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The UK’s Smallest Cities

Sunday, October 23rd, 2016
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When it comes to city breaks we immediately think of locations like London or Manchester, but what about the UK’s smaller cities – the unusual cities, cities crisscrossed with cobbled streets and dominated by historic cathedrals? These unique cities are ideal for weekend or midweek breaks and can be found throughout the UK. So if you’re looking to book a city break with a difference, keep reading as we list our favourite small UK cities.

St Davids, Pembrokeshire

Well known for its spectacular cathedral, the city of St Davids’ calm atmosphere and easy pace of life would fool anyone into thinking it was a quaint Welsh town. Even though St Davids is officially the smallest city in the UK, there is still plenty to see and do here including tours of the cathedral, hikes along the Welsh Coastal Path and adventurous boat tours.

If you’d like to visit this pint-sized city on your next getaway then Sykes Cottages has a fantastic range of St Davids holiday cottages all within a few miles of the city itself.

Truro, Cornwall

Don’t let Truro’s small size fool you, as the only city in Cornwall Truro is more than equipped to cope with large numbers of locals and tourists. Known as the shopping capital of Cornwall, visitors from all over flock to the area to explore the independent shops, art galleries, pubs and restaurants. If you’re lucky enough to visit Truro during April, then you can attend the Truro Festival for Music, an impressive festival ideal for music, art and comedy lovers.

When planning your visit to Truro, be sure to check out our selection of Truro holiday cottages. These charming Cornish cottages are not only ideal for exploring the city but can also be used as a base for visiting the rest of Cornwall too.

Perth, Perthshire

With its picturesque riverside location and charming selection of independent shops and businesses, the unexpected city of Perth is the ideal location for a couple’s getaway. Here guests can take a romantic stroll along the River Tay, explore the Black Watch Castle and Museum or place a bet at the Perth Racecourse before discovering the miniature city’s many bars and restaurants during the evening.

If you’re interested in a romantic break in Perth then our selection of Perth holiday cottages are perfect for couples; with cosy fires, welcoming kitchens and plenty great places to eat and drink nearby.

Ely, Cambridgeshire

The historic city of Ely can be found just 80 miles from London, perfect for escaping the Big Smoke for the weekend. There are plenty of fantastic shopping opportunities in Ely from the independent boutiques, gift shops and craft stores to the Ely Cathedral complete with its unusual octagon tower. For an extra special day out, we suggest booking a boat trip down the Great Ouse which is sure to create wonderful memories for you and your party.

Perfect for exploring the city, our Ely holiday cottages come with stylish décor, comfortable furnishings and fantastic amenities close by.

Bangor, Gwynedd

As one of the smallest cities in the UK, Bangor can often be overlooked when it comes to booking a holiday, but with Snowdonia National Park and the North Wales coast on your doorstep, Bangor is a fantastic location for an active escape. Whether you’re taking a stroll along Bangor pier, exploring the grounds at Penrhyn Castle, or bouncing around in the underground caverns at Bounce Below there are plenty of attractions to discover in the Bangor area.

Our selection of Bangor holiday cottages are ideal for families looking to explore North Wales on their next self-catering break. These cottages come with plenty of space both indoors and out, and you can even bring the dog along as many of our Bangor cottages are pet-friendly.

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Nicole Jones-Gerrard

By Nicole Jones-Gerrard

As a food lover Nicole can often be found in the kitchen, covered in flour and experimenting with new tastes! When not making a mess she loves to explore her Celtic roots by roaming the Scottish countryside or exploring the bays along the Anglesey coast with her husband.

Where to See Autumn Colours in the UK

Sunday, October 2nd, 2016
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Cosy jumpers, roaring fires and pumpkin-spiced… well, everything! These are just some of the things that make autumn my favourite time of the year, but there is something else that makes autumn top of my seasons list and that’s the colours! Warm browns, rich oranges and deep reds are all around us at this time of year and here at Sykes Cottages, we just can’t get enough of them. In fact we’re so in love with autumn colours that we’ve put together a fantastic list of the best places to see autumn colours in the UK. So lace up your boots and pop on your woolly hat, it’s time to visit one of these scenic locations before the autumn colours are gone for another year.

