a short weekend break. We’ve got lots of cottages with availability during the Christmas countdown, so why not browse our range today?

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Jonathan Tuplin

By Jonathan Tuplin

Jonathan is a lover of books, music and good food. Originally from Yorkshire, there's nothing he likes more than a cycle in the country. One of his favourite spots in the UK is Tenby, where he spent many a happy holiday as a child.

National Tree Week: Scotland’s Bonniest Woodlands

Friday, December 5th, 2014
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It’s National Tree Week, and what better way to celebrate our nation’s trees than with a trip north of the border. Scotland is home to some truly stunning forests and woodlands, many of which have been around for centuries – here’s a look at some of Scotland’s bonniest forests and where you can find them.

Taynish National Nature Reserve, Argyll

Taynish National Nature Reserve – Via Flickr

Taynish National Nature Reserve – Via Flickr

The oak woodlands of Taynish National Nature Reserve have occupied the same spot on the west coast of Scotland for over 6,000 years – extraordinary, right? The woodlands survival is down to the region’s moist, clean air, as well as its mix of heath, grasslands and saltmarsh, which provides the perfect environment for an array of wildlife. You’ll find Taynish on the west coast of Argyll, and there are a number of different trails and nature walks to be enjoyed within the woodland.

Birnam Wood & ‘Big Tree Country’, Perthshire

'Big Tree Country' – Via Flickr

‘Big Tree Country’ – Via Flickr

Perthshire, aka ‘Big Tree Country’, is home to a splendid array of ancient, towering trees. The region lays claim to Europe’s oldest tree: the Fortingall Yew, found in the churchyard of Fortingall and thought to be around 3,000 years old. Perthshire is also home to The Birnam Oak, an iconic tree which features in Shakespeare’s Macbeth – nearly 1,000 years old itself. Visitors to Perthshire will soon understand the origin of the term ‘Big Tree County’, particularly if they take a walk along the trails of Killiekrankie and Dunkeld.

The Caledonian Forest, Scottish Highlands

Caledonian Forest – Via Flickr

Caledonian Forest – Via Flickr

For thousands of years, huge pockets of pinewood covered the Scottish Highlands; this was called the Caledonian Forest. Sadly, only a small percent of this once mighty woodland remains today. Travel to the Mar Lodge Estate in the Cairngorms National Park, and experience the Highlands as they looked thousands of years ago. Mar Lodge is home to a large swathe of Caledonian woodland, with a range of ancient trees including Scots pine, aspen, birch, juniper and oak. Keep your eye out for rare Scottish wildlife too, including the red deer and golden eagle.

Yair Forest, Scottish Borders

Yair Forest – Via Flickr

Yair Forest – Via Flickr

The upmost peace and quiet awaits at Yair, a mature woodland in the picturesque Tweed Valley. Although popular with walkers, Yair remains relatively undiscovered, yet offers serene vistas and the perfect starting point for a hike up Three Bretheren, a scenic hilltop. Walking routes traverse much of this ancient forest, but one to look out for is the Raeless Trail, whose 1.1 mile route is accessible for everyone and offers magical views of the River Tweed.

Galloway Forest Park, Dumfries & Galloway

Galloway Forest Park – Via Flickr

Galloway Forest Park – Via Flickr

Those with a penchant for the great outdoors will be at home in Galloway Forest Park. Walking, cycling, kayaking, fishing – all take place beneath the canopy of trees. The forest’s rolling hills, coupled with its well-structured trails, make it a utopia for walkers and cyclists alike, and there are several ‘downhill’ routes for mountain bikers. No visit to Galloway Forest Park would be complete without a peaceful picnic on the banks of Loch Dee, and if you’re in no rush, stick around ‘til dusk – the starry night sky here is nothing short of epic.

Rent a country cottage in Scotland

Love the great outdoors? Then you’ll love our country cottage rentals in Scotland. There’s really no better place than bonnie Scotland for a secluded country escape, so choose your favourite from our collection today.

Celebrating National Tree Week? Let us know your favourite tree, woodland or forest on Facebook and Twitter.

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Jonathan Tuplin

By Jonathan Tuplin

Jonathan is a lover of books, music and good food. Originally from Yorkshire, there's nothing he likes more than a cycle in the country. One of his favourite spots in the UK is Tenby, where he spent many a happy holiday as a child.