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Harvest Fest: Where to find Britain’s Best Farmers’ Markets

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014
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“That’s it, from now on, I’m healthy eating!” I can’t count the times I’ve heard – and uttered – this pledge, yet nine times out of ten this good intention fails to materialise. Since the health benefits of eating well came to the fore, the price of so called superfoods has rocketed, making it difficult for some to budget for a healthy lifestyle. But buying fresh produce needn’t be expensive; head to any of the UK’s hundreds of weekly farmers’ markets, and you’ll find plenty of healthy, locally sourced produce at fare and affordable prices. Here’s five of our favourite agricultural markets from around the UK.

Orton Farmer’s Market – Orton, Cumbria

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Over 35 local farmers, producers and craftsmen set up shop at the Orton Farmers’ Market, a large produce fair taking place in the centre of Orton village every second Saturday of the month. Fair organisers stipulate that all wares sold at the market – be it food stuff or craft – must be grown, produced or manufactured within fifty miles of the village, so punters know what they’re buying is home-grown. Expect fresh veg grown in the emerald Eden Valley, moreish seafood from Morecambe Bay and affordable meat that hasn’t travelled across the sea to reach your plate.

The Goods Shed – Canterbury, Kent

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Housed in a Victorian railway building, The Goods Shed offers a charming place to shop for top quality nosh. Purveyors of delectable local produce since the early noughties, The Goods Shed is one of Britain’s only markets that operates daily – even Sundays. The Goods Shed has a different vibe to other farmers’ markets, with regular sellers housed in specially built concession stalls throughout the building. You’ll find a variety of quality food and drink at the market, including locally brewed ales at The Bottle Shop, delicious continental meat at Patriana Charcuterie, and tasty cheese at the Cheese Makers of Canterbury – scrumdiddlyumptious.

Stroud Farmers’ Market – Stroud, Gloucestershire

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Multi-award winning isn’t an accolade you’d associate with a farmers’ market, but there’s no other way to describe the Stroud Farmers’ Market. As one of the UK’s biggest, busiest and outright brilliant farm fairs, Stroud has received glowing recommendations from the Sunday Telegraph, The Independent, The Times and everyone’s favourite Cornwall based chef, Rick Stein. The market features well over fifty produce, craft and miscellaneous stalls, making it by far Britain’s biggest farmers’ market. From bread to veg, you’ll find everything and more at the Stroud Farmers’ Market.

The Orkney Farmers’ Market – Orkney, Scotland

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

OK, it’s not as local as the cornershop, but the Orkney Farmers’ Market is well worth the leg-work. Featuring a fantastic array of local tradesmen – not to mention a wonderful location in the heart of Kirkwall – the Orkney Farmers’ Market is one produce fair you’ll want to spend plenty of time perusing. The event brings plenty of regular stallholders selling a variety of fresh produce and items; plus, there’s usually some entertain put on in support of local charities. The Orkney Farmers’ Market takes place on every last Saturday of the month, so do stop by if you’re in the area on this date.

Cook up a storm in a country cottage

If tasting local produce is on your UK holiday wishlist, why not take a look at our range of self-catering country cottages? Featuring charming kitchens, spacious larders and comfortable dining areas, these holiday rentals are ideal for those who want to cook up a storm using the freshest local produce – take a look now.

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.

A Local’s Guide to the Romantic East Riding

Friday, October 3rd, 2014
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East Yorkshire: home of The Beautiful South, William Wilberforce, Amy Johnson and the mighty Yorkshire Wolds. As epic as all this sounds, I can’t help feel this corner of God’s Own County is often overlooked, particularly as a romantic holiday destination. I may be biased, but I believe the East Riding can be just as a romantic as the Cotswolds and the Lake Districts of the world, not least because of its exquisite coast and rolling, picnic worthy landscapes. Not convinced? Just you wait; in the next five hundred words or so, I bet I can convince you that when it comes to romance, there’s nowhere like the East Riding of Yorkshire.

