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Best City Ice Rinks

Tuesday, December 15th, 2015
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As the countdown to Christmas starts to heat up, we’ve decide to take a look at one of the coolest winter activities around – ice skating! UK cities have seen a number of enchanting ice rinks pop up in time for Christmas, so if you fancy trying out this exciting winter sport then keep reading as we list the best city ice rinks available in the UK this year.

Hampton Court Palace Ice Rink: London

Providing a beautiful setting for a romantic skate, the Hampton Court Palace ice rink is set in front of Henry VIII’s stunning Tudor abode. With wonderful views of this impressive royal residence, skating here is a sure-fire way to impress your other half this Christmas.

Opening times: Open until January 3rd with various skating sessions throughout the week. Please see website for further information.
Price: Prices start from as little as £11.50 for adults, £9.50 for concessions, £9.50 for children aged 8-16 and £9 for children ages 2-7.
Contact: www.thehamptoncourticerink.co.uk; info@cousinsentertainment.com; 02920 230130

Princes Street Gardens Ice Rink: Edinburgh

Overlooked by the Big Wheel, Princes Street Gardens ice rink boasts wonderful views of the city of Edinburgh. This attraction is always busy and it’s not hard to see why; at the heart of Edinburgh’s festivities, a quick blitz on the ice is perfect for entertaining children who have spent far too long shopping!

Opening times: The Princes Street Gardens ice rink is open until January 4th and has daily skating sessions from 10am until 4pm, as well as nightly skating sessions from 5pm until 9.30pm.
Price: £5 per person for a 30 minute slot. All children under the age of 11 must be accompanied by an adult.
Contact: www.edinburghschristmas.com/whats-on/princes-street-gardens-ice-rink; 08445 478252

Eden Project: Cornwall

Located in one of Cornwall’s most popular tourist attractions, the Eden Project ice rink is not to be missed. Especially good for children, this festive ice rink offers a variety of fun skating sessions throughout the week, including races and ice games.

Opening times: Open from now until February 28th, the Eden Project ice rink has various skating sessions available throughout the week. Please see website for further information.
Price: Prices start from just £6. (Please note that a valid Eden admission ticket is also required.)
Contact: www.edenproject.com/visit/whats-on/ice-skating; 01726 811911

Manchester Ice Rink: Manchester

Manchester’s ice rink is a very popular attraction and a wonderful location to soak up the Christmas atmosphere in the city. With its later opening hours, this is another top spot for a romantic date with many couples choosing to stay late and skate under the stars.

Opening times: Open until January 3rd, the Manchester ice rink offers 45 minute skating sessions from 10am until 9pm daily.
Price: Prices start from £9 for adults, £8 for students, £8 for children and family tickets are available from £24.
Contact: www.manchestericerink.co.uk; 01618 209718

Winter Wonderland Ice Rink: Cardiff

As the centre piece of Cardiff’s Winter Wonderland, this ice rink gets a lot of attention and whether you’re skating or just observing, there are plenty of laughs to be had by everyone. Advertised as an essential winter experience, this ice rink is a must for anyone in the Cardiff area.

Opening times: Open from now until January 3rd, the Winter Wonderland ice rink offers a variety of skating sessions throughout the week. Please see website for further information.
Price: Prices start from £9 for adults, £7.50 for students, concessions and children aged 13-16, £6.50 for children ages 9-12, £6 for children aged 3-7 and family tickets are available from £28.
Contact: www.cardiffwinterwonderland.com/en/ice-rink/; 02920 230130

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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.

City Break Locations for a January Break

Monday, December 7th, 2015
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With Christmas just around the corner and New Year’s Eve hot on its heels, thinking ahead to January can seem impossible. However here at Sykes Cottages, we know it’s never too early to start planning your next UK getaway. UK cities are perfect for a January break and whether you’re looking to hit the shops in search of a January bargain, or pack your day full of spa treatments to help you recuperate after the festive season, our UK cities are sure to accommodate your needs. Keep reading for a closer look at some of our favourite UK cities, ideal for a January holiday.

