Archive for October, 2013

Celebrate Real Ale On An Autumn Short Break

Friday, October 25th, 2013
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For many of us, there’s nothing quite like sinking a cool pint on a Friday evening after a long week at work. But if you’re tired of the bland processed beers of the big brewers and are looking for something a little tastier come knocking off time, say no to Mr Fosters and Monsieur Artois this weekend and opt for a glass of thoroughbred real ale. The UK is blessed with over 1,000 different real ale brewers, each producing a handful of distinctive, naturally brewed ales that are bursting with locally grown, traditional ingredients. Sadly, many pubs no longer serve proper British beer, so finding them can sometimes be a little tricky. That’s why, Sykes Cottages have come up with a shortlist of some of the best real ale festivals taking place around the UK over the coming weeks, where you’ll be able to sip, scrutinise and savour hundreds of real ales. And where better to start our real ale odyssey than with the home of Sykes HQ, Chester.

Chug! Chug! Chug! In Chester

Real Ale Festival

Via Flickr

Head down to The Guildhall in Chester this weekend and treat yourself to a lavish offering of 50+ ales at the 2013 Chester Real Ale Festival. Organisers have amassed a superb stockpile of local and national beers for thirsty revellers to enjoy, including the Kelham Island Wild Rider, Wentworth Yankee Doodle and Liverpool Organic Pale Ale. Plus, there’ll be hot food, live music and ample space for a good shimmy should the ale flow a little too freely. Tickets are just £6.00 on the door on Friday and Saturday, so come on down and spend an evening in the company of some of the North West’s most beloved beers, ciders and perries.

Knock a couple back in Norfolk

Real Ale Festival

Via Flickr

Over the coming week, the Norwich & Norfolk branch of CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) will be hosting the 36th Norwich Beer Festival in the city’s St Andrew’s and Blackfriars’ Halls. Merrymakers will have to choose their favourite tipple from a daunting selection of over 200 real ales and ciders, making the event one of the biggest and most prominent on the CAMRA beer festival calendar. For a nominal £5.00 entry fee, avid ale fans can tuck into the cream of East Anglia’s crop of real ales, including Wolf Brewery’s ‘Granny Wouldn’t Like It’ and Humpty Dumpty Brewery’s ‘Bad Egg’. There’ll be plenty of entertainment and a good spread of local grub on offer too, so take up your tankard and enjoy a great evening in Norfolk.

Sink a pint by the sea in Cornwall

Real Ale Festival

Via Flickr

For your chance to chow down on a crumbly Cornish pasty and a real ale beside the sea this weekend, why not visit the Cornwall Beer Festival which is taking place at Falmouth’s Princess Pavilion over the next two days. Volunteers at the event will be serving up a plethora of around 200 splendid beverages including real ale, fruit wines and continental bottled beers, all of which can be enjoyed within a stone’s throw from the stunning Cornish Coast. Plus, there’s a trove of regional entertainment taking place during the festival, including live music and traditional Morris dancing, giving you the opportunity to get a real flavour for the culture and spirit of Cornwall.

Enjoy a pint or two on a Sykes Cottage holiday!

Real Ale Festival

Via Flickr

If you’ve been inspired to wet your whistle at one of the real ale festivals mentioned in this post, gather up those leftover holiday days and plan a last minute cottage holiday in the UK. Beer festivals are a great way to mingle with like-minded ale devotees, so raise a glass to the humble British pint this year with an autumn short break from Sykes Cottages. Cheers!

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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.

Freaky Family Fun this Autumn!

Thursday, October 24th, 2013
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Spine-chilling winds, misty streets and the orange glow from the jack-o-lanterns; that’s right, Halloween is almost upon us and here at Sykes Cottages we are ready to release our inner child, hit the streets and fill up on sweet treats! Halloween is an occasion that the whole family can get involved in, from your old zombie dad to your witchy mum; even cousin Itt will be joining in on the festive fun! To celebrate this hair-raising holiday we’ve come up with a spectacular selection of family attractions to visit this October half term.

Pennywell Farms Jollyween

Windmill + scare crow

Via. Flickr

Take the trick out of Halloween this year and enjoy the treat with Pennywell Farm. During this October half-term your family can enjoy all the fun of Halloween in a carefree and furry environment! Pennywell Farm are offering a vast selection of activities to keep the kids entertained, from fancy dress competitions to craft activities; there’s even a flying-pig race! The week’s main attraction can be found at the Pennywell Theatre on October 31st when Batty Bat and her friends take part in an all singing all dancing production, which is sure to delight young children who may find the late night antics a little too scary.

