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Sunny Delight: Top 5 Destinations in Devon

Monday, March 2nd, 2015
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Did you know: Devon is the fourth largest county in England? Well, it is. Stretching from the Bristol Channel to the English Channel and from Plymouth to Lyme Regis, this south-west county takes up a sizeable chunk of our fair isle. For those planning a trip, it can be tough to decide where to stay: Do you opt for the north with its big Atlantic swells? How about the south whose fishing villages are ever-so-pretty? Or, perhaps the dramatic heaths of Dartmoor will draw you near?

To help make choosing a holiday home in Devon easier, we’ve shortlisted five of our favourite Devonshire villages that we think would make the ideal holiday destination.

Clovelly

Clovelly by Barney Moss is licensed under CC 2.0

Clovelly by Barney Moss is licensed under CC 2.0

From its steep, cobbled streets to its ancient harbour, it’s clear Clovelly is no run of the mill English village. This is a place where cars are prohibited; a place where goods are carried on makeshift sledges from shop to shop; a place hemmed by woodland and ocean; a place to be cherished, loved and respected. Unusually, Clovelly is still privately owned, just as it has been for over 800 years, and perhaps more unusually, the majority of its buildings are architecturally listed. Put plainly, Clovelly is an extraordinary destination – don’t miss it.

Widecombe-in-the-Moor

Amid the wild grandeur of Dartmoor, the peaceful, unobtrusive village of Widecombe-in-the-Moor seems strangely tame. A string of quaint cottages, hearth-warmed pubs and a pretty church provide visitors with a charming respite from the untamed heathlands which encircle the village. Despite being back-o-beyond, Widecombe attracts many visitors; it’s home to the Dartmoor National Park Visitor Centre, and many of the moorland’s walks begin and end in the village. Those staying in and around the village should expect a quiet, tranquil and stimulating getaway.

Beer

Beer Beach by Claire Dickson is licensed under CC 2.0

Beer Beach by Claire Dickson is licensed under CC 2.0

Head south to Devon’s Dorset-esque Jurassic Coast and you’d be wise to stay in Beer, one of Devon’s best loved coastal villages. Despite its name, Beer has no associations with drink; instead, the village’s title is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word for “grove” which refers to the nearby woodland. Beer was once one of the south west’s most notorious smugglers’ coves, and this is something celebrated by villagers to this day. Come summer, Beer’s beach is a haven for sun worshippers thanks to its luxuriously soft sand and sheltered aspect – book a break in Beer this summer and you’ll be in seventh heaven.

Lydford

Lydford Castle by TempusVolat is licensed under CC 2.0

Lydford Castle by TempusVolat is licensed under CC 2.0

Looking to discover Devon’s history? There’s no better place than Lydford. This small, sleepy village was once an economic powerhouse, until Viking raiders put an end to the region’s prosperity in the 6th century. Now, Lydford has a drowsy, bucolic feel, and is easily the most peaceful place on our shortlist. Despite its sleepy vibe, Lydford proves a superb holiday base; the village is in a prime location for exploring Dartmoor and is within daytrip distance of the Devonshire coast as well as the Cornish border.

Mortehoe

Mortehoe Beach by Chris Frewin is licensed under CC 2.0

Mortehoe Beach by Chris Frewin is licensed under CC 2.0

Sand dunes and sea cliffs await in the coastal village of Mortehoe on Devon’s enriching north coast. The village and its encompassing landscape are typical of North Devon; think rugged tors, heathland and of course, breaker beaten beaches. Mortehoe itself is very popular with tourists, and has enough amenities – including pubs, cafes and restaurants – to keep travellers fed and watered. Strike out from Mortehoe and you’ll stumble upon some of Devon’s other, larger towns, including Barnstaple and Woolacombe, making the village a superb base for touring the county.

Book a break in Devon this summer with Sykes Cottages

Sun, sea and sand – add dramatic countryside, ancient history and friendly locals to this list, and you’re one step closer to describing Devon. If you’re looking for a sunny, fun and interesting destination for this year’s summer break, book a cottage holiday in Devon this summer with Sykes Cottages. We have hundreds of holiday rentals from coast to country throughout the county, so you’re sure to find a Devonshire holiday home that’s perfect for 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.

3 Thatched Roof Holiday Homes You’ll Love

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015
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If you were asked to draw a typical English cottage, your sketch wouldn’t be complete without a characterful thatched roof. This timeless roofing technique has been used in the UK for centuries, yet its popularity has never wavered. Today, thatch is experiencing a sort of resurgence, with many choosing it for its aesthetic and ecological value. Thatched roof cottages are limited at Sykes Cottages, but we’re proud of the handful we do have; so proud in fact, that we’ve dedicated a whole blog to them. So without further ado, here’s three charming, chocolate-box thatches that’ll you’ll absolutely love.

