Archive for the ‘City Breaks’ Category

Sykes’ Guide to London: What to do, what to eat & how to get around

Monday, June 23rd, 2014
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If you’re heading to Wimbledon over the next fortnight, you’ll probably want to explore the rest of our capital city. But with so much to do in London, where do you begin? Well, no need to worry as we’ve written up a short guide on where to eat, how to get around and a few things that you can get up to during your time in The Big Smoke.

Travelling around London

London Barclays Hire Scheme Bikes

Image via Flickr

Whether you plan on riding the underground, grabbing a cab, hiring a bike or just using your feet and walking, one of the fantastic things about London is how easy it is to travel via public transport. The tube is probably the fastest way to get around, although this means missing out on seeing all that London has to offer! Alternatively, if you want the full tourist experience of London, why not hop on one of those famous red buses or hail down a black taxi cab? This way you can travel through the city whilst also taking in some of the views.

Tourist tip: Buy a visitors Oyster card before you arrive to save time and money. Also, remember to stand to the right of escalators to allow people to get past on the left!

For an eco-friendly way to travel, why not make use of the Barclays Cycle Hire scheme and rent a bike? With bike docking stations located throughout the city and charges from just £2 per day, it’s an affordable way to travel around London! If you don’t have a destination in mind, you could even follow one of Transport for London’s leisurely cycle routes. Even more inexpensive and eco-friendly is just giving your legs a stretch and walking. London is one of the best cities for those travelling by foot due to its wide footpaths and frequent pedestrian crossings.

Did you know: The blue bicycles of the Barclays Cycle Hire scheme are referred to as ‘Boris Bikes’ after London Mayor Boris Johnson.

Things to Do in London

With over 240 museums, over 100 theatres (around 40 on the West End) and a host of iconic attractions, you’ll never be short of things to do in London! If you only have a short amount of time to explore but want to take in a few museums then head to South Kensington where you’ll find the Science Museum, the V&A and the Natural History Museum just a short distance from each other. If you’re a fan of checking out all of the typical tourist attractions that a city has to offer then you will be in your element in London. Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge, The London Eye, The Shard, The Houses of Parliament and Big Ben are just some of the many iconic buildings that call London home.

Tower Bridge in London

Image via Flickr

Tourist tip: Whilst most museums are free, it’s worth taking a look at any temporary exhibitions. They will most likely have a charge but if you’re interested in the subject it will definitely be worth it.  

It goes without saying that London doesn’t stop when it gets dark and there is no need to retire to bed once the museums are closed as there is as much to do in the evening as there is in the day! London’s West End is the place to go if you want to experience a fantastic musical or performance. From classic shows such as Wicked and The Lion King to new favourites like Shrek The Musical and the fantastic The Book of Mormon, there’s bound to be a show that everyone can enjoy!

Did you know: Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap is the longest running of any play in history. The show premièred on the 6th October 1952.

Where to Eat in London

In a city as culturally diverse as London, it’s no surprise that you can find any cuisine that your rumbling stomach desires. Whether you want a sit down meal somewhere luxurious, a family friendly meal in a chain restaurant or you just want to grab something quick, you will be spoilt for choice in London. The city is also home to a range of innovative restaurants that offer diners something a little different alongside their meal. If you’d like to be in full control of ordering your food, Inamo in Soho has an interactive system where diners can peruse the menu and order from a projection on their table. For a fun family meal, Rainforest Cafe in Piccadilly Circus will delight the children with its rainforest décor and sounds. Boasting amazing views of London and a luxuriously indulgent menu, why not treat yourself to a meal at Duck & Waffle, which is located on the 40th floor of Heron Tower.

A box of Laduree Macroons

Image via Flickr

Tourist Tip: Dining out in London can be expensive, particularly in the evening. Look out for set menus or other dining offers that can reduce the cost.

