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National Tree Week: Scotland’s Bonniest Woodlands

Friday, December 5th, 2014
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It’s National Tree Week, and what better way to celebrate our nation’s trees than with a trip north of the border. Scotland is home to some truly stunning forests and woodlands, many of which have been around for centuries – here’s a look at some of Scotland’s bonniest forests and where you can find them.

Taynish National Nature Reserve, Argyll

Taynish National Nature Reserve – Via Flickr

Taynish National Nature Reserve – Via Flickr

The oak woodlands of Taynish National Nature Reserve have occupied the same spot on the west coast of Scotland for over 6,000 years – extraordinary, right? The woodlands survival is down to the region’s moist, clean air, as well as its mix of heath, grasslands and saltmarsh, which provides the perfect environment for an array of wildlife. You’ll find Taynish on the west coast of Argyll, and there are a number of different trails and nature walks to be enjoyed within the woodland.

Birnam Wood & ‘Big Tree Country’, Perthshire

'Big Tree Country' – Via Flickr

‘Big Tree Country’ – Via Flickr

Perthshire, aka ‘Big Tree Country’, is home to a splendid array of ancient, towering trees. The region lays claim to Europe’s oldest tree: the Fortingall Yew, found in the churchyard of Fortingall and thought to be around 3,000 years old. Perthshire is also home to The Birnam Oak, an iconic tree which features in Shakespeare’s Macbeth – nearly 1,000 years old itself. Visitors to Perthshire will soon understand the origin of the term ‘Big Tree County’, particularly if they take a walk along the trails of Killiekrankie and Dunkeld.

The Caledonian Forest, Scottish Highlands

Caledonian Forest – Via Flickr

Caledonian Forest – Via Flickr

For thousands of years, huge pockets of pinewood covered the Scottish Highlands; this was called the Caledonian Forest. Sadly, only a small percent of this once mighty woodland remains today. Travel to the Mar Lodge Estate in the Cairngorms National Park, and experience the Highlands as they looked thousands of years ago. Mar Lodge is home to a large swathe of Caledonian woodland, with a range of ancient trees including Scots pine, aspen, birch, juniper and oak. Keep your eye out for rare Scottish wildlife too, including the red deer and golden eagle.

Yair Forest, Scottish Borders

Yair Forest – Via Flickr

Yair Forest – Via Flickr

The upmost peace and quiet awaits at Yair, a mature woodland in the picturesque Tweed Valley. Although popular with walkers, Yair remains relatively undiscovered, yet offers serene vistas and the perfect starting point for a hike up Three Bretheren, a scenic hilltop. Walking routes traverse much of this ancient forest, but one to look out for is the Raeless Trail, whose 1.1 mile route is accessible for everyone and offers magical views of the River Tweed.

Galloway Forest Park, Dumfries & Galloway

Galloway Forest Park – Via Flickr

Galloway Forest Park – Via Flickr

Those with a penchant for the great outdoors will be at home in Galloway Forest Park. Walking, cycling, kayaking, fishing – all take place beneath the canopy of trees. The forest’s rolling hills, coupled with its well-structured trails, make it a utopia for walkers and cyclists alike, and there are several ‘downhill’ routes for mountain bikers. No visit to Galloway Forest Park would be complete without a peaceful picnic on the banks of Loch Dee, and if you’re in no rush, stick around ‘til dusk – the starry night sky here is nothing short of epic.

Rent a country cottage in Scotland

Love the great outdoors? Then you’ll love our country cottage rentals in Scotland. There’s really no better place than bonnie Scotland for a secluded country escape, so choose your favourite from our collection today.

Celebrating National Tree Week? Let us know your favourite tree, woodland or forest on Facebook and Twitter.

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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.

Sykes Cottages Win at Prestigious Travolution Awards

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014
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Last night, we won the award for ‘Best use of Search Engine Marketing’ at the prestigious 2014 Travolution Awards, overcoming stiff competition from some of the travel industry’s most respected brands.

Travoawards.003

The award was given in recognition of our innovative Search Engine Marketing techniques, including the original use of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and PPC (Pay Per Click) marketing.

