Archive for December, 2013

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 25th, 2013
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Wishing you a very Merry Christmas from everyone at Sykes Cottages! We hope your day is brimming with family, friends and festive cheer (plus a mince pie or two).  Tune in to the Sykes Blog tomorrow for some foody tips on what to do with that leftover Turkey, as well as a lowdown on our last minute holiday cottages for the New Year!

Have a wonderful Christmas!

christmas tree 2004

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.

Festive Films for Christmas Eve

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013
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Here at Sykes, we think that there is no better Christmas Eve activity than getting cosy in front of the TV with your favourite Christmas film and a hot chocolate (or for the adults, a festive tipple!) Apparently we’re not alone in this, as we each watch an average of 13 films over the festive period. In honour of it being Christmas Eve, we thought we’d do something a little different this Tuesday and share with you our favourite Christmas films from a few of us here in the office at Sykes HQ.

Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas

The Nightmare Before Christmas

“I like to dust off my copy of ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ during the festive season as it provides a brilliant alternative to your ordinary Christmas film, with  skeletons, monsters, ghosts and of course Father Christmas, this is definitely an unusual film. Along with fantastic animation, inspiring music and lovable characters this film has a real feel-good meaning, well that is after Jack has destroyed Christmas. The Pumpkin King realises the way to make himself truly happy is just to be himself and I feel, with the rise of bullying in schools, this is a lesson that we all should learn and appreciate.” Nikki

It’s a Wonderful Life

“Choosing my favourite Christmas film actually proved to be quite a difficult task, however I finally settled on It’s a Wonderful Life. I only saw it for the first time a few years back after my Dad came home with the DVD but since then it has become a household tradition to watch it together – maybe it’s a sign of how good it is that we can all sit down and watch it without bickering. It may sound a bit cliché but It’s a Wonderful Life really has everything that you could want from a festive film with one of the most uplifting endings and as far as I’m concerned should be compulsory Christmas viewing for everyone!” Jamie

Father Christmas

Father Christmas

“For me, Christmas isn’t complete without watching Father Christmas. Being released the same year I was born means that I have literally grown up with this brilliant short film, and it is as much a part of my annual Christmas festivities as crackers and twinkly lights. This film shows Father Christmas in a different light to what we’re used to: living in the suburbs, going on holiday and getting ready for ‘another bloomin’ Christmas’ rather than the usual jolly Lapland –inhabitant we’re used to seeing in festive films. If possible, I find this Father Christmas more endearing than the typical jolly Santa image and his grumpy attitude makes for a few laughs along the way. The cynical Santa, wonderful animation and excellent story line is what makes this my must-watch Christmas film every year!” Leanne

The Santa Clause

“What more could you ask for: Tim Allen, a flaming turkey and a band of flying “elves with attitude”. Yes, this is 1994’s The Santa Clause, a wacky portrayal of one divorcee’s transformation into Santa Claus. After inadvertently murdering Little Saint Nick on Christmas Eve (awkward), advertising exec Scott Calvin embarks on a mind-bending festive odyssey which sees him gain weight, grow a beard and convince the world that he is indeed Father Christmas. This enchanting tale offers up a good dollop of old fashioned Christmas cheer without being overly demanding, so is sure to be a hit with the little ones.” Jonathan

Home Alone

Home Alone

“There are so many amazing Christmas films but when it comes down to it I think my favourite has to be Home Alone. I watch this film at least once every Christmas and no matter how many times I see it, it never gets old. The story is undeniably a bit crazy but who cares! For me, Macaulay Culkin is absolutely perfect and his ridiculous facial expressions still make me laugh every time I watch it. There are so many classic one-liners to join in with and it invokes a real sense of nostalgia from having grown up watching it. It’s hilarious, heart-warming and Christmassy all in one, what more could you want!” Louise

If having a festive film marathon is one of your favourite Christmas Eve pastimes, why not shake things up a bit next year and cosy up in a holiday cottage with your DVDs and Christmas snacks? It’s never too early to book a Christmas holiday cottage for 2014!

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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’ Gingerbread House Building Competition

Monday, December 23rd, 2013
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You might have noticed that not long ago Sykes Cottages welcomed a group of extra special fairy-tale cottages into the fold, including our very own Gingerbread House. As you might expect we have been inundated with requests about staying there and we just can’t keep up. Therefore we created this handy little infographic that would give people all the information that they would need to build their very own life-sized gingerbread house from scratch. However, we weren’t too sure about how these delicious dwellings should be decorated and so we turned to some extremely friendly bloggers, and their little assistants, for a touch of inspiration.

The Gingerbread House

Gingerbread House, property reference no. GNGBRD

We ran a competition where we sent out a few build your own gingerbread house kits for them to put together and then decorate to their heart’s content; needless to say, the creativity certainly flowed. We then had the difficult job of choosing a winner from the various creations, something that proved to be quite a task.

The Runner Ups

Our first entry was the gingerbread house created by our helpers at Here Come the Girls. This turned out to be one of the more creative entries as rather than making a traditional gingerbread house they went all out and recreated one of their favourite fairy-tales with a model of Rapunzel’s tower that included an evil witch and Rapunzel’s hair. The lovely people over at Crummy Mummy also entered a wonderfully creative gingerbread house roofed with fruit gum tiles that are colourful to make any house stand out from the crowd.

Our friends over at Domestic Goddesque pushed the boat out with a real winter wonderland complete with a snow covered garden and Christmas tree. Also going for the festive approach, the family at Here We Are Together sent over a Christmassy cottage that included an extra Christmas tree, not to mention a snowman constructed from marshmallows and chocolate buttons.

