Archive for the ‘Travel Tips’ Category

Uncovering the UK’s Hidden Gems

Friday, August 15th, 2014
Pin It

When considering UK attractions, our thoughts are instantly turned to well known tourist traps such as The Tower of London, Hadrian’s Wall and Stonehenge, but throughout Britain there are a number of overshadowed attractions tucked into reclusive corners and quietly delighted visitors who have stumbled off the beaten track to find them.

To help you discover these hidden gems which are dotted around the UK, Sykes Cottages have put together the following infographic which highlights a number of alternative attractions for you to visit this year. Sykes-Hidden-Gems-final


Uncovering the UK’s Hidden Gems

Forget the usual tourist traps and delve a little deeper to discover some of the UK’s lesser-known treasures. Some are hidden away, while others can easily be missed, so here’s a handy guide to help you uncover these secret attractions.

The Crannog Centre Perthshire

Located on the shores of Loch Tay, the Crannog Centre offers visitors the chance to step inside an authentic replica of a Crannog, an Iron Age loch dwelling dating back to 2,500BC.

Discover the story of Scotland’s ancient tribes, and experience first-hand how they would have lived at this unique visitor centre in the midst of the stunning Scottish Highlands.

Barter Books Northumberland

More than just a bookshop, this magical spot occupies a magnificent Victorian railway station in the heart of Northumberland.

As well as being one of Europe’s largest secondhand bookshops and a focal point for artists and literary enthusiasts, it’s also where the now world famous ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ poster first emerged.

Rievaulx Abbey Yorkshire

What was once the wealthiest abbey in England is now a majestic ruin in a secluded spot within the North York Moors National Park.

If you’re after peace and tranquillity, then this is a wonderful place to escape the crowds whilst learning about the Abbey’s past.

Port Sunlight Merseyside

Built by British industrialist William Hesketh Lever in 1888, Port Sunlight was originally used to house Hesketh’s workers, who produced the popular soap, Sunlight.

Now thought of as an attractive model village, this charming Merseyside suburb became a conservation area in 1978 and is home to over 900 grade II listed buildings. Explore the village on foot, stopping by the Lady Lever Art Gallery and museum on the way, and if you’re visiting in summer, be sure to enjoy a picnic on the village green.

Canterbury Tales Kent

Get under the skin of the city’s most famous literary export, Geoffrey Chaucer, with a visit to Canterbury Tales, a unique recreation of medieval life.

Experience the sights, sounds and smells of Chaucer’s timeless tales as you journey back to the 14th century, before enjoying an enchanting adaptation at the centre’s open-air theatre.

Bounce Below Gwynedd

Tucked away underground, Bounce Below is well worth discovering if jumping around on huge trampolines in a 200 x 60 foot cavern is your idea of fun.

This thrilling attraction also features giant walkways, slides, and a technicolour light display which illuminates a space twice the size of St Paul’s Cathedral.

Pin It

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.

A Local’s Guide to the Delights of Hidden Suffolk

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014
Pin It

Born and bred in the sleepy agricultural county of Suffolk – where a spillage of onions leaves the county in turmoil – I, like many more before me, spent most of my youth dreaming of escape to the bright lights of a big city.

Since departing from my home town, I find myself with a woeful bout of the ‘grass ain’t always greener’ syndrome; pining after those lazy summer days in my beloved county, Suffolk.

This coveted corner of the country offers more opportunity to explore its low-lying heathlands and award winning coastline due to it being in one of the driest areas of the UK (you don’t know you got it good ‘til it’s gone!). With an array of quaint villages steeped in history, there is plenty to explore coastal or country, and of course an abundance of pubs stocking the many famed county brews and bitters. The native Suffolk folk, proud of their heritage, are busy building the foundations of their county town Ipswich, as a cultural hub for all things local and Independent.

So heed my advice as a cynical child of Suffolk, on the top haunts in the county, the crème de la crème of East Anglia, as there’s truly no place like home…

Did I hear ‘Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty’?


Image via Flickr

As a glass-half-empty kind of girl, I don’t coin the phrase ‘outstanding’ very often but when it comes to British coastal lines, there are some secret spots in Suffolk that are deserving of this accolade. One great example is the village of Walberswick, previously home to the annual British Open Crabbing Championships; it hosts one of the best beaches in Suffolk. On a warm summer’s day you could be forgiven for believing you are in the South of France, as you soak up the sun amongst billowing reeds and sand dunes. For a quintessentially British seaside town, you don’t get much better than Aldeburgh. Enjoy the best fish and chips in Suffolk whilst strolling along the pebbled shoreline, or explore the many independent boutiques and eateries.

Daytime activities

Image via Flikr

Image via Flickr

Thorpeness is a wacky little village characterized by mock-Tudor buildings, a Peter-Pan inspired boating lake and a house in the sky. The boating lake has an array of rowing boats and other craft available to rent, so visitors can moor and explore the little islands dotted around the lake. Other great family days out in the area can be found at Jimmy’s Farm, home to many rare breeds of animals, with a restaurant, farm shop and kids petting zoo with activities on offer such as den-building and fishing.

