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Escape the Crowds: Alternative UK Destinations

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014
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Tourist trap: it’s a term that conjures images of long queues, high prices and most importantly, lots of people. Unfortunately, in a world where holidays are becoming more accessible, crowded and overvisited places are proving difficult to avoid.

If you’re not one for queues, crowds and above-average prices, you’ve come to the right place.

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Like foreign countries, the UK has popular resorts which draw more people than others, particularly at peak times. Whether by word of mouth, tradition, or proximity, it’s these destinations that have become the dreaded tourist traps of Britain.

And that’s a shame, because the places I’m talking about are all wonderful destinations in their own right. But, if you’re someone who doesn’t like crowds, they can be a real drag when it comes to high season. But all is not lost. With our handy guide to alternate UK destinations, avoiding the hordes can be a breeze. So without further ado, here’s our guide to the UK’s top alternate destinations and where you can find them.

Newquay OR Polzeath

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Via Flickr

Newquay may be the mecca of UK surfing, but come the summer months, its beaches can be chocka. Although we can’t blame anyone for wanting to spend their summer holiday in Newquay – its beaches really are fantastic – there is an alternative. Head east and you’ll find Polzeath, a small resort which shares the same Atlantic swells as its busier big bro, yet with more room to spread your beach towel. The water off Polzeath is reliably squally, making for great surfing, while its sand is soft enough for little toes. There’s plenty of bars, cafés and eateries too, not to mention curious independent shops; why not give it a go?

Windermere OR Buttermere

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Via Flickr

Ever since Wordsworth penned his Lyrical Ballads in the 18th century, tourists have flocked to the Lake District in their droves, transforming this otherwise unspoilt land into one of the UK’s biggest tourist traps. In recent times, Windermere has took the brunt of the Lake District’s tourist surge, with over 12 million gracing its shores each year. For a more peaceful Lake District experience, head to Buttermere, a ‘lake’ equal in prettiness to Windermere, with much fewer tourists. The adjacent village is pleasantly quiet too, so it’s the perfect base for a holiday in the Lakes.

Bridlington OR Filey

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Via Flickr

Sure it’s not as big as Bridlington, but Filey’s stunning beach, lighthouse and sea-cliffs more than make up for it. Having grown up mere miles from Bridlington, I’ve paid witness to its summer mobbing, and although the crowds may appeal to those who prefer their seaside bustling, for others, this may be daunting. If so, head up the coast to Filey, a beautiful coastal village offering a nostalgic seaside experience. Filey’s crescent shaped beach is flanked by a string of evocative chalk cliffs, at the end of which perches an 18th century lighthouse. The beach is dog friendly too, so you can enjoy a bracing walk in the North Sea breeze with your beloved pooch by your side.

Tenby OR Newport

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Via Flickr

“Newport?!” I hear you ask. Not that one. Wales is actually home to another Newport, and one that’s quite a lot prettier than its counterpart. Situated in the northern reaches of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, this peaceful fishing village gives the popular coastal town of Tenby a run for its money thanks to its magnificent beach and charming architecture. Though I’m a huge advocate for Tenby, and doubt that baby-Newport could out-do it, this coastal village may pip its rival at the post when it comes to peace and quiet. Honestly though, go to Pembrokeshire; it’s a beautiful part of the world that’s full of beautiful places to visit.

Great Yarmouth OR Holkham

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Via Flickr

Like Bridlington, Great Yarmouth is a brilliant destination for good clean family fun. If penny arcades, donkey rides and rock shops aren’t your scene however, drive up the coast and visit Holkham instead. Located in the Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, this serene village is home to one of the UK’s most beautiful beaches, as well as charming village complete with attractive manor house; the aptly named Holkham Hall. Dogs on leads are welcome at Holkham beach, as too are nudists, so bear this in mind if you’re travelling with youngsters.

Book an alternative UK holiday today!

Here at Sykes, we love every inch of the UK, from the gaudiness of our beachfront arcades to the peace and tranquillity of our unspoilt moorlands. If you’re interested in renting a cottage in one of the destinations mentioned in this post, visit our website now and choose from a selection of over 5,000 wonderful UK holiday homes.

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: Sizergh Estate, Cumbria

Saturday, September 13th, 2014
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Ancient history and charming countryside provide a wonderful backdrop for a walk in the grounds of Sizergh Castle. Since the 17th century, this imposing house has kept an eye over the Lake District’s neighbouring fens, and its adjoining country estate is the ideal stomping ground for an invigorating hike.

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Via Flickr

During September, the hues of autumn transform Sizergh and its grounds into a peaceful wonderland of amber, orange and gold, so be sure to pack the SLR before heading out on the trail. Because it’s a National Trust property, there’s a fee to enter the castle and its grounds, but it’s a small price to pay to experience an autumnal walk in this quiet corner of the Lake District.

The Walk

With a mix of tarmacked roads, footpaths and compressed tracks, this 2.5 walk should be accessible to all, however, care should be taken in wet conditions as surfaces can be slippery.

The Route

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Via Flickr

Start your walk in the castle’s car park and follow the path into the adjacent fields. Keeping the wall on your left, continue straight across the paddock, taking care if the terrain is wet. At the end of the field, go through the gate and immediately through another.

