Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Blue Monday made you mardy? Discover the UK’s happiest places!

Monday, January 26th, 2015
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There was a debate at Sykes HQ on when exactly the fabled Blue Monday phenomenon occurs. Some “celebrate” it on the third Monday of January, others on the fourth, whilst some resolute Debbie Downers are crying into their cereal by the second. At Sykes, we like to think we’re more glass half-full than that, so don’t let Mondays get us down ‘til the fourth – AKA – today.

And so far, it hasn’t been that bad. Yes it’s cold and dark. And yes, parting from our slumber was such sweet sorrow. But in retrospect: things could be worse.

If you’re struggling to see the light at the end of a long, dark January, visit one of Britain’s happiest towns this January and feel your spirit soar. Here’s a look at five of our favourites.

Harrogate, North Yorkshire

Image by Phil Beard is licensed under CC 2.0

Image by Phil Beard is licensed under CC 2.0

The people of Harrogate laugh in the face of Blue Monday and for good reason. On a number of occasions, this northern town has been crowned the happiest place to live in the UK, and residents aren’t going to let some crummy Monday in January mar their reputation for jubilance. Even the most miserable wretches will feel a smile work its way on to their face at the sight of this charming spa town, which is often thought of as Yorkshire’s prettiest settlement. From its stylish shops to its Roman relics, a trip to happy Harrogate could be just what you need.

Taunton, Somerset

Image by Somerset Photos is licensed under CC 2.0

Image by Somerset Photos is licensed under CC 2.0

Somerset’s always struck me as happy-go-lucky sort of place, so it’s no surprise that Taunton – Somerset’s county town – is ranked among Britain’s happiest places to live. This endearing market town has all the right credentials when it comes to contentment: welcoming pubs, family friendly restaurants and lots of things to see and do. Plus, it’s warmer than other towns on the happiest places shortlist, making it a winner for those in need of some Vitamin D. Taunton’s countryside isn’t too shabby either, with two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the Exmoor National Park on your doorstep – sigh no more.

Inverness, Scottish Highlands

Image by Dave Conner is licensed under CC 2.0

Image by Dave Conner is licensed under CC 2.0

Despite being the UK’s northernmost city, Inverness is often ranked among the country’s cheeriest places to live. The plucky Scots have learnt to live with the city’s infernal weather, a feat which alone deserves your R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Then again, with such a backdrop, it’s easy to see why locals can live with a downpour or two. Inverness is encircled by some of Britain’s most beautiful landscapes, making city life a less bitter pill to swallow. Speaking of cities, Inverness itself is really rather special; once the stronghold of Scotland’s much-feared Picts and site of many a bloody battle, Inverness is a proud city whose heritage rarely fails to raise a smile among visitors.

Blue Monday? What Blue Monday?

In a few hours, Blue Monday will be over, and the anxious, crest-fallen and dejected will have no grounds for sullenness. But what comes next? Terrible Tuesday? Woeful Wednesday? Or will you – like the inhabitants of Harrogate, Taunton and Inverness – take the remainder of January each day as it comes?

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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.

Give a Bird a Home

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015
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Here at Sykes, we read about the struggle that is facing the country’s bird-life. Some of the figures involved made pretty grim reading: for example, the RSPB has noted that the number of House Sparrows in the UK has dropped by an estimated 71% since the late 1970’s, and this is by no means the worst. To be honest we were pretty shocked and thought we’d see if there was anything we could do to help out Britain’s birds. However when we came to it we weren’t too sure where to start, after all we’re more used to finding homes for people than birds!

So we called in for a bit of help from our friends at the North Wales Wildlife Trust. We picked their brains to find out what ordinary people could do to make a difference and lend our feathered friends a hand. And as it turns out, just by making a couple of tiny changes you can transform your garden into a bird’s paradise, providing them with shelter, food and water – the things that make all the difference when the going gets tough! We’ve put all of these hints and tips together and created a handy guide that you can use when doing your bit for Britain’s birds, so take a look below and see what you can do to help out.

Give a Bird a Home

If you want to show your readers how to give a bird a home copy and paste the below code into your website:

Give a Bird a Home

Due to a loss of habitat and shortage of food, birds have struggled in recent years, with several species seeing a decline in numbers. Thankfully, there are a few things we can do to help. Working together, Sykes Cottages and the North Wales Wildlife Trust have gathered information on two common types of nest box you can use to give a bird a home, as well as some hints and tips on transforming your garden into a haven for our feathered friends.

