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British Marine Life: Where to Find it?

Saturday, July 26th, 2014
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From 26th July to 10th August 2014, the Wildlife Trust is celebrating the fascinating sea animals and plants that live in the UK’s marine environment for National Marine Week. This event takes place annually, taking on a different theme every year. The theme for 2014 is centred on five of the most common types of starfish found in the UK: the cushion, the bloody Henry, the common, the spiny and the brittle. Here at Sykes Cottages, we’re huge lovers of all things nature so we’ve decided to write a guide to some of the best places in the UK to see marine wildlife.

Where to find the best rock pools

Wembury Beach in Devon

Via Flickr

If there’s one thing kids love to do on a beach holiday, it’s explore the rock pools; there’s nothing more exciting when you’re a child than spotting a crab or finding a particularly pretty shell. Our pick of the best rock pools in Britain is Wembury on the south coast of Devon. Wembury is renowned for its fantastic rockpooling opportunities. Here, you can find a wide array of wildlife including Cornish Sucker Fish, Velvet Swimming Crabs, Long-Spined Sea Scorpions and both cushion and spiny starfish. There are many safety considerations to bear in mind when you’re rockpooling (both for yourself and the wildlife) so be sure to read the Devon Wildlife’s Trust Seashore Code before you head out.

Where to see seals

Seals at Blakeney Point, Norfolk

Via Flickr

Seals are one of the most popular forms of marine wildlife for tourists to seek out and luckily, they can be found in lots of places along the British coastline. One of our favourite spots to go looking for seals is Blakeney in Norfolk. From the quay, you can catch a boat out to Blakeney Point where you will find around 500 Common and Grey seals basking on the sandbanks. The peak seal-watching period lasts from April until October so make sure you bear this in mind when you book your trip!

Where to discover whales and dolphins


Picture provided by Holly Magoolagan

Scotland is one of the best places in the UK to see whales and dolphins. If you’re looking to catch a glimpse of a Minke Whale then head to the east coast of the Shetland Islands between May and September, or to experience the majestic Sperm Whale, you can catch a boat from the Outer Hebrides to just west of the continental shelf edge. Scotland also offers one of the most iconic colonies of dolphins in the UK, the bottlenose pods in the Moray Firth. The best place in the Moray Firth to see dolphins is at Chanonry Point, Cromarty, which is where the highest number of sightings have been reported.

Where to encounter birds

Puffin At Skomer Island

Via Flickr

Skomer Island is home to one of the largest colonies of sea-birds in the UK and is just 15 minutes off the stunning Pembrokeshire coastline. Skomer boasts the world’s largest population of Manx Shearwaters, a cousin of the wandering albatross, with an estimated 120,000 breeding pairs inhabiting the island. However, these birds only leave and return to the island under cover of darkness so in order to get the chance to fully experience these incredible birds, you will need to book one of the guided night walks organised by the Wildlife Trust. Skomer is also home to a large number of puffins, razorbills, guillemots and short-eared owls, to name just a few!

Louise O'Toole

By Louise O'Toole

Louise loves reading, shopping, baking and cosy country pubs with log fires. A nice cup of tea will never be turned down. She has spent many childhood summers on the beach in Cornwall and walking the hills of the Lake District.

Spectacular Holiday Cottages in Scotland

Thursday, July 24th, 2014
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With the start of the 2014 Commonwealth Games yesterday, all eyes are on Scotland for what is sure to be a fantastic fortnight of  sport. To celebrate the buzz surrounding Scotland at the moment, we’ve put together a shortlist of some of our most spectacular Scottish holiday cottages for you to enjoy.

Beach Cottage, Sandend

Holiday cottage in Sandend, Scotland

Beach Cottage, Sandend, Ref. 12172

This beautiful holiday cottage is located in the small village of Sandend, on the north-east coast of Scotland. Standing in an elevated position overlooking the beach, this cottage boasts unrivalled views across the sand and sea; offering light, airy and spacious accommodation for a family or group of friends. There are plenty of coastal walks around Beach Cottage and if you’re a history buff, then you’ll love the nearby ruins of Findlater Castle which overlook the Moray Firth.

