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How to Plan the Perfect Valentine’s Getaway

Tuesday, January 19th, 2016
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With just a few days to go until Valentine’s Day many of our cottages are being booked up by couples looking for the perfect romantic getaway. If you’re planning an idyllic escape with your other half this Valentine’s Day then we suggest you keep reading as we share our hints and tips for making your getaway perfect!

Choose the Perfect Location

Britain is beautiful. From the Scottish mountains to the Cornish beaches, it’s got to be said that our little island has a lot going for it! When choosing your dream destination we suggest thinking about what you want to see. If you picture your Valentine’s Day sat under an open sky watching the stars, then consider Snowdonia National Park which was recently granted dark sky status. Or perhaps you would rather see a little more colour? If so then sunsets over Ben Venue are sure to leave you feeling inspired.

Consider Extras

Parrs Meadow Cottage, Pitchford. Ref 904464

Parrs Meadow Cottage, Pitchford. Ref 904464

With over 6,000 holiday cottages to choose from, here at Sykes Cottages you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to romantic retreats, but to help narrow down your search for the dream cottage we suggest considering those little extras which can take a cottage stay to the next level! For example, our cottages with a home cinema are great for couples who love to watch movies, or how about our cottages with an open fire, ideal for cosying up with you other half? Alternatively you could push the boat out and rent a cottage with a hot tub, a real treat for any couple looking to relax under the stars.

Arrange a Special Day Out

We can think of nothing better than a weekend locked away in a cottage with our partner, but if you do feel like venturing out and about, make sure it’s for something extra special. There is a fantastic selection of days out available in the UK, picking the right one simply depends on what you and your partner like to do. You could spend the evening at one of the UK’s Michelin starred restaurants and dine like royalty, have a high energy day soaring over the Welsh countryside at speeds on 100mph with Zip World Velocity, or simply rent a row boat and glide over the waters in one of the UK’s most romantic cities.

Don’t Forget The Gift!

Pear Tree Cottage, Great Ouseburn. Ref 17330

Pear Tree Cottage, Great Ouseburn. Ref 17330

Whether you go for the classic flowers and chocolates or splash out on expensive jewellery, no Valentine’s Day is complete without a romantic gift. Forgetting your partner’s gift can lead to disaster, so make sure you purchase yours in advance to avoid any upset on the day. To really impress your other half this year, why not treat them to a stay at one of our romantic cottages?  We even have a guide to booking a surprise holiday, so when you turn up on Valentine’s Day, your partner is sure to be left speechless.

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nicole.westley

By Nicole Westley

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 fiancé.

Why Norfolk is the Destination of Choice For 2016

Sunday, January 17th, 2016
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Last year we suggested Cornwall as the destination of choice for your 2015 holidays, and although Cornwall is still more than worth the trip down south, this year, we suggest packing your bags and heading to Norfolk! With its extensive waterways, fascinating history and brilliant coastline, Norfolk has something to offer everyone this year.

Whether you’ve been to Norfolk before or not, this incredible county is sure to inspire you. Located on the east coast of England, Norfolk not only has an amazing coastline but beautiful countryside and idyllic English villages to discover. Keep reading as we list some of Norfolk’s best qualities and see if we can convince you to visit this fantastic county in 2016.

Coast

Norfolk’s selection of beaches is sure to leave you breathless. From the spectacular sights of Wells’ colourful beach huts to the exciting pleasure beach at Great Yarmouth, Norfolk’s coast line provides hours of fun no matter what the season. Here at Sykes Cottages, we love a day trip to Cromer; situated on the edge of the Norfolk coast, this wonderful coastal town has a captivating fishing history and is well known for its succulent crabs! Alternatively, the picturesque beach at Hunstanton is perfect for your holiday snaps with its unique striped cliffs and breathtaking sun sets.

