Archive for the ‘Scotland’ Category

Scottish Wildlife Watch

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014
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From its sandy shores and rocky cliffs to its deep green glens and towering mountains, Scotland is home to a vast array of wildlife. As the cold weather sets in and the nights draws in you would expect Scotland’s wildlife to retreat into hibernation or migrate to warmer shores; but no, these hardy species are in for a long winter and autumn is just the warm up. From playful seals to soaring eagles, here’s what you can expect to find in Scotland this autumn.



Image via Flickr.

There are two types of seal found in Scotland: the common harbour seal and the grey seal. Although seals spend most of their lives out at sea, grey seals will come ashore between September and December in order to give birth. That means, throughout the autumn, you will find dozens of gorgeous baby seals dotted about the coast. For the best seal watching experience, head to the Orkney islands which is home to the second largest breeding colony of grey seals in the world.


Image via Flickr.

Image via Flickr.

Autumn is the most exciting time to view deer in Scotland as this is when the male deer enter their rut and compete for the female’s affections. During the rut you will see the younger males challenge the dominate stag for the attention of the hinds (females); this involves head-to-head battles between the males until one is crowned victor. For a tour that is safe for both you and the deer, take a ranger-led tour by Scottish Natural Heritage.

Birds of prey

Image via Flickr.

Image via Flickr.

Scotland is home to a number of magnificent birds of prey; soaring high across the Scottish skyline, these majestic creatures are a real treat for bird watchers. Throughout autumn you will be able to see an array of birds taking flight including ospreys, red kites and the glorious golden eagle, which has a wing span of over two meters! This deadly hunter usually feeds on hare and rabbits but they have also been known to scoop up foxes, large birds or even young deer so keep your eyes peeled for their aerial acrobatics.


Image via Flickr.

Image via Flickr.

It’s not all about the animals in Scotland; the country also has an incredible selection of plants on offer. Perhaps not a golfers favourite, but still beautiful to behold is Gorse (Ulex europaeus) also known as Furze or Whin in Scotland. This pretty plant covers Scotland and is especially fond of sandy, coastal and upland soil. Although the bright yellow flowers are extremely handsome, Gorse is also thorny and tough in nature, so when your golf ball gets lost in the thick of it you may have a hard time getting it out.


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.

Whisky Days Out in Scotland

Monday, November 24th, 2014
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As we near the end of November, we’re all reaching out for our favourite drinks. Those liquids that, from the first sip, you feel yourself warming from the inside, your taste buds soar and your cheeks begin to flush. I’m talking of course about whisky. What better way to kick off Scotland week here on the Sykes Cottages blog than with an ode to the country’s national drink? Read on to find out some of the whisky related activities and days out you can enjoy in Scotland.

Go to a Whisky Festival

Islay Festival

Image via Flickr

Annual whisky festivals such as The Spirit of Speyside, The Spirit of Stirling and The Islay Festival of Music & Malt are certainly worth a visit for any whisky fans. They allow local and national distilleries to share their produce with festival goers who may find a new favourite. However, those who don’t fancy a dram needn’t worry as the festivals have much more to do and see than just whisky.

Gain a Scotch Whisky Certificate

Whisky Course

Image via Flickr

If you’re a whisky aficionado then why not spend a day honing your craft at The Scotch Whisky Training School? At a cost of £175, this day course at The Scotch Whisky Experience teaches you all you need to know about the history, production and blending of whisky. Promising to be hands on and fun as well as educational, students of the training school will leave with a whole host of knowledge and also a certificate. Fancy having that on your CV!

Follow the Malt Whisky Trail

Whisky Barrels

Image via Flickr

It will come as no surprise that the world’s only malt whisky trail is in Speyside, also known as ‘Whisky Country’. With over 50 whisky distilleries – more than any other whisky producing areas of Scotland – Speyside is a whisky lover’s dream. Following the trail will lead you to seven working distilleries, each with unique characteristics, where you can join a tour and sample the finished product.

