Archive for the ‘Scotland’ Category

Wild Lands: Exploring Scotland’s National Parks

Friday, July 25th, 2014
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Home to a dramatic blend of rustic cities and imposing mountains, Scotland is arguably one of the most beautiful countries in the British Isles. But unlike England and Wales, who have ten and three national parks respectively, Scotland contains only two, with just 7.2% of the country’s land area designated to protected parkland.

Despite this, and in honour of Love Parks Week, we wanted to delve deeper into Scotland’s national parks. Afterall, the Cairngorms is the UK’s largest protected land mass, the Loch Lomond & Trossachs being the fourth largest- pretty impressive, considering there’s just two of them. The beauty of Scotland’s national parks is that they hold much of the country’s most valued pockets of wilderness, and regardless of proportions, are sure to give any English or Welsh national park a run for its money.

Cairngorms National Park

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Covering a land area of 4,528 sq kilometres, the Cairngorms is by far the largest national park in the UK, dwarfing the Lake District by over two thousand square kilometres. It’s also home to Ben Macdui, Britain’s second highest mountain. A bit of a record breaker then; but what else does the Cairngorms have to shout about? Well, the park also features some of Britain’s biggest and oldest forests, including a large swathe of Caledonian Forest which once covered much of the UK. There’s water aplenty here too, making the park a mecca for watersport enthusiasts, with kayaking and white-water rafting being the two most popular waterborne pursuits.

Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

With 21 Munros (Scottish mountains with a height over 3,000 ft), 19 Corbetts (Scottish mountains with a height between 2,500-3,000 feet), 57 designated special conservation sites and two forest parks, it’s no surprise that the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park is very popular with walkers and other outdoor enthusiasts. One hiking trail not to miss is the West Highland Way, a 96 mile route which runs from Fort William in the Highlands to Mingavie on the outskirts of Glasgow. The trail traverses much of the park’s most serene landscapes, making it a great way for ramblers to see the beauty of this stunning corner of Scotland.

The future of Scotland’s national parks

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

In 2005, the Scottish government announced that they plan to designate Scotland’s first marine national park, a move which would showcase and protect the beauty of the Scottish coast for generations to come. When formed, the marine national park will be the second of its kind in the UK, the other being the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park in South Wales. In total, there are five potential locations which the Scottish Government are considering, including Solway Firth, Argyll Islands, the Skye Coast and North Uist. Personally, we can’t wait to visit when the park is finally unveiled!

Rent a holiday home in Scotland with Sykes Cottages

Here at Sykes Cottages, we’re mighty fond of our neighbours north of the border, and offer a great selection of self-catering accommodation to choose from in this rugged and inspiring country. Whether you’re looking for a Scottish log cabin in the Cairngorms or a contemporary apartment in Edinburgh, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for on our Scottish accommodation page.

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.

Spectacular Holiday Cottages in Scotland

Thursday, July 24th, 2014
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With the start of the 2014 Commonwealth Games yesterday, all eyes are on Scotland for what is sure to be a fantastic fortnight of  sport. To celebrate the buzz surrounding Scotland at the moment, we’ve put together a shortlist of some of our most spectacular Scottish holiday cottages for you to enjoy.

Beach Cottage, Sandend

Holiday cottage in Sandend, Scotland

Beach Cottage, Sandend, Ref. 12172

This beautiful holiday cottage is located in the small village of Sandend, on the north-east coast of Scotland. Standing in an elevated position overlooking the beach, this cottage boasts unrivalled views across the sand and sea; offering light, airy and spacious accommodation for a family or group of friends. There are plenty of coastal walks around Beach Cottage and if you’re a history buff, then you’ll love the nearby ruins of Findlater Castle which overlook the Moray Firth.

