Archive for October, 2010

The Sykes Cottages Guide To Bath

Monday, October 18th, 2010
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UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site Bath sits at the southern-most fringes of the Cotswolds. For anyone thinking about booking a holiday cottage here, Bath offers a wealth of things to see, do and experience, all amid the inspiring architecture of one of the very finest Georgian towns in the country. There are in excess of 5,000 listed buildings in town. Walk the Royal Crescent, an elegant sweep of thirty Georgian houses, which is one of the most enduring images of the Bath. Marvel at the grace and beauty of the eighteenth century Bath Circus and linger in the shops of Pulteney Bridge, redolent of Florence and the Ponte Vecchio, or admire its graceful arches from the city’s best vantage point in nearby Parade Gardens. No visit to Bath would be complete without a trip to the Roman Baths, site of the only hot springs in the country. Walk the hot pavements in the footsteps of our ancestors and gain an understanding of the importance of the healing powers of the springs, or book in advance and enjoy a day of pampering and relaxation at the Thermae Bath Spa, with its indulgent treatments and fabulous open-air pool giving stunning views over the Bath skyline. Stroll among the cloisters of fifteenth century Bath Abbey, or visit one of the town’s many museums. Nearest the Abbey is Sally Lunn’s, a living museum set in Bath’s oldest house, and a great place to replenish energy for sightseeing with one of the famous, sweet Sally Lunn buns. Experience the Regency elegance of the Jane Austen museum, or marvel at the vast collections of shoes, corsets and crinolines on display at the Fashion Museum. Have a go at blowing your own glass at the Bath Aqua Glass theatre, and watch master craftsmen at work hand staining and blowing individual pieces. Art lovers will appreciate the town’s two dedicated museums, Victoria Art Gallery and Holbourne Museum of Art.

Beyond Bath, there is much for the visitor to see. The mellow-stoned villages of the Cotswolds are a joy to discover, rewarding the visitor with traditional shops, picture-postcard pretty scenes and fine country pubs. The Chew Valley in the Mendip Hills is home to ancient stone circles and burial sites, such as the standing stones at Stanton Drew; good walking and Chew Valley lake for fishing, bird-watching and way-marked rambles. In the direction of Bristol, the Avon Valley’s Wildlife and Adventure Park makes for an enjoyable family day out with children of all ages very well catered for. There are animal displays, ball pools, tractor rides, rope bridges, play areas, assault courses, riverside walks, a miniature railway and much more. There are covered and open-air picnic areas, as well as restaurant outlets. Railway enthusiasts will head for the Avon Valley Railway at Bitton, midway between Bath and Bristol, where steam train rides operate on a six-mile stretch of line and can be enjoyed in their own right or used as part of a journey to complete a day rambling or cycling in the Avon Valley.

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The Sykes Cottages Guide To Hereford

Friday, October 15th, 2010
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The Cathedral city of Hereford stands on the meandering river Wye; rent one of our Herefordshire holiday cottages in the surrounding countryside and explore all that this lively agricultural town has to offer, including the traditional Wednesday livestock market, sure to be something of an eye-opener for confirmed urbanites! Visit the Norman cathedral with its two unique mediaeval treasures housed in adjoining cloisters; the Mappa Mundi – a mediaeval map of the world dating from the thirteenth century – and the ancient Chained Library.

The town’s incongruous Old House is a veritable treasure trove of seventeenth century history; an ancient ‘black and white house’, beautifully preserved, and standing at the heart of the pedestrianised shopping centre. The town’s Museum and Art Gallery are also worth a visit, while Bishop’s Palace is one of the country’s oldest timber halls; inside you can almost touch the history in its ancient wooden beams. Enjoy a stroll along the riverbank, or take a guided tour of the city, before sampling the fresh, local produce with a bite to eat.

No visit to Hereford would be complete without sampling the town’s most famous export – cider. Learn the secrets of production over the centuries, then tickle your taste buds with a dram of apple aperitif, a sparkling perry or a drop of cider liqueur at the Cider Museum and King Offa Distillery. Just outside Hereford, those of a green-fingered disposition will appreciate quirky Shipley Gardens, a tranquil home for wildlife and insects, as well as some beautiful and rare plant species.

We have a good selection of self catering holiday cottages in the Hereford area – why not take a look at them?