Little Thatch

Cerne Abbas, Dorset

Feast your eyes on Little Thatch, an uber quaint and ever-so-cosy thatched roof cottage in Dorset. Built in 1813, Little Thatch is Grade II listed, with an assortment of original features harking back to days gone by; think oak beams, exposed brickwork and ludicrously low ceilings. Despite its age, the cottage contains plenty of home comforts, and has space enough for up to three guests. The village of Cerne Abbas was once voted Britain’s most desirable village, so it’s the perfect setting for this irrefutably charming holiday home.

Manor Farmhouse

Milstead, South of England

Our thatched roof cottages don’t come much more luxurious than Manor Farmhouse. First built in the 15th century, this impressive Tudor house features an original oak frame and white washed façade, all topped off with a good helping of thatch. The house is part of a complex of three individual holiday homes set around a courtyard, and together they accommodate up to eighteen guests. With a myriad of original features including inglenooks, log burners and an authentic country kitchen, this is one characterful country cottage you can’t afford to miss.

Vineyard Cottage

Winkleigh, Devon

Vineyard Cottage forms part of what is arguably the prettiest row of terrace houses in the country, tucked away in the leafy Devonshire countryside, just a few miles from the romantic heaths of Dartmoor. The cottage offers a cosy, pastoral bolthole for up to five guests and is postcard handsome; from its whitewashed walls to its toffee hued thatch, it begs to be photographed. Indoors, things are just as charming. The tall will need to mind their heads as they navigate the cottage’s tastefully furnished rooms, each of which reveals a glimmer of the property’s past.

Rent a thatched roof holiday cottage with Sykes

Our choice of thatched roof cottages may be small, but it’s perfectly formed – much like the properties themselves. In fact, their exclusivity makes them all the more special. If you’d like this year’s holiday accommodation to be a little out of the ordinary, browse our range of thatched roof holiday rentals 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.

Escape the holiday hubbub this Easter

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015
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With the promise of a school-free fortnight for the kids and a cheeky four day weekend for us grownups, it’s little wonder Easter has become one of the most popular times of year for UK holidays.

But before you make the queue-strewn journey to the coast like every other holiday-ready family in Britain, consider this: are you ready to spend five hours cramped in the car only to realise thousands of others have the same idea as you?

If the answer’s no, take a look at our shortlist of the destinations you could try this Easter that’ll help you beat the crowds and ensure queuing for a 99 is a thing of the past.

Have the coast to yourself in Cumbria

Most of the time when we use the term ‘hidden gem’, little is meant by it; when it comes to the Cumbrian Coast however, we mean it. Overshadowed quite literally by the Lake District National Pack, the Cumbrian Coast remains one of the least-frequented seaboards in the country. It’s not that it’s ugly (quite the opposite in fact) or that there are no good beaches (there’s loads); it’s just people tend to get distracted by the beauty of the Lakes and forget to look what’s over the next fen.

Travel to the Cumbrian Coast this Easter, then, and look forward to having the beach all to yourself (well, almost). Although you’ll find great beaches up and down the coast, the best are St Bees, Roan Head and Allonby.

Go to Scotland, and then keep going

Even the remotest enclaves of the Scottish Highlands can’t escape the Easter hordes, but if you’re dead set on a holiday north of the border, travel a little further and debunk on the Isle of Skye. This far-flung isle is dominated by a gorgeous mountain-range called the Cuillins, providing the perfect backdrop to a relaxed and queue-free getaway. If you’d prefer a slither of civilisation during your trip, a cottage in Portree is your best bet. This colourful coastal town is the largest on Skye, and is a great base for exploration.

Alternatively, opt for a holiday home in Dunvegan, Glendale or Carbost, or go thoroughly off-piste with an isolated cottage slap bang in the middle of Skye’s famously pretty outback.

Warm up in Sunny South East Ireland

The North Atlantic Drift provides the south east coast of Ireland with unseasonably warm weather, making it a great choice for the sun seekers who can’t wait ‘til summer for their next dose of Vitamin-D. Pack your beach towel if you plan to visit this corner of the Emerald Isle; the region is scattered with incredibly beautiful beaches, some of which have been awarded the prestigious Blue Flag award for their cleanliness and amenities. Some of our favourite ribbons of Irish sand include Curracloe, Brittas Bay and Portmarnock, but there are a lot more besides.