Brook Cottage, Falkland

Holiday cottage in Falkland, Scotland

Brook Cottage, Falkland, Ref. 16253

If you’re looking for peace and quiet amidst stunning countryside then you need look no further than Brook Cottage. This charming terraced cottage is just under a mile from the historic town of Falkland and offers guests incredible views of the Lomond Hills and Fife countryside. The outdoor decked area is the perfect place to relax on a sunny day and the living room, with its cosy woodburner, would be the ideal place to curl up on a winter’s evening.

Aurae, Cawdor

Holiday cottage in Cawdor, Scotland

Aurae, Cawdor, Ref. 904499

Situated in the heart of the Scottish Highlands, this bespoke log cabin has all you’ll ever need for a luxury holiday in Scotland. Sleeping 8, Aurae boasts facilities including a barrel sauna, large hot tub and floor-to-ceiling windows to make the most of the panoramic countryside views. Nearby, you’ll find Cawdor Castle which is most famous for its literary connection to Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and Inverness, which is just 9 miles away.

Glenashdale, Dunoon

Holiday cottage in Dunoon, Scotland

Glenashdale, Dunoon, Ref. 12582

The Cowal Peninsula in Argyll is one of the most spectacularly beautiful regions in the whole of Scotland. With plenty of glens, lochs and highland hills to explore, you’ll never be short of things to do at your Cowal holiday home. Glenashdale offers forest walks straight from its doorstep and the beach is just a few minutes’ walk away. The cottage boasts spectacular views across the Firth of Clyde from many of the rooms and is the perfect base for families who want to discover this part of the country.

Seaspray, Portknockie

Holiday cottage in Portknockie, Scotland

Seaspray, Portknockie, Ref. 22242

Seaspray is a former fisherman’s cottage in the picturesque fishing village of Portknockie, which occupies a stunning elevated position on a cliff overlooking the Moray Firth. The cottage itself has been furnished to a high standard with stylish décor and sea views from the first floor. Local facilities are just a minute’s walk away and the Moray Firth coastline provides guests with fantastic walking and cycling opportunities, as well as the chance to see dolphins, seals and sea-birds in their natural habitat.

If you’d like to look at more of our fantastic cottages in Scotland then you can do so by visiting the Scotland holiday cottages page on our website.

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.

Scottish Sport This Summer

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014
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I think it’s safe to say that the eyes of the sporting world will have well and truly descended on Scotland as the Commonwealth Games finally get up and running. Over the next ten days, thousands of athletes will be competing across seventeen different sporting events from cycling right the way through to squash. However, it’s well worth remembering that it’s not just about the Commonwealth Games up in Scotland, in fact there are plenty of other sporting activities that you could try your hand at, so read on and see if there’s anything that you fancy.

Extreme Sports

via. Flickr

via. Flickr

If you’re a bit of an adrenaline junkie then Scotland is most definitely where you want to be, after all there are so many options open to you! For example you could have a go at the ultimate thrill, a Bungee Jump! Bungee Jump Scotland offer you two options, the Highland Fling up in the beautiful Pass of Killiecrankie or the Urban Bungee which will have you leaping off the cantilever of the Titan Crane in Glasgow. Or, alternatively, you could always take in some of the beautiful countryside with a spot of mountain biking. If you’re a fan of cycling then Scotland is the place for you! No matter where you are you’ll be able to find a cycling paradise, from the borders right up to the Highlands, there’s always somewhere for you!

Water Sports

via. Flickr

via. Flickr

Then there’s the water sports! With over 10,000 miles of coastline it comes as little surprise that Scotland is a haven for all types of water sports enthusiasts, from surfers to sailors, paddleboarders to canoeists, the list goes on. The rougher seas of the North coast have put places like Thurso well and truly on the surfing map, however if you’re a beginner you might be better suited to the slightly calmer waters further down the coastline. Or if you’re inland you can take a advantage of some of the fantastic white water rapids dotted around the country and have a go at one of the latest crazes, river bugging!

