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Autumn Wildlife Watch

Monday, September 29th, 2014
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Unlike us Homo sapiens – who batten down the hatches at the first sign of the impending winter – wildlife flourishes when the mercury drops and the leaves turn amber. Whether fattening up on seasonal fruits, nuts and berries, or fleeing the imminent chill, there’s loads of critters to spot during the autumn months. Here’s a quick guide on what you’re likely to see should you stray into the country this fall.

Spot seal pups at Farne Islands

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Not only are the Farne Islands home to one of the UK’s largest seabird colonies – there’s 23 species here, including 37,000 pairs of puffins – they’re also home to a large grey seal colony. On average, around 1,000 seal pups are born on the Farne Islands every autumn, so it’s the perfect place to spot these enchanting aquatic beasts. Historically, these North Sea islets were renowned for their ties to Celtic Christianity, though in recent times, high tides mean they’re now only accessible by boat. To see these cuties though, a boat trip seems a small price to pay.

Bottlenose Dolphins, The Lizard, Cornwall

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

You know that bit of land in Cornwall that sticks out into the Atlantic? That’s called the Lizard Peninsula, or ‘The Lizard’ for short. Why it’s called the Lizard Peninsula I have no clue, but one thing’s for sure; there’s aquatic wildlife aplenty off the coast of this un-reptilian shaped headland. Basking sharks, seals and harbour porpoises are among the sea dwellers you’re likely to spot off the Lizard coast, as well as everyone’s favourite, the bottlenose dolphin. Autumn is a great time to see dolphins wherever you are in the UK, but the beauty of the Lizard Peninsula is sure to make a sighting that extra bit special.

Black Grouse, Durham Dales

For bumpkins, the grouse is commonplace on any country lane commute. For city slickers however, the closest you may have come to one of these handsome birds is the animated one that appears on TV at Christmastime advertising Scotch. Head to the very lovely Durham Dales during the months of autumn and chances are you’ll spot one or two Black Grouse, a globally threatened variety of the Grouse. Though twitching may not be on everyone’s holiday agenda, an afternoon searching for Black Grouse won’t feel wasted when you see Durham’s charming landscapes.

Red Deer, Beecrags Country Park, West Lothian

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Although Red Deer are synonymous with the British countryside, how many of us have actually laid eyes on one in the wild? Growing up on the fringes of the Yorkshire Dales, I was lucky enough to see plenty of deer, though none – to my knowledge – were red. For those of you who’d like to see the majestic red deer in the flesh, now’s the perfect time to do so. The Beecrags Country Park in West Lothian is home to a large herd of deer, and it’s around this time that the male bucks go head to head to impress females.

Puffins, South Stack Cliffs, Anglesey

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Just look at ‘em – aren’t they a delight? Needless to say, I’m a big fan of the humble puffin. These comical cliff dwellers are one of the UK’s most beloved seabirds, and for good reason. Though the largest colony of puffins can be found at RSPB Bempton Cliffs in North Yorkshire, there’s plenty of other places around the British Isles where you can find these multi-coloured wonders, including here, at the South Stack Cliffs in Anglesey. This spectacular headland is teeming with puffins at this time of year, and it’s also the perfect place to blow out the cobwebs with a blustery coastal walk.

Watch wildlife on an autumn cottage break

If your other half’s not keen on devoting a day to wildlife watching, then you could always bribe them with a weekend cottage break from Sykes. We’ve got hundreds of cottages with availability this autumn in many of the UK’s favourite wildlife hotspots, so grab the binoculars and book 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.

Ten of the UK’s Cosiest Country Pubs

Sunday, September 28th, 2014
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Does your local have a warming wood burner? What about charming country views? A terrace leading to a sandy bay? Or locally sourced ales crafted down the road? No? Well fear not, because we’re here to let you know about Britain’s best country pubs and where you can find them.

