Archive for the ‘Holiday Ideas’ Category

England’s Most Picturesque Places – Volume II

Thursday, February 5th, 2015
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Last week on the Sykes blog, we featured a shortlist of the top 10 most picturesque places in England. As you’d expect, all the usual suspects were there – Cornwall, Yorkshire, Cumbria, Devon, Kent, Derbyshire, Northumberland, Dorset, Isle of Wight and Gloucestershire – but there are some obvious omissions; where for instance is Somerset? Norfolk? Lancashire? Lincolnshire? Suffolk? Oxfordshire? Shropshire? And so on and so on…

Sadly, these places missed out on a place in the top ten, but that’s not to say they aren’t perfectly picturesque in their own right.

Today, we want to pay homage to the lesser known counties that we think are as pretty as the Cumbrias and Cornwalls of this world – so let’s get down to it.


With two AONBs (the Quantocks and Mendips) and one National Park (Exmoor) Somerset packs a picturesque punch. This small yet perfectly formed county offers the very best of coast and country; from the seaside resorts of Minehead and Weston-super-Mare to the rural charm of Taunton, Wells and Cheddar. Don’t miss a hike in the Blackdown Hills, a ride on the West Somerset Steam Railway and a drive through the stunning Cheddar Gorge.


Despite being one of England’s flattest counties, Norfolk proves you don’t need peaks to be picturesque. This beloved county is home to a handful of England’s – nay, Britain’s – most beautiful beaches, including Hunstanton, Sheringham and Holkham. Then there’s the Broads, whose canals, windmills and thatched roof cottages are irrevocably English. Head into Norwich, the county capital, and you’ll be delighted with the prettiness of the place. Norwich is one of England’s oldest cities, and was once the second largest city in the country after London.


Lancashire is all too often overlooked as a holiday destination, and we haven’t the foggiest why. Go beyond the metropolis of Greater Manchester and you’ll be greeted with some of the prettiest and quietest countryside in England. From the Ribblehead Valley and the Forest of Bowland to the Arnside and Silverdale AONB, Lancashire offers rugged beauty without the usual gaggle of tourists. The county is home to several historic towns too including Lancaster, Ormskirk and Clitheroe, all of which offer a pleasant place to stay on your trip to this picturesque English county.


Landlocked on the border of Wales, Shropshire is a surprisingly rugged and attractive English county. In the south, the Shropshire Hills Area of Oustanding Natural Beauty has peaks and valleys that North Wales would be proud of; and to the north, the medieval town of Shrewsbury offers the same level of historic eye-candy as York, Chester and Norwich. Speaking of history; pay a visit to the picturesque Severn Valley, where you’ll find all manner of fascinating museums, as well as the World Heritage Site of Ironbridge – thought to be the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution.


Did you know that Oxfordshire is home to the Cotswolds, one of England’s most beloved and picturesque regions? Well, it is, which makes it – in our opinion – one of England’s prettiest counties. The Cotswolds are renowned for their postcard blend of rolling hills and chocolate box towns and villages, including Burford, Chipping Norton and Bampton. Of course, no visit to Oxfordshire would be complete without a daytrip to the “City of Dreaming Spires” – aka Oxford – whose historic architecture will have you reaching for the camera.

Think we’ve missed a particularly picturesque corner of England? Disagree with our choices? Let us know your favourite English county on Facebook or Twitter!

Don’t forget to check out our Top 10 most picturesque places in England for even more holiday inspiration.

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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.

What to pack for a UK walking holiday

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015
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Walking is one of the UK’s most popular outdoor pursuits, with millions partaking in this wayfaring pastime each year. Whether setting out on an intrepid walking break or taking a stroll in the local park on a Sunday afternoon, we Brits love to pound the pavement – or trail – on our own two feet.

If, like me, you like the sound of a walking break but aren’t sure what kit you’ll need to enjoy doing it, have a read of our guide on what to pack for a UK walking holiday.


Image by Andrew Bowden is licensed under CC 2.0

Image by Andrew Bowden is licensed under CC 2.0

Walking Boots: The most important piece of kit you’ll need to enjoy a comfortable walking break is a decent pair of boots. Invest in a quality pair, and you’ll be rewarded with years of pain-free walking. If you don’t plan to do a lot of off-road hiking, walking shoes or trainers might be a better choice thanks to their weight and breathability.

Waterproofs: No walk, no matter its length, should be attempted in Britain without some trustee waterproofs in tow. Essential waterproofs include a jacket and over-trousers, both of which should be carried with you even during the summer months. When choosing an outdoor jacket, opt for one with a hood – you never know when the heavens may open.

Base Layers: Keeping your core warm is essential when out in the sticks, so start your walking attire with a good quality, skin fitting base layer. Depending on the temperatures, a long sleeve thermal base layer is a great choice, but may get a little sticky during the summer months. If it’s warm, wear a short sleeve synthetic base layer to help you stay cool and dry.