Bedgebury Forest, Kent

Bedgebury Forest

Image of Bedgebury by Albert KubxcaCC 2.0

Located close to the Sussex border in Kent, you’ll find Bedgebury Forest. Here you can ride your bike across the numerous cycle paths and gaze up at the changing canopy as the wind rustles through the golden leaves. Bedgebury Forest also welcomes dogs and with plenty of trees to sniff and fallen leaves to roll in, your four-legged friend is sure to enjoy the day out! Please be aware that dogs are allowed off the lead in the forest but must be kept on the lead at all times when in The National Pinetum, around the children’s play area and on the red mountain-bike route.

Prices: If arriving by car the cost is £10 Monday to Friday and £12 at weekends and bank holidays.
Opening times: 8am to 6pm until October 28th then 8am to 5pm until November 30th.
More information:

Dyffryn Gardens, the Vale of Glamorgan

Dyffryn Gardens

Image of Dyffryn Gardens by Ben SalterCC 2.0

Located in the Vale of Glamorgan, Dyffryn Gardens cover over 55 acres with formal and informal gardens, providing plenty of space for an autumnal adventure. It’s a very exciting time at the gardens this autumn as it marks the start of a five year project which will help protect the beautiful trees within their Arboretum. Why not make your trip to Dyffryn Gardens an annual one? This way you’ll be able to monitor the progress of the project and capture the true beauty of their woody collection.

Prices: £8.80 for adults, £4.40 for children and £22 for families.
Opening times: 10am to 5pm until October 30th then 10am to 4pm until November 30th.
More information:

Westonbirt, The National Arboretum, Gloucestershire


Image of Westonbirt by Mark KentCC 2.0

Westonbirt is possibly the best place in the UK to view autumn colours as their Arboretum is home to over 15,000 tree specimens from all over the world! Here you can follow one of the Arboretum’s many walkways or take to the skies and look down over the colourful foliage from the STIHL Treetop Walkway. October highlights at Westonbirt include the Japanese maples, Cappadocian maple and Sweet gum where as in November, visitors should look out for the Nikko maple, Native oak and Paperbark maple.

Prices: £9 for adults and £4 for children.
Opening times: 9am to 5pm, last admission is 4:30pm.
More Information:

Bodnant Gardens, Conwy

Bodnant gardens

Image of Bodnant Gardens by Paul PierceCC 2.0

The world-famous Bodnant Gardens cover over 80 acres of land above the River Conwy. Home to National Collections and Campion Trees, guests could spend hours exploring the variety of exotic and colourful plants on display. There is a wonderful selection of events taking place at Bodnant this autumn, including a specialist walk to see the autumn colours on October 12th and the ‘Head Gardener’s Walk’ on November 16th where guests can find out all about the gardens’ history and development.

Prices: £12.38 for adults and £6.20 for children.
Opening times: 10am to 5pm until November 1st then 10am until 4pm until the end of December.
More information:

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Nicole Jones-Gerrard

By Nicole Jones-Gerrard

As a food lover Nicole can often be found in the kitchen, covered in flour and experimenting with new tastes! When not making a mess she loves to explore her Celtic roots by roaming the Scottish countryside or exploring the bays along the Anglesey coast with her husband.

New Covent Garden Soup Recipes  

Sunday, September 25th, 2016
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Sykes Cottages recently teamed up with New Covent Garden Soup to offer a prize for their Great British Soup Competition. The competition was a fantastic success and New Covent Garden Soup received some delicious recipes from customers all over the UK. As the competition runner up and winner of the Sykes Cottages prize, we thought we’d share Lucy Haughey’s recipe for ‘Carrot, ginger & coconut soup’ with you.

Lucy’s ‘Carrot, ginger & coconut soup’

This yummy recipe for four people takes just 10 minutes to prepare and a further 20 minutes to cook. When speaking to Lucy about her recipe, she advised adding big floating cheese-topped croutons to the soup when serving.


  • 500ml chicken or veg stock
  • 6 chopped carrots
  • 2 grated garlic cloves
  • 1 chopped sweet potato
  • 1 chopped large white onion
  • 1 tin of coconut milk
  • Nugget of fresh ginger
  • Coriander
  • Seasoning


  1. Add all the vegetables to a large pan, pour in the stock and seasoning and simmer until soft.
  2. Once soft, blitz all the ingredients together.
  3. Pour into four separate bowls, add some coconut milk and chopped coriander before serving.

Click here to view Lucy’s original recipe.

As well as Lucy’s tasty recipe, there were also several other recipes we couldn’t wait to try! We’ve included some of our favourites below but to see all the recipes entered into Great British Soup Competition please click here.