It’s not only in its array of savoury dining experiences that London excels at; it also has an impressive number of places to grab a quick dessert or a box of something sweet to take away. If you’re a fan of macaroons then popping into Ladurée in Covent Garden is a must for a box to take home. On a hot day, nothing is better than heading into one of London’s many frozen yoghurt shops and leaving with a cold, sweet treat!  Popular shops include Snog and Pinkberry.

Did you know: London’s oldest fish and chip shop, Rock and Sole Plaice, has been open since 1871.

Although this guide barely touches the surface of all that London has to offer, we hope that you have found it useful. We’d love to know your favourite things to get up to in London so tell us on twitter or facebook!

 

Leanne Dempsey

By Leanne Dempsey

A lover of reading, eating and shopping Leanne will often be found spending time with her two pugs or snapping away on instagram. A big fan of the city, She likes nothing more than getting away for a weekend break in the UK, her favourite places being London and Bath.

Top UK Cities of Culture

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014
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Thinking of booking a city break this year? Forget about booking a flight overseas because here in the UK we’ve got some of the best cities for catching some culture. All three of the cities featured below have won recognition of some kind, whether it be the title of European Capital of Culture or the UK’s City of Culture, for what they offer visitors like you, so take a look and find out why you should pay these fantastic places a visit!

Liverpool

via. Flickr

via. Flickr

Hear the name Liverpool and what pops into your mind? The Beatles? Football? Well, they’re just a couple of the things that saw this vibrant northern city dubbed the European Capital of Culture back in 2008. Since receiving the accolade, the city has undergone a radical transformation with the construction of the world famous Liverpool One, the UK’s largest open air shopping centre, perfect for a touch of retail therapy. Or if you fancy something a little more educational, you could spend a few hours in one of the city’s fantastic museums or art galleries. Then there’s always the famous Albert Dock, the biggest collection of Grade 1 listed buildings in the UK, ideal for a spot of food and a tipple or three.

Hull

via. Flickr

via. Flickr

I’m sure that you can remember Hull being voted the UK’s City of Culture for 2017. Well here at Sykes HQ, we’re lucky enough to have our very own Hullite in the office who, suffused with pride following the achievement, put together a handy local’s guide to the city. Aside from all of the fantastic suggestions in there, a trip to The Deep, the world’s only ‘submarium’ (underwater aquarium to you and me) comes highly recommended. Alternatively you could head over to the Hull New Theatre, the largest venue in the city, to catch a show, or pay a visit to the marina which is undergoing a massive regeneration as part of the City of Culture campaign.

Glasgow

via. Flickr

via. Flickr

Ok, it might not have been officially recognised as recently as either Liverpool or Hull, but Glasgow is definitely deserving of a space in this blog. Back in 1990 it was named as the UK’s first ever European Capital of Culture and 24 years later, it’s still a choice destination for all of the culture vultures out there.  Attractions include things such as the Finnieston Crane, a throwback to the city’s industrial and engineering heritage, right the way through to the ultra modern science centre. Or you could head over to the Merchant city, a haven of boutique shops and cafés- just make sure that you stop off in Trongate 103, the home of a wide range of Glasgow based creative organisations.

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed reading all about some of the UK’s top cities and are now looking forward to booking yourself a city break. Just remember to have a look at our selection of cottages that are perfect for a city break so that you have a home away from home where you can rest your legs after a long day of sightseeing.

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.

Things to Do: A Short City Break in York

Thursday, May 8th, 2014
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Ever since I joined the team at Sykes Cottages last year, I’ve felt more inspired to explore more of what lies on my own fair isle. In the UK we’re truly spoilt with history, great days out and fantastic outside space. Heck, this year it looks like we might even be spoilt with fantastic weather and the best thing about it is that there’s no need to sit on a long flight. When looking for my next UK-based adventure, I knew that I wanted to go somewhere that I’d never been to before. Spending much of my 9-5 time with a proud Yorkshireman was bound to rub off at some point, and so the decision to take a trip to the historic city of York was made. For my blog today, I’m going to write something a little more personal than usual and show you some of the things that I got up to on my short time in York to perhaps give you some ideas on what you can get up to with even just a short time in this fantastic city.