Twinlakes Family Scream Park

Halloween Pumpkin Patch 2012

Via. Flickr

Twinlakes in Leicestershire offers a fantastic Halloween experience that was voted the UK’s best Daytime Halloween Attraction at the Scare Awards in 2011. You can join in the Halloween happenings at Twinlakes from the 19th of October until the 1st of November and be dazzled by the scary treats that they have on offer. There is a straw bale maze, a ‘not-so-scary’ tale in the farmhouse of fear and creepy creatures that are sure to make Mum’s skin crawl! The park has grown 20,000 free pumpkins which are waiting to be carved up or painted into ghosts and ghouls, making this scream park a frightfully fun day out for the whole family!

The Crocky Horror show

Candy corn in a jar

Via. Flickr

The Crocky trail in Chester has come up with some ghastly activities sure to scare your socks off this Halloween! Dare to be brave and make your way through the Crocky dungeon where professional actors will shock and excite you. When you’ve fled the dungeons, you’ll be amazed by the wall of Death, a sensational motorbike stunt show with gravity-defying tricks. The horrific evening comes to a dramatic conclusion with a fantastic Fireworks display! The Fireworks will light up the sky on the last two days of the event, scaring the monsters away for another year!

Whether you’re looking for a horrifying evening full of all the things that go bump in the night or just want to barricade yourself in the house away from the onslaught of trick or treaters, we’ve a fabulous selection of holiday cottages for the October Half-term that will suit everyone’s needs. So go online or call our reservations team today and make this a half term the children will never forget.

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Nicole Jones-Gerrard

By Nicole Jones-Gerrard

As a food lover Nicole can often be found in the kitchen, covered in flour and experimenting with new tastes! When not making a mess she loves to explore her Celtic roots by roaming the Scottish countryside or exploring the bays along the Anglesey coast with her husband.

Christmas is Coming!

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013
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That’s right ladies and gents; everybody’s favourite time of the year is fast approaching! The signs are all there, shops are rolling out the Christmas goods, children are writing their lists for Santa and no doubt that perennial debate of whose turn it is to host the big day is taking place amongst families around the country. However here’s an idea; why not spend Christmas in a Sykes Cottage? After all, we still have a wide range of properties that are available for the holiday period, from cosy little cottages right the way through to ones big enough to house the whole extended family.

There is still a wide variety of Christmas Cottages to choose from

Christmas at a Sykes Cottage

Rushmore Lodge, Kent – Ref 16229

All of our Christmas cottages come with features like spacious kitchens, large dining tables and more than enough crockery, so that (in theory…) the big day should go without a hitch! However if you are looking for a little bit extra, why not choose a cottage with an open fire, hot tub or swimming pool to enjoy Christmas in luxury. Also, be sure to remember that many of our fantastic owners will decorate the cottages themselves, so there is no need to root around in the attic for the missing fairy- and think of all that extra space for presents in the car! Speaking of which, don’t forget to check out our handy list of hints and tips for packing for Christmas in a Sykes Cottage!

Check out our Cracking Christmas Offers!

christmas tree

Via. Flickr

There are plenty of options available if you do choose to spend Christmas with Sykes; you can book right the way through to the New Year to enjoy the whole holiday period in a fantastic self-catering holiday cottage. Or alternatively, you can take advantage of our Christmas Short Break offer, which lets you book a cottage for a five night stay starting from the 23rd of December at just 85% of the typical booking price. So what are you waiting for? Book online or get in touch with one of our holiday cottage advisors to make Christmas 2013 one to remember!

Christmas Decorations

Via. Flickr

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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.

Accessible Walks in The UK

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013
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As great as cars are, sometimes there’s nothing better than putting on a pair of comfortable shoes and heading out into the great outdoors, particularly to a local wood or forest. Whether your chosen method of transport is walking, cycling or even horse riding we are spoilt in the UK for places to wander through for some fresh air. Unfortunately nothing can ruin a walking excursion like an unsafe pathway that is dangerous to cross, so we’ve compiled a list of some of the UKs best places to go for a walk where the paths are accessible and safe.

Plas Power Woods, Wrexham

Forest above Crafnant

Arguably one of the most popular woods in Wales with an estimated 27,000 visitors per year is the Plas Power Woods in Wrexham. Keep your eyes peeled when walking around this wood, as it boasts some magnificent scenery. If you go down to this wood on certain days, then you may very well be in for a big surprise as the wood sometimes plays host to a teddy bears picnic – making it perfect for a family day out!  Head back to your holiday cottage in North Wales to relax after your trip to Plas Power Woods.

