Archive for January, 2014

Horse Riding Holidays

Friday, January 31st, 2014
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Today marks the first day of the Chinese New Year when we will be celebrating the year of the Wood Horse; a fantastic year for adventure, unexpected romance and an excellent year for travel! To celebrate this Chinese New Year, Sykes have combined both horses and travel to provide you with a list of the best counties to visit for a horse riding holiday.

Horses on the beach

Via. Flickr

Norfolk

Its breath-taking coastline and picturesque landscape make Norfolk a fantastic day out for any horse lover. Gallop along the sandy shores of the beaches at Holkham or take a lazy day’s ride through the unspoilt countryside surrounding Weybourne; whatever path you choose in Norfolk it leads to untold adventures and spectacular sightseeing. If you would like to visit scenic Norfolk but are worried about leaving your beloved horse behind then you should take a look at 2 Stud Cottage. This delightful cottage not only offers luxurious accommodation for you and your family but on arrangement, the owners can provide stabling for your horses. Alternatively, if you like the sound of horse riding in Norfolk but don’t have your own horse then visit the Squirrelwood Equestrian Centre; they are able to provide wonderful rides through the country that will suit all ages and abilities.

Horses at 2 Stud Cottage, Ref. 14395

Horses at 2 Stud Cottage, Ref. 14395

Powys

With a fantastic patchwork of bridleways and gorgeous country views, Powys in mid Wales is an incredible location for a horse riding holiday. Whether you’re bringing your own horses for a scenic outing or using the opportunity to ride a Welsh Cob, the surroundings here in mid-Wales are all-inspiring. With a number of prestigious riding companies in the area, Powys is a fantastic location for beginners, so if you’re feeling inspired and want to try your hand at a new activity then this year would be the perfect time to start! If you’re a riding expert who feels more at home on top of a horse than a bicycle, why not take your four legged friend with you? Dolly Farm Cottage is a stunning country cottage with captivating hill views and plenty of space for your horse to run about at the specialist equestrian centre whilst you relax in the bubbly waters of the hot tub.

Horses at Dolley Farm Cottage, Ref. 14670

Horses at Dolley Farm Cottage, Ref. 14670

Lake District

Many people dream of visiting the Lake District and if they’ve already been they dream of visiting again! In an attempt to change things up why not try roaming this diverse landscape on horseback? You can experiment with your normal holiday photography by capturing pictures of the spectacular scenery and elusive wildlife from on top of your horse, giving you new angles and higher views. The Lake District offers an excellent selection of pony trekking and trail riding facilities which helps both beginners and experts navigate the bridleways and get the most from the day’s horse riding adventure. For a charming country escape with your horse in toe visit Rainbow Cottage; this character cottage is set in the picturesque Soulby countryside and offers fantastic walks and rides right from the doorstep.

Perfect rides from Rainbow Cottage, Ref. 2022

Perfect rides from Rainbow Cottage, Ref. 2022

Here at Sykes Cottages we are really excited to start the Chinese New Year with a bang and can’t wait to get in the saddle on our next UK holiday. To help us inspire our readers why not send in a pictures of your beautiful horse, or a horse you’ve met whilst on holiday? We would love to see your pictures so please share them with us on Facebook and Twitter; we look forward to seeing your fantastic photography skills soon.

nicole.westley

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.

Take the Lead- A Guide to Great Dog Walks

Thursday, January 30th, 2014
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I’m sure all you dog lovers out there are fully aware of how spookily smart your canine companions can be at times, but did you know that they can also read and write? Well, they can! Recently, one such clever pooch contacted us to ask if we’d be interested in featuring a collection of his favourite walks on the Sykes website, and, curious to hear what this fuzzy mastermind had come up with, we accepted his offer.