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The Sykes Cottages Guide To King’s Lynn, East Anglia

Thursday, October 14th, 2010
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What can you expect from your holiday if you book one of our cottages in King’s Lynn? Well, on the eastern bank of the River Great Ouse, ‘Lynn’, as it is known to the locals, is an unassuming town with an engaging old quarter, and was a seat of considerable power and a port of great influence in Mediaeval times. With an economic stability built on trade with the Low Countries, modern day King’s Lynn displays a number of interesting buildings and tourist attractions, and is still a busy working port, despite having a location some three miles inland from the sea. One of the best ways to get to grips with the town is to join one of the many walking tours starting at St. Margaret’s church in the Saturday Market Place. Discover the narrow streets, hidden alleyways and elegant merchants’ houses standing on reclaimed land. One of the most impressive is St. George’s Guildhall, the largest surviving building of its type in the country, which has become a focal point for the town’s annual festival and is now home to art galleries, a theatre, coffee house and restaurant.

Take a self-guided audio tour around Tales of the Old Gaol House; marvel at the ancient King John Cup and other local treasures, and uncover the gruesome history of crime and punishment over the centuries. Learn how the fishing folk of the region once lived and plied their trade at the True’s Yard museum, or uncover the history of the wider East Anglia region at the compact but informative Lynn museum, the highlight of which is the new ‘Seahenge’ display. A series of mysterious, four thousand year-old timbers recently excavated from the North Norfolk coastline are revealed for the first time in this exciting new exhibition. The Litcham Village museum offers further insight into the life and times of the Norfolk people, and displays some interesting local artefacts including Roman remains and coins. The Caithness Crystal Visitor Centre is a popular attraction, with ample opportunity to see master craftsmen perform their intricate work, with frequent glass blowing and other free demonstrations. The shop stocks a wide variety of glassware, crystal and cookware; there is a Craft Centre for kids and a restaurant and coffee shop. The Walks is a pleasant green space in the centre of King’s Lynn, while families with little ones finding themselves in town on a Sunday afternoon will enjoy a visit to the Lynnsport Miniature Railway, where rides operate on a miniature track run by enthusiasts from Easter to October. The Green Quay Wash Discovery Centre promotes the conservation of bird and wildlife and the unique environment that is the Wash estuary, via display panels, film shows and a bird viewing gallery, all in a lovely riverside setting with café and full facilities.

Close to King’s Lynn, Castle Rising Castle is a popular attraction and arguably one of the country’s best-preserved Anglo-Norman forts. Queen Isabella plotted the murder of husband Edward II here. Massive ramparts, a twelfth century Keep and lovely grounds for picnics make this a popular place to visit, along with the neighbouring village of Castle Rising, which is beautifully preserved and displays some fine medieval architecture in its own right.  Home to altogether more familiar Royal inhabitants, at least for a few weeks during July and August each year, is nearby Sandringham Palace. One of the Queen’s country homes, it is open to the public when the family is not in residence. As well as tours of the grounds and house, visitors may also visit the museum, which houses a collection of vintage cars and other memorabilia. Other country houses in the King’s Lynn area include stunning Houghton Hall, built in ornate Palladian style for Britain’s first Prime Minister, Robert Walpole. The estate boasts superb grounds, spectacular gardens, a deer park and stables and together with the house itself makes a popular day out whether for casual visitors, walkers, keen gardeners, or history enthusiasts. Visitors to Houghton may also want to see nearby Oxburgh Hall, a magnificent Elizabethan stately home, complete with Priest Hole, which is also managed by the National Trust. For those with little ones to entertain, Snettisham Park offers a farm-themed day out, with animal petting, a deer safari, leather workshop, horse and pony rides and tearooms. Further afield from King’s Lynn, Church Farm, near Downham Market, provides an experience along a similar theme, with tours of the Stow Estate offering a wide variety of rare breed animals to see and walks and tractor rides to enjoy. Gooderstone Water Gardens is a lovely place to visit in the same area, which will be enjoyed by gardeners, artists and naturalists; indeed anyone appreciating the beauty, peace and tranquillity offered by these delightful gardens.

To see our selection of cottages in King’s Lynn, please click here.

