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Big Gang? Book a Group of Holiday Cottages!

Saturday, October 25th, 2014
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Families feud. So do friends. That’s why a large cottage doesn’t always cut the mustard. Sometimes, you need space, freedom; a chance to cool-off and get out of one another’s hair.group

That’s where our ‘group’ properties come in. Unlike large holiday cottages where the party is stuck under the same roof, our group properties offer two or more cottages close to each other that can be booked simultaneously.

Not only is this great for those that don’t get on with their Great Aunt Muriel, group properties have lots of other advantages. First and foremost, you get more loos – music to the ears for some. Secondly, they offer flexible accommodation for up to eighty-two guests, so you can bring everyman and his dog. Speaking of pups, you can bring more of those too. Unlike a single cottage which accepts two to three dogs, with a group of properties, you’re free to bring as many pooches as each cottage permits – good eh?

With over 400 group properties across the UK and Ireland, we’re convinced whatever your party size, you’ll find a cluster of cottages to suit you. Here’s a pick of our most popular group properties from across the UK.

Dunvegan Castle Cottages, Isle of Skye, Scotland

Cross the Skye Bridge and encounter Scotland’s most dramatic scenery. The Isle of Skye is a mystical, affecting place, where mountains dominate the horizon. Now, thanks to our Dunvegan Castle cottages, you can share an invigorating cottage break on the Isle of Skye with your friends and family. Located in the grounds of the imposing Dunvegan Castle, Gardens Cottage and Rose Valley Cottage can accommodate up to ten guests when booked together. Each cottage features a range of self-catering amenities, and both are set within the picturesque grounds of the castle – the perfect place for an Isle of Skye cottage break.

Find out more about the Dunvegan Castle Cottages, here.

Iken Barns, Snape, Suffolk

Located in the depths of Suffolk’s Heritage Coast, Iken Barns are a series of eight barn conversions which, when booked together, can accommodate up to 32 guests, making them ideal for large families. Each barn has been sympathetically restored and decorated, with rustic furnishings blending with contemporary amenities to offer a timeless base for a Suffolk cottage break. All of the cottages are dog friendly and in total, sixteen dogs could be brought to Iken Barns should the party wish it. With lavish features such as underfloor heating and open fires, these Suffolk cottages offer a luxurious base for a family holiday.

Find out more about the Iken Barns, here.

Glan Morfa Lodges, Newborough, Wales

Nestled in the Welsh countryside near Newborough Forest, the Glan Morfa Lodges are a superb development of six holiday cottages that can accommodate up to 23 guests. Each cottage features a wealth of self-amenities, and there are also several communal areas including an indoor games room, library and shared laundry room. Each of the Glan Morfa cottages is partially eco-powered, and the owners, who are members of Green Tourism, are striving to obtain zero carbon emission status. The cottages benefit from direct access to two nature lakes, making them perfect for birdwatchers and those interested in spotting local wildlife.

Find out more about the Glan Morfa Lodges, here.

Graythwaite Estate, Hawkshead, The Lake District and Cumbria

The crème de la crème of group cottages can be found in the magnificent Graythwaite Estate, a 5,000 acre country estate on the banks of Windermere in the Lake District. Dotted throughout the site, all thirteen of our Graythwaite Estate cottages can be booked together to accommodate up to 82 guests in a range of luxury holiday homes. With picturesque surroundings and a communal swimming pool, fitness suite, table tennis room and children’s play area, you and your guests will feel right at home in the heart of this idyllic Cumbrian estate.

Find out more about the Graythwaite Estate cottages, here.

Book a holiday in one of our flexible group cottages today!

If you’re interested in renting our group cottages for a getaway with friends or family, please contact us via phone or e-mail to find out which group properties are available in the area of your choice. Currently, we don’t have a page on our website which displays group properties, but our helpful reservations team, who are on hand until 9.30pm daily, will be able to find the perfect group property for you and your party.

 

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.

Top 10 Taverns You Must Visit in Ireland

Thursday, October 16th, 2014
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The Irish like their drink. They wouldn’t contest this. Since humans could lift a glass and pour a pint, the Irish have done just that. And where do they do this drinking? Down the pub of course.

