Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Britain’s Best Bridges

Sunday, April 5th, 2015
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You may well have noticed over the last few weeks that Royal Mail have been celebrating some of Britain’s finest bridges through a limited edition of stamps. All in all, there are ten bridges from all around the country that were selected to be commemorated. They came in all shapes and sizes, from footbridges in the Cumbrian countryside to record-breaking structures big enough to carry thousands of people everyday. Here at Sykes, we thought we’d do our bit to celebrate the best bridges in the land and so we’ve taken a look at each of the chosen few to try and learn a bit about them; take a look and see if you learn anything new.

Pulteney Bridge

Pulteney Bridge in Bath was built in the second half of the eighteenth century in order to connect the city to Bathwick, just on the over side of the River Avon. It is one of just four bridges in the whole world that has a row of shops running down each side of it, something that the designers first saw in their trips to Venice and Florence with the world famous Rialto and Ponte Vecchio.

Craigellachie Bridge

Designed by the renowned engineer and architect, Thomas Telford over two hundred years ago, the Craigellachie Bridge is one of the most famous spots throughout the whole of Moray. Found just outside of the famous whisky producing village in Abelour, Craigellachie is the oldest remaining cast iron bridge in the whole of Scotland.

Menai Suspension Bridge

We’ve got another of Telford’s bridges for the next in the list!  The Menai Suspension Bridge was the first fixed crossing of the fast flowing waters of the Menai Straits and it provided a much needed lifeline to the inhabitants of Anglesey. It was later joined by the Britannia Bridge and together they form two of the most photographed spots of the island.

Tees Transporter Bridge

The fourth bridge to have been commemorated was the Tees Transporter. It’s the furthest downstream crossing of the River Tees and connects Middlesbrough to Port Clarence. It carries a gondola large enough to fit around 200 people or nine cars.

Humber Bridge

We’re staying in the North East for the next of the bridges. At its point of completion, the Humber Bridge was the longest of its kind in the whole world, although since then it has slipped down to 7th in the list. It’s estimated that over 100,000 cars cross the bridge every single week, thereby opening up a previously remote area of the country both socially and economically.

Peace Bridge

Crossing the River Foyle, Peace Bridge forms part of the regeneration programme of Derry-Londonderry in Northern Ireland. It crosses from the city centre through to Ebrington Square, and brings together communities that were traditionally seen as being on different sides of the Northern Irish conflicts.

Tarr Steps

Tucked away in the Exmoor National Park is Tarr Steps. A traditional clapper bridge, Tarr Steps is made up of 17 stone slabs, each weighing between one and two tonnes. It had previously been suggested that Tarr Steps was a few thousand years old however more recent studies date it to sometime in the 15th or 16th centuries.

Row Bridge

It might not match up to some of the other bridges in the list in terms of its size but Row Bridge certainly makes up for it in scenery. Situated not too far from the Wasdale Head Inn in Gosforth, the bridge is one of the most scenic spots in the area. A traditionally made packhorse bridge, constructed from local slate and rocks in the mid 18th century, to cross the babbling Mosedale Beck Row Bridge now forms a part of one of the most popular Fell Walking spots in the area.

High Level Bridge

For the next bridge we’re going to be heading back up to the North East and Newcastle in particular this time. The High Level Bridge was built by Robert Stephenson to connect the main city to Gateshead, just on the other side of the Tyne. The bridge’s main claim to fame lies in it being the first in the world to combine both road and rail traffic.

Royal Border Bridge

For the final bridge we’ve got another Stephenson creation. Spanning the River Tweed in Northumberland, the Royal Borders Bridge was built for the York, Newcastle and Berwick Railway in the middle of the 19th century. As part of the bridge’s 160th birthday celebrations back in 2010, it saw a bit of a makeover and, as you can see above is now illuminated each evening by multi-coloured lights.

So there you have it, the Sykes Cottages round-up of the most iconic bridges in the country and I think you’ll agree that they’re all worthy of celebrating! Maybe you have a favourite, or have been to see one of them? If that’s the case we’d love to know! Or maybe you’re interested in getting the stamps yourself? If you are make sure that you head over to the Royal Mail website where you’ll be able to find some more information.

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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.

Sykes One of 1000 Companies to Inspire Britain

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015
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Here at Sykes Cottages we’re absolutely delighted to announce that we’ve recently been identified as one of the 1000 Companies to Inspire Britain by the London Stock Exchange! The 1000 companies report is all about celebrating the UK’s fastest growing and most dynamic small and medium sized businesses, so you can see why we’re excited to have been included in the list.

The 1000 Companies to Inspire Britain Report

In order to have qualified for selection as one of the 1000 Companies, we had to show a regular growth in revenue over the past few years and significantly outperform our industry peers. If you want to find out more about the report and its criteria then more information is available on their website –


The Chief Executive of the London Stock Exchange Group, Xavier Rolet, described the 1000 Companies report as “a significant part of London Stock Exchange’s broader campaign to support UK high growth companies in their journeys from Start-up to Stardom and to create an entrepreneurship revolution”, and also said “I’m delighted that a strong alliance between UK Government, financial market participants, investors, entrepreneurs and companies has been created to support these inspiring businesses”.

