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How to take better holiday photographs

Thursday, July 31st, 2014
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Holidays mean different things to different people. For some, they’re about discovering new cultures, unearthing ancient history and indulging in fine local cuisine; whilst for others, they’re a chance to lounge on the beach, read a few chapters from a book, and do very little. But whatever you get up to on holiday, one thing’s for sure: you’re bound to take at least a few holiday photographs.

Whether you’re a snap-happy amateur or a kitted-out professional, capturing your holiday is important. To help you rookies take holiday pictures you’ll be proud of, we’ve created a handy guide on how to take better holiday photographs- check it out below.

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How to take better holiday photographs

So you’ve shepherded your loved ones into a neat cluster on the banks of Windermere and are poised to capture the moment on your camera or smartphone; but how can you ensure that you’ll be proud of the end result? Here at Sykes Cottages, we know how important it is to capture your holiday, so here’s our guide to taking the perfect holiday photograph.


Before raising your camera, try to work out where the light is coming from. Usually you’ll want the light to hit the front of your subject, not the back.

Follow the Rule of Thirds

For more visually pleasing photographs, use the rule of thirds; divide the frame into three horizontally and vertically (your camera should have a setting to do this for you), then position your subject at or near the intersection of any two lines.

Move Around

Think a picture of your pooch will look good from your angle? Of course it will, but you can improve your snaps by moving around to ensure that you’re always at the best angle for capturing your subject.

Capture the Moment

The best moments aren’t choreographed, so have your camera on hand at all times when you’re out and about to ensure that you capture the moments that matter.

If you love taking pictures, have a play with your camera’s settings. Adjusting ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed can transform samey snaps into genuinely great photos that you’ll be proud to show to your friends and family. Here’s a quick guide to get you started.


If your subject is still and there’s plenty of light, lower your ISO.

If your subject is moving, it’s dark or you don’t have a tripod, use a higher ISO.


The larger the opening of the lens, the more light gets in, the blurrier the background.

The smaller the opening of the lens, the less light gets in, the sharper the background.

Shutter Speed

Slow shutter speed: Use a slow shutter speed to give a sense of movement, like capturing the flow of water

Fast shutter speed: Use a fast shutter speed to freeze movement, to make a moving object appear still.

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 UK Conservation Sites

Sunday, July 27th, 2014
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Today is World Nature Conservation Day, a global event dedicated to highlighting the importance of protecting and safeguarding our natural world. Here in Britain, we’re blessed with some truly remarkable pockets of countryside that are protected by the government to safeguard them for future generations- here’s a pick of our favourites from around the UK.

Flamborough Head, East Yorkshire

Flamborough Head- Via Flickr

Flamborough Head- Via Flickr

With its 19th century lighthouse and majestic white chalk cliffs, Flamborough Head is a remarkable area for a stroll both day and night. The government first designated this headland a Site of Special Scientific Interest in 1952 due to the 189 habitats and 788 species which call this picturesque promontory home.

The Lizard, Cornwall

The Lizard- Via Flickr

The Lizard- Via Flickr

Stunning good looks aren’t the only thing that Cornwall’s The Lizard has to shout about. Along with its award-winning beaches and wonderful time-forgotten hamlets, this evocative finger of land is also a Special Area of Conservation thanks to the diversity of its flora.

Solway Firth, Dumfries & Galloway

Solway Firth- Via Flickr

Solway Firth- Via Flickr

Lagoons, mud flats and tidal rivers are just a handful of the natural features which await in Solway Firth, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty famous for its frequent dolphin sightings. Solway is one of Scotland’s most stunning bodies of water, and there has been talk of the region becoming the UK’s second marine national park.

North Norfolk Coast, Norfolk

Hunstanton Beach- Via Flickr

Hunstanton Beach- Via Flickr

Ribbons of soft sand and miles of undulating shingle dunes make the North Norfolk coast one of the best in the UK. Coastal highlights in the region include Holkham Beach and nature reserve, as well as Hunstanton Beach, a sandy stretch of coast renowned for its unusual red and white cliffs.

