Archive for January, 2014

How to Organise the Perfect Valentine’s Getaway

Sunday, January 26th, 2014
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Love is in the air at Sykes Cottages today as we continue to book romantic cottage getaways for loved-up customers celebrating Valentine’s Day. With this special day falling on a Friday this year, there’s no excuse not to spoil your partner and take them away for the weekend. If you’ve been thinking of planning a Valentine’s short break but you’re not sure where to start, then let us talk you through how to organise the perfect romantic cottage holiday.

Booking a surprise Valentine’s getaway?

Cosy, romantic cottage

Capel, South Cumbria, Ref 904170

There’s nothing quite as romantic as booking a surprise holiday for your partner, although considerable amounts of organisation and effort need to go into keeping it a surprise. All too often, hours of planning can be thwarted by oblivious holiday companies leaving ill-timed voicemails on your house phone and sending indiscreet letters through the post. This year, why not breathe easy and book your romantic break with Sykes? We have been booking romantic getaways for over 25 years and are a dab hand at making sure your surprise goes smoothly.  On first contacting us, let us know that you’re planning a surprise and from there you’ll be able to dictate how and when we contact you, ensuring that the cat isn’t inadvertently let out of the bag. We’ll do everything in our power to ensure that your romantic gesture goes to plan.

What makes a romantic cottage?

Romantic cottage

The Cow Byre, South Cumbria, Ref 7512

Many of our cottages have those indulgent touches that will make your getaway extra special. For a romantic holiday you won’t forget, we suggest booking a holiday cottage with a hot tub. Bring along a bottle of champagne and then just sit back and relax in the luxurious comfort of a hot tub with your loved one. Our cottages with hot tubs are extremely popular so do book quickly to avoid being disappointed! Another romantic feature that always goes down a treat is an open fire. There’s nothing more relaxing than spending an evening in front of the crackling flames cuddled up with your partner. So why not book one of our fantastic cottages with an open fire and let the sparks fly! Other features that you might want to consider when choosing your romantic cottage include large, comfy sofas, roll-top baths, four poster beds and beautiful scenery.  For the romantically challenged amongst you who are still desperate to impress, our highly trained holiday advisors will be able to assist in choosing the perfect romantic cottage to make your other half go weak at the knees.

Things to do on your romantic getaway

Cottage kitchen

Egton Cottage, North Yorkshire, Ref 4526

The last thing you need to consider is what you’re going to do on your romantic getaway! Many of our cottages are situated within spectacular surroundings, close to the coast or in the midst of rolling countryside. Why not make the most of the Great British landscape and head out for a ramble with your loved one? The fresh February air will blow away the cobwebs and is the perfect antidote for getting rid of any work-related stress that you may have struggled to leave at home. After a long day of walking, you can make full use of your kitchen by whipping up a romantic meal for two. Our cottages are fully equipped with all the amenities you’ll need to produce a gourmet meal for your other half, so you can spend an indulgent evening enjoying the privacy of your own romantic retreat with good food and good wine. What could be better than that?

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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.

Do your bit for the Big Garden Birdwatch!

Saturday, January 25th, 2014
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Calling all bird lovers, twitchers and fans of the feathered: today marks the start of the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch, a two day initiative dedicated to tallying up the birds in Britain’s backyards. Since the late 1970’s, the RSPB has called upon the public to help keep tabs on bird populations in the UK, in a bid to monitor trends and gain valuable insight into the wellbeing of our wildlife.

And thus far, it seems UK residents have been happy to help, with results from previous years providing valuable insight into the state of Britain’s birds. But what’s in it for you and how can you help? Well, all the RSPB are asking for is an hour out of your weekend to count the different birds you can spot in your back garden, whether from the comfort of your kitchen or from your frosty garden bench. You can record your findings live with the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch app, or with a trusty pencil- your choice. And when your hour’s up, you’re free to enjoy your weekend, safe in the knowledge that you’ve done your part in helping our feathered friends during the tough winter months.

Here at Sykes, we wouldn’t go as far as saying we’re birding buffs; but we are passionate about the environment, and thought we’d show our support for this worthwhile enterprise by letting you know about which birds to look out for in your area and some of the ways you can make them feel at home.