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What To See And Do In Sherbourne, Dorset

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010
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If you’ve been browsing holiday cottages on the web and in brochures but you still haven’t decided where to go, why not give Sherbourne a try?

Sherbourne is one of Dorset’s delightful medieval towns, displaying a rich heritage in its many period features and buildings, including most notably the almshouse, the Abbey, and not one but two castles. A variety of specialist shops draw tourists and residents alike, from cheese producers to violinmakers to antique and curio dealers. However it is beautiful Sherbourne castle that is arguably the town’s most famous view, and one of the reasons many come to visit. Built during the sixteenth century by Sir Walter Raleigh, the castle, gardens, shop, tearooms and enormous lake are set in forty sumptuous acres of undulating countryside and are a very popular attraction for those holidaying in the North Dorset area. The castle was used as the headquarters for the co-ordination of the D-Day landings during the Second World War and houses an important archive collection. The gardens provide a pleasant and restful place to spend time, with plenty of picnic areas, lakeside and woodland walks, follies to explore, superb blooms during the spring and summer, many breeds of birds on the lake and some rare trees, including giant cedars. Many specific events are held in the castle grounds throughout the year, including open-air theatre productions, jazz and other music concerts, festivals and exhibitions.

The surrounding countryside is dotted with lovely quaint stone villages, and well worth a leisurely day’s drive. Heading south from Sherbourne, discover the county’s famous Chalk Downlands with their mysterious ancient carvings. The Giant or ‘Rude man’ of Cerne is one of the most famous. Located just north of the pretty village of Cerne Abbas, it is an unmissable, 180-foot high Roman fertility symbol etched into the hillside. Nearby Milton Abbas is a typical rural village dotted with thatched cottages, a peaceful lake and an impressive fifteenth century Abbey church set in delightful grounds created by Capability Brown, whilst further east, pretty Evershot is so picturesque it has been frequently used as a film location.

To see our holiday cottages in Sherbourne, please click here.

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Our Guide To The Cotswolds – Stratford upon Avon

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010
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If you would like to see our choice of self-catering holiday cottages in Stratford Upon Avon after reading this blog, simply click here.

One of the UK’s most visited towns, Stratford upon Avon enjoys a strategic location on the northern edge of the Cotswolds, and the lovely countryside surrounding Shakespeare’s birthplace makes an ideal location for a Cotswolds cottage holiday. The town itself is bursting with history and attractions worthy of a weekend break, and with charming Cotswolds villages, such as Broadway, Moreton in Marsh and Chipping Campden and the historic city of Warwick close by, there is plenty to do and see in the area. Stratford itself can get extremely busy during summer weekends, but off-season is a great time to visit.

The main draw, of course, is the Shakespeare connection, and most visitors start with a tour of the birthplace of England’s greatest playwright and dramatist, and of the other historic buildings associated with him. As well as Shakespeare’s home, visit the residence belonging to Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathaway’s cottage, and the home of his mother. New Place is a fine retirement home bought by the Bard on his return from London, which features a lovely Elizabethan knot garden, while those holidaying with children will enjoy the collection of rare animal breeds at Mary Arden’s House. Another sixteenth century property worth visiting is Harvard House, an intricately carved house once home to the founder of Harvard University.

Other places to see include the Holy Trinity Church, where Shakespeare is buried, and Hall’s Croft. Attractions in the town include Shakesperience, a high-tech, virtual reality fun study of the life and times of the great Bard, and the unusual and unique Falstaff Experience. Visit by day for a trip into ‘Tudor World’ or by night, if you dare, to experience the ghostly goings on of sixteenth century England. Children will have great fun at the Brass Rubbing Centre, and there’s plenty of opportunity for fun centred on the lovely River Avon, which flows through the town. From picnics and riverside walks, particularly among the gardens surrounding the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, to an afternoon on the water in your own hired rowing boat, a short cruise or maybe even a candle-lit dinner cruise, the river offers a relaxing way to experience the town. Take the children to the Butterfly Farm and Jungle Safari and see the country’s largest collection of vividly coloured butterflies, and when it comes to refreshments, there are teashops and restaurants at every turn. There’s a Friday market each week, and Farmer’s Markets also run once a month. Take a walk with one of the town’s Blue Badge guides and really get under the skin of Stratford, where history is revealed on every street corner.

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