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Fit for a Queen: The Homes of Queen Victoria

Sunday, July 13th, 2014
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Today marks a rather prestigious day in the history of the British monarchy, as on this day in 1837, Queen Victoria moved into Buckingham Palace, where she would live until her death in 1901. Victoria was the first British monarch to rule from the Palace, and after her marriage to Prince Albert in 1841, this palatial home became a place of entertainment, balls and official state business.

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

But Buckingham Palace wasn’t the only regal residence where Queen Vic spent her time. In total, the royal family had three other, equally as magnificent stately homes throughout the UK, two of which are still in use by Elizabeth II today. Thankfully, all of Victoria’s previous abodes are now, to some degree, open to the public, and make a great place to visit this summer.

Balmoral Castle, Aberdeenshire

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Via Flickr

Tucked deep in the heart of the Scottish Highlands, Balmoral Castle must have been a welcome escape from the hum of London, a sentiment reinforced by the Queen herself who referred to Balmoral as a “dear paradise in the Highlands”. It’s believed there’s been a royal residence here since the 14th century, when King Robert II of Scotland erected a hunting lodge in the area. The grounds, and part of the castle itself, are open daily to the public from 10am to 5pm until July 31st, but after this, public access will be restricted due to Queen Elizabeth’s annual visit.

Windsor Castle, Berkshire

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Via Flickr

Originally built as a key defensive structure in the years after the Norman Conquest of 1066, Windsor Castle became one of the royal family’s most magnificent and imposing abodes. Although Queen Victoria wasn’t particularly fond of the castle, it was her principal royal residence and a centre for diplomatic and state business. During the Queen’s reign, Windsor embodied the power and might of the British Empire, and still evokes a strong sense of national pride to this day. The castle is open to the public daily between 9.45am and 4.15pm, and it typically takes around 2-3 hours to see all aspects of the site.

Osborne House, Isle of Wight

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Via Flickr

Comprising charming landscaped gardens, a private beach and fascinating Italian Renaissance style architecture, it’s little wonder Queen Victoria considered Osborne House to be her preferred holiday and weekend residence. She, her husband Albert and their 9 children spent many summer’s at Osborne, no doubt enjoying the island’s warm temperatures and segregation from the rest of the country. The house is open to the public daily from 10am to 6pm and features plenty of space to enjoy a picnic on a balmy summer’s day. If you’re interested in visiting Osborne whilst being perfectly placed for exploring the rest of the island, why not check out our cottages to rent near Osborne House.

Find accommodation that’s fit for a queen

Our cottages may not be linked to royalty, but many still offer a regal welcome that’ll have you feeling like a queen in no time. To browse our collection of luxury, historic or listed holiday cottages, visit our website 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.

Walk of the Month: Craster to Low Newton, Northumberland

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014
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Home to just a sixth of the population of London, Northumberland is the spiritual home of peace and quiet. Country Walking Magazine labelled this county one of the best places in the UK for walking thanks to its blend of rugged countryside, sleepy villages and mile after mile of way marked walking trails.

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Via Flickr

Experience the serene silence of Northumberland yourself with an invigorating coastal walk from Craster to Low Newton. Taking in wildflower peppered meadows, mesmerising coast and imposing historic sites, this route is the perfect place for a bracing coastal walk when you need to blow away the cobwebs.

The Walk

At six miles long, this walk should take around two hours to complete, although you needn’t rush as there are plenty of great spots for picnics and photographs along the route. The terrain, which is made up of grass, gravel and sand, shouldn’t cause any problems, though walking boots are still advisable.

The Route

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Sample some of Craster’s famous smoked herring before setting off north towards Dunstanburgh Castle, passing Craster Harbour on your way out of the village. Continue north through peaceful farmlands with the craggy seashore to your right. Birdwatchers should keep their binoculars close at hand in order to glass the horizon for signs of the eider duck, which can often be seen along the shore.

Snap a photo of Dunstanburgh before edging around the base of the castle. If you’re interested in history, the castle is open to the public seven days a week between 10am and 6pm and offers great insight into the bloody history of the region. Birdwatchers again should spend a moment watching the nearby cliffs, which attracts kittiwakes and fulmar during the summer months.

Once you’ve finished exploring Dunstanburgh, continue north and pass the golf course before descending on to the beach of Embleton Bay. Here you will find remnants of a world war two bunker, as well as a superb panorama of the distant castle. Take a paddle or stop for a picnic on the sand before crossing Embleton Burn and continue onward towards Newton Haven harbour.

Keep your eyes peeled for seals and seabirds as you pass the rocky shoreline. If you’re walking with children, be sure to explore the bay’s rock pools, where many marine creatures can be found. Leave the beach and walk into the traditional village of Low Newton which, like Craster, has a rich fishing heritage. Spend some time exploring the village’s charming streets before travelling further in land. Here you will pass a pocket of wooded dunes that are perfect for wildlife watching. Continue on the path towards Dunstan Steads. Before long, the ramparts of Dunstanburgh will be visible once more.