The Big Five Birds to Spot in your Garden

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

The song thrush

With numbers in rapid decline, the song thrush is high on the RSPB’s one-to-watch list. This musical bird is particularly active at dawn, so have your binoculars by your bed over the weekend for the best chance to spot this tuneful tweeter in your garden.

The long-tailed tit

Fluffy and ever-so-cute, the long-tailed-tit is typified by its long tail and lovely grey plumage. These plump little birds are busy building their nests this time of the year, and can often be found in a posse of other tits, so keep your eyes peeled!

Great spotted woodpecker

If you’re lucky enough to live alongside a thicket of trees, there’s a chance you might catch a glimpse of the majestic great spotted woodpecker– or at least hear one. Known for their identifiable drumming and striking black and white feathers, the woodpecker is one of Britain’s most beloved bird species and one which would be sorely missed should their numbers fail.

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

The red-breasted robin

The darling of the back garden: the red-breasted robin is arguably one of the country’s most popular and recognisable birds. These lovable and endearing chirrupers provide a cheerful addition to any green space, and are sure to put a smile on your face should you spot one over the weekend.


Redwings are one of the UK’s most cherished winter imports, so make them feel at home during their visit by hanging bird food in your garden for them to feast on. Do that, and they’ll keep returning to our shores year after year!

Other ways you can help

To ensure your garden is as bird friendly and inviting as possible, there’s a few things you can do to prepare your bushes, hedges and trees for the arrival of our winged guests. Placing food and other nibbles in accessible places around your garden is a sure-fire way to attract birds, whilst things like defrosting your bird bath (or installing one!) and keeping your grass cut short will ensure that they keep returning as the seasons change. For other fun ways to prep your garden for the Birdwatch Weekend, visit the RSPB website for some hints and tips on how to build your very own DIY bird feeders.

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

If you’re lucky enough to be spending this weekend in a Sykes holiday cottage, there are still ways you can help with the survey. Whether you’re holidaying amid the mountains of Scotland or taking in the sights and sounds of Cornwall, do your bit by keeping a note of the birds and wildlife that you spot during your stay. And if you see something really beautiful, we want to hear about it, so be sure to tweet us @sykescottages to let us know about what wonderful wildlife you’ve encountered this weekend.

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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.

Sykes’ Burns Night Special

Friday, January 24th, 2014
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The 25th of January marks one of the most important dates in the Scottish calendar, Burns Night. Following the example of his close friends way back in 1802 Scots around the world gather to celebrate the birthday of the nation’s favourite poet; Robert (or Rabbie) Burns. The mainstay of any Burns Night comes in the form of readings from some of the bard’s greatest works including the Selkirk Grace, the Address to a Haggis and, of course, Auld Lang Syne. 

via. Flickr

via. Flickr

Aside from these readings, and the consumption of copious amounts of whisky, one thing that all Burns nights include is the traditional Scottish supper of Haggis, Neeps and Tatties and also a Clootie Dumpling. So read on for some information on how you can make the perfect Burns dinner for your celebration!

A Brilliant Burns Night Starter

Last year we brought you a recipe for a traditional Clootie Dumpling and over St Andrews Day you may have noticed one for Haggis, Neeps and Tatties (amongst some other fantastic Scottish recipes), and so for this post we thought we would round off the meal and provide you with a dish that is guaranteed to get your celebrations off to the perfect start; a traditional Scotch Broth.

Scotch Broth

via. Flickr

via. Flickr


  • 75 g of Pearl Barley
  • 1.15 kg of lamb shoulder
  • 2 litres of lamb stock/cold water
  • 2 potatoes (cut in to 2.5cm cubes)
  • 2 turnips (cut in to 2.5cm cubes)
  • 2 carrots (cut in to 2.5cm cubes)
  • 2 celery stalks (cut in to 2.5cm pieces)
  • half a savoy cabbage trimmed and finely shredded
  • 1 bay leaf
  • bunch of thyme
  • Salt and Pepper


  1. Cover the pearl barley with water and leave to soak.
  2. Whilst the barley is soaking put the lamb and the water/lamb stock in a saucepan, bring this to a gentle boil and remove any scum that forms on the top. Add in the onion, thyme and bay and leave it to simmer gently for 60 minutes, occasionally re-skimming the surface.
  3. After the hour has passed add the celery, turnips and carrots to the broth, season it with salt and pepper, cover with a lid and leave to simmer for a further half hour.
  4. Rinse off the pearl barley with cold water and add, along with the potatoes, to the mixture, at this point you should also turn the lamb over. Leave uncovered to simmer for 30 minutes.
  5. Now add the cabbage to the soup and cook for a further 15 minutes (or slightly longer if the barley is yet to fully soften).
  6. Remove the lamb from the soup and either slice or tear it into chunks before adding back to the broth. Then season to taste and serve it up.