York

York is a city filled with history, romance, fantastic architecture and a wonderful atmosphere, all of which make it perfect for a break in January. If you’re not dining out at one of the many superb eateries then chances are you’ll be hitting the streets in search of a deal or two in the January sales. Not only does York boast several small boutique stores but there are also plenty of designer labels dotted about the city.

Bath

As one of Britain’s most iconic destinations, the city of Bath has a lot to offer visitors this January. As well as the numerous eateries and historic sites, Bath is also well known for its natural thermal waters which are ideal for those looking to relax this January. Book a spa weekend in Bath and not only can you discover the best preserved Roman Bath complex in Northern Europe but also enjoy some down time at the Thermae Bath Spa.

St Davids

As the smallest city in Britain, St Davids offers the perfect getaway for those looking for a city break with a difference. Surrounded by the beautiful Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, this tiny city is a haven for artists, travellers and pilgrims. No trip to St Davids would be complete without a visit to the dominating St Davids Cathedral. This marvellous 12th century cathedral attracts thousands of visitors each year and is a must see for anyone in the area.

We hope this list of UK cities has helped inspire you to take a January break this year. For more information on our city break locations please visit our self-catering city breaks page.

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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.

A Night at the British Travel Awards

Saturday, December 5th, 2015
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Last week we were thrilled to announce that Sykes Cottages had won at the British Travel Awards for the third year in a row and that we now hold the title of Best Large Self Catering Holiday Booking Company for 2015. The award was presented to us at a glitzy London awards ceremony, which a small team of Sykes Cottages representatives attended.

Choosing who would represent the company at such a prestigious event was a difficult task, but in the end we decided to put it to the vote! We asked everyone here at Sykes Cottages HQ to vote for who they thought deserved to go to the awards, someone who goes above and beyond, someone who we could name Sykes’ unsung hero. After a few days of intense voting Sally, Helen and Ali where chosen to represent Sykes Cottages and we must say they did a fantastic job!

Sykes Cottages representatives for the 2015 British Travel Awards

Sykes Cottages representatives for the 2015 British Travel Awards

Marketing Assistant Sally has been with us here at Sykes Cottages for over 9 years and during that time has held a number of different roles within the company. Now part of our successful marketing team Sally is a much loved member of staff.

Helen has been part of the Sykes Cottages team for three and a half years, working as a team leader on the reservations floor. Helen is a real favourite here at Sykes and always runs a happy shift.

Alison is a highly prized member of our owners department and a jack of all trades. She’s been working here at Sykes Cottages for seven years and in that time she’s made some fantastic contributions to the company.

After their exciting night at the awards we couldn’t wait to hear all about their evening, so we sat the ladies down to ask them a few questions about the night…

How did it feel to be named one of Sykes’ unsung heroes and be invited to attend the British Travel Awards?

Sally: “It was very flattering, especially given that I was in a category with some very strong candidates and well-represented members of staff”

Helen: “I was overwhelmed that people had even voted for me, so when I found out that I had been chosen it was an amazing feeling!”

Alison: “I was very flattered as I’m just doing a job I love. I was extremely excited to be given the opportunity to go to one of the industry’s biggest award ceremonies and to come away a winner.”

What was the event like and did you enjoy the New York theme?

Sally: “It was a lot of fun to be part of, the whole atmosphere was very exciting. The function room had been set out and decorated beautifully, and the theme worked really well”

Helen: “The whole experience was amazing, very glamorous and the New York theme was fantastic”

Alison: “The event was very glamourous and exciting, the comedian Hal Cruttenden was hilarious and the live band was fantastic. The New York theme was great, especially the hot dog stand, I enjoyed two of those!”

British Travel Awards

Our three British Travel Awards

What was the reaction like when Sykes Cottages won?

