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Meet Nigel: Our Competitor for the Chester Duck Race

Thursday, August 28th, 2014
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This time last month, the Sykes Cottages office welcomed a very special guest who, on September 20th, will hopefully lead us to victory in the Chester Duck Race. As the newest member of the Sykes Cottages team, we thought we’d let you get to know Nigel in his very own blog post! Keep reading to learn all about Nigel, the charity he supports, and how he’s been spending his time here at Sykes.

About Nigel

Nigel before

Nigel came to Sykes Cottages on a fund raising mission and has been training daily to perform in the big duck race, where he will be raising money for the Babygrow Appeal. Nigel strongly supports the Babygrow appeal and its aim to raise £3million, which will help build a new neonatal unit at the Countess of Chester Hospital. Nigel knows that all babies need special care but also that some need it more than others, and so, he is privileged to be competing in the big race as part of the Sykes Cottages team!

Nigel’s Make Over

Nigel make over Redo

During his time here at Sykes Cottages, the team were set the challenge of giving Nigel a makeover; there was much discussion surrounding Nigel’s new look but seeing as his race is taking place on the iconic River Dee in the historic city of Chester, we decided to transform Nigel into a sight-seeing, fact-finding tourist! Nigel’s new look comes complete with a Sykes branded shirt, a camera to capture his favourite race moments, and a visitor’s guide to the city itself! We think Nigel’s new look is rather dashing, don’t you?

Nigel’s Time at Sykes Cottages

Nigel working Redo

Since his arrival here at Sykes Cottages, Nigel has thrown himself into fundraising activities and, as well as undergoing his makeover, he is currently planning a bake sale to raise more money for the Babygrow Appeal. Nigel has also been learning all about Sykes Cottages and has really enjoyed browsing our selection of properties; he especially likes Duck Cottage and Puddle-Duck Lodge! Although Nigel has been extremely busy he’s made time to get to know the people here at Sykes and has made a lot of new friends.

What’s next for Nigel?

Group & Nigel Redo

Nigel’s time at Sykes Cottages is almost at an end and our little quacker will soon be leaving the nest, for his next big adventure! Shortly after the bake sale, Nigel will depart to meet up with his friends from the bath tub, he is due to make his first public outing in September when he and his friends will be hogging the spot light at Chester’s Grosvenor Shopping Centre. They will be on display at the centre for a week from September 13th before heading off to the big race on September 20th!

We can’t wait to see Nigel race in September and if you’d like to come along and show your support I’m sure he would love to see you too! For more information on the appeal please visit the Countess of Chester website or to make a donation to the Babygrow Appeal you can visit their just giving page.

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.

How to Create the Perfect Driving Playlist

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014
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Have you got a long journey ahead of you this summer; perhaps a lengthy drive to your holiday destination or a long commute to your summer job? If so then you’ll need a driving playlist to help pass the time whilst winding down country roads or held up in motorway traffic. If you have yet to create the perfect playlist then keep reading as we offer up a few guidelines on how to make the ultimate personalised playlist!

Picture Via Flickr.

Picture Via Flickr.

Party in The USA - Miley CyrusConsider your audience

When putting together your driving playlist, it’s important to consider the people that will be traveling with you. For example if you have children on board, a song with abusive langue or sexual references might not be appropriate, instead, we would opt for family friendly songs like “Party In The USA” by Miley Cyrus.

Keeping alert

Being alert whilst driving is very important but on long mundane car journeys this isn’t always possible. By carefully selecting your playlist and avoiding high energy songs and soft tones, you can keep your mind active whilst driving. Songs like “We Built This City” by Starship offer just the right balance of energy and tone for long distance driving.

Include the classics

Don't Stop Believin' - JourneyWhen considering songs for your playlist, you’ll of course want to include your personal favourites to sing along to but unfortunately not everyone will share the same killer taste in music as you and so it’s best to add in a few classics that everyone will know. The legendary “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey is a great song that people of all ages are sure to know!

