Archive for March, 2014

What to do with that extra hour of daylight?

Monday, March 31st, 2014
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With daylight savings time adding an extra hour of sunlight onto our evenings, you’ll want to make the most of it. That’s why, we’ve come up with a few ideas for what you can do with that precious extra hour of daylight. From picnics in the park to wildlife watching in your own back garden, we offer some advice on the best ways to make use of  that sought-after sunshine.

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

1. Get out and about on your bike

With the gloomy nights and chilly easterly winds now behind us (touch wood), you’ve no excuse but to climb in the saddle and do some pedalling- even if you don’t have any lights! We recently featured a blog about Britain’s Best Bike Rides, so check them out or visit the Sustrans website for more two-wheel inspiration.

2. Get out and about in the car

If it’s raining cats and dogs, hit the open road and take in some of the UK’s breathtaking scenery by car. There’s so much to see in every corner of the country, and luckily for us Brits, all of it is within driving distance. Why veg in front of a mediocre drama when there’s so much drama to be had right before your very eyes?

3. Or get out and about on your two feet

Walking isn’t just good exercise; it’s a way to get off the beaten track and see things like never before. With spring on our doorstep and summer waiting in the wings, there’s never been a better time to strap on the walking boots. And just think what you might discover before the sun goes down: beautiful landscapes, invigorating coastlines and trees, wildlife and foliage in full bloom- what could be a better way to use those remaining moments of daylight?

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

4. Dine alfresco

Whether on holiday or not, I’ve always considered eating outdoors to be one of life’s little pleasures. Whether you’re packing a picnic and heading to the park or setting up camp on a sunlit terrace, dining alfresco is bound to brighten even the toughest of days.

5. Head to a sunbaked beer garden

If you’ve been put off the pub by the dim, wet nights, now’s your chance to revisit your local and make the most of that disused beer garden. There’s nothing better than spending an evening in the company of friends enjoying a tipple or three, so don the shades and make for the nearest watering hole. If you fancy a change of scene, take a look at our guide to Britain’s Best Pubs today.

6. Feast like a King at a food festival

That extra hour of daylight means more events and attractions will be willing to stay open longer to bring in any sun seeking punters. One of our favourite types of event here at Sykes is the food festival (not sure what that says about us), a celebration of British Food in all its delicious forms. There’s a plethora of these delightful fodder fests taking place across the UK this spring; find one in your area by clicking here.

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

7. Take up a new hobby

Everyone needs a hobby, so if you haven’t got one or would like another, now’s the perfect time to get one. Whether it’s golf, archery, clay-pigeon shooting, tennis, birdwatching or landscape painting, that extra hour of sunshine means there’ll be a greater choice of activities out there for you to enjoy at a time that’s right for you.

8. Go wildlife watching

It’s not just us humans that relish the arrival of spring’s lengthier days; all manner of British wildlife are waking after the long winter to make the most of the extra daylight and warmer temperatures. On your own turf, you’re likely to find an increase in bird activity and if you head further afield, you might spot a new-born calve or lamb frolicking in the dying sunlight- bliss!

9. Spruce up the garden

The arrival of spring indicates that mother nature is ready and waiting to get things moving, so help her out by taking some time to prepare your garden for the growing season. If you want your yard to be bursting with colourful blooms this summer, now’s the time to plant your bulbs. This tip might be useful for our cottage owners too!

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

10. Sit back and enjoy the sunset

After months of missing out on the sunset whilst being stuck in the office, now’s the time to enjoy the sun’s parting gift in all its glory. Whether you’re sipping on a glass of wine in a beer garden, relaxing in the park with a picnic, summiting a hill on your bike or making the most of the final day of your cottage holiday, take a moment to appreciate the beauty of the day’s end.

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.

Ten Fun Facts for Mothering Sunday

Sunday, March 30th, 2014
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Happy Mother’s Day! If you’re a mum we hope that you’ve been truly spoilt and have spent the day being pampered with your feet up. We thought that we’d do something a little different on today’s blog by sharing with you all some of our favourite Mother’s Day related facts and trivia.