Go on a City Bus Tour

The stunning York Minster is one of the must see sights of York.

Being in a city with as much history as York, going on some kind of tour is an excellent way to spend an hour especially if you’ve never been before. There are a variety of walking tours that are available around York with fantastically knowledgeable tour guides, but if time is of the essence, I personally think that a bus tour is an excellent way to see and learn about the city. The great thing is that you can either stay on for the whole hour tour or hop on and off at bus stops along the route to visit the many attractions and explore York a little more!

Get Scared Silly at The York Dungeon

See the horrible history of York as told by terrifically funny actors at The York Dungeon

For a fantastic experience and a look at the history of York as told from the perspectives of those in the know, The York Dungeon is a must visit! Each tour group are guided around the dungeons into a variety of rooms where you see, smell and hear about different parts of York’s history. You’ll find out about Guy Fawkes’ Gunpowder Plot, see the doctor’s assistant for a plague cure and head to the courtroom to be charged by the judge. In each room you will meet a different character, all of which are played by fantastic actors and actresses who really help bring the horrible history of York to life!

Go for a Walk

The Shambles in York has fascinating architecture

Sometimes when you’re in a new city the best way to make the most of it is just by walking around. With such stunning architecture and cobbled streets York is the ideal city to wander about in – weather permitted of course. No trip to York is complete without walking the walls and, as it has more miles of wall still intact than anywhere else in England, it is no surprise that this is such a popular thing to do. Once you’ve walked the wall it is worth taking a stroll down York’s oldest street; Shambles. Fans of architecture will delight in the fifteenth century buildings and the cobbles whilst fans of shopping will love popping into the many shops and tea rooms.

This is just a small number of things that I got up to on my trip to York, there is so much to do in this city that I don’t think you could ever get bored! If you fancy taking a trip to York, you can see our lovely holiday cottages within close proximity to the city by clicking here. I can promise that you won’t be disappointed!

Leanne Dempsey

By Leanne Dempsey

A lover of reading, eating and shopping Leanne will often be found spending time with her two pugs or snapping away on instagram. A big fan of the city, She likes nothing more than getting away for a weekend break in the UK, her favourite places being London and Bath.

Enjoy a Spine-chilling Halloween with Sykes Cottages

Thursday, October 31st, 2013
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If you’re looking for a truly spooky day out this Halloween, why not pay a visit to one of the hundreds of stunning castles that Britain and Ireland have on offer. By nature, castles have long and fascinating histories, having withstood countless attacks and attempted invasions, which makes them the perfect day out for those interested in paranormal activity. The English Heritage have recently released a list of their most haunted properties. Here at Sykes we’ve been inspired and have set out to investigate some of the most haunted castles on offer in the UK and Ireland. Happy Halloween!

Leap Castle, Ireland

Leap Castle, County Offaly, Ireland

Via Flickr

Leap Castle in County Offaly is widely regarded to be Ireland’s most haunted castle. The castle was built around 1250 and was home to the infamous O’Carroll clan who were one of the most feared clans of the time. Spectacularly sinister in appearance, the castle has a macabre and violent history and is definitely not for the faint-hearted. There are many ghosts reported to haunt the castle, including one of the O’Carroll brothers, a priest who was murdered by his own brother. This horrific act brought with it a cloak of misery that has engulfed the castle ever since. Other ghostly characters include a ‘Lady in Red’, 40 men from the McMahon clan who were lured to their deaths and a terrifying creature known as an Elemental, which is far too scary to talk about! Throw in an underground dungeon, skeletons found bricked into the walls and Leap Castle makes for one petrifying visit. If you’re looking to visit Leap Castle then consider booking one of our holiday cottages in Ireland, you may need somewhere to unwind and calm down after your visit!