What a Year for Sykes Cottages!

Tan Llan near Dolgellau in Wales, one of Sykes' own cottages

Tan Llan near Dolgellau in Wales, one of Sykes’ own cottages!

All in all, being named in the report has capped off what has been a fantastic few months for everyone here at Sykes. Not only did we take home the British Travel Award for being the Best Large UK Holiday Cottage Booking Company (for the second year running!) but we also recently won the Travolution Award for the Best Use of Search Engine Marketing. And then there were the milestones of going past 5000 cottages in the Sykes portfolio and of course, smashing our 2013 record of 100,000 bookings!

Obviously we’re absolutely delighted with all of these achievements and they’re just a few signs of the improvements that we’ve been making as a company. However what’s important here is to remember that we couldn’t have done any of it without the help of our fantastic owners and customers, so we’d just like to say a massive thanks to all of you!

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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.

Where to see the Solar Eclipse

Thursday, March 19th, 2015
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I’m sure that by now you will have heard all about it but tomorrow is a momentous occasion in the British calendar. That’s because we’re due to experience our first substantial solar eclipse in over 15 years. Sure there have been a couple take place since that date, however here in the UK we’ve been right on the periphery of them and haven’t been able to get the full experience. But all of this is due to change tomorrow! According to the experts, it won’t be until 2090 that we have another eclipse on these shores to match what we’re due to experience tomorrow, so here at Sykes, we’ve decided to try and give you the lowdown on the best places and ways to make the most out of the event.

The eclipse is due to start somewhere out over the Atlantic Ocean and will hit the British Isles not too long after 8am. It will be at its fullest point at around half past nine onwards depending on where in the country you are. Because of the path that the sun is due to take, the eclipse will be at its fullest the further north and west that you are, but don’t worry! Even in the least affected areas there should be at least 85% coverage of the sun, making it a fantastic spectacle no matter where you are!


As I said before the further to the North you are the better the eclipse will be, making Scotland the prime viewing location. According to the experts, the Torry Battery in Aberdeen will be one of the best spots going to catch a glimpse of the eclipse. Normally it’s the ideal spot for people hoping to see the dolphins that call the North East Coast of Scotland home, however its Easterly aspect and uninterrupted views out over the harbour and North Sea will make it perfect for viewing the solar eclipse.


As seems to always be the way, it sadly looks like the Great British weather will play a part. Experts have forecast that much of the UK will be experiencing some cloud cover during the eclipse and of course this will obstruct the spectacle. Happily however, the forecast in the South West is a good deal clearer than other areas which may well make it the best spot in the country. Add to this the fact that Cornwall is due to experience the eclipse before anywhere else in the UK with it reaching its zenith over Penzance just after 20 past nine.


Or there’s also the option of heading over to one of the many observatories dotted around the UK countryside. After all, it’s at times like the solar eclipse that they really come into their own! We’ve been seeing more and more of these installations opening up with the Kielder Observatory in Northumberland being the prime example.

So there you go, hopefully you’ll enjoy experiencing this rare event, but remember to do so carefully! Experts recommend that you use a device along the lines of a pinhole projector which will allow you to see the eclipse without risking any damage to your eyes. Fingers crossed that that weather holds off for long enough for us all to catch a good glimpse of it!

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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.

Where is England’s Prettiest Village?

Saturday, March 14th, 2015
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Did you know that today sees the start of English Tourism Week? The event is designed to showcase the best that England has to offer all of it’s visitors and we thought it would be rude to not join in. So for today’s blog we’ve decided to have a look and see if we can find England’s prettiest town, but we’re going to need a bit of help deciding! After much deliberation we’ve managed to narrow it down to a select few and this is where you guys come into it! We’d love it if you could have a look through the list and let us know which one would get your vote.

Castle Combe, Wiltshire

For the first village in the list we’re going to head down to the Cotswolds. Castle Combe always seems to feature in lists of the prettiest places in England so it was the logical place to start! With its traditional market cross and countless stone built cottages, Castle Combe has to be considered as one of the quaintest places in the whole of the country. If you think that the village rings a bell it’s probably because it has been used in the filming of numerous TV shows and films, from Agatha Christie’s Poirot through to Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of War Horse. If you fancy visiting and experiencing it for yourself then don’t forget to have a look at our Castle Combe cottages so you have somewhere equally as pretty to stay in.

Mousehole, Cornwall

Next up we’ve got the Cornish fishing village of Mousehole. Once one of the main trading centres in Mount’s Bay, Mousehole has had a somewhat turbulent past, including a raid by the Spanish in the 16th Century that saw the whole village burnt down save for one house which still stands to this day! Thankfully though things are a bit quieter these days. Since the mid twentieth century the Mousehole has been part of the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which has helped it preserve the charm that once saw the famous poet Dylan Thomas label Mousehole as “the loveliest village in England”.