Open Fronted Nest Boxes

Ideal for Robins and Pied Wagtails

Specific Tips

Place low down, no more than 2 metres off the ground.

They need to be hidden under some cover; ivy or other climbing plants are ideal for this.

Small Holed Nest Box

Ideal for Blue Tits and the House Sparrow

Hole Sizes

Different birds use different sized holes

Blue Tit – 25mm

Great Tit – 28mm

House Sparrow – 32mm

Starling – 45mm

Specific Tips

Place 2 metres or more off the ground.

Attach to a wall, tree or fence. Make sure it’s out of reach of cats.

Make a Bird-Friendly Garden

Feeder

Place feeders in the garden so birds have plenty to eat. Remember to put them in sight of your windows so you can keep an eye on the visitors.

Birdbath

Birds use birdbaths to drink and clean themselves, just be sure to keep it topped up with fresh water.

Planting

Create a safe and sustainable habitat for birdlife in your garden by growing a wide variety of plants, including fruit trees, evergreens, climbers and spiny shrubs.

For More Information

Your local Wildlife Trust can offer further information on how to help birds in your garden.  Alternatively, visit the RSPB website.

nesting_R3 - thumbnail for blog

Are you on Twitter? If so click below to share this infographic and show your followers what they can do to make a difference!

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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.

Great Places to Walk and Cycle in the UK

Monday, January 5th, 2015
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At the beginning of each new year hundreds of us pledge to get fit by taking up a new sport or working out more, usually as part of a New Year’s Resolution. If you’re one of these people and want to stay healthy whilst enjoying the great outdoors then cycling or walking is for you! We love getting out on our bike or pounding the pavement as we explore the British countryside so to help inspire you to take up one of these activities we have listed four of our favourite trails below.

Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire

Image via Flickr.

Image via Flickr.

Get out of the gym and experience the fresh air as you ride through this fairy tale forest. Choose from several different trails ranging in classification from easy to technical and explore this enchanting woodland at your own pace. For a family ride that’s suitable for all ages we would suggest the seven mile Verderes’ trail; easily accessible from the cycle centre, this path climbs in a loop and takes you over a mixture of surfaces.

Elie Chain Walk, Fife

Image via Flickr.

Image via Flickr.

The Elie Chain Walk is possibly the most exciting walk available for Children in the UK although we would suggest only taking children aged ten and older. This unusual walk sees you clambering over the coastal rock using the assistance of eight fixed chains and footholds as you balance over the crashing waves below. This adventures route is 1.5 miles long and is best attempted around an hour after high tide.

Tarka Trail, Devon

Image via Flickr.

Image via Flickr.

Devon is one of the best spots in the UK for a bike ride; with its many hills it can make the routes difficult but riders are rewarded handsomely with stunning views over the coast. To ease you into things why not try the Tarka Trail in North Devon? This 30 mile route is available between Braunton and Meeth and as it mainly follows the tracks of a disused railway it avoids the hillier areas whilst still offering the same breath-taking views.

Tennyson Trail, Isle of Wight

Image via Flickr.

Image via Flickr.

If you’re looking for a real challenge then head on over to the Isle of Wight and take on the 14 mile long Tennyson Trail. This gruelling route challenges walkers with swift ascents and steep declines, but along with the bad comes the good as walkers are greeted with astonishing views of the Needles and panoramic views across the ocean to the mainland. A difficult walk but one that is more than worth the challenge!

These are just a few of the fantastic routes available to walkers and cyclists in the UK, for more interesting trails take a gander at our previous Walk of the Month posts and keep an eye out for new routes being added.

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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’ Look Back at 2014

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014
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Who can believe that 2014 is drawing to a close? It seems like only yesterday that we were putting together our blog looking back at 2013, how time flies eh? Well we’ve decided to try and make this a Sykes tradition so we put our heads together to think up some of the best moments of 2014 and let me tell you, it was hard to narrow them down. We’ve had sporting highs (and lows), astonishing attractions and even an eye-wateringly hot summer. So have a look and see what you think of the Sykes look back at 2014.

