Archive for October, 2013

Enjoy a Spine-chilling Halloween with Sykes Cottages

Thursday, October 31st, 2013
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If you’re looking for a truly spooky day out this Halloween, why not pay a visit to one of the hundreds of stunning castles that Britain and Ireland have on offer. By nature, castles have long and fascinating histories, having withstood countless attacks and attempted invasions, which makes them the perfect day out for those interested in paranormal activity. The English Heritage have recently released a list of their most haunted properties. Here at Sykes we’ve been inspired and have set out to investigate some of the most haunted castles on offer in the UK and Ireland. Happy Halloween!

Leap Castle, Ireland

Leap Castle, County Offaly, Ireland

Via Flickr

Leap Castle in County Offaly is widely regarded to be Ireland’s most haunted castle. The castle was built around 1250 and was home to the infamous O’Carroll clan who were one of the most feared clans of the time. Spectacularly sinister in appearance, the castle has a macabre and violent history and is definitely not for the faint-hearted. There are many ghosts reported to haunt the castle, including one of the O’Carroll brothers, a priest who was murdered by his own brother. This horrific act brought with it a cloak of misery that has engulfed the castle ever since. Other ghostly characters include a ‘Lady in Red’, 40 men from the McMahon clan who were lured to their deaths and a terrifying creature known as an Elemental, which is far too scary to talk about! Throw in an underground dungeon, skeletons found bricked into the walls and Leap Castle makes for one petrifying visit. If you’re looking to visit Leap Castle then consider booking one of our holiday cottages in Ireland, you may need somewhere to unwind and calm down after your visit!

 

Chillingham Castle, England

Chillingham Castle, Northumberland, England

Via Flickr

Chillingham Castle in Northumberland was built over 800 years ago, occupying a strategically important position close to the border of Scotland. The castle was repeatedly attacked by Scottish armies during this time but held its own. If you were unfortunate enough to be captured at Chillingham Castle, you would be thrown into the Oubliette (a dungeon which can only be accessed through a hatch in the ceiling). Elements of the castle’s horrific history can still be seen today as the dungeon and torture chamber, complete with torture instruments, can be visited along with the rest of the castle. Ghosts that haunt the castle are said to include John Sage, the merciless master of the torture chamber, ‘Blue Boy’ who has been seen walking around the castle surrounded by a bright aura, and the heartbroken ghost of Lady Mary Berkeley who’s dress can sometimes be heard rustling as she searches the castle in vain for her husband who ran off with her younger sister.

 

Edinburgh Castle, Scotland

Edinburgh Castle, Scotland

Via Flickr

The city of Edinburgh has been crowned the most haunted city in Europe so it makes sense that it would be home to one of the most haunted castles. Edinburgh Castle sits high on a hill looming over the city on a site that has been occupied for defensive purposes since the Iron Age. There have been hundreds of reports over the years from both staff and visitors to the castle, claiming to have had the sensation of being pulled or watched, with many reporting sudden temperature drops, green lights and shadowy figures.  Ghosts that are said to haunt the castle include a headless drummer boy, a phantom dog and a piper who was lost in the tunnels below the castle. At one point, the castle’s dungeons were used to quarantine victims of the plague and there have also been reports of phantom prisoners haunting the hallways. There are a whole host of ghostly goings-on across the city and if you’re particularly interested in the paranormal, Edinburgh is a fantastic place to visit.

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Louise O'Toole

By Louise O'Toole

Louise loves reading, shopping, baking and cosy country pubs with log fires. A nice cup of tea will never be turned down. She has spent many childhood summers on the beach in Cornwall and walking the hills of the Lake District.

Sykes’ Spooky Cities

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013
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You can tell that Halloween is upon us, the pumpkins are being carved and the costumes are being created. All of the talk is about plans for the big night, whether it’s a Halloween party, a night in with your favourite horror films or maybe just terrifying the neighbours with a bit of trick or treating. However one option that people might not have thought about is the Ghost Walk. They may be a more recent Halloween phenomenon but they are growing in popularity year on year and are the perfect option for the particularly fearless out there. Not only will you be scared out of your wits but you’ll also learn many of your favourite city’s hidden secrets from terrifying tales to ghastly ghosts; what more could you ask for on Halloween?

York

Where else to start but at the very home of the Ghost Walk? Way back in 1973 York saw the first ever Ghost Walk and they’ve been getting bigger and better ever since. It is the perfect way to soak up the folklore and culture of this fantastic city, not to mention see many of its famous landmarks in a whole new light from the majestic Minster right the way through to the ever popular Shambles.

