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5 Reasons to Book a Break in York this December

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014
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With its ‘A Christmas Carol’ looks and array of independent shops, York may well be the best place in the UK for a pre-Christmas break. Come the festive period, this ceaselessly-charming city takes Christmas to a whole other level; think spruces suspended above shop fronts; whole streets hung with lanterns aglow; carols soaring from the historic Minster; and the scent of cinnamon, mulled wine and roasted chestnuts drifting from the Shambles to Clifford’s Tower.

If that isn’t reason enough to book a short break in York this Christmas, read on for further inspiration.

Festive fun around every cobbled corner

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Via Flickr

Feeling festive or notably ‘humbug’? No matter, a trip to York will raise your spirits. At Christmastime, York is transformed into a veritable grotto; an enchanting place for both children and adults alike. From the 28th November, Christmas markets line the streets, carol concerts raise the rafters, and Father Christmas is on hand to grant little’uns their Christmas wish. For an unforgettable festive treat, head to Fairfax House, where you can experience Christmas from days gone-by.

Christmas shopping in one place

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Via Flickr

Want to get the shopping done in one fell swoop? There’s nowhere better than York. The city is home to a mix of both designer and high streets stores, as well as a multitude of independent gift stores. There are markets aplenty too, including St Nicholas Fair – famed for its speciality foods and craft. If you can’t find what you’re looking for in town, try one of the city’s retail parks; the McArthur Glen design outlet is crammed with lovely – albeit, pricey – gifts, or if you’re on budget, Monks Cross may have what you’re looking for.

Cosy pubs and restaurants

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Via Flickr

If shopping is the last thing on your mind, York boasts a fabulous array of restaurants, cafes and pubs where you can relax and indulge on a chilly winter’s day. From the roaring fires and oak-beams of its 15th century pubs, to its contemporary riverside café bars, York is the perfect place for a romantic evening or festive shindig. If it’s eating you’re interested in, you’ll find all manner of cuisine across the city, from Thai, Japanese and Spanish to Indian, Italian and English – take your pick.

Fascinating Attractions

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Via Flickr

No trip to York would be complete without finding out about the city’s eminent past. Whatever time of year, the history of this unique city always comes to the fore. From the moment you enter the imposing city walls, pass Clifford’s Tower and take a stroll down the Shambles, York’s legendary history is evident. A trip to the York Castle Museum is a must for anyone interested in the city’s history, whilst those with a penchant for the macabre will love the grisly York Dungeons.

Beyond the city walls

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Via Flickr

Grow tired of the crowds and it’s well worth going beyond York’s limits to explore North Yorkshire. You don’t need to travel far to encounter some wonderfully peaceful pockets of countryside; the Ryedale Valley, Vale of Pickering and Howardian Hills are miles from the city, and offer spectacular opportunities for walking. There are lots of charming towns and villages around York too where you can enjoy a country pub lunch, including Stamford Bridge, Helston, Malton and Ampleforth.

Book a winter short break in York

Convinced by a pre-Christmas break? Check out our holiday accommodation in York that’s available for short breaks. There are some real bargains to be had in the run up to Christmas, so browse our collection of winter short break holiday homes today.

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.

Christmas Gift Ideas for Travellers

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014
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Like it or not, Christmas is coming. Across the world, people have begun their Christmas shopping. It’s happening people. The goose is officially getting fat.

As of today, it’s 37 days ‘til Christmas. In countdown terms, that isn’t very long. But don’t panic, because, once more, the festive folk at Sykes HQ are here to help you pick the perfect Christmas pressie.

Stocking fillers for travel-lovers

Portable Smartphone Charger

Via Google Images – Labelled for reuse

Via Google Images – Labelled for reuse

Lost in the Lakes with a flat mobile? Reach for your portable smartphone charger. These dinky gizmos pack a punch, providing 250 hours of extra standby time, 5 hours of talk time and 20 hours of music playback. Just don’t forget to charge it, else you will be up a creek without a paddle.

Recommended: iPower Station for iPod and iPhone, IWOOT, £11.99

Travel Journal

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Via Flickr

Like wanderers of old, you too can keep a log of your travels with a lovely travel journal. There are lots of journals – or notebooks – around that are intended for travel use; some are waterproof, others feature maps, whilst others have pockets for your bits and bobs. However you use it, a journal is a great thing to carry on your hols.