Brook Cottage, Falkland

Holiday cottage in Falkland, Scotland

Brook Cottage, Falkland, Ref. 16253

If you’re looking for peace and quiet amidst stunning countryside then you need look no further than Brook Cottage. This charming terraced cottage is just under a mile from the historic town of Falkland and offers guests incredible views of the Lomond Hills and Fife countryside. The outdoor decked area is the perfect place to relax on a sunny day and the living room, with its cosy woodburner, would be the ideal place to curl up on a winter’s evening.

Aurae, Cawdor

Holiday cottage in Cawdor, Scotland

Aurae, Cawdor, Ref. 904499

Situated in the heart of the Scottish Highlands, this bespoke log cabin has all you’ll ever need for a luxury holiday in Scotland. Sleeping 8, Aurae boasts facilities including a barrel sauna, large hot tub and floor-to-ceiling windows to make the most of the panoramic countryside views. Nearby, you’ll find Cawdor Castle which is most famous for its literary connection to Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and Inverness, which is just 9 miles away.

Glenashdale, Dunoon

Holiday cottage in Dunoon, Scotland

Glenashdale, Dunoon, Ref. 12582

The Cowal Peninsula in Argyll is one of the most spectacularly beautiful regions in the whole of Scotland. With plenty of glens, lochs and highland hills to explore, you’ll never be short of things to do at your Cowal holiday home. Glenashdale offers forest walks straight from its doorstep and the beach is just a few minutes’ walk away. The cottage boasts spectacular views across the Firth of Clyde from many of the rooms and is the perfect base for families who want to discover this part of the country.

Seaspray, Portknockie

Holiday cottage in Portknockie, Scotland

Seaspray, Portknockie, Ref. 22242

Seaspray is a former fisherman’s cottage in the picturesque fishing village of Portknockie, which occupies a stunning elevated position on a cliff overlooking the Moray Firth. The cottage itself has been furnished to a high standard with stylish décor and sea views from the first floor. Local facilities are just a minute’s walk away and the Moray Firth coastline provides guests with fantastic walking and cycling opportunities, as well as the chance to see dolphins, seals and sea-birds in their natural habitat.

If you’d like to look at more of our fantastic cottages in Scotland then you can do so by visiting the Scotland holiday cottages page on our website.

Louise O'Toole

By Louise O'Toole

Louise loves reading, shopping, baking and cosy country pubs with log fires. A nice cup of tea will never be turned down. She has spent many childhood summers on the beach in Cornwall and walking the hills of the Lake District.

UK Travel Guide for Overseas Visitors

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014
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Are you planning on visiting the UK this summer but have no idea where to start when it comes to finalising the details of your trip? Well don’t worry as Sykes Cottages have put together a short travel guide to Britain aimed at visitors from abroad. Read on for our hints, tips and suggestions on how to make the most of your time in the UK.

When to visit

British countryside

Via Flickr

Unlike other countries, the UK is a great tourist destination all year round. However, July and August, at the height of the British summer, are undoubtedly the most popular times to visit and as this coincides with the UK school holidays, this is when places are at their busiest. If you want to visit during the summer, it’s a good idea to plan your visit during June or September when the weather is still good but attractions are quieter. Other busy periods include Christmas, New Year, Easter and bank holidays. You can find a comprehensive list of bank holidays across the UK here.

The weather and what to pack


Via Flickr

The UK is well known for its unpredictable weather and you should try to pack for every eventuality. The weather is generally quite mild and so there’s no need to go to extremes, but travellers should definitely consider packing everything from an umbrella and waterproof jacket, to sunglasses and sunscreen.

Public transport and ways to get around

British Train

Via Flickr

Public transport in the UK is relatively good and trains in particular are a great way to travel around; you can get a train to almost anywhere in the UK. For more information about trains in Britain, head to the National Rail website. Another thing that you may want to consider looking into is a BritRail pass. These passes are available to anyone who is not a UK resident and once bought, provide you with unlimited travel on trains across Britain. You can find more information on the BritRail website. If you’re just travelling around London, you should look at buying at Visitor’s Oyster Card, which is a plastic smartcard that works on a pay as you go system and is by far one of the cheapest and quickest ways to travel around London.  If you’re not keen on public transport and are planning on renting a car in the UK, it’s worth noting that you will usually be given a manual car unless you request an automatic, which are generally more expensive.