Mother’s Day is the biggest flower buying day of the year in Britain, where sales of flowers increase an average of 70% on a normal day.

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The roots of Mother’s Day go back as far as ancient Greece, where Greeks had an annual spring festival dedicated to the maternal Goddess; Rhea, mother of the Gods.

Image via Flickr

In the UK and Ireland, Mothering Sunday is celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent, meaning that it is on a different date every year.

Image via Flickr

Mother’s Day is one of the most popular days in the year for eating out, with restaurants booking up far in advance.

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In America Mother’s Day was founded by Anna Jarvis, who first celebrated the holiday in 1907. Anna Jarvis later went on to protest against how commercialised it had become.

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Carnations are the flowers typically associated with Mother’s Day. In Japan it is traditional to give your mother a red carnation.

In the UK around thirty million cards are sent on Mother’s Day.

Image via Flickr

Traditionally, the food most associated with Mothering Sunday is Simnel Cake; a fruit cake with a layer of almond paste on the top and in the middle. The cake is decorated with eleven balls of marzipan to represent the eleven disciples, minus Judas.

Image via Flickr

The oldest mother in the world was 70 year old Rajo Devi, who gave birth to her first child in 2008.

Image via Flickr

Mother’s Day is celebrated in 46 countries around the world, but most are at different times of the year.

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.

Travel Trumps: Cornwall Vs Norfolk

Saturday, March 29th, 2014
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You’ve probably noticed that we’ve got a bit of a soft spot for Cornwall and Norfolk, what with our constant blog badgering and our unhealthy obsession with Cornish pasties and Cromer Crab. We even went as far as launching two campaigns in homage to these remarkable counties, including our lovely Hidden Cornwall video and our rather useful Norfolk Visitor Guide. Yep, it’s safe to say we’re besotted with these two English gems, but which is best? There’s only one way to find out…

Travel Trumps!

In our first ever edition of Travel Trumps, we’ll be pitting Cornwall against Norfolk in a battle of facts and figures to try work out which is best. Of course, they’ll both always be winners to us, but we thought it would be interesting to compare the two anyway! So pick a side, sit back and see which of our favourite counties merits the mantel of England’s best summer holiday destination.

Coast Vs Coast

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Speaking of coastlines, which has the longest?

Norfolk’s coastline is 93 miles long and is famed for its safe, clean beaches and traditional seaside resorts like Great Yarmouth, Cromer and Sheringham.

Cornwall trumps Norfolk here. Its coast is 422 miles long, making it the longest coastline in the UK. Overall, 80% of Cornwall is enveloped by the sea, making it one of the most water-locked regions in Great Britain.

Ok, so which has the most Blue Flag Beaches?

(The Blue Flag is awarded to beaches which offer the highest levels of water cleanliness and safety- you can read more about Blue Flag by clicking here)

Well actually, this one’s a draw. As of 2014, both counties have five Blue Flag beaches, which is impressive considering there are only 55 in England. Cornwall’s Blue Flag beaches include Porthmeor, Polzeath, Porthtowan, Gyllngvase and Porthminster, whilst Norfolk’s include Cromer, Sheringham, Sea Palling, Mundesley and Hunstanton- keep these in mind when planning your next family holiday by the sea!

Food Vs Food

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

We’ve all heard of the infamous Cornish Pasty, but what does Norfolk bring to the table?

Norfolk’s most famous foodie export is perhaps the Black Turkey, a rare breed that was imported from Mexico in the 16th century. It’s said that Black Turkeys were so popular when they were first introduced, they were walked all the way to London in time for Christmas- a journey that could take 3 months!

Another Norfolk delicacy is the Cromer Crab, a brown crab with a sweet taste which thrives in great numbers on Norfolk’s chalk reef. Fishermen have been catching Cromer Crab for centuries, making it as distinctive to Norfolk as the pasty is to Cornwall.

