Archive for October, 2010

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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Our Guide To Argyll And The Isles – Oban

Friday, October 8th, 2010
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If you enjoy reading this guide and would like to see what holiday cottages we have near Oban, please click here.

Set on a picturesque bay, Oban is one of the larger centres in the region, and the principal ferry port on the west coast, serving the isles of the Inner Hebrides. In spite of its relative size, the town is easy to manage on foot, and most visitors make the journey in order to travel onward to the outlying islands, many of which can be visited as a day trip from Oban. Some good vantage points surround the town, notably Pulpit Hill, lying due south, and the ruined remains of McCaig’s Tower. Another ruin worth visiting is fifteenth century Dunollie Castle; you could make a pleasant afternoon combining a visit here with a walk on nearby Ganavan Sands beach. Other good beaches can be readily enjoyed near Oban; try the pebble beach at Inversanda or the large, sandy beach at Tralee. Back in town, the Oban Distillery is a popular place to visit, and there are some lovely walks, cycle rides and beaches within easy reach of the town. The tourist office has a range of circular and linear walks for cyclists and ramblers. Most visitors take advantage of Oban’s location to discover neighbouring islands, such as Mull, Iona and Staffa, while bird lovers usually head to the Threshnish Isles.

Mull is one of the most visited islands of the Inner Hebrides, and there is plenty to detain the visitor. Its beauty lies in panoramic mountain scenery, and there is a popular narrow gauge miniature steam railway at the ferry drop-off point in tiny Criagnure, which ferries visitors on to the Scottish Baronial-style castle of Torosay. This magnificent mansion enjoys a beautiful setting, surrounded by stunning gardens. Mull’s other castle is Duart Castle, an imposing fortress commanding the Sound of Mull on the island’s eastern coast. Dating from the fourteenth century, Duart Castle is still inhabited by the Maclean clan; visit the dank dungeons, roam the ancient halls and indulge in sampling the hallmark family chocolate in the modern comfortable addition to this ancestral home – the castle café. Most visitors also want to see Tobermory, a charming little town at the northern tip of Mull. This is a good place to book on a whale and dolphin-watching cruise, and learn more about the inhabitants of the island’s waters at the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust Visitor Centre. Tobermory Distillery offers a chance to sample the local whisky, and the tiny Mull Museum is a treasure trove of the history of island life. Walkers and ramblers are drawn to the island’s highest peak, Ben More, which is around a six hour marked walk, starting from Dhiseig, southwest of Salen.

From Mull, a five minute ferry hop brings visitors to the Holy Isle of Iona, where St. Columba is believed to have converted Scotland on arrival from across the waters in Ireland. The monastery established here is also accepted as the point of origin of the Book of Kells, and the island’s allure is such that more than forty of the early Kings of Scotland, including Macbeth, are buried here. By day the island swells with visitors, but once the tour buses have departed at the end of each day, a serenity and peace appropriate for a place of worship and pilgrimage imbues this stunning island. The smaller islands of Staffa, Coll and Tiree are also within easy reach of Oban by ferry, each one with its own unique charm. The stunning geology of Staffa’s rock is akin to that of Giant’s Causeway in Northern Island, with its gigantic basalt pillars rising steeply from the sea at Fingal’s Cave. Birdwatchers make the visit here for the vast colonies of puffins, whilst windsurfing enthusiasts flock to Tiree, where the sunny but breezy conditions make it Scotland’s premier windsurfing location. Breacachacha Castle and colonies of corncrakes bring visitors on the two and a half hour trip from Oban to the isle of Coll, which lies some seven miles to the west of Mull.

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Cottage Holidays In Devon: Clovelly (Part 2)

Thursday, October 7th, 2010
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If you are booking one of our holiday cottages in Clovelly or if you simply haven’t read it yet, part 1 of this blog can be found here.

Our Guide To Clovelly – Part Two

A sunny day can easily be whiled away watching the bustling harbour activities; the fishing boats coming and going, landing the crab and lobster that will be served up in the region’s pubs and inns, and transported to the continent. Boat trips operate to nearby Lundy Island and around Clovelly bay, whilst amateurs can try their hand at landing a catch themselves; fishing lines can be purchased in the shops or from the local trawlers. Clovelly’s strong maritime history is celebrated at many events though the year, in particular the annual Clovelly Regatta and Lifeboat Day- a working lifeboat is stationed at the harbour. The pebbled beach at the foot of the village reveals a hidden gem; a stunning waterfall tucked away in the rock which legend has it is the birthplace of the wizard Merlin.

Clovelly’s cliff top location provides several stunning viewpoints – the Lookout at the top of the village once served as a vantage point for women to watch anxiously for the safe return of their men from a day at sea, but now can be enjoyed simply for the ever changing views it provides, across the bay to Exmoor in the distance. Mount Pleasant, locally referred to as the Peace Park, is another such spot; a monument commemorates those lost in the Great War and the tranquil views across over Bideford Bay provide ample space for quiet contemplation or a family picnic.

Visitors can enjoy arts and crafts at Clovelly’s Pottery and Silk shop, where during the main season it’s possible to try your hand at hand firing your own pot or printing your own silk, or a browse round the village’s Art Gallery and shop. When refreshment is needed, Clovelly’s local pub and inn serve up fine food from around the region and, of course, the delicious traditional Devon cream tea.

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