Archive for the ‘Wales’ Category

Sykes’ Spotlight on the South Wales Valleys

Monday, September 16th, 2013
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With the white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters of Anglesey, bustling city of Cardiff and the stunning Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, there are numerous reasons why Wales is such a popular holiday destination. Add in the fantastic food, friendly locals and real sense of history and it’s easy to see why our holiday cottages in Wales attract holidaymakers throughout the year.  Often overlooked are the South Welsh Valleys, communities which grew up around the coal mining industry and today painted as grey towns and villages where unemployment is high, a stereotype not helped by a recent TV show.  So while the Valleys may not automatically spring to mind as a holiday destination, I guarantee that you’ll find stunning scenery to rival that anywhere else in Wales, a wealth of attractions and the friendliest welcome you could ever hope to have. Here’s what not to miss on your holiday to South Wales…

Rhondda Valley, Wales

History and heritage

For a community so dependent on mining, it’s obvious that the industry has left an enduring legacy within the valleys.  The Rhondda Heritage Park is a great place to start exploring the area’s mining history with an underground tour to give you a taste of life as a miner; you’ll even get to ride the cage to the bottom of the pit.  Back above ground, you’ll find a reconstruction of a village street which shows domestic life during the industry’s peak.  As if you needed convincing of the spirit in these parts, a further example of the strong community vibe is in the area’s music.  Home to Tom Jones, this area’s contribution to the music scene has long been sealed but for a more authentic experience, be sure to make a date with a Male Voice Choir.  Choirs have been popular in the Valleys for more than 150 years and you’ll see why as soon as the first few lines of Cwm Rhondda are sung; this is spine-tingling stuff.

Drams at Lewis Merthyr

Action-packed holidays in South Wales

It’s a given that the Valleys are a natural playground for sporting enthusiasts.  From cycling to hill walking and even paragliding, the breathtaking landscape only serves to heighten any activity you undertake here.  The view from above is really the best way to appreciate just how beautiful the valleys are.  Marvel at the intensely green valleys, multicoloured rows of terraced houses and the scars the coal industry has left behind as you soar above.  I was initially surprised to find out that paragliding is just one of the activities on offer here but you’ll find that the Valleys will surprise you again and again.  If you’d rather keep two feet on the ground at all times, how about taking part in the annual Wales Valleys Walking Festival.  The ninth festival is on now and runs until 22nd September promising something for walkers of all abilities from challenging all day treks to gentle strolls and special interest walks.

Ogmore Castle

Plan a holiday to the South Wales Valleys

Has this got you thinking about a holiday to the South Wales Valleys?  If so, why not take a look at our fantastic selection of holiday cottages throughout South Wales?  You can browse online or call one of our holiday cottage advisors on 01244 356695; we’re open until 9.30pm seven days a week!

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A taste of adventure in North Wales

Monday, September 2nd, 2013
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North Wales. Famous for its 800 square mile national park, innumerable castles, the Italianate village of Portmeirion and first marital home of Wills and Kate. But North Wales is a good deal more than leisurely walks and stunning views, here we showcase some of the most heart-pumping ways to see the northern most region of Wales. Thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies read on…

North Wales Lake

Fly through the trees

Ever thought about what it would be like to swing through the trees like a character from the Jungle Book?  You need not imagine any longer with a Tree Top Adventure in Snowdonia.  Grab a harness and helmet and navigate through a variety of obstacles including rope bridges, zip wires and balance beams through the tree tops.  You could also try the Sky Ride, Europe’s highest and first ever five person swing, which takes you to 80ft over the ground and offers unmissable, breathtaking views of the Conwy valley.  Planning a holiday to North Wales with the family?  Your little ones will not miss out here with a tree tops course specially designed for children aged between 4 and 8 years old and can even be completed in wet weather!

Make a splash

As soon as you set foot into Llangollen, you’ll be greeted with all the hallmarks of a quintessentially sedate market town; pretty stone-built cottages, a steam train slowly making its way through the wooded countryside and a multitude of independent shops lining the high street.  But this sedate facade belies the heart pounding activities available.  White Water Tubing UK offer tubing and rafting trips navigating the thrills, spills and tumbling rapids of the River Dee.  Paddle furiously through the rapids, meander gently on calm sections of river as you take in the peaceful surroundings on this 4km stretch of river all under the watchful eye of experienced and friendly guides.  White water tubing comes highly recommended by staff here at Sykes Cottages!