Top eats in Suffolk

Image via Flikr

Image via Flickr

As a self-confessed foodie, I have been fortunate enough to eat my way around most of the restaurants in Ipswich and the surrounding areas. So for fine dining and cocktails, I suggest you head to Neptune Marina in central Ipswich. Benefiting from extensive refurbishments, the Marina provides an array of cuisines and fabulous independent restaurants. Try the mid-week set menu at The Waterfront, or head to Aurora (the infamous tented building) for sumptuous cocktails, fine dining and panoramic views.

For refuelling after a romp around the countryside, head to The British Larder on the outskirts of Woodbridge; dedicated to serving great-tasting locally sourced food. Dog-lovers rejoice, as not only is it surrounded by top dog walking spots, your furry friend is welcome inside too!

Events to look out for

Suffolk offers a plethora of different events and festivals through-out the year, including regular events such as farmers markets and dog shows. During the summer months there are events on nearly every weekend, here are a few of the best events, with an idea of when you can catch them…

  • The Suffolk Show (May)
  • The Maritime Festival (August)
  • Aldeburgh Carnival (August)
  • Framlingham Sausage Fest (October)
  • Christmas Tree Festival (November)

Visit Suffolk with Sykes Cottages


Image from property 28158

Image from property 28158

Sykes Cottages have a great selection of properties in Suffolk, many of them located within close proximity to top attractions. This fabulous self-catering cottage is located close to Aldeburgh and Thorpeness, making an ideal base for exploring the surrounding areas. Many more like this can be found under Suffolk Holiday Cottages page, so take a look and book your escape to Suffolk today!

Pin It
Lucy Butchart

By Lucy Butchart

Self-confessed ‘foodie’ Lucy, loves nothing more than spending her time trying out restaurants, cooking up a storm in the Kitchen and sampling cocktails. From growing up in Suffolk, Lucy has a great knowledge of East Anglia and is starting to grasp the North East from her recent move to Newcastle

Best Apps for Your Family Holiday

Saturday, August 2nd, 2014
Pin It

If you’re heading off on holiday soon and you want to fill up your smartphone or tablet with useful apps as well as the fun ones then you’re in the right place! Whilst many people consider family holidays to be a smartphone and tablet free zone, with a few carefully selected applications downloaded, your handheld device needn’t be a holiday hindrance, it can in fact be a holiday helper!

Best Apps for Local Information

Tripadvisor Application

Image via Flickr

If your family holiday involves days in the great outdoors then stay three steps ahead of the weather by keeping up to date with the forecast by downloading the Met Office weather app. Along with keeping up to date with the weather forecast, when going to a new place it is always a good idea to keep some kind of navigation to hand, to ease the stresses of journeys around unknown roads. Now a few years back we would have suggested a compass but times have changed and these days the Google Maps application is a far more popular choice! Tripadvisor is another useful application, as not only can you see what’s nearby but you can also read what other customers thought!

Best Apps for Entertainment


Image via Flickr

We go on holiday for fun and whilst we often have a full itinerary planned ahead it is always a good idea to have some back-up entertainment handy, should the occasion arise! This is where apps such as Netflix, Spotify and ITV Player come in; catch up on your favourite TV shows whilst waiting to head out and put on a fun family friendly Spotify playlist when you are out and about.

Best Apps for Keeping The Kids Entertained

Educational Yet Fun Games to Keep Children Entertained

Image via Flickr

If you’re on a long journey and all of our tips for keeping children entertained aren’t working out, it might be time to bring out the big guns; yes, I’m talking about child friendly applications. Apps that your little ones will love don’t have to be wasted time, either – download a couple of educational yet fun games and your children will be happy and so will you! Games such as How to Draw, Cbeebies Playtime and Lego Juniors Create & Cruise are just some of the educational games that your children will absolutely love!

Best Apps for Things to Do


Image via Flickr

Your holiday cottage is (of course) fantastic, the weather is great and you know that you need to head out to explore but if you’re not too sure of the area or what there is to do then deciding can be a bit of a pickle! Apps such as the National Trust, AA Days Out Guide and Garmin’s OpenCaching can come in handy when you’re stuck for inspiration of what to do or where to go!

Best Apps for Recipes

Image via Flickr

When you’re heading on a self catering holiday you probably don’t want to be spending hours cooped up in the kitchen, (although there are some lovely ones about), but it would be a shame to miss out on creating something delicious with the local produce. Apps such as Jamie’s 20 Minute Meals, Philadelphia Recipes and Change 4 Life Smart Recipes each contain a number of healthy, family friendly recipes that everyone will enjoy – and the bonus, is that they’re all pretty easy to make! Now that you have some ideas of the best apps around, why not book yourself a self catering holiday with Sykes Cottages? You could even book using the Sykes Cottages smartphone app!