Recommended: Travel Journal, Moleskine, £17.99

Purifying Water Bottle

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Via Flickr

Take clean, fresh water wherever you tread with a purifying water bottle. These clever vessels purify regular tap water as you drink, removing contaminants like Chlorine to make your H2O taste better and do better. There’s a range of water purification bottles available, but we like the affordability and simplicity of the Bobble.

Recommended: Bobble, WaterBobble, £6.99

Tablet Case

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Via Flickr

If you’re uncomfortable with your pricey new tablet bouncing around in the boot, a case makes a great gift. There are thousands of cases available for a range of devices, and some are ideal for travel. Take the Belkin Tab 3; this rustic case cocoons your tab in tough, full-grain leather, so you can force it into a rucksack without fear of damage.

Recommended: Belkin Tab 3, Argos, £31.99

Big gifts for globetrotters

Luxury Picnic Set

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Via Flickr

If, like me, you take picnics seriously, consider buying your loved one a luxury picnic set this Christmas. My girlfriend received a picnic set for her birthday and I have to say, it’s transformed our alfresco luncheons. No longer do we need to prep for hours before setting off, and the horror of forgetting the corkscrew is a thing of the past.

Recommended: Piccadilly Picnic Backpack, Fortnum & Mason, £100.00

Binoculars

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Via Flickr

Binoculars may not be at the top of their wishlist, but a pair of these timeless optics will be a pleasant surprise come Christmas day. In the past, binoculars were cumbersome, used by twitchers to watch birds in flight; modern versions however are light, strong and perfect for taking in the view whilst travelling.

Recommended: Nikon Sportstar EX Binoculars, Jessops, £99.00

Portable Speakers

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Via Flickr

Nowadays, there’s no excuse to go without tunes on your holiday. With the introduction of portable docking stations and speakers, you really can take music anywhere – including the beach. Despite getting smaller, speakers and docks have got more sophisticated, delivering better sound and a longer battery life. One for the teenager in your life.

Recommended: Bose SoundLink Mini Portable Wireless Speaker, Currys, £159.95

Cameras

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Via Flickr

Ah the camera, darling of tourists everywhere. From affordable compacts to high-spec SLRs, cameras are a must-pack item for the majority of holidaymakers. In recent times, the camera has been overshadowed by the smartphone, but we think there’s nothing better than grasping a proper camera in your hands. If you need some tips on how to master your new gadget, have a look at our tips for taking better holiday photographs.

Recommended: Samsung Galaxy NX3000 Compact System Camera, John Lewis, £249.95

Give the gift of a holiday

Or perhaps you’ve got bigger plans for Christmas 2014? A holiday perhaps? If so, why not book a break with Sykes Cottages? Whether you’re planning a romantic trip or a family getaway, a self-catering UK holiday makes the perfect gift, and will keep your loved ones smiling long into the New Year.

Whatever you’ve got up your sleeve this Christmas, remember: the big day is just thirty-seven sleeps away!

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.

Discover Cornwall with Sykes Cottages

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014
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As one of the UK’s most popular holiday destinations, Cornwall has a lot to offer visitors. From its beautiful beaches and rugged moorlands to its unique towns, villages, pubs and eateries, those visiting the county will certainly have a packed itinerary.

Discover Cornwall

To make it easier for holidaymakers to decide what to get up to during their self-catering break in Cornwall, we’ve created an in-depth visitors guide to the region. Aptly named Discover Cornwall, the guide covers all of the county’s main areas – North Cornwall, South Cornwall, West Cornwall and Bodmin Moor & Tamar Valley – detailing what each of these regions has to offer.

You’ll find lots of great advice in the guide, from information about Cornwall’s flourishing wine trade to a list of the county’s curious, little-known cafés. There’s some fantastic video guides too, revealing the beauty of Cornwall in all its glory.

Whether you’ve booked a holiday in Cornwall or want to find out more about what the county has to offer, visit Discover Cornwall today, or read on for a sneak peek!

Cornish Food

The Lost and Found Café

Wherever you choose to stay in Cornwall, rest-assured the local cuisine will be top-notch. The county prides itself on its distinct, independent eateries and cafés, with hundreds to choose from across the region, including affordable roadside diners and Michelin-star restaurants. Discover Cornwall highlights the county’s most popular and lesser known eateries, so whatever your taste, you’re sure to find a Cornish café, bistro or restaurant that’s right for you.

