Archive for November, 2013

Packing for a winter holiday in the UK

Monday, November 18th, 2013
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If you’re planning a holiday in the UK this winter, there’s a few things you ought to be aware of. Firstly, it’ll be cold, bloomin’ cold. And secondly, it’ll be wet, very wet actually. With this in mind, it’s important to invest a bit more time in planning and preparing for your winter break. Whether you’re taking a sojourn on the English Riviera in Devon, or hiking in the Cairngorms, you’ll need clothing and luggage that can withstand the harsh snap of a British winter. That’s why, Sykes Cottages have come up with a helpful guide offering a few tips on how to make the most of your UK holiday. Because aside from all the pouring rain, the heavy hail showers and the dense, icy fog, there’s a beautiful country waiting to be discovered, and we want you to enjoy it every step of the way!

Step 1- Planning


Via Flickr

Unlike summer holidays when you could get away with only carrying your swimwear and a tube of sun lotion, winter holidays require a little more planning- especially if you’re travelling with kids! Writing a good old list is a great way to keep track of the comings and goings of your winter luggage, and will help you avoid overlooking any last minute essentials. If you want to be really prepared, many websites now offer printable PDF travel checklists which you can customise to suit the needs of your party; ideal for the fastidious traveller!

Step 2- Packing

freeform suitcase

Via Flickr

Getting winter woollies, wellies and booties into a single suitcase is no mean feat and can leave many spending hours perched atop their luggage trying to close the zip. So, how do you avoid the inevitable suitcase tussle? One simple way to side-step the hassle and get the zip shut quick is to pack thin layers of clothing rather than bulky pullovers. For years, intrepid explorers and wise old wives have been berating the world about the benefits of layering clothing instead of wearing a single thick pullover, and it seems they were right! To keep your core warm on your winter holiday, swap the woolly jumper for a couple of layers of lightweight thermals, and watch the space in your suitcase magically reappear! As for wellies and the other bulky items, use spacious shopping bags and sling them in the boot- simple!

Step 3- Travelling

Driving in the Snow

Via Flickr

At Sykes, we think one of the many joys of a UK holiday is that they start as soon as you leave your front door; in theory anyway. If you’re travelling with young children however, that can be a different story. If you need a quick distraction to get your gang quietly over the 200 mile mark, pack a backpack of fun, car friendly activities such as colouring books and mini board games. Or, create an impressive car picnic; because nothing distracts children like a bit of nosh! For couples, compile a playlist of your favourite tunes and enjoy a relaxing journey through some of the country’s most beloved wintry landscapes- bliss!

We hope this guide to packing for a winter holiday has been helpful. If you’re planning a winter break in the UK, be sure to take a look at our superb range of self-catering holiday cottages and winter short breaks!

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: Wrest Park

Sunday, November 17th, 2013
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For a winter wander on a shivery Sunday, you need charm, character and somewhere warm and dry to thaw out your extremities. With this in mind, we’ve chosen Wrest Park as our destination of choice for today’s Sunday Snapshots. Comprising 92 acres of peaceful parterre gardens, evocative blotches of picturesque woodland and a peppering of French-style Victorian architecture, Wrest Park offers a fascinating peep into the grandeur of the previous century. And luckily, winter is the perfect time for a visit, with Christmas Wreath Making and a Festive Family Fun Trail transforming the park’s grounds into a winter wonderland.

To find out more about what to see and do at the park, visit our Wrest Park accommodation page today. In the meantime, have a nosey at the wonderful photos below!

Wrest Park (EH) 27-05-2013

Via Flickr

Wrest Park Willows

Via Flickr

Formal garden, Wrest Park, Silsoe, Bedfordshire

Via Flickr

Wrest Park (EH) 27-05-2013

Via Flickr

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.

Get Out and Get Active This Winter

Friday, November 15th, 2013
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Winter is finally here and for most of us that means barricading the door, hiding under the blankets and waiting for the ice to thaw. But as the first snow starts to fall and temperatures plummet, the more adventurous among us prefer to keep warm by enjoying some heart racing winter sports! With an ample selection of outdoor activities to be had there is no reason not to get out there and try something new this winter. Here at Sykes Cottages, we want to help you banish those winter blues and make the most of this festive season, so we’ve compiled a list of our favourite winter sports to help entice you out of the house and into the crisp winter air!

You don’t need snow to have a good time!

The skiing season is officially over - part 1

Via. Flickr

Winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding are commonly associated with boundless amounts of snow, but in this modern age a good snowfall is not always needed! You can have all the excitement of a day at the slopes without having to depend on the weather by simply visiting an all-weather ski centre like The Chill Factor in Manchester. This fantastic indoor area prides itself on creating real snow for its guests every month of the year! The Chill factor is the perfect place to hone your skills on the slopes or, if like me you are a novice border or skier, they give fantastic lessons so you can really impress your friends with your slick new moves!

Gliding and sliding

There is nothing more fun than collapsing in a heap on top of a friend or two whilst ice-skating. This sociable sport can be enjoyed by people of all ages and offers a fantastic alternative to a movie night. Why take your new crush to the cinema where you have to sit in silence when you could just as easily whisk them off to the ice rink, where you can chat all night whilst skating in circles and laughing at each other’s tumbles. There are a number of pop-up ice rinks throughout the UK this winter and each will provide the essentials such as polished ice, skates and plenty of good food and drink at the surrounding Christmas Markets.