Via. Flickr

Chester

That’s right, Sykes Cottages’ home-town is the location of one of the country’s creepiest Ghost Walks, however it comes as little surprise when you think about it. Two thousand years of history have given the city every opportunity to amass a collection of scary stories and terrifying tales. Chester may well be characterised by its ancient walls, cobbled streets and the world-famous rows so you would probably be excused for thinking of the city as being quaint and quiet. However under this exterior Chester hides many dark secrets; from ghosts to ghouls, spectres to poltergeists this spooky city claims to have them all!

Chester Clock Tower

Via. Flickr

Edinburgh

If you’re north of the border then why not pay a visit to Edinburgh for Mercat Tours’ All Hallows Eve Special? You’ll see iconic landmarks such as the Castle and the Royal Mile, and if you’re feeling particularly fearless, you can also head down into the Blair Street Underground Vaults. Throughout the Halloween period there are walks running from the afternoon all the way through to the middle of the night so you’re sure to find a walk to suit you.

Edinburgh Castle

Via. Flickr

Hopefully you’ll be feeling inspired to get out and about this Halloween, but don’t forget that the Ghost Walks run all year round, so why not book yourself a City Break with Sykes Cottages and join in the fun!

 

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Jamie Tomkins

By Jamie Tomkins

Jamie is a big fan of long weekend walks with the dog, especially when there is the chance to refuel with lunch in a country pub. Living in Lancaster for three years gave him the perfect opportunity to spend a lot of time in the Lake District.

Fairytale Cottages at Sykes Cottages

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013
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The beady eyed amongst you may have already discovered the exciting new additions to the Sykes Cottages portfolio. Just in time for the magical Christmas season and the excitement of Halloween, you can choose to spend these holidays in your very own self catering Fairy Tale Cottage rental. With so much to do in the land of Storytown, a holiday in one of our fairy tale cottages is sure to be full of magical activities and enchanted experiences.

Gingerbread House

Gingerbread House

Gingerbread House, Candy Cane Lane, The Enchanted Forest, Storytown

Often difficult to find your way to and from – we recommend leaving a trail – is the Gingerbread House. Definitely one for those with a sweet tooth; the walls are made from delicious gingerbread and covered in sugary wallpaper, the windows are surrounded by piped icing and everything is decorated with delectable sugary sprinkles. If you get peckish at night, there’s no need to go very far as the pillows and mattresses are made from deliciously soft marshmallow – making this house perfect for when you need a midnight snack! Those without a sweet tooth need not fret, as the gingerbread house also comes along with a live-in housekeeper so you can fully sit back and relax. Not only will she do the house work, she is also a big fan of fattening up her guests so you don’t need to worry about going hungry during your stay! Beware when booking this house during the Halloween season, as it proves very popular with trick or treaters, who last year were seen munching on the windowsills!

Straw House 

Straw House

Straw House, 1 Threepig Drive, Storytown.

The Straw House is Storytown’s number one eco-friendly property. It has recently been re-built due to being blown down, and is now much stronger – providing you with piece of mind during your stay! Unfortunately due to the risk of fire, there is no kitchen facility in this property. A short walk away into the centre of Storytown however, you will find a number of places to eat whilst mingling with the giants, pixies, gnomes and other magical creatures that reside in Storytown all year round. If recent stories of wolves trying to blow down the houses of Storytown have got you a little worried, you have the option to upgrade your stay to either our stick house (a little more wolf-proof than the straw) or our brick house (almost fully wolf-proof, particularly with a cauldron of boiling water beneath the chimney!) The brick house also benefits from having a kitchen.

Shoe Cottage

Shoe Cottage

Shoe Cottage, Old Woman’s Lane, Storytown

The third and final new addition to our Storytown portfolio here at Sykes is the Shoe Cottage. Pleasing to the eyes from the outside due to its shoe aesthetic and practical on the inside with a huge amount of space – sleeping up to twenty people – this cottage is perfect for large families. The property plays host to its own outdoors play area and it is in close proximity to the enchanted woods of Storytown, so children and adults alike will never be stuck for activities. Whilst this property is offered on a self catering basis, broth will be available for children.

In the likely event that our fairytale cottages in Storytown are unavailable for booking, then take a look at the other new properties we have recently added – available to book through Sykes Cottages for real holidays now.

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Leanne Dempsey

By Leanne Dempsey

A lover of reading, eating and shopping Leanne will often be found spending time with her two pugs or snapping away on instagram. A big fan of the city, She likes nothing more than getting away for a weekend break in the UK, her favourite places being London and Bath.