The Kirkstile Inn, Cockermouth

The Kirkstile Inn – Via Google Images – Labelled for reuse

The Kirkstile Inn – Via Google Images – Labelled for reuse

The word ‘enchanting’ doesn’t do The Kirkstile Inn justice. Neither does ‘magical’, or ‘amazing’ for that matter. Don’t fret, I haven’t gone soft. It’s just the location of this Lake District boozer is extraordinary. Seated beneath the fells of the north west Lakes, Kirkstile offers good food and great beer. It’s said to have been frequented since Tudor times – we can definitely see why.

The Berkeley Arms, Melton Mowbray

The Berkeley Arms

The Berkeley Arms – Via Google Images – Labelled for reuse

From the village that brought you the pork pie comes a country pub offering culinary treats and a great choice of liquid refreshment; The Berkeley Arms. This Melton Mowbray public house offers well-appointed dining and a cosy bar from which to enjoy a pint or two. The food here has earned quite a reputation, so be sure to book in advance.

Groes Inn, Conwy

Groes Inn – Via Flickr

Groes Inn – Via Flickr

As one of Wales’ oldest taverns, the proprietors of The Groes Inn have quite the reputation to maintain. Thankfully, they’re doing a damn good job of it. With a roster of local ales and a top notch menu brimming with responsibly sourced fare, this ivy-clad watering hole is arguably one of Wales’ best.

The Gurnard’s Head, Cornwall

The Gurnard's Head – Via Google Images – Labelled for reuse

The Gurnard’s Head – Via Google Images – Labelled for reuse

Sink a pint on the edge of the world – there’s a slogan for you. Joking aside, you can do just that at The Gurnard’s Head, a friendly pub on Cornwall’s magical north coast. A strip of land yay big is all that separates you and your Cornish IPA from the Atlantic, making Gurnard’s Head one of the most invigorating places to enjoy a pint in Blighty.

Battlesteads, Northumberland

Battlesteads – Via Google Images – Labelled for reuse

Battlesteads – Via Google Images – Labelled for reuse

Nestled amid the castle-strewn landscape of Northumberland’s border region – just down the road from Hadrian’s famous wall no less – is Battlesteads, a lovable pub offering a friendly and oh-so-warm-welcome on a bitter winter’s day. If it wasn’t for the inn’s proper grub and distinctive ales, the amber glow radiating through its windows would surely be enough to entice the weary traveller.

The Bull’s Head, Herefordshire

The Bull's Head –  Via Google Images – Labelled for reuse

The Bull’s Head – Via Google Images – Labelled for reuse

Eat, drink and be merry in the shadow of The Black Mountains; that’s what’s on the menu at The Bull’s Head, a former drover’s inn hidden in the Herefordshire countryside. If not for the contemporary – and equally indulgent – menu, you’d think time had forgotten The Bull’s Head; it’s stone walkways, hole-in-the-wall-bar and traditional furnishings do hark to yesteryear.

Lathkil, Bakewell, Derbyshire

Lathkil Hotel – Via Google Images – Labelled for reuse

Lathkil Hotel – Via Google Images – Labelled for reuse

Panoramic views of the Peak District beckon at the Lathkil Hotel, a whitewashed tavern perched atop a peak two miles from the town of Bakewell. Lathkil serves wholesome food and locally sourced ales, but enough about all that; if their bitter had the consistency of dishwater, you’d still enjoy it, happy to spend another moment in the midst of its striking vistas.

Shieldaig Bar & Coastal Kitchen, Shieldaig

Loch Shieldaig – Via Google Images – Labelled for reuse

Loch Shieldaig – Via Google Images – Labelled for reuse

Fresh seafood? Check. Great views? Check. Friendly staff? Check. The best pizza in the Highlands? Supposedly. Yes, this is the Shieldaig Bar & Coastal Kitchen, a delightful seafood joint overlooking Loch Shieldaig. Though not your classic country pub, this contemporary coastal bar and restaurant is well worth a visit if you’re touring the Scottish Highlands.