Feast on fine Yorkshire fare

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Yorkshire grub is known for its heartiness and simplicity, and it’s no different in the East Riding. The region’s agricultural heritage has forged an honest-to-goodness approach to cookery, Food iStock 15017286with cosy country pubs serving delicious, locally sourced fare at every turn. Should you and your beloved be tootling around near the Wolds/ Moors border, be sure to stop off at The Blue Bell pub in Weaverthorpe, where roaring fires and a superb menu await. Or, visit The Chestnut Horse in Kelk, an 18th Century inn renowned for its unusual – yet mouth-watering – approach to pies.

And it’s not just charming country pubs on offer, no sir. East Yorkshire may be quaint, but it also boasts several vibrant towns that are chock-a-block with eateries both foreign and domestic. Like spice? Add some heat to your evening at Trishna Tandoori, an authentic Indian restaurant in Driffield. Or, perhaps it’s the taste of Italia you’re after? If so, make for La Perla, a cosy Italian in the City of Culture 2017; Hull for short.

Take a romantic stroll beside the North Sea

Flamborough Lighthouse – Via Flickr

Flamborough Lighthouse – Via Flickr

OK, so East Yorkshire’s countryside may be pastoral and lovely and everything, but let’s be honest, it’s nothing compared to its coast. From the secluded dunes of Spurn Point to the evocative cliffs of Flamborough Head, Couple on beachthis stretch of North Sea coast is perfect for romantic coastal strolls at any time of year. One of my favourite places for a bracing, hand-in-hand walk begins in the village of Sewerby and follows the sea cliffs south to Bridlington. Head north from Sewerby, and the Flamborough Headland Heritage Coast also promises a charming stomping ground for a coastal hike.

Travel to East Yorkshire in summer and your first port of call ought to be the beach. Though busy, the beaches of Bridlington and Hornsey offer the classic seaside experience, whilst the golden sands of Dane’s Dyke, Spurn Point and Thornwick Bay are secluded enough for lovesick couples. Regardless of where you lay your beach towel, I’m positive the East Yorkshire coast will be just what you were hoping for.

Discover history and heritage

Burton Agnes Hall – Via Flickr

Burton Agnes Hall – Via Flickr

Take a walk anywhere in East Yorkshire and you’ll be struck by the nostalgia of the place. Like much of Yorkshire, the East Riding has a long and evocative history, much of which is lovingly preserved in several attractions and98353808 historic sites. For romantic-types, the gardens of Burton Agnes Hall, Sledmere House, Burnby Hall and Burton Constable prove perfect for pondering, whilst the unusual Wharram Percy – a deserted medieval village in the Wolds – offers a secluded spot for exploration.

Aside from stately homes and mysterious, time-forgotten villages, what else does East Yorkshire offer history fans? Take a trip to Beverley Minster, an enormous church regarded as a gothic masterpiece by historians. Discover bizarre curio and wonderful architecture in The Bayle Museum in the Old Town of Bridlington. Or, venture to Hull’s Museum’s Quarter, where you’ll find eight great museums that you can enter free of charge.

Other things to do on a romantic break in East Yorkshire

Via Flickr

Beverley Westwood – Via Flickr

Explore the East Riding at your leisure and you’ll no doubt come across things that’ll spike your interest, whether it be a private beach, rural country pub or secluded wildflower meadow. To help you along on this odyssey of chance encounters, here’s a shortlist of some of the hidden gems that you should look up before visiting East Yorkshire:

  • Beverley Westwood, Beverley For pleasant pastures, head to Beverley Westwood, a large country park on the outskirts of the historic market town.
  • Little Switzerland, Hull Walk under the mighty Humber Bridge in the Humber Bridge Country Park, known locally as Little Switzerland.
  • Petros, Nafferton A glorious Italian restaurant hidden within the façade of a humble pub in the village of Nafferton.
  • Green Lane, Driffield Panoramic views of the Yorkshire Dales beckon on Green Lane, a public byway that begins in Driffield and winds high into the countryside.
  • Kings Mill Millennium Park, Driffield Travelling with your pooch? Head to Kings Mill, a wetland park offering plenty of room for Rex to romp.

Rent a cottage in East Yorkshire with Sykes Cottages

So there you have it, a local’s guide to the romantic and oh-so-charming East Riding of Yorkshire. If you’re interested in renting a Yorkshire holiday cottage in the East Riding, 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.

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.