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England’s Top 10 most picturesque counties revealed

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015
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It’s a debate that’s raged on for years: which of England’s eighty-three counties is the prettiest? Could it be Somerset with its treasured Quantocks? Dorset with its inspiring Durdle Door? Or Norfolk with its beloved Broads? To settle this once and for all, we asked one thousand Brits to tell us which English county they love the most – here’s what we found.

Cornwall voted most picturesque county in England

Image by Darren Flinders is licensed under CC 2.0

Image by Darren Flinders is licensed under CC 2.0

That’s right, one in five respondents voted Cornwall as England’s prettiest destination, and it’s hardly surprising, given the county’s evocative mix of coast and country. Cornwall is a firm favourite among many UK holidaymakers thanks to its wonderful beaches and rugged heathlands, not to mention its seemingly endless heritage. You can find out more about England’s prettiest region by visiting our brilliant new visitor guide, Discover Cornwall.

Image by James Whitesmith is licensed under CC 2.0

Image by James Whitesmith is licensed under CC 2.0

Yorkshire was voted England’s second prettiest destination in the poll, with a respectable 18% of the vote. Despite failing to topple Cornwall from its picturesque pedestal, God’s Own County remains one of the UK’s most revered holiday destinations, and was dubbed Europe’s best destination at the World Travel Awards in 2013.

Coming in a close third was Cumbria, whose world-famous national park – the Lake District – will certainly have helped the county climb up the rankings. But the Lakes aren’t the only thing this northern county has to shout about; head to the coast, and you’ll find some of England’s most beautiful, secluded and windswept beaches, as well as a handful of charming towns and villages.

Which English counties completed the top 10? Find out below…

Picturesque 3

The Leadership Factor polled 1,019 British adults in December 2014 on behalf of Sykes Cottages.

Top 10 Most Picturesque Counties in England

  1. Cornwall
  2. Yorkshire
  3. Cumbria
  4. Devon
  5. Kent
  6. Derbyshire
  7. Northumberland
  8. Dorset
  9. Isle of Wight
  10. Gloucestershire

So there you have it: a definitive shortlist of England’s most picturesque counties. Do you agree with the top 3? Which English county would you choose? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter – we’d love to hear from you.

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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.

Blue Monday made you mardy? Discover the UK’s happiest places!

Monday, January 26th, 2015
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There was a debate at Sykes HQ on when exactly the fabled Blue Monday phenomenon occurs. Some “celebrate” it on the third Monday of January, others on the fourth, whilst some resolute Debbie Downers are crying into their cereal by the second. At Sykes, we like to think we’re more glass half-full than that, so don’t let Mondays get us down ‘til the fourth – AKA – today.

And so far, it hasn’t been that bad. Yes it’s cold and dark. And yes, parting from our slumber was such sweet sorrow. But in retrospect: things could be worse.

If you’re struggling to see the light at the end of a long, dark January, visit one of Britain’s happiest towns this January and feel your spirit soar. Here’s a look at five of our favourites.

Harrogate, North Yorkshire

Image by Phil Beard is licensed under CC 2.0

Image by Phil Beard is licensed under CC 2.0

The people of Harrogate laugh in the face of Blue Monday and for good reason. On a number of occasions, this northern town has been crowned the happiest place to live in the UK, and residents aren’t going to let some crummy Monday in January mar their reputation for jubilance. Even the most miserable wretches will feel a smile work its way on to their face at the sight of this charming spa town, which is often thought of as Yorkshire’s prettiest settlement. From its stylish shops to its Roman relics, a trip to happy Harrogate could be just what you need.

Taunton, Somerset

Image by Somerset Photos is licensed under CC 2.0

Image by Somerset Photos is licensed under CC 2.0

Somerset’s always struck me as happy-go-lucky sort of place, so it’s no surprise that Taunton – Somerset’s county town – is ranked among Britain’s happiest places to live. This endearing market town has all the right credentials when it comes to contentment: welcoming pubs, family friendly restaurants and lots of things to see and do. Plus, it’s warmer than other towns on the happiest places shortlist, making it a winner for those in need of some Vitamin D. Taunton’s countryside isn’t too shabby either, with two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the Exmoor National Park on your doorstep – sigh no more.