Country

With over 125 miles of manmade waterways to discover, the Norfolk Broads offer a truly unique experience in the heart of the Norfolk countryside. The Broads are fantastic for anyone who likes boating, nature or simply being beside the water; their rustic charm and tranquil nature are especially good for those wanting a romantic escape. As well as the peaceful waterways, the Broads also connect several towns and villages where you can find independent shops, restaurants and bars, all offering a fantastic waterside experience.

Attractions

As well as the dramatic coastline and peaceful Broads, Norfolk also has an array of great attractions to visit. Families will love spending time at BeWILDerwood, where they can explore the huge award winning forest on a fantasy adventure. Adults and older children will marvel at the incredible selection of castles and country homes which are dotted about the county, including Sandringham House, Norwich Castle and Felbrigg Hall. Alternatively, there are attractions suitable for visitors of all ages, like the Banham Zoo and Great Yarmouth Sea Life Centre.

Food and Drink

You may have heard of Cromer crab, Brancaster mussels and delicious Norfolk turkey, but along with these traditional Norfolk foods, the county is now offering a wider selection of home grown produce. From game to beer, the best place to taste Norfolk is at one of the county’s many outdoor markets or by booking a ticket to the annual North Norfolk Food & Drink Festival. 2016 will be the festival’s eighth year and with stalls set to include artisan beer, bread, cakes, chocolates, game, seafood and much more, it’s an event you won’t want to miss!

Now that you’ve heard what we have to say about Norfolk, why not read about what others think? Our fantastic Visitor’s Guide To Norfolk not only features numerous quotes from previous Norfolk visitors but it’s also packed full of handy hints and tips about the destinations. Alternatively, if you just can’t wait to book your Norfolk getaway then simply click here to view our selection of self-catering cottages in Norfolk.

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nicole.westley

By Nicole Westley

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 fiancé.

Book Now for Summer 2016

Saturday, January 9th, 2016
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It may only be the beginning of January but our properties are booking up fast, especially those for summer! With couples, families and large groups all wanting those choice coastal cottages and tranquil country retreats, you’re better off booking sooner rather than later. To help you find the perfect property for your summer holiday, we’ve listed some of our favourite cottages that are still available for this year below.

The Cow Pen

Snitterfield near Stratford-upon-Avon, Heart of England

The Cow Pen - Reference 914529

The Cow Pen – Reference 914529

A fantastic 300 year old property lovingly restored to provide luxury accommodation for a party of two this summer. The cottage is just 3 miles from Stratford-upon-Avon and as well as offering guests wonderful views of the Warwickshire countryside, this stylish cottage also allows access to a six seater hot tub, indoor heated pool and beautiful gardens.

Price: Prices for a seven night stay at The Cow Pen during August start from £582.00.

Penthouse Flat, Pentire Point

Newquay, Cornwall

Penthouse Flat, Pentire Point - Reference 928902

Penthouse Flat, Pentire Point – Reference 928902

This very special self-catering holiday rental will accommodate a party of six and provides amazing views across Newquay. Located in one of Cornwall’s most popular holiday locations, Penthouse Flat not only boasts modern furnishings but with a surf school, beautiful beach, wonderful shops and plenty of eateries, there’s plenty to keep the whole family entertained this summer.

Price: Prices for a seven night stay at Penthouse Flat, Pentire Point during August start from £2355.00.

Courtyard Cottage

Meeson near Iornbridge, Heart of England

Courtyard Cottage - Reference 11346

Courtyard Cottage – Reference 11346

The picturesque Courtyard Cottage is the dream property for a country getaway this summer, with beautiful gardens, tonnes of character and great walking routes nearby. This property is located in a stunning location and as it sleeps a party of three, it’s ideal for small families or couples looking to explore Ironbridge and Market Drayton.

Price: Prices for a seven night stay at Courtyard Cottage during August start from £537.00.

Sunshine Cottage

Kessingland near Lowestoft, East Anglia

Sunshine Cottage - Reference 23503

Sunshine Cottage – Reference 23503

This stunning mid-terrace cottage is just a two minute walk from the beach, and with two spacious bedrooms, a patio garden and inviting sitting room, it’s ideal for a family of four and their dog this summer. If you are visiting the area with children then make sure to check out Africa Alive, a fantastic park home to over 80 specials of animals from all around Africa.