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Like the UK, Irish pubs are in peril. Over the past twenty-or-so years, 1,000s of boozers have closed their doors, lay slain by the cheap liquor on sale in offies and supermarkets across the Emerald Isle. To top it off – and contrary to belief – the beer served in Irish pubs is crap, steering many-a-thirsty Paddy into the alcohol aisle of the nearest convenience store.

Thanks to a surge in microbreweries supplying pubs with better beer, the future of Ireland’s taverns looks bright. But where should you go to sample the craic on a trip across the Irish Sea? Here’s a shortlist of taverns you should – nay, must – visit during your holiday in Ireland.

Matt Malloys, Westport, Co. Mayo

Matt Malloy's – Via Flickr

Matt Malloy’s – Via Flickr

Owned by Chieftain flutist Matt Malloy, this intimate Westport boozer hosts traditional live music seven nights a week. The ale poured in this Mayo inn are as authentic as the tunes, and the welcome as a warm as the punters squeezing in to listen to them. Visit as soon as possible.

O’Loclainn’s, Ballyvaughn, Co. Clare

Image courtesy of The Irish Whiskey Trail

Image courtesy of The Irish Whiskey Trail

Down an unassuming alley in Ballyvaughn is O’Loclainn’s, perhaps the best pub in Ireland. With the feel of someone’s stove-lit front room and an overwhelming whisky selection, this tavern will warm your cockles on a bracing winter’s night. Musicians often set up shop within, so it can be a pleasantly tight squeeze.

Geoff’s, Waterford, Co. Waterford

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Whoever Geoff is, he’s the proprietor of a bloomin’ good pub. Reading reviews of the place, you’d think it was a classy joint; all speak of the atmosphere, the delicious food, the tasty stout and the good-natured cliental, but in reality, Geoff’s is a down-to-earth pub that’s the perfect place to while away a Saturday afternoon.

Sin é, Cork City, Co. Cork

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Sin é, Irish for “That’s it”, refers to the funeral parlour next door. As macabre as this sounds, there’s nothing otherworldly about this Cork public house. Candlelit and convivial, Sin e’ is the home of traditional Irish music in Cork city, and has kept dry patrons in drink for over 50 years.

The Corner House, Ardara, Co. Donegal

Via Google Images – Labelled for reuse

Via Google Images – Labelled for reuse

There are several reasons you should endure the long drive to Co. Donegal, and The Corner House is one of them. Tiny, cosy, and family run, The Corner House features an open fire that’s stoked during the winter months. Plus there’s regular live music. See you there.

Hargadon Bros, Sligo, Co. Sligo

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Old pub, modern grub. That about sums up Hargadon Bros, a gem of a boozer in Sligo town. Did I mention their wine cellar, packed to the rafters with speciality vinos? Or their excellent range of local and international ales? Or their staff, who are described as “friendly” more times than I can count on Tripadvisor? No? Must have missed those bits.

The Dame Tavern, Dublin, Co. Dublin

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Fancy a sing-along in a proper pub with proper pints? Get yourself down to The Dame Tavern, a Dublin watering hole whose clientele are welcoming to tourists. Located on a historic byway where Google Street View couldn’t tread, you’ll feel at the heart of the Irish capital in this atmospheric wee pub.

Morrisey’s Pub, Abbeyleix, Co. Laois

Morrisey’s Pub is essentially a museum. From the ancient bric-a-brac to the aged clientele, you feel you owe an admission fee before entering the saloon. For the cost of a pint, you can sit and drink amid years of Irish heritage and tradition – what could be better than that?

The Crane Bar, Galway, Co. Galway

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

The Crane Bar: a foot-stomping, violin thrashing, joy of an establishment. From the moment you set foot in this rustic alehouse, you’re encouraged to join in the craic. With top beer, two floors and a good local to tourist ratio, it won’t take long to get in the swing of things.

