Archive for the ‘Scotland’ Category

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

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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.