Archive for the ‘United Kingdom’ Category

Top Surfing Spots in the UK

Friday, June 7th, 2013
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With all the fantastic weather we’ve been enjoying lately, getting away for the weekend to the beach is high up on my to-do list. A trip to the British seaside doesn’t just mean an ice cream and a bucket and spade these days, but a wealth of great watersports to rival Australia’s gold coast. Yes, the water may be slightly colder than elsewhere but once you’ve got your wetsuit on, you can hardly tell the difference, I promise! Here’s our guide to the UK’s best surf destinations…

Woolacombe, North Devon UK

Fistral Beach, Newquay

…Ideal for surfers of all abilities…

Newquay consistently comes in the top 20 of best global surfing destinations so it’s hardly a surprise that Fistral Beach is packed at the first sign of a decent swell.  Surfing first hit Cornish shores in the 1960s and its popularity shows no signs of abating today.  Fistral is a great place for beginners with lifeguards manning the beach throughout the summer and plenty of fellow surfers on hand to offer advice.  This is also the destination for major surfing competitions attracting pros from across the globe thanks to waves of up to 12 metres high.  If you’re planning a holiday to Newquay, the English Surf School caters to water babies of all abilities with surfing lessons for beginners, body boarding and coasteering available.

Fistral Beach, Newquay, Cornwall

Freshwater West, Pembrokeshire

…Best for experienced surfers…

The Pembrokeshire coast is blessed with some of the UK’s most stunning beaches and great waves to boot.  The sand and rocky beach at Freshwater West, not far from the village of Castlemartin within the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, is no exception.  The strong rip currents just off the beach mean that the consistently good waves here are strictly for experienced surfers.  It’s also the venue for the Welsh National Surfing Championships so it’s ideal for beginners looking for inspiration.  Those who prefer to keep both feet on dry land aren’t left out at Freshwater with a thatched stack used for decades to dry seaweed for making laverbread, a local specialty.

Little Furzenips, Freshwater West

Pease Bay, Scottish Borders

…Good for those ready to brave the cold…

Within easy reach of Edinburgh, the sandy beach at Pease Bay has become popular with surfers of all ages and abilities.  But beware; Scottish water is cold.  If a wetsuit is a good idea in UK waters, it’s without doubt a must if you’re planning a surfing holiday in Scotland even on the warmest of days.  The surf is consistently good here the entire length of the beach so you’ll often be sharing the water with other surfers on a particularly good day.  The area also has golf, cycling and a beautiful nature reserves to tempt you on days when the water is flat.

Surfer @ Pease Bay

Fancy heading to the beach this weekend?  Why not take a look at our coastal cottages for some inspiration for a last minute break.  Just pack your beach towels and suncream and off you go!

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Celebrating Natural Beauty with the UK’s Top Ten Lunch Spots

Friday, May 31st, 2013
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What do Belfast City Hall, Rhosneigr Beach, Bamburgh Castle, and Lower Slaughter have in common? Well these four beauty spots  have this week been voted amongst the top ten places to each lunch in the UK in a competition organized jointly by VisitEngland and Visit Wales, in partnership with Kingsmill.

Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland

Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland topped the list. Via. Flickr

The campaign to discover the nation’s favourite al fresco dining spots was launched following research carried out by Kingsmill, one of the UK’s biggest bread makers, along with the University of Sussex, which found that people’s productivity and levels of positive emotions were influenced by where they had lunched. The research found, unsurprisingly for all of us office workers, that eating outdoors boosted people’s moods and made them happier about going back to work, and that eating at the beach increased happiness the most. Due to this last bit of information, it is unsurprising that seven of the top ten locations chosen overlook water, whether it be a river, the sea or a reservoir.

'Sunlit Marram' - Porth Tyn Tywyn, Anglesey

Rhosneigr Beach, North-West Wales. Via. Flickr

So what are the top ten locations to enjoy lunch outside according to VisitEngland, Visit Wales, and Kingsmill? Check out the list and see if you’re favourite spot has made the grade.

The Top Ten Lunch Spots:

Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland

Belfast City Hall

Blakeney, Norfolk

Box Hill, Surrey

Coast Road, Barrow in Furness, Cumbria

Cow & Calf Rocks, West Yorkshire

Elan Valley Reservoir, Mid-Wales

Lower Slaughter, Cotswolds

Rhosneigr Beach, North-West Wales

Stokes Bay Beach, Hampshire

Each of the winning locations will be honoured with a plaque at the site, as well as a bench on which lunch can be enjoyed. James Berresford, Chief Executive of VisitEngland, summed it up well – “What better way to appreciate this green and pleasant land than to sit in a beautiful spot, unpack a delicious picnic and share lunch with friends and family.” I heartily agree, James!