The Mutton Lane Inn, Cork City, Co. Cork

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Sheep used to sleep in this pub. And, JFK and Johnny Cash drank here. Now that’s out of the way, let’s discuss this admired Cork public house. Candles stuffed in wine necks, torn upholstery, and dire loos add to the charm of this lovable dive. Ask for Sky Sports and you’ll likely find yourself on the pavement.

Has this list left you thirsty or muttering “you feckin’ idiots”? Which pubs would you choose? Let us know your favourite Irish boozer on Twitter or Facebook.

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.

Walk of the Month: Doonbeg Loop, Co. Clare

Monday, October 13th, 2014
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The village of Doonbeg in West County Clare lies on Ireland’s Atlantic Seaboard, just metres from the steely waters of the ocean. Dramatic though this sounds, the village is one of Ireland’s most peaceful spots, perfect for a romantic retreat or – as we’re about to demonstrate – an invigorating walking break.

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Beautiful bogs beckon on the Doonbeg Loop, an 8km circuit traversing the emerald wetlands that flank the village. The loop is a great way to get to grips with the local area, and showcases the village’s key landmarks including Doonbeg Bridge and Castle. You’ll need the route map on hand before starting the walk so you know where to begin, which you can download here.

The Walk

Though moderately long, this 8km walk features easy terrain with minimum ascents. Trekking shoes or hiking boots are advisable as bog roadways can be slippery. Raingear is also advised – after all, this is the Emerald Isle!

The Route

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Beginning at Doonbeg’s unusual church of ascension, walk west, passing the pastel coloured houses typical of West Ireland. On this street are two pubs; store these in your memory for liquid refreshment on your return to the village.

At the junction with a minor roadway, turn left. On the map, the way is highlighted by a green line, so pay close attention to this when approaching junctions to ensure you’re still on track. Follow this minor road for 1km until you’re deep in the emerald grasslands which envelop the village. Here you will come to a T-junction where you should turn left and then immediately right.

Follow the bog road for over 1km until you come to a sharp bend. After another three quarters of a kilometre, you’ll reach another T-junction, where you should turn left. Continue along this road, crossing Doonbeg River on your way back to the village.

Turn left into the village and continue on this street until you reach Doonbeg Bridge, a picturesque stone bridge at the mouth of Doonbeg Lough. From here, you can see Doonbeg Castle, a 16th century structure with a bloody history. The village is said to have ‘grown up’ around this imposing castle, though not much remains today. Continue on this street until you’re back at the church; oh and don’t forget those pubs, where a roaring fire and a pint of Irish stout are sure to warm your extremities.

Download the comprehensive map and route for this walk here.

Rent a cottage in Doonbeg for a walking holiday

If you’re interested in an Irish walking break, take a look at our self-catering cottages to rent in and around Doonbeg. This picturesque village on Ireland’s dramatic west coast offers the best of coast and country, so why not take a peek at our Doonbeg cottages 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.

Bake like Berry: Britain’s Best Regional Recipes

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014
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You need only glance at The Great British Bake Off hashtag to realise this humble baking competition – once the darling of BBC2’s off-peak schedule – has become a goliath of modern broadcasting. Though I wouldn’t normally spend my evenings watching Paul Hollywood and Mary B munch through soggy FANCY-00038335-001patisserie whilst monitoring #GBBO, both peer pressure and curiosity have led me to become a regular viewer of the show.

Upon reflection of GBBO’s meteoric rise to the top of TV rankings, I’ve come up with just one answer to its popularity: Brits love baking. Cakes, pretzels, rye bread, religieuse, povitica, fruity Swedish tea rings – we’ll bake the lot, and eat it too. With this in mind, we’ve come up with a list of regional bakes that will tantalise those tastebuds; just beware the soggy bottom, ensure your whites are perfectly stiff and remember, it’s all in the wrist action.

Yorkshire Parkin

With Bonfire night on the horizon, we think it’s time everyone baked up a batch of the classic Yorkshire pud, Parkin. Tradition tells that Parkin was eaten on Guy Fawke’s night, though we’re sure you won’t be hung, drawn and quartered for enjoying some at other times of year. Both spicy, moist and hearty, Parkin is the ultimate autumn comfort food. Here’s how it’s made.

