Archive for the ‘Scotland’ Category

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.

Celebrating the Year of Natural Scotland

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013
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Whether you’ve experienced Scotland yourself or have just admired pictures, it is hard to deny that Scotland is one of the most naturally beautiful countries. Today at Sykes we are joining in and celebrating 2013 being the year of Natural Scotland by showcasing our favourite aspects of this naturally beautiful country.

Scottish Wildlife

Orla the Golden Eagle

Image via Flickr.

Animal lovers will be in their element in Scotland, as alongside an abundance of nature comes a large amount of wildlife, and Scotland is home to a remarkable number of animals! Scotland houses 80% of the United Kingdom’s red squirrel population and squirrel enthusiasts will love the dedicated Red Squirrel Walk through Dalbeattie Forest. Birds of prey fans are best heading to the highlands, where you might be able to spot a Golden Eagle with its 2 metre wingspan soaring above the land and seeking its next prey!

Scotland’s Cities

Stirling from Wallace Monument

The view from the top of the Wallace Monument, Stirling.
Image via Flickr.

Those who prefer the hustle and bustle of a city need not fear as Scotland’s cities are also full to the brim with nature; with each Scottish city boasting a park, gardens or monuments. See a wide array of plants in Dundee’s Botanic Garden, walk along the Water of Leith in the Scottish capital or get a beautiful view of Stirling from the top of the Wallace Monument. Whichever Scottish city you plan on visiting, you are sure to find an abundance of natural beauty!

Natural Landscapes

Postcard from Scotland

Image via Flickr.

Perhaps the most strikingly beautiful aspect of Natural Scotland is the counties landscapes and forestry. Enjoy a walk throughout any of Perthshire’s woodland or forests and you’ll see why the county is known as ‘Big Tree Country’. Definitely worth a visit in autumn is Faskally Wood, which is transformed into the Enchanted Forest by sound and light effects. There is no better way of seeing the beauty of Scotland than on foot, and there is a Scottish hill or mountain to suit ramblers of any level. Those wanting a walking challenge to go alongside their beautiful views should head to one of Scotland’s Corbetts; hills named after John Rooke Corbett and between 2,500ft and 3,000ft in height. There are 222 of these hills around Scotland, so you won’t have to travel far to conquer a Corbett!

If you’re feeling inspired to head to Scotland to see all of the countries natural beauty first hand, why not stay in one of our lovely holiday cottages in Scotland!

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.

Out and About in the Scottish Borders

Thursday, October 17th, 2013
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The Scottish Borders are seen by some as merely being the gateway to the rest of the country so they’re often bypassed and don’t always get the credit that they deserve. Here at Sykes. we feel that this is a bit unfair; there’s always something to see or do in the Borders! However, the best way to get a true taste of the area is to head outside and enjoy all that the great outdoors has to offer! So read on and find out about some of the fantastic outdoor activities that you can enjoy in the Scottish Borders.


Fishing on the River Tweed

Via. Flickr

Fishing is one of the most popular activities in the Borders, thanks mainly to the River Tweed that runs right through the heart of the region. The river is widely recognised as one of Europe’s great fishing sites with an abundance of Atlantic Salmon, Sea Trout, Brown Trout and Grayling that make it a haven for anglers of all experience, from the first time fisherman, right the way through to the seasoned veterans. What’s more, with the service that is offered by Tweed Guide, who provide full or half day packages catering for both individuals and groups with licenses, with instruction and equipment all included, you’ll be guaranteed a catch!

Mountain Biking

Mountain Biking in the Borders

Via. Flickr

The Scottish Borders are also a paradise for all you adrenaline junkies out there. The area is widely recognised as the best location for mountain biking in the United Kingdom thanks to the winding tracks and forests that characterise the countryside. In fact, two of the famous 7Stanes mountain biking centres are found nestled in the forests of the region, providing trails of varying difficulties so there’s always a ride to suit you no matter how experienced you are.


Boots by the loch

Via. Flickr

If you’re looking to get a taste of the great outdoors in the Scottish Borders but at a more sedate pace then walking may well be the answer. Recognised walks like the John Buchan Way and St Cuthbert’s Way provide well-trodden routes, or if you’d rather make your own way then you’ll never be short of options with the beautiful vistas and rolling hills that make up the Borders; not to mention the countless country pubs that offer you the perfect place to rest and refresh!

So if you feel inspired to give the region a try, don’t forget to check out our range of holiday cottages in the Scottish Borders, so that you have somewhere to warm up and have a brew after a long day in the great outdoors!

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.

Go way, way back on your next cottage holiday

Monday, October 14th, 2013
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If you’re into unearthing yesteryear, you’ll know that today marks a particularly special event in English history. That’s because today -14th October- is the 947th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings, an event which changed the face of Britain forever. Forces from both sides of the English channel gathered on a windswept heath near the town of Battle in Sussex, to engage in what would arguably become the most fateful act of war that the country has ever known. Given the influence that the battle had on modern British culture,  we at Sykes Cottages thought we’d pay homage to this bloody day of transformation, by compiling a short list of the best battlefields to visit across the UK. There’s something rather moving and affecting about visiting a by-gone battlefield, so why not spend the day on your next cottage holiday taking a peek into the country’s bloody past whilst you explore these beautiful portions of prized British soil.