Try a Whisky Cocktail

Whisky Cocktail

Image via Flickr

Whilst many would argue that whisky should be enjoyed simply, on its own – or perhaps with a splash of water to bring out its flavour – it also works incredibly well in cocktails. If you fancy mixing up a whisky cocktail, why not try one of these recipes from the Scotch Whisky Experience website? I personally think the Grand Smash sounds amazing!

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.

Five Unusual Things to Do in Edinburgh

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014
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Edinburgh is one of our favourite cities and we can often be found talking about the best places to go and things to do while you’re visiting the Scottish capital. Of course, there are the classics: Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Mile, Holyrood Palace, Arthur’s Seat; but what about the more unusual things to do, that aren’t often mentioned in guidebooks? If like us, you’re fond of heading off the beaten-track, check out our pick of the five most unusual things to do whilst you’re in Edinburgh.


Via Flickr

Go underground with The Real Mary King’s Close

Although there are ghost tours aplenty in Edinburgh, The Real Mary King’s Close stands out as something a little different. This fascinating tour takes you down underneath the Royal Mile to a warren of 17th century streets, or ‘closes’ as they’re known, that have been frozen in time. These closes were part-demolished and buried underneath the Royal Exchange for a very long time, awash with rumours of plague victims being buried in the walls, and urban legends of murders and ghosts. They’ve now been opened up to the public and visitors can take the tour under the streets of Edinburgh, learning about the closes’ history, the people that lived there and the grisly things that took place.

See the Penguin Parade

While Edinburgh Zoo may not be the most unusual place for people to visit, the Penguin Parade is certainly one-of-a-kind. Edinburgh Zoo was actually the first zoo in the world to start housing and breeding penguins back in 1913, and they’ve remained a firm favourite with visitors ever since. The daily tradition of the Penguin Parade began in 1951 when a keeper accidentally left the enclosure door open and was followed around the zoo by the inquisitive escapees. It delighted visitors so much that the zoo continued the tradition and now, a parade of Gentoos, Rockhoppers and King Penguins occurs every day at 2.15pm.

Penguin at Edinburgh Zoo

Via Flickr

Visit the Royal Commonwealth Pool

Want to dive from the same diving board as Tom Daley? Head to Edinburgh’s Royal Commonwealth Pool, which played host to the diving events at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games! This 50m swimming pool has its own dedicated diving pool with facilities including 1m and 3m spring boards, as well as 3m, 5m, 7.5m and 10m platforms. You can either turn up at specially-allocated time slots for casual diving practice or pre-book an individual diving session with an instructor.

Walk the Water of Leith

Described as one of Edinburgh’s “best kept secrets”, the Water of Leith Walkway is a stunning path that takes you through Edinburgh city centre, along the River Leith and on to Leith itself. The walkway is perfect for a crisp afternoon stroll and takes walkers through charming villages such as Dean Village and Stockbridge; it also reveals fantastic views of Murrayfield Stadium.

Water of Leith, Edinburgh

Via Flickr

Take a Turkish Bath

Take a trip east from the city centre to the seaside suburb of Portobello, to discover a part of Edinburgh less-known to tourists. Whilst visiting this delightful beach resort, make sure you pay a visit to the Portobello Turkish Baths, which are one of only three working Turkish Baths still left in Scotland. Guests can take their pick from a steam room, relaxation area, three hot rooms and a cold plunge pool. Why not treat yourself to a little relaxation time away from the busy city and come back feeling fresh, rejuvenated and ready to sight-see!

If you’re planning on visiting Edinburgh or the surrounding areas, then make sure you check out Sykes Cottages’ fantastic range of holiday cottages in Scotland. We have over 550 properties located across the country, so you’re sure to find what you’re looking for!

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.

Four Seasons of Scotland

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014
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It may only be October but here at Sykes Cottages we are already taking a large number of bookings for 2015. In a former post, my colleague Louise explained why it’s important to book your 2015 summer holiday early, and she wasn’t wrong; booking in advance allows you more choice, more time to save and of course something to look forward to.