Life in the fast lane

Once home to the largest slate quarry in the world, Penrhyn Quarry near Bethesda is today the proud holder of a much more exhilarating accolade; the longest and fastest zip line in Europe.  Given the fact that zip lines were first erected here to extract rock, it seems perfectly fitting that now part of the quarry has been decommissioned, the zip lines have remained part of the landscape here.  Zip World Snowdonia offers participants an unbeatable bird’s eye view of the working quarry, the piercingly blue lake and the surrounding area, it’s even possible to catch a glimpse of the Isle of Man on a clear day.  So what’s in store?  You’ll be strapped into a harness, don a pair of goggles and assume the zip lining position as you reach speeds of 100mph more than 500ft in the air.  This is sightseeing with a difference!

If we’ve given you a taste for an action-packed trip to North Wales, why not take a look at our holiday cottages?  Our great selection of North Wales cottages guarantees something for everyone and as we’re based just over the border in Chester, our friendly team of holiday cottage advisors have a wealth of local recommendations to share.

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Sykes’ Spotlight on Hay-on-Wye

Monday, May 13th, 2013
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While the small town of Hay-on-Wye may be known as the ‘Town of Books’, this borderland town offers a wealth of attractions for the holidaymaker, book lover or not. Here’s our guide to this small but charming town located in the very north of the Brecon Beacons National Park.


Find a holiday cottage in Hay-on-Wye


Curl up with a good book on holiday

No mention of Hay-on-Wye would be complete without reference to the town’s literary connections.  The town itself has more than thirty second-hand bookshops, that’s a human to shop ratio of about 50:1, making it the perfect place to rummage around for that prized first edition.  The town comes alive in early summer when thousands of bookworms descend for the famous literary festival.  This year’s Hay Festival begins on 23rd June and promises 11 days of talks and workshops covering topics from science through to philosophy and everything in between.  In addition to literary favourites such as Quentin Blake, Irvine Welsh and Caitlin Moran, there is also a walking festival and a wealth of children’s activities from cooking to vocal coaching.

Make-do book shop in Hay-on-Wye

Experience the great outdoors from your holiday cottage

Given that Hay-on-Wye lies in the Brecon Beacons National Park, it comes as little surprise that the surrounding area is equally fantastic for those looking for an active break.  Offa’s Dyke, a 177 mile national trail, passes through Hay-on-Wye and offers keen walkers an opportunity to walk on a path with more than 1200 years of history.  The National Park Authority arranges guided walks suitable for all abilities through the Brecons and the area is also popular with mountain bikers.  You can even try your hand at gorge walking and hang gliding from the Hay Bluff!  For budding astronomers, the National Park is also one of the only dark sky reserves in the world; where better to train your telescope on a dark night and relax under a blanket of stars?  You could also take a look at our selection of cottages in the Brecon Beacons, ideally located for an active holiday.

brecon beacons, wales

Great days out near Hay-on-Wye

It’s not just old and dusty books you’ll find in Hay-on-Wye but a number of crumbling castles and pretty churches just a short drive away from the town.  Arthur’s Stone is a fantastic family day for those with an active imagination.  This Neolithic burial chamber is more than 5000 years old and is said that King Arthur slew a giant here.  Given Hay’s position on the English and Welsh border, it’s little wonder that this area has seen a very bloody history.  Very little remains of the town’s castle today but the habitable sections are today the home of numerous second-hand books; what better marriage of history and books in this literary town?

Hay Castle

Inspired to make the literary pilgrimage to Hay for the festival?  Why not take a look at our holiday cottages which are perfectly located for the festival and the surrounding borderlands.  You could even choose the aptly-named Poet’s Corner for your holiday to Hay!

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Sykes’ Spotlight on Anglesey

Monday, March 25th, 2013
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At just 276 square miles, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the Isle of Anglesey which lies just off the tip of North Wales was simply an extension of the mainland. But, as soon as you cross the impressive Menai Bridge which links Anglesey to North Wales, you’ll truly feel like you’ve entered a new country. I was lucky enough to enjoy a cottage holiday on Anglesey last week and here is my pick of how to make the most of your time on this wonderful island.
Oh No!  Not Another Menai Bridge Photograph

