Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category

Large Cottages for a Family Christmas

Friday, November 21st, 2014
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We all know that Christmas is a time to be with the family but have you considered going away together for the festive period? Think about it, you’ll get to spend more time together and there will be plenty of reinforcements on hand for prepping all the Christmas veg! In order to give you a helping hand, we’ve had a look and managed to find some of the fantastic properties that still have availability over Christmastime and are large enough for the whole family, so why don’t you take a look and see if you fancy booking any of them.

Plas Gwynfryn, Llanbedr near Harlech

Plas Gwynfryn, Wales, ref. 5051

Plas Gwynfryn, Wales, ref. 5051

The first of our properties is the delightful Plas Gwynfryn, an Edwardian country house tucked away in the Snowdonia National Park. Comfortably accommodating 16 people, there should be enough space to unwind over the holiday period, even with all of the family there! And when the big day comes, you’ll be thankful for the fully equipped kitchen complete with AGA, as well as the spacious dining room where you can all tuck into your Christmas dinners in luxury.

Ranford, Rhosneigr on Anglesey

Ranford, Rhosneigr, ref. 25867

Ranford, Rhosneigr, ref. 25867

If you fancy a couple of bracing coastal walks over the Christmas period, you might want to have a look at Ranford. Situated in the beautiful seaside village of Rhosneigr on the island of Anglesey, it looks like the perfect place for the whole family to get together over the holidays. With five bedrooms that can sleep ten people between them, plus the option to turn the cosy snug into an extra bedroom with the sofa bed, it’s big enough for a large group to call home over Christmas.

River House, County Kerry

River House, Co. Kerry, ref. 3740

River House, Co. Kerry, ref. 3740

Or maybe you fancy spending Christmas on the Emerald Isle? If so, make sure you take a look at River House in the delightful village of Sneem. The cottage sleeps twelve people in its six beautifully furnished bedrooms and really shows off the best of both worlds, mixing more traditional features and more modern fixtures and fittings. There’s the feature maple flooring and open fires that will keep the whole family nice and cosy on even the chilliest of December nights.

There you have it, a brief preview of some of the fantastic cottages that you could be spending Christmas in this year. If you like the look of them, you’d better be quick as they’re booking up fast! Or maybe they aren’t quite what you’re looking for? If not, no worries; there are still plenty of others available – you can find them all here.

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Jamie Tomkins

By Jamie Tomkins

Jamie is a big fan of long weekend walks with the dog, especially when there is the chance to refuel with lunch in a country pub. Living in Lancaster for three years gave him the perfect opportunity to spend a lot of time in the Lake District.

Preparing the Perfect Christmas Dinner

Thursday, November 20th, 2014
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Christmas dinner is possibly my favourite event come Christmas Day and not just because of the golden turkey or scrumptious pigs in blankets; the festive feast sees the whole family coming together, enjoying a great meal and appreciating each other’s company. Preparing Christmas dinner can be rather difficult, even for the most experienced cooks. With that in mind, we’ve pulled together some fantastic tips to help you create a mouth-watering feast this Christmas.

Succulent Roast Turkey

Image via Flickr.

Image via Flickr.

For most households the centrepiece of Christmas dinner is of course the turkey. Deceivingly difficult to cook, even the best chefs can struggle with this delicate bird. To help keep your turkey juicy, follow these top tips:

  • Roast your turkey upside down for the first hour. This may sound a little backwards, but by roasting your turkey upside down on a V-rack, you will allow the meat to baste itself. Don’t worry about any marks left by the rack, once you flip the turkey back over and finish roasting, these will disappear on their own.
  • One of the main causes for dry turkey is overcooking, so invest in a decent thermometer and monitor the temperature. Always check the temperature at the thickest part of the thigh; the ideal temperature for a cooked turkey is 170°F.
  • The high temperatures inside your oven force the juices into the centre of the turkey. To give the juices time to flow back into the rest of the bird, let it sit for around 20 minutes before slicing.

Christmas Stuffing

Image via Flickr.

Image via Flickr.