‘Take the Lead- A Guide to Great Dog Walks’, is a superb dog walking guide aimed directly at the fourlegged explorer in your family. Featuring a hound’s eye view of some of the best dog walks in England, this informative, engaging and suspiciously witty guide is perfect for when you want to discover never-before-seen surroundings and go off the beaten track with your beloved pooch. Here at Sykes Cottages, we’re delighted to put our name to the work of this well-travelled canine, and hope that you and your dog enjoy this lovable mutt’s musings as much as we did. For a sneaky peek at some of our favourite meaty morsels from this charming guide to England’s best dog walks, read on!

Let loose in the Lakes

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

The Lake District has been one of Britain’s favourite walking destinations for centuries, so it’s hardly surprising that this striking national park has been given the wag of approval by our fourlegged friend too. Delight in the cheekiness of our canine chaperone as you traverse the beautiful Coniston Fells; pay your respects to William Wordsworth and his family in St Oswald’s Church; enjoy a game of fetch amongst the daffodils of Dora’s Garden; and treat your pooch to a few tasty titbits from Grasmere’s Gingerbread Shop after you’ve returned from your ramble around the inspiring Rydal Water.

Enjoy a nosey around Norfolk

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

From romps along the Norfolk Coast Path to revealing strolls around the historic streets of Cromer, our dewy-nosed explorer has sniffed out some truly wonderful dog walks in Norfolk. Take a 2.5 mile leg stretch around Cromer Town, past its medieval church, Victorian hospital and picturesque Happy Valley. Or, opt for a brisk walk along the Norfolk Coast Path between Weybourne and Sheringham, where you and your pooch can discover all manner of intriguing flora, bark playfully at seabirds and explore weather beaten WW2 defences that have been left to waste away beside the sea.

Go wild in the South West

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

  Click here to visit our guide of great Dog Walks in the UK

With a beach that dogs are actually ALLOWED on and a town bursting with local history, our four legged adventurer really has spoilt his fellow pooches with his choice of great dog walks in South West England. As a dog friendly beach, Porthkidney Sands is the perfect place for you and your pal to paddle in the surf, hike up wildflower pecked cliffs and sprawl out on soft, golden sand; whilst a walk in the historic mining town of St Just is just the place to quench your yearning for history and heritage.

For your chance to follow in the paw shaped footsteps of our intrepid canine guide, book a pet friendly holiday cottage in Cornwall, Norfolk or the Lake District with Sykes Cottages. We’ve over 2,000 dog friendly cottages in the UK, so follow your nose, make like a dog and sniff out your favourite today!

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 Cottages Guide to UK’s most Romantic Views

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014
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Whether you like a dramatic coastline, a beautiful forest or a rocky mountain the UK has you covered. The varied landscapes on this small island of ours make for some beautiful views and today we’re taking a look at the most romantic ones! So if you’re still in need of some Valentine’s inspiration then you’re in the right place as today we give you the Sykes Cottages guide to some of the UK’s most romantic views.

Loch Lomond

Image via Flickr.

Located not too far from Glasgow is Loch Lomond, one of Scotland’s freshwater lochs. Whether you’re here in the morning, seeing the night time mist that has encased the loch, or here in the evening to see the sunset, there is no denying that Loch Lomond is a wonderfully romantic view!

Brecon Beacons

Image via Flickr.

If you’re the type of couple who enjoy a romantic ramble around a fantastic mountain range then the Brecon Beacons may be just the place for you. With walking routes suitable for all abilities and beautiful views to boot, Brecon Beacons National Park is perfect for any couple wanting to see a beautiful view.

Snowdonia

Image via Flickr.

With such beautiful mountain ranges and nature it’s no surprise that Wales is featuring twice in our guide to the most romantic views. With a variety of walking routes and lots to do in the surrounding area, Snowdonia is the perfect place for a slow romantic stroll or a more difficult hike. However you choose to enjoy Snowdonia, there is no doubt that the view here is breathtaking.

Windermere

Image via Flickr.

Windermere is not only the largest natural lake in England but, in our opinion, is one of the most spectacular to look at. Whilst there is an abundance of activities to take part in, our favourite thing to do is just walk along the bank of the lake and take in the surroundings!