Inverness, Scottish Highlands

Image by Dave Conner is licensed under CC 2.0

Image by Dave Conner is licensed under CC 2.0

Despite being the UK’s northernmost city, Inverness is often ranked among the country’s cheeriest places to live. The plucky Scots have learnt to live with the city’s infernal weather, a feat which alone deserves your R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Then again, with such a backdrop, it’s easy to see why locals can live with a downpour or two. Inverness is encircled by some of Britain’s most beautiful landscapes, making city life a less bitter pill to swallow. Speaking of cities, Inverness itself is really rather special; once the stronghold of Scotland’s much-feared Picts and site of many a bloody battle, Inverness is a proud city whose heritage rarely fails to raise a smile among visitors.

Blue Monday? What Blue Monday?

In a few hours, Blue Monday will be over, and the anxious, crest-fallen and dejected will have no grounds for sullenness. But what comes next? Terrible Tuesday? Woeful Wednesday? Or will you – like the inhabitants of Harrogate, Taunton and Inverness – take the remainder of January each day as it comes?

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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.

Britain vs. the World: Choose Britain for your next break

Friday, January 23rd, 2015
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Oi you! Yes, you! Where are you heading for your 2015 summer holiday? Spain?! France?! Italy?! Well what if I told you you’re making a bad decision? What if I said you should be staying right here, on the shores of dear old Blighty?

Think about it: we’ve got more beaches than the Bahamas; a longer history than Hungary; prettier countryside than Croatia; and some of the best bars, restaurants and cafes this side of the Atlantic.

To prove Britain ought to be 2015’s most popular holiday destination in, I’ve pitted it against some of its closest rivals to see how it fairs in a battle of facts and figures. So let’s get down to business.

Coast, coast and more coast

Jurassic Coast, Dorset - Via Flickr

Jurassic Coast, Dorset – Via Flickr

Plenty of folk are lured to the Mediterranean by the promise of sun kissed beaches and turquoise waters, but is the coastline of the Costa del Sol and the South of France really all that better than the beaches of Britain?

Coastline lengths certainly suggest otherwise. The UK’s coast is approximately 12,429km, whilst the French and Spanish coasts are considerably smaller, at 3,470km and 4,964km respectively.

Yes, the UK may have fewer Blue Flag beaches than France and Spain, but it makes up for it in its sheer number of secluded coves, windswept bays, and vertigo-inducing seacliffs. There’s literally thousands of miles of coastal walks available in the UK too, where you, the sand and the sea can be almost completely alone – beat that, Espagne.

History aplenty

Stonehenge, Wiltshire - Via Flickr

Stonehenge, Wiltshire – Via Flickr

Whether sightseeing in an ancient city or exploring a dusty old museum, historic attractions play a huge part in most people’s summer getaways. Visit any country in the world, and you’ll likely find yourself drawn to the discovery of its ancient treasures. Here in the UK, we’re swamped in relics dating back thousands of years, and our history is one of the most diverse in Europe.

From the Vikings to the Victorians, hundreds of cultures have shaped the history of Britain, and there’s a stack load of evidence to prove it. Visit any of the historic attractions of England, Scotland or Wales and you’ll uncover the country’s glorious, turbulent and often violent past.

Sure, most European countries have a long and interesting history, but wouldn’t you prefer to discover your own?

Towns and cities? That’s covered, too

Castle Combe, Cotswolds - Via Flickr

Castle Combe, Cotswolds – Via Flickr

There’s an annoying assumption among those visiting the UK from overseas that London’s the be-all-and-end-all of this fair isle. How wrong they are. Yes, the capital’s a delightful place to visit for a day or two, but escape the M25 and there’s so much more to see. We’ve got an uncountable selection of top cities – Manchester, Liverpool, Edinburgh, York, Chester – to name but a few. Then of course, there’s the towns and villages: Straford-Upon-Avon, with its ties to Shakespeare; Harrogate, with its charming storefronts; Haworth, which gave us the Bronte sisters; and Whitby, whose ancient cobbles hark back to yesteryear – need I say more?