Now all that’s left to do is to raise your glass and have a ‘wee dram’ for Rabbie. Hopefully your Burns Night celebrations will help you to get in touch with your Scottish side. If so why not take it a step further and have a look at our holiday cottages north of the Border, or you could even check out our last minute breaks to see if you can celebrate the big night in a beautiful Scottish cottage!

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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.

January Blues Competition

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014
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As arguably the most depressing month of the year, January has seen its fair share of negativity from the British public. So here at Sykes Cottages, we want to help turn your frown upside-down by giving you the chance to swap your January misfortunes for a wonderful cottage holiday!

January Blues Compertition

How to enter

We are offering you the chance to win £400.00 worth of Sykes Cottages vouchers simply by sharing a picture of your bad day. To enter the competition take a picture that best illustrates the horrible day you’re having, write a caption to go alongside it and then share it with us on Facebook or Twitter using the hashtag #januaryblues- it’s that easy! Your entry can be anything from standing in dog poo, to an accidental encounter with an angry squirrel; let us know about it and you could be in with the chance of winning a fantastic holiday cottage that will hopefully make your bad day worthwhile.

For more details on how to enter this amazing competition visit the January Blues competition page, good luck!


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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.

Spruce up your Cottage for Valentine’s Day

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014
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Whether you’re a fan or not, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and soon shops will be adorned with red hearts and fluffy teddy bears. We’ve been very busy here at Sykes HQ with phone calls from doe-eyed lovers looking to book a weekend away in honour of St. Valentine. As it is such a prime time of year, we thought that we’d take a look at what we think makes the perfect romantic getaway cottage. So, if you’re the owner of a self catering holiday cottage and want to spruce up your property to appeal more to the romantic market, then you are in the right place!

Now we know that people’s ideas of romance differ. Some people want to be in a bustling city centre to see all of the sights with their loved one, whereas other couples prefer a secluded countryside location with nothing but walks and nature surrounding them. No matter the type of romantic retreat couples are looking for, however, there are a few additions we think any cottage should have to make it the perfect nest for love birds.

How about a Hot Tub?

Image from Orchard Cottage Property reference: 13806

For those couples who want to add a bit of luxury to their Valentine’s getaway, a hot tub will be top of the wish list! Particularly in the chilly February weather there is nothing more appealing than hopping into a hot tub with your Valentine at the end of a day exploring and enjoying each other’s company. Our cottages that have hot tubs are often the first to be booked up, so if you have the space to fit one at your property it is well worth it!

Comfy Sofas and Open Fires

Image from Barn Cottage. Property reference 2111.

For the modern couple, where time spent together may be few and far between, having a comfy sofa to cuddle on is important when on a romantic getaway. If this comfy sofa happens to be in front of an open fire then all the better! Romantic breaks are the perfect time for a couple to reconnect and to rekindle their romance; what better way to do this than with a snuggle on a big comfortable sofa? Also, why not have a basket of blankets near the sofa, to let your guests get really comfy?


Image via Flickr.

As much as a romantic getaway is a chance to spend quality time together, having some kind of entertainment for guests to enjoy together can be a very good idea. Having either a CD player or a docking station can allow couples to rekindle their love of old songs or to help get them in the romantic mood. Having a television with a DVD player might also be a good idea, to allow couples to catch up on their favourite television series or watch their favourite film.

The Little Touches

Image via Flickr.

If you know that a couple is coming to your property for a romantic break or honeymoon, why not leave out a few extras. Things like a bottle of wine, some chocolates or some lovely local foodie treats will go down a storm and could help make the romantic getaway really special for the couple.

So there you have it, our top tips of additions you can make to spruce up your holiday home for the romantic crowd. Or perhaps you already have the perfect romantic retreat and would like to join us here at Sykes Cottages? If so, then take a look at our cottage letting page for more information!

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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.