Sally: “Elation, excitement, relief, delight; just a few of the words that spring to mind! To have been in the room when our name was announced as the winners for the third time felt amazing and I personally felt really proud to be a part of the company”

Helen: “It was very exciting and brilliant to win for the third year running”

Alison: “It was really amazing, especially as we are now triple winners!”

Other than winning what was your favourite part of the night?

Sally: “The host, comedian Hal Cruttenden, was hilariously funny. The after party with a live band and DJ was also great fun. We had a wonderful time dancing before heading to the chill zone with chocolate fountain and vodka luge!”

Helen: “To be honest I can’t single out one part that was my favourite, the whole evening was good. A great evening with fab people”

Alison: “I loved getting glammed up and meeting three of the company’s partners, who were great company. I also bumped into some old colleagues which was nice”

 

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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.

Best Cottages for a Relaxing Pre-Christmas Break

Saturday, December 5th, 2015
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With shops promoting their stocking fillers, radio stations playing Christmas songs and the smell of festive market food filling the streets, it’s fair to say that the holiday season has well and truly begun. It’s an exciting but tiring time and with so much to do, many of us find ourselves in need of a break. If you’re in need of a pick-me-up this Christmas then keep reading as we suggest a wonderful collection of properties that are perfect for a pre-Christmas break.

Failte

Portknockie, Scotland

Failte - Reference 921533

Failte – Reference 921533

Located in the picturesque fishing village of Portknockie, Failte is the ideal location for those looking to escape the crowded atmosphere of the larger cities. The area’s fantastic food and drink is sure to help revitalise you and if you still need a little kick, it’s worth noting that the famous Malt Whisky Trail is also located close by. The cottage itself provides a welcoming escape from the harsh winter weather with a soothing wood burning stove and comfortable bedrooms that will see you catching up on your sleep in no time.

The Wagtail

Mundford, East Anglia 

The Wagtail - Reference 923232

The Wagtail – Reference 923232

If your perfect winter escape involves ‘walking in a winter wonderland’ then we would suggest a trip to The Wagtail in East Anglia. This charming cottage boasts wonderful woodland walks straight from the doorstep where you can follow one of the numerous trails to discover the local wildlife and birds. Alternatively, Thetford Forest is also located close by where you can enjoy a quiet walk or one of the many other activities they have on offer. After your refreshing walk, you can head back to The Wagtail and enjoy a festive film whilst cuddled up on the sofa with a large cup of hot chocolate.

Crabtree

Graythwaite, Cumbria

Crabtree - Reference 914055

Crabtree – Reference 914055

You’ll find Crabtree located on a spectacular 5,000 acre private country estate alongside a lake, forest, woodland and meadow. The landscape here is truly amazing and as Crabtree welcomes two-well behaved pets, this could be the ideal location for giving your pooch some well needed winter exercise. If you fancy a pre-Christmas workout yourself, then also available at Crabtree is an indoor heated swimming pool, table tennis room and fitness suite all great for working up a sweat and forgetting all about your Christmas troubles.

Easter Urray

Muir of Ord, Scotland

Easter Urray - Reference 16491

Easter Urray – Reference 16491

If you’re planning a pre-Christmas break for the whole family then you’re going to need a large property; a property with plenty of space that still feels cosy, a property just like Easter Urray. This character property is thought to be over 300 years old and with two welcoming sitting rooms, each with a wood burning fire, this cottage’s comfortable atmosphere is excellent for family groups. As well as two sitting rooms, the property also has five stylish bedrooms, a large kitchen with dining area and a separate dining room that seats ten, creating a wonderful environment for a slap up family meal.

Rushmoor Lodge

Knockholt, South of England

Rushmore Lodge - Reference 16229

Rushmore Lodge – Reference 16229

Rushmoor Lodge offers a modern and very stylish retreat this festive season with three luxury bedrooms, a gorgeous open plan living area and games area complete with pool table and table football. This is definitely the place to be if you’re a group of friends looking for a last minute getaway this Christmas. The open plan living area is a great space for socialising with plenty of seating for eight and a large TV with cinema surround sound. You could spend hours catching up and sharing fond Christmas memories.

