Archive for May, 2013

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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Save the red squirrels

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013
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It may be hard to believe that the red squirrel is native to the UK but since the introduction of its grey American cousin, the red population have been under serious threat. Compared to some three million grey squirrels in the England, there are approximately just 20,000 red squirrels remaining in woodlands up and down the country.

Much like a squirrel gathers nuts, we’ve done the hard work for you and gathered the best places to spot red squirrels in the UK.  Why not take a look…



Penrith and surrounding area, Cumbria

Of the 20,000 red squirrels left in England, the majority are found in Cumbria and Northumberland.  The Penrith and District Red Squirrel Group covers some 500 square miles including popular holiday destinations like Ullswater and the Eden Valley.  Their role is to promote red squirrel conservation in the natural habitats the area has to offer.  It’s little wonder that the Lake District is ever-popular with holidaymakers and squirrels thanks to its breathtaking scenery at every turn.  If you’re planning a holiday in the Lakes, try Grizedale Forest, Whinfell Forest or Stagshaw Gardens for your best chance to spot red squirrels.

Stagshaw Garden

Anglesey, North Wales

Approximately 15 years ago, the red squirrel population on Anglesey was facing extinction.  Today, however, the population is thriving and has grown ten-fold thanks to the efforts of the Red Squirrel Trust Wales.  Head to coniferous woodland, the red squirrel’s favoured habitat, for your best chance to see these creatures on Anglesey.  The local charity have also been working with the National Trust and there are now red squirrels living at Plas Newydd in Llanfairpwll.

Anglesey Abbey (NT) 16-10-2010

Brownsea Island, Dorset

The small island which lies within the picturesque Poole Harbour is a haven for wildlife and is home to deer, water voles, peacocks and some 200 red squirrels.  Given that the nature reserve on the island is only 101 hectares in size, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll spot a red squirrel as you wander through the woodland.  Autumn is the best time for spotting the squirrels but whenever you visit you’ll be rewarded with excellent nature spotting opportunities.  Take a look at our holiday cottages in Dorset, the perfect base to explore this beautiful part of the UK.

Red Squirrel on Brownsea Island

How you can help

Conserving the UK’s population of red squirrels isn’t just a job for local charities but one we can all get involved in.  There’s plenty we can all do help from reporting sightings and road deaths so the local groups can keep an accurate estimate of squirrel numbers.  Donations are also welcomed and allow these small charities to continue to promote the need for conservation.  And, if you’re lucky enough to spot a red squirrel in your back garden, make sure to feed it!

Your Country Needs You (Kitchener)

Here at Sykes Cottages, we know that many of our customers choose UK holidays to make the most of the stunning scenery and unique flora and fauna found on our shores.  We think conservation is extremely important which is why we’re corporate members of a number of Wildlife Trusts across the UK.  If you’d like to spend your next holiday looking out for wildlife, why not take a look at our holiday cottages in National Parks or those perfectly located for birdwatching?

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Celebrate Father’s Day with a Cottage Holiday

Monday, May 27th, 2013
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In just a couple of weeks time it will be Father’s Day in the UK. Sunday 16th June will see lots of Dads up and down the country treated to a relaxing weekend as a thanks for all they do! Instead of the traditional gift of socks, crate of beer or techno-gadget, why not treat your Dad to a long weekend away at one of our cottages? Getting away for a weekend break is a great excuse to spend some quality time together and make the most of everything our great country has to offer.

21st June: Happy Fathers' Day

A great choice of holiday cottages

Instead of a grand gesture, spend your weekend away doing something Dad likes.  Whether it’s a round of golf at a new course, cooking up a storm in the kitchen of your cottage or simply a long walk, you’ll sure to be spoilt for choice at our cottages.  We have cottages located near golf clubs, with great walking routes on the doorstep so you can just make the most of your time together without any hassle.  Look forward to a BBQ in the garden if the sun shines or why not treat Dad to a meal at the local pub?

Dorset Purbecks (64)

Find a large cottage

If there will be several generations celebrating this year, why not choose one of our larger cottages to house the whole family.  We have cottages sleeping as many as 32 people so there’s enough room for everyone to enjoy a holiday together.  We also have a number of cottage complexes to choose from-a group of cottages located close together to give each family their own space whilst being on hand for meals and days out together.  The choice is yours!



The good news is that we still have plenty of cottages available for the Father’s Day weekend!  Our website is a great place to start looking for your perfect cottage or you can call our team of friendly holiday cottage advisors on 01244 356695.