Dashing through the Snow

Riding Off into the Sunset

Via. Flickr

For a festive favourite that can be enjoyed by the whole family, why not try a spot of sledging? This action packed winter sport suits the whole family, with the older more experienced opting for the steep sloping hills whilst the younger, more fragile of us head for the smaller less elevated mounds. This activity can be done almost anywhere all you need is a little push! If you have limited outdoor space or your home is located amongst the hustle and bustle of a big city then don’t worry; here at Sykes Cottages we have a wonderful selection of country cottages perfect for a sledging adventure!

The UK has a beautiful and diverse landscape which becomes a picturesque winter wonderland during the festive season, and we want you to get out there and embrace the cold. So put out that fire, come out from under your blanket and get ready for a winter full of exciting outdoor activities!


By Nicole Westley

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 fiancé.

Celebrate New Year in a Sykes Cottage

Thursday, November 14th, 2013
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New Year can be a trying time for even the most patient amongst us; all the endless waiting to get into clubs, long queues at the bar of your local and of course, the inevitable struggle to get a taxi home. Factor in the inflated prices and cold weather and New Year’s Eve can become more of a hassle than a pleasurable experience. Here at Sykes Cottages, we have the answer. Why not book a New Year getaway in one of our holiday cottages?

Embark on a romantic retreat this New Year

Open Fire and Wine

Via Flickr

Sometimes a quiet New Year’s Eve is just the ticket. Escape from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the country and spend a relaxing New Year holed up in one of our cottages with your loved one. You could indulge in a home-cooked meal or order in a takeaway then spend the evening unwinding in front of a roaring log fire, reminiscing about the year gone by. Why not go the extra mile and book one of our cottages with a hot tub and bring in the New Year whilst sipping champagne and gazing at the stars? Come morning, a brisk stroll through your surroundings would be the perfect antidote to any sore heads that you might be nursing. Most of our cottages are situated amongst stunning countryside or close to beautiful, sandy beaches so you can blow away the cobwebs against a spectacular backdrop. A romantic getaway for New Year would also make a fantastic Christmas present for your partner, ensuring that you’re definitely in their good books for 2014.

Host a New Year’s family get-together

Large Cottage for New Year

Gorrans Down Cottage, Devon, Ref. 5243

Large families can also present a bit of a problem around New Year. Everyone likes to spend time with their family over the festive period but when you have so many relatives to catch up with, it can be difficult to find the time and space to fit everyone in.  If this sounds familiar, why not book one of our large cottages over New Year so the whole family can spend time together. We have cottages large enough to fit up to groups of 20 and also cottage complexes where guests can retain their individual space by booking several properties in the same compound. There won’t be the same stress of hosting a family get-together in your own house; there’ll be no desperate scramble to find extra chairs and no worries about where everyone will sleep. Our large cottages are the perfect location for New Year’s Eve celebrations and what could be better than being surrounded by your family as the clock strikes midnight?

Don’t forget to book quickly!

Fireworks at New Year

Via Flickr

Our cottages for New Year do book up fast so if you want to stay one of our holiday cottages this New Year’s Eve, please remember to book as soon as possible to avoid disappointment. If you already have plans for New Year’s Eve 2013 but you like the idea of staying in a cottage next New Year, why not book for 2014 today and take your pick from all of our wonderful cottages.

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.

What to do on a Stratford holiday

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013
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Nestled away in the heart of the country, Stratford-upon-Avon is the quintessential UK holiday destination. It’s beautiful scenery provides more than ample opportunity for a ramble in the Warwickshire countryside, whilst its numerous attractions and activities means there’ll never be a dull moment on a Stratford holiday.

Stratford’s Favourite Son

It would be nigh on impossible to write about Stratford-upon-Avon without mentioning its most famous export, William Shakespeare. He was born and raised in the town, learning his trade at the local grammar school before going on to find fame in London. Many of the buildings that played a role in his life have been wonderfully preserved and now make ideal attractions for Shakespeare enthusiasts. Couple this with multiple museums and a collection of theatres and even the most fanatical fans of the playwright will find their fill!

One novel way to get the Shakespeare experience is through a scheme envisioned by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and Stratford Bike Hire. These two organisations have designed a cycle route around the town that incorporates all of the major Shakespeare related attractions such his birthplace, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, Nash’s house and also his grave at Holy Trinity Church. There is also a shorter, and easier, route that will allow you to take in all of the key locations in under half of the time.

Shakespeare's Birthplace

Via. Flickr

A Shakespeare Free day in Stratford

Don’t worry if Shakespeare isn’t your thing; Stratford has plenty more to offer! MAD (the Museum of Mechanical Art and Design) offers a fun-filled outing for the whole family with its countless gadgets and gizmos, and with a recent move to new premises in the heart of the town, it promises to be bigger and better than ever! There is also the famous Stratford-upon-Avon Butterfly Farm that offers the chance to walk through a rainforest complete with a cornucopia of exotic wildlife from tarantulas to iguanas, caterpillars to giant snails not to mention the main attraction of 1500 free flying butterflies! Or, alternatively, if you’re looking for a more relaxing day, why not pay a visit to one of the numerous tea rooms or cafés dotted around the town where you can while away an afternoon in tea fuelled bliss.

Stratford-upon-Avon Butterfly Farm

Via. Flickr

Hopefully this will have whetted your appetite to pay a visit to Stratford-upon-Avon and experience it all yourself; if so, don’t forget to check out our holiday cottages in the area to make your holiday an unforgettable one!

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.