Archive for November, 2013

Sunday Snapshots: Puzzlewood, The Forest of Dean

Sunday, November 24th, 2013
Pin It

In today’s Sunday Snapshots, we’ll be delving into the murky realm of Puzzlewood, an ancient stretch of woodland thought to be one of the most enchanting forested areas in England. This gnarled pocket of primeval trees can be found in the dense underbelly of the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire, and is thought to be the inspiration behind JRR Tolkien’s fabled forests in his fictitious Middle Earth, as well as JK Rowling’s ‘Forbidden Forest’ in the Harry Potter series. Landscaped in the 19th century after over 2,000 years of unhindered growth, Puzzlewood contains over a mile of pathways which coil curiously through an arboreal landscape, revealing moss smothered limestone gorges and age-old thickets of rare flora. Get lost in this uncanny English jungle for yourself on a winter short break, and discover an endearing tangle of some of the country’s most beloved vegetation. Facilities at the site include a Willow Maze for kids, a large on-site car park and café, making it a wonderful destination for a family day out.

Discover Puzzlewood for yourself with our selection of photographs below.

Looking For Angels at Puzzlewood

Via Flickr


Via Flickr

Open-air Caves At Puzzlewood

Via Flickr


Via Flickr

Wooden bridge at Puzzlewood, Forest of Dean

Via Flickr

Pin It
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.

Sykes’ Guide to UK Christmas Markets

Friday, November 22nd, 2013
Pin It

If you are looking for a fun and festive day out that the whole family can enjoy then we at Sykes Cottages would definitely suggest a visit to your local Christmas market. The UK has a wonderful reputation for creating classic Christmas markets which will delight the whole family; the streets are lined with colourful stalls, decorative lights are hung and laughter fills the air! Here at Sykes Cottages, we’ve been braving the cold to enjoy our own local markets and have decided to give you a run down of all the fabulous festive treats that are in store for you this winter at your local Christmas market!

Festive Food and Drink

Christmas market, Strasbourg

Via. Flickr

At Sykes Cottages we are very fond of local Christmas markets and one of the main reasons for this is the wide array of food and drink on offer, allowing us to get fat and jolly, just like Mr Claus himself! No matter which market you’re attending this year, you’re sure to find an ample choice of your favourite festive food and drink, such as roasted chestnuts, wild boar burgers, fruity crepes, fantastic strudels and plenty of hot chocolate and mulled wine to wash it all down! For all the foodies out there we would definitely suggest visiting the Manchester Christmas market; with a large number of food stalls and free entry this market is a must on our Christmas check list!

Christmas Parades

Chester Christmas Parade

For me the best accompaniment to a cheery Christmas market is a colourful Christmas parade! These festive marches will normally pass right in front of you whilst you are browsing the local produce at the market stalls. To experience one of the UK’s best parades, why not head to the romantic city of Chester? Here you will find classic Chester parades, like the Saturnalia Parade, when the roman legion lights up the streets on December 19th. Alternatively, there’s the Winter Watch parade, where the musicians will dance along the cobbles on December 5th and 12th. The city has some fantastic festive treats this year so we would suggest renting a Chester cottage and taking some time out for a festive family weekend.


Nuremberg Christmas Market

Via. Flickr

Christmas markets are the perfect place to get lost amongst the hustle and bustle of the stalls, be dazzled by the bright colours and shop till you drop! Good Christmas markets will offer you a wonderful supply of local craftsmanship and produce, making it easy to find that special someone the perfect one of a kind gift they deserve.  For a fantastic shopping experience head to Bath’s Christmas market; they have more than earned their title of ‘Christmas Capital of the West’, with their extravagant collection of independent stalls and high-street brands.


ballagio christmas garden 2011 toy soldier

Via. Flickr

Christmas markets are all about the experience, and there is no better way to provide the perfect Christmas atmosphere than with vast amounts of entertainment! Christmas markets tend to cater for the whole family; grandparents will be in ore as the local choir sing, parents will be dazzled by the street performers and the children will delight in seeing Santa and his elves.  The Edinburgh Christmas fair kicks off this evening (December 22nd) with a buzz of excitement! They have the most wonderful entertainment with their Star Flyer, Big Wheel and Carousel making this a market you don’t want to miss!