Price: Prices for a seven night stay at Sunshine Cottage during August start from £549.00.

Ash Lodge

Glasshouse near Gloucester, Heart of England

Ash Lodge - Reference 27870

Ash Lodge – Reference 27870

If you’re looking for a luxury lodge that will accommodate your group of four this year, then Ash Lodge is for you. Located on private landscaped gardens, this lodge provides plenty of peace and tranquillity for a quiet break, however for those wanting a little more action there is canoeing, abseiling, cycling and horseback riding available in the area.

Price: Prices for a seven night stay at Ash Lodge during August start from £.00

3 Belle Cottage

Kingsbridge near Salcombe, Devon

3 Belle Cottage - Reference 28912

3 Belle Cottage – Reference 28912

3 Belle Cottage is wonderfully welcoming property located close to many beautiful beaches. The property benefits from two bedrooms, a lovely kitchen and dining area, a cosy living room and private decked courtyard, perfect for a family of four and their dog.  As well as a number of great beaches, the area also has a fascinating museums, great eateries and charming local pubs to explore.

Price: Prices for a seven night stay at 3 Belle Cottage during August start from £702.00

Cambridge Lodge

Wensley near Marlock, Peak District

Cambridge Lodge - Reference 903901

Cambridge Lodge – Reference 903901

Expertly converted from a 1909 water tank to a stunning holiday cottage, Cambridge Lodge offers a truly unique holiday property for a group of six. The property is located in a rural area with panoramic views and magnificent walks from the door, as well as a selection of fantastic water-based activities available in the nearby Carsington Water.

Price: Prices for a seven night stay at Cambridge Lodge during August start from £923.00

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nicole.westley

By Nicole Westley

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 fiancé.

Sykes’ Look Back at 2015

Tuesday, December 29th, 2015
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As the year comes to a close, many of us will be looking ahead to the New Year with high hopes and expectations. Here at Sykes Cottages however, we would like to take the opportunity to look back at 2015 and celebrate all the events that have made this year great. From the birth of Princesses Charlotte to Andy Murray’s unbelievable Davis Cup performance, join us as we remember some of 2015’s best moments.

The Women’s Institute Celebrated Its 100th Anniversary

This year saw the Women’s Institute celebrate its centenary with a packed schedule of events and celebrations. Even the Royal family, who have a long history with the organisation, joined in the celebrations by hosting a very special garden party for the WI members at Buckingham Palace.

A Princess Was Born

Princess Charlotte. Photo: Duchess of  Cambridge

Princess Charlotte. Photo: Duchess of Cambridge

On May 2nd of this year, the nation celebrated as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge welcomed their beautiful baby girl, Princess Charlotte, into the world. Since her birth, the Princess and young Prince George have been making our hearts melt as they feature in family photos.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Reached Its 150th Anniversary

Lewis Carroll’s famous story, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, celebrated its 150 anniversary this year with special events held across the UK. Some of the year’s top Alice related events included Alice Day in Oxford, Wonderland Week at Homerton College and Llandudno’s Alice Day.

Britain Showcased Its Assets On The Big Screen

2015 was a fantastic year for films, with two of the year’s biggest hits being filmed right here in the UK.  James Bond made a tour of London in the film Spectre, visiting numerous locations within the city including Notting Hill, Trafalgar Square and Covent Garden, and Puzzlewood Forest makes an appearance in the highly anticipated Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens!

We Hosted The 2015 Rugby World Cup

2015 was another great year for sport here in the UK, and who could forget the excitement that came with hosting the 2015 Rugby World Cup? People from all across the world arrived to cheer on their team and although we didn’t get the result we were hoping for, it was a truly fantastic championship!

