Archive for the ‘Scotland’ Category

Best Child Friendly Museums in Scotland

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015
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Now I know that the majority of schools have either broken up for the summer, or will be doing so in the next few days, but that doesn’t mean that the learning should stop. No, that doesn’t mean you should be holding lessons at home during the school holidays, instead why don’ t you try an educational (and fun!) day out? It’s much easier than you think, but to give you a bit of a hand in finding somewhere to go we’ve tracked down the best museums north of the border for the whole family.

The National Musuem of Scotland

National Museum of Scotland 1. 01-10-2014 Nikki

The National Museum of Scotland

Where else is there to start than with Scotland’s National Museum? Located on Chambers St right in the the middle of Edinburgh it’s a free entry museum that caters for all members of the family, especially the little ones! With a variety of galleries specifically for the kids they certainly won’t get bored on a trip round this museum as they find themselves excavating the skeleton of a dinosaur or getting kitted out ready for a dive down to the bottom of the ocean, amongst other great activities.

Kids are welcome throughout the museum, including in the Brasserie and Balcony Cafe, or if you’d rather take your own food you’re free to eat packed lunches within certain areas of the building.

The Glasgow Science Centre

Or, alternatively, there’s the Glasgow Science Centre. Part of a recent renovation to the Clyde Waterfront the centre features an IMAX cinema, the Glasgow Tower, and the main attraction, the Science Mall. With three storeys packed right up to the rafters with a wide variety of hands on, interactive exhibits designed to teach all about science, it’s the perfect place to spend an afternoon as a family. Whether it’s taking a trip to the planetarium, experiencing the baffling illusions of the mind works or exploring the fascinating bodyworks you’re bound to have fun.

You’ll also be able to find the Elements Cafe, offering an array of tasty treats that includes a light option for the kids containing a butty, drink, some fruit and a dessert, all for just £3.50!

Our Dynamic Earth

Again located in the heart of Edinburgh at the bottom of Hollyrood Road, Our Dynamic Earth is a museum like no other! Telling the tale of our planet, right from the big bang through to the present day it’s a fully immersive experiecne allowing you to feel the heat of a volcano or lose yourself in a tropical rainforest, and you’ll even have the chance to watch a film on Scotland’s only 360 degree dome theatre. And then there’s the Ocean Commotion soft play area, perfect for burning off any extra energy that the little ones might have.

Hopefully you’ll have found this useful, who knows, maybe you’re even planning a trip up to Scotland to try them out? If that’s the case make sure that you take a look at our selection of properties north of the Border so you have somewhere to rest your legs at the end of the day.

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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.

6 of Scotland’s Best Castles

Sunday, April 26th, 2015
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Today on the Sykes blog, we’re going to be taking a trip north of the border in order to investigate some of the biggest and best castles on offer. With its turbulent and colourful history, Scotland has been a breeding ground for countless examples of castles, from the medieval peel towers in the Borders, right the way through to the stunning feats of architecture such as Edinburgh and Balmoral. Now as you can probably imagine, it’s been quite the task narrowing it down to just the six castles but we’ve done our best, so take a look and see which one would get your vote.


Where else could we have started this list but with the world famous Edinburgh Castle? The centrepiece of Edinburgh’s World Heritage Site, Edinburgh Castle dominates the skyline up above the city and is one of Scotland’s most visited tourist attractions with people flocking there in their droves. With the celebrated 1 o’clock gun and events such as the annual Military Tattoo, Edinburgh Castle is definitely worth paying a visit to.


With at least eight sieges, a few ghosts and a couple of famous murders, I think it’s safe enough to say that Stirling Castle has had a pretty eventful history. Most of the buildings on show these days date back to the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, although a few earlier examples still remain. Not only is it a Scheduled Ancient Monument but Stirling Castle has played a major role in Scottish history with many of the most prominent figures being strongly linked to it, from Robert the Bruce through to King James I, the first ruler of both England and Scotland.

Eilean Donan

With stunning views out over the Isle of Skye, Eilean Donan is found right at the juncture of three of the Highland lochs. It’s easily one of the most recognisable points, not just in the Highlands but in Scotland! Over the centuries, Eilean Donan has had a somewhat colourful past, whether it’s clan uprisings, the War of Independence or being partially destroyed during the Jacobite Uprising of the 18th Century. Happily though, the castle was rebuilt in the early 1900’s and under the guidance of the Conchra Charitable Trust remains one of the Highlands’ gems.