 

Chillingham Castle, England

Chillingham Castle, Northumberland, England

Via Flickr

Chillingham Castle in Northumberland was built over 800 years ago, occupying a strategically important position close to the border of Scotland. The castle was repeatedly attacked by Scottish armies during this time but held its own. If you were unfortunate enough to be captured at Chillingham Castle, you would be thrown into the Oubliette (a dungeon which can only be accessed through a hatch in the ceiling). Elements of the castle’s horrific history can still be seen today as the dungeon and torture chamber, complete with torture instruments, can be visited along with the rest of the castle. Ghosts that haunt the castle are said to include John Sage, the merciless master of the torture chamber, ‘Blue Boy’ who has been seen walking around the castle surrounded by a bright aura, and the heartbroken ghost of Lady Mary Berkeley who’s dress can sometimes be heard rustling as she searches the castle in vain for her husband who ran off with her younger sister.

 

Edinburgh Castle, Scotland

Edinburgh Castle, Scotland

Via Flickr

The city of Edinburgh has been crowned the most haunted city in Europe so it makes sense that it would be home to one of the most haunted castles. Edinburgh Castle sits high on a hill looming over the city on a site that has been occupied for defensive purposes since the Iron Age. There have been hundreds of reports over the years from both staff and visitors to the castle, claiming to have had the sensation of being pulled or watched, with many reporting sudden temperature drops, green lights and shadowy figures.  Ghosts that are said to haunt the castle include a headless drummer boy, a phantom dog and a piper who was lost in the tunnels below the castle. At one point, the castle’s dungeons were used to quarantine victims of the plague and there have also been reports of phantom prisoners haunting the hallways. There are a whole host of ghostly goings-on across the city and if you’re particularly interested in the paranormal, Edinburgh is a fantastic place to visit.

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.

Sykes’ Spooky Cities

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013
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You can tell that Halloween is upon us, the pumpkins are being carved and the costumes are being created. All of the talk is about plans for the big night, whether it’s a Halloween party, a night in with your favourite horror films or maybe just terrifying the neighbours with a bit of trick or treating. However one option that people might not have thought about is the Ghost Walk. They may be a more recent Halloween phenomenon but they are growing in popularity year on year and are the perfect option for the particularly fearless out there. Not only will you be scared out of your wits but you’ll also learn many of your favourite city’s hidden secrets from terrifying tales to ghastly ghosts; what more could you ask for on Halloween?

York

Where else to start but at the very home of the Ghost Walk? Way back in 1973 York saw the first ever Ghost Walk and they’ve been getting bigger and better ever since. It is the perfect way to soak up the folklore and culture of this fantastic city, not to mention see many of its famous landmarks in a whole new light from the majestic Minster right the way through to the ever popular Shambles.

Via. Flickr

Chester

That’s right, Sykes Cottages’ home-town is the location of one of the country’s creepiest Ghost Walks, however it comes as little surprise when you think about it. Two thousand years of history have given the city every opportunity to amass a collection of scary stories and terrifying tales. Chester may well be characterised by its ancient walls, cobbled streets and the world-famous rows so you would probably be excused for thinking of the city as being quaint and quiet. However under this exterior Chester hides many dark secrets; from ghosts to ghouls, spectres to poltergeists this spooky city claims to have them all!

Chester Clock Tower

Via. Flickr

Edinburgh

If you’re north of the border then why not pay a visit to Edinburgh for Mercat Tours’ All Hallows Eve Special? You’ll see iconic landmarks such as the Castle and the Royal Mile, and if you’re feeling particularly fearless, you can also head down into the Blair Street Underground Vaults. Throughout the Halloween period there are walks running from the afternoon all the way through to the middle of the night so you’re sure to find a walk to suit you.

Edinburgh Castle

Via. Flickr

Hopefully you’ll be feeling inspired to get out and about this Halloween, but don’t forget that the Ghost Walks run all year round, so why not book yourself a City Break with Sykes Cottages and join in the fun!

 

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.