Hat & Gloves: Having numb fingers and throbbing ears is never fun, especially when you’re miles from the nearest source of heat. That’s why, it’s important to wear a pair of gloves and a hat when you’re out walking in the winter months. If it’s warm, ditch the gloves and woolly hat for a sun-hat that’ll keep the midday sun off your face and head.

Hiking Socks: Don’t plumb for any old pair of socks when packing for your walking holiday. Instead, buy a few pairs of top-notch hiking socks, that’ll keep your toes warm and wick moisture away. Walking socks also provide extra cushioning, so if you can’t afford a new pair of boots, a snug pair of socks could do the trick.


Image by Tony Roberts is licensed under CC 2.0

Image by Tony Roberts is licensed under CC 2.0

First Aid Kit: Walking may not be the most strenuous of outdoor pursuits, but as they say, accidents can happen. That’s why, it’s important to carry a first aid kit whenever you go walking, even if you never have to use it. From grazed knees and migraines to bumps and blisters, ailments can crop up at any moment, and you’ll be relieved you remembered the first aid kit when they do.

Food & Drink: You should carry water whenever you go out for a walk, but it’s particularly important to do so if you’re planning a long day’s hike. Food is just as important for longer walks, and a flask of your favourite hot beverage is sure to put a smile on your face after a gruelling ascent. If you plan to eat, eat little but often throughout the day.

Rucksack: A rucksack is the perfect partner for a long walk in the wilderness, helping you carry your kit efficiently and comfortably. If you plan to buy one especially for future hikes, make sure it’s waterproof and big enough for all your gear.

Walking Poles: An optional extra; walking poles are a godsend for some and an irritant for others. If you’re not sure whether to invest in a pair, there are things you ought to know before you make a decision. Firstly, they can make you walk faster and increase your overall speed. Secondly, they’re great for providing extra stability. And thirdly, they allow you to walk further in a day than you otherwise could – what’s not to like?

Maps & Navigation: How’s your sense of direction? If like me you’re prone to getting temporality lost during your travels (I stress temporarily), carry a map or a GPS device. OS remain king of the maps among amateur and pro walkers, and their large, easy to use regional maps now feature a waterproof coating, making them ideal for walkers whatever the weather. Alternatively, trust technology and use your phone’s built in GPS to help you navigate from A-B.

Book an invigorating walking holiday with Sykes Cottages

What to pack 3

Like the sound of a walking break? Then why not check our range of cottages that are perfectly placed for a hiking holiday. We have self-catering holiday rentals in some of the UK and Ireland’s best-loved walking spots, including the Peak District, the Scottish Highlands and North Wales, so browse our selection today!

Prefer pedal-power? Here’s an in-depth guide into what to pack for a UK cycling holiday.

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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.

Lesser Known National Trust Sites

Monday, January 19th, 2015
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The National Trust offer an extensive range of sites to explore, however, when it comes to choosing a site to visit many of us will flock to the same well-known attractions like the imposing castle that casts a long shadow over the landscape or the wondrous abbey ruins that look like they’ve fallen out of a Harry Potter Book. But what about the lesser known National trust sites? The hidden gems that are nestled amongst the British coast or country? Today we are going to shed some light on four of these over looked attractions in the hope that the next time you’re looking for somewhere to visit you break from the norm and try something new.

Plas Yn Rhiw

Surrounded by heavenly Welsh countryside and boasting spectacular views of Porth Neigwl (Hells Mouth) beach, Plas Yn Rhiw is the perfect attraction to explore on a lazy Sunday afternoon. This previously neglected house was purchased in 1938 by the three Keatering sisters who affectionately restored the property before giving the house and land to the National Trust in 1949. Visit Plas Yn Rhiw today and you will be welcomed by enchanting gardens, a warm family home and some of the best views in Britain.

Westbury Court Garden

The peace and tranquillity of Westbury Court Garden offers the perfect escape from the stress of day to day living. Designed between 1695 and 1705 the garden is said to be the best example of a Dutch style water garden in the country. When the National Trust started restoration on this site in 1971 they used only plants that would have been known in the 17th century. Visitors to the garden can expect to see a beautiful array of plants, delicately tailored lawns, wonderful waterways and imaginative landscaping.

Arlington Court

Set amongst the glorious Devon Countryside is Arlington Court, a dazzling Regency manor house that was owned by the Chichester family for over 500 years. Visitors to this site will not be disappointed, with an array of options to keep both young and old entertained your day promises to be jam packed! Explore the 19th century house filled with unique collectables or make your way around the National Trust’s collection of historic horse-drawn carriages, before enjoying your very own carriage ride pulled by a delightful group of horses, each named after a Charles Dickens character.

Leigh Woods

As we slowly edge closer towards spring there is only one place we want to be and that’s in the Leigh Woods waiting for the abundance of bluebells to pierce the surface and turn the woodland into a fairy’s paradise. Set above Avon Gorge, this enchanting broad-leaf woodland offers incredible views of Brunel’s iconic suspension bridge and the city. With easy to follow, well established footpaths guiding you through the wood, you could spend hours getting lost among the trees as the children chase down those elusive teddy bears on their way to lunch.