Book a break in Britain in 2015

Brits do it best, so if you’re looking for an easy and affordable escape this summer, why not book a cottage break in the UK? There’s never been a better time to enjoy a home-away-from-home holiday, with thousands of self-catering holiday homes to choose from in coast and country destinations throughout Britain. Click here to view our complete range of British holiday accommodation.

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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.

What to pack for a UK walking holiday

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015
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Walking is one of the UK’s most popular outdoor pursuits, with millions partaking in this wayfaring pastime each year. Whether setting out on an intrepid walking break or taking a stroll in the local park on a Sunday afternoon, we Brits love to pound the pavement – or trail – on our own two feet.

If, like me, you like the sound of a walking break but aren’t sure what kit you’ll need to enjoy doing it, have a read of our guide on what to pack for a UK walking holiday.

Clothing

Image by Andrew Bowden is licensed under CC 2.0

Image by Andrew Bowden is licensed under CC 2.0

Walking Boots: The most important piece of kit you’ll need to enjoy a comfortable walking break is a decent pair of boots. Invest in a quality pair, and you’ll be rewarded with years of pain-free walking. If you don’t plan to do a lot of off-road hiking, walking shoes or trainers might be a better choice thanks to their weight and breathability.

Waterproofs: No walk, no matter its length, should be attempted in Britain without some trustee waterproofs in tow. Essential waterproofs include a jacket and over-trousers, both of which should be carried with you even during the summer months. When choosing an outdoor jacket, opt for one with a hood – you never know when the heavens may open.

Base Layers: Keeping your core warm is essential when out in the sticks, so start your walking attire with a good quality, skin fitting base layer. Depending on the temperatures, a long sleeve thermal base layer is a great choice, but may get a little sticky during the summer months. If it’s warm, wear a short sleeve synthetic base layer to help you stay cool and dry.

Hat & Gloves: Having numb fingers and throbbing ears is never fun, especially when you’re miles from the nearest source of heat. That’s why, it’s important to wear a pair of gloves and a hat when you’re out walking in the winter months. If it’s warm, ditch the gloves and woolly hat for a sun-hat that’ll keep the midday sun off your face and head.

Hiking Socks: Don’t plumb for any old pair of socks when packing for your walking holiday. Instead, buy a few pairs of top-notch hiking socks, that’ll keep your toes warm and wick moisture away. Walking socks also provide extra cushioning, so if you can’t afford a new pair of boots, a snug pair of socks could do the trick.

Extras

Image by Tony Roberts is licensed under CC 2.0

Image by Tony Roberts is licensed under CC 2.0

First Aid Kit: Walking may not be the most strenuous of outdoor pursuits, but as they say, accidents can happen. That’s why, it’s important to carry a first aid kit whenever you go walking, even if you never have to use it. From grazed knees and migraines to bumps and blisters, ailments can crop up at any moment, and you’ll be relieved you remembered the first aid kit when they do.

Food & Drink: You should carry water whenever you go out for a walk, but it’s particularly important to do so if you’re planning a long day’s hike. Food is just as important for longer walks, and a flask of your favourite hot beverage is sure to put a smile on your face after a gruelling ascent. If you plan to eat, eat little but often throughout the day.

Rucksack: A rucksack is the perfect partner for a long walk in the wilderness, helping you carry your kit efficiently and comfortably. If you plan to buy one especially for future hikes, make sure it’s waterproof and big enough for all your gear.

Walking Poles: An optional extra; walking poles are a godsend for some and an irritant for others. If you’re not sure whether to invest in a pair, there are things you ought to know before you make a decision. Firstly, they can make you walk faster and increase your overall speed. Secondly, they’re great for providing extra stability. And thirdly, they allow you to walk further in a day than you otherwise could – what’s not to like?

Maps & Navigation: How’s your sense of direction? If like me you’re prone to getting temporality lost during your travels (I stress temporarily), carry a map or a GPS device. OS remain king of the maps among amateur and pro walkers, and their large, easy to use regional maps now feature a waterproof coating, making them ideal for walkers whatever the weather. Alternatively, trust technology and use your phone’s built in GPS to help you navigate from A-B.