The New Forest, Hampshire

New Forest, Near Fritham

The New Forest in Hampshire provides a variety of safe walking routes, perfectly accessible for dog walkers, cyclists and those with limited mobility. If you like to be prepared then you can print out information about these walks from The New Forest’s website before you go. The New Forest provides nature lovers with a variety of walkways, forest-led events and you can even attend a guided walk through the forest to discover more about the history, geology and wildlife that the forest is home to.  To extend your stay at The New Forest, and enjoy all that the surrounding area has to offer, take a look at our Hampshire holiday cottages.

The Strawberry Line, Somerset

The C&O Trail in Brunswick, MD
If safe and accessible paths are something you wish there was more of, then don’t worry as there has been campaigns created exactly for this. The Strawberry Line project, for example, was created to ensure that the disused railway between Clevedon and Cranmore in Somerset was converted into a network of safe pathways that were accessible to all, making it the perfect place to go for a walk on your Somerset cottage holiday.

If our choices of woodland walks to wander along has made you fancy pulling on your comfortable shoes and hitting the pathway, then why not take a look at our selection of holiday cottages perfect for walking holidays in the UK and book today!

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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.

Delicious Apple Recipes for National Apple Day

Monday, October 21st, 2013
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Today is the day that we celebrate the nation’s favourite fruit, the apple. Yes, today is National Apple Day, an event which has taken place annually in the UK since 1990. As Britain comes together to honour this juicy delight, you too can join in with some of our favourite apple recipes.

Dorset Apple Cake

Dorset apple cake

Picture via Flickr. Recipe via Channel 4 Food.

Ingredients (serves 8):

  • 450g Bramley apples, peeled and sliced into 1cm pieces
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 225g butter
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • 25g ground almonds
  • 1 tbsp Demerara sugar
  • 2 tbsp baking powder
  • 200g clotted cream


  1. Pre-heat oven to 180C/ Fan 160C/ gas 4. Grease a deep springform cake tin (23-24cm) and line with baking paper. Mix apples and lemon juice together.
  2. Whisk cream, butter, caster sugar and lemon zest until pale and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add a little flour each time to keep mixture smooth.
  3. Sift in flour and baking powder then fold in almonds. Drain apple pieces and stir into mixture. Add mixture to baking tin and sprinkle on Demerara sugar. Bake for an hour or until golden and well-risen.
  4. Once baked, leave to cool for ten minutes in the tin. To serve, remove from tin and heavily sprinkle with caster sugar. Best served warm with a scoop of clotted cream.


Sausage, Apple and Leek Pie

Sausage, apple and leek pie

Recipe from BBC Good Food

Ingredients (serves 6):

  • 3 sliced leeks
  • 1 peeled, sliced apple
  • 8 pork sausages
  • 200ml stock
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 1 tbsp mustard
  • 375g shortcrust pastry, ready-rolled
  • 1 beaten egg


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200C/ Fan 180C/gas 6. Fry sausages until browned then take out of pan and leave to one side. Remove fat from pan then add leeks and cook for 8-10 mins. Add apple and cook for 1 min more. Add flour then mustard. Pour in stock and leave to bubble for 2 mins to make the sauce.
  2. Cut sausages into small pieces and stir into pan. Transfer everything into large ovenproof dish. Top with pastry and glaze with egg. Put in oven and cook for 25 mins until golden.


Toffee Apples

Toffee Apples

Via Flickr. Recipe via BBC Good Food

Ingredients (serves 8):

  • 8 apples
  • 400g golden caster sugar
  • 4 tbsp golden syrup
  • 8 lollipop sticks or skewers
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  • Food colouring if desired


  1. Take apples and place in large bowl (you may have to use two bowls) then cover in boiling water to remove waxy coating. This will also help the caramel to stick. Dry and remove stalks. Firmly push stick or skewer into each apple.
  2. Add sugar to a pan along with 100ml water and set on medium heat. Cook for 5 mins until sugar dissolves then add syrup and vinegar. Use a sugar thermometer to test the temperature- you want it to be about 140C. At this point, add food colouring if desired and swirl around until fully absorbed.
  3. Dip each apple into the hot toffee until covered, working quickly to avoid the toffee cooling and hardening in the pan. Place apples on baking parchment after coating. Leave toffee to cool before eating.

So there you have it, maybe you’ve been inspired to bake a Dorset Apple Cake for the family this weekend? Why not go one step further and treat your family to a Dorset Apple Cake in one of our Dorset holiday cottages? How about the Sausage, Apple and Leek Pie which would make the perfect evening meal in one of our country cottages after an autumn day spent wandering the hills? Perhaps you’re getting excited for Halloween and feel inclined to have a go at making some Toffee Apples. Whatever you’re doing this rainy Monday, we hope that we’ve encouraged you to get in the spirit and cook up some tasty treats this National Apple Day.

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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.