Archive for November, 2013

Sensational Scottish Recipes!

Friday, November 29th, 2013
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On Saturday November 30th we will be helping the bonnie Scots celebrate St Andrews day, and along with some Scottish entertainment and plenty of traditional games, we’ll be sure to fill ourselves up with a fantastic selection of Scottish grub! Scotland may be famous for its Whisky and textile industry but many people forget there are some true culinary delights to be had up North! So today at Sykes, we set about thinking of some of our favourite Scottish recipes for you to try at home in the hope that you will embrace the Scottish traditions this St. Andrews day!

Haggis with Neeps and Tatties

Tatties, Neeps and Haggis with Gravy

Via. Flickr

Ingredients (serves 4):

250g turnip (or swede), cut into quarters

450g potatoes, quartered

200g unsalted butter

200ml ready-made gravy (to serve)

1tbsp double cream

1 x 1kg haggis

Salt and pepper


  1. Fill a large pan with water and bring to the boil. Once boiling, add the haggis and reduce the heat to a low simmer. Allow the haggis to simmer for 75 minutes, topping up the water if needed.
  2. Whilst the haggis simmers you can start on the neeps and tatties. Bring a separate pan of water to the boil and add a little salt. Once boiling, add the turnip (or swede) pieces and cook for 25 minutes until tender.
  3. In a third pan you will want to bring some salted water to the boil and add your potato pieces. Cook for 25 minutes until tender.
  4. When your turnip (or swede) is tender drain well and return it to the pan. Add the cream and half of the butter. Mash well and season to taste with salt and pepper. Set the mash to one side and keep warm.
  5. When the potato is ready, drain it well and return to the pan. Add the remaining butter and mash well until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then set the mash to one side and keep warm.
  6. To serve your haggis with neeps and tatties, cut the haggis open and place an equal portion onto each plate. Spoon the neeps and tatties onto the same plate and drizzle over the gravy.


Shortbread could be taller

Via. Flickr

Ingredients (Makes 20-24)

180g plain flour

125g butter

55g caster sugar (with a little extra to finish)


  1. In a mixing bowl beat the caster sugar and butter together until light and smooth.
  2. Slowly stir in the plain flower until you achieve a smooth paste; turn the paste out onto a lightly flowered work surface and roll out until the paste is around 1cm think.
  3. Cut the paste into rounds (or fingers) and place onto a baking tray. Sprinkle a little caster sugar on to each and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.
  4. Whilst chilling pre-heat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas Mark 5.
  5. Take the shortbread from the fridge and bake in the oven for around 15-20 minutes; when they reach a pale golden-brown colour you know to take them out.
  6. Cool the shortbread on a wire rack before serving.

Scotch Egg

Scotch Egg

Via. Flickr

Ingredients (Makes 4)

275g sausage meat

125g plain flour (seasoned with salt and pepper)

125g breadcrumbs

1tbsp fresh parsley (chopped)

1tsp fresh thyme leaves

4 large eggs

1 spring onion (finely chopped)

1 egg (beaten)

Vegetable oil (to deep fry)

Salt and pepper


  1. Place the 4 large eggs in a pan of cold salted water. Bring the pan to the boil and then allow to simmer for 6 minutes. Once cooked drain the eggs and cool under cold running water. When cooled, peal each egg.
  2. In a large bowl mix together the sausage meat, thyme, parsley and spring onion (season well with salt and black pepper).
  3. On a clean surface divide the sausage meat mixture into four equal portions. Roll each portion into 4 ovals, around 7.5cm wide and 12.5cm long.
  4. Place your seasoned flour onto a plate and roll each of the boiled eggs in the flour.
  5. Each egg should then be wrapped in the sausage meat oval. Make sure to smooth out the mixture and to completely cover the egg.
  6. Each egg then needs to be dipped into the beaten egg, completely covering the sausage meat coating. Then dip and roll into the breadcrumbs, again completely covering your sausage meat-coated egg.
  7. Heat the oil in a deep pan, you can test the oil by dropping in a few bread crumbs, once they sizzle and turn brown the oil is ready (please be careful and do not leave unattended as hot oil can be very dangerous)
  8. Carefully add each Scotch egg into the hot oil and fry for 8-10 minutes, until the breadcrumbs are crisp and golden and the sausage meat is cook through.
  9. Remove the eggs and place on kitchen paper to drain the oil. Leave to cool before serving.