After a gruelling application process, in which evidence of the effectiveness of our SEM strategy was scrutinised by Travolution judges, the prize was awarded at a glamorous dinner last night, with hundreds of travel industry people in attendance.

Our marketing gurus with the Travolution Award

Tom & Charlotte at the Travolution Awards

Innovation has always been at the forefront of our brand, and we’re absolutely thrilled to have won this sought-after accolade. The use of an award-winning SEM strategy makes it easier for our brand to be found online,  providing a better service for both our customers and property owners.

Alongside our win, we were among six travel websites nominated for ‘Best Accommodation Website’ – an accomplishment that we are also immensely proud of!

The Travolution award comes within days of us winning ‘Best UK Holiday Cottage Company – large’ at the 2014 British Travel Awards, a prize we first won back in 2013. Together, the BTA and Travolution awards show our commitment to both our customers and property owners, and highlight our continuing efforts to be the best self-catering holiday cottage provider in the UK.

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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: Caerlaverock Castle & Nature Reserve, Scotland

Saturday, November 29th, 2014
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There’s no question about it: Scotland is a utopia for walkers. Come rain or shine, sleet or snow, intrepid folk take to the country’s illustrious countryside to bask in its irresistible scenery. For November’s walk of the month, we’re crossing the border and taking a stroll around one of Scotland’s most romantic castles: Caerlaverock.

Caerlaverock Castle – Via Flickr

Caerlaverock Castle – Via Flickr

Built in the 13th century, Caerlaverock has withstood centuries of hardship and turbulence. Demolished on a number of occasions by English and Scottish forces, the castle prevailed, and its preservation is quite extraordinary. This imposing keep overlooks the Caerlaverock National Nature Reserve, where this month’s walk begins.

The Walk

Those tackling this 3km walk in the winter months should beware variable weather conditions as well as often extremely muddy terrain. Ascents however, aren’t strenuous, and overall the walk should take no more than one hour to complete.

The Route

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Park on the B725 (designated parking is available for a limited number of vehicles) before crossing the wooden walkway signposted Caerlaverock National Nature Reserve. This short path leads to the mudflats synonymous with the reserve, where Norwegian barnacle geese can often be seen grazing in the winter months.

Take the path running between the mudflats and Castle Wood. Soon the path will branch left, passing through Castle Wood itself. Eventually you’ll come to footbridge; cross this, taking care on particularly muddy sections on the opposite side. Soon you will come to a track which passes several houses; stay on course and you will come to one of the northern towers of Caerlaverock, thought to be one of earliest stone-built fortifications in Scotland. Sadly, only its foundations remain.

To enter the castle you must pay an admission fee, but if you’d rather not, continue along the track. Several hundred yards on, you’ll be greeted with superb views of Caerlaverock’s imposing, ruined keep. The castle is triangular in shape and lies at the centre of a wide moat, making it a daunting prospect for the approaching invader.

Continue along this track, taking in the wide vistas rolling out before you, and eventually you will come upon Caerlaverock’s visitor centre. Here, you can pay to enter the castle grounds for a closer look, or continue along the path and out the main gate. Before you leave, why not stop for a warming brew in the on-site café, or take a moment to investigate the castle’s replica trebuchet, once used to devastating effect.

Download the comprehensive route and map for this walk here.

Rent a cottage in Dumfries & Galloway with Sykes Cottages

During the autumn and winter months, Scotland’s dramatic, primordial beauty is amplified. If you’re in need of an invigorating winter break, or have been on the hunt for that perfect romantic weekend break destination, take a look at our holiday cottages to rent in Dumfries and Galloway. From its dramatic seaboard to its rugged hills, this corner of Scotland is the perfect place for a beautiful cottage break – click the link to find out more.

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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.

We’ve done it again: Sykes Scoop BTA for Second Successive Year

Thursday, November 27th, 2014
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Sykes Cottages have won ‘Best Large UK Holiday Cottage Company’ at the British Travel Awards, for the second year running.

Our British Travel Awards

Our British Travel Awards

Despite tough competition from industry rivals, Sykes has retained its crown as Britain’s best self-catering holiday cottage provider, winning the coveted award for the second time at this year’s BTA finals.