Discover Beaumaris

Beaumaris is one of the most popular places on Anglesey and it’s no surprise given the wealth of attractions in easy walking distance of the car park.  The 1295 castle built by King Edward I dominates the town and combined with the castles of Harlech, Conwy and Caernarfon are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  A stroll down the recently restored Victorian pier gives great views across the Menai Straits to north Wales even when we visited on the coldest of days!  Imagine life as a nineteenth century prisoner in Beaumaris Gaol where you can descend into the darkness of the punishment cell.  Elsewhere in Beaumaris, there are a great range of eateries and shops selling traditional Welsh fare to keep everyone entertained.
Beaumaris Castle 01

Visit Newborough Forest

Newborough Forest has to be one of my favourite places on the island.  The forest is located in the far south west of Anglesey not too far from Aberffraw, home of the legendary scallop-shaped biscuits.  Colour-marked routes, suitable for bikes and buggies, wind through the forest of seemingly sky high Corsican pines over gentle sand dunes.  Once you emerge from the forest you’re presented with a huge expanse of golden sand and gently rolling waves.  Llanddwyn beach is completely unspoilt and boasts staggering views of Snowdonia even on a wintry day.  Nearby is the church of Dwynwen, the patron saint of lovers, who lived here in the fifth century.  If you’re looking to get away from it all on holiday, this is the place to do it.  Later in the year when the weather improves I can imagine spending hours sunbathing and paddling here and on the other Blue Flag beaches like Trearddur Bay that Anglesey has to offer.

Explore on two wheels

My favourite way to explore a new place is by bike; the feeling of the wind in your hair and the fantastic views just can’t be beaten.  Families and those new to cycling should try the Lôn Las Cefni for 13 miles of virtually flat tracks which connects the two national cycle routes which cross Anglesey.  For more experienced cyclists looking for a challenge, the 34 mile Copper Trail on the northern coast is ideal.  It’s best to start this circular route at Llynnon Mill or Llanerchymedd where you’ll find ample car parking.  The trail promises (and delivers) breathtaking coastal views and centuries of Anglesey history in just a few hours.  Discover the only remaining 17th century thatched cottage at the Swtan Heritage Museum in Church Bay and visit the only working windmill in Wales at Llynnon where you can purchase a bag of freshly ground flour, all from the comfort of your bike.  Explore the red and orange landscape of Amlwch and Parys Mountain, widely known as the Copper Kingdom as this area was one of the world’s most important mining centres in the 18th century.  More information about cycling on Anglesey can be found by clicking here.

From a coastal path with dramatic views at every turn to excellent family attractions, there’s even more on Anglesey for a fantastic holiday.  Why not take a look at our Anglesey and North Wales cottages or call our friendly holiday cottage advisors, until 9.30pm seven days a week to start planning your own holiday to beautiful Anglesey.

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Celebrating St David’s Day in Wales

Friday, March 1st, 2013
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Today, all over Wales, celebrations are taking place in honour of St David or Dewi Sant, the patron saint of Wales. It is thought that Dewi Sant died on March 1st 589, so on 1st March each year it is customary to wear either a leek or a daffodil in his name.


This year the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall will be attending the St David’s Day celebrations in Cardiff, including the service at St John the Baptist City Parish Church in the Welsh capital city. But it’s not just Cardiff where St David’s Day festivities are taking place; parades, events and walks are being held all over the country. With so much going on, this weekend is a fantastic time to take a trip to Wales! Or, if you’re not in Wales but still want to get into the spirit of St David’s Day, why not cook up a delicious pan of the traditional Welsh stew, cawl? Recognised by many as the national dish of Wales, this scrumptious meal is sure to get you in the spirit of St David’s Day!

Welsh Flag, St David's Day / Baner Cymru, Dydd Gŵyl Dewi 2009

The ingredients that you will need are:

  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 1 swede, peeled and cut into 2cm cubes
  • 4 leeks, sliced
  • 4 carrots, sliced
  • 500g potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 500g lamb (such as neck on the bone)
  • 500g smoked bacon, cut in to 2cm cubes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Fresh thyme
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

West Wales New Year


  • Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a high heat. Add the onions, swede, leeks and carrots to the pan and fry for five minutes, stirring constantly. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  • Add the lamb to the pan and turn up the heat to brown all over. Once browned  add the bacon to the pan along with the vegetables and diced potatoes. Add the bay leaf and the fresh thyme and season with salt and pepper. Cover the meat and vegetables with cold water.
  • Turn up the heat and bring to the boil, then lower the heat to a gentle simmer and cook for at least two hours or until the lamb is tender.
  • Serve piping hot with crusty bread, Welsh butter and even cheese on the side.

Cawl tastes even better when reheated the next day, so be sure to set aside any leftovers for a delicious meal later in the week!

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