Archive for the ‘Travel Tips’ Category

How to take better holiday photographs

Thursday, July 31st, 2014
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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.

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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.

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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.

Surviving a Long Car Journey with Children

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014
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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!


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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.

UK Travel Guide for Overseas Visitors

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014
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Are you planning on visiting the UK this summer but have no idea where to start when it comes to finalising the details of your trip? Well don’t worry as Sykes Cottages have put together a short travel guide to Britain aimed at visitors from abroad. Read on for our hints, tips and suggestions on how to make the most of your time in the UK.

When to visit

British countryside

Via Flickr

Unlike other countries, the UK is a great tourist destination all year round. However, July and August, at the height of the British summer, are undoubtedly the most popular times to visit and as this coincides with the UK school holidays, this is when places are at their busiest. If you want to visit during the summer, it’s a good idea to plan your visit during June or September when the weather is still good but attractions are quieter. Other busy periods include Christmas, New Year, Easter and bank holidays. You can find a comprehensive list of bank holidays across the UK here.

The weather and what to pack


Via Flickr

The UK is well known for its unpredictable weather and you should try to pack for every eventuality. The weather is generally quite mild and so there’s no need to go to extremes, but travellers should definitely consider packing everything from an umbrella and waterproof jacket, to sunglasses and sunscreen.

Public transport and ways to get around

British Train

Via Flickr

Public transport in the UK is relatively good and trains in particular are a great way to travel around; you can get a train to almost anywhere in the UK. For more information about trains in Britain, head to the National Rail website. Another thing that you may want to consider looking into is a BritRail pass. These passes are available to anyone who is not a UK resident and once bought, provide you with unlimited travel on trains across Britain. You can find more information on the BritRail website. If you’re just travelling around London, you should look at buying at Visitor’s Oyster Card, which is a plastic smartcard that works on a pay as you go system and is by far one of the cheapest and quickest ways to travel around London.  If you’re not keen on public transport and are planning on renting a car in the UK, it’s worth noting that you will usually be given a manual car unless you request an automatic, which are generally more expensive.

Things we do differently:

Road signs

Via Flickr

  • Plugs. We Brits have our very own plugs that differ from the rest of Europe. Our plugs have three pins that are shaped like a triangle and so visitors from abroad will need to remember to buy a plug adaptor for their electrical items.
  • We drive on the left hand side of the road. This is obviously extremely important to remember if you’re planning on driving whilst you’re in the UK but it’s also of the upmost importance to pedestrians, who may be used to checking the opposite direction before they cross the road.
  • We calculate speed in miles per hour and our speed limits may be different to that of other countries. You can check out the speed limits here and you will able to see the speed limit for each road when you’re driving by looking at signposts.

Where to stay

Holiday cottage in Yorkshire

Croft View, Yorkshire, Ref. 6735

We may be biased but we think that there’s no better way to experience the UK than by staying in a self-catering cottage amongst locals. If you’re planning a trip to the UK and you’d like to see how we can help, you can visit our website or give our dedicated reservations specialists a call on +441244 356 695. If you’re worried about your phone bill, avoid charges and let us call you by entering your details here.

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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.

Sykes’ Guide to London: What to do, what to eat & how to get around

Monday, June 23rd, 2014
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If you’re heading to Wimbledon over the next fortnight, you’ll probably want to explore the rest of our capital city. But with so much to do in London, where do you begin? Well, no need to worry as we’ve written up a short guide on where to eat, how to get around and a few things that you can get up to during your time in The Big Smoke.

Travelling around London

London Barclays Hire Scheme Bikes

Image via Flickr

Whether you plan on riding the underground, grabbing a cab, hiring a bike or just using your feet and walking, one of the fantastic things about London is how easy it is to travel via public transport. The tube is probably the fastest way to get around, although this means missing out on seeing all that London has to offer! Alternatively, if you want the full tourist experience of London, why not hop on one of those famous red buses or hail down a black taxi cab? This way you can travel through the city whilst also taking in some of the views.

Tourist tip: Buy a visitors Oyster card before you arrive to save time and money. Also, remember to stand to the right of escalators to allow people to get past on the left!

For an eco-friendly way to travel, why not make use of the Barclays Cycle Hire scheme and rent a bike? With bike docking stations located throughout the city and charges from just £2 per day, it’s an affordable way to travel around London! If you don’t have a destination in mind, you could even follow one of Transport for London’s leisurely cycle routes. Even more inexpensive and eco-friendly is just giving your legs a stretch and walking. London is one of the best cities for those travelling by foot due to its wide footpaths and frequent pedestrian crossings.

Did you know: The blue bicycles of the Barclays Cycle Hire scheme are referred to as ‘Boris Bikes’ after London Mayor Boris Johnson.