The Highland Games

via. Flickr

via. Flickr

Or if you don’t fancy either of them then, why don’t you pop down to one of the Highland Games! Truly showcasing Scottish heritage at its finest from traditional sports such as the caber toss and the hammer throw, to bagpipe playing and highland dancing, the games make for a spectacle like no other! With events ranging from smaller, local affairs right the way through to the massive Cowal Gathering which brings together three and a half thousand competitors from all over the world, as well as countless spectators you’ll surely be able to find one for you!

So there we have it, some of the fantastic sports and events taking place around Scotland! If any of them have piqued your interest why not take a look at our Scottish cottages so that you have somewhere to put your feet up after a long day, or if you have any suggestions of activities that people should try out north of the border then let us know either over Twitter of Facebook!

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.

10 Reasons to Visit Scotland This Summer

Monday, July 21st, 2014
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Here at Sykes Cottages, we love to take the time out of our busy schedule and head north to the beautiful country of Scotland. From the quiet villages in the highlands to the lively cities in the lowlands and all the coastal towns in-between, we know that Scotland is the ideal destination for a summer’s getaway. We’re rather smitten with Scotland and would hope that you feel the same way, but if you’re not yet convinced about this fabulous country then take a look at our top ten reasons to visit Scotland this summer and I’m sure by the end of the post you’ll have your bags packed ready to leave on a Scottish adventure!

1. It’s the Year of Homecoming! Scotland welcomes the world to celebrate Scottish history and culture this summer. 

Picture provided by Terry Norton

Picture provided by Terry Norton

2. Glasgow is hosting the 2014 Commonwealth Games. With over 18 sporting events, Glasgow is a must for sports fans. 

Glasgow Harbour, picture via Flickr.

Glasgow Harbour, picture via Flickr.

3. There’s 1,000 reasons to see the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo perform this year. That’s 1,000 musicians, drummers, pipers, singers and dancers entertaining the crowds in front of the spectacular Edinburgh Castle. 

Edinburgh Military Tattoo, picture via Flickr.

Edinburgh Military Tattoo, picture via Flickr.

4. Elgin is hosting a spectacular  food and drink festival which will showcase a delightful selection of Scottish produce. 

Selection of Scottish seafood, picture via Flickr.

Selection of Scottish seafood, picture via Flickr.

5. The world’s largest arts festival is held annually in Scotland’s capital. The Edinburgh Festival Fringe expects to welcome over one million visitors this year!

Edinburgh, picture via Flickr.

Edinburgh, picture via Flickr.

6. Just look at that beach! Did you know that compared to England and Wales, Scotland has almost double the length of coastline? 

Nairn Beach, picture provided by Terry Norton.

Nairn Beach, picture provided by Terry Norton.

7. The world sheepdog trials will take place in Ross-Shire in September and will see competitors coming from as far away as Canada and New Zealand.

Picture via Flickr.

Picture via Flickr.

8.Throughout August, the seas around Scotland will be filled with whales, dolphins, porpoise and seals, perfect for wildlife lovers!

Whale watcher, picture via Flickr.

Whale watcher, picture via Flickr.

9. You can experience Scotland’s rich culture with the royal family themselves at  the Braemar Highland Games.

Picture via Flickr.

Picture via Flickr.

10. The  Ryder Cup returns to Scotland this year and is being played at the wonderful  Gleneagles Hotel.

Picture provided by Terry Norton.

Picture provided by Terry Norton.

It’s not too late to book your summer holiday to Scotland; we have a number of beautiful Scottish holiday cottages which would make ideal accommodation for a family escape, romantic retreat or a group getaway. Simply go to the Sykes Cottages website or give us a call to find out more.

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.

