Archive for the ‘Travel Tips’ Category

Book Now for 2015

Saturday, December 27th, 2014
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If you’re the kind of organised person who likes to plan-in-advance I’m sure that you’ve already thought about your 2015 getaway and I am probably preaching to the choir here. But if you’re more into doing things last minute then read on, as I’ll be sharing with you some reasons why now is a great time to book your 2015 holiday.

Huge Choice of Properties

Moat Farmhouse, The Lake District

Moat Farmhouse, reference 2643

January is our busiest month here at Sykes Cottages and our properties book up quickly. To make sure that you have the pick of the pack, it is best to get booking early! This is particularly important if you have a specific location, type of property or dates in mind. Our large properties tend to book up first particularly for Christmas and New Year with many already booked for 2015 and enquiries coming in for 2016. If you’re planning a Christmas gathering for a large family, it is best to book your property now!

Utilise a Deposit

Elmet Farmhouse in Hebden Bridge

Elmet Farmhouse, reference 918960

If your holiday is further than six weeks away, you can choose to pay in full or just pay the deposit at the time of booking. The deposit will be 30% of the property rental plus the booking fee, the balance of your holiday must then be paid six weeks before the start of your holiday. You can find out more about paying for your holiday on our FAQs page.

Have a holiday to look forward to

Manor Farmhouse in Milstead

Manor Farmhouse, reference 919243

I like to think of the Sykes Cottages blog as being a positive place, so I don’t want to bring the mood down but sometimes we all just need something to look forward to! As nice as last minute getaways are, there is nothing quite like building up excitement prior to going away. Sometimes it is good to push spontaneity to the side and do some good old fashion planning – a luxury you may not have when booking a last minute break.

Get Booking Now for 2015

The Cider Mill Grade II listed Holiday Cottage

The Cider Mill, reference 11799

Whether your 2015 plan is to holiday by the sea, head to the countryside for some peace and quiet or visit a new city you will be spoilt for choice at Sykes Cottages. With over 5,000 properties we really do have something for everyone!

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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.

Budding Writer? Here’s 4 Ways A Cottage Can Help You

Saturday, November 1st, 2014
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November is National Novel Writing Month, a time when – you guessed it – wannabe authors put pen to paper and attempt to write a novel in thirty days.

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

From someone who’s tried and ultimately failed to write a novel, I’d say this was a damn tough challenge – especially for those who haven’t devoted their lives to writing and have other responsibilities to attend. If you’d like to give it a go, there’s a wealth of help and advice on the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) website.

One hurdle that many aspiring Hemingways face is writer’s block; the dreaded inability to string a sentence together or come up with original ideas. Although there’s a wealth of advice on how to tackle writer’s block online, we think a holiday in an isolated or secluded holiday home could be just the thing to help you overcome writer’s block and help you on the way to completing your first novel. Here’s four reasons why.


Isolation, seclusion, confinement; call it what you will, but finding alone time is the first step on the road to penning that bestseller. With an isolated cottage, you’re guaranteed distraction free writing from the moment you arrive. If you plan to lock yourself away like a regular ink-slave, be sure to stock up on the bare necessities first; we’d hate your flow to be interrupted by a lack of loo roll or a nagging thirst for a cup of joe.


Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Like writers of old – Wordsworth, Coleridge, Dickens, Brontë to name a few – would-be authors will find a veritable font of inspiration in the British countryside. Blighty has been a backdrop for thought-starved writers for centuries, who have sought creative solace in the country’s scenic beauty. From the Lake District, the Highlands and Yorkshire to Cornwall, Devon and Norfolk, the UK has always been a valuable source of inspiration among wordsmiths. Tap into it yourself on a secluded cottage break – who knows what you might find.


Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Good times are kind to the mind, slogging 9 til’ 5 isn’t. A break from the day to day frees up brain-space, letting you ponder ideas put on the backburner long ago. Plus, when you’ve got limited time on your hands, you’re bound to be more focused, more determined, and more prepared to pen at least a few paragraphs. Count the end of your break as a deadline, and try get a set number of words down before it’s time to go back to the day job.


Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Or, do the opposite: fuel your thoughts. Seek memories. Good ones that can be rendered into a page of prose on your return. Eat well, drink well. Walk cliff tops and woodlands. Climb hills and cycle bracing mountain sides. Swim in the ocean. Watch the sunset and the moon rise. Talk to people and share stories. In short, live your life. Then, go write it all down. Gaining experience makes booking a cottage holiday in the UK a no-brainer.

Book a break, write a book

It’s that simple. Ok, it’s not, but booking a holiday home could certainly help. If you’re itching to write a book, use those leftover holiday days, pack paper, pen or laptop and make for the nearest pocket of countryside. Before you know it, you might have a bestseller on your hands. Remember this blog when you do.

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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.

Booking a Surprise Holiday: The Ultimate Guide

Saturday, September 27th, 2014
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Whether it’s for a birthday, anniversary or just because, nothing says you care like booking a surprise holiday for your loved one. Whether you want a relaxing break or something to let out your adventurous side, we have a huge choice of properties that will suit your every need and are happy to help keep your booking a surprise. Take a look below at our latest infographic for hints and tips on booking – and keeping – that holiday a surprise!

The Ultimate Guide to Booking a Surprise Holiday

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Booking a Surprise Holiday… The Ultimate Guide!

There is nothing  like a luxury, romantic break for two and they’re even sweeter when it’s a surprise. Booking a getaway whilst keeping your partner in the dark can seem like a logistical nightmare but read on to learn a few tips on how to make your surprise a success!

Making a Surprise Booking

When making your booking, ensure that all correspondence goes to an address that your loved one doesn’t have access to. Book using your work email and ask whether they will be sending you anything in the post – if so, use your work address for that, too!

If you have a shared bank account, make sure that you don’t use it to pay for your surprise holiday. Use your personal bank account to avoid raising suspicions!

If you make your booking using a shared computer, or a computer that your loved one has access to, be sure to delete your browsing history and cookies afterwards.

Is there a series that your partner never misses or a TV show they’ve been longing to watch? Then be sure to record them if they’re scheduled for whilst you are away.

Things to Keep in Mind

Make sure that both you and the recipient of the surprise have booked holidays from work on the dates that you would like to go away.

If you’re leaving it until last minute to unveil your surprise, you can take some of the strain from your loved one by doing some of their packing for them.

If you aren’t staying in the UK think about any identification that you both might need and check that any identification is up to date before embarking on your journey.

Don’t forget that if you or your partner have a four legged friend, make sure to book pet friendly accommodation or arrange for a friend or family member to look after them.

Let their friends and family know about the surprise, to ensure that they do not make plans with your loved one over the time you will be going away.

Extra Touches

While You’re Away

Think about whether you want to have a relaxing or an action packed getaway. Does your loved one need to unwind or would an energising holiday full of activities suit them better?

If romance and relaxation is on the cards, then why not book a meal at a local restaurant whilst you’re away? Or even better, order a food shop from an organic delivery service and cook up a romantic meal for two.

If you’re looking for something a little more action packed then take a look at what activities are available in the local area and plan your days accordingly. If you’re near the coast then why not surprise your lucky holiday companion with surfing lessons, or if they’d rather stay on dry land, book a segway tour through a local forest.

Back at Home

If you’re keeping the getaway a complete surprise and not telling your loved one until last minute, there are a few thoughtful things you can sort out back at home so that they don’t have to!

Postpone any deliveries that they may have. Do they have milk or the newspaper delivered? Perhaps they receive a health snack food box through the post. If so, then put these deliveries on hold until you return from your getaway.


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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.

The UK’s Best Service Stations

Sunday, September 21st, 2014
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When I initially suggested the idea of a blog post about service stations, it took quite a bit of convincing the rest of the team! ‘Who would want to read that?’ they asked. Eventually, with the promise that I would give my findings a bit of the Sykes Cottages treatment (think heritage, stunning views and picnics), my colleagues agreed to a post about service stations being written and I was more than happy to take the reins. Service stations aren’t known for their charm, and making a visit to one is often a necessity rather than a choice, but there are a few gems around; read on to see where you can find them.