Queen Elizabeth II Became The Longest Serving Royal In 1,000 Years

This year the Queen added yet another milestone to her 63 year reign, as on September 9th she become the longest reigning British monarch in 1,000 years. Not one for a fuss, the Queen went about her business as normal by opening the new 3294m Scottish Borders Railway and taking a trip from Edinburgh to Tweedbank by steam train.

The Lake District Announced Intention To Be A World Heritage Site

In May of this year, the Lake District started its quest to gain World Heritage status. If the Lake District is successful in its bid, not only will it increase tourism to the area but their farming community will receive more recognition, the location’s profile will gain a massive international boost and the government will provide extra resources to protect the park.

We Watched The Last Episode Of Downton Abbey

On Christmas Day we bid an emotional farewell to Downton Abbey, a wonderful TV drama which has had the nation hooked for the last 5 years. The final episode provided us with love, loss, happiness and heartbreak, a mixture of emotions that has always kept us coming back for more!

It Was A Fantastic Year For British Artists

2015 was an amazing year for British artists with many famous Brits picking up a number of awards! We were especially proud of Eddie Redmayne who this year picked up the Oscar for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, and Adele, who smashed the record books with the release of her album “25”.

Britain Won The Davis Cup For The First Time In Over 79 Years

All eyes were on Andy Murray this year as he battled it out with David Goffin to win Great Britain’s 10th Davis Cup title, a title we have been waiting on for 79 years! Murray finally led the team to victory by defeating Goffin in a spectacular match that’s not soon to be forgotten.

These are just 10 of the many highlights 2015 had to offer. What was your favourite moment of 2015? Make sure to share your memories with us on Facebook or Twitter.

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nicole.westley

By Nicole Westley

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 fiancé.

Christmas Baking with Sykes Cottages

Monday, December 21st, 2015
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Christmas is edging ever closer and now that the children have finished school for the holidays, we’re under more pressure than ever to fill our days with festive activities.  If you’re looking for a Christmassy activity that the whole family can get involved in then we would suggest baking; lots of fun, easy to do and the rewards are always very tasty! Below you will find some of our favourite Christmas baking recipes which are perfect for family baking.

Gingerbread Wreath

This decorative Christmas wreath is a fantastic alternative to the usual gingerbread men and makes a wonderful centrepiece for your Christmas table. The following recipe takes around an hour to complete and will serve up to 15 people. Recipe via bbcgoodfood.com

Ingredients:

Image via bbcgoodfood.com

Image via bbcgoodfood.com

For the gingerbread

  • 350g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 175g dark muscovado sugar
  • 100g slightly salted butter
  • 85g golden syrup
  • 1 tbsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg, beaten

To decorate

  • 500g fondant icing sugar
  • Any additional sweets/decorations you wish to add

Method

  1. Put the sugar, butter and golden syrup into a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a simmer and then allow to bubble for one to two minutes, stirring until well combined. Set the mixture to one side and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
  2. Sieve the flour, bicarbonate of soda and spices into a large mixing bowl. Pour in the warm mixture before adding the beaten egg and stirring to bring everything together. Gently knead the mixture until smooth and streak-free. Wrap your dough in cling film and place in the fridge to chill for a minimum of 30 minutes.
  3. Take the dough from the fridge and leave at room temperature until softened. Pre-heat your oven to 200c/180c (fan/gas) and line two baking trays with baking paper. Cut your dough into two halves, keep half and then wrap the other half back into the cling film.
  4. Roll out the first half of dough until it reaches the thickness of a £1 coin. Use a plate or the base of a cake tin to cut out a 20cm circle from the dough. Transfer the circle onto one of the baking trays and then use a 7cm cutter to remove a circle from the middle of the larger circle.
  5. Roll out the second half of the dough and use cutters to cut out a variety of different Christmassy shapes. You will need between 20 and 25 shapes. Place these on the second baking tray and place the two trays in the oven for 10-12 minutes, swapping the trays over halfway through the cooking time.
  6. Remove the trays from the oven and leave to cool a little before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Mix the fondant icing sugar with enough water to make a thick paste and then transfer to a piping bag with a small nozzle to decorate the biscuits. Leave the icing to dry for one to two hours then use a little more icing to stick the biscuits to the wreath. Your wreath will keep for up to two weeks so don’t worry about making it a little early!