Stuffing comes in a variety of flavours, so on Christmas Day there really is something to suite all tastes. Although the flavours may be different, the method for preparing your stuffing is the same. To avoid a dry or stodgy stuffing, follow these simple guidelines:

  • To ensure your stuffing is cooked through, try rolling it in tin foil. Once it’s cooked, you can then cut it into attractive slices.
  • For a little extra flavour, add ready-to-eat dried fruit. We suggest apricots or currants, or for those without a sweet tooth, add lemon zest for an extra punch.
  • Adding toasted nuts to your stuffing will create texture. Chop the nuts and fry them before adding to the stuffing to bring out the flavour.

Perfect Gravy

Image via Flickr.

Image via Flickr.

Whether you like your gravy thick or thin, lumpy or smooth, there is no denying its appeal on the dinner table. To keep the family fighting over the last drops of gravy this Christmas, follow these easy tips:

  • If you’re preparing vegetarian gravy, add some caramelised onions for a little sweetness. Simply cook sliced onions on the hob in a little butter before adding brown sugar to bring out the flavour.
  • The majority of people don’t like lumpy gravy. To avoid the bumps, use a wire whisk to stir.
  • Preparing the Christmas dinner can be stressful, so why not cook your gravy beforehand? Freeze it in advance and defrost on the day; add a little turkey juice before serving and your guests are sure to be impressed.

Seasonal Vegetables

Image via Flickr.

Image via Flickr.

Winter vegetables are some of my favourites and with roast parsnips, buttery sprouts and caramelised carrots, you should have no trouble convincing the little ones to eat their five a day. To help give your Christmas vegetables a little extra kick, follow these steps:

  • To save time on Christmas Day, prepare your vegetables the night before; you can peel your carrots and sprouts on Christmas Eve and place them in the fridge to keep fresh.
  • Adding bacon to a dish is never a bad thing, so try frying your sprouts with some streaky beacon to add a little texture and make them more appealing to the younger children.
  • To ensure your roasties are extra crisp this year, choose a potato that contains less water. A Golden Wonder or Aaron Victoria are the best potatoes to use when roasting.

We hope these tips for preparing the perfect Christmas dinner will be useful this year. If you have any advice you’d like to share with us, please feel free to connect with us on Facebook or Twitter – we’d love to hear from you!

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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.

Your Guide to the UK’s Best Christmas Events

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014
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It might be a little early, but here at Sykes Cottages we’re already getting into the Christmas spirit. Lucky for you, this means we’ve already scouted out some of the best Christmas events taking place across the UK this festive season, so you don’t have to! We’ve listed three of our favourites below for you to have a look at..

Lantern Magic, Chester Zoo

Christmas at Chester Zoo

Via Flickr

Chester Zoo’s Lantern Magic event is one of the most unique and interesting events taking place in the run up to Christmas this year, and it promises to be fun for all the family. Lantern Magic is running from Thursday 4th December until Tuesday 23rd December but places are limited and tickets are selling out fast so make sure you visit their website to secure yourself a spot. After dark, you can embark on an ‘enchanted’ illuminated trail around the zoo, which leads to a spectacular display of animal lanterns. Children can also get involved in writing a letter to Santa, taking part in a lantern-making workshop, making a wish on the Giant Wishing Tree, and even visit some of the animals.

Christmas at Chatsworth

Christmas at Chatsworth

Via Flickr

Christmas at Chatsworth is always one of the most wonderful events of the year with lots of activities and events to get you in the Christmas spirit. The festivities started on 8th November and will run through until 4th January. Chatsworth’s theme this year is Alice’s Wonderland; visitors will be able to immerse themselves in the vibrant, fantastical world brought to life by Lewis Carroll. You can attend the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, meet characters such as Tweedledum and Tweedledee, and play games of croquet. There’s even ‘drink me’ and ‘eat me’ refreshments!  Other Christmas events taking place at Chatsworth include wreath making, a Christmas market and Christmas twilight evenings.

