Archive for the ‘Ireland’ Category

The Great Outdoors in County Donegal

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013
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Tucked away on the rugged Atlantic coast of north west Ireland, County Donegal may not seem the most likely of holiday destinations. Having said that, the area has some of the most stunning natural scenery that you could wish for, with sweeping beaches, towering mountains and stunning sunsets appearing to be the norm. Here at Sykes, we’ve decided to try and find some of our favourite spots in Donegal and hopefully we’ll be able to do the region justice!

Sliabh Liag

The great sea cliffs of Sliabh Liag are especially awe inspiring. Standing a shade shy of 2,000 feet, they are the highest sea cliffs in Ireland and are over twice the size of their more famous cousins at Moher. Traditionally, people go to Bunglass to get a glimpse of the cliffs however, Sliabh Liag Boat Tours now offer a fantastic alternative with the opportunity to get an up close and personal view of the cliffs. The tours run several times a day and not only offer a whole new perspective of this Donegal delight, but also the chance to bump into some of the fantastic wildlife that calls this area home including dolphins, whales and basking sharks.

Sliabh Liag

Via. Flickr

Mount Errigal

Found right in the heart of the Derryveagh Mountains that form the backbone of Donegal, Mount Errigal is another of the county’s spots of beauty. At around 750 metres tall, Errigal is the highest peak in Donegal and when you couple this fact with the stunning views that can be found there, it’s little wonder the mountain is such a popular spot. Errigal is thought to be one of Ireland’s more iconic mountains alongside peaks from more famous ranges such as Macgillycuddy’s Reeks and the Wicklow Mountains. This is due to the peak giving off a shimmering pink glow at certain times of the day thanks to the quartzite minerals that make up the higher reaches of the mountain, making for a sure-fire photo opportunity!

Mt Errigal

Via. Flickr

Glenveagh National Park

If you’re after a taste of true Irish countryside there is no where better than Glenveagh National Park. Back in 1984 the area was designated as one of just six national parks in Ireland after a somewhat turbulent past. Made up of rolling hills, eerie forests and beautiful glens, the park is home not just to the stunning Glenveagh Castle but also to one of the country’s biggest herds of red deer, as well as a flock of rare golden eagles, which were reintroduced to the area in 2000.

Glenveagh National Park

Via. Flickr

Hopefully this will have tempted you into paying Donegal a visit so you can experience the area for yourself! If so, don’t forget to take a look at our Donegal Cottages to find yourself a real home away from home whilst you’re there.

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.

Sunday Snapshots: Dramatic Ireland

Sunday, October 6th, 2013
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A trip to Ireland in the winter months? Surely not! With a reputation for cold and rainy weather that rivals even England, a trip to the Emerald Isle over the less fair months of the year might seem ill-advised. Though your chances of getting caught in some rain, and maybe having to face some chilly winds, are pretty high during winter in Ireland, you’ll also get the chance to see Ireland in all her dramatic beauty. Wind swept cliffs, emerald green fields, and quiet country lanes are what await those brave enough to head to Ireland off season. Don’t believe me? A picture is worth a thousand words, or so they say, and here are a few that show winter in Ireland in all its glory.

Cliffs of Moher

Rock of Cashel, Ireland

Winter Trees

Lough Egish Winter Morning

Homefires in the Hills

View from Inishowen

Glendalough, Ireland

Have we convinced you yet? Set yourself up in a cottage in Ireland with an open fire and spend your days exploring this beautiful and dramatic country.

Delicious and Nutritious Irish Soda Bread

Monday, September 30th, 2013
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There are few things more comforting on a cold autumn night than a bowl full of hot soup and a thick slice of bread. I know for some people any bread related comfort food may only include white bread smothered with lashings of butter, but for me it is brown bread all the way. The nutty deep flavour just can’t be beaten, and when it’s dipped into a steaming bowl of homemade soup…..mmmm…. Food heaven!

soup + irish soda bread

While home baked bread is always best, it can be pretty labour intensive. Hours of waiting for it to rise and bake, only to discover that something has gone not quite right, can leave one hungry and frustrated with the brick that they’ve just laboured to produce. The solution? Irish wheaten bread.

Irish Wheaten Bread

Irish Wheaten Bread

Every regional recipe has a story and Irish wheaten, or brown soda, bread is no different. The climate of the Emerald Isle makes the production of hard wheat, the type which is needed to make yeast leavened breads, difficult to cultivate. Due to this fluke of climactic fate the Irish stuck to the traditional quick bread method that worked best with their soft wheat flour and we today get to savour the results.

The making of wheaten bread couldn’t be easier and the results are no less tasty than the time consuming alternative. Whole wheat flour, oats, salt, bicarbonate of soda, and a bit of sugar are mixed with buttermilk and an egg, the whole mix is poured into a loaf pan and baked to golden perfection. The resulting loaf has a crumbly texture and is more dense than yeast leavened bread, but is no less delicious.

brown soda bread loaf

Wheaten bread suits both sweet and savoury flavours equally well, so feel free to top it with anything from marmalade to smoked salmon (though probably not at the same time). On a trip to Ireland you’ll find that wheaten bread, which is sometimes just called brown bread, is served with every meal of the day at restaurants ranging from local pubs to Michelin starred restaurants.

So, before your next visit to Ireland why not give making your own Wheaten Bread a try? Not only is it easy but it’s delicious and nutritious too. All in all it’s a winner!

Irish Wheaten Bread Recipe

1/2 lb extra coarse wholemeal flour

3 oz porridge oatlets

1 teaspoons bread soda                  mix together

1 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoons sugar or honey

1/2 pint buttermilk                                 mix together

1 egg

Add wet mix to dry mix. The mixture will be wet and sloppy.