Mince Pies

A real festive favourite, mince pies are a must for any Christmas table. The following recipe takes just under an hour and makes 18 pies. Recipe via bbcgoodfood.com

Recipe

  • 350g plain flour
  • 280g mincemeat
  • 225g cold butter, diced
  • 100g golden caster sugar
  • 1 small egg, beaten
  • Icing sugar to dust

Method

  1. Start by making the pastry; rub the butter and flour together before mixing in the caster sugar and a pinch of salt. Combine the mixture into a ball and knead it briefly. You should be left with fairly firm dough that resembles shortbread dough. You can either use the dough straight away or wrap it in cling film and leave to chill in the fridge until later.
  2. Preheat the oven to 200c/180c fan or gas mark 6. You will be making 18 pies so need two 12-hole pastry tins. Line the holes by pressing a walnut-sized pastry ball into each hole before spooning in the mincemeat. Take a slightly smaller ball of pastry and pat it out flat between your hands, use this to make the round pastry lids. Top the pies with their lids and press the edges together to seal.
  3. Brush the top of each pie with the beaten egg and bake for 20 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven and leave to cool for five minutes on a wire rack before lightly dusting with icing sugar. The mince pies should last for three to four days.

Panettone

As the most difficult item to bake on our list, the panettone is sure to impress your friends and family this Christmas. The recipe will serve up to eight people and takes 20 minutes to prepare, three hours to prove and up to 50 minutes to bake. Recipe via bbcgoodfood.com

Ingredients

  • 500g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting

    Image via bbcgoodfood.com

    Image via bbcgoodfood.com

  • 250g butter, softened
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100g good-quality candied lemon and orange peel, finely chopped
  • 80g raisins
  • 80g sultanas
  • 5 medium eggs, lightly beaten
  • 4 tbsp warm milk
  • 3 tbsp dark rum
  • 2 x 7g sachets fast-action dried yeast
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • Grated zest of 1 orange

For the topping

  • 30g whole blanched almonds, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp egg white
  • 1 tbsp icing sugar

Method

  1. Grease your panettone tin or a 20cm deep tin. Place the warm milk into a bowl, add the yeast, 1 tsb of sugar and leave to react for a few minutes.
  2. Put the remaining sugar in a separate bowl and beat together with the butter and vanilla extract until the mixture becomes light and pale. Stir in the lemon and orange zest, then add the eggs a little at a time until well combined.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the flour with a good pinch of salt and make a well in the middle. Add the yeast mixture, followed by the butter mixture before folding the ingredients together with a large spoon to make soft dough. Knead the mixture for five minutes in the bowl until it comes together into sticky dough.
  4. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and continue to knead for 10 minutes. You should now be left with very soft and stretchy dough. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover with cling film before leaving in a warm place for two hours, where it should grow to twice the size.
  5. Add the raisins and sultanas to a small saucepan along with the rum and heat gently for five – seven minutes until the fruit has absorbed the liquid and is plump. Set to one side to cool.
  6. After the two hours are up and the dough has risen, tip it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for another five minutes. Gradually add in the soaked fruit and chopped candied peel as you knead. Shape the dough into a bowl and place in the prepared tin (if you are using a cake tin wrap baking paper around the outside of the tin, to come about 5cm above the rim and secure with string). Cover with cling film and leave to rise for another hour.
  7. Preheat the oven to 180C or gas mark 4. Mix together the almonds, caster sugar and egg whites for the topping before gently brushing the mixture over the top of the panettone. Place the panettone in the oven and bake for 40-50 minutes,it should appear golden and a skewer should come out clean when inserted into the middle of the cake. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning it out onto a wire rack. Let the cake cool completely before dusting with icing sugar and serving.
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nicole.westley

By Nicole Westley

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 fiancé.