Calf Rock, West Yorkshire

Calf Rock, West Yorkshire. Via. Flickr

So get out of the office this lunch hour and find your own beauty spot, whether it be one from the list or just a lovely local park, and feel your spirits raise!

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Top National Parks to Visit in the UK

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013
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Last night on ITV a new series about National Parks in the UK began, hosted by actress Caroline Quentin. The three-part series sees Quentin, famed for her roles in hit television shows such as Men Behaving Badly and Jonathan Creek, travelling across the UK, visiting some of the best parks in the UK and learning all about the area from those with a passion for conservation.

It’s over 60 years since our first National Park was created and they remain as stunning and as popular as ever.”  –Caroline Quentin

Inspired by Quentin’s adventures across the majestic National Parks of England, Scotland, and Wales we’ve decided to highlight some of our favourite UK National Parks. So, stop planning that trip abroad for a few minutes and take a look at some of the areas of breathtaking natural beauty that are right here on our doorstep.

Snowdonia National Park – North Wales

Snowdonia National Park - Cader Idris

via. Flickr

Set in the North-West of Wales you’ll find Snowdonia National Park, the first designated National Park in Wales. Here, 832 square miles of rugged beauty is dominated by the towering peak of Mount Snowdon, the highest mountain peak in Wales. With over 6 million visitors a year Snowdonia is the third most visited National Park in England and Wales, but don’t worry that you’ll feel like you’re just one in a million, there’s more than enough room for everyone!

Find out about all that you can do in Snowdonia by downloading Enjoy Snowdonia, the National Park Authority’s new Snowdonia information app.

Looking for accommodation in the park? Take a look at our selection of Snowdonia holiday cottages.

Lake District National Park – North West England

Lake District National Park

via. Flickr

The Lake District is one of the most famous regions of the country, and with good reason. Here you’ll be treated to one of the most beautiful landscapes you’ve ever laid eyes on  – green rolling hills dotted with ancient farm houses, crystal clear waters, and cloud scraping mountains. Whether you’re an outdoor lover, or like to stick closer to civilization, the Lake District has something for you. Head out on the trails around the lakes, or spend your days poking through shops in the quaint towns of Windermere, Kendal, and Keswick.

For all your Lake District info visit Go Lakes, the official Lake District Tourist Board website.

Make your trip a long one and book yourself a great Lake District holiday cottages. We have a great selection to choose from, and all at competitive prices.

Dartmoor National Park – South West England

Early morning on Sharpitor - Dartmoor National Park

via. Flickr

If it’s natural drama that you’re looking for, Dartmoor National Park is the place for you. Sweeping moorlands and granite uplands merge together to create a landscape like no other. Dartmoor is a walkers paradise and the public enjoy extensive access rights throughout the park. This allows visitors to fully explore all of the local tors, standing stones, stone circles, and other historical sites litter throughout the park, as well as maybe getting up close and personal with the resident ponies. Just be careful that you don’t get caught out after dark though, the park is reputedly the haunt of pixies, a headless horseman, a mysterious pack of “spectral hounds”, and a large black dog.

Find out all about the right of way rules for walking throughout the park by visiting the Dartmoor National Park Authority website.

Get away from all of the park ghosts and ghouls by tucking yourself up in a Dartmoor holiday cottage before nightfall, you’ll be happy that you did!

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Celebrate St George’s Day

Monday, April 15th, 2013
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In just over a week’s time, it will be St George’s Day. Unlike our Celtic neighbours who take the celebration of their patron saints very seriously, the commemoration of the man who slayed a dragon to save a fair maiden largely goes under the radar. Here at Sykes Cottages, we’re proud of everything British so we’ve compiled a list of ways to celebrate St George next weekend. With the promise of warmer weather on the way this week, what could be better?
St George's Cross

Festival fun in Leicester

Head to Leicester on Saturday 20th April for a one-day festival of all things English.  The celebrations take place in the city’s Cultural Quarter and are a great day out for the whole family.  Start with a spot of maypole dancing, watch the traditional Morris dancers or take part in the folk ceilidh, suitable for those with two left feet!  If you’re taking the children, hunt hidden dragons across the city or dress up as knight or princess and take part in the festival parade.  The re-enactment of George slaying the dragon promises to be a real highlight!  The Visit Leicester website has all the information you need to plan your trip and is well worth a look before you go.  On St George’s Day itself, nearby Nottingham will commemorate the patron saint with a parade through the city led by George himself.  There’s also traditional music, food and drink to look forward to so you can really make a day of it.