If you’re thinking of planning your 2015 holiday early and you’re having difficulties finding the ideal destination then we suggest a trip to bonnie Scotland. Scotland is beautiful all year round and offers a number of fantastic activities in every season.

To help you discover Scotland and what it can offer you throughout the year take a look at the following infographic which highlights some of our favourite Scottish activities.


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Four Seasons of Scotland

Most people wouldn’t think of Scotland as a year-round holiday destination but here at Sykes Cottages, we want to show you that it’s possible to enjoy a fantastic holiday in this beautiful country, whatever the season! Here’s our handy guide on what to do in Scotland, come rain or shine.

Summer 21C

During the summer, make the most of the warm weather and head to one of Scotland’s unspoilt white sand beaches such as Luskentyre, with its turquoise waters and mountain views. Scotland
has more than double the length of coastline than England and Wales combined so you’ll never run out of picture-perfect beaches to explore!

Spring 18C

At the beginning of May, the Highland Games are kicked off with a bang at Gourock Park in Inverclyde. The Gourock Highland Games are the first games to take place after the winter and are a
great opportunity to experience the essence of Scottish culture with bagpipes, highland dancing, caber tossing, the Scottish hammer throw and even children’s entertainment!

Autumn 10C

Beat the autumn chill and put a fire in your belly with a trip to the Isle of Islay, which is home to no fewer than 8 whisky distilleries. The island is said to offer some of the most distinctive and flavourful whiskies in the world and competition between the distilleries is fierce. They’re always striving to produce the best dram on the island, ensuring that they are all sensational!

Winter 3C

Over New Year, there’s no better place to be than Edinburgh for its legendary Hogmanay celebrations. Take part in the torchlight procession down the Royal Mile, gaze in awe at the famous firework displays, dance the night away at the official street party and sing your heart out at the Concert in the Gardens beneath Edinburgh Castle.

Book your 2015 holiday

If you’ve decided that Scotland is the perfect location for your 2015 holiday then why not check out our Scottish cottages page? With over 600 properties located throughout Scotland we are sure to have the ideal cottage to suit your needs. For more information on our Scottish cottages and booking a holiday up North contact our reservations team today!


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.

The Scottish Referendum: How The UK’s Landscape Could Have Changed

Friday, September 19th, 2014
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The polls are closed, the votes have been tallied and it has been confirmed: Scotland is staying in the United Kingdom! There was a lot of talk during the run up to the referendum regarding politics and how various policies would change, which is rightfully so, however we thought that we would take a look at the more geographical changes and how statistically the UK’s physical landscape would have changed if the vote were a yes. Take a look at our nifty, easy to read graphic to see how the UK would have changed if it had lost it’s highland crown.


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How The UK’s Landscape Could Have Changed

The campaigning is over, the polls have closed, the votes have been counted and Scotland is still a part of the United Kingdom! We were all told about the possible changes to the political landscape of the UK but what about the statistical, geographic ones? Here are a few of the things we would have lost here in the United Kingdom had Scotland become an independent country.

We could have been shorter

Without Ben Nevis, the UK would have been 854 foot shorter…

This is equivalent to 366 Shetland Ponies stood on top of each other.

We could have been shallower

If we would have lost the deepest body of water, Loch Morar, which is 310 metres at its deepest point, the UK would have been a little shallower… Even The Shard, the highest building in the European Union is smaller than this, standing at 306 metres.

We could have lost most of our coast

The UK coastline stretches for 19,895 miles however 11,550 of those miles are from the coast of Scotland…

This is equivalent to travelling from London to New York, a 3452 mile journey, three times with some miles left to spare!

We could have had fewer national parks

The UK would have had two less national parks with the potential loss of Cairngorms and Loch Lomond. These two national parks have a combined area of 2468.4m2 ….

This would have been an area loss twice the size of Luxembourg!

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.