Santa’s Grotto at Bounce Below

Christmas grotto

Via Flickr

Bounce Below is the world’s first underground playground of its kind and is one of the UK’s best new days out. Located in a disused slate cavern in North Wales, Bounce Below consists of large bouncy nets hung between the caverns, linked together with walkways and giant slides. It’s incredible fun for all the family and this December, Bounce Below will be hosting a magical Christmas grotto where children will get the chance to bounce about amongst a spectacular light display and festive decorations, before meeting Father Christmas himself. It is recommended that you pre-book for this event.

We’d love to hear about the events you’re going to this Christmas! You can let us know where you’re off to by leaving us a comment on Facebook or by sending us a tweet.

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Louise O'Toole

By Louise O'Toole

Louise loves reading, shopping, baking and cosy country pubs with log fires. A nice cup of tea will never be turned down. She has spent many childhood summers on the beach in Cornwall and walking the hills of the Lake District.

Christmas Gift Ideas for Travellers

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014
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Like it or not, Christmas is coming. Across the world, people have begun their Christmas shopping. It’s happening people. The goose is officially getting fat.

As of today, it’s 37 days ‘til Christmas. In countdown terms, that isn’t very long. But don’t panic, because, once more, the festive folk at Sykes HQ are here to help you pick the perfect Christmas pressie.

Stocking fillers for travel-lovers

Portable Smartphone Charger

Via Google Images – Labelled for reuse

Via Google Images – Labelled for reuse

Lost in the Lakes with a flat mobile? Reach for your portable smartphone charger. These dinky gizmos pack a punch, providing 250 hours of extra standby time, 5 hours of talk time and 20 hours of music playback. Just don’t forget to charge it, else you will be up a creek without a paddle.

Recommended: iPower Station for iPod and iPhone, IWOOT, £11.99

Travel Journal

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Like wanderers of old, you too can keep a log of your travels with a lovely travel journal. There are lots of journals – or notebooks – around that are intended for travel use; some are waterproof, others feature maps, whilst others have pockets for your bits and bobs. However you use it, a journal is a great thing to carry on your hols.

Recommended: Travel Journal, Moleskine, £17.99

Purifying Water Bottle

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Take clean, fresh water wherever you tread with a purifying water bottle. These clever vessels purify regular tap water as you drink, removing contaminants like Chlorine to make your H2O taste better and do better. There’s a range of water purification bottles available, but we like the affordability and simplicity of the Bobble.

Recommended: Bobble, WaterBobble, £6.99

Tablet Case

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

If you’re uncomfortable with your pricey new tablet bouncing around in the boot, a case makes a great gift. There are thousands of cases available for a range of devices, and some are ideal for travel. Take the Belkin Tab 3; this rustic case cocoons your tab in tough, full-grain leather, so you can force it into a rucksack without fear of damage.

Recommended: Belkin Tab 3, Argos, £31.99

Big gifts for globetrotters

Luxury Picnic Set

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

If, like me, you take picnics seriously, consider buying your loved one a luxury picnic set this Christmas. My girlfriend received a picnic set for her birthday and I have to say, it’s transformed our alfresco luncheons. No longer do we need to prep for hours before setting off, and the horror of forgetting the corkscrew is a thing of the past.

Recommended: Piccadilly Picnic Backpack, Fortnum & Mason, £100.00

Binoculars

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Binoculars may not be at the top of their wishlist, but a pair of these timeless optics will be a pleasant surprise come Christmas day. In the past, binoculars were cumbersome, used by twitchers to watch birds in flight; modern versions however are light, strong and perfect for taking in the view whilst travelling.

Recommended: Nikon Sportstar EX Binoculars, Jessops, £99.00

Portable Speakers

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Nowadays, there’s no excuse to go without tunes on your holiday. With the introduction of portable docking stations and speakers, you really can take music anywhere – including the beach. Despite getting smaller, speakers and docks have got more sophisticated, delivering better sound and a longer battery life. One for the teenager in your life.