We hope that these mouth-watering recipes have inspired you to invite your friends round and host your very own St. Andrews get together. Or if you’re feeling a little more adventurous, why not book a last minute break and whisk the family off to a holiday cottage in Scotland to celebrate St. Andrews day with the locals.


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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 Crafts with Sykes Cottages

Thursday, November 28th, 2013
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With the 1st December rapidly approaching, why not take the chance to inject some creativity into your Christmas preparations this year. A personal touch is always appreciated at Christmas so if you fancy yourself as the next Kirstie Allsopp then read on for the Sykes Cottages Christmas Craft Guide.

Make Your Own Advent Calendar

Advent Calendar

Via Flickr

Instead of manically dashing around the supermarket on the 30th November trying to find a bog-standard advent calendar, why not try making your own at home!  There are lots of fantastic ideas out there for ways in which you can make your children’s (or your own!) advent calendar really special this year. A nice idea is to wrap up little gifts such as sweets, key rings or small toys and number them from 1 through to 25. Then hang the gifts on your tree using ribbon or string and let your children take one down to unwrap each day. Another idea would be to use 25 empty matchboxes, stack them into a Christmas tree shape and fill them with treats. You could even get the kids involved and create a fun activity out of helping them to decorate the matchboxes with Christmas themed pictures and patterns.

Homemade Tree Decorations

Pine cone christmas decorations

Via Flickr

Add a personal touch to your Christmas tree this year by making some decorations of your own. It’s a great activity to get you in the festive spirit and will keep the kids entertained on a cold December day. A great idea is to take a trip to your local woods with your children and collect as many pine cones as you can find. At home, spray the pine cones with gold or silver paint, add glitter or white paint to look like snow, then attach a string and hang in pride of place on the tree! Children will love showing off their creations and it’s a cheap and easy way to add a bit of creativity to your Christmas tree. Or why not try an old favourite for homemade Christmas decorations and use salt dough. It’s so easy to make and the ingredients are probably already in your cupboard. All you need is half a cup of salt, half a cup of water and one whole cup of flour. Mix the ingredients together and knead for around 10 minutes before cutting them into shapes and popping them in the microwave for 3 minutes. If you want to display them on the Christmas tree then don’t forget to make a small hole to hang the decoration from. Once the salt dough is cool, supply your children with some paint and let them bring out their creative side.

Handmade Christmas Cards

Homemade Christmas Card

Via Flickr

There is nothing more touching than receiving a handmade Christmas card and there is nothing more satisfying than sending one. It adds a really personal and thoughtful element to your sentiments and is sure to take pride of place on the receiver’s mantelpiece. This is a craft that can be enjoyed by children and adults alike and even if you’re not the artistic type, it’s always the thought that counts.  You could even try adding photos of yourself and your loved ones to give your cards an extra personal touch.

If you fancy getting away this winter then consider booking one of our fantastic holiday cottages for a truly unforgettable Christmas. Many of our lovely cottage owners will put up trees and decorate their cottages for your visit so don’t forget to bring along your Christmas craft creations too!

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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.

The Great Outdoors in County Donegal

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013
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Tucked away on the rugged Atlantic coast of north west Ireland, County Donegal may not seem the most likely of holiday destinations. Having said that, the area has some of the most stunning natural scenery that you could wish for, with sweeping beaches, towering mountains and stunning sunsets appearing to be the norm. Here at Sykes, we’ve decided to try and find some of our favourite spots in Donegal and hopefully we’ll be able to do the region justice!

Sliabh Liag

The great sea cliffs of Sliabh Liag are especially awe inspiring. Standing a shade shy of 2,000 feet, they are the highest sea cliffs in Ireland and are over twice the size of their more famous cousins at Moher. Traditionally, people go to Bunglass to get a glimpse of the cliffs however, Sliabh Liag Boat Tours now offer a fantastic alternative with the opportunity to get an up close and personal view of the cliffs. The tours run several times a day and not only offer a whole new perspective of this Donegal delight, but also the chance to bump into some of the fantastic wildlife that calls this area home including dolphins, whales and basking sharks.