Next up, we’re heading to Caerlaverock Castle in Dumfries. Sitting just the other side of the Solway Firth from England, Caerlaverock has watched over the Borders for centuries and played a key role in Scottish history. Over the years, Caerlaverock was attacked countless times, including when Edward I of England besieged it with the entire English Army in 1300. Although one of its walls may have been destroyed following it’s capture in 1640, the castle remains one of the finest on offer and its unique triangular design still pulls in visitors right to this day.


Then we’re going to head up north to the Ayrshire Coast where you’ll be able to find Culzean Castle. Some version of the castle may have standing since the 1300’s but it wasn’t until Sir Thomas Kennedy inherited the building in the mid-18th century that it started to take the form that we see today. With stunning gardens and extravagant interiors, including a famous oval staircase, Culzean really is one of the gems of the north of Scotland, so much so that since 1987 it has featured on the back of the Scottish £5 notes.


Apparently the oldest continually inhabited castle in the whole of Scotland, Dunvegan has been the seat of the chiefs of Clan Macleod for over 800 years. Throughout the many generations that have called it home, the Macleods have managed to amass a veritable treasure trove of Scottish artefacts, from a lock of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s hair through to the famous fairy flag, which according to legend brings victory to the Macleods whenever it is unfurled.


We’re going to finish with another of the most famous castles in Scotland – Balmoral. Well known for being one of Queen Elizabeth II’s favoured retreats, Balmoral has been in the possession of the Royal family since 1852 when it was purchased by Prince Albert. Over the years, the estate has steadily expanded and these days covers and area of around 50,000 acres with woodlands, Munros and of course the stunning gardens that were opened to public access back in 1931.

Well there you have it. Hopefully you’ll agree with our choices. There are so many more that we just couldn’t fit into our list but let us know if you have any favourites that you think should have been included! If you fancy paying one of them a visit, make sure you take a look at this page where you’ll find our full range of Scottish properties perfect for putting your feet up in after a long day out and about.

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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.

Adventure Awaits in Scotland

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015
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Here at Sykes we love exploring Scotland; whether we’re diving into the cool waters at Loch Morlich, running along the southern coast, or hiking The West Highland Way, we know that Scotland is the land of adventure and that its diverse landscape is ideal for outdoor activities! That being said, you can imagine our surprise when we found out that only 12% of the 2390 people we asked would consider an adventure holiday in Scotland.

This result really shocked us and made us sad to think people are missing out on all the wonderful opportunities Scotland has to offer. We decided to take action, and put together a graphic which highlighted some of the best adventure activities available in Scotland. Thanks to the help of industry experts our graphic is now complete, so keep reading to see if we can convince you to try something new this year.


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Adventure Awaits in Scotland

With its invigorating coastline, dramatic lochs and rugged landscapes, Scotland is the ideal destination for adventure. Journey into the Scottish wilderness on your next trip, and you could find yourself traversing serene mountainsides or plummeting into open seas.


Where? Nevis Range Mountain Resort, Glencoe Mountain Resort, Glenshee Ski Centre, Cairngorm Mountain Resort and The Lecht Ski Centre.

When? The best time for skiing in Scotland is between January and March.

Did You Know? Glencoe was the first ski resort to open in Scotland and is home to the country’s longest vertical descent.

Our Expert Says… “Visit the Nevis Range ski area where the UK’s only mountain gondola takes you to 650m on Aonach Mor and 11 more ski lifts. Beginners can hire everything they need and enjoy fun lessons on gentle slopes near the restaurant, while more advanced skiers and boarders can enjoy red and black runs, our famous back country area, as well as a terrain park.” Dave Parfitt, Snowsports School Manager, Nevis Range


Where? Coasteering takes place along Scotland’s rockiest shorelines.

When? Any time of year if you have the right kit. Book with a reputable company and they’ll provide this for you.

Did You Know? Coasteering involves exploring the rocky coastline by climbing, swimming and jumping.

