Archive for the ‘Scotland’ Category

Celebrate the Commonwealth Games in Scotland

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014
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The end of the London 2012 Olympic Games left most people hankering for another sports competition of a similar scale and, in just a few months’ time, the wait will be over. Set to take Glasgow by storm this July, the Commonwealth Games promises to be a spectacular sporting show.

And we’re welcoming this news in more ways than one. Yes, we’re excited to see some world-class sport on UK soil, but we also think it represents a great opportunity for anyone planning on attending the Games to discover Scotland at the same time!

For an in depth look at the ins and outs of the Games, as well as information on what to see in Scotland during your visit, check out our useful guide to the Glasgow Commonwealth Games below.

Sykes-Cottages inforgraphic 2

Scotland’s homegrown sports stars

Scotland is an amazing place for sport lovers thanks to its incredible sporting heritage. In fact, it’s home to some of the UK’s best-loved sports stars.

Celebrated for being one of the UK’s finest tennis players to emerge in recent decades, Andy Murray is a true sporting hero. The British number one snatched the Wimbledon men’s singles title in 2013 – a grand follow-up to nabbing Olympic gold in 2012.

Sir Chris Hoy also shone at London 2012. In terms of Olympic gold medals, he’s actually the most successful British Olympian of all time. His rounded off his career in real style at London 2012, taking home two gold medals before his retirement.

Bronze medallist at the recent Sochi Games, Eve Muirhead won the 2013 World Women’s Curling Championship, making her the youngest female ever to have done so – she was just 22 when she took the title.

Going to the Games? Discover Scotland too!

We think going to the Games presents the perfect opportunity to see more of Scotland – especially given the fact that there’s just so much to do and see!

More sports fixtures

Can’t get enough of sports? The Commonwealth Games isn’t the only major event hitting Scotland this summer. If you fancy seeing some quintessentially Scottish sports, get yourself to the Highland Games this June.

Held in Fife, this event features all kinds of unusual activities – including haggis throwing. Whoever hurls it furthest wins!

Meanwhile, later in the year the 2014 Ryder Cup will be hosted at Gleneagles in Perthshire – a must for golf lovers.

Other attractions

Scotland is home to a wide array of amazing attractions, so it’d be a real shame to make sport the only feature of your itinerary. For instance, why not take a trip to the lovely Loch Ness? This is the largest lake in Scotland by volume, and you might even catch a glimpse of the elusive Nessie…

Intrigued by tales of castles and adventure? Travel to Aberdeenshire and follow the fabulous Castle Trail, which will lead you to 17 of the area’s most atmospheric and impressive fortifications.

Prefer to get a more literal taste of the places you visit? Head to Edinburgh instead and discover one of the Scotland’s most famous products – whisky. The Scotch Whisky Experience will not only tell you all about the whisky-making process, but also give you a chance to taste some for yourself!

So what are you waiting for? Organise your trip to Scotland today.

Let the Games Begin

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.

A Romantic Guide to Edinburgh

Saturday, March 15th, 2014
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The ancient city of Edinburgh with its winding avenues, classic architecture and captivating history is one of the nation’s most loved destinations for a romantic getaway. I have often found myself gazing up at Edinburgh Castle or lost among the remarkable buildings of old town wondering why I haven’t brought my other half along to bask in the amorous atmosphere that encases the city. To help you avoid a lonely visit to this charming city, we’ve come up with a romantic guide to Edinburgh where you will find an array of handy tips for places to go and things to see when you next visit Edinburgh with your partner for a romantic holiday.

Arthur’s Seat

Edinburgh is famed as one of the UK’s most beautiful cities and with its mixture of classic and modern architecture encompassed by Scotland’s stunning natural scenery, it’s not hard to see why. For the best view of the city and its amazing buildings we would suggest climbing the ever popular Arthur’s Seat.  This dormant volcano offers extraordinary views of the city below and is a real treat in the evenings when the city lights cast a romantic and dreamy glow over the rooftops.

The Royal Mile

The famous Royal Mile is a succession of streets through Edinburgh’s old town known for being the historic heart of the city.  Every step taken here is surrounded by history and culture; Daniel Defoe described the area as not only being the finest street for buildings in Briton but in the world! At one end of The Royal Mile you have the majestic Edinburgh Castle and at the other the Palace of Holyrood House, a perfect stopping point for a picnic in front of the marvellous Holyrood Abbey.

Scottish Whisky Experience

The Scottish Whisky Experience is a swirling tour through a replica distillery which allows you to become part of the whisky making process. During the tour you’ll hear wonderful stories about the craft of whisky making and discover tantalising flavours which will help you unearth the perfect single malt whisky to suit your pallet. This tour is sure to leave you and your companion feeling very merry so why not end the evening on a high by visiting their award winning restaurant and tasting the delectable Scottish produce?