Once on Sizergh Fell, wander up the hill, marvelling at the wildflowers that bloom during the summer months. Keep your eye out for woodpeckers too, which can often be seen hovering above the colourful plumes, preying on ants and other insects.

Continue climbing uphill towards the wood. During the autumn and winter months, a few nesting bird species are attracted to these trees by seasonal berries, including fieldfare and redwings. Once you’ve neared the top, stop and admire the views of Morecambe Bay ahead of you, and the distant Pennines behind.

Walk past the trees, keeping them on your right hand side, before beginning your descent towards the beautiful Lake District fells. Eventually, you’ll come to a gate. Go through this and enter the wood ahead of you, before making an immediate right turn and following the wall on your right hand side. Continue downhill until you come to a gate which leads to a tarmac road.

Turn right and follow the road for around half a kilometre. After passing Lane End Farm, you’ll come to a large wooden gate. Pass this, and continue along Ashbank Lane. You will pass three gates along the lane, as well as an ancient deer park, which still contains several of these elusive mammals. Soon, you will arrive back at Sizergh Castle, where a warm brew in the castle’s café awaits.

Download the comprehensive route and map for this walk here.

Rent a cottage in Cumbria with Sykes Cottages

If a peaceful stroll in the grounds of Sizergh Castle sounds dreamy, why not rent one of our wonderful Cumbrian cottages and enjoy an invigorating holiday in the Lake District this autumn? This is the perfect season to visit the region, thanks to lower tourist numbers and the presence of autumn’s charming colours, so browse our Lake District holiday rentals 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 research the history of your holiday home

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014
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A few weeks ago I noticed a plaque thirty feet up the rear wall of my building with the numbers ‘1836’ inscribed on it. With nerdy hastiness, I did some research into said date-plate and- shock horror- it turns out the building was indeed built way back in 1836.

Amazing, right? Well I certainly think so. Thanks to the power of the internet, it’s now easy to turn Tony Robinson for the day and research the history of your home-amazing!

But Jonathan, pray tell: how do you go about researching the history of your abode? Well loyal reader, I’m glad you asked. Below you’ll find some useful hints and tips on how to get the bits and pieces that make up your home’s history; so let’s get down to business.

First Steps

So, you’ve got your house, but how do you start unearthing its dirty secrets? The first thing you should do is try determine roughly when your property was built.

Look for obvious clues that may ascertain the age of the property. Like mine, your home may have a plaque detailing its erection date. These are often located on the exterior, although in some properties they may appear indoors.

If your holiday home’s really old, there’s a chance it might be a listed building, in which case you should have a look at the National Heritage List for England, an online database listing all of the country’s designated heritage assets. If it’s on there, that’s good news, as there should be plenty of information to boot, including when it was built. If not, don’t get down; there’s another angle of attack.

If you’re struggling to determine when your property was built, it might be a good idea to speak to neighbours or other members of the community to see if they can shed light on when your home was originally constructed. You never know, some nebby-neighbour might be able to point you in the right direction, or at least provide some gossip on its previous occupants.

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Unlocking your home’s history

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Now that you’ve got a general idea of when your house was raised from its foundations, it’s time to start going through the history books to delve deeper into its past. Who lived there? What were their livelihoods? Was it stricken by tragedy, or at the centre of a community-wide dispute? Thanks to the internet, there are hundreds of free-resources you can use to unlock the secrets of your home’s past.

If you’d like to find out who lived in your house, the best place to start is at your local records office. Here, thousands of public archives are available to view, including electoral registers, census catalogues and Ordnance Survey Maps, all of which can be used to unearth the history of your home.

For instance, electoral registers will list every resident who was registered at your address, since records began. Just think of all the interesting folk who may have passed through the front door of your property!

Put that research to use

When you’ve completed your research and exhausted your home’s history, it’s time to share what you’ve learnt with the world. As a holiday home owner, your guests are likely to be just as interested in the history of your home as you are, so create an information pack for your property that details the ins and outs of its history.

People are always interested to hear about the history and heritage of where they’re choosing to stay, so an illustrated guide to your home, as well as the local area, would go down a treat.

To find out more about researching the history of your home, visit the English Heritage website.

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.

Cottage Owners: How to maximise off-peak bookings

Friday, September 5th, 2014
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After a busy summer of bookings, some holiday home owners may be breathing a sigh of relief now that the kids have gone back to school, whilst others could still be booked up for the foreseeable. However busy you are, it’s helpful to note that the off-peak season is approaching, a time when bookings slow and gaps in your reservation calendar are likely to appear. There are number of things you can do to prevent a lull in income through the off-peak period, and we’ve listed these below.

Be flexible with your changeovers

During summer, you can afford to be less flexible because your property is likely to be booked for weeks at a time. However, with fewer potential bookings knocking around during off-peak, it pays to be as flexible as you can with changeover days. If a customer wants to stay in your property on a particular date- even if it doesn’t fall on your normal changeover- you should endeavour to meet their needs; after all, any booking is better than no booking at all.