Castleton, Derbyshire

Affectionately known as the “Gem of the Peaks”, Castleton is truly steeped in history. The village is overlooked by the remains of Peveril Castle, built for one of William the Conqueror’s staunchest supporters, and it’s also famous for its four ‘show caves’, namely Peak Cavern, Blue John Cavern, Speedwell Caver and Treak Cliff Cavern. Then there’s the scenery! Found at the very western tip of the Hope Valley, Castleton is bordered on three sides by the steep sided hills that typify the Peaks and lurking around two miles from the village is the imposing Mam Tor, where you’ll find some of the finest views in the area.

Hutton-le-Hole, North Yorkshire

Next up we’re heading up to North Yorkshire and to the village of Hutton-le-Hole in particular. Situated at the southern tip of the North York Moors National Park, Hutton-le-Hole is arguably one of the most picturesque spots in the country. With traditional stone built cottages, the babbling Hutton Beck that runs through the village and wide expanses of grassy common land, helpfully maintained by the herd of free roaming moorland sheep, it looks like the perfect place for a summer’s picnic.

Haworth, West Yorkshire



And for our next village we’re going to head over to Haworth. We have to admit that Haworth is a bit of a favourite here with the Sykes team, so much so that Louise put together a guide of what you should get up to there following her stay last year. Haworth is probably most famous for being the home of the Brontë sisters whilst they wrote the vast majority of their works, and the village is sure to live up to the expectations of even the most fervent of their fans. Or if that isn’t your cup of tea, you could easily spend an afternoon exploring the quaint little shops in the village – Ms Beighton’s Sweet Shop comes highly recommended!

Staithes, North Yorkshire

And finally we’re going to end with the seaside village of Staithes in North Yorkshire. Once one of the largest fishing ports on the North East coast, Staithes has a long standing maritime connection; in fact it was there that Captain Cook first found his love for sailing whilst working as a grocer’s apprentice. These days there are still a few fisherman who operate out of Staithes, however, it has become more of a base from which you can explore the dramatic Yorkshire coastline, mainly thanks to the Cleveland Way passing the village and coastal paths leading up to the beautiful Boulby Cliffs.

So there you go, the Sykes Cottages shortlist for the prettiest English village. Hopefully you’ve managed to pick one of them out, if so do tell us, you can get in touch over either Facebook or Twitter! Alternatively if you know of somewhere that you think is deserving of a mention in the list do let us know!

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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.

Britain’s Best Woodlands

Sunday, March 8th, 2015
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How many of you have heard of the European Tree of the Year competition? I’m going to hazard a guess that there aren’t too many. Well here at Sykes we only found out about it a few days ago and sadly we were a little bit too late to lend a hand to the British entries in the competition. However the entry from England still finished in a respectable sixth place – a fair bit better than the majority of our entries into the Eurovision song contest! Although we might have been a little late to the party the competition still made us realise how brilliant some of Britain’s woodlands are and so we’ve taken a look and tried to track down some of the best – take a look and see what you think!

Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire

Where else could we start but with Sherwood Forest? Not only was it the home of arguably Britain’s greatest folk hero and his merry men, Sherwood is actually the site of England’s entry into the Tree of the Year Competition, Major Oak. Legend has it that Robin Hood and his followers actually used Major Oak as their hiding place from the Sheriff of Nottingham and his men and to this day it still remains one of the most famous tourist attractions in the area. Nowadays, Major Oak is well over 800 years old and weighs over 20 tonnes, so I think we can let it off for needing a little hand from the network of joists and props to keep its branches up.

Wistman’s Wood, Devon

Tucked away in a quiet corner of the beautiful Dartmoor countryside is the fantastic Wistman’s Wood. Apparently back in the eighteenth century the local reverend stated that “it is hardly possible to conceive anything of the sort so grotesque as this wood appears,” but I couldn’t disagree more! Wistman’s Wood looks like it has been transported right out of a novel written by J.R.R Tolkien and dropped into the Devonshire landscape. Local legend states that the wood was originally planted years ago by a group of druids and you can certainly see what spawned these rumours!

Kielder Forest, Northumberland

Last but by no means least we’ve picked the Kielder Forest in Northumberland. Sure it may be the largest man-made woodland in England but that isn’t its main claim to fame. Instead it is probably best known as one of the few Dark Skies areas in the country as there is so little light pollution there. This has made it one of the best places in the whole of the United Kingdom for people who are looking to catch a glimpse of the myriad of constellations, not to mention the odd comet and shooting star that cross the nights sky. In turn this has seen the opening and the rise of the Kielder Observatory. Built completely out of renewable and locally sourced materials, the observatory now offers a wide variety of courses and camps that cater for all levels of experience making it well worth a visit!

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed reading about our choices of some of the top forests in the country but do remember that it’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to British woodlands. There are so many out there that are well worth a visit! Or maybe this post has inspired you into a woodland break? If so you’re in the right place! We’ve got a wide selection of log cabins that are perfect for exploring Britain’s forests, take a look 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.