Guilt Pleasure

We all have them, those catchy songs that we know word for word but are too embarrassed to ever play in public - that’s right no playlist is complete without a few guilty pleasures! Here at Sykes Cottages HQ there were a few song choices that came to mind but we finally decided on “I Knew You Were Trouble” by Taylor Swift as our true guilty pleasure.

We hope these guidelines have left you feeling inspired and eager to start work on your own driving playlist. If you’re curious to see what we would include on a driving playlist then head over to Spotify and search for “Sykes’ Driving Playlist” to find out what songs made it on to our top ten list!


Unless otherwise stated the images for this blog post were taken from the HMV Digital website.

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.

Summer Fruits Recipes

Friday, August 15th, 2014
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With summer now in full swing, our gardens, fields and supermarket shelves are packed full of delicious summer berries. These delightful fruits are of course extremely tasty when eaten alone but really release their summer flavour when teamed with one of our summer fruits recipes. If you have an abundance of summer fruit that you need to use up this season, then keep ready as we share with you three of our favourite summer fruit recipes.

Summer Pudding

Packed full of summer berries, this recipe looks impressive but is deceivingly easy to make; ideal for large party gatherings, summer pudding is sure to wet your appetite this summer. The recipe below will serve eight people and takes around 30 minutes to prepare before at least six hours of chilling in the fridge.

Picture via Flickr.

Picture via Flickr.

Ingredients

  • 500g Raspberries
  • 300g Strawberries
  • 250g Blackberries
  • 100g Redcurrants
  • 175g Caster sugar
  • 7 Slices of bread (Works best with day-old bread from a square, medium thick loaf)

Method

  1. Wash and then gently dry all fruit. In a pan, gently heat sugar and 3 tbsp of water until the sugar is dissolved. Stir and then bring to the boil for 1 minute before adding in the raspberries, blackberries and redcurrants. Cook on a low heat for 3 minutes stirring occasionally, you want the fruit to be soft but mostly intact. Put a sieve over a clean bowl and pour in content of pan.
  2. Line a 1.25 litre bowl with cling film, leaving an overhang at the edges (this will make it easier to turn out the pudding at the end). Cut the crusts off the bread and then cut all but 1 slice in half at a slight angle.
  3. Dip the pieces of bread into the fruit juices one at a time, and line the inside of the bowl with the bread (place the whole slice of bread at the bottom), take your time with this step making sure everything fits together nicely. If there are gaps you can’t fill simply cut the bread again until it fits. Make sure to leave a few slices for the top!
  4. Spoon in the fruit adding a few strawberries every now and then. Once the pudding is full, dip the last few pieces of bread in juice and place on top, trim any overhang with scissors. Bring the cling film up and loosely seal. Put a side plate on top of the pudding and weigh it down with cans. Chill overnight or for a minimum of 6 hours.
  5. To serve the pudding, take off the cans and plate, then open up the cling film. Place a plate upside down on top of the pudding and flip over. Remove the cling film and serve with left over fruit juice and cream.

Elderflower Cordial

Bring a touch of class to your summer party this year by adding a dash of homemade elderflower cordial to your guests’ soda water or sparkling wine. This easy recipe will make around four litres of cordial and takes 30 minutes to prepare along with a 24 hour picking process.

Picture via Flickr

Picture via Flickr.

Ingredients

  • 20 Fresh elderflower heads, stalks trimmed
  • 2 Unwaxed lemons
  • 2½kg White sugar
  • 85g Citric Acid (This can be bought from the chemists)

Method

  1. Place the sugar and 1.5 litres (2¾ pints) of water into a large saucepan. Gently heat until the sugar has dissolved (don’t boil) stirring occasionally.  Whilst the sugar is dissolving, peal the zest from the lemons using a peeler, then cut the lemon into round slices.
  2. Once all the sugar has dissolved bring the pan to the boil before turning off the heat. Wash the flowers by filling a basin with cold water and swishing them from side to side.
  3. Lift the flowers out and add them to the syrup along with the lemons, zest and citric acid. Stir well and leave to infuse for a minimum of 24 hours.
  4. Line a colander with a fresh, clean tea towel before sitting it over a large bowl or pan. Ladle in the syrup mixture letting it naturally and slowly drip through the tea towel. Then use a funnel to fill sterilised bottles.
  5. The cordial will be ready to drink straight away and will keep for up to six weeks in a fridge. You could also freeze the liquid in plastic containers if you wanted to keep it longer.