Sykes Cottages- Preserving Britain’s Beauty for 25 Years

Monday, October 28th, 2013
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Over our 25 year history, we’ve donated thousands to good causes up and down the country that we believe are making a difference within local communities and throughout the natural environment of the UK. We strive to support any initiative whose goal it is to preserve and safeguard our country’s natural habitats, and are immensely proud of our contribution to some of the UK’s most important conservation charities.

Otter

Via Flickr

From helping protect the homes of dormice and otters in Northumberland, to maintaining rare eco-systems in Newquay, we’re dedicated to doing what we can to safeguard the natural beauty of the UK so that it can be enjoyed and admired by holidaymakers for years to come. After all, without the efforts of schemes like the Northumberland Wildlife Trust, the UK’s inspiring natural world would be in danger of being lost for good.

Beech Trees

Via Flickr

With this in mind, we thought we’d let you know about our latest donation to the World Land Trust. This international conservation charity aims to take direct action to save wildlife habitats across the globe, from the rainforests of Brazil to the grasslands of Kenya. Thankfully, our donation to the WLT of £1,000 will be expended a little closer to home, with the charity planning to use our contribution to help fund the preservation and protection of the Kites Hill Reserve right here in the UK.

Boreal Owl

Via Flickr

The reserve, which covers 40 acres of stunning countryside in the Cotswolds, has been designated as a “Site of Special Scientific Interest” (SSSI) because of its irreplaceable beech woodlands, and was dubbed one of the most “important nature conservation sites in Europe” by Natural England.

The reserve is under threat due to past farming practices, which degraded the quality of the woodland and led to the loss of numerous species. Now in 2013, many of the native species have returned, and the WLT aims to provide the reserve’s recovering wildlife with a sustainable home long into the future. To continue managing Kite Hill’s sustainability, the WLT called upon corporate sponsorship to help fund the preservation effort, and as a UK based company, we thought it only right to come forward and show our support to this worthwhile conservation project.

red kite

Via Flickr

Visitors to the Kites Hill Reserve can expect to find a plethora of beloved British wildlife foraging amongst the flora, including butterflies, bats, owls and rare birds like the Red Kite, Stock Dove and Kestrel. Needless to say, the reserve proves an excellent place for a walk, with its mixture of grassland meadows and dense woodlands providing an enchanting backdrop for a stroll at any time of year.

So why not experience a trip to the Kites Hill Reserve on a cottage holiday in Gloucestershire? We’ve a handful of endearing Gloucestershire holiday cottages within a short drive of the reserve, so be sure to enjoy this priceless stretch of British countryside whilst you still can! And in the meantime, Sykes will continue endeavouring to preserve the wonders of our great country for generations to come.

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Jonathan Tuplin

By Jonathan Tuplin

Jonathan is a lover of books, music and good food. Originally from Yorkshire, there's nothing he likes more than a cycle in the country. One of his favourite spots in the UK is Tenby, where he spent many a happy holiday as a child.

Sunday Snapshots: Illuminating York

Sunday, October 27th, 2013
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If you’re anything like the majority of 9 to 5ers across the UK, it can feel like you live life in perpetual darkness when the clocks go back and the dim mornings and dusky evenings of winter take hold. But fear not my fellow diurnals, because some cunning folk in the grand old city of York have come up with a twinkling solution to our woe. Taking place between 30th October and the 2nd November (so only a temporary fix; apologies for inappropriate spirit raising), this bunch of bright brainiacs will be illuminating York as part of their aptly named annual festival, Illuminating York! Visit the city any evening on the above dates and feast your eyes on an iridescent medley of dazzling digital light shows, cast on to some of York’s most esteemed landmarks in recognition of the city’s unique culture and heritage. The theme for this year’s event is ‘Illuminating the Past, Enlightening the Future’, allegedly chosen to celebrate the deep connection that the city has had to incoming cultures throughout its 2,000 year history.

So embrace the darkness and be enthralled by the enlightening artworks that will shine from Clifford’s Tower to the imposing Minster, before taking to the cobbled streets to enjoy a candlelit ghost tour on All Hallows’ eve; can you think of a better way to enjoy some good old darkness this autumn?

Take a look at last year’s lavish light show below!

Illuminating York installation 'Rose' on the South Transept

Via Flickr

York Minster

Via Flickr

Accendo

Via Flickr

Illuminating York 2009

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Illuminating York 2010 [365 - day 303]

Via Flickr

 

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Jonathan Tuplin

By Jonathan Tuplin

Jonathan is a lover of books, music and good food. Originally from Yorkshire, there's nothing he likes more than a cycle in the country. One of his favourite spots in the UK is Tenby, where he spent many a happy holiday as a child.