Download the comprehensive route and map for this walk here.

Rent a cottage in Northumberland with Sykes Cottages

If you need to escape the daily grind, there’s nowhere better qualified than Northumberland, a haven of peace, tranquillity and solitude. Thankfully, our secluded cottages provide an equally noiseless bolthole from which to enjoy a peaceful getaway in this majestic English county, so check out our range and book 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.

How to make the perfect Pimm’s this summer

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014
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By jove! It’s that time of year again when housewives, posh folk and picnickers turn their attention to everyone’s favourite summer tipple, Pimm’s! With the arrival of Wimbledon, the Henley Royal Regatta and the Chelsea Flower Show, this delightful beverage is disappearing off the shelves faster than Federer’s forehand, so grab your bottle soon. Not sure if you like it? Well good news, there’s more than one way to prepare and serve this tasty liqueur- check out some of our favourite Pimm’s recipes below.

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Crafting the classic Pimm’s

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Via Flickr

‘Ahhh’ is exactly the sort of sound you’ll be making after you’ve taken a sip of a classic Pimm’s on a balmy summer’s eve. This is the simplest way to serve this fruity delight, and it’s so quintessentially English it’ll have you reaching for the cricket whites. Here’s how to make a classic Pimm’s.

Ingredients

  • 50ml of Pimm’s per glass or 200ml if you’re making a jug
  • Lemonade
  • Mint leaves
  • Fruit- including strawberries and an orange
  • Sliced cucumber
  • Ice

Method

  1. Blend 1 part Pimm’s with 3 parts lemonade over ice.
  2. Add the fruit (don’t be shy!) and cucumber before garnishing with mint leaves.

Spice things up with a Pimm’s Ginger

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Via Flickr

Add some pizzazz to your party with a Pimm’s Ginger; the zesty alternative to a classic. Here’s how to put some spice in your life.

Ingredients

  • 50ml of Pimm’s per glass or 200ml if you’re making a jug
  • Ginger Ale
  • Sliced Lemon
  • Mint Leaves
  • Ice

Method

  1. Blend 1 part Pimm’s with 3 parts Ginger Ale over ice.
  2. Add a slice of lemon per glass and garnish with mint leaves.

Feeling fruity? Try a PimPom cocktail!

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

What do Pimm’s and a pomegranate have in common? They’re the key ingredients in a PimPom cocktail of course. From its cheeky name to its delicious fruity finish, this beverage is bound to put a smile on your face- here’s how to be the bringer of joy at your next summer soiree.

Ingredients

  • 50ml of Pimm’s per glass or 200ml if you’re making a jug
  • Pomegranate Juice
  • A handful of basil leaves, ripped
  • Orange

Method

  1. Blend 1 part Pimm’s with 3 parts pomegranate juice over ice.
  2. Add a slice of orange to each glass and garnish with ripped basil leaves.

Game of tennis old boy? Not before a Pimm’s Deuce

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Watching the tennis can be thirsty work, so before you raise that remote, why not consider making one of the game’s finest alcoholic accompaniments, the Pimm’s Deuce. Featuring two fruit juices, this refreshing tipple ought to spur you on during the match- here’s how it’s made.

Ingredients

  • 50ml of Pimm’s per glass or 200ml if you’re making a jug
  • 75ml of orange juice per glass or 300ml for a jug
  • 75ml of cranberry juice per glass or 300ml for a jug
  • Sliced orange
  • Strawberries

Method

  1. Mix the Pimm’s with the orange and cranberry juice over ice
  2. Add sliced orange, strawberries and serve!

Pimm’s Royale: The pièce de résistance

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Need something to help wow your guests? Plumb for this: the Pimm’s Royale, a cocktail so magnificent it’ll leave your snooty neighbours bamboozled with envy. Create this cocktail, and you’ll be the life and soul of the party- here’s how it’s done.

Ingredients

  • 25ml of Pimm’s per glass
  • Champagne or cava
  • 1 strawberry

Method

  1. Add Pimm’s and a strawberry to a glass of Champagne or cava
  2. Sit back, relax and survey your kingdom!
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.

Vote for Sykes Cottages at the British Travel Awards 2014

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014
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Do you love Sykes Cottages? Then vote for us in this year’s British Travel Awards, the UK’s most prestigious travel awards ceremony. Last year, we scooped the award for Best Large UK Cottages/ Self Catering Booking Company at the awards and we’d love to do it two years on the trot!

Since winning the award back in November 2013, we’ve worked tirelessly to continue delivering the award-winning service that people have come to expect from us. Whether responding to a customer enquiry on Facebook, planning someone’s holiday over the phone or consulting with a potential new owner, we take pride in our award-winning customer service which has seen us receive an ‘Excellent’ rating from Tripadvisor for four years running.

We need your vote!