The Royal Oak, Chipping Norton

The Royal Oak – Via Google Images – Labelled for reuse

The Royal Oak – Via Google Images – Labelled for reuse

From contemporary coast to charming country, The Royal Oak in Chipping Norton is dripping with traditional pub panache. Though it shares its name with over 400 other pubs around Britain, this stone-built tavern has welcomed travellers for centuries, and happens to be one of the prettiest places to plant your bum and enjoy a pint in the Cotswolds.

Take a trip to the country on a cottage break

Country pubs and autumn go hand in hand, so if you’re in the market for a seasonal excursion, why not rent a cottage near one of these rural taverns? We’ve got plenty of cottages to rent near pubs in the UK that offer a great base for a holiday; why not take a look at our selection today.

Know of a picturesque pub in the country? We want to hear about it! Get in touch on Facebook or Twitter.

Looking for more interesting taverns to visit? Check out our definitive guide to the UK’s best pubs.

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.

Quiet Corners of Ireland

Thursday, September 25th, 2014
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Peace and quiet is hard to come by, so it’s important to soak up every minute of it. Luckily, there’s a place offering buckets of tranquillity at no extra cost; Ireland. Here’s a shortlist of the quietest, most peaceful corners of the Emerald Isle.

Glen of Aherlow, Co. Tipperary

Glen of Aherlow- Via Flickr

Glen of Aherlow- Via Flickr

Sixteen glorious miles of countryside await in the Glen of Aherlow, a peaceful valley near the town of Tipperary. Wayfarers young and old will appreciate the unnerving stillness of Aherlow, which has welcomed wanderers for centuries. With a variety of walking trails and a total lack of civilisation, this Irish gully gets a big tick in the box marked ‘secluded’.

Connemara, Co. Galway

Connemara- Via Flickr

Connemara- Via Flickr

It may sound like somewhere from Middle Earth – and look like it too – but believe me, Connemara is as real as it gets. Tucked away on the Emerald Isle’s brooding Atlantic Seaboard, even the boundaries of this scenic beauty spot are elusive. Escape here for a holiday and it’s likely you won’t see another human for the duration – bliss.

Glendalough, Co. Wicklow

Glendalough- Via Flickr

Glendalough- Via Flickr

Prettiness embodied; that about sums up Glendalough, a glacial valley in County Wicklow. To elaborate, it’s got a magnificent lake, plenty of trees, and an Early Medieval monastery that English troops nearly did away with at the end of the 14th century. Oh, and though it’s not far from Dublin, it’s surprisingly peaceful, so keep your voice down!

Skellig Isles, Co. Kerry

Skellig Isles- Via Flickr

Skellig Isles- Via Flickr

Perhaps peaceful is the wrong word to describe Skellig, after all, it’s renowned for its battalion of highly verbal seabirds. Plus, you’ll need to take a boat to reach these Atlantic islets, which will of course involve a degree of human interaction. Disembark however, and you’ll feel like you’ve been marooned on your own un-tropical island, complete with 6th century pathways and inspiring views of the Irish coast.

Benbulbin, Co. Sligo

Benbulbin- Via Flickr

Benbulbin- Via Flickr

Is it just me, or does Benbulbin have a bit of an Uluru vibe? (Minus the colouration of course) Regardless, this formidable mountain packs a serious aesthetic punch, it being 200m taller than London’s newly erected Shard. Rising sharply out of ‘Yeat’s County’, Benbulbin – or Ben Bulben if you’re feeling pedantic – is a designated County Geological Site, and offers the perfect backdrop for a peaceful stroll.

Achill Island, Co. Mayo

Achill Island- Via Flickr

Achill Island- Via Flickr

It may be Ireland’s largest island, but thanks to its measly population, it’s still weirdly under-inhabited. You know what that means? There’s plenty of secluded corners in which to enjoy a quiet leg-stretch. Achill is also home to some glorious beaches – including no less than five Blue Flag ones – making it the perfect place to take the kids if the family is ready for some R&R.

Killarney National Park, Co. Kerry

Killarney National Park- Via Flickr

Killarney National Park- Via Flickr

It may look like a typo, but McGillycuddy’s Reeks is actually Ireland’s tallest mountain range, and it’s right here, in the Killarney National Park. At over 1,000 metres, Reeks is an impressive sight to behold, not least when viewed as a reflection in the stunning Lakes of Killarney below. Though the national park is on the well-trod Ring of Kerry, it remains one of South West Ireland’s most peaceful spots.