Mama Manuela’s ‘Chicken and almond soup’

Image from New Covent Garden Soup website.

Image from New Covent Garden Soup website.

This family favourite has a wonderful Mediterranean feel and is perfect for four people. The recipe will take around 40 minutes to make and is inspired by Mama Manuela’s Spanish heritage.


  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 crushed garlic cloves
  • 1 litre of water
  • 1 large chicken breast (diced)
  • 1 small celery stick
  • 1 hand full of toasted almonds (crushed)
  • 1 hand full of barley


  1. Add the oil to a pan and fry the garlic.
  2. Remove the garlic and set to one side. Add the diced chicken and fry until golden brown.
  3. Poor a litre of water into a sauce pan with the diced celery, barley and almonds. Cook until barley is ready.
  4. Add the chicken and garlic before serving with toasted bread and butter.

Click here to view Mama Manuela’s original recipe. 

Hayley’s ‘Spiced pumpkin and garlic’

Hayley’s heartwarming soup recipe will serve up to four people and takes around an hour to make. Hayley discovered this yummy recipe when she bought a Halloween pumpkin and wasn’t sure what to do with it. For an extra treat she advises topping with crumbled stilton and crispy bacon before serving.


  • Half a medium pumpkin
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • 2 red onions
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1/2 tsp All spice
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • Roasted pumpkin seeds from the pumpkin
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Cut the pumpkin and onions into chunks and halve the head of garlic. Place on a baking try and roast in the middle of the oven at 200c for 30 minutes.
  2. Heat the veg stock in a pan.
  3. Blitz the roasted onion and pumpkin together in a processor. Squeeze in the roasted garlic and give the mixture another quick blitz.
  4. Add the spices and pumpkin mixture to the stock and combine together.
  5. Roast the pumpkin seeds and add to the top of the soup before serving.

Click here to view Hayley’s original recipe.

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Nicole Jones-Gerrard

By Nicole Jones-Gerrard

As a food lover Nicole can often be found in the kitchen, covered in flour and experimenting with new tastes! When not making a mess she loves to explore her Celtic roots by roaming the Scottish countryside or exploring the bays along the Anglesey coast with her husband.

Sykes’ Famous Places: Roald Dahl

Sunday, September 11th, 2016
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Roald Dahl Day is fast approaching and to help celebrate 100 years since the birth of this extraordinary author, we’re taking a look at some of the places he made famous. From James and the Giant Peach to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, join us as we discover some of the locations that helped inspire Roald Dahl’s magical tales.


Image of Llandaff Cathedral by Archangel12 - CC 2.0

Image of Llandaff Cathedral by Archangel12CC 2.0

Roald Dahl was born at Villa Marie, now known as Ty Gwyn, in Llandaff on September 13th 1916. His parents were Norwegian and his father was in the Shipbroker business. The family moved away from the city for some time but moved back after the loss of his father and sister. During his time in Llandaff, Roald attended the Llandaff Cathedral School and spent afternoons gazing through the window of the sweetshop. The owner of this sweetshop is said to have inspired the character of Mrs Pratchett from Roald Dahl’s ‘Boy’.

The historic city of Llandaff lies to the north of Cardiff city centre and offers a perfect base for exploring the city. Visitors to Llandaff can make the most of the village atmosphere whilst exploring the area’s many historic features, including the magnificent cathedral and welcoming high street. Whilst in the city why not stop by the site of the old sweetshop, now a Chinese takeaway? Outside you will find a lovely blue plaque which was unveiled in September 2009 to commemorate the life and work of Roald Dahl.


Image of Repton School by Paul Buckingham - CC 2.0

Image of Repton School by Paul BuckinghamCC 2.0

Roald Dahl came to Repton in January 1930 to study at Repton School. He stayed in Repton as a boarder for four and a half years before moving on to live with his family in Bexley in July 1934. Whilst at school in Repton, Roald lived at the Priory on High Street and took part in blind tasting events for Cadbury. Repton School alumni like to think that memories of these blind tastings inspired the author when writing his famous story, ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’.

Repton is a wonderful village to visit with plenty to see and do in the local area. Located on the Trent Valley in Derbyshire, this village is not only home to beautiful scenery and architecture but a fascinating history too. The village dates back to Anglo-Saxon times and is known for being the place where Christianity was first preached in the midlands. When visiting the village, guests are advised to visit the village church and the remains of the old Repton Priory.