Here We Are Together's gingerbread house

The Gingerbread House created by Here We Are Together

Unfortunately the kit that we sent out to the family at Mum In The Mad House was slightly damaged in the post, however thanks to some handy work with a bit of tin foil, not to mention a fantastic array of Christmassy decorations, the situation was rescued. The Gingerbread House that our friends from Bakes, Books And My Boys also featured a touch of DIY, albeit in the form of a hand-crafted candy cane door frame which added a lovely finishing touch.

Although there may have been an unfortunate incident involving the gingerbread Hansel the entry from Simply Being Mum proved to be a delightfully festive house that even came with a couple of sugar model snowmen in the garden.

Simply Being Mum's Gingerbread House

The Gingerbread House made by Simply Being Mum

The lovely people over at Modern Mummy certainly let their artistic side out with some fantastic Christmas decorations, especially the white icing around the window and door, whereas Deep In Mummy Matters went for the location, location, location approach with a prime spot of lakeside real estate for their gingerbread house.

The Winner

Ultimately we settled on The Brick Castle as our winner. This was mainly down to the addition of a little nativity scene, not to mention the very impressive Brick Castle! We also liked the fact that they included a little gingerbread recipe so that their readers could break out the baking trays and give it a go themselves.

The Brick Castle Gingerbread House

Our Winner: The Gingerbread House from The Brick Castle

Finally we would just like to pass on a massive thank you to all of the bloggers that took part in the competition, and of course their little assistants, and we hope that they enjoyed their culinary crafting.

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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.

Sunday Snapshots: Winter Wildlife Watch

Sunday, December 22nd, 2013
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Last week, after I’d sidled into my frostbitten Fiesta to embark on my morning commute to Sykes HQ, I noticed small footprints on my windscreen. Suspecting squirrels, I later did a bit of Googling and discovered that the culprit was actually a fox. And that got me thinking: what other wildlife might be clambering about atop my car in the dead of a cold winter’s night?

You see, winter is blooming tough on wildlife- the lack of daylight means that many struggle to find food, and the plummeting temperatures radically affect survival rates. As such, many have to go to extreme lengths to track down their evening meal- like perusing the roof of a car, for example.

This, coupled with a lack of vegetation and leaf cover, make winter wildlife spotting a rather fruitful enterprise, with numerous species emerging from their comfy hovels in search of a spot of fodder. From the majestic deer and the illusive badger, to marsh harriers, redwings and starling roosts, there’s no denying that the UK is awash with astonishing wildlife during the winter months.

So if you should take a cottage holiday in the UK between now and February, it’s more than likely that you’ll encounter at least one of the following furry, feathery and altogether cuddly critters:


Via Flickr

duck life

Via Flickr


Via Flickr


Via Flickr

Starlings roosting

Via Flickr (And yes, they’re BIRDS!)


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.

Top Locations for Christmas Eve Celebrations

Friday, December 20th, 2013
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With the children now finished school for the holidays and adults leaving work early there is no night as special or as magical than Christmas Eve. With an early finish and the children full of excitement there is time to spare on festive activities before retreating to a warm and welcoming home to sip hot chocolate and wait for the arrival of Father Christmas and his reindeer. The UK is filled with beautiful places to visit and our local towns and villages seem to take on a mystical glow in the cool frosty air, so here at Sykes Cottages we have compiled a list of our favourite festive places for you and your family to visit this Christmas Eve.


stratford upon avon

Via. Flickr

The town famously known as the birth place of William Shakespeare is awash with festive activities this Christmas; visitors search the shops for unique Christmas gifts and photographers scurry around in search of the perfect festive photo. For an alternative to watching movies we would suggest that this Christmas Eve you wrap up warm and pull on your walking boots to take part in the award winning town walk. This invigorating walk guides you through the town’s main attractions, divulging exciting history and sharing the town’s loving ties to William Shakespeare. We have a superb selection of Stratford-Upon-Avon holiday cottages perfect for resting your tired legs after your exhilarating walk and ideal for a family getaway over the Christmas period.


Peterborough Cathedral

Via. Flickr

This wonderful Cambridgeshire city makes for a delightful Christmas break, with merry locals spreading the joy and good cheer so commonly associated with the festive season. This Christmas Eve, The Peterborough Cathedral will entertain crowds of all ages with carols performed by the Salvation Army, a service of readings and a midnight Eucharist. If you are still in search of the dream Christmas cottage to escape to during the upcoming week then why not visit one of our charming Cambridgeshire holiday cottages; with beautiful open fires and far reaching views these cottages paint the perfect picture for a warm and cosy Christmas.


Venue Cymru, Llandudno

Via. Flickr

The coastal town of Llandudno is a fantastic destination for picking up that last minute Christmas gift; the town offers everything from high-street brands to quirky independent craft stores, so you’ll be sure to find everything you need for your loved ones this year. We would encourage a trip to the magnificent Venue Cymru where families will be entertained with a wonderful rendition of Sleeping Beauty; the show is perfect for a Christmas Eve treat, showing at 1pm and again at 5pm. The salty sea air and the cool breeze coming over the mountains makes Llandudno a favourite amongst holiday makers, so take advantage of our Llandudno holiday cottages this year and spoil the family with a wonderful welsh Christmas!

Here at Sykes Cottages we feel truly blessed to live in a country as fair as the United Kingdom, so take some time out this Christmas and explore a new town or city with the people you love. If you are stuck for ideas or need help planning your dream Christmas getaway then why not contact us? Our team of merry helpers would love to hear from you, and have expert advice on the best places to visit this Christmas Eve!

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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.