Celebrations in the Capital

There’s plenty going on in the capital to mark St George’s Day this year so if you’re planning a few days in London you won’t be disappointed.  The Mayor of London is holding a feast on Saturday 20th in Trafalgar Square to mark the patron saint.  Visitors can look forward to samples of delicious food, cookery demonstrations and live music as this thirteenth century tradition is a brought up to date for the modern day.  Elsewhere in London, the Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood is hosting a free event aimed at families.  There’ll be a brass band, Morris dancers and a selection of arts and crafts for children to have a go at.  Choose one of our holiday cottages within easy reach of London to enjoy a truly memorable few days away.

Feel patriotic

English Heritage is hosting a number of events across the weekend to commemorate the English patron saint.  From medieval jousting and a Victorian gymkhana at Wrest Park in Bedfordshire to medieval crafts, cookery and a horse show at Dover Castle, there will be something to keep the whole family entertained on your doorstep.  Various National Trust properties, like The Vyne in Basingstoke, are also holding special events this weekend with free entry for all of those who arrive dressed in their very best princess or knight of the realm costume.  We have holiday cottages across the country so wherever you’re planning to spend the St George’s Day weekend, we’re sure to have great holiday accommodation for you.
If this has inspired you to enjoy a few days away, take a look at our holiday cottages available this weekend and start planning a patriotic break; what’s stopping you?  We know we’re a few days early, but Happy St George’s Day from everyone at Sykes Cottages!

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Sykes Cottages Spotlight on Stratford-upon-Avon

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013
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The picturesque town of Stratford-upon-Avon is an ancient market town in Warwickshire with over 800 years of history to explore. With its fascinating history and high theatrical pedigree, as well as the beautiful River Avon and top-class dining, Stratford-upon-Avon is without a doubt one of the most delightful places in England to visit.

Here are some of our favourite things to do and see while visiting Stratford-upon-Avon.

Get Up Close and Personal with ‘The Bard’

William Shakespeare (1564–1616)

Via. Flickr

It’s hard to think about England, and more specifically Stratford-upon-Avon, without thinking about Shakespeare. The world famous playwright has become synonymous with his birthplace and the town has well and truly embraced their famous son. It’s near on impossible to visit Stratford without taking in some history of The Bard, whether this be at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, the Royal Shakespeare Company, at his final resting place, or the family home of his future bride, Anne Hathaway.

On April 20th the town will be celebrating the 449th birthday of The Bard in a manner that only his hometown could. A full day of events are planned, with everything from stage fighting and theatre movement demonstrations, to sonnet recitation on the Avon and music in the theatre, there is a way for everyone to celebrate the birthday of the famous playwright. Visit the Royal Shakespeare Company website for full details.

For the Love of Books – Stratford Literary Festival

Stratford Literary Festival

Although this literary festival is only six years old as of 2013, it is quickly becoming one of the UK’s top outings for the bookish set. This year’s festival isn’t too far away, running from Sunday, 21st April to Sunday, 5th May, 2013.
If you’ve never been to a literary festival before you might not quite know what to expect, and no it isn’t just a bunch of people wearing cardigans and reading glasses browsing through book stores. At this year’s Stratford festival you’ll find a wide selection of events, with everything from book and poetry readings, to writing workshops and social issue debates.

The full festival events calendar can be perused on the Stratford-upon-Avon Literary Festival website, with tickets sold through the Civic Hall box office.

Much Ado About Eating

The Garrick Inn, Stratford upon Avon

Via. Flickr

It isn’t all about literature and ancient history when visiting Stratford-upon-Avon though. The city is filled to the brim with great pubs, quaint tea-rooms, and elegant restaurants, making the choice of just where to eat dinner a welcomed dilemma.

For a quick bite for lunch or an afternoon pick-me-up we recommend heading to the Fourteas, a 1940’s themed tea room that is owned and operated by local couple Ian and Rachael, who met while stage managing shows at the Royal Shakespeare Company. Here you can choose from a wide selection of ethically sourced teas, old-fashioned sandwiches, and homemade cakes and pastries. For something a bit more substantial head to Sheep Street and choose from any one of the highly rated restaurants there, including Vintner, Lambs Restaurant, or Grants of Sheep Street.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that Stratford-upon-Avon is just a tourist town and not worth the visit. With its beautiful old architecture and picturesque location along the banks of the River Avon, never mind its historical significance and world-class cultural events, it would be a shame to miss it. There are regular trains from London Marylebone and with a travel time of only two hours there really is no excuse to not pop over for a visit.

If you fancy staying a little bit longer (and you really should) Sykes Cottages have a great selection of self-catering cottages in the Stratford-upon-Avon area, ranging from romantic cottages for two, to cottages large enough to accommodate the whole family, including the dog!

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