Strawberry Ice Cream

What better way to cool down this summer than with a nice refreshing scoop of strawberry ice cream? Our simple three step recipe will make a litre of ice cream and takes around 30 minutes to prepare, plus a minimum of six hours of freezing before it’s ready to serve.

Picture via Flickr.

Picture via Flickr.

Ingredients

  • 400g Strawberries
  • 200g Condensed milk (Half of a 397g can)
  • 250g Mascarpone

Method

  1. Pull the green hulls out of the strawberries (if they are hard, cut into halves or quarters) and place in a flat bottom dish. Use a potato masher to squash the strawberries down as much as possible.
  2. Place the mashed strawberries into a bowl along with the mascarpone and combine the two together by mashing. Add the condensed milk and stir everything together (don’t worry if the mixture is lumpy or streaky!)
  3. Put the mixture into a plastic tub and leave in the freezer for a minimum of 6 hours (overnight preferred). To serve, simply scoop the ice cream out into bowls or cones.
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.

Uncovering the UK’s Hidden Gems

Friday, August 15th, 2014
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When considering UK attractions, our thoughts are instantly turned to well known tourist traps such as The Tower of London, Hadrian’s Wall and Stonehenge, but throughout Britain there are a number of overshadowed attractions tucked into reclusive corners and quietly delighted visitors who have stumbled off the beaten track to find them.

To help you discover these hidden gems which are dotted around the UK, Sykes Cottages have put together the following infographic which highlights a number of alternative attractions for you to visit this year. Sykes-Hidden-Gems-final

 

Uncovering the UK’s Hidden Gems

Forget the usual tourist traps and delve a little deeper to discover some of the UK’s lesser-known treasures. Some are hidden away, while others can easily be missed, so here’s a handy guide to help you uncover these secret attractions.

The Crannog Centre Perthshire

Located on the shores of Loch Tay, the Crannog Centre offers visitors the chance to step inside an authentic replica of a Crannog, an Iron Age loch dwelling dating back to 2,500BC.

Discover the story of Scotland’s ancient tribes, and experience first-hand how they would have lived at this unique visitor centre in the midst of the stunning Scottish Highlands.

Barter Books Northumberland

More than just a bookshop, this magical spot occupies a magnificent Victorian railway station in the heart of Northumberland.

As well as being one of Europe’s largest secondhand bookshops and a focal point for artists and literary enthusiasts, it’s also where the now world famous ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ poster first emerged.

Rievaulx Abbey Yorkshire

What was once the wealthiest abbey in England is now a majestic ruin in a secluded spot within the North York Moors National Park.

If you’re after peace and tranquillity, then this is a wonderful place to escape the crowds whilst learning about the Abbey’s past.

Port Sunlight Merseyside

Built by British industrialist William Hesketh Lever in 1888, Port Sunlight was originally used to house Hesketh’s workers, who produced the popular soap, Sunlight.

Now thought of as an attractive model village, this charming Merseyside suburb became a conservation area in 1978 and is home to over 900 grade II listed buildings. Explore the village on foot, stopping by the Lady Lever Art Gallery and museum on the way, and if you’re visiting in summer, be sure to enjoy a picnic on the village green.

Canterbury Tales Kent

Get under the skin of the city’s most famous literary export, Geoffrey Chaucer, with a visit to Canterbury Tales, a unique recreation of medieval life.

Experience the sights, sounds and smells of Chaucer’s timeless tales as you journey back to the 14th century, before enjoying an enchanting adaptation at the centre’s open-air theatre.

Bounce Below Gwynedd

Tucked away underground, Bounce Below is well worth discovering if jumping around on huge trampolines in a 200 x 60 foot cavern is your idea of fun.