Sliabh Liag

Via. Flickr

Mount Errigal

Found right in the heart of the Derryveagh Mountains that form the backbone of Donegal, Mount Errigal is another of the county’s spots of beauty. At around 750 metres tall, Errigal is the highest peak in Donegal and when you couple this fact with the stunning views that can be found there, it’s little wonder the mountain is such a popular spot. Errigal is thought to be one of Ireland’s more iconic mountains alongside peaks from more famous ranges such as Macgillycuddy’s Reeks and the Wicklow Mountains. This is due to the peak giving off a shimmering pink glow at certain times of the day thanks to the quartzite minerals that make up the higher reaches of the mountain, making for a sure-fire photo opportunity!

Mt Errigal

Via. Flickr

Glenveagh National Park

If you’re after a taste of true Irish countryside there is no where better than Glenveagh National Park. Back in 1984 the area was designated as one of just six national parks in Ireland after a somewhat turbulent past. Made up of rolling hills, eerie forests and beautiful glens, the park is home not just to the stunning Glenveagh Castle but also to one of the country’s biggest herds of red deer, as well as a flock of rare golden eagles, which were reintroduced to the area in 2000.

Glenveagh National Park

Via. Flickr

Hopefully this will have tempted you into paying Donegal a visit so you can experience the area for yourself! If so, don’t forget to take a look at our Donegal Cottages to find yourself a real home away from home whilst you’re there.

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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.

Surreal Places in the UK and Ireland

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013
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If there’s one thing that we’re not shy of celebrating here at Sykes Cottages, it’s the beautiful landscape that surrounds many of our cottages. Both here in Britain and over the water in Ireland, visitors and inhabitants of these isles are spoilt for choice when it comes to landscapes and geological wonders to look at. Today on the Sykes blog, inspired by Buzzfeed‘s recent post of surreal places around the world, we thought that we’d take a look at some of our favourite places around the UK and Ireland that have an air of the surreal. Cameras at the ready, because a visit to any of these beauties might make you snap happy!

The Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye

Fairy Pool

Image from Flickr

If you’re after the ‘awe-factor’ then The Fairy Pools in The Isle of Skye are just the place! Accessible via hiking trails in the Cuillin Mountain that are easy to negotiate for even the most unskilled of walkers means that The Fairy Pools can be visited and enjoyed by everyone. The crystal clear water from the waterfall that cascades into the pools reacts with the different textures and colours to create beautiful reflections in the water, earning their name of ‘The Fairy Pools’. The brave amongst you might be interested to know that these pools are completely safe to swim in, but expect the water to be very cold even in the height of Summer!

Take a visit to The Fairy Pools and stay in a lovely holiday cottage in The Isle of Skye.

Cadair Idris, North West Wales

Cadair Idris

Image from Flickr

A popular spot for walkers and hikers in Wales is Cadair Idris; a mountain in Gwynedd, North West Wales. In Welsh mythology, the name is believed to be a translation of ‘the chair of Idris’, with Idris being a giant said to be using the mountain as an armchair to gaze at the stars. The bowl shape of the mountain was formed by a glacier during the last ice age and over thousands of years, ice has carved the chair shape by flowing through the bowls opening to create Idris’ chair.

We have some beautiful cottages in Mid Wales if you’re planning on taking a trip to the Chair of Idris.

Cheddar Gorge, Somerset

Cheddar Gorge

Image from Flickr

At three miles long and nearly 400 feet deep comes Cheddar Gorge, arguably one of England’s most iconic landscapes. Not only is Cheddar Gorge spectacular to look at, but it can also provide a day filled with fun for families or couples alike. Those who like to ramble will enjoy a cliff top walk along the top of the Gorge, which provides walkers with a fantastic view. If it’s a day of family fun and adventure you’re after then a trip to one of the Gorge’s caves or museums is definitely worth a visit. One of the best ways to see all the beauty that the Gorge has to offer is by taking an open top bus tour around the landscape of the gorge with the added bonus of hearing plenty of interesting facts from a tour guide.

Head back to a wonderful Somerset holiday cottage after your trip to the Gorge!