Pin It
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 take better holiday photographs

Thursday, July 31st, 2014
Pin It

Holidays mean different things to different people. For some, they’re about discovering new cultures, unearthing ancient history and indulging in fine local cuisine; whilst for others, they’re a chance to lounge on the beach, read a few chapters from a book, and do very little. But whatever you get up to on holiday, one thing’s for sure: you’re bound to take at least a few holiday photographs.

Whether you’re a snap-happy amateur or a kitted-out professional, capturing your holiday is important. To help you rookies take holiday pictures you’ll be proud of, we’ve created a handy guide on how to take better holiday photographs- check it out below.

Copy and paste the code below onto your website to share with your readers

How to take better holiday photographs

So you’ve shepherded your loved ones into a neat cluster on the banks of Windermere and are poised to capture the moment on your camera or smartphone; but how can you ensure that you’ll be proud of the end result? Here at Sykes Cottages, we know how important it is to capture your holiday, so here’s our guide to taking the perfect holiday photograph.


Before raising your camera, try to work out where the light is coming from. Usually you’ll want the light to hit the front of your subject, not the back.

Follow the Rule of Thirds

For more visually pleasing photographs, use the rule of thirds; divide the frame into three horizontally and vertically (your camera should have a setting to do this for you), then position your subject at or near the intersection of any two lines.

Move Around

Think a picture of your pooch will look good from your angle? Of course it will, but you can improve your snaps by moving around to ensure that you’re always at the best angle for capturing your subject.

Capture the Moment

The best moments aren’t choreographed, so have your camera on hand at all times when you’re out and about to ensure that you capture the moments that matter.

If you love taking pictures, have a play with your camera’s settings. Adjusting ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed can transform samey snaps into genuinely great photos that you’ll be proud to show to your friends and family. Here’s a quick guide to get you started.


If your subject is still and there’s plenty of light, lower your ISO.

If your subject is moving, it’s dark or you don’t have a tripod, use a higher ISO.


The larger the opening of the lens, the more light gets in, the blurrier the background.

The smaller the opening of the lens, the less light gets in, the sharper the background.

Shutter Speed

Slow shutter speed: Use a slow shutter speed to give a sense of movement, like capturing the flow of water

Fast shutter speed: Use a fast shutter speed to freeze movement, to make a moving object appear still.

Pin It
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.

Surviving a Long Car Journey with Children

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014
Pin It

Apparently ‘getting there is half the fun’, well on a long car journey with excited children in the back, many parents may disagree. This is why we’ve come up with a few nifty ideas that will help you survive that car journey to your holiday cottage without even a peep of ‘are we there yet?’

Have Healthy Snacks Handy

Healthy Snacks

image via Flickr

Children and adults can both be pretty vocal when it comes to being hungry, with many of us getting grumpy and agitated when there is no food about. Be prepared by bringing some healthy snacks along for the journey such as fruit, cereal bars and cartons of juice/bottles of water. These snacks will help keep hunger at bay and put a halt on any urges to head to the fast food queue when stopping at a service station!

Put on a Child Friendly Playlist

Children love  singing along to their favourite songs, and of course, so do adults! A good playlist is about as important as a tank of petrol if you ask me and as we know how difficult it can be to create a playlist that includes songs everyone can enjoy, we’ve done it for you. So take a listen to our playlist, turn the volume up and get singing!

Make a Stop

Image of a bench and trees, the ideal place to stop off on a long journey.

image via Flickr

Making a stop on long journeys is really important not only for children, but also for the driver! It is an ideal chance for everyone to stretch their legs, nip for a bathroom break and just get some fresh air. Don’t just limit your stops to service stations however; you could stop off for lunch at a nice family friendly country pub, go somewhere for a walk in the countryside or even schedule your break at an attraction on the way? Everyone will have a great time, it will really split up the journey and it’s a great excuse to visit somewhere new that you may not have taken the time to visit before.

Keep Children Entertained

Sykes Cottages Activity Print Out for Children on Long Journeys

click on the image to see it full sized and to print it out

If you have a baby in the car, it is a great idea to keep a few of their favourite toys in the front with you to save you from fumbling about on the car floor should your little one drop their toys. These days it can be all too easy to pass older children an iPad or a tablet, but an even better idea is to give them something fun to do that involves a little more than just swiping a screen. Word search style activities and eye spy may sound a little boring to some, but at Sykes Cottages we think that keeping a look out for things on a journey can not only make the time go by faster but will also help in building up the excitement of arriving at your destination! To saveyou time, we’ve created a nifty little activity sheet for you to print out and pass to your children, or even keep for yourself (We won’t tell…)

We hope that some of these ideas will help you in keeping your little ones entertained on your next car journey. Do you have any tried and tested methods of keeping children entertained on long car journeys? We’d love to hear them so feel free to leave us a tweet or tell us on Facebook!


Pin It
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.