Things we do differently:

Road signs

Via Flickr

  • Plugs. We Brits have our very own plugs that differ from the rest of Europe. Our plugs have three pins that are shaped like a triangle and so visitors from abroad will need to remember to buy a plug adaptor for their electrical items.
  • We drive on the left hand side of the road. This is obviously extremely important to remember if you’re planning on driving whilst you’re in the UK but it’s also of the upmost importance to pedestrians, who may be used to checking the opposite direction before they cross the road.
  • We calculate speed in miles per hour and our speed limits may be different to that of other countries. You can check out the speed limits here and you will able to see the speed limit for each road when you’re driving by looking at signposts.

Where to stay

Holiday cottage in Yorkshire

Croft View, Yorkshire, Ref. 6735

We may be biased but we think that there’s no better way to experience the UK than by staying in a self-catering cottage amongst locals. If you’re planning a trip to the UK and you’d like to see how we can help, you can visit our website or give our dedicated reservations specialists a call on +441244 356 695. If you’re worried about your phone bill, avoid charges and let us call you by entering your details here.

Louise O'Toole

By Louise O'Toole

Louise loves reading, shopping, baking and cosy country pubs with log fires. A nice cup of tea will never be turned down. She has spent many childhood summers on the beach in Cornwall and walking the hills of the Lake District.

How To Make Your Cottage Bike Friendly

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014
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With influences including British success in the Olympics, a British winner of the Tour de France 2012 and Yorkshire’s very own Le Tour Grand Depart having taken place this weekend just gone, the popularity of cycling in the UK has increased dramatically in the past few years. Cycling holidays are becoming more and more popular and we’re seeing a large number of people booking holiday cottages with the intent of exploring the surrounding areas by bike. Ensuring that your holiday cottage is cycle friendly can be a brilliant way of attracting more bookings and so Sykes Cottages have put together a handy guide to a few, inexpensive suggestions to help you make sure your cottage is as bike friendly as possible.

Make sure you have some form of bike storage

Bike storage

Via Flickr

One of the most obvious ways to make your holiday cottage cycle friendly is to provide a secure storage area for your guests’ bikes. Whether this is in the form of a cycle rack in a secure garage, a space-saving storage device in the cottage itself, or even just a bike lock, having some form of bike storage is essential if you want to attract cyclists to your property. There are many inexpensive storage devices on the market, so it doesn’t have to cost and arm and a leg and will certainly impress potential guests. It goes without saying but it’s also essential to make sure that you have enough storage to correspond with the maximum occupancy of guests permitted at your cottage.

Provide washing and drying facilities

Bike friendly holiday cottage in Haworth

The Old Forge, Haworth, Ref. 14036

When out on a bike, the likelihood is that you’re going to get a bit muddy; the last thing your guests will want to do is leave dirty clothes on your furniture or put their muddy cycling gear back into their suitcase. Cottage owners can easily solve this problem and cater to their guests’ needs by installing a washing machine and providing a specific drying area or a clothes airer. It’s also nice to create a space for muddy trainers; making life easier for your guests and limiting the amount of cleaning you’ll have to do on your changeover. If you have outside space at your property, an added bonus for cyclists is to have a hose-pipe available to wash down their bike after a particularly muddy ride; once again, making life easier for your guests when they have to transport their bike home and also preventing your cottage needing extra cleaning.

Stock up on information about cycling routes in the area

Bike route

Via Flickr

Something that will be particularly helpful to cyclists staying at your property is information on cycle routes in the area. You could provide leaflets from your local tourist information centre, print off information from the internet, or if you’re a keen cyclist yourself, provide your own information and suggestions on what to do in the area. A nice touch would be to leave a visitors book specifically for cyclists, so your guests can leave feedback and comments on the routes that they’ve tried with recommendations, hints and tips for the next guests.