Blackstairs and Barrow Valley, Co. Carlow

Blackstairs Mountain- Via Flickr

Blackstairs Mountain- Via Flickr

When I read about the Barrow Valley, it was described as having ‘wild silence’, which I thought was rather lovely. Here, beneath the might of Blackstairs Mountain, traffic noise and chaos is replaced by the hullabaloo of nature; of gurgling streams, blustery forests, and the hum of bees as they go about their business. Anyone who travels here will leave with a sense of vigour, and the absolute knowledge that they’ll be returning soon.

Derryveagh Mountains, Co. Donegal

Derryveagh- Via Flickr

Derryveagh- Via Flickr

Just when you think Ireland has nothing left to give – when you’ve reached the northwestern corner, and the Atlantic coast beckons – the Derryveagh Mountains appear on the horizon to take the breath from your lungs once more. As the Emerald Isle’s least populated region, this spectacular wilderness is the perfect destination for a secluded getaway. Simply put, in Donegal, nothing matters but you and the wild.

Loop Head Peninsula, Co. Clare

Loop Head Peninsula- Via Flickr

Loop Head Peninsula- Via Flickr

Want to go really off the beaten path? Head to the Loop Head Peninsula, a lean slither of land branching into the Atlantic. Time seems to have forgotten Loop’s villages, though all offer the usual level of Irish hospitality. Venture forth into the wonderful coastal landscapes – which scooped a European Destination of Excellence award in 2010 – and the long drive will soon seem worth it.

Book an Irish break with Sykes Cottages

Purveyors of peaceful breaks since the 1990s, Sykes will set you up with a secluded getaway in a jiff. Simply browse our range of Irish holiday cottages and pick one as near or far to civilisation as you like.

Are you sitting on a secret Irish beauty spot? Share it with us on Facebook or Twitter – it can’t stay a hidden forever!

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.

Avast me hearties! It’s Talk Like a Pirate Day

Friday, September 19th, 2014
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Ahoy land lubber, Blogbeard here. Today be Talk Like a Pirate Day, and to mark the occasion, the scurvy dogs at Sykes Cottages have been busy dishin’ the dirt on Blighty’s most notorious pirate haunts.

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

As a humble gentlemen of fortune, I don’t claim to be an expert in all things swashbuckler. But what I do know is that England was birthplace to more morally-questionable buccaneers than any other country in Europe. The question is, where did these roguish sea-goers drop anchor on their return to Britain? We’ve been finding out with a little help from our resident pirate, Blogbeard.

Bristol

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

With its ancient harbour and favourable location on England’s west coast, Bristol was popular with pirates. Take a walk near the city’s historic harbour, and it’s easy to imagine galleon sails blowing in the breeze. Not only was Bristol a popular port for illicit activities, it was birthplace to one of the most notorious pirates in history; Blackbeard. Murderous, evil and down-right bad-ass, Blackbeard was no Jack Sparrow, choosing to murder, steal and trade slaves rather than prance about with a bottle of rum. Although by no means a nice chap, Blackbeard’s legacy is one of the most romanticised versions of piracy that exists today – god only knows why.

London

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

As a rule, pirates were probably glad to see the back of London. The 18th century saw an increase in security around England’s dockyards, due in part to the huge rise in smuggling along the English coast. This made the capital, as well as other large ports, a dicey place for the seafaring scally. London in particular, was home to Execution Dock, a grizzly wharf where unfortunate buccaneers were put to death. After being publically disposed of, the corpses were coated in tar, locked into cages and hung from cranes in full view of passing sailors as a warning.

Plymouth

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Birthplace to the ‘king among pirates’ Henry John Avery, Plymouth was another popular place for pirates to drop anchor and make ashore with their doubloons. Its location on the Devon coast made it accessible for voyages to the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, but also made it an easy target for foreign pirates to pillage English goods. One such plucky brigand was Jean Bart, a French pirate who made a famous escape from Plymouth in a small rowing boat, and amazingly made it to the shores of France unscathed.