Our Expert Says… “Scotland’s coastal waters, cliffs and caves have been the inspiration for countless tales of folklore and legend over the ages. The raw natural beauty and majestic atmosphere entice your adventurous spirit and beg you to Jump into Adventure. Join us on the Coasteering experience of a lifetime.” Aidan Duncan, Operations Director, Breeze Adventures


Where? Scotland’s abundance of lochs and rivers mean you can canoe just about anywhere.

When? Both summer and autumn are good for canoeing, although the colder months are less crowded.

Did You Know? When canoeing you use a single bladed paddle, as opposed to kayaking where you use a double bladed paddle.

Our Expert Says… “Canoeing in Scotland offers adventures for everyone. You can explore one of Europe’s last genuine wildernesses, paddling and camping for days with the lochs and mountains to yourself. It also offers the less experienced many sheltered, less challenging outings, with plenty of advice and support available to help plan your own little adventure.” Calum Rogerson, Sales & Marketing Manager, Canoe Hire Scotland

Quad Biking

Where? For the best views and the muddiest terrain, head for the Highlands.

When? From January to December you’ll be able to partake in quad biking treks at any time of year.

Did You Know? Scotland’s mix of sunshine and showers make conditions perfect for quad biking — prepare to get muddy!

Our Expert Says… “Quad biking in the Scottish Highlands offers a totally unique experience. Diverse terrain and stunning backdrops as you explore the hills, mountains and glens from the comfort of your bike. Add to that the thrill of riding a quad bike and you have the ultimate off road experience.” Ian Brown, Managing Director, Highland All Terrain Ltd.


Where? You’ll find archery centres across Scotland, from mystical forests to the shores of Loch Ken.

When? The ideal time for shooting is summer, when the weather is warm and the breeze slight.

Did You Know? Papingo is the oldest archery event to take place in the British Isles; it occurred in Scotland and dates back to 1483.

Our Expert Says… “With stunning countryside and a large number of outdoor activity centres and specialist archery activity providers across the country, Scotland is a fantastic place to experience thejoy of taking part in archery. Where better to try your hand at one of the oldest sports in the world, while enjoying the great Scottish outdoors. We welcome everyone who wants to try archery when visiting” Rona Mather, Director, MRM Archery Ltd

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Nicole Jones-Gerrard

By Nicole Jones-Gerrard

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 husband.

Walk the Scenery that Inspired Robert Burns

Sunday, January 25th, 2015
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Did you know that tonight is Burns Night? Tonight, Scots and non-Scots all around the world will be holding their own celebrations in honour of Robert Burns, who is widely regarded as Scotland’s National Poet. Here at Sykes, we thought we’d join in the celebrations in our own way- by having a look at some of places in Scotland that inspired his beautiful poetry and exploring the walks on which we can visit them!

The River Ayr Way

The longest of all our routes, The River Ayr Way spans a considerable 44 miles and is Scotland’s first source to sea path network. This beautiful part of the country is said to have inspired Burns in many ways, not least because it was the setting for his poem ‘Highland Mary’, an ode to Mary Campbell who the poet had a brief fling with before her untimely death in 1786. There’s the sheer scenic beauty of the place too; think sleepy woodlands, castle-strewn heath and wildlife rich stretches of coast. If you plan to tackle the full route, give yourself two days so as to enjoy the scenery as Burns would have two-hundred years ago.

Burns’ Trail

Burns’ Trail is a short, circular route around the leafy village of Alloway, once home to Robert Burns himself. In Alloway, you can find the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, which encompasses the building in which he was born, known as ‘Burns Cottage’, new museum buildings housing original manuscripts of his poetry, and the Burns Monument, which is a sixteenth century memorial created by Thomas Hamilton. Other places of interest in Alloway include Alloway Auld Kirk and the Brig O’Doon, which both feature in Burns’ poem, ‘Tam O’Shanter’. Walking Burns’ Trail should take around 2 hours although walkers should allow extra time to investigate the attractions on route.

