Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category

Sunday Snapshots: Spectacular Christmas Decorations

Sunday, December 15th, 2013
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With Christmas just around the corner, it’s safe to say that everyone at Sykes Cottages is feeling rather festive. So festive in fact, that we’ve decided to dedicate today’s Sunday Snapshots to the assortment of decorations and illuminations which have been popping up around Britain over the past couple of weeks. From Edinburgh to Penzance, tinsel has been wrapped, garlands have been draped and lights painstakingly hung in an effort to spruce the place up for the arrival of Little Saint Nick. But if you aren’t feeling full of festive cheer quite yet, why not book a last minute cottage for the Christmas holidays? We’ve a number of characterful Christmas cottages still available for a Christmas break, so choose yours today.

For some festive inspiration, see our collection of Christmas snaps below.

Edinburgh Christmas Lights

Via Flickr

Edinburgh Xmas Skyline

Via Flickr

Covent Garden Christmas

Via Flickr

York Christmas Tree Carol Singing 2 December 2012

Via Flickr


Via Flickr

Birmingham Frankfurt Christmas Market

Via Flickr


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.

Christmas Baking with Sykes Cottages

Thursday, December 12th, 2013
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Christmas is a time for giving but Christmas is also a time for eating! It’s tradition to surround yourself with good food and drink at Christmas and one of my favourite Christmas Eve activities is to indulge in a little baking ready to serve on the big day. On no other day of the year is it acceptable to eat as much food as we do on Christmas Day, so why not make the most of it and treat yourself to some of Sykes Cottages’ favourite Christmas Baking recipes.

Traditional Mince Pies

Mice Pies

Recipe via BBC Good Food

Ingredients (makes 18 pies):

  • 225g butter
  • 100g golden caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 350g plain flour
  • 280g mincemeat
  • Small amount of icing sugar to sprinkle on top


  1. To make the pastry, rub the butter (which should be cold and diced) into the plain flour, then mix in the caster sugar and a pinch of salt. Roll the pastry into a ball and knead briefly. You can use this straight away or leave it to chill and use later.
  2. Preheat the oven to 200C/gas6/fan 180C. Line 18 patty tin holes with walnut sized balls of pastry then spoon mincemeat into each.
  3. Using slightly smaller balls of pastry than before create the lids by flattening the dough into a round shape big enough to cover the pies. Cover the bottom of the pie with the dough lids, pressing the edges of the lid and the pie together.
  4. Beat the egg then brush onto the lids of the pies. Put in the oven for 20 minutes until golden. Leave to cool for 5 minutes before dusting on the icing sugar and serving when ready.


Hot Chocolate Stirrers

Ingredients (can make as little or as many as you need):

  • Candy canes
  • Marshmallows
  • White chocolate
  • Sprinkles


  1. Melt the white chocolate in the microwave or over a pan of boiling water.
  2. Pierce the middle of the marshmallows to make a hole for the candy canes.
  3. Dip the bottom marshmallows into the melted chocolate and then dip into the sprinkles.
  4. Once the chocolate has set, slide the candy canes through the marshmallows. Use one or two marshmallows per candy cane.
  5. Serve hanging from a mug of warm hot chocolate. To enjoy, stir into the hot chocolate for a delicious, minty, marshmallow taste.


Stained Glass Window Biscuits

Christmas Biscuits

Recipe via BBC Food

Ingredients (makes 25 biscuits):

  • 350g plain flour
  • 100g butter
  • 175g brown sugar
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. bicarbonate of sofa
  • 2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 4 tbsp. golden syrup
  • Fruit flavoured boiled sweets in different colours


  1. Preheat your oven to 180C/gas 4.
  2. In a bowl, mix the plain flour, salt, bicarbonate of soda and ginger together. Then rub the butter in until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Next, stir in the sugar.
  3. In a different bowl, beat together the golden syrup and egg. Pour this into the flour mixture and knead to make a smooth dough.
  4. Crush the boiled sweets whilst still in the wrappers. This is best done using a rolling pin.
  5. Roll out the dough onto a flat, floured work surface so it is around 0.5cm thick. Cut into shapes using cookie cutters then transfer to the baking sheets lined with baking paper.
  6. Cut out shapes in the centre of each biscuit and fill the hole with the crushed boiled sweets. Make sure to leave a thick enough edge around the sides of the biscuit.
  7. Bake the biscuits for 10-12 minutes or until golden. Take out and leave to cool. Do not remove the biscuits from the baking sheet until the boiled sweets have completely cooled and set.
  8. Your biscuits are now ready to serve!