Sport in 2014

via Flickr

via Flickr

It would be a bit of an understatement to say that 2014 was a good year for sport in Britain. First of all we had the Tour de France’s grand depart which was held in Yorkshire this year. Then of course there was the Football World Cup in Brazil, but I think the less said about that the better… However it was a different story north of the border! What with Gleneagles hosting yet another European victory in the Ryder Cup and the Glasgow Commonwealth Games proving to be a hit it was quite the year for Scottish sport! And who could forget the Winter Olympics? It turned out to be the most successful campaign for Team GB with Lizzy Yarnold winning gold in the Skeleton and Jenny Jones winning Britain’s first ever medal on the snow!

Historic Moments

via Flickr

via Flickr

Of course the only place to start here would be the countless events scheduled to honour of the 100 year anniversary of the outbreak of World War 1. The exhibit put on at the Tower of London proved to be one of the most poignant and powerful memorials to all those who lost their lives in the war with 888,246 ceramic poppies being placed in the castle’s moat, each honouring a fallen member of the British Armed Forces. More than 5 million people visited the Tower to pay their respects which made it the most popular attraction in the UK and the sixth most popular in the whole world.

2014 also saw a couple of major milestones in the cultural calendar. It was 450 years since the birth of arguably Britain’s biggest literary figure, William Shakespeare, and it would also have been the 100th birthday of the famous Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, the writer of many pieces of seminal twentieth century poetry and prose.

The Hottest Year on Record?

via Flickr

via Flickr

I’m sure that we can all remember reading about how this summer was due to be unusually warm, but unless this December finishes up being an abnormally cold one 2014 will become the hottest year on record! This means that since the average temperatures started to be collected (back in 1772 in case you were wondering) it’s never been warmer. And didn’t we all make the most of it? Barbecues, ice creams and of course trips to the seaside, 2014 really taught us how good a British summer can be!

 So that’s that, another year gone. But what a year it was! Hopefully you’ll agree with our choices for the highlights of 2014 but if you have any suggestions then let us know. You can get in touch either over Twitter or Facebook, and remember to keep your eyes peeled as every month in 2015 we’ll be taking a look at some of the best bits coming up!

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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.

A Look Back at Sykes Cottages in 2014

Sunday, December 28th, 2014
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2014 has been a fantastic year for Sykes Cottages, one that has exceeded everyone’s expectations. As we edge our way closer to 2015 we thought we’d take the opportunity to look back on all that we have accomplished this year, so keep reading as we take a trip down memory lane and re-live some of 2014’s highlights…

British Travel Awards

Our British Travel Awards

Our British Travel Awards

Just a few weeks ago the team here at Sykes Cottages were thrilled to bring home the trophy for ‘Best Large UK Holiday Cottage Company’ from the 2014 British Travel Awards. Thanks to your votes we were able to beat off tough competition from our rivals and bring home this prestigious award for the second year running – Thank you!

5,000 properties

Beach Corner - Ref: 912203

Beach Corner – Ref: 912203

Back in July Sykes Cottages hit one of our most highly anticipated goals when we took on our 5,000th property, Beach Corner in Weymouth. The team were thrilled to have this fantastic coastal property on board and since July have continued to work hard with new owners so we can now proudly say that we offer our customers a varied selection of just under 5,200 properties!

Travolution Awards

Travoawards.003

Earlier this month Sykes Cottages picked up our second award of the year when we walked away with the Travolution Award for ‘Best use of Search Engine Marketing’. Needless to say after the arduous application process the team here at Sykes Cottages HQ were ecstatic to receive this acclaimed award.

Charity Events

Chester Duck Race 2014

Chester Duck Race 2014

2014 has been a great year for fundraising here at Sykes Cottages; the team have worked hard and had a lot of fun taking part in various activities. Our 2014 money raising stunts have included Race for Life, Chester Duck Race, Macmillan Coffee Mornings, Super Hero Fancy Dress for Children in need and a Pumpkin Carving Competition to raise funds for Chester Zoo’s campaign ‘Go Orange for Orangutans’.

 2014 really has been an amazing year for Sykes and fingers crossed that 2015 will be even better. Make sure you don’t miss out on any of the fun by checking back with us here on the blog throughout 2015 for all the latest news from Sykes Cottages!

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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.