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Celebrate Shakespeare’s 450th Birthday

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014
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‘Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears’; today marks a pretty special day in the literary calendar, for today is the 450th birthday of William Shakespeare, the greatest of all England’s dramatists and undisputed “Bard of Avon”. Since his death in 1616, Shakespeare has gone on to become the world’s greatest and most widely regarded writer, and his plays are not only performed more than any other playwright, but have also been translated into every major living language throughout the world- pretty impressive right?

In celebration of the Bard’s birthday, we wanted to do something a little different. So, we perused a selection of Shakespeare’s plays to find out where in the UK this witty wordsmith preferred to base his dramas. Like many writers of his generation, Shakespeare thrived on the romance of Italy, so plenty of his more popular plays are set there. There are however, a few places in the UK where Shakespeare chose to spin a yarn or two- take a look at these below, you might just learn something!

Macbeth, The Scottish Highlands

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Via Flickr

As Shakespeare’s darkest and most powerful tragedy, Macbeth required a brooding and ominous backdrop to help bring this tale of witchcraft and evil to life. Where better then than the Scottish Highlands, a place of thunderous skies, bleak heathlands and mysterious folklore. It’s thought that the actual setting of Macbeth’s Castle was Inverness, though many acts were played out in the surrounding Highlands, including the infamous scene in which Macbeth encounters the three witches. As the play is based on true events, literary fans will appreciate Inverness’ dramatic modern castle, built on the site of its 11th century counterpart which housed the real players of Shakespeare’s famous tragedy.

As You Like It, The Forest of Arden

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Via Flickr

Some might argue that Shakespeare’s As You Like It is based in Belgium’s Ardennes Forest, but we like to think it was set in the historical region of Arden, Warwickshire. The Forest of Arden is a historic region of England, stretching from the River Avon to the River Tame, and was once one of the most heavily forested regions of Britain. Now, few of Arden’s trees remain, yet the landscape still retains its pastoral appeal,

making it a popular destination for walking, cycling and golf. Plus, Arden is a stone’s throw from Stratford-Upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s birthplace, so it’s a must-see destination on any literary tour.

Henry VI, Kenilworth Castle

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Via Flickr

Kenilworth Castle, described by many as England’s ‘definitive castle’, is used on a number of different occasions in Shakespeare’s history plays, highlighting the castle’s popularity in Elizabethan England.  Kenilworth features in the second part of Shakespeare’s dramatic depiction of the life of Henry VI, and is thought to be the inspiration behind A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Visit the castle and you’ll soon see why Shakespeare- amongst other literary figures- was inspired by Kenilworth. With its imposing keep and monstrously dense walls, this is one mighty stronghold that would have had the enemy quaking in their chainmail.

Now that we’ve exhausted our knowledge of Shakespeare’s favourite UK settings, we’d love to hear which of the Bard’s thirty seven plays you prefer, so let us know on Facebook or Twitter. Or, for your chance to take part in the birthday festivities for yourself, head to Stratford-Upon-Avon, where a special two day event dedicated to the famous playwright is due to take place. You can find out more about what’s going on for the bard’s birthday by clicking here. Alternatively, visit our Stratford Upon Avon cottages page for our complete range of accommodation that’s

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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.

Alternate Sports To Start This Spring

Monday, April 21st, 2014
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With the bulbs budding and the bees buzzing, it seems spring has officially sprung on the shores of the UK. As temperatures climb to heady heights not seen since autumn shed its leaves at the close of 2013, now is the perfect time to shake off the winter cobwebs and venture out into spring to indulge in a spot of sport and recreation.

Here at Sykes, we’re revelling in the air of renewed optimism that spring always seems to bring; hence this blog, which will hopefully rouse our readership into a similar state of mind. From jogging around the local park to riding your bike to work, there’s a whole host of active things you can get up to now the temperatures are milder and the sun sticks around for a few hours longer. But if you’re tired of the same run-of-the-mill activities, take a look at our shortlist of some of the best alternative sports to try your hand at this spring.