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Ingredients

110g soft butter

110g soft dark brown sugar

55g black treacle

200g golden syrup

225g medium oatmeal

110g self-raising flour

2 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground mixed spice

2 medium eggs, beaten

1 tbsp milk

Pinch of salt

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 140C/120C fan/ Gas Mark 1. Grease and line a square cake tin.
  2. Melt the butter, sugar, treacle and golden syrup over a gentle heat, ensuring the mixture doesn’t bubble. Once melted together, remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
  3. Sift the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl and make a well in the centre. Add the melted butter mixture and fold. Pour in the beaten eggs, milk and combine.
  4. Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for 1 ½ hours, checking it regularly to ensure it isn’t over baked.
  5. Leave the parkin in the tin to cool for around twenty minutes, before transferring to a cake rack to cool completely.
  6. Wrap the parkin in greaseproof paper and wait a minimum of 1 week before consuming. This will help develop the sticky texture and give it an intense, rich flavour.

Welsh Cakes

Or pice ear y maen, are a timeless teatime treat whose recipe has spanned generations. Simple to make yet delicious to eat, Welsh cakes are the perfect pudding to make with your little bakers. These rounds of delight should take under twenty minutes to make, so they’re great for those who want to get their bake on without clearing their schedule.

Ingredients

225g plain flour

85g caster sugar

½ tsp mixed spice

½ tsp baking powder

50g butter, chopped into pieces

50g lard, chopped into small pieces

50g currants

1 egg, beaten

Splash of milk

Pinch of salt

Method

  1. Put the flour, mixed spice, sugar and salt into a bowl. With your fingers, rub in the butter and lard until crumbly. Add the currants before working the egg into the mixture to form a soft dough. If the mixture feels too dry, add a splash of milk.
  2. Roll the dough on a floured surface to the thickness of your finger and cut rounds using a 6cm cutter. Add a small amount of lard to a heavy frying or griddle pan and cook batches of the cakes over a medium heat for 3 minutes on each side.
  3. Serve warm with butter and jam, or sprinkle with caster sugar for a sweet treat.

Cornish Pasty

How many Cornish pasties have you eaten in your lifetime? If the answer’s none, shame on you. Personally, I can’t get enough of these pastry crescent moons, though I should start watching the waistband. If you want to know how to make Britain’s oldest and best pastry-clad lunch, follow these simple steps.

Cornish Pasty – Via Flickr

Cornish Pasty – Via Flickr

Ingredients (Makes 4 pasties)

For the pastry

125g chilled and chopped butter

500g plain flour, plus extra for rolling

1 egg, beaten

For the filling

350g chuck steak, chopped finely

1 large onion, chopped finely

2 potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced

175g swedes, peeled and finely diced

1 tbsp ground black pepper

Method

  1. Combine the butter, lard and flour using your fingertips or a food processor, adding a pinch of salt. Add 6 tbsp of cold water to make a dough. Cut into 4 equal parts, and chill for 20 minutes.
  2. Heat oven to 220C/fan 200C/gas 7. Mix the filling ingredients with a pinch or two of salt to taste and set aside.
  3. Roll out the pieces of dough on a floured surface until you have 4 rounds that are just over 20cm in diameter. Use a plate to cut to a circular shape.
  4. Pack a quarter of the filling along the centre of each round, ensuring to leave space at the ends. Brush the dough with beaten egg before drawing up both sides so they meet at the top. Pinch together to seal.
  5. Lift each pasty onto a non-stick tray and brush with the remaining egg glaze. Bake for 10 minutes, before lowering the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas4 and baking for a further 45 minutes until golden. Delicious served warm.

Scotch Shortbread

When I was a nipper, my grandparents would always bring me a tartan tin of Scotch shortbread from their travels north of the border, and it was delicious. Thankfully, the Scots don’t seem to mind sharing their recipe with the rest of us, so why not bake a batch of these wonderful bikkies yourself. Here’s how.