Here at Sykes Cottages, we hope you enjoy making and eating these delicious festive treats. If you’re looking for a last minute getaway this Christmas, we still have some holiday cottages available over the festive period. Our dedicated holiday advisors are on hand to help from 9.00am to 9.30pm 7 days a week. Give them a call on 01244 356 695 and they’ll be happy to help!

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.

Festive Days Out for the Whole Family

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013
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We all know that the Christmas period is one for a bit of family time, however it can be difficult to find something to do on those weekends leading up to the big day. Luckily, we’ve managed to track down a few festive days out with a difference, so read on to find a bit of inspiration on how to make this December one of fun-filled family activities.

Christmas at Longleat

This year the people at Longleat Safari Park have really got into the Christmas spirit! The whole of Longleat House has been decked out with tinsel and baubles and there will be some ever-popular pantomime characters in attendance throughout the Christmas period. However, this isn’t all as there will also be a fifty foot tall Christmas Tree singing along to your favourite Christmas Carols, an ice skating rink and the chance to meet Father Christmas on the Santa Train. Add to all of this entry in to the Safari Park and you’ll be set for a delightful day out.

Longleat Decorations

Via. Flickr

Pay a Visit to Narnia at Chatsworth House

As part of this year’s festivities at Chatsworth House, guests will be invited to step inside one of the nation’s favourite children’s books; The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. The entire ground floor of the stately home has been converted to recreate various scenes from C.S. Lewis’ much-loved story, allowing visitors to follow in the footsteps of Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy from wartime London to the Professor’s house and through the magical wardrobe into the winter wonderland of Narnia. Once there, they will be able to pay a visit to Mr Tumnus’ house, explore the mystical White Palace as well as meet their favourite characters! So for a sure hit with Narnia fans, both old and new, head down to Chatsworth House this December!

Lion at Chatsworth House

Via. Flickr

Witness some Lantern Magic at Chester Zoo

Over the past couple of years Chester Zoo has been celebrating the Christmas period in a rather unique way, through Lantern Magic! The guests to this lightshow extraordinaire will be led on a lovely night-time walk through the zoo, guided by countless beautiful lanterns. They’ll then have the chance to visit the giant Christmas wishing tree, have a warming winter supper or even pop in to the lantern workshop where kids, both young and old, can make their own magical lantern to light the way. The Lantern Magic walk makes for a wonderful end to a day at the zoo, however bear in mind that places are limited and the tickets are selling fast so get there quick!

Chester Zoo

Via. Flickr

Hopefully reading this will have got you well and truly in the festive spirit and looking to get out and enjoy the build up to the big day. However if you’re looking to take that seasonal cheer a step further why not have a look at the holiday cottages that are still available to rent over the festive period, after all, they’re the perfect way to make this Christmas one to remember!


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.

Great Christmas Gifts For Travellers

Monday, December 9th, 2013
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With Christmas just around the corner, Sykes Cottages are here to alleviate the pressures of present buying with our marvellous guide to some of the best gifts to buy for travellers this Christmas. From the budding gadabout to the hardened adventurer, you will find plenty of inspiration on what to buy for your itchy footed companion. Plus, with our great selection of self-catering holidays, there’ll be ample opportunity for testing out the new kit in the New Year! So what are you waiting for? Take the hassle out of your holiday shop with our helpful and enlightening Christmas gift guide today.

Gifts for Adventurers

Slioch Summit 1

Via Flickr

Is your Uncle Geoff a stickler for all things ramble related? Or, perhaps your spouse has a burning desire to hurtle down a wooded hill on two wheels? Our Christmas gifts for adventurers prove perfect for anyone inclined to live life on the wild side. For walkers, opt for some nerdy navigational equipment that’ll help them track their progress as they traverse some of the UK’s most prominent peaks. The Garmin eTrex adventure sat nav is a great way to find the nearest beauty spot when you’re out on a far-flung wander. This nifty piece of kit will keep you on the straight and narrow over any form of terrain thanks to its highly sensitive GPS receiver, and its rugged outer casing make it a winner whether you’re summiting a peak in the Scottish Highlands or taking a remote stroll along the cliffs in Cornwall. Plus, it’s relatively cheap, so win win!

For cyclists, a helmet is a great gift to show how much you care by helping to safeguard your significant other’s lovely face and brain, but if they’ve already got one (which they should!), buy them the gift of direction with Sustrans Cycling in the UK. This 272 page tome is the official guide to the England’s National Cycle Network, making it perfect for anyone taking up the sport for the first time. From Norfolk to Northumberland, the book comprises a number of great routes, so you can look forward to spending your next cottage holiday in the saddle.