The Burren, County Clare

Landscape The Burren County Clare, Stone walls

Image from Flickr

Another surreal and naturally created landscape is that of The Burren in County Clare. The landscape here has been formed over millions of years by varying geological factors, which has created this beautiful almost pavement-like effect on the limestone rocks surface. Looking from far away you would be forgiven for thinking that there is nothing but rocks here, however take a closer look and you can see the vast amount of foliage that grows between the rock cracks.

Visit the Burren and stay in one of Sykes Cottages lovely properties in County Clare.

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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.

A Local’s Guide to Kingston Upon Hull

Monday, November 25th, 2013
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It’s not every day that Hull excites you. Yet, when it does, it’s all the more: exciting. That said, on the morning of 20th November 2013, as I sat hastily sipping a coffee and watching the news in my Mancunian abode, I was struck with a heady bout of said sensation. “It’s done it!” I whispered, punching the air and having a wee chortle, “Hull’s won City of Culture 2017!

And what a moment it was! What pride was felt, by every Hullite from East to West, North to South; their beloved city finally acknowledged, finally given the glimmer of hope that it might shake off the post-war decay that has blighted it for decades. After Yorkshire’s success at the World Travel Awards, it was about time that its trouble child of the East Coast was too given the recognition it deserves!

So follow me on a (former) local’s tour of the UK’s City of Culture 2017, but please bear in mind that I’m affectionately bias, and that things could get a little emotional…

Hull’s Award Winning Culture

The sign in glorious technicolour

Hull Truck Theatre, Via Flickr

Though not immediately obvious, Hull’s hip-deep in culture. And how could it not be? With over 800 years of history and one of the richest seafaring legacies in the UK. Discover virtually every inch of the city’s fabled past in the unique Museums Quarter, which comprises four distinct attractions, including the Streetlife Museum and a striking former trawler, the Arctic Corsair. Other up and coming cultural hotspots include the recently rebuilt Hull Truck Theatre, as well as the Fruit Market, a restored warehouse venue on the city’s marina which hosts a plethora of cultural events including gigs, exhibitions and the popular bi-monthly cinema event, Cult Cinema Sunday.

Hull’s Fantastic Food & Drink

Newland Avenue, Hull

From Old Town to the Avenues, Hull’s got some memorable watering holes and eateries, and I certainly wouldn’t advise you stop off at them all! There’s a handful however, that shouldn’t be missed. If you’re struck with hunger in the city centre, take a right off Whitefriargate and head to one of the excellent café bars on the Quayside. Here you can chow down on anything from clam chowder to the humble panini, and all that outdoor seating proves a great spot for a glass of vino in the summer! Alternatively, head to the popular streets of Princes Avenue and Newland Avenue. Close to the university, these connecting streets are blessed with a variety of excellent bars and restaurants. For a robust sharing platter, visit Garbutt’s on Princes Avenue, or enjoy a traditional Italian at La Perla. Fancy a tipple? Sample some continental ale in Larkin’s Bar or Ella Street Social, whose décor alone makes it well worth a stop off!

Hull’s Retail Opportunities


Hepworth Arcade, Via Flickr

In terms of retail, naturally Hull doesn’t compete with Liverpool or London. Yet, there’s a few pockets of the city which really do leave you reaching for your wallet. For big brands and high-street names, the glass leviathan of the St Stephens centre is a must. If you’re looking for alternative wares on which to spend your hard-earned however, you’ll have to go further afield. Tucked between Georgian buildings in Hull’s Old Town, The Hepworth Arcade is a great place for finding one off gems and forgotten trinkets. One of the Arcade’s most popular shops is Beasley’s, an independent clothing store which has grown in popularity over the years to become one of the city’s best kept secrets. Alternatively, the aforementioned Newland Avenue is the ideal place to find that perfect Christmas gift, with independent shops such as Woods stocking a wealth of unusual and unique gifts and homeware.

Visit Hull with Sykes Cottages

Hull marina reflections

Hull Marina, Via Flickr

For your chance to get to grips with the real Hull, why not book a self-catering cottage in East Yorkshire with Sykes Cottages? We’ve plenty of cottages around Hull which provide the ideal base for a daytrip to the city, so book yours today and remember: Don’t Knock it, ‘til you’ve tried it!

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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.