The New Forest, Wiltshire

The New Forest- Via Flickr

The New Forest- Via Flickr

Take coniferous woodlands and water fringed fens and what do you get? The New Forest of course! A designated Special Area of Conservation, the New Forest is an ever popular base for tourists thanks to its numerous walking, cycling and adventure trails, which criss-cross for miles across the woodland.

Simonside Hills, Northumberland

Simonside Hills- Via Flickr

Simonside Hills- Via Flickr

Located in the nether regions of Northumberland lie the Simonside Hills, a band of uplands protected for their biodiversity and wild, untamed landscapes. From atop these rugged hills, hikers are granted a panoramic view of the neighbouring Cheviots, making the 430m ascent well worth the effort.

Peak District Dales, Peak District

Peak District- Via Flickr

Peak District- Via Flickr

Perhaps the most famous protected land mass in the UK, the Peak District is by far the most popular designated Special Area of Conservation on this shortlist. For decades, people have flocked to the region to indulge in any number of the outdoor pursuits on offer, yet the Peak District’s main appeal comes from the sheer beauty of its natural backdrop.

Quantock Hills, Somerset

Quantock Hills- Via Flickr

Quantock Hills- Via Flickr

As England’s first designated Area of Oustanding Natural Beauty, the Quantocks have a lot to prove. Thankfully, the area’s spellbinding vistas and rare flora more than live up to this prestigious mantel, and to top it off, the area’s been designated a Special Area of Conservation too- what more could you want?

Dartmoor, Devon

Dartmoor- Via Flickr

Dartmoor- Via Flickr

Synonymous with sturdy mares and rich moorlands, Dartmoor is the ideal place to escape the daily grind and venture out into nature. Walkers will love cherry-picking their favourite routes from over 450 miles of public footpaths in Dartmoor, whilst mountain biking, horse riding and geocaching provide fun alternatives for the more adventurous.

Tennyson Down, Isle of Wight

Tennyson Down- Via Flickr

Tennyson Down- Via Flickr

Named after Britain’s late poet laureate, Lord Tennyson, the Tennyson Down is a chalk ridge forming part of what has come to be known as the ‘backbone’ of the Isle of Wight. Here, rare seabirds nest in the shingle sea cliffs and cows and rabbits graze on rich, emerald grasslands that extend right to the very edge of the headland.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our shortlist of Britain’s best conservation sites. Of course, this is but a sample of all the protected areas that are publicly accessible here in the UK. To find out more about Britain’s special areas of conservation, please visit the JNCC website. Alternatively, if you’d like to get involved in World Nature Conservation Day, click here.

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.

Wild Lands: Exploring Scotland’s National Parks

Friday, July 25th, 2014
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Home to a dramatic blend of rustic cities and imposing mountains, Scotland is arguably one of the most beautiful countries in the British Isles. But unlike England and Wales, who have ten and three national parks respectively, Scotland contains only two, with just 7.2% of the country’s land area designated to protected parkland.

Despite this, and in honour of Love Parks Week, we wanted to delve deeper into Scotland’s national parks. Afterall, the Cairngorms is the UK’s largest protected land mass, the Loch Lomond & Trossachs being the fourth largest- pretty impressive, considering there’s just two of them. The beauty of Scotland’s national parks is that they hold much of the country’s most valued pockets of wilderness, and regardless of proportions, are sure to give any English or Welsh national park a run for its money.

Cairngorms National Park

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Covering a land area of 4,528 sq kilometres, the Cairngorms is by far the largest national park in the UK, dwarfing the Lake District by over two thousand square kilometres. It’s also home to Ben Macdui, Britain’s second highest mountain. A bit of a record breaker then; but what else does the Cairngorms have to shout about? Well, the park also features some of Britain’s biggest and oldest forests, including a large swathe of Caledonian Forest which once covered much of the UK. There’s water aplenty here too, making the park a mecca for watersport enthusiasts, with kayaking and white-water rafting being the two most popular waterborne pursuits.

Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

With 21 Munros (Scottish mountains with a height over 3,000 ft), 19 Corbetts (Scottish mountains with a height between 2,500-3,000 feet), 57 designated special conservation sites and two forest parks, it’s no surprise that the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park is very popular with walkers and other outdoor enthusiasts. One hiking trail not to miss is the West Highland Way, a 96 mile route which runs from Fort William in the Highlands to Mingavie on the outskirts of Glasgow. The trail traverses much of the park’s most serene landscapes, making it a great way for ramblers to see the beauty of this stunning corner of Scotland.

The future of Scotland’s national parks

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

In 2005, the Scottish government announced that they plan to designate Scotland’s first marine national park, a move which would showcase and protect the beauty of the Scottish coast for generations to come. When formed, the marine national park will be the second of its kind in the UK, the other being the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park in South Wales. In total, there are five potential locations which the Scottish Government are considering, including Solway Firth, Argyll Islands, the Skye Coast and North Uist. Personally, we can’t wait to visit when the park is finally unveiled!

Rent a holiday home in Scotland with Sykes Cottages

Here at Sykes Cottages, we’re mighty fond of our neighbours north of the border, and offer a great selection of self-catering accommodation to choose from in this rugged and inspiring country. Whether you’re looking for a Scottish log cabin in the Cairngorms or a contemporary apartment in Edinburgh, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for on our Scottish accommodation page.

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.

Where should you stay in the British Isles?

Friday, July 18th, 2014
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For overseas travellers or Brits taking their first holiday in the British Isles, choosing where to stay can cause quite a headache. For a relatively small series of islands, the British Isles have a rich array of different cultures, traditions and attractions, so where you choose really does depend on your personality and taste.

To make your decision easier, we’ve come up with a whistle-stop guide to the UK to give you a better sense of the type of holiday you can enjoy in specific countries, so let’s get to it!


Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Best for: Beach holidays, sightseeing tours and historic daytrips

Best bits: Overseas travellers will love exploring England’s world-renowned historic cities, which include London, Liverpool, York and Chester. Sun seekers should head south during the summer, where the golden sands of Cornwall, Dorset and the Isle of Wight await.

Don’t miss: A visit to the holy island of Lindisfarne in Northumberland, North East England. Since the 6th century, this imposing tidal island has been at the centre of Celtic Christianity, and truly is a sight to behold.


Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Best for: Outdoor sport and historic daytrips

Best bits: Although Scotland has some wonderful cities, including Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen, the real charm of the country comes from its dramatic scenery, which lends itself perfectly to the pursuit of outdoor sport including mountain biking, climbing and surfing.

Don’t miss: A hike in the Cairngorms. This famous mountain range is home to some of Scotland’s most beloved wildlife, including the Red Deer and the Golden Eagle, as well as Caledonian Forest, one of the UK’s oldest woodlands.


Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Best for: Beach holidays and outdoor sport

Best bits: Boasting 33 Blue Flag beaches, the Welsh coastline is one of the cleanest and safest in the British Isles, with highlights including Tenby and Newport in Pembrokeshire and Caswell Bay on the Gower Peninsula.

Don’t miss: A ride on Europe’s longest zip line, which stretches for over a mile across Penrhyn Quarry in North Wales. Riders will reach speeds of up to 100mph as they hurtle 500m metres above the ground, so it’s certainly not one for the fainthearted.


Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Best for: Beach holidays and scenic walking

Best bits: Home to the world’s longest coastal touring route, the Wild Atlantic Way, the west coast of Ireland features a wonderful blend of golden sand and dramatic seacliffs, making it a must for both beachcombing adventurers and committed sun worshippers.

Don’t miss: A blustery walk atop the Slieve League Cliffs in County Donegal. At 601m, these are some of the tallest coastal cliffs in Europe, and three times larger than the much more famou Cliffs of Moher.

