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Days Out With Toddlers

Saturday, September 6th, 2014
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Now that the older children have gone back to school and the chaos of the summer holidays is at an end, it’s time to start planning days out with the younger children. The weather may be slightly chillier but there is still plenty of fun to be had for parents and toddlers this season but if you’re struggling to find suitable activities for your energetic preschoolers then keep reading as we suggest some of our favourite places to visit when on a day out with a toddler.


Beautiful stained glass windows at Anglesey Sea Zoo

Beautiful stained glass windows at Anglesey Sea Zoo

There are a number of aquariums located throughout the UK and Ireland each offering a unique view of life under the sea. Your little ones will love strolling around the exhibits, discovering new creatures and even learning a thing or two about the wonders of the deep blue.

Indoor Play Centres

Monster Mania in Falkirck

Monster Mania in Falkirck

With the chilly weather setting in and the regular showers determined to dampen our days out, why not head inside to a warm and dry indoor play centre? Children love running around these imaginative centres and it’s a great way to keep your toddlers active and well exercised!

Public Library

For a day out with a difference we would suggest a visit to your local library. The relaxing atmosphere at the public library is ideal for a little down time where your little one can have hours of fun flicking through the picture books and you could even get a little reading done too.

Petting Zoo

One of the best things about petting zoos is that children can get really stuck in! Spend the afternoon petting the sheep and rabbits as well as learning all about the different animals on the farm and of course the noises they make- oink oink!

Gardens and Parks

Children love to be outside and come rain or shine an afternoon spent exploring the outside world is one of their favourite pass times.  We love a relaxing walk to the local park and if we’re feeling a little more adventurous then a visit to the local botanic garden is a real treat.

I hope this blog post has offered some inspiration to you and your little one. We would love to know what days out you are planning with your toddler this year so please don’t hesitate to get in-touch and let us know via our Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus account.


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.


Friday, August 29th, 2014
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Here at Sykes Cottages we feel extremely privileged to be nominated for “Best UK Holiday Cottage/Self Catering Booking Company” in the upcoming British Travel Awards, especially seeing as we won the title of “Best Large Cottage/Self Catering Booking Company” in 2013. The staff at Sykes can’t wait to find out the winners of this year’s competition and would love it if you could vote for us! To help convince you that we deserve to win this fantastic award, here’s why our staff are voting for Sykes…

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Always happy to help – Charlotte

Our offices are open daily between 9am and 9.30pm; we even work on Boxing Day to guarantee that our customers are always provided with helpful, happy assistance whenever it’s needed.


Over 5,000 properties across the UK and Ireland – Jamie

With a dedicated team of regional managers across the UK and Ireland, Sykes Cottages are constantly taking on new holiday properties. We currently offer 832 Irish properties and 4480 UK properties.


Rated “Excellent” on Tripadvisor for the past 3 years – Louise

Being rated “Excellent” on Tripadvisor for the past three years is an amazing privilege, but what’s even better is knowing that our customer’s fantastic feedback has allowed us to reach this high standard.


Family owned company with a friendly atmosphere – Nicole

Working for a family owned company means that there is always a friendly atmosphere in the office. Everyone knows each other which allows us to work together really well providing the best service possible for our customers.

Large Groups

We have large cottages for large groups…– Jonathan

Sykes Cottages has a wide selection of large cottages which are perfect for a family getaway, with properties sleeping up to 24 people and groups of cottages sleeping up to 82 there is plenty of room for everyone!


…We also have small properties, perfect for two! – Leanne

The Sykes Cottages website also has a selection of smaller properties which can accommodate just two people, perfect for a minimoon or a surprise romantic holiday with you and your other half.

These are just some of the reasons why we think Sykes Cottages should win the 2014 BTA award for “Best UK Holiday Cottage/Self Catering Booking Company”. If like us you think Sykes deserves to win this wonderful award then please visit our British Travel Awards page for more information on how to vote.


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.

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.


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.


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.


  • 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)


  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.


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


  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.


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


  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.

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.