Sandbed

Ravenstonedale, Cumbria

Sandbed - Reference 21309

Sandbed – Reference 21309

The character features and beautiful wood burning fire at Sandbed just scream winter getaway. Quietly situated in the beautiful Rawthey Velley between Harter and Wild Boar Fell, this cottage not only has a wonderfully cosy atmosphere inside but a glorious winter landscape outside. We would recommend this cottage to couples looking at spending some quality time together before the family arrive to celebrate Christmas. The open fire, spacious living area and beautiful views are perfect for a romantic getaway; all that’s missing is a couple of glasses of mulled wine!

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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’ Tea Reviews: Green Tea

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015
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It’s no secret that the UK loves a good cup of tea and as we consume 165 million cups of tea a day, I think it’s fair to say that it’s the nation’s favourite beverage. Here at Sykes Cottages HQ, we like to have a constant supply of tea in the office and whether you’ve seen our post about British tea drinking habits or our graphic all about the UK’s love affair with tea, it’s clear to see that here at Sykes Cottages, we really enjoy a good brew! To keep our tea theme going, we’ve decided to put some of the nation’s favourite tea brands to the test by reviewing their products. Last week we looked at everyday tea and today it’s the turn of green tea as we look at what’s available from Teapigs, PG Tips and Twinings.

Tea Review

Teapigs, Mao Feng Green Tea

Teapigs’ packaging describes their green tea as having the delicate natural flavour of summer air, peaches and apricots. An unusual description for green tea but Teapigs promises a green tea with a difference; a green tea for those who aren’t keen on the classic flavours but still want to feel the benefits of this healthy beverage.

Following the pack instructions, our team steeped the tea temple (tea bag to you and me) in water just off the boil for three minutes. As promised, we were left with a very pale coloured tea, however our team weren’t very taken with this tea’s fragrance, saying that the scent reminded them of mushy peas!

Colour: 1.5/3
Smell: 0.5/3
Taste: 1.5/3

PG tips, Smooth Green Tea

The green tea of choice here at Sykes Cottages HQ, there always seems to be a box of PG tips’ Smooth Green Tea in our kitchen cupboards. The simple packing tells us that ‘Zen is just a mug away’ and that our brew is guaranteed to be very smooth with a fresh, crisp taste.

Sticking to the instructions found on the side of the box, we brewed the tea pyramid (tea bag) for two minutes in hot water. After the recommended time was up, the team found that the tea was a darker colour than they would have expected and although the tea didn’t have a strong smell, it was very smooth with no bitterness.

Colour: 1/3
Smell: 1/3
Taste: 2.5/3

Twinings, Pure Green Tea

The Twinings packaging advertises a natural, pure and refreshing green tea that produces a dewy mist that hangs in the air. After further research on the Twinings website, we also found that their tea is supposed to have a cleaner, more refreshing taste when compared to other green teas on the market.

The team followed the suggested brewing time of two minutes and found that not only do Twinings provide a gentle, fragrant green tea but that the tea also has a wonderful colour. Unlike many green teas, Twinings Green Tea had no bitter after taste, making it easier for us to enjoy the pleasant, natural taste of our brew.

Colour: 3/3
Smell: 1.5/3
Taste: 2/3

Green Tea

(Left to Right) Teapigs, PG tips, Twinings

When we added the scores together, it was clear to see that Twinings received the highest review and deserved the title of ‘Best Green Tea’. What are your thoughts on green tea, do you have a favourite brand? We would love to get your opinion so make sure to connect with us over on Facebook or Twitter.

For more tea reviews from Sykes Cottages, make sure to come back and visit our blog later on in the week as we take a look at some of the country’s favourite Earl Greys.

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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.