Sign up to the Sykes Sale

Throughout the year, we run sales to encourage customers to book off-peak holidays. These prove popular, with the majority of properties achieving high booking rates. Although owners can choose whether their property is included in the sale, we’d encourage those whose bookings are low to do so, as this can improve booking numbers. The amount of discount offered is variable, and although you’ll make less per booking, the quantity of reservations ensures that your income remains high.

Offer short break discounts

The majority of Sykes’ property owners offer short break discounts, including winter, last minute and off-season. If you’re tinkering with the idea of offering short break discounts yourself, our advice would be to do so. A slight reduction in cost can mean the difference between getting a booking and not, and short breaks also mean that customers can be more flexible with when they wish to stay at your property.

Make the most of downtime

For some, a week with no bookings can be a godsend, not least after a frantic summer. If your property is in need of some TLC, the off-peak season is a great time to tend to your abode. Whether you have big DIY plans or just need to get in there with a mop and bucket, make the most of your downtime and get your cottage ship-shape for when things get hectic once more. If you do make any changes, be sure to send us some pictures so that we can showcase the improvements on your property page- you never know, a lick of paint may just earn you an extra booking or two!

A final note to say…

…hang in there! We know it’s disheartening when your down on bookings, but take it from us, we’ll do all we can to help boost bookings during the slower months, including promoting your property on our social media channels, and on this little old blog. To find out more about how to increase bookings, or for more information on letting your property with Sykes Cottages, please visit our let your cottage page 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.

Summer’s Over: Ten Things to Look Forward to This Autumn

Thursday, September 4th, 2014
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Back to school, post-holiday blues, dark nights, cold mornings, and who could forget the freight train that is, Christmas. That’s right, summer’s over. But before you sink into an autumnal abyss, try look on the bright side, because believe it or not, there’s still plenty to look forward to in the remnants of 2014, not to mention in the New Year (twenty FIFTEEN). Here’s a list of what we think you should focus on during a Tuesday school run or a gloomy five thirty commute.

Halloween, Bonfire Night & Christmas form a festive sandwich

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Via Flickr

I’d go as far as saying that the period between September and December is one of my favourite times of year, not least because it’s home to three of the UK’s most popular holidays; Halloween, Bonfire Night and Christmas. Buy sparklers, carve veg and be merry!

Autumn is by far the sexiest season

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Via Flickr

Just look around, even the trees are getting their kit off. I jest, but truly, autumn is our prettiest season. Head to any national park, cemetery or leafy suburb from Devon to Dumfries and you’ll get what I’m on about. Alternatively, check out our blog on where to see the best autumn colour.

Comfort food, comfort food, and MORE comfort food

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Via Flickr

Sod rainy barbecues; winter fodder is reliable, hearty and downright AMAZING. We’re thinking warm broths brimming with seasonal veg. Steaming soup and crusty bread. Stew and dumplings, jacket potatoes, and who could forget, festive sarnies chock-a-block with turkey, cranberry and all manner of other mouth-watering fare- spot on!

Hot baths (or hot tubs)

Forget speedy summer showers and sink into a steamy hot bath instead. When the mercury drops below ten, it’s time to turn up the heat and soak your worries away. Of course, for those that don’t own a tub, you’ll need to get creative with your bath time; or, you could rent one of our cottages with a hot tub and make your soaking session a proper spectacle?

Blustery, blow-out-the-cobwebs walks

Sewerby Cliffs

Sewerby Cliffs

The sweating days are over, and now it’s time to layer up, lace up and enjoy a bracing walk in your favourite pocket of countryside. Since I was little, I’ve always preferred walking in the colder months- no doubt in a thousand jumpers at my mum’s request- and still love to head out whatever the temperature- will you be joining me?

The joy of a roaring fire

Sitting, reading, watching tele, having a pint, hell, even knitting, are just some of the activities made better by the presence of a roaring fire. If you haven’t got one, a gas one can do the trick, but you can forget about it if yours is electric. If your fire’s pitiful, rent one of our cottages with a roaring log burner instead, and get set for a cosy weekend beside the flames.

Layers of lovely clobber

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Via Flickr

Winter clothes are just better. Enough said.

The arrival of the German Christmas market

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Via Flickr

We’re big fans of the German Christmas market here at Sykes HQ, and it seems we’re not alone. Over the past decade, this festive import has cropped up in towns and cities across the UK, bringing hot booze and tasty Bratwursts to us Christmas-ready Brits. To find a Christmas market in your area, visit christmasmarkets.com.

Mums get some me time

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Via Flickr

Sure it’s sad that the kids are back at school, but after a couple of days, we’re sure you’ll get over it, especially when the peace and serenity sets in. The autumn term means more time to do the things you love whilst your little terrors are out of the house, unless of course you work full time. Either way, once that school bell tolls, it’ll be a welcome reprieve after a hectic summer.

If none of the above appeal, book a holiday!

In hindsight, I could have saved us both time and effort by just telling you to book a holiday. Yes, autumn and winter have their downsides, but they’re also a great time to enjoy a break. Why not take advantage of our wonderful autumn sale and book yourself a UK holiday 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.