Your local Christmas market is the best place for a festive day out with the whole family, but if you are looking at getting away for a few days, you could always take a winter short break! Take a few days off and explore a new town and a new market perfect for getting you in a Christmassy mood!

Pin It
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.

Sykes Cottages’ Guide to The Best Places to Propose this Winter

Thursday, November 21st, 2013
Pin It

As winter starts to kick in, it can bring out the romantic soul in each of us and leave us dreaming of snowflakes, cosy nights in front of the fire and twinkly Christmas lights. Winter is often seen as a very loving time where you put a lot of thought and effort into buying gifts and spend hours travelling across the country (or even the world!) in order to spend Christmas with your family or that special someone. It should then come as no surprise that December, especially around the Christmas and New Year period, is the most popular time of the year to get engaged. So if you’re thinking of getting down on one knee this winter, here is Sykes Cottages’ shortlist of the best places in the UK to pop the question.

Lake District

Refreshing morning view over Lake Windermere, Lake District. #iPhone Pic

Via Flickr

The idyllic landscape of the Lake District is nothing if not perfect for a beautiful wedding proposal.  Last year, the Lake District was voted the most popular place in the UK to propose and it’s not hard to see why. The dramatic coastline, glistening lakes, lush green countryside and magnificent fells all play a part in the romantic atmosphere of the region, which has inspired many a poet in years gone by. Indeed, William Wordsworth once famously described Grasmere in the Lake District as “the loveliest spot that man hath ever found”. If you’re looking for some inspiration for a Lake District proposal, how about renting a boat and popping the question in the middle of Lake Windermere? Windermere has long been considered one of the most romantic places in the Lake District and the views surrounding the lake would make a spectacular backdrop for a perfectly poetic proposal.

Sweetheart Abbey, Scotland

Sweetheart Abbey

Via Flickr

Sweetheart Abbey is by its very nature, a fantastic place to propose. Built in 1273 and located near Dumfries, the abbey is a testament to true love and devotion, built as a tribute by Lady Devorgilla to her beloved late husband, John Balliol. Legend has it that she was so distraught by his death that she carried his embalmed heart with her at all times in a casket to keep him close to her. When she died, she was buried along with her husband’s heart in the grounds. This romantic, although slightly peculiar, story has inspired many lovers to seek out Sweetheart Abbey and propose here as a symbol of their eternal commitment and devotion.

Palladian Bridge, Bath

Prior Park, Bath

Via Flickr

The city of Bath, with its stunning architecture and Georgian charm, is another significant place to head to if you’re thinking of getting down on one knee this winter. Bath’s grandeur and charisma will set the scene for a picture-perfect proposal that your partner just won’t be able to say no to! Our suggestion for a romantic proposal in Bath is on the Palladian Bridge in Prior Park. The park dates back to the eighteenth century and boasts sweeping panoramic views across Bath, making it a very impressive setting for a proposal. The Palladian Bridge is not just a pretty feature either as it’s only one of four of its kind in the world, earning it the honour of Grade I listed building. Just imagine how special your loved one will feel when you get down onto one knee on this historical bridge overlooking one of the most beautiful cities in England. What a beautifully romantic story to tell family and friends!

Your Own Private, Romantic Cottage

Coachman’s Cottage, Tintagel, Cornwall, Ref. 982

If you’re a little apprehensive about proposing somewhere where you could be seen or overheard, why not book one of our romantic holiday cottages so you can pop the question in private. We have a wide range of cottages across the UK and Ireland so you can tailor your break to meet your proposal needs. Want to propose overlooking the coast? Try one of our secluded, sea view cottages. Or consider a cottage with an open fire and witness the glow of the flames dancing across your loved ones face as they (hopefully) say yes!

Pin It
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.

Walk of the Month: Symonds Yat in the Forest of Dean

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013
Pin It

For the very first edition of Sykes Cottages’ ‘Walk of the Month’ we have chosen a wonderful winter walk in the Forest of Dean that is sure to blow away a few cobwebs and burn off some of those extra comfort food calories! The Forest of Dean was designated Britain’s first National Forest Park back in 1938 after a long and much varied history, serving as both a medieval royal hunting forest and one of the engine rooms of the industrial revolution. Nowadays,  the Forest of Dean has become one of the nation’s favourite tourist destinations, with a variety of activities on offer amongst the trees, including mountain biking and segway riding. Yet the good old walk remains one of the best ways to explore this beautiful spot of British countryside, so join us as we take you on a woodland walk around this majestic British forest.

