Archive for the ‘Travel Tips’ Category

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.

Holiday Planning: When Should I Book My Next Holiday?

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014
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I personally think that there are two types of holiday makers; those who like the adrenaline of leaving everything until the last minute, and those who like to meticulously plan and have something to be excited for. Whatever your holiday planning style, it is always worth keeping potential dates in mind, particularly if you need to book time off work or gather a large group. To help you out and give you some ideas, we have put together a short list of some upcoming dates that you might want to keep in mind for your holiday!


Hoath House

Hoath House is large enough for the whole family!

With everyone having the same time off and people taking the opportunity to spend quality time with their loved ones, it is no surprise that school holidays are a popular time to head away. This popularity, however, means that the demand for properties during school holiday time is high. If you have a large family, a specific location in mind or a list of specific requirements it is certainly advisable to book early. It is not uncommon that our large coastal properties are booked for summer over a year in advance! Here are some dates you might want to keep in mind for upcoming school holidays:

October half term: 25th October – 3rd November 2014
Christmas and New Year holiday: 20th December – 4th January 2015
February half term: 7th – 22nd February 2015
Easter holiday: 28th March – 19th April 2015


Coachman's in Tintagel

Coachman’s in Tintagel looks like the ideal romantic retreat.

When it’s just the two of you, there is nothing better than deciding last minute to book a few nights somewhere romantic. Luckily, unless you’re a fan of crowds, you have the pick of the year to head away on a getaway! Like with family holidays, if you have particular needs then it is best to book in advance, but if your only requirement is to spend some quality time with your significant other then a last minute break can be a good idea. At Sykes Cottages, a large number of our properties provide last minute breaks, and they are bookable up to a week in advance of your check-in date. Perfect if you want to surprise your loved one but don’t think you can keep the secret for too long!


A large living space like this in Domecilia is perfect for friends.

A large living space like this in Domecilia is perfect for friends.

Whether it’s a birthday, a hen party, a stag do or just an excuse to get everyone together, sometimes there is nothing better than getting together with your friends. Particularly if you don’t get to see them often! Likewise with large properties for family holidays, it can be a good idea to book far in advance as they do tend to book up quickly. It can also be difficult to get everyone together, particularly considering work and other commitments, so it is best to figure out a date that is suitable for everyone sooner rather than later. For more choice when booking as a large group, staying clear of school holiday dates is a great idea and unless being beside the coast is a must, looking for properties more inland can really open up your options.

Whatever your holiday plans and whoever you are going with, at Sykes Cottages we’re sure to have something that suits you. So take a look at our wide range of cottages across the UK and Ireland and book today!

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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.

How to Create the Perfect Driving Playlist

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014
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Have you got a long journey ahead of you this summer; perhaps a lengthy drive to your holiday destination or a long commute to your summer job? If so then you’ll need a driving playlist to help pass the time whilst winding down country roads or held up in motorway traffic. If you have yet to create the perfect playlist then keep reading as we offer up a few guidelines on how to make the ultimate personalised playlist!

Picture Via Flickr.

Picture Via Flickr.

Party in The USA - Miley CyrusConsider your audience

When putting together your driving playlist, it’s important to consider the people that will be traveling with you. For example if you have children on board, a song with abusive langue or sexual references might not be appropriate, instead, we would opt for family friendly songs like “Party In The USA” by Miley Cyrus.

Keeping alert

Being alert whilst driving is very important but on long mundane car journeys this isn’t always possible. By carefully selecting your playlist and avoiding high energy songs and soft tones, you can keep your mind active whilst driving. Songs like “We Built This City” by Starship offer just the right balance of energy and tone for long distance driving.

Include the classics

Don't Stop Believin' - JourneyWhen considering songs for your playlist, you’ll of course want to include your personal favourites to sing along to but unfortunately not everyone will share the same killer taste in music as you and so it’s best to add in a few classics that everyone will know. The legendary “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey is a great song that people of all ages are sure to know!

Guilt Pleasure

We all have them, those catchy songs that we know word for word but are too embarrassed to ever play in public – that’s right no playlist is complete without a few guilty pleasures! Here at Sykes Cottages HQ there were a few song choices that came to mind but we finally decided on “I Knew You Were Trouble” by Taylor Swift as our true guilty pleasure.

We hope these guidelines have left you feeling inspired and eager to start work on your own driving playlist. If you’re curious to see what we would include on a driving playlist then head over to Spotify and search for “Sykes’ Driving Playlist” to find out what songs made it on to our top ten list!

Unless otherwise stated the images for this blog post were taken from the HMV Digital website.

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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.