Climb a tree or two…or three…

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Via Flickr

It seems us Brits are never content to stay on dry land; now, we’ve taken to the trees to get our cheap thrills and with adventure companies like Go Ape! offering the chance to scale tree-top obstacle courses, it’s easy to see why climbing trees has become so popular.  Sites like Go Ape! are available in wooded areas across the country, so if you want to make like a monkey on your next getaway, consider visiting your nearest forest adventure centre this spring- it’s good, clean fun for all the family!

Get muddy up a mountain!

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Via Flickr

During the winter months, ice winds and cloying mud usually confine mountain biking to true downhill diehards. Now that spring is here however, this exhilarating outdoor pursuit is much more amateur friendly. Mountain biking has been one of the UK’s favourite open-air activities for decades, and there are a huge variety of different forms of the sport to choose from. Plus, you won’t actually need a mountain to go mountain biking. The sport is accessible almost anywhere you can find a country trail, so grab your bike and get off the beaten track this spring.

Go coasteering at the coast

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Via Flickr

Coasteering: the new coastal craze that sees plucky adventurers swimming, climbing and diving their way along some of Britain’s most beautiful stretches of coastline. Not for the faint hearted, coasteering is a physically demanding sport (we use the term loosely) that is both exhilarating and rewarding for those brave enough to give it a try. Cornwall, Northumberland and the Scottish Coast are the current coasteering hot spots, though the sport looks set to spread to other regions soon- give it a go on your next getaway, we promise it’ll be a day out you’ll never forget!

Take part in the world’s biggest treasure hunt!

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Via Flickr

Spice up your springtime stroll with a spot of geocaching, the world’s biggest and best grown-up friendly treasure hunt. Introduced by the Americans in the early 2000’s, Geocaching is the 21st century’s answer to letterboxing; a 150-year-old game whereby clues and references to a particular spot were inserted into stories. The modern version relies on a GPS-enabled device to help pinpoint the position of a geocache- a container filled with trinkets or other personal effects- and it’s the job of the geocacher to locate these hidden gems in the landscape. Currently, there are over 2 million active geocaches waiting to be found across the globe, and many of them are hidden right here in the UK- cool eh?

So there you have it, our shortlist of the best alternative sports to try this spring. Found a specific set of trees you’d like to climb or a geocache you fancy having a pop at finding? Then rent a cottage this springtime with Sykes Cottages. There’s some great offers to be had this time of year thanks to our sensational spring sale, so put a spring in your step this season with a wonderful self-catering holiday from Sykes Cottages!

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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.

Le Tour de France- Coming to a country lane near you!

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014
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Two years has passed since the Olympic Games brought passion and excitement to our shores and now the UK is set for yet another sizzling summer of sport. From the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow to the ever-popular Wimbledon Championships, 2014 is chock-a-block with thrilling sporting events. Yet none are causing quite as much fuss as a certain cycle race, which will be coming to the UK this July.

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Via Flickr

You guessed it; we’re talking the Tour De France, the world’s biggest and best cycle race. Since 1903, this multi-stage contest has seen riders from all corners of the world compete for the coveted yellow jersey and a place on the podium at the finish line in Paris.

In recent years, us Brits have become increasingly fond of the Tour De France, due in part to the popularity of British riders like Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome and Mark Cavendish. But this year’s Tour looks set to take the UK by storm, as the contest’s Grand Départ will begin in Yorkshire.

Setting out from the city of Leeds on 5th July, the Tour takes the scenic route through the Yorkshire Dales, skirting Skipton, Grassington and Ripon before entering the spa town of Harrogate- and that’s just the first stage! Stage Two sees the peloton (posh name for a pack of cyclists) pass through parts of the Peak District National Park before landing in Sheffield; then it’s onward from Cambridge, through the pastoral Essex countryside before the Tour comes to the end of its UK leg in the capital.

For your chance to get up close and personal to the peloton, take a look at our guide to the best places to see the Tour De France below.

Buttertubs Pass

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Via Flickr

A spectacular panorama and a leg-torturing ascent make Buttertubs pass one of the most rewarding and challenging sections of the Grand Départ.  Named after a series of potholes which farmers used to cool their pails of butter, Buttertubs offers spectator and rider exquisite views across the Dales- decamp here with a picnic to watch the peloton pass amid wonderful surroundings.