Gifts for Little Travellers


Via Flickr

If your little’uns are already showing signs of becoming the next Sir Ranulph Feinnes, then why not buy them a travel-related gift to help nurture their inner adventurer. The RSPB have a great selection of affordable binoculars for children, which are ideal if you’re conspiring to get the kids more interested in nature in the New Year. Alternatively, unleash their creativity with the Crayola Digital Camera. This robust, child friendly gizmo is perfect for capturing a kids-eye-view of the antics of your next cottage holiday.

Another great gift which will keep the kids entertained at home and on the road is a travel board game. These convenient, usually magnetic, board game miniatures offer endless fun however long your car journey, so the days of answering yes or no to the infamous question: ‘are we there yet?’ will be long forgotten.

Give a gift that keeps on giving!

Baby otter

Via Flickr

If you’ve been searching for that one gift that will change the course of the recipient’s future, then give a gift that keeps on giving! There’s a myriad of nature inspired presents out there that will brighten up their day long after the Christmas tree has been taken down. If you know someone who is fanatical about nature, why not adopt a tree in their name? Many conservation charities now offer this service to help protect some of the UK’s most endangered woodlands, including ancient Oaks in Cornwall and towering pine trees in the Lake District. And it’s not just trees. The Wildlife Trust give keen nature lovers the chance to adopt all manner of British wildlife, including otters, dolphins and bats, in the hope that it will help people reconnect with our irreplaceable  natural world.

So go on, quench your loved one’s wanderlust this Christmas with a lovely travel gift,  and look forward to trying out all your new toys amid the beautiful British countryside on a Sykes cottage holiday.


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.

Christmas Crafts with Sykes Cottages

Thursday, November 28th, 2013
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With the 1st December rapidly approaching, why not take the chance to inject some creativity into your Christmas preparations this year. A personal touch is always appreciated at Christmas so if you fancy yourself as the next Kirstie Allsopp then read on for the Sykes Cottages Christmas Craft Guide.

Make Your Own Advent Calendar

Advent Calendar

Via Flickr

Instead of manically dashing around the supermarket on the 30th November trying to find a bog-standard advent calendar, why not try making your own at home!  There are lots of fantastic ideas out there for ways in which you can make your children’s (or your own!) advent calendar really special this year. A nice idea is to wrap up little gifts such as sweets, key rings or small toys and number them from 1 through to 25. Then hang the gifts on your tree using ribbon or string and let your children take one down to unwrap each day. Another idea would be to use 25 empty matchboxes, stack them into a Christmas tree shape and fill them with treats. You could even get the kids involved and create a fun activity out of helping them to decorate the matchboxes with Christmas themed pictures and patterns.

Homemade Tree Decorations

Pine cone christmas decorations

Via Flickr

Add a personal touch to your Christmas tree this year by making some decorations of your own. It’s a great activity to get you in the festive spirit and will keep the kids entertained on a cold December day. A great idea is to take a trip to your local woods with your children and collect as many pine cones as you can find. At home, spray the pine cones with gold or silver paint, add glitter or white paint to look like snow, then attach a string and hang in pride of place on the tree! Children will love showing off their creations and it’s a cheap and easy way to add a bit of creativity to your Christmas tree. Or why not try an old favourite for homemade Christmas decorations and use salt dough. It’s so easy to make and the ingredients are probably already in your cupboard. All you need is half a cup of salt, half a cup of water and one whole cup of flour. Mix the ingredients together and knead for around 10 minutes before cutting them into shapes and popping them in the microwave for 3 minutes. If you want to display them on the Christmas tree then don’t forget to make a small hole to hang the decoration from. Once the salt dough is cool, supply your children with some paint and let them bring out their creative side.

Handmade Christmas Cards

Homemade Christmas Card

Via Flickr

There is nothing more touching than receiving a handmade Christmas card and there is nothing more satisfying than sending one. It adds a really personal and thoughtful element to your sentiments and is sure to take pride of place on the receiver’s mantelpiece. This is a craft that can be enjoyed by children and adults alike and even if you’re not the artistic type, it’s always the thought that counts.  You could even try adding photos of yourself and your loved ones to give your cards an extra personal touch.

If you fancy getting away this winter then consider booking one of our fantastic holiday cottages for a truly unforgettable Christmas. Many of our lovely cottage owners will put up trees and decorate their cottages for your visit so don’t forget to bring along your Christmas craft creations too!

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.