But just how popular is the Cornish pasty?

Very. Sales of the Cornish Pasty are worth £150 million a year to the Cornish economy and on average, 5 million are eaten annually- that’s over 13,500 a day!

History Vs History

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

From the historic city of Norwich to the mill-strewn wetlands of the Broads, there’s lots of history to discover in Norfolk- let’s nerd out and learn about some…

History buffs will love Norfolk. The county is home to 659 medieval churches- more than anywhere else in the world- and the Domesday Day book cites Norfolk as the most heavily populated county in England. For centuries, Norwich was the second largest city in the country and it’s now thought that the world-famous Broads aren’t actually a natural feature at all, but were manmade by medieval farmers over 700 years ago.

We’ve heard all about the beauty of the Cornish Coast, but what’s the story of inland Cornwall?

For over 2,000 years, Cornwall was a major player in the tin mining industry. It’s thought that Cornish tin has been exported throughout Europe since the birth of Christ, with a vast quantity going to the Roman Empire. Due to the subterranean nature of the county’s main trade, Cornwall soon grew a reputation for being mysterious and strange. Cornish folk were thought of as outlandish hill dwellers, and its folklore is still rife with tales of mine-dwelling imps and spriggans to this day.

And the winner is…

Norfolk & Cornwall

Cley Windmill, Via Flickr

Oh we can’t decide! They’re both brilliant in their own unique way. And that’s the beauty of England; wherever you are and whatever you’re up to, there’s always more to see and more to discover. So what are you waiting for? Rent a self-catering holiday home in England, and get set for an invigorating getaway to this remarkable country.

One more thing before you go: don’t forget to check out our Norfolk Visitor Guide and Hidden Cornwall short film. We’re also giving away three family memberships to the National Trust as part of our Hidden Cornwall competition, so tune in and watch the video today.

Disclaimer- Of course, we’ve got plenty of other favourite destinations in England- the Lake District for example, or the Cotswolds, Northumberland, Yorkshire & the West Country. But as it’s nearly summer, we wanted to focus on two places that are famed for their respective coastlines- and where better than Cornwall & Norfolk?

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.

Unusual Days Out In Ireland

Friday, March 28th, 2014
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If you fancy doing something a little out of the ordinary on your next Irish holiday; something that will make a fantastic story to tell friends and family once you’re home, then we suggest having a nose at some of the activities we’ve listed below. These unusual days out can be enjoyed by the whole family and are a fantastic idea if you want to indulge in something a bit different this holiday.

Irish National Stud, County Kildare

The Irish National Stud is one of Ireland’s best loved tourist attractions, visited by guests from across the globe. This unique attraction is home to some of the country’s finest thoroughbred horses and visitors will have the opportunity to see these horses first-hand, undertake tours of the facility and visit the horse museum. The Irish National Stud also boasts spectacular Japanese Gardens which are renowned as the best of their kind in Europe, and their most recent addition, St Fiachra’s Garden, an attraction which perfectly captures Ireland’s raw natural beauty.

Kayaking in County Cork

County Cork, Ireland

Via Flickr

Steeped in history and culture, Cork City is a fascinating place to visit. With an endless supply of shops, museums, art galleries and restaurants, you’ll never be stuck for things to do. If you feel like exploring the city a little differently on your holiday, Atlantic Sea Kayaking School offer kayaking cruises through the waterways of Cork down the River Lee, gliding under the various bridges and giving you an entirely unique way to experience this beautiful city.

Puck Fair, County Kerry

Puck Fair, County Kerry

Via Flickr

Puck Fair is one of Ireland’s oldest and most unusual street fairs, taking place in Killorglin, County Kerry.  Each year, a wild goat is caught in the mountains and brought into the town; the ‘Queen Puck’ (normally a local schoolgirl) will then crown the goat, ‘King Puck’. Once the King has been crowned, he is kept in the town for 3 days before being released back to his mountain home on the last day of the festival. It’s a lively affair with street vendors, festivities and even a cattle fair! Visitors to Puck Fair will not be disappointed and it’s an experience that you will never find anywhere else!