If surfing and sunbathing aren’t on your to do list, there’s plenty to partake in inland. Choose a cottage in County Wicklow and explore the Wicklow Mountains National Park, or take a daytrip to Dublin and soak up some Irish culture and hospitality.

The Wye Valley awaits

Whilst most wind their way down the A48 en route to South Wales, you’d be wise to stop short and enjoy a holiday in the supremely pretty Wye Valley. Labelled the “valley of the Romantics” because of its ties to 17th century poet Wiliam Wordsworth, the Wye Valley is charming, peaceful and challenging in equal measure. For a small AONB, this picturesque vale contains plenty to keep outdoorsy types amused: think canoeing, climbing, hiking, mountain biking and everything in between.

Those who prefer a more sedate pace will feel just as at home here; the Wye Valley is awash with fascinating historic sites that hark back to the border region’s bloody past, and the mystical and enchanting Tintern Abbey – which features in a poem by Wordsworth – is well worth a visit.

Book a break this Easter with Sykes Cottages

Wherever you wish to travel this Easter, a self-catering holiday home from Sykes provides a comfortable and affordable place to stay. Unlike hotels and guesthouses, a self-catering cottage gives you the freedom to holiday your way; take a look at our wide range of cottages that are still available to rent this Easter, and get set for an unforgettable 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.

Walk of the Month: Coniston to Tarn Hows Wildlife Walk

Friday, February 20th, 2015
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The February half term is nearly over, but before your little tykes tootle off back to school, let them loose on a wonderful wildlife walk in Cumbria.

Cumbria is one of England’s wildest and most beautiful counties; much of it is mountainous and rural, and it’s famously home to the UK’s beloved national park, the Lake District.

'Coniston Water' by Triker-Sticks is licensed under CC 2.0

Coniston Water by Triker-Sticks is licensed under CC 2.0

Head to just any old area of the county this time of year however, and you’ll likely be met with long queues and lots of crowds. The Lake District is one of the UK’s most popular winter holiday destinations, so be prepared to share the beauty en masse.

Or, don’t. Look closely enough, and it’s still possible to find peace and tranquillity amid this coveted wilderness – even during the half term. Attached below is a wonderful wildlife walk that’ll see you and the kids whisked off on a remote hike in a jiff.

The Walk

At five miles, the route poses a fair challenge for amateur hikers, and should take around 2 ½ hours to complete. The trail follows a figure of eight from Coniston Water to Tarn Hows, taking in the majestic walled garden of Monk Coniston Hall en route.

The Route

Park in the Monk Coniston car park to north of Coniston Water before taking the path into the opposing field. Follow the path until you come to a wood. Beyond the trees, you’ll come to the pleasant walled garden of Monk Coniston Hall.

Walk of the Month - Coniston B

Herdwicks by atypicalblog is licensed under CC 2.0

When you’ve tired of the grounds, continue onwards, taking extra care crossing the road if you’re walking with young children. Ahead of you lies more woodland, where you should keep your eyes peeled for the elusive red squirrel; a beloved species which has endured in the area for centuries.

Soon, you’ll come to a narrow bridge; cross this and continue on the path signposted ‘Tarn Hows car park’. You’ll find pockets of open pastureland land ahead, where you may see a flock of Cumbria’s Herdwick Sheep. These delightful livestock are born with a brown coat and white face, and have grown to become a symbol of the Lake District.

As the path winds across heathland toward Tarn Hows, keep your eyes peeled for adders and lizards, which can often be spotted scurrying into the brush. When you reach Tarn Hows, take the circular trail around the water, enjoying the stunning views across the lake to the distant fells beyond.

When you reach the car park, follow the exit road back towards Coniston. The first footpath on your right will lead you to Tarn Hows Cottage. Don’t go all the way there however; instead, take the footpath on your left which will lead you downhill to Boon Crag Farm. And don’t rush – the view is simply beautiful here.

Before long, you’ll reach the farm; turn left towards the saw mill until you reach the road. Once there, turn right and follow the footpath towards Coniston Water and the car park at Monk Coniston.

Download the comprehensive route and map for this walk here.

Rent a self-catering cottage in the Lake District

The Lake District is ideal for all sorts of outdoorsy activities. Whether it be walking, cycling, climbing or kayaking, you and the kids will love exploring this wild and wonderful land. To book your Lake District break, choose your favourite Cumbrian holiday home today, and get set for a refreshing break this spring.

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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.

My trip to Yorkshire: A short break beneath the Three Peaks

Monday, February 16th, 2015
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A couple of weeks ago, I hit the road on my debut jaunt to a Sykes’ holiday home – destination: the Yorkshire Dales. Suffice to say, I had a great time, and thought I’d share some memories of my trip with you.