Golden Cap

Image via Flickr.

The Golden Cap, a part of the Jurassic Coast in Dorset, is the highest point on the south coast of Britain. Due to its position and location, the Golden Cap provides beautiful views to the surrounding areas. Whether you’ve clambered up to the top, or you are just looking at the Golden Cap itself, it still provides beautiful views. Head here at sunset with your loved one for the ultimate romantic setting!

If the views that we’ve listed here have whet your appetite and you’d like to see more romantic views, why not take a look at our Pinterest board to see yet more romantic views?

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.

Keep Your Cottage in Good Condition This Winter

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014
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With temperatures expected to plummet this week, it’s a good time to be thinking about how you can keep your holiday cottage in good condition over the winter months. We’ve been lucky so far this season, with much milder temperatures than usual but as the end of January approaches, the UK is set to experience some much harsher, icier weather. Keep your cottage safe, warm and in working order this winter with some handy tips from Sykes Cottages!

Checklist to winter proof your cottage

Cottage in winter

Katchana, Aviemore, Ref 2666

Ideally, these checks would be made before winter kicks in but there’s still time before the weather turns icy!

  • Have your boiler serviced at least once a year to give you the peace of mind that everything’s working correctly and that it won’t encounter problems when you need it the most.
  • Make sure that you take the time to clear your gutters of leaves and debris, preventing water over-spilling onto your roof or freezing and causing damage.
  • While you’re up there, give your roof a quick once over to check for any loose, missing or cracked tiles.
  • Store any wooden garden furniture in a shed or garage and ensure that all outside paintwork has recently been varnished.
  • Bleed your radiators to make sure that they are heating fully and your cottage is as energy efficient as possible.
  • If you have a real fire, have your fireplace checked and ensure that your chimney is cleaned.
  • Make sure that your loft, windows and doors are properly insulated.

Keep your cottage warm and cosy

Open fire in a cottage

Holly Tree Cottage, North Yorkshire, Ref 25346

In the winter months, we do everything we can to ensure that our home is as cosy as we can make it and the same amount of effort should be put into making your holiday cottage as comfortable as possible for your guests. We’ve compiled a short list of suggestions of easy and inexpensive ways that you can help keep your guests warm this winter:

  • Make sure that you have thick, winter duvets on the beds. Most experts will recommend a 13.5 tog duvet for adults in winter.
  • Thoughtful touches like blankets and hot water bottles will always be appreciated, especially on cold nights or for snuggling up on the sofa.
  • Provide draft excluders for doors that are particularly susceptible to letting the cold in.
  • Having rugs on wooden floors is a great way to keep the house warm as they help prevent cold air from rising through the floorboards.
  • Long, lined curtains, as opposed to blinds, also help retain heat in the cold, winter months.

Other ways to look after your cottage this winter

Cottage in winter

Clover Bank Barn, Staffordshire, Ref 20226

  • Having external lights on your cottage will improve safety for both yourself and your guests. In the winter, you and your guests may be arriving at the cottage in the dark and having outside lights will help prevent any accidents!
  • Keep a large bag of salt and a shovel in the cottage, especially if it’s quite rural. We all know how unpredictable the British weather can be so it’s always best to be prepared.
  • If you keep salt at your property, make sure that you have a good door mat as salt brought in on shoes will damage your floors.
  • Don’t allow condensation to remain on windows as it will rot any surrounding wood.
  • Keep the heating on low in very cold weather, even if your guests aren’t arriving until late, to maintain a level of warmth and prevent your pipes from freezing. You can also help avert this by insulating pipes in unheated areas.

Whether you’re one of our holiday cottage owners or one of our customers, we hope that you have found these tips to be useful! If you have a holiday cottage and you’re interested in finding out more about joining Sykes Cottages, please visit our Cottage Owners page.

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.