Here endeth our whirlwind tour of the British Isles. If you’d like more information on where to travel in the British Isles, please visit the Sykes Cottages website, where you’ll find lots of information on the UK’s favourite holiday destinations.

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.

Sykes’ Shortlist of Bizarre British Sayings

Thursday, July 17th, 2014
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For a small series of islands, Britain contains some ludicrous lingo. From Yorkshire to the West Country, Southend to Saltney, our weird and wonderful language takes many unusual forms. Us Brits often struggle to understand our native tongue when it’s uttered in a different dialect, so just imagine how difficult it must be for overseas travellers to get to grips with.

To help put things into perspective for us Brits and our friends over the sea, we’ve compiled a shortlist of some of the stranger sayings that you may come across when travelling in the UK and Ireland.

Yorkshire Sayings

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

As a Yorkshireman, I’ll be the first to admit that the accent of my native county can be quite baffling. Here are a few nuggets of brilliance that you may hear should you pay a visit to God’s own county.

‘Daft as a brush’

Meaning: Foolish, stupid or silly.

Example: ‘That lad’s as daft as a brush!’

‘Put wood int’ ‘ole’

Meaning: Close the door.

Example: ‘Ee by gum, it’s parky in here. Put wood int’ ole’

‘I’ll go to’t  foot of’t stairs’

Meaning: Expression of utter disbelief and amazement

Example: ‘Well, I’ll go to’t foot oft’t stairs!’

‘Lowence time’

Meaning: It’s time for a snack (Usually whilst working)

Example: ‘Ey up, it’s lowence time’

‘Monk on’

Meaning: To be grumpy or sulky

Example: ‘They’ve got a right monk on’

Norfolk Sayings

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Brimming with some serious linguistic oddities, the Norfolk accent is about as unusual as the English dialect gets. Here’s five of our favourite phrases from this lovable East Anglian county.

‘Bishy Barney Bee’

Meaning: A ladybird

Example: ‘We’ve bin’ invaded by Bishy Barney Bees’

‘Hold yew hard’

Meaning: Wait a minute

Example: ‘Oi, hold yew hard!’


Meaning: Seesaw

Example: ‘The kids want to go on the Tittermatorter’


Meaning: Fun and games

Example: ‘Join us for the jollificearshuns’


Meaning: In a bad temper

Example: ‘They’re in a right old puckaterry’

Scottish Sayings

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Personally, the Scottish accent is one I’ve struggled to understand in the past, so researching these Scottish sayings was a real eye opener. Here’s our choice of phrases from north of the border.

‘Yer bum’s oot the windae!’

Meaning: You’re not making any sense

Example: Erm…

‘Lang may yer lum reek’

Meaning: Long may your chimney smoke, which implies, long may you live

Example: ‘Lang may yer lum reek!’ (A Hogmanay festive greeting)

‘Many a mickle makes a muckle’

Meaning: A lot of small amounts become a large amount

Example: Again, erm…

‘It’s a dreich day’

Meaning: The weather is cold, wet and miserable

Example: ‘Ach, it’s a dreich day’

‘We’re a’ Jock Tamson’s Bairns’

Meaning: We’re all equal

Example: ‘Just yew remember, we’re a’ Jock Tamson’s Bairns’

Welsh Sayings

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

The Welsh certainly come out with some magnificent turns of phrase in their native tongue, but what about in English? Let’s investigate.

‘Under the doctor’

Meaning: To feel unwell

Example: ‘I’m feeling under the doctor’

‘Tidy darts’

Meaning: Good

Example: ‘That’s tidy darts!’


Meaning: Of low quality

Example: ‘Oh, that’s shonky that is’


Meaning: Arguing

Example: ‘They’ve been chopsing’


Meaning: Nasty or unpleasant

Example: ’That’s gomping!’

So there you have it, a shortlist of some of the weird, wonderful and downright peculiar phrases from across the British Isles. If you have any regional sayings that you’d like to share with us, we’d love to hear from you on Facebook or Twitter.

For now: ta-ra, cheerio the nou and take ‘er ‘andy!

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.