Visitors Guide to The Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Saturday, July 19th, 2014
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From August 1st until August 25th the city of Edinburgh will play host to the largest arts festival in the world, The Edinburgh Festival Fringe. This three week festival showcases thousands of performers over hundreds of stages across Scotland’s capital city of Edinburgh. With so much to see, the show’s organisers have issued over 1.8 million tickets for this year’s event and expect to see visitor numbers soar in the Scottish capital. Attending this large event can seem a little daunting at first but don’t worry because we’re here to help! Below you will find a short visitors guide to The Edinburgh Festival filled with money saving tips and transport advice.

What to expect at The Festival Fringe

Picture via Flickr.

Picture via Flickr.

The origins of The Festival Fringe date back to 1947, when a group of performers turned up at the Edinburgh International Festival uninvited and began to perform. Instead of stopping their performance, the shows organisers let them stage their show on the fringe of the festival. As the years ticked by, more and more performers turned up at the festival to showcase their talents and in 1985 the Festival Fringe Society (now a registered charity) was born.

From the eight performers that turned up in 1947, the show has now grown to host thousands of performers specialising in a number of talents. This year’s performances are set to include hundreds of acts in the following disciplines:

  • Cabaret
  • Children’s Shows
  • Comedy
  • Dance, Physical Theatre and Circus
  • Events
  • Exhibitions
  • Music
  • Musicals and Opera
  • Spoken Word
  • Theatre

For more information on the individual acts please download the official programme.

Getting around Edinburgh

Picture via Flickr.

Picture via Flickr.

The Festival Fringe will be hosted at a number of different venues throughout Edinburgh so finding the right style of transport for you is essential. To help find your way around Scotland’s Capital here are just a few of the transport links you may want to consider:

Walking

Walking may be one of the most environmentally friendly ways to travel but it definitely requires the most energy; we would suggest this method of transportation to visitors who are used to walking long distances as some of the venues are located 45 minutes apart.

Cycling

Edinburgh is a fantastic city for cyclists but just remember it’s quite hilly! There are a number of bike racks located throughout the city and even designated cycle paths – for a cycling map of Edinburgh please click here.

Buses

There is an excellent network of buses throughout Edinburgh which will be able to transport you quickly from one venue to another. Single fares coast around £1.50, but if you’re planning on taking the bus more than twice it would be wise to purchase a Day & Night ticket.

Road

Please be aware that if you are thinking of bringing your car to Edinburgh there is very limited parking available in the city. If you wish to travel by road and not bring a car then you are in luck as Edinburgh has a variety of taxi ranks throughout the city, but for a truly unique travel experience we suggest a rickshaw ride. Rickshaws can be picked up throughout the city as the driver’s cycle round (We would advise agreeing a price before you start your journey in a rickshaw).

For more information on the location of each Fringe venue please use this interactive map.

Festival Tips

Picture via Flickr.

Picture via Flickr.

To help you make the most of your time at The Edinburgh Festival Fringe we have come up with some handy hints and tips that will be of use to both first time festival goers and those who have had a little more practise.

Save money

Did you know that there are a number of free shows taking place during the festival, or that there are tons of discounted and 2for1 tickets available? We would highly suggest making the most of these money saving offers. For more information on discounted tickets and free shows simply visit this page and filter your results for ‘special pricing’.

Clothing

Although the festival is held during August we would suggest coming prepared for all weather conditions; bring a hat and suntan lotion for hotter weather and a rain coat and boots for colder weather. The more prepared you are the better your festival experience will be.

Try something new

At the Edinburgh Festival Fringe you will find a variety of art forms; some you will have experienced before and some that will be completely new to you. We suggest visiting numerous shows and trying a little of everything; you’ll never know if you like something unless you try!

Take it easy

There is a reason that this special festival is spread out over a three week period, if it wasn’t then there wouldn’t be enough time to take everything in! Our advice would be to wake up early and get the tickets you really want rather than rushing about and missing your favourite acts.

If you’re attending this year’s Festival Fringe we hope that you have an amazing time and get to experience all the wonders of Scotland’s capital city.  For up to date information on the festival make sure to visit the official website.

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.