Book an invigorating walking holiday with Sykes Cottages

What to pack 3

Like the sound of a walking break? Then why not check our range of cottages that are perfectly placed for a hiking holiday. We have self-catering holiday rentals in some of the UK and Ireland’s best-loved walking spots, including the Peak District, the Scottish Highlands and North Wales, so browse our selection today!

Prefer pedal-power? Here’s an in-depth guide into what to pack for a UK cycling holiday.

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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.

Book a 2015 summer holiday in Yorkshire

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015
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Yorkshire is the ideal destination at any of time year, including the summer. From stunning golden beaches flanked by wildlife-rich cliffs to sprawling purple heathlands that stretch as far as the eye can see, England’s largest county is one destination you can’t afford to miss.

Whether you choose a contemporary holiday home in one Yorkshire’s coastal resorts or a traditional cottage amid the county’s wonderful countryside, a summer holiday in Yorkshire offers something for everyone. Here’s a whistle-stop tour of god’s own county to demonstrate just how bloomin’ lovely it is.

Coast

Image by Thomas Tolkien is licensed under CC 2.0

Image by Thomas Tolkien is licensed under CC 2.0

Blow out the cobwebs or soak up the sunshine: the Yorkshire Coast is a wonderful place to be whatever the weather. Stretching from the dunes of Spurn Point to the Jurassic Cliffs of Staithes, the Yorkshire seaboard is home to everything from windswept bays and secluded coves to bustling seaside towns and cobbled coastal villages time almost forgot.

Rent a self-catering cottage in North Yorkshire, and brace yourself for some epic coastal grandeur. This is a place where purple moorlands nudge chalk clifftops, and age-old villages cling to the rocks metres from the bracing tide. One of the most popular destinations on the North Yorkshire seaboard is Whitby, a town famed for its ties to Dracula, which happens to be one of Yorkshire’s most stylish and desirable destinations. Just a few miles south, you’ll find Robin Hood’s Bay, whose cobbles, pubs and fossil strewn beach make for an enchanting daytrip destination.

Continue south and things get more traditional, with classic seaside resorts like Scarborough, Bridlington and Filey providing plenty of nostalgic family fun. For sunseekers, this area of the Yorkshire Coast is for you thanks to its fabulous selection of beaches, which include Bridlington’s Blue Flag North Beach and the secluded sands of Dane’s Dyke.

Country

Yorkshire 2

Image by chantrybee is licensed under CC 2.0

There’s a chance I could waffle all day about the Yorkshire countryside, so I’ll try keep it brief. Whichever direction you turn in this mighty county, you’ll encounter some of England’s prettiest pockets of countryside. From the Dales to the Moors, this is a region of blustery peaks and peaceful valleys, interrupted now and again by the odd village, hamlet or town.

Rent a holiday cottage in the Yorkshire Dales this summer, and remember to pack the walking boots. Whether tackling the infamous three peaks or taking a stroll around one of the region’s many historic villages, you’ll no doubt be using your feet. Sights not to be missed in the Yorkshire Dales include the Ribblehead Viaduct, the peak of Pen Y Ghent, Aysgarth Falls, and the villages of Hawes, Settle and Grassington.

Book a break in North Yorkshire, and explore some of the most popular valleys in England, including Wensleydale, Swaledale and Coverdale. Tucked between these picturesque vales are some wonderfully charming villages, whose histories date back to Viking times. Destinations not to be missed in the region include Richmond, Leyburn, and Middleham, as well as the historic sights of Bolton Castle, Studley Royal and Rievaulx Abbey.

You’ll love a summer break in Yorkshire

North, south, east, west – wherever you choose to stay, a cottage holiday in Yorkshire is a great choice for families and couples looking for that perfect blend of coast and country. So don’t wait around; if Yorkshire’s the place for you this summer, check out our huge range of Yorkshire holiday homes that are available to rent for a sunny break in 2015.

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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.