This thrilling attraction also features giant walkways, slides, and a technicolour light display which illuminates a space twice the size of St Paul’s Cathedral.

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.

Top 10 Dog Friendly Beaches for Summer

Monday, August 4th, 2014
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Britain is a nation of dog lovers, and as dog lovers, we like nothing better than seeing our four legged companions enjoying the sunshine as they bound along the shoreline and splash though the surf on a beautiful sandy beach. During the summer months, there are a number of beaches that will not allow dogs access and this can really affect our decision on where to take the annual family holiday. If you’re planning a pet-friendly holiday this year then keep reading as we list our top ten pet friendly beaches for summer which will allow your dog the coastal holiday they deserve!

Holkham Wells, Norfolk

Picture via Flickr.

Picture via Flickr.

If you’re looking for luxurious golden sands and unspoilt beauty then Holkham Wells is the place for you! Here you can spend the day looking out over the ocean on the famous Halkham Wells dog walk or indulge yourself with a pet-friendly picnic as you relax along the shore.

Formby, Merseyside

Picture via Flickr.

Picture via Flickr.

Formby beach is a haven for dogs, with over 250 acres of woodland, a beautiful sandy beach and miles of sand dunes for them to explore. This beach is part of the national trust and one of the only beaches on the Sefton Coast that doesn’t apply seasonal restrictions on dog access, so you and your pet are welcome the whole year round!

Conwy Morfa, Conway

Picture via Flickr.

Picture via Flickr.

Ideal for building sandcastles and digging up buried treasure, this large sandy bay can be enjoyed whatever the weather. The nearby town of Conwy is extremely dog friendly and with a number of cafés and restaurants available, you’ll never be short of somewhere to eat come lunch time.

Eyemouth, Berwickshire

Picture via Flickr.

Picture via Flickr.

The historic town of Eyemouth offers a fantastic beach which is more than happy to accept your four legged friend to its sandy shores. With an impressive coastal path running all the way from St. Abbs, this area is the ideal location for exercising dogs and children.

Snettisham, Norfolk

Picture via Flickr.

Picture via Flickr.

Located along Norfolk’s sunset coast, Snettisham beach is perfect for a late afternoon stroll. Watch the sun set over the water as you share a cuddle with your other half and a few slobbery kisses from your affectionate pooch!

Whitby, North Yorkshire

Picture via Flickr.

Picture via Flickr.

A great coastal destination for both locals and visitors, Whitby has access for dogs all year round on the east end of the beach. The sheltered sandy beach on the east side is ideal for dogs with lots of space to run around and play fetch with their owners.

Harlyn Bay, Cornwall

Picture via Flickr.

Picture via Flickr.

Harlyn Bay, located just west of Padstow, is a sand and pebbles beach filled with rock pools which are perfect for dipping wet noses in! This is one of the safer beaches in the area, ideal for swimming and learning to surf, that along with its year round acceptance of dogs, makes it a firm favourite amongst families.

Gairloch, Highlands

Picture via Flickr.

Picture via Flickr.

Found in the north west of Gairloch, this beach is surrounded by moorlands and mountains making it an idyllic beach to waste away the hours this summer. With sand dunes to roll about in and the safe sandy beach to run along, your dog is sure to enjoy their time spent on Gairloch beach.

Arnside, Cumbria

Picture via Flickr.

Picture via Flickr.

The beach at Arnside is perfect for walking dogs with a variety of guided nature walks and market trails in and around the town itself. As well as spectacular walks and wonderful scenery, the beach has a number of excellent local facilities including parking, shops, cafes and a small promenade.

Cwmtydu, Ceredigion

Picture via Flickr.

Picture via Flickr.

The fantastic beach at Cwmtydu is surrounded by a deep woodland valley and high pastures which are inhabited by wild ponies. This beach was supposedly used by smugglers and its wonderful cliffs and walkways make it very popular with walkers and pet friendly families.

We hope this list has been helpful when planning your pet-friendly days out and UK holidays. If you’re looking for pet friendly accommodation near any of these beaches then please visit our pet friendly cottages page or call our reservations team on 01244 356659.

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.