Make your holiday cottage cycle friendly with Sykes Cottages

Bike friendly holiday cottage in Ironbridge

Courtyard Cottage, Ironbridge, Ref. 11346

There are many changes you can make to your property to help it appeal more to cyclists, some big and some small. This is not an exhaustive list of suggestions and if you already have a cycle-friendly property, or if you’re a keen cyclist and think that there’s something important that we’ve missed out then we’d love to know about it! You can get in touch with suggestions via our Facebook or Twitter pages.

If you have a holiday cottage of your own and you’re interested in learning more about how to make your holiday cottage bike friendly, or you’re interested in learning more about working with Sykes Cottages, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our dedicated owner’s department who will be more than happy to help. You can give them a call on 01244 356 695 or visit the owner’s page on our website. For more inspiration on how to make your holiday cottage bike friendly, you can check out the selection of cycle friendly holiday cottages already on our website.

Louise O'Toole

By Louise O'Toole

Louise loves reading, shopping, baking and cosy country pubs with log fires. A nice cup of tea will never be turned down. She has spent many childhood summers on the beach in Cornwall and walking the hills of the Lake District.

Summer’s Best National Trust Events

Friday, July 4th, 2014
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With the summer holidays on the horizon, here at Sykes Cottages, we’re looking forward to the array of fantastic events taking place over the next few months. The National Trust in particular, have plenty of exhibitions, talks, events and activities on offer across the UK. We’ve picked out some of our favourites to showcase.

Pemberley Walk, Lyme Park, Cheshire

Lyme Park, Cheshire

Via Flickr

Whether you’re a fan of Jane Austen’s masterpiece, Pride in Prejudice, or just an admirer of Colin Firth in a wet shirt, then you won’t want to miss the Pemberley Walks taking place at Lyme Park in Cheshire this summer. The exterior of this beautiful estate was one of the filming locations for the BBC’s 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice; more specifically, the filming location for Mr Darcy’s Pemberley. It was here that Colin Firth emerged soaking wet from the lake in one of the most famous TV scenes of all time!  On this organised walk, you can experience the grandeur of Lyme Park and explore the filming locations of the 1995 adaptation. These walks are running from 2pm-4pm on 26th July, 30th August, 27th September and 25th October. It is a free event although normal admission charges to Lyme Park apply.

Fun Fridays, Woolacombe Beach, Devon

Woolacombe Beach

Via Flickr

If you’re looking for something a little different, then Woolacombe Beach’s Fun Friday is a fantastic activity to get involved in this summer. Every Friday from 25th July to 29th August, the National Trust Beach Rangers will be out at Woolacombe Beach to help organise some free, fun activities for adults and children alike. Anyone is welcome to go along to their free drop-in sessions every Friday and take part in family-friendly games such as beach football, beach volleyball, cricket, giant beach jenga, giant snakes and ladders, and sand modelling. Dogs on leads are welcome and children under the age of 14 must be accompanied by an adult.

Garden Tour and Tea, Bateman’s, East Sussex

Bateman's, East Sussex

Via Flickr

Bateman’s is a beautiful 17th century house in Burwash, East Sussex that was once home to author, Rudyard Kipling. He lived here from 1902 until his death in 1936 and it was here that he first met his wife, Carrie and wrote many of his finest work. The house remains very much as he left it with a significant oriental influence, reflecting his strong links with the East. Visitors to Bateman’s during the summer can join the Head Gardener for a tour of the magnificent gardens surrounding the house and find out how Kipling transformed this quiet, country house into a sanctuary and retreat from his celebrity status. Afterwards, a delicious cream tea will be also be served. These tours are running from 11am- 12.30pm on 19th July, 9th August, 30th August and 20th September. The cost is £10.00 per person, plus normal admission.

If you know of any other great events taking place around the UK this summer then feel free to get in touch and let us know! You can get in touch via our Twitter or Facebook page; we’d love to hear from you!

Louise O'Toole

By Louise O'Toole

Louise loves reading, shopping, baking and cosy country pubs with log fires. A nice cup of tea will never be turned down. She has spent many childhood summers on the beach in Cornwall and walking the hills of the Lake District.