Voting for this year’s BTA is now open and there are prizes up for grabs for those that vote- including £500 worth of Sykes Cottages holiday vouchers! To enter the prize draw, simply register and vote for Sykes Cottages on the British Travel Awards website before the closing date on September 30th 2014.

British Travel Awards 2013.

Sykes Cottages’ founder, Clive Sykes, with the 2013 award for ‘Best Large UK Cottages/ Self Catering Booking Company’

We’re thankful to everyone who takes the time to vote for us and will keep you updated on all of the BTA news via Facebook and Twitter.

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’ UK Festival Guide 2014

Monday, June 30th, 2014
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Summer’s here, and that means one thing: the festival season has begun. From now until September, thousands will head to the countryside to indulge in a weekend of fun and frolics. But with so many festivals and events taking place, how do you pick your favourite from the bunch? Well, that’s where we come in, with our handy guide to the UK’s best festivals (in our humble opinion of course). So grab your glowsticks, dust down your wellies and start planning your summer festival getaway today.

Our Favourite Music Festivals

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Via Flickr

Green Man Festival

When: 14-17 August

Where: Glanusk, Wales

Why we love it:

Situated in the shadow of the Black Mountain, arguably the Brecon Beacons prettiest peak, Green Man Festival offers an appealing blend of contemporary artists and stunning surroundings. The festival is renowned for its not-for-profit ethics and intimate feel, plus their website’s pretty swish.

Wilderness Festival

When: 7-11 August

Where: Cornbury Park, Oxfordshire

Why we love it:

Boasting a lake side spa, trapeze show and nightly woodland parties, Wilderness Festival isn’t your ordinary music festival. The event has a remarkably relaxed vibe making it ideal for those swapping their usual summer holiday for a music festival- and the line-up’s rather good too!

Beacons Festival

When: 7-10 August

Where: Skipton, North Yorkshire

Why we love it:

Set amid one of England’s best loved landscapes, the Yorkshire Dales, Beacons Festival offers big acts without the big price tag. The Times named Beacons the best festival in the UK for its atmosphere; couple that with its diverse line-up, and Beacons should certainly be on your festival hitlist.

Our Favourite Food & Drink Festivals

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Pommery Dorset Seafood Festival

When: 12-13 July

Where: Weymouth Harbour, Dorset

The Pommery Dorset Seafood Festival gives visitors the chance to sample some of our nation’s favourite seafood whilst sipping on a flute or two of French fizz. Spread around Weymouth’s picturesque harbour, the event is free to enter and is a great way to spend a summer’s day.

Richmond Food and Ale Festival

When: 23-25 August

Where: Richmond, North Yorkshire

Why we love it:

If you’re into fine food and quality real ale, you’ll be well catered for at the Richmond Food and Ale Festival, which features a line-up of top chefs, exciting street food and over 100 cask ales. There’s also Morris dancing, rides and face painting, making the event a great day out for all the family.

Loch Lomond Food and Drink Festival

When: 6-7 September

Where: Loch Lomond, Dunbartonshire

Why we love it:

Set on the serene shores of Loch Lomond, the Loch Lomond Food and Drink Festival features a wealth of top Scotch nosh and plenty of tasty real ales. There’s live music too, as well as falconry, dancers and a continental farmer’s market, so why not get yourself down there this September.

Alternatives to try

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Port Eliot Festival

When: 24-27 July

Where: St Germans, Cornwall

Why we love it:

Nestled in the grounds of a stunning 12th century house from which it takes its name, the Port Eliot Festival offers a creative experience like no other. From music and dance, to yoga, craft, cookery and comedy, you won’t forget this unique summer festival in a hurry.

Whitby Folk Week

When: 16-22August

Where: Whitby, North Yorkshire

Why we love it:

For sea shanty sing-alongs and cosy, candlelit performances, make Whitby Folk Week your festival of choice this summer. Featuring a huge range of popular and lesser known artists, as well as a host of fascinating venues, the Whitby Folk Festival should be top of your list if you’re a fan of the coast.

Just So Festival

When: 15-17-August

Where: Scholar Green, Cheshire

Why we love it:

Marketed as a family arts festival, you and the kids will love the imaginative Just So Festival, which takes place in the leafy Cheshire village of Scholar Green. From enchanting adaptations of popular children’s stories, to an Alice in Wonderland-esque tea party, this is one festival that the whole family are sure to enjoy.

Rent a self-catering cottage near your favourite festival

If you like the idea of a festival but don’t fancy getting down and dirty with the campers, don’t worry, as our self-catering holiday cottages provide the ideal base for a comfortable and smell-free festival experience. After a day of alfresco fun, what could be better than decamping in a lovely, comfy holiday home or yurt to enjoy a good night’s sleep. To find a holiday cottage near your chosen festival, visit our homepage and use the search facility on the left to find properties that are available, or, give us a call! Our dedicated call centre team will be happy to help find accommodation for you.

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.