Recommended: Bose SoundLink Mini Portable Wireless Speaker, Currys, £159.95

Cameras

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Ah the camera, darling of tourists everywhere. From affordable compacts to high-spec SLRs, cameras are a must-pack item for the majority of holidaymakers. In recent times, the camera has been overshadowed by the smartphone, but we think there’s nothing better than grasping a proper camera in your hands. If you need some tips on how to master your new gadget, have a look at our tips for taking better holiday photographs.

Recommended: Samsung Galaxy NX3000 Compact System Camera, John Lewis, £249.95

Give the gift of a holiday

Or perhaps you’ve got bigger plans for Christmas 2014? A holiday perhaps? If so, why not book a break with Sykes Cottages? Whether you’re planning a romantic trip or a family getaway, a self-catering UK holiday makes the perfect gift, and will keep your loved ones smiling long into the New Year.

Whatever you’ve got up your sleeve this Christmas, remember: the big day is just thirty-seven sleeps away!

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Jonathan Tuplin

By Jonathan Tuplin

Jonathan is a lover of books, music and good food. Originally from Yorkshire, there's nothing he likes more than a cycle in the country. One of his favourite spots in the UK is Tenby, where he spent many a happy holiday as a child.

Book a cosy cottage over Christmas

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014
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Sometimes, it’s just nice to get away over Christmas; it gives you the opportunity to do something a little different, or spend time with loved ones that you wouldn’t normally see. You might be looking for a large property to fit the whole extended family, or a snug bolthole to spend a romantic Christmas with your partner. Maybe you’re visiting family somewhere in the UK and want a home-from-home whilst you’re away. Whatever you’re doing, we want to help make Christmas special. Our holiday cottages do book up quickly over the festive period, but we still have some fantastic cottages left; act fast to make sure you don’t miss out!

Adfer, Pembrokeshire

Holiday cottage in Pembrokshire

Adfer, Pembrokeshire, Ref. 28219

This characterful cottage on the west coast of Wales is perfect for a cosy Christmas getaway with family. Adfer offers spacious accommodation for 6 guests and boasts fantastic views of the Welsh countryside from many of the windows. The house is comfortably furnished with a large sofa and woodburner to cuddle up in front of, as well as TV with freeview and WiFi to keep the kids entertained. Adfer is just a short stroll from the village of St Dogmaels, where you’ll find several pubs, a tea room and a small museum. The surrounding area is picturesque with the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path close by.

Christmas Cottage, North Yorkshire

Holiday cottage in Yorkshire

Christmas Cottage, Yorkshire, Ref. 26993

Where better to spend Christmas week than the aptly-named Christmas Cottage? This stone cottage in Glaisdale is quaint and cosy without compromising on luxury and comfort. The cottage boasts lots of quirky original features including bespoke wooden window shutters and timber flooring, whilst the living area with its roaring woodburner and inviting sofas would be the perfect setting for opening Christmas presents. Glaisdale is a delightful village nestled in the Ersk Valley; while you’re there, make sure you check out the local butcher who is famed for his pork pies!

Tan Llan, Snowdonia National Park

Holiday cottage in Snowdonia

Tan Llan, Snowdonia, Ref. 917340

Looking for a large property to accommodate the whole family? Take a look at Tan Llan, one of the newest additions to the Sykes Cottages portfolio. This luxurious property is located in the peaceful Snowdonia village of Llanelltyd, in 15 acres of its own grounds. It sleeps up to 16 guests in 8 bedrooms and boasts a large dining area that would be perfect for a big family Christmas dinner. There are plenty of stunning walking opportunities nearby, as well as being a short drive from the picturesque town of Dolgellau, where you’ll find an abundance of cafes, pubs and restaurants.

To see the rest of our self-catering cottages available for Christmas, visit our website. Our dedicated reservations specialists will be more than happy to help find your perfect Christmas cottage; you can get in touch by giving us a call on 01244 356 695 or sending us an email.

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Louise O'Toole

By Louise O'Toole

Louise loves reading, shopping, baking and cosy country pubs with log fires. A nice cup of tea will never be turned down. She has spent many childhood summers on the beach in Cornwall and walking the hills of the Lake District.