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Sunday Snapshots: Chester Races

Sunday, May 26th, 2013
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Is there any better way to spend a summer afternoon than dressed to the nines, cool glass of Pim’s in hand, enjoying a day at the races? Here in England it is a summer institution and one that every visitor to the country should try to experience.

4 way finish at the Chester Racecourse

via. Flickr

The Chester Racecourse, as known as the Roodee, is said to be the oldest racecourse in England. The 1.6 km flat track is also the smallest in England and is just a short stroll from the centre of the city. Don’t have a ticket? Don’t worry, you can stand on the edge of the Roman walls and catch a glimpse of the festivities.

The next race at the Roodee takes place on June 8, 2013 and there are still tickets available via the Chester Racecourse website. Snap up a couple of tickets and see if you can win big at the races!

Spending the whole weekend in Chester? Click here to find the perfect holiday cottage for a weekend at the Chester races.

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Harmonious Half Term Holidays

Friday, May 24th, 2013
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The May half term has crept up on us once more, and I for one have only just started to make plans. A day out, if not a couple of days away, makes for a harmonious and restful half term, so I thought I’d share some ideas to keep the whole family entertained. Booking a house or apartment means you can enjoy a break away, embracing an area and all it has to offer without breaking the bank!

Theatre Trips

I love taking my boys up to London: they, in their youthful naivety, even find the underground a joyful experience! Charlie and the Chocolate factory is a favourite story of mine, taking me back to my childhood when I’d lose myself for hours in a book. I love to see the characters from my childhood come alive on the stage, and for my boys it’s no different. Showing at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane with matinee and evening performances, why don’t you take a dip into China town afterwards and enjoy an early oriental supper? Chop sticks at the ready!

Drury Lane Theatreland Theatre Breaks London

Free Fun for All

Our capital city is fabulous with its many museums which offer free entry. Why not take a picnic and head for the Natural History Museum, so you can wander up the road to Hyde Park for a late lunch afterwards? After an educational morning, you’re all sure to have worked up an appetite.


Bank holiday Monday this year brings the Symphony Orchestra to Trafalgar Square, and its big screens mean that you can enjoy the visual effects as the music fills the air. This event is free and tickets are not required.

Blow Off Some Steam

There are many steam railways around the U.K, so how about a trip to Suffolk with its many market towns and pretty villages, beautiful walks and great coastline? Mid-Suffolk Light Railway is the only operational steam railway in Suffolk, and from the 26-27 May you can see its event “Steam Models and Miniatures” taking place.

Mid- Suffolk Light Railway Steam Gala 2012

The ancient market town of Stowmarket would make an excellent base for this trip, as the railway is within easy travelling distance. Stowmarket has many shops to peruse, a range of restaurants and pubs to enjoy, and a cinema and leisure centre.

By the Sea

The New Forest is always a pleasure to visit. One of our family favourites is Lepe Country Park: with its long stretch of beach, cliff-top paths, large open green areas where you can kick a ball around and children’s adventure playground; it’s a fabulous spot to visit. There is also a café and shop with a take-away kiosk, and most importantly, a resident ice cream van!


Close by is Beaulieu and its famed motor museum. Home to Bond in Motion, which features 50 of the original vehicles from the Bond films, the museum also has a display called the World of Top Gear. Of course, it’s not all about cars: take some time to visit Palace House and admire treasures collected by the Montagu family. Still in residence, the family allow visitors to meander around the beautiful gardens and take in views of the Beaulieu River.

To Battle we go

A nine day Wicked Whitsun event hosted in apt venue medieval Warwick Castle, this day features battle re-enactments and falconry alongside workshops by Horrible Histories author Terry Deary. Aiming to bring Viking and Tudor times alive for your little warriors, it’s sure to raise swords and smiles simultaneously!

Stratford-Upon-Avon is only a short distance to travel to from Warwick, and is well worth exploring. Visit the birthplace of William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway’s house, and if time allows take in a performance by the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

Breaks for Budding Scientists

INTECH Science Centre and Planetarium in Winchester makes learning fun: it’s absolutely packed with interactive activities, and houses the largest Planetarium in the United Kingdom. Having experienced it many times (I still have to drag my boys away!), I’m pretty confident it’s a place where the whole family will be enthralled.

Whilst in Winchester, why not take some time to visit the magnificent Cathedral? Its historic architecture is amazing and there are many works of art and treasures to discover.
Winchester Cathedral
Hopefully these six firm family favourites will inspire a few late ideas for the fast-approaching May bank holiday and half term. With many different types of accommodation available, spanning all budgets and suitable for all broods, enjoying a few days away is sure to make this half term a happy one!

Written by Kirsti Banyard, a travel writer for

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