The Birks of Aberfeldy

This circular walk in Perthshire was the inspiration for one of Burns’ most popular poems of the same name, ‘The Birks o’Aberfeldie’, which he wrote in August 1787; he is said to have found his inspiration for the poem while visiting Aberfeldy on a tour of Scotland with his friend, William Nicol. The Birks were originally named the Dens of Moness but were actually re-named after the success of Burns’ poem! The walk itself is fairly short – about 2 miles long and will take around 1-2 hours to complete. The path is well-defined and takes walkers through a beautiful array of mature trees including birches and elm trees, before offering spectacular views of the waterfalls.

If you’re planning on walking one of these fantastic Scottish walking routes then head to our holiday cottages in Scotland page, where you’ll find a wide selection of cosy cottages perfect for walking holidays!

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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.

National Tree Week: Scotland’s Bonniest Woodlands

Friday, December 5th, 2014
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It’s National Tree Week, and what better way to celebrate our nation’s trees than with a trip north of the border. Scotland is home to some truly stunning forests and woodlands, many of which have been around for centuries – here’s a look at some of Scotland’s bonniest forests and where you can find them.

Taynish National Nature Reserve, Argyll

Taynish National Nature Reserve – Via Flickr

Taynish National Nature Reserve – Via Flickr

The oak woodlands of Taynish National Nature Reserve have occupied the same spot on the west coast of Scotland for over 6,000 years – extraordinary, right? The woodlands survival is down to the region’s moist, clean air, as well as its mix of heath, grasslands and saltmarsh, which provides the perfect environment for an array of wildlife. You’ll find Taynish on the west coast of Argyll, and there are a number of different trails and nature walks to be enjoyed within the woodland.

Birnam Wood & ‘Big Tree Country’, Perthshire

'Big Tree Country' – Via Flickr

‘Big Tree Country’ – Via Flickr

Perthshire, aka ‘Big Tree Country’, is home to a splendid array of ancient, towering trees. The region lays claim to Europe’s oldest tree: the Fortingall Yew, found in the churchyard of Fortingall and thought to be around 3,000 years old. Perthshire is also home to The Birnam Oak, an iconic tree which features in Shakespeare’s Macbeth – nearly 1,000 years old itself. Visitors to Perthshire will soon understand the origin of the term ‘Big Tree County’, particularly if they take a walk along the trails of Killiekrankie and Dunkeld.

The Caledonian Forest, Scottish Highlands

Caledonian Forest – Via Flickr

Caledonian Forest – Via Flickr

For thousands of years, huge pockets of pinewood covered the Scottish Highlands; this was called the Caledonian Forest. Sadly, only a small percent of this once mighty woodland remains today. Travel to the Mar Lodge Estate in the Cairngorms National Park, and experience the Highlands as they looked thousands of years ago. Mar Lodge is home to a large swathe of Caledonian woodland, with a range of ancient trees including Scots pine, aspen, birch, juniper and oak. Keep your eye out for rare Scottish wildlife too, including the red deer and golden eagle.

Yair Forest, Scottish Borders

Yair Forest – Via Flickr

Yair Forest – Via Flickr

The upmost peace and quiet awaits at Yair, a mature woodland in the picturesque Tweed Valley. Although popular with walkers, Yair remains relatively undiscovered, yet offers serene vistas and the perfect starting point for a hike up Three Bretheren, a scenic hilltop. Walking routes traverse much of this ancient forest, but one to look out for is the Raeless Trail, whose 1.1 mile route is accessible for everyone and offers magical views of the River Tweed.

Galloway Forest Park, Dumfries & Galloway

Galloway Forest Park – Via Flickr

Galloway Forest Park – Via Flickr

Those with a penchant for the great outdoors will be at home in Galloway Forest Park. Walking, cycling, kayaking, fishing – all take place beneath the canopy of trees. The forest’s rolling hills, coupled with its well-structured trails, make it a utopia for walkers and cyclists alike, and there are several ‘downhill’ routes for mountain bikers. No visit to Galloway Forest Park would be complete without a peaceful picnic on the banks of Loch Dee, and if you’re in no rush, stick around ‘til dusk – the starry night sky here is nothing short of epic.

Rent a country cottage in Scotland

Love the great outdoors? Then you’ll love our country cottage rentals in Scotland. There’s really no better place than bonnie Scotland for a secluded country escape, so choose your favourite from our collection today.

Celebrating National Tree Week? Let us know your favourite tree, woodland or forest on Facebook and Twitter.

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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.