Harrogate

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Via Flickr

If you’re holidaying in Harrogate during the Grand Départ, lucky you! The Tour will be tearing through this pretty spa town twice during its stint in God’s Own County, so you’re twice as likely to catch a glimpse of the riders as they blast on by. For information on when and where to see the cyclists as they hasten through Harrogate, visit the Grand Départ website.

Cragg Vale

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Via Flickr

Traditional terraces make way for austere heathlands above the village of Cragg Vale in the uplands of Calderdale. Here, the peloton will face the longest continuous uphill gradient in England, which rises 970ft over a gruelling five and a half mile ascent. The moorland ascent poses a challenging hike for spectators too, so pack a lunch and lace up on the walking boots if you think Cragg Vale looks like the place to spectate.

Yorkshire Holiday Accommodation near the Tour De France route

Here at Sykes Cottages, we’re prolific cycling fans, and it seems our owners are too! During the Tour De France, a handful of our holiday cottages near the Tour De France route are offering great discounts on seven night stays, making a self-catering cottage an affordable option for a cycling holiday when the Tour comes to town. Here are three of our properties which are currently available to rent near the Tour De France route.

11 Hardy Grange, Grassington

A stone-built period cottage located close to the centre of Grassington. The peloton passes through this village on the first day of the Tour, making 11 Hardy Grange ideal for spectators. Plus, the owners are currently offering £1,000 off the property price for a 7 night break between 4th-11th July, so book soon to avoid disappointment!

Monkholme Cottage, Threshfield

Monkholme Cottage is a wonderfully romantic retreat in Threshfield near Grassington. This charming Yorkshire Dales holiday home offers spectacular views and is close to the pubs and shops of the village, making it a great place to await the arrival of the racers. You’ll receive a 35% discount on stays between 27th June to the 4th July, so book today to make the most of this great offer.

The Thyme House, Haworth

The Thyme House is a first-class luxury holiday home in Haworth, ideally located for watching the riders zip by en-route to Skipton. This palatial Yorkshire Dales holiday rental sleeps 10 people and comes fully-equipped with a wealth of great self-catering facilities, making it the perfect base for a Tour De France themed get together with family and friends.

So there you have it, our definitive guide to where to watch and where to stay during the Tour De France. For our complete range of self-catering accommodation near the Tour De France route, visit our Tour De France cottages page 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.

Celebrate the Commonwealth Games in Scotland

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014
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The end of the London 2012 Olympic Games left most people hankering for another sports competition of a similar scale and, in just a few months’ time, the wait will be over. Set to take Glasgow by storm this July, the Commonwealth Games promises to be a spectacular sporting show.

And we’re welcoming this news in more ways than one. Yes, we’re excited to see some world-class sport on UK soil, but we also think it represents a great opportunity for anyone planning on attending the Games to discover Scotland at the same time!

For an in depth look at the ins and outs of the Games, as well as information on what to see in Scotland during your visit, check out our useful guide to the Glasgow Commonwealth Games below.

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Scotland’s homegrown sports stars

Scotland is an amazing place for sport lovers thanks to its incredible sporting heritage. In fact, it’s home to some of the UK’s best-loved sports stars.

Celebrated for being one of the UK’s finest tennis players to emerge in recent decades, Andy Murray is a true sporting hero. The British number one snatched the Wimbledon men’s singles title in 2013 – a grand follow-up to nabbing Olympic gold in 2012.

Sir Chris Hoy also shone at London 2012. In terms of Olympic gold medals, he’s actually the most successful British Olympian of all time. His rounded off his career in real style at London 2012, taking home two gold medals before his retirement.

Bronze medallist at the recent Sochi Games, Eve Muirhead won the 2013 World Women’s Curling Championship, making her the youngest female ever to have done so – she was just 22 when she took the title.

Going to the Games? Discover Scotland too!

We think going to the Games presents the perfect opportunity to see more of Scotland – especially given the fact that there’s just so much to do and see!