The British Travel Awards is the most prestigious event on the tourism industry calendar, with hundreds of travel companies hoping to go away with one of the sought-after accolades.

The awards offer a chance for the public to vote for the holiday and travel companies they think provide outstanding products and services in their field, with millions of holidaymakers participating in the vote.

For the companies who win, the award goes further than just a trophy. The BTA winner’s emblem highlights the company’s excellence, and shows they’ve delivered consistently high levels of care and service for many happy customers.

It goes without saying that everyone at Sykes Cottages is immensely proud of our achievement. After a year in which we received another ‘excellent’ rating by TripAdvisor, and smashed our previous bookings record, the British Travel Awards win really is the cherry on top.

And we owe it all to you – our customers! Without your help and support, we might never have achieved our second BTA award. So, from everyone at Sykes Cottages, we’d like to say a huge thank you to you, and promise that we’ll strive to live up to our title of Britain’s best large self-catering cottage provider for many years to come.

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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.

5 Reasons to Book a Break in York this December

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014
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With its ‘A Christmas Carol’ looks and array of independent shops, York may well be the best place in the UK for a pre-Christmas break. Come the festive period, this ceaselessly-charming city takes Christmas to a whole other level; think spruces suspended above shop fronts; whole streets hung with lanterns aglow; carols soaring from the historic Minster; and the scent of cinnamon, mulled wine and roasted chestnuts drifting from the Shambles to Clifford’s Tower.

If that isn’t reason enough to book a short break in York this Christmas, read on for further inspiration.

Festive fun around every cobbled corner

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Feeling festive or notably ‘humbug’? No matter, a trip to York will raise your spirits. At Christmastime, York is transformed into a veritable grotto; an enchanting place for both children and adults alike. From the 28th November, Christmas markets line the streets, carol concerts raise the rafters, and Father Christmas is on hand to grant little’uns their Christmas wish. For an unforgettable festive treat, head to Fairfax House, where you can experience Christmas from days gone-by.

Christmas shopping in one place

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Want to get the shopping done in one fell swoop? There’s nowhere better than York. The city is home to a mix of both designer and high streets stores, as well as a multitude of independent gift stores. There are markets aplenty too, including St Nicholas Fair – famed for its speciality foods and craft. If you can’t find what you’re looking for in town, try one of the city’s retail parks; the McArthur Glen design outlet is crammed with lovely – albeit, pricey – gifts, or if you’re on budget, Monks Cross may have what you’re looking for.

Cosy pubs and restaurants

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

If shopping is the last thing on your mind, York boasts a fabulous array of restaurants, cafes and pubs where you can relax and indulge on a chilly winter’s day. From the roaring fires and oak-beams of its 15th century pubs, to its contemporary riverside café bars, York is the perfect place for a romantic evening or festive shindig. If it’s eating you’re interested in, you’ll find all manner of cuisine across the city, from Thai, Japanese and Spanish to Indian, Italian and English – take your pick.

Fascinating Attractions

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

No trip to York would be complete without finding out about the city’s eminent past. Whatever time of year, the history of this unique city always comes to the fore. From the moment you enter the imposing city walls, pass Clifford’s Tower and take a stroll down the Shambles, York’s legendary history is evident. A trip to the York Castle Museum is a must for anyone interested in the city’s history, whilst those with a penchant for the macabre will love the grisly York Dungeons.

Beyond the city walls

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Grow tired of the crowds and it’s well worth going beyond York’s limits to explore North Yorkshire. You don’t need to travel far to encounter some wonderfully peaceful pockets of countryside; the Ryedale Valley, Vale of Pickering and Howardian Hills are miles from the city, and offer spectacular opportunities for walking. There are lots of charming towns and villages around York too where you can enjoy a country pub lunch, including Stamford Bridge, Helston, Malton and Ampleforth.

Book a winter short break in York

Convinced by a pre-Christmas break? Check out our holiday accommodation in York that’s available for short breaks. There are some real bargains to be had in the run up to Christmas, so browse our collection of winter short break holiday homes 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.