The Witchery

Notorious for being one of Edinburgh’s most atmospheric and romantic restaurants, treating your partner to a fine dining experience at The Witchery is sure to put you in their good books. Visit during a summer’s afternoon and dine alfresco on the Secret Garden’s terrace or during the evening for a Theatre Supper. This stunning and historic venue has won several awards, including a 5 Gold Star rating from VisitScotland, making it the perfect restaurant for a romantic meal together.

City of the Dead

I admit that City of the Dead doesn’t sound like the most romantic outing, but can you possibly think of a better reason to huddle up close to your partner and have them protect you from the dark night? The City of the Dead tours not only bring to light the paranormal activities of many famous Edinburgh ghosts (including the world famous Mackenzie Poltergeist) but also provides a wonderful account of the city’s history.

For a truly memorable trip to Edinburgh why not pair your exhilarating days activities with a cosy nights stay at one of our central Scotland cottages? Our stylish holiday cottages are sure to offer you and your partner a comfortable and relaxing nights stay in a private and peaceful setting. For more information on our Scottish cottages please feel free to contact the reservations team.


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.

Things to do and see on the waters of Scotland

Saturday, March 8th, 2014
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Anyone who lives in, or has visited, Scotland will account for its beauty. With rolling countryside, ruined castles and natural beauty aplenty there is always something to see. However the beauty of Scotland does not stop at the shore, there is also a wealth of good stuff on the Scottish waters and we don’t just mean fish! Today we’re having a look at just a small number of the great things that you can see and do on the waters of Bonnie Scotland.

Encounter Wildlife

Image via Flickr.
Taken from an Ecoventures Boat on the Moray Firth

There are many places along the coast of Scotland where you might be able to see Dolphins, Porpoises or other cetaceans in their natural habitat, and The Moray Firth is arguably the best. If you want to head out onto the Moray Firth in the hope of spotting some wildlife, then EcoVentures is one of the best companies to do it with! Head out on one of their two hour Wildlife Watch boat trips to experience the Moray Firth first hand; learn about the terrific coastline, discover some of the history of the area and hopefully encounter some of the spectacular wildlife that live in the area!

The Kelpies

Image via Flickr.

From the 21st April 2014, anyone sailing into Scotland will be greeted by two spectacular horses’ heads. Located on the Forth & Clyde canal on the East Coast of Scotland, The Kelpies are thirty metres high and were designed by sculptor Andy Scott. When complete, The Kelpies will be the largest public artworks in Scotland and definitely worth a visit!

Falkirk Wheel

Image via Flickr

If you’ve ever wanted to sit in a boat and be lifted thirty five metres out of the water, then a trip on the Falkirk Wheel could be just for you! Almost like a ferris wheel in a boat, the Falkirk Wheel is very popular and attracts visitors from all over the world. Whether you just want to take a look at the wheel whilst enjoying a cup of tea in the café, or want to experience a trip first-hand the Falkirk Wheel is sure to be a great day out!

So there you have it, just some of the watery delights on offer in Scotland. If you’d like to experience any of these first hand then why not book a self catering cottage for a Scottish getaway?

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.

Sykes’ Burns Night Special

Friday, January 24th, 2014
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The 25th of January marks one of the most important dates in the Scottish calendar, Burns Night. Following the example of his close friends way back in 1802 Scots around the world gather to celebrate the birthday of the nation’s favourite poet; Robert (or Rabbie) Burns. The mainstay of any Burns Night comes in the form of readings from some of the bard’s greatest works including the Selkirk Grace, the Address to a Haggis and, of course, Auld Lang Syne. 

via. Flickr

via. Flickr

Aside from these readings, and the consumption of copious amounts of whisky, one thing that all Burns nights include is the traditional Scottish supper of Haggis, Neeps and Tatties and also a Clootie Dumpling. So read on for some information on how you can make the perfect Burns dinner for your celebration!

A Brilliant Burns Night Starter

Last year we brought you a recipe for a traditional Clootie Dumpling and over St Andrews Day you may have noticed one for Haggis, Neeps and Tatties (amongst some other fantastic Scottish recipes), and so for this post we thought we would round off the meal and provide you with a dish that is guaranteed to get your celebrations off to the perfect start; a traditional Scotch Broth.