Stirling, Scotland- Battle of Stirling Bridge, 1297

Stirling Bridge

Via Flickr

Made famous in Mel Gibson’s 1995 film, Braveheart, the Battle of Stirling Bridge was a decisive victory for the Scots in their century-long feud with the English over their independence. Walk the earth where thousands of impassioned highland clansman followed their plucky blue-faced leader, William Wallace, into battle against a far superior force, and laid down their lives to secure the freedom of their country. Present day Stirling Bridge offers a feast of historic treats that will delight even the most aloof history fan, including Old Stirling Bridge, built in 1550, and the Wallace Memorial statue, erected at the spot where this proud Scot defied the odds to defend his great country. If you fancy donning your Sporran and bellowing “FREEDOMMM!” on your next Scottish adventure, take a look at our selection of holiday cottages in Scotland!

Sutton Cheney, Leicestershire- Battle of Bosworth Field, 1485

Battle of Bosworth

Via Flickr

On August 22nd 1485, the Wars of the Roses, fought between the house of York and the house of Lancaster over a thirty year period, came to its sticky and long awaited conclusion. Abandoned by his countryman and with a much lesser force, Richard III of England was brutally killed at the hands of the usurper Henry Tudor, and a new era of English history began. Discover information and theories about the battle in the Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre, and terrify the kids on a journey through medieval England in the centre’s interactive exhibition, where you can witness the horrors of 15th century warfare in the imposing battle room! For both the fanatical history fan and the casual daytripper, a visit to Bosworth Field proves a memorable day out; see for yourself on your next cottage holiday.

Branxton, Northumberland- Battle of Flodden, 1513

Flodden Battlefield

Via Flickr

Perhaps the most archetypal battlefield on the British Isles, this illustrious patch of Northumberland played host to the largest Anglo-Scottish tussle of the Middle Ages, with over 26,000 English and 34,000 Scottish troops involved in the fray. The battle ensued when James IV of Scotland, rather unwisely, invaded the North East of England to honour the country’s ancient allegiance to France, which was under threat from the surly Henry VIII. However, unlike Scots before him, James IV was unable to quash the English, and ultimately became the last serving monarch to be slain on British soil. Take time out of your Northumberland cottage holiday to visit this peaceful pasture land, and visualise the events of the battle as they unfolded with help from the interpretative boards which are placed along the battlefield trail.

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.

Be Inspired to Draw on a Sykes Cottage Holiday

Monday, October 7th, 2013
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Now that it’s October, put down the kitchen knife, step away from the football and swap the camera for some stationery, because October means Big Draw; a month long international festival dedicated to the dwindling hobby of drawing. If like me, you miss those nonchalant childhood days where you’d sprawl on the carpet with a fist of coloured pencils and doodle to your heart’s content for hours on end, take this month as your cue to put pencil to paper and get lost in your imagination once more.

Big Draw is organised by the Campaign for Drawing, an independent charity attempting to raise the profile of drawing as a tool for thought and creativity. They’ll be putting on over 1,000 events across the country throughout October, aimed at helping people of all ages reconnect with this artistic past-time. Take a look at their website to find out what sketchy events are taking place in your area, or, read Sykes Cottages guide to the best landmarks to draw in the UK, and why they’d make the perfect spot for an arty cottage holiday!

Sketch the stunning Stone Henge

Stone Henge

Via Flickr

In this day and age, it’s all too easy to capture the majesty of Stone Henge with a single press of the shutter. So this October, why not take a little longer to take in England’s most treasured landmark by whipping out the sketchpads and having a good old scribble. The kids will love the challenge of trying to capture the plethora of perspectives and textures of these Neolithic structures, and we’re sure your Bronze Age ancestors will appreciate the extra effort you’ve put in admiring their ancient works of art! For your chance to get creative by the stones, see our Wiltshire holiday cottages page.

Etch out Eilean Donan Castle

Eilean Donan Castle

Via Flickr

Pitch a spot on the banks of Loch Duich and you’ll be rummaging for a pencil long before you’ve thought to raise the camera. Splashed across Scottish souvenirs for decades, this inspiring panorama features the majestic Eilean Donan, arguably Scotland’s most famous castle, set against the astounding backdrop of the Applecross peninsula. Bring a flask of Hot Toddy and hunker down for an afternoon of rustic creation, before taking the scenic route back to your Scottish cottage to admire one another’s handy work; can you think of a more stimulating way to spend the day on your cottage holiday in Scotland?

Make like an artist at Menai Bridge

Menai Suspension Bridge

Via Flickr

If you’ve got an eye for architecture and a good straight edge, consider travelling to the town of Menai Bridge in Anglesey on your October drawing odyssey. Overlooking the Menai Strait with its eminent suspension bridge, budding artists can capture their own version of this imposing Welsh vista just as engineer Thomas Telford did in 1826. Choose your preferred perspective of the bridge by taking a quiet walk along the Anglesey Coastal path, before settling down with pencil, pad and picnic for an afternoon spent bringing this celebrated structure to life.

So go on, make the most of the Big Draw on a cottage holiday! It’s a rewarding way to spend some quality time with the family; plus, with the October half-term fast approaching, there’s never been a better time to book a cottage holiday and get creative amid the rolling hills and inspiring architecture of dear old blighty.

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.