Whitby

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Take one look at Whitby and you’ll be daydreaming about pirates. This ancient town on the North Yorkshire coast may not have been the biggest pirate cove in England, but its residents have kept the romanticism and legacy of piracy alive to this day. Whitby and its surrounding villages were more popular with local smugglers than notorious buccaneers, but the odd one did stop by now and again to decant their exotic wares. If you’re travelling to Whitby, why not visit when the annual Pirate Festival takes place? You’ll get to dress up, eat grub, and swap a tale or two from the high seas. Plus, it’s for a good cause, so why not eh?

Avast sea-dog, here be cottages!

Abandon hope all ye who enter a Sykes holiday cottage. These beauties will have you hook, line and sinker faster than a siren from the sea. With hundreds of coastal cottages up and down ‘ar fair Isle, you’d be a bilge rat to miss out!

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.

Cornwall Scoops Destination Award

Thursday, September 18th, 2014
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Cornwall has received yet another accolade after it was named top holiday destination by Countryfile Magazine, pushing the Peak District and the Lake District into second and third place respectively. The award, given in recognition of the quality of Cornwall’s natural landscape and rural communities, highlights the public’s affection for this pristine county in the South West, with  Countryfile describing Cornwall as ‘the land of magical coves, enchanting fishing villages, sandy beaches and many myths and legends’. But with winter on its way, what – aside from its swathes of soft sand, lagoon like waters and rugged landscapes – can you discover in Cornwall? Well we’re here to let you know, with our guide to what to you can do on a cold, rainy day in Cornwall.

History & Heritage

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Rain a fallin’? Don’t fret. If soaking up some history and heritage is on your Cornish holiday agenda, there’s plenty to see without having to take a literal soaking. If it’s horrible history you’re yearning for, pluck up some courage and take a stroll around the forgotten cells of Bodmin Jail, a grizzly yet fascinating 18th century lockup located amid the barren wilderness of Bodmin Moor. Or, wet your whistle, not your hair, with a tour around St Austell’s award winning brewery. Boasting traditional Victorian brewing equipment and a plethora of Cornish pints for you to sample, the St Austell Brewery is a great place to warm the cockles when the weather takes a turn. Alternatively, visit the World Heritage Site of the Heartlands Mine in West Cornwall, which offers a day’s worth of undercover and open-air activities for young and old!

Shopping & Culture

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Husbands relax, I’m not talking high street shopping. Fortunately for you, Cornwall is famed more for its independent wares and the convenience of its fresh, local produce than its overfilled high streets. Whether you’re looking to stock the larder of your Cornish holiday cottage with tasty home-grown titbits or pick up a few trinkets to take home for the kids, a great place to flutter away some of your hard-earned is at the Cornish Market World in St Austell; an indoor market comprising over 300 stalls and eateries. Alternatively, part with some of your holiday spends taking in some of Cornwall’s vibrant culture. The Millenium Gallery in St Ives remains a great place to see exhibitions by both local and national artists, whilst a matinee show at the Theatre Royal in Plymouth proves perfect for a rainy Saturday afternoon.

Other things to do on a rainy day in Cornwall

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

With the bases now covered, I have just three more suggestions of what you can do in Cornwall should the rain fall. Escape the dark clouds with a subterranean stroll around the beautiful Carnglaze Caverns; an enormous man-made cave system featuring a striking underground lake. Hop aboard the Launceston Steam Railway, and relish a respite from the weather as you travel through the picturesque Kensey Valley. Or, take the tykes to Cornwall’s Seal Sanctury, where they’ll experience first-hand the nurture and care of Cornwall’s vulnerable marine life.

Come rain or shine, the attractions mentioned in this post are worthy of a visit whatever the weather. For your chance to make the most of a holiday in Cornwall, choose a cottage holiday in Cornwall today with Sykes Cottages.

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.