More sports fixtures

Can’t get enough of sports? The Commonwealth Games isn’t the only major event hitting Scotland this summer. If you fancy seeing some quintessentially Scottish sports, get yourself to the Highland Games this June.

Held in Fife, this event features all kinds of unusual activities – including haggis throwing. Whoever hurls it furthest wins!

Meanwhile, later in the year the 2014 Ryder Cup will be hosted at Gleneagles in Perthshire – a must for golf lovers.

Other attractions

Scotland is home to a wide array of amazing attractions, so it’d be a real shame to make sport the only feature of your itinerary. For instance, why not take a trip to the lovely Loch Ness? This is the largest lake in Scotland by volume, and you might even catch a glimpse of the elusive Nessie…

Intrigued by tales of castles and adventure? Travel to Aberdeenshire and follow the fabulous Castle Trail, which will lead you to 17 of the area’s most atmospheric and impressive fortifications.

Prefer to get a more literal taste of the places you visit? Head to Edinburgh instead and discover one of the Scotland’s most famous products – whisky. The Scotch Whisky Experience will not only tell you all about the whisky-making process, but also give you a chance to taste some for yourself!

So what are you waiting for? Organise your trip to Scotland today.

Let the Games Begin

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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.

Getaway to North Yorkshire this Easter!

Monday, April 7th, 2014
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For many, the upcoming bank holiday means four precious days of freedom; so use it wisely by booking a last minute getaway for the Easter break. Plenty of our properties are still available for the Easter weekend, so choose your favourite and reserve it quick-sharp to avoid missing out!

Worried it’s just the dud-destinations where properties are still available? Worry not. From Cornwall to the Lake District, we’ve still got plenty of holiday rentals to choose from at fair and affordable prices. To see our full range of holiday lets that are still available for the Easter weekend, visit our Easter Cottages page.

Before you choose your favourite destination however, take a minute to read today’s blog, where we’ll be giving you a few reasons why we think North Yorkshire is the ideal destination for a long Easter weekend.

Reason 1: There’s lots to do outdoors

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Via Flickr

From mountain biking through the lush trees of Dalby Forest to wandering through the Shambles of York, North Yorkshire is a haven for those who like to spend their time in the open-air. With the weather outlook for the bank holiday too far ahead for an accurate prediction, we can’t promise you sunshine, but if you’re travelling to Yorkshire over Easter, make sure to pack a mac to make the most of the county’s outdoor activities and attractions!

Reason 2: There’s lots to do indoors, too

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Via Flickr

If the weather does look set to bring a halt to your outdoor pursuits, don’t fret as North Yorkshire offers plenty of things to see and do indoors too. Travelling with kids? Head to the National Railway Museum in York to learn the history of Britain’s railways. Or, experience the sights and sounds of World War Two with a visit to Eden Camp near Malton, a unique museum housed in an original WWII POW camp. Alternatively if you’re going it alone on a romantic break with your partner, discover one of North Yorkshire’s ancient castles- Hawes, Leyburn, Middleham and Reeth to name but a few.

Reason 3: Beaches, beaches, beaches

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Via Flickr

Whether we’re blessed with warm weather over the Easter weekend or not, the beach is still a firm favourite amongst holidaymakers. From sand castle building to blustery dog walks, the coast is somewhere to escape to for a truly invigorating getaway. The North Yorkshire coast happens to be one of the best in the UK, offering a wonderful blend of rugged sea cliffs, fascinating villages and some of the most coveted swathes of sand in England. Blue Flag beaches in North Yorkshire include Whitby’s West Cliff and North Bay in Scarborough, so if you’re travelling with children, be sure to pay at least one of these a visit.

Reason 4: North Yorkshire Cottages Galore!

With welcoming cottages scattered from coast to country across North Yorkshire, there’s nowhere better for a stimulating getaway this Easter. So what are you waiting for? Treat yourself and the kids to a fun-filled family holiday or use those precious days off to whisk the other half away on an impromptu short break. We’ve a handful of cottages that are still available to rent in North Yorkshire over the Easter weekend, so choose your favourite and reserve yours today by visiting our North Yorkshire cottages page.

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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.