Scotch Shortbread – Via Flickr

Scotch Shortbread – Via Flickr

Ingredients

125g butter

55g caster sugar

180g plain flour

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 190C/Gas 5.
  2. Beat the butter, sugar and flour together to form a smooth paste.
  3. Turn the mixture onto a surface and roll until 1cm thick.
  4. Cut into fingers or small rounds and place on a baking tray. Sprinkle with caster sugar and chill for 20 minutes.
  5. Bake in the oven for 15-20. Set aside to cool.

Get your bake on in a Sykes holiday home

We can’t give you Berry and Hollywood, but we can give you cottages. Thanks to their charming country kitchens and wonderful dining areas, our self-catering holiday homes provide the perfect place to get your bake on and unwind. So Britain, let’s get baking.

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.

Harvest Fest: Where to find Britain’s Best Farmers’ Markets

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014
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“That’s it, from now on, I’m healthy eating!” I can’t count the times I’ve heard – and uttered – this pledge, yet nine times out of ten this good intention fails to materialise. Since the health benefits of eating well came to the fore, the price of so called superfoods has rocketed, making it difficult for some to budget for a healthy lifestyle. But buying fresh produce needn’t be expensive; head to any of the UK’s hundreds of weekly farmers’ markets, and you’ll find plenty of healthy, locally sourced produce at fare and affordable prices. Here’s five of our favourite agricultural markets from around the UK.

Orton Farmer’s Market – Orton, Cumbria

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Over 35 local farmers, producers and craftsmen set up shop at the Orton Farmers’ Market, a large produce fair taking place in the centre of Orton village every second Saturday of the month. Fair organisers stipulate that all wares sold at the market – be it food stuff or craft – must be grown, produced or manufactured within fifty miles of the village, so punters know what they’re buying is home-grown. Expect fresh veg grown in the emerald Eden Valley, moreish seafood from Morecambe Bay and affordable meat that hasn’t travelled across the sea to reach your plate.

The Goods Shed – Canterbury, Kent

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Housed in a Victorian railway building, The Goods Shed offers a charming place to shop for top quality nosh. Purveyors of delectable local produce since the early noughties, The Goods Shed is one of Britain’s only markets that operates daily – even Sundays. The Goods Shed has a different vibe to other farmers’ markets, with regular sellers housed in specially built concession stalls throughout the building. You’ll find a variety of quality food and drink at the market, including locally brewed ales at The Bottle Shop, delicious continental meat at Patriana Charcuterie, and tasty cheese at the Cheese Makers of Canterbury – scrumdiddlyumptious.

Stroud Farmers’ Market – Stroud, Gloucestershire

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Multi-award winning isn’t an accolade you’d associate with a farmers’ market, but there’s no other way to describe the Stroud Farmers’ Market. As one of the UK’s biggest, busiest and outright brilliant farm fairs, Stroud has received glowing recommendations from the Sunday Telegraph, The Independent, The Times and everyone’s favourite Cornwall based chef, Rick Stein. The market features well over fifty produce, craft and miscellaneous stalls, making it by far Britain’s biggest farmers’ market. From bread to veg, you’ll find everything and more at the Stroud Farmers’ Market.

The Orkney Farmers’ Market – Orkney, Scotland

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

OK, it’s not as local as the cornershop, but the Orkney Farmers’ Market is well worth the leg-work. Featuring a fantastic array of local tradesmen – not to mention a wonderful location in the heart of Kirkwall – the Orkney Farmers’ Market is one produce fair you’ll want to spend plenty of time perusing. The event brings plenty of regular stallholders selling a variety of fresh produce and items; plus, there’s usually some entertain put on in support of local charities. The Orkney Farmers’ Market takes place on every last Saturday of the month, so do stop by if you’re in the area on this date.

Cook up a storm in a country cottage

If tasting local produce is on your UK holiday wishlist, why not take a look at our range of self-catering country cottages? Featuring charming kitchens, spacious larders and comfortable dining areas, these holiday rentals are ideal for those who want to cook up a storm using the freshest local produce – take a look now.

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.