Things to Do in London

With over 240 museums, over 100 theatres (around 40 on the West End) and a host of iconic attractions, you’ll never be short of things to do in London! If you only have a short amount of time to explore but want to take in a few museums then head to South Kensington where you’ll find the Science Museum, the V&A and the Natural History Museum just a short distance from each other. If you’re a fan of checking out all of the typical tourist attractions that a city has to offer then you will be in your element in London. Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge, The London Eye, The Shard, The Houses of Parliament and Big Ben are just some of the many iconic buildings that call London home.

Tower Bridge in London

Image via Flickr

Tourist tip: Whilst most museums are free, it’s worth taking a look at any temporary exhibitions. They will most likely have a charge but if you’re interested in the subject it will definitely be worth it.  

It goes without saying that London doesn’t stop when it gets dark and there is no need to retire to bed once the museums are closed as there is as much to do in the evening as there is in the day! London’s West End is the place to go if you want to experience a fantastic musical or performance. From classic shows such as Wicked and The Lion King to new favourites like Shrek The Musical and the fantastic The Book of Mormon, there’s bound to be a show that everyone can enjoy!

Did you know: Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap is the longest running of any play in history. The show premièred on the 6th October 1952.

Where to Eat in London

In a city as culturally diverse as London, it’s no surprise that you can find any cuisine that your rumbling stomach desires. Whether you want a sit down meal somewhere luxurious, a family friendly meal in a chain restaurant or you just want to grab something quick, you will be spoilt for choice in London. The city is also home to a range of innovative restaurants that offer diners something a little different alongside their meal. If you’d like to be in full control of ordering your food, Inamo in Soho has an interactive system where diners can peruse the menu and order from a projection on their table. For a fun family meal, Rainforest Cafe in Piccadilly Circus will delight the children with its rainforest décor and sounds. Boasting amazing views of London and a luxuriously indulgent menu, why not treat yourself to a meal at Duck & Waffle, which is located on the 40th floor of Heron Tower.

A box of Laduree Macroons

Image via Flickr

Tourist Tip: Dining out in London can be expensive, particularly in the evening. Look out for set menus or other dining offers that can reduce the cost.

It’s not only in its array of savoury dining experiences that London excels at; it also has an impressive number of places to grab a quick dessert or a box of something sweet to take away. If you’re a fan of macaroons then popping into Ladurée in Covent Garden is a must for a box to take home. On a hot day, nothing is better than heading into one of London’s many frozen yoghurt shops and leaving with a cold, sweet treat!  Popular shops include Snog and Pinkberry.

Did you know: London’s oldest fish and chip shop, Rock and Sole Plaice, has been open since 1871.

Although this guide barely touches the surface of all that London has to offer, we hope that you have found it useful. We’d love to know your favourite things to get up to in London so tell us on twitter or facebook!


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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 Watch The World Cup When on Holiday

Thursday, June 12th, 2014
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If you’re heading to Bournemouth rather than Brazil for your holiday this year and are worried how you’ll manage to squeeze in all of the upcoming World Cup matches, don’t fret; we have a few ideas to ensure that you can enjoy the best of both worlds when holidaying here in the UK.

Book a Holiday Cottage with a TV

Holiday Property with Television in North Wales

Y Stabal in Trawsfynydd in North Wales
Property reference: 4120

Nothing is more exciting than being in a football stadium. From the moment the teams first appear to the wail of the final whistle, football matches are full of excitement. But never fear, as this feeling is certainly one that you can replicate on holiday. Get some snacks, your favourite drink and put your team’s shirt on then settle down in front of the television for ninety minutes of football fun! Most of our holiday cottages have televisions, so you can play manager and shout at the players from the comfort of the cottage’s couch.

Watch the World Cup Outside

Secret Cinema in London Fields

Image via Flickr

As much as we would like it to, it’s doubtful that our weather will rival that of Sao Paulo, but that shouldn’t put you off heading outside and watching a game on one of the large outdoor screens dotted about the UK! You can soak up the atmosphere of the game whilst feeling the refreshing breeze of the Great British weather and if you’re really lucky the sun may even make an appearance. Outdoor screens such as Millennium Square in Leeds and Brighton’s Big Screen are screening various World Cup Matches where you can head along and show your support for the England team!

Book a Holiday Cottage Near a Pub

Inside of a pub screening sports scores

Image via Flickr

Football and beer go together like bread and butter, so what better place to watch a football match than at the pub! Not only will the atmosphere be electric, the banter will be terrific and it’s a fantastic excuse to sample some local ale. To fit this in with your holiday plan, why not book a holiday cottage located near a pub? We have over 2,000 properties within walking distance of the nearest watering hole so you won’t need to travel far to support your team along with fellow fans. And it’s much closer than Brazil!

Book a Last Minute Holiday Cottage

The World Cup may begin tonight but it’s still not late to book a last minute cottage so that you can watch the World Cup whilst also enjoying a family holiday. Take a look at our last minute property page or call our team on 01244 356695 who will be more than happy to find a suitable property for you that will combine your love of football with your love of holidays!

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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.