Cornish Drink

Kynance Cafe

For some, knowing where to enjoy a drink on your holiday is important. Lucky for you, we’ve done all the legwork, listing many of Cornwall’s best pubs, breweries and vineyards in our visitor guide. Whether you’d like to sink a pint in a traditional Cornish tavern, sip Prosecco in a contemporary, coastal café bar or sample Cornish ale in one of the county’s independent breweries, you’ll find lots of great places to drink in Cornwall.

Activities

Discover Cornwall 3

Whether you’re planning an active, all-adult getaway or a sunny summer holiday with your kids, Cornwall offers an abundance of activities to enjoy. Thanks to its sprawling coastline and array of world-class beaches, the county is a mecca for surfing, so if you like to ‘hang-ten’ there’s no better place. The same can be said for walkers; Cornwall’s varied landscapes provide a natural playground for those spending their break in the walking boots, and features a number of picturesque way marked trails.

Discover Cornwall today

Discover Cornwall 4

Discover Cornwall allows you to plan your trip to Cornwall before you arrive, ensuring you make the most of time spent in this unique and charming English county. Whether you’re searching for places to eat and drink or filling your itinerary with day-out ideas, Discover Cornwall is there to help you get the most from your cottage holiday in Cornwall.

For more inspiration, check out #discovercornwall on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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.

Geocaching Guide: Hunt for Treasure in the British Countryside

Monday, November 10th, 2014
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Geocaching involves searching for “caches” in the great outdoors using GPS. The activity is similar to the historic pastime of ‘letterboxing’ in the way participants must find hidden trinkets in the wilderness, however, geocachers must use a GPS receiver to help track down these items. It’s thought there are over two-million caches worldwide, with around eighty-thousand of those found in the UK.

Why not give geocaching a try yourself? It’s a great hobby that combines invigorating walks or cycle rides with the nostalgia and excitement of a treasure hunt; plus it’s a great activity to get the kids interested in the great outdoors. If you need more convincing, check out our guide to the best places to go geocaching in the UK below.

Dunwich Forest, Suffolk

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

It’s thought there are ten active geocaches hidden among the pine trees of Dunwich Forest, and though not difficult to find, the beauty of the woodland makes this a great place for beginners to track down a cache or two. On a bright day, the diffusion of sunlight through the trees is stunning, so be sure to take the camera.

Margam Country Park, South Wales

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Via Flickr

There are a small-offering of geocaches in Margam Country Park, and to find them all, you’ll need your walking boots! The caches are well spaced out, but if you’ve had a good breakfast and are feeling fit, it’s well worth spending the day tracking each of them down. Margam is a wonderful place to explore, with deer and other wildlife among the things you should keep an eye out for.

The Peak District, Derbyshire

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Via Flickr

The Peak District has proved it’s the number one spot for a wealth of outdoor pursuits, and it seems the national park can add geocaching to that list too. There are hundreds of caches here, and the rugged terrain poses a challenge for those trying to track them down. Whether atop lofty peaks or hidden in heathland, the cache quality here is excellent, with lots of genuine treasures to be found.

The Pennine Way Geocache Trail, Yorkshire Dales

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Whether a keen novice or a seasoned pro, the Pennine Way Geocache Trail offers a challenge for any budding treasure-hunter. The trail features ten caches, placed at different points along the path, and cachers must find them in order to progress to the next. Due to its length, the trail will take two days to complete, though those up for a serious challenge could do it in a day.

Devon, South West

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Via Flickr

Thanks to its abundance of way-marked trails, bridle paths and cycle routes, Devon is a great place to switch on the GPS and go hunting. It’s thought there are over 25,000 geocaches in the county, many of which are hidden in the region’s prettiest pockets of countryside, including Dartmoor and the South West Coast Path. Wherever you choose to stay in the county, there’s bound to be some treasure nearby waiting to be uncovered!

Rent accommodation for a geocaching break with Sykes Cottages

Fancy yourself as a regular Indiana Jones or just want to get the little’uns out the house? Or, perhaps you need a good excuse to go for a walk? Then rent a cottage in the UK for a geocaching break. Many of our country cottages are available to rent in the UK’s finest geocaching hotspots, so grab the GPS and find yours today!

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.

Remembrance Day 2014

Sunday, November 9th, 2014
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Today we remember those who gave their lives to protect the UK and its people, and those still affected by conflict. Take a moment to reflect on the brave servicemen and women who showed courage in the face of adversity to defend our beautiful country.

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Via Flickr

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.