And there you have it, a selection of fantastic, but maybe a little under-appreciated, National Trust sites that have hopefully inspired you to try something new this year. Why not incorporate a National Trust visit into your next cottage holiday? We have a wide range of cottages close to National Trust attractions that would be perfect for this, see the selection here.

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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.

Some Different Sports to Try in 2015

Thursday, January 8th, 2015
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Well it’s that time of year once more. I don’t know how many of you have made New Year’s resolutions (and how many of you have already broken them) but I’ve decided to try and get a bit fitter in 2015. However it’s proving a bit difficult, it’s a bit nippy to head out for a jog or a walk, the gym is full to bursting point and to be completely honest all I want to do when I get home from work on a January evening is help myself to a hearty portion of comfort food! So I’ve been having a look to see if I could find some different ways to get out and about and burn off a few calories along the way, so take a look and see if you fancy giving any of these a go.

Get in the Saddle

via Flickr

via Flickr

Cycling has seen something of a renaissance these past few years. With numerous gold medals at the Olympics, Tour de France winners in Sir Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome, and of course the Grand Depart taking place in Yorkshire last year, the sport is fast becoming one of the most popular in the country. There are countless local clubs and societies that you can get in touch with and join up for a weekly ride, and here at Sykes, we even offer a wide array of cottages that are perfect for cycling holidays with features such as secure bike storage and fantastic local routes, click here to have a look!

Head to the Seaside

via Flickr

via Flickr

One of the best things about being an island nation is that you’re hardly ever short of a good beach to visit and they make the perfect outdoor playground. The choice of water sports these days just seems to be growing and growing; there’s the old classics like surfing and wind surfing, or you could have a shot at one of the lesser known activities such as stand up paddle boarding or kite surfing. And don’t worry if you don’t fancy getting wet as there are plenty of beach sports that you can have a crack at, from volleyball to beach soccer and even Ultimate Frisbee.

Something a Little Different

via Flickr

via Flickr

Or maybe you want to try your hand at something a bit off the wall. I’ve spent the past couple of hours learning all about some of the most bizarre sporting events in the UK, whether it’s the Bognor Regis Birdman Competion, the World Conkers Championships, or my personal favourite, the World Bog Snorkelling Championships! Held every year in Llanwrtyd Wells in Wales, it sees the competitors compete to see who can complete the 120 yard course the fastest and what’s more, traditional swimming strokes are banned!

So there you go, some different sports for you to try out this year, although I won’t blame you if you decide to give bog snorkelling a miss! Hopefully you’ve enjoyed reading but if you have any suggestions of sports that you love and think others should try their hand at then do get in touch, either on Facebook or over Twitter and we’ll help to spread the word!

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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.

What’s On In January 2015

Sunday, January 4th, 2015
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As we step into the New Year, we’re starting a new tradition for the Sykes Cottages blog. Each month, we’re going to be taking a look at what’s on in the UK and Ireland, and where you can find the best exhibitions, events and attractions that month. Today, we’re discussing some of the events taking place in the UK this January.

With the hype of Christmas and New Year over, you’d be forgiven for thinking that January will be somewhat dull in comparison. However, there are plenty of great events taking place and here are three of our favourites.

Celtic Connections

Celtic Connections Festival

Via Flickr

Held in Glasgow, Celtic Connections is the largest annual winter music festival in the UK and takes place from 15th January- 1st February. It celebrates Celtic music and its cultural significance, with over 300 concerts, talks, late-night sessions and ceilidhs. Overall, this unique festival plays host to around 2,100 artists across 20 venues. Artists that have played at Celtic Connections in the past include Sinead O’Connor, Snow Patrol and Bob Geldof.

Mr Turner Exhibition

JMW Turner Painting

Via Flickr

From 10th January onwards, visitors to Petworth House in West Sussex can experience the National Trust’s new exhibition- Mr Turner. The exhibition is centred on the themes of the 2014 biographical film of the same name, which starred Timothy Spall as the eccentric yet genius artist, J.M.W Turner. The exhibition itself contains over 30 pieces of work, most of which were painted by Turner, that have been loaned to Petworth from V&A and the Tate. It features many rarely seen oil paintings, personal items that belonged to Turner, props from the film and paintings that Timothy Spall created in preparation for his role as Turner.

Burns Night

Haggis, neeps and tatties

Via Flickr

Burns Night is one of Scotland’s most famous traditions and takes place every year on 25th January, in celebration of the life and work of Scottish poet, Robert Burns. Robert Burns is widely regarded to be Scotland’s national poet and wrote many world-famous songs and poems, including Auld Lang Syne, To A Mouse and Scots Wha Hae. A Burns supper usually consists of reading some of Burns’ poetry, a feast of traditional Scottish food, (see our recipes for Clootie Dumplings, Scotch Broth and Haggis, Neeps and Tatties) and of course, lots of whisky and dancing.

If you are heading to any of these events this January then please do get in touch with your thoughts and pictures via Twitter. We’d love to hear from you!

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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.