Forest of Dean

Via. Flickr

The Walk

The Symonds Yat loop is a relatively short (two and three quarter mile) circular walk along the banks of the River Wye. Be sure to look out for the numerous butterflies at Biblins Campsite and also for the wild Peregrine falcons that call the Wye Valley home; and remember to take some change to pay for your ferry crossing (£1 for adults and 50p for children)!

River Wye viewed from Symonds Yat Rock

Via. Flickr

The Route

The starting point for the walk is the quaint village of Symonds Yat East below Symonds Yat Rock, famous for its stunning panoramas over the River Wye. After parking at one of the village’s car parks, make your way to the Saracen’s Head inn where you’ll find a hand pulled ferry that will transport you over the river. Once you disembark on the opposite bank, take a left up the hill and then another left down the signposted steps to the riverbank.

Now follow the riverbank along, making sure to keep the river on your left. Soon enough, the rapids and small islands in the River Wye will come into sight. This is a popular spot for adrenaline junkies, so there will most likely be a couple of hardy canoeists tackling the rapids! Eventually you’ll reach the Biblins Youth Campsite, which roughly signifies the half way point of the walk. At the Camp you’ll find a footbridge that leads back over the river, cross here and turn left.

Keep following the riverbank again back towards Symonds Yat East, making sure to avoid the tracks that lead up the hill. Soon enough you’ll reach the rapids again and just a bit further on is a car park. This car park marks your return to the village of Symonds Yat East where you’ll be able to find a warming cup of tea in one of the delightful little cafés that are dotted around!

The Forest of Dean

Via. Flickr

Make sure that you check out our cosy holiday cottages near to the Forest of Dean so that you have somewhere to put your feet up after completing the walk!

Pin It
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.

Celebrating the Year of Natural Scotland

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013
Pin It

Whether you’ve experienced Scotland yourself or have just admired pictures, it is hard to deny that Scotland is one of the most naturally beautiful countries. Today at Sykes we are joining in and celebrating 2013 being the year of Natural Scotland by showcasing our favourite aspects of this naturally beautiful country.

Scottish Wildlife

Orla the Golden Eagle

Image via Flickr.

Animal lovers will be in their element in Scotland, as alongside an abundance of nature comes a large amount of wildlife, and Scotland is home to a remarkable number of animals! Scotland houses 80% of the United Kingdom’s red squirrel population and squirrel enthusiasts will love the dedicated Red Squirrel Walk through Dalbeattie Forest. Birds of prey fans are best heading to the highlands, where you might be able to spot a Golden Eagle with its 2 metre wingspan soaring above the land and seeking its next prey!

Scotland’s Cities

Stirling from Wallace Monument

The view from the top of the Wallace Monument, Stirling.
Image via Flickr.

Those who prefer the hustle and bustle of a city need not fear as Scotland’s cities are also full to the brim with nature; with each Scottish city boasting a park, gardens or monuments. See a wide array of plants in Dundee’s Botanic Garden, walk along the Water of Leith in the Scottish capital or get a beautiful view of Stirling from the top of the Wallace Monument. Whichever Scottish city you plan on visiting, you are sure to find an abundance of natural beauty!

Natural Landscapes

Postcard from Scotland

Image via Flickr.

Perhaps the most strikingly beautiful aspect of Natural Scotland is the counties landscapes and forestry. Enjoy a walk throughout any of Perthshire’s woodland or forests and you’ll see why the county is known as ‘Big Tree Country’. Definitely worth a visit in autumn is Faskally Wood, which is transformed into the Enchanted Forest by sound and light effects. There is no better way of seeing the beauty of Scotland than on foot, and there is a Scottish hill or mountain to suit ramblers of any level. Those wanting a walking challenge to go alongside their beautiful views should head to one of Scotland’s Corbetts; hills named after John Rooke Corbett and between 2,500ft and 3,000ft in height. There are 222 of these hills around Scotland, so you won’t have to travel far to conquer a Corbett!

If you’re feeling inspired to head to Scotland to see all of the countries natural beauty first hand, why not stay in one of our lovely holiday cottages in Scotland!

Pin It
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.