Rent a holiday cottage in Ireland

Holiday cottage in County Galway

The Humble Daisy, Co. Galway, Ref 30577

If you’re planning a holiday to Ireland then look no further than our Irish holiday cottages. There’s nothing better than heading back to a comfortable, cosy cottage after a full day of exploring and with our ever-expanding portfolio of over 700 cottages in Ireland, we’re sure to have the perfect property for your holiday. Our reservations specialists are on hand 7 days a week from 9.00am until 9.30pm, just waiting to help you plan your fabulous Irish getaway.

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.

Things to see & do in the UK this summer

Thursday, March 27th, 2014
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Good news! This summer looks set to be one of the hottest on record, making it the perfect time to pump up the lilo, blather on the sun cream and soak up some Vitamin D right here in the UK. Sceptical? You’ve every right to be. The British weather is hardly reliable, and nothing’s more likely to dampen your summer spirits than a six week downpour. Luckily, there are plenty of other reasons (aside from the promise of a bit of sunshine) why you should stay in the UK for your summer holiday this year. From the Commonwealth Games and the Tour de France, to the 450th birthday of William Shakespeare, there’s a myriad of things to see and do in the UK that’ll help you overlook the occasional shower- here’s a quick guide to what you can expect on your British summer holiday in 2014.

Celebrate sport in Scotland

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

From the 23rd July to 3rd August, the spotlight will be firmly fixed on Glasgow as it hosts the twentieth Commonwealth Games, a celebration of sport and culture that welcomes athletes and sportsman from 53 states of the Commonwealth. If you’re visiting Scotland during the games, you’re bound to get caught up in the action, with some events such as cycling and running spilling beyond Glasgow’s borders. If you’re one of the lucky few who has a ticket for the games, take some time to explore some other parts of the country during your stay. Scotland is famed for its beautiful scenery, so get out of the city and enjoy a pleasant summer’s picnic when the sun starts shining!

Get on your bike in Yorkshire

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Le Grand Départ: granted it’s not a phrase many Yorkshire folk will have heard before, but after this summer it’ll be ingrained in their memory for evermore. That’s because Yorkshire is hosting the start of the Tour de France, a prestigious cycle race covering a total distance of 3,656 kilometres. The race starts in the city of Leeds before winding its way North through the beautiful Yorkshire Dales, stopping off in Harrogate and York and meandering South over the Pennines and into the Peak District National Park. Cyclists of all ages and abilities will be able to tackle the route once the pros have ploughed through, making Yorkshire the premier cycling destination for summer 2014. If you’d like to take on the Yorkshire leg of the Tour De France for yourself, take a look at our cottages for cycling.

Enjoy a classic summer holiday in Cornwall

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

After suffering its worst winter on record, Cornwall deserves its best ever summer. Now that the floodwaters have receded and the clean-up operation has begun, Cornwall’s residents and businesses will be relying on a bumper summer to help rebuild Cornwall’s reputation as Britain’s favourite holiday destination, something we think was never in doubt. The beauty of Cornwall is the array of different holidays that are on offer here. Whether you’re looking for a family beach holiday, a surfing getaway or a sightseeing break, there really is something for everyone in this stunning corner of South West England. Try it for yourself this summer, and I think you’ll understand what we’re getting at.

Rent a self-catering holiday home this summer!

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

 With tabloids promising that summer 2014 will be the hottest on record, and the cost of overseas travel putting the pinch on the holiday saving pot, there’s never been a better time to book a holiday rental in the UK or Ireland for a balmy summer’s break. Why go anywhere else for your dose of sunshine when the predicted summer temperatures look so promising right here in the UK? From the Lake District to the Dorset Coast, everyone has their favourite places in Britain; so forget the Algarve and choose to revisit your favourite UK haunts this summer.

 

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.