Motorway Service Station with the Best Views

Tebay Service Station View

The view from Tebay Service Station Image via Flickr

Tebay services in the Lake District is the ideal rest stop for stunning views that are a change from the continuous tarmac and brake lights of the motorway. The building of the station backs on to a lake, which gives an amazing view that even the weariest of travellers will appreciate!

Motorway Service Station with the Best Loos

Cleanest Loo

Image via Flickr

Perhaps not the most glamorous of topics discussed on the Sykes Cottages blog, but nevertheless a clean loo can make or break a service station – or anywhere really. To discover the best service station loo in the UK I headed straight to the source, so to speak, the Loo of the Year awards website. The current holder of the best motorway loo accolade is Cambridge Extra Services on the M11 who show a high quality of cleanliness. Well done!

Motorway Service Station with the Best Food Choices


Image via Flickr

When you think of motorway service station food you instantly think of food that is greasy, fast and quite overpriced. That is often still the case, but there are a few service stations that are looking to change this and provide hungry travellers with local, wholesome food! Gloucester Services on the M5 is one of these service stations, which tantalises travellers taste buds with artisan breads, seasonal fruit juices and homemade pies amongst others.

Motorway Service Station with the most Unique Aspect

Happendon Services

Image via Flickr

Not only is Happendon service station in Cairn Lodge one of the cheapest motorway stop-offs around, it was also once the location of Douglas Castle. If you head around the back of the service station you will find the fantastic remains of the castle which used to house the powerful medieval family, the Douglases. More recently, the remains of the castle stand proudly at the service station, giving a nice backdrop for tired drivers to replenish their batteries.

Motorway Service Station with the Best Place to Stop for a Picnic


Image via Flickr

Mostly due to its incredible views, Killington Lake service station on the M6 southbound is arguably the best UK service station to stop off for a picnic. With picnic tables placed alongside the lake you can take in the views whilst you have a break from driving. Perfect!

So there we have it, five of the best service stations that our motorways have to offer! Do you have a particular service station that you always stop off at? Have you ever visited one of the above? Let us know via twitter or facebook, we’d love to know!

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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.

Why You Need to Attend the Egremont Crab Fair

Saturday, September 20th, 2014
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The Egremont Crab Fair was established way back in 1267 and is still the most highly anticipated event in Cumbria’s calendar; with impressive cart racing and disturbing gurning, this fair is a true British delight, one that shouldn’t be missed! In honour of this year’s fair we’ve thrown together the top five reasons why you need to attend this entertaining event.

1. The raising of the greasy pole

raising of the pole

At dawn on the fist day of Egremont Crab Fair, the greasy pole is raised at the Market Cross; the pole is nearly 30ft tall and greased to make it harder to climb. Youngsters from the town will climb the pole tearing off ribbons at the lower levels to exchange for prizes in the town. The person who reaches the top of the pole first will win the grand prize!

2. It’s all about the gurning…

Egremont Crab Fiar winner

… and here is the current World Champion, Tommy Mattinson, showing us how it’s done! As the highlight of the fair, gurning is a highly competitive sport in Egremont where competitors are challenged  to pull a grotesque face whilst placing their face through a horse collar.

3. Fancy an apple?

1962's Parade of the Apple cart

Traditionally known as the ‘Scattering of Apples’, the Parade of the Apple Cart is one of the fair’s longest running traditions. Originally started when the Lord of Egremont would scatter crab apples amongst the children in the town. A sweeter apple is now used in the Parade with men, women and the Crab Fair Queen throwing them out to the crowd.

4. How about a spot of wrestling?

cumberland wrestling

Cumberland wrestling that is! A great spectator sport, well unless you fancy falling flat on your back in the middle of a field. Cumberland wrestling is when you lock hands behind your opponents back and try to throw them to the ground, the wrestler that lands face up on the ground loses.

5. Smoking the pipe


During this competition each adult is given a pipe which has been filled with black twist tobacco, the winner of the competition is the competitor who smokes his tobacco in the quickest time.

There are many more reasons to visit the fair including children’s races, live music and local ale. For more information on this event, the location and its history, be sure to visit the Egremont Crab fair website. They also have a Facebook and Twitter page where you can send in your best gurning pictures using the hashtag #tweetyourGurn!

All of the images for this blog were taken from the Egremont Crab Fair Facebook account. 

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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.