Great Missenden

Image of the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre by David Hillas - CC 2.0

Image of the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre by David HillasCC 2.0

In July 1954, Roald Dahl and his wife Pat bought Little Whitefield Cottage in Great Missenden. The couple moved in and spent the duration of their married life here. It was from Great Missenden that Roald Dahl wrote many of his famous stories including ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’, ‘The BFG’ and ‘Danny Champion of the World’. In 1990, when Roald Dahl passed away, he was buried at the Church of St Peter and Paul in Great Missenden. His grave can be found near the memorial bench under the tree.

Great Missenden is a must visit for all Roald Dahl Fans. The village is home to the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre where visitors can explore three interactive galleries and put their imagination to the test with the range of activities on offer. When the sun is shining, there are also a number of wonderful walks and trails available from the village. Whilst out walking, visitors will pass many iconic buildings and places that inspired Roald Dahl’s stories.

If you fancy exploring any of the places made famous by Roald Dahl then be sure to visit the Sykes Cottages website where you will find a selection of fantastic self-catering properties to choose from.

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Nicole Jones-Gerrard

By Nicole Jones-Gerrard

As a food lover Nicole can often be found in the kitchen, covered in flour and experimenting with new tastes! When not making a mess she loves to explore her Celtic roots by roaming the Scottish countryside or exploring the bays along the Anglesey coast with her husband.

Walk of the Month: Marloes Peninsula Coastal Walk

Sunday, August 28th, 2016
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As another month comes to a close, we’ve decided to celebrate the great British weather and get out and about with August’s edition of Walk of the Month. This month, we’re heading to South Wales for a walk that takes in some of the best scenery that the Pembrokeshire coast has to offer. From the captivating sea views to the playful wildlife, this walk is ideal for an afternoon outing this summer.

The Walk:

This four mile circular route can take up to two hours to complete but we would advise allowing extra time to make the most of the views and fresh sea air. The terrain is relatively easy going with some rugged paths, gradients and steps, so please wear sensible footwear. There is a car park at the start of the walk for those travelling by car, and toilet facilities so you can freshen up before heading off.

The Route:

Begin your walk from the Marloes Sands car park. Make your way to the south end of the car park then turn right by the emergency phone and follow the signs for the toilets. Continue past the toilets, along the lane passing Marloes Mere; be sure to keep an eye out here for a glimpse of the wetland birds. Once you have passed the Mere, turn left and head for the coast path.

When you reach the coast path you will see Marloes Sands but turn right and head towards Gateholm Islands instead. You’ll soon come level with Gateholm, Skokholm should be ahead of you with Skomer coming into view on your right very soon, making this a perfect place to stop for a family photo.

Continue along the coastal path through an Iron Age fort. Make sure to stop here and admire the dramatic sedimentary rock formations that can be found along the coast. As you follow the coast path round, keep an eye out for Skomer Island and Midland Isle which will shortly come into view before reaching a footbridge.

At the footbridge take the right fork down the valley, towards Martin’s Haven. Go through the gate which leads to the road and turn left towards Martin’s Haven and the Skomer embarkation point. Before reaching the beach, follow the coast post right and up the steps. The path will continue east and you can enjoy views across St Bride’s Bay towards Newgale, the Solva Coast, St David’s Peninsula and Ramsey Island.

When you’ve walked just over a mile, leave the coastal path and turn right through a self-closing gate at a West Hook Farm National Trust omega sign. Cross the fields here and head towards the road. Once you’ve reached the road, turn left and follow it past the farm turning right by two semi-detached cottages. Walk down the track which leads back to the car park.

To view the full route map, please click here.

Book a holiday cottage in Pembrokeshire

Priory Cottage (Ref. 915079), in Saundersfoot

Priory Cottage (Ref. 915079), in Saundersfoot

Whether you’re looking for a cosy escape for two or a large group getaway for up to 21, our selection of over 300 Pembrokeshire cottages are ideal for walking holidays. As well as the wonderful Welsh scenery and atmosphere, many of our cottages also boast extra features such as WiFi, hot tubs and swimming pools. For more information on these spectacular cottages simply visit our Pembrokeshire cottages page or call our reservations team on 01244 356695.

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Nicole Jones-Gerrard

By Nicole Jones-Gerrard

As a food lover Nicole can often be found in the kitchen, covered in flour and experimenting with new tastes! When not making a mess she loves to explore her Celtic roots by roaming the Scottish countryside or exploring the bays along the Anglesey coast with her husband.