Classic Comfort Food With the Humble Potato

Monday, January 27th, 2014
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You might not know it but today is National Potato Day. Yes that’s right, the most humble of vegetables now has its own day in the calendar and let’s be be fair you can’t begrudge it, after all the average Brit consumes over 90kg of spuds every year! In celebration of National Potato Day we’ve put our heads together and come up with several recipes for some spud-based comfort foods perfect for getting you through the long, winter days.

Leek and Potato Soup

Nothing can banish the winter blues like a hot bowl of soup. This creamy leek and potato soup is the perfect pick me up after a long day at work or can be served up as a hearty lunchtime treat. The following recipe takes less than an hour and makes enough soup to feed 4-6 people.

via. Flickr

via. Flickr

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil,
  • 1 thinly sliced onion,
  • 2 thinly sliced leeks,
  • 225g of potatoes cut into cubes,
  • 1.2 litres of vegetable stock,
  • 150 millilitres of double cream,
  • A handful of bacon lardons,
  • salt and pepper.

Method

  1. Heat the vegetable oil in a large pan. Add the potatoes, leeks and onion and cook until they start to soften (should take around 3-4 minutes).
  2. When the vegetables have begun to soften add the stock and lower the heat. Leave to simmer gently until the vegetables are tender.
  3. In the meantime fry the bacon until crisp.
  4. Blend the soup until smooth, stir in the cream and reheat.
  5. Season to taste, serve up in a bowl and garnish with the crispy bacon.

Tartiflette

It may not be a traditional British recipe but this sumptuous, cheesy potato dish is the perfect comfort food! It originates from the French region of Haute-Savoie high up in the Alps and has since become a staple dish in ski lodges throughout the region which is surely a good sign for a winter warmer! This recipe will take about 1 hour to cook and serves 4 people.

via. Flickr

via. Flickr

Ingredients

  • 1kg of peeled potatoes,
  • 250g of bacon lardons,
  • 2 small shallots,
  • 1 clove of garlic,
  • 100 millilitres of white wine,
  • 200 millilitres of double cream,
  • 1 Reblochon Cheese (around about 500g) sliced. (You can use Camembert as an alternative)

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees centigrade (gas mark 7).
  2. Boil the potatoes for 5-10 minutes in salted water (or until the potatoes begin to get tender).
  3. Drain the potatoes and leave to cool.
  4. Fry the bacon, garlic and shallots until golden brown, this should take around five minutes. Now deglaze the pan using the white wine and cook until almost all of the liquid has evaporated.
  5. Thinly slice your potatoes and layer them, along with the shallot, bacon and garlic in an ovenproof dish. Pour over the cream and top with the sliced cheese.
  6. Place in the preheated oven and cook until the cheese is browned and has begun to bubble.
  7. Dish up with either the traditional accompaniment of charcuterie, gherkins and pickled onions, or if you don’t fancy that then a crisp green salad also works well.

Corned Beef Hash

This meal is the perfect comfort food, ideal for an evening meal or even as a hearty breakfast treat on the weekend. This version should take under an hour to cook and will make enough to comfortably feed four people.

via. Flickr

via. Flickr

Ingredients

  • 4 potatoes cut into small cubes,
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil,
  • a finely diced onion,
  • 1 clove of garlic,
  • 1 tin of corned beef,
  • salt and pepper,
  • 1 egg per person.

Method

  1. Cook the potatoes in boiling water until tender. Drain them and then set aside to steam dry.
  2. Heat some of the oil in a frying pan, add the onion and garlic and fry for a couple of minutes.
  3. Add the cooked potato and continue to fry for another minute before crumbling in the corned beef and mixing it together.
  4. Move the mixture into a suitable dish and place under the grill until it starts to crispen up.
  5. Whilst the corned beef hash is under the grill fry the eggs using the remaining oil.
  6. Remove the hash from the grill, divide it between everybody and top with the fried eggs.

Hopefully you’ll enjoy making (and eating!) these lovely comfort foods, and remember you can always take it a step further and book yourself one of our cottages with an open fire to really beat the winter chills!

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.