Scotch Broth

via. Flickr

via. Flickr


  • 75 g of Pearl Barley
  • 1.15 kg of lamb shoulder
  • 2 litres of lamb stock/cold water
  • 2 potatoes (cut in to 2.5cm cubes)
  • 2 turnips (cut in to 2.5cm cubes)
  • 2 carrots (cut in to 2.5cm cubes)
  • 2 celery stalks (cut in to 2.5cm pieces)
  • half a savoy cabbage trimmed and finely shredded
  • 1 bay leaf
  • bunch of thyme
  • Salt and Pepper


  1. Cover the pearl barley with water and leave to soak.
  2. Whilst the barley is soaking put the lamb and the water/lamb stock in a saucepan, bring this to a gentle boil and remove any scum that forms on the top. Add in the onion, thyme and bay and leave it to simmer gently for 60 minutes, occasionally re-skimming the surface.
  3. After the hour has passed add the celery, turnips and carrots to the broth, season it with salt and pepper, cover with a lid and leave to simmer for a further half hour.
  4. Rinse off the pearl barley with cold water and add, along with the potatoes, to the mixture, at this point you should also turn the lamb over. Leave uncovered to simmer for 30 minutes.
  5. Now add the cabbage to the soup and cook for a further 15 minutes (or slightly longer if the barley is yet to fully soften).
  6. Remove the lamb from the soup and either slice or tear it into chunks before adding back to the broth. Then season to taste and serve it up.

Now all that’s left to do is to raise your glass and have a ‘wee dram’ for Rabbie. Hopefully your Burns Night celebrations will help you to get in touch with your Scottish side. If so why not take it a step further and have a look at our holiday cottages north of the Border, or you could even check out our last minute breaks to see if you can celebrate the big night in a beautiful Scottish cottage!

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.

Celebrate Hogmanay in a Scottish Cottage

Thursday, December 5th, 2013
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If you’re starting to panic about still not having plans for New Year’s Eve, then don’t worry as here at Sykes Cottages, we have the answer. How about making the trip up north to beautiful Scotland, where New Year’s Eve is celebrated with unrivalled enthusiasm and style? Scotland’s Hogmanay is one of the biggest New Year parties in the UK. The larger Scottish cities, such as Edinburgh, offer three days of events from torchlight processions to street parties, and firework displays to candlelit concerts; whilst the smaller towns and remote areas of Scotland indulge in community events such as parties, dinner dances and ceildhs. There’s something really magical about experiencing a Scottish Hogmanay and luckily, we still have some Scottish holiday cottages available over New Year, but you’ll need to act fast as they book up quickly! Below is a select sample of some of the best Hogmanay events taking place this year.

Stonehaven Fireball Ceremony

Stonehaven Fireball Ceremony Hogmanay

Via Flickr

The Stonehaven Fireball Ceremony takes place every Hogmanay in Stonehaven, North East Scotland. It consists of local people swinging flaming wire cages around their heads as they march up and down Stonehaven High Street. The cages are filled with flammable material and are attached to a wire handle which is usually around two to three feet long. It is deemed to be safe for the performers although the audience and bystanders are advised to take care. Starting at midnight and lasting around thirty minutes, the event is said to burn off the bad spirits of the past year so that the spirits of the New Year can come in and start afresh. Despite its unusual nature, the Fireball Ceremony attracts thousands of visitors each year and families are considered more than welcome.

Edinburgh’s Hogmanay

Edinburgh Hogmanay

Via Flickr

Edinburgh plays host to one of the biggest and most extravagant Hogmanay celebrations in the whole of Scotland. On the 30th December, festivities get underway with a torchlight procession where thousands of people line the streets of the Scottish capital with flaming torches. They travel from the Royal Mile along to Calton Hill, where they are met with a spectacular firework finale. On Hogmanay itself, around 80,000 people will be heading to the ticket-only Street Party and the Concert in the Gardens beneath Edinburgh Castle. The Pet Shop Boys are headlining the Concert in the Gardens, along with the 1975s, Nina Nesbitt and The 10:04s so you are sure to have a great time. On the stroke of midnight, the world famous Hogmanay fireworks will light up the Edinburgh sky and can be seen from all over the city so even if you haven’t managed to get a ticket, you will still be able to enjoy them. If your head isn’t too sore the next day, you can also take part in Edinburgh’s Loony Dook, where participants parade through the streets in fancy dress before plunging into the freezing waters of the River Forth. This is a tradition that has been running for over 25 years and is not for the faint hearted. You should be warned that it will be very, very cold!

Host Your Own Hogmanay

Champagne on New Years Eve

Visit Flickr

If the thought of parties and crowds is leaving you a bit lukewarm, why not consider hosting your own traditional Hogmanay celebrations in one of our cosy Scottish holiday cottages? Whether you’re spending it with your family or friends, don’t forget to uphold the Scottish tradition of singing ‘Auld Lang Syne’ at midnight. Although the song is now commonly sung across the UK on New Year’s Eve, it originated in Scotland and was composed by Scottish poet, Robert Burns. Many Scottish locals will head outside at midnight and sing Auld Lang Syne in a circle with their neighbours, so for a traditional Hogmanay experience, why not head out and join them?

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.