Pour into a greased loaf tin.

Sprinkle some more porridge oatlets on top.

Bake for 45 minutes to 50 minutes at 190° or 170° celsius (fan assisted oven) or gas mark 5. Done when golden brown and a toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean.

Let cool for 10 minutes on a rack. Slice and enjoy!

Travelling By Public Transport To Your Holiday Cottage

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013
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Apparently getting there is half the fun. Here at Sykes, we hope that all of the fun happens at your cottage but still believe that travelling should be an enjoyable part of your time away. Whilst it may seem like the easiest way to travel to your holiday cottage is by car, here at Sykes we think that using public transport to travel to your holiday destination can be just as simple.  We have compiled a list of some of our favourite ways to travel to your UK holiday destination with no car keys in sight.

By Rail

Day 1: A train from Euston to Liverpool Lime St

Image via Flickr

With tracks reaching even the furthest corners of the UK, you will find that many of our cottage destinations can be reached by train. Not only is travelling by train usually quicker than by car, but the views are often  better; swapping the car for a train means swapping views of grey tarmac for views of rolling green hills and countryside. Browse our selection of properties that are close to a railway station.

By Ferry

Ferry turning

Image via Flickr

If you want to head a little further afield and across the water, then a ferry is the way to go. Whether you’re heading over to Ireland, or to the Isle of Wight you can take a ferry and not only travel, but get your holiday started. With many ferries now containing places to eat, bars and entertainment for the kids; the whole family can enjoy the journey.

By Bike

Bicycle

Image via Flickr

If you’re not heading too far away, like to feel the wind in your hair and have no problem with packing light, then travelling by bicycle to your holiday destination could be a great idea. With no transport timetables or road traffic to get in your way, cycling could be a great way to take away the usual stresses of travel. We have a choice of holiday cottages that are perfect for cyclers.

Stay in a Converted Carriage

If you never want your travel time to end or just want to spend your holiday in truly unique accommodation, staying in a converted railway carriage could be the way to go. Converted to a high standard, yet still having original features means that with this accommodation your holiday truly will be first class.

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.

Get Inspired to Visit Ireland with James Nesbitt

Friday, March 29th, 2013
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Have you ever dreamed about visiting Ireland but just not known where to start with the planning? Though the island may be relatively small as countries go, each Irish county has such unique attributes and interests it’s easy to find yourself overwhelmed by what area to visit and what to see and do while you’re there. Well, a new ITV television programme presented by actor James Nesbitt may be just the thing to get the planning ball rolling and finally get you on the shores of the Emerald Isle.

The Irish Coast near Dingle, Ireland - Via. Flickr

The Irish Coast near Dingle, Ireland – Via. Flickr

James Nesbitt’s Ireland

“You come to Ireland for the scenery, you come for the culture, you come for the food and the drink, but the biggest draw of all has to be the craic. It’s a struggle to define, but it’s so good for the soul.” — James Nesbitt

Dingle Harbour

Dingle Harbour – Via. Flickr

In this eight part series James Nesbitt takes viewers on a tour of his native land, showing off all the best things that the country has to offer. From the staggering beauty of the landscape, the fascinating ancient history, delicious local food and drink, and culture that’s hard to rival, Ireland has something for everyone and Nesbitt is keen to show off all that he believes makes Ireland truly special.

Castle by the cliffs of Moher in Ireland

Castle by the cliffs of Moher in Ireland – Via. Flickr

This isn’t a show which simply revisits all of the tourist hot-spots of Ireland, Nesbitt takes us on a tour that only a local could, showing off the hidden nooks and crannies that are normally overlooked by guidebooks.

So, where does James Nesbitt, award winning actor of stage and screen, think are some of the best places in Ireland? Read on to learn more about some places that may have already been on your ‘must-see’ list, and maybe also discover some new ones to add.

Dolphins, Ice Cream and Beaches in the South West of Ireland

Dingle, Ireland

Colourful shop fronts in Dingle, Ireland – Via. Flickr

In the first few episodes of the series Nesbitt explores the South West of Ireland, from the natural beauty of the coast of the Dingle Peninsula, to the iconic Blarney Castle. The South West of Ireland  may be one of the best known areas of the country, with the magnificent Ring of Kerry attracting millions of tourists every year, and it’s easy to see why. This area of Ireland is absolutely beautiful, with sweeping vistas across the sea, delightful towns to explore, and some of the tasty food that the earth can produce, there really is little to not love about the South West of Ireland.

The best of South West Ireland includes:

  • Meeting Funghi the dolphin in Dingle
  • Being blessed with the gift of the gab at Blarney Castle
  • Learning to surf in the chilly waters of Cork
  • Sample locally made ice cream in Dingle
  • Touring the Ring of Kerry
  • Going fly fishing in the Blackwater River in County Cork

Find the perfect holiday cottage from which to explore the South West of Ireland in either County Cork or County Kerry.

Later in the series James Nesbitt will head north up the coast of Ireland to learn more about delicious oysters in Galway, view the awe-inspiring Cliffs of Moher, meet an old-fashioned match maker in County Clare, and discover the magic of traditional music with professional Irish musicians.

This coming Monday, April 1st, sees the third episode of the series air, but worry not if you’ve missed the first two, you can catch up on Nesbitt’s Irish adventures on the ITV website. Tune in to ITV on Monday from 8-8:30pm GMT to follow James on his journey through the land of his childhood and be inspired to start planning your own trip to enchanting Ireland.