Pen-y-ghent, Settle & the mighty Indian

Pen-y-ghent

Approaching the peak of Pen-y-ghent

Being in Three Peaks country, I thought it only right to scale at least one of these fabled hillocks. As our cottage (the delightful Harber Scar – pictured below) was in the shadow of Pen-Y-Ghent, this was the obvious choice for our hike.

Six buckets of sweat later, we made it to the summit

I don’t pretend to be Ranulph Fiennes; can only watch agog at the intrepid Tour De France cyclists; and am intimidated by the do-or-die nature of Bear Grylls – but I’m not out of shape. I dabble in running, enjoy a walk, and take the bike out for a regular blast. That said, hiking Pen-y-ghent nearly killed me. I sweated like a mule from the first to last mile, but as the pictures demonstrate, it was well worth it.

The route we took was a 6.1 mile circuit (I know, six miles – sounds easy, right?) The trail left Horton-in-Ribblesdale via the Pennine Way, before rising at a seemingly 45 degree angle up the western slope of Pen-y-ghent. For the first mile or so the peak was shrouded in low cloud, but before long the sun burnt a hole, and we were granted a beautiful – albeit, intimidating –  view of the approaching bluff.

At the summit, the vista was stunning. Cloud had spread through the valley, but we could see the other peaks of Ingleborough and Whernside, as well as the distant Cumbrian fells. Only God gets a better view.

For anyone staying in the Ribblehead Valley, conquering at least one of the Yorkshire Three Peaks is a must. Remember: if me and my 50+ Dad can do it, you can too.

That afternoon,  we discovered that the market town of Settle is the ideal place to regain your composure after an intense hill-climb. With a plethora of cafes, pubs and independent shops, it’s easy to while away an afternoon amongst the town’s cobbled byways. Later, we ate at one of Settle’s two Indian restaurants, Royal Spice, which was delicious and inexpensive. But be warned: they don’t have an alcohol license, so it’s BYO, tea or a glass of pop only.

Waterfalls, fog & the prettiest viaduct in England

After an exceptionally good night’s kip in our ever-so-cosy cottage, we drove to Ingleton to tackle the village’s highly-regarded waterfalls walk. Despite being pricey (£6 per adult) we felt we couldn’t miss this supposedly “enchanting” and “magical” visitor attraction – and were pleased we didn’t.

Pecca Falls

Pecca Falls, Ingleton Waterfalls Trail

The walk is just over four miles, and begins a short way from the centre of the village. After passing a densely wooded stream, the path ascends purpose-built steps and leads you to the first proper cascade of the walk, Pecca Falls. What follows is a sequence of modest waterfalls which climb steeply through the woodland. At this point, fog began to spill into the valley, adding a mystical element to what was already an extraordinary walk.

At the valley summit lies Thornton Force, easily the most impressive fall on the route. Here, the River Twiss drops fourteen-metres from a limestone cliff, throwing up a mist you can feel from fifty-feet away. Further along the trail you’ll reach Baxengyhll Gorge, where the river is forced down a narrow channel. The roar of the water is quite remarkable here, and there’s a well-placed viewing bridge where the fearless can take a peek at the torrent twenty metres below.

The circular route brings you back to the village, where the hungry will be drawn to the pervading smell of fish and chips. When all is said, the Ingleton Waterfall Trail is a stimulating hike; just be sure to check the weather before your visit as fog can really spoil the view.

Walk over; we headed for some sustenance at The Railway Inn, whose car park overlooks the Ribblehead Viaduct. Built in the 19th century, the bridge – which carries the famous Settle-Carlisle railway – is a grand old thing, and was a big hit with the amateur photographers who’d planted their tripods along the opposing dry-stone wall. With Whernside to the left of you and Ingleborough to the right, the panorama here is simply staggering. Visit as soon as possible.

Harber Scar – putting the ‘osy’ in ‘cosy’

Putting aside the scenery, the walks and the eating, the highlight of our trip was undoubtedly our cottage, Harber Scar. Charming and characterful both inside and out, Harber Scar offers a cosy, comfortable and refreshingly-no-frills base for a break beneath the Three Peaks. The property is chock-a-block with original period features; its doorframes are laughably low, its beds are irresistibly comfortable, and its roaring log burner ever-so cushty. I’d recommend the cottage to anyone, particularly if they plan to spend some time trekking the Three Peaks.
Think you could conquer the Three Peaks? Or just fancy taking in the sights?  Then check out our cottages to rent in the Yorkshire Dales.

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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.