Archive for April, 2014

Sykes Special- Interview with a Cottage Owner Part 2

Friday, April 25th, 2014
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Today on the Sykes Cottages blog, we’re bringing you an interview with another of our fabulous cottages owners. After the success of our last post, in which we spoke to Stephen Bacon about his holiday cottages in Norfolk, we decided to continue our investigation into the background behind the cottages that we work with and get some insider tips on owning and letting out a holiday cottage from the experts. Today, Megan Graham, who owns a stunning romantic getaway in North Wales, has kindly agreed to talk to us.

Cottage owner and her dog

Megan and her dog, Ben

Thank you for setting aside some time for us! Tell us a bit about yourself, Megan.

I am 55 years old and 8 years ago, I purchased a converted woollen mill in North Wales. Since then, I have spent quite a lot of time (and money) renovating and extending my own cottage as well as converting my holiday let, Watermill Cottage. I have a Rough Collie dog called Ben and thoroughly enjoy taking him on long walks in the hills surrounding the cottage (when I am not working of course!) I am hoping that the holiday let will top up my pension when I retire.

How did you come to own the cottage?

It is located in the grounds of my own cottage, which is a converted woollen mill. Watermill Cottage originally housed part of the mill workings. It had become rather dilapidated over time and I converted it into living accommodation approximately 5 years ago.

Can you tell us a bit more about the area that the cottage is in?

It’s on the banks of the River Wheeler, just outside the village of Afonwen in North Wales. I really enjoy the wildlife, the peace and tranquillity of the area, and the range of walks just outside the front door; the Offa’s Dyke path is within easy walking distance. The cottage also comes with fishing rights and offers guests the opportunity to see badgers which is fascinating as many people have never seen them in their natural environment.

Cottage in North Wales

Megan’s property, Watermill Cottage

What features do you think make your cottage more marketable?

The underfloor heating is a fantastic addition and I always leave a welcome pack for my guests including a complimentary pint of milk and bottle of wine, together with tea, coffee, sugar and guest soap. The cottage also accepts 2 well-behaved dogs which makes it much more marketable to pet owners. There are extensive dog walking opportunities adjacent to the property, where dogs can exercise off their leads in safety. The surrounding area and fishing rights are also great selling points.

What is your favourite part of the property?

The views down to the river and the under floor heating! I am also hoping that the newly refurbished kitchen will be a great asset.

Do you get to spend a lot of time there?

I have never slept in it but I am always in and out of it as it is next door to my own home.

Have you ever had any visits from special guests that have ended in a rewarding experience?

A couple came for their honeymoon and said it was absolutely perfect for them. They really enjoyed the peace and quiet after a hectic wedding day. Another guest was writing a book and had been struggling to make progress, however she said sitting in the window of the cottage and at the picnic table overlooking the river had provided her with inspiration and she was able to write a few chapters during her stay.

Cottage bedroom

The bedroom at Watermill Cottage

Why did you decide to start renting out the cottage?

To supplement my income.

Do you have any advice for people thinking about renting out a holiday cottage?

Always ensure that the cottage is welcoming, spotlessly clean, warm and nicely furnished. I like to include a few extra personal touches such as a welcome pack, slow cooker, iron and ironing board, hair dryer, portable fan heater, OS Maps, walking books and places of interest in local area. Basically, I do my best to try to ensure that the accommodation is as close to hotel standards as possible.

How did you find out about Sykes?

Through my daughter as she is friendly with one of the managers.

How do you find working with Sykes?

They provide excellent service! Everyone is very helpful and accommodating and the joining process was very quick and simple. I also like that working with Sykes means that I don’t get pestered by time wasters!

We’d like to say a big thank you to Megan for taking the time to answer our questions. If you’d like more information about Watermill Cottage or if you want to book a holiday in this delightful property, please visit our website.

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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.

Sykes’ Spotlight on Stratford-upon-Avon

Thursday, April 24th, 2014
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Whether you’re a fan of theatre, shopping or just walking through streets lined with pretty buildings you will absolutely love Stratford-upon-Avon. This weekend the town will be celebrating the 450th birthday of William Shakespeare and thousands of visitors from around the world are expected to head to Stratford-upon-Avon to join in the fun. Whether or not it is Shakespeare’s birthday, there is always lots to do in Stratford-upon-Avon, read on to find out some of our favourite things to do in Shakespeare Country.

Visit the Bard’s Birthplace

Image via Flickr

No trip to Shakespeare Country would be complete without visiting the house where it all began; Shakespeare’s childhood home on Henley Street in the centre of town. Not only was Shakespeare born and grew up here, but he and his wife Anne Hathaway spent the first five years of their marriage living in this house. Visitors will get an insight into what life would have been for the Bard during his early years by walking through the rooms of the house and viewing the many exhibitions inside.

Get Mechanical at MAD Museum

Image via Flickr

If you want a bit of a break from all the Shakespeare shenanigans or are looking to try something a little bit different, the MAD (Mechanical Art and Design) Museum on Henley Street is just the place. Not only can you view the exhibitions but at MAD you can also get involved; interact with the robotic displays, the exciting gadgets and the rolling ball circuits by pressing buttons, using your foot or waving your hand to make the machines move. Whilst MAD is educational for children and adults alike, it is also great fun and definitely worth a visit!

Go for a Stroll around Stratford

Image via Flickr

With its pretty buildings, cobbled streets and canal-side location Stratford-upon-Avon is the perfect town to walk around just taking in the sights. If you want a little more structure to your wander then joining a town walk could be a great idea. Stratford Town Walk provide day time guided tours 365 days of the year, which are well worth joining if you want to learn about the history of Stratford as told by your knowledgeable guide. If you’re looking for something a little bit different to do on an evening in Stratford-upon-Avon then why not join a ghost walk to be entertained and scared senseless by the guides who are qualified professional entertainers.

Give a Standing Ovation to the Royal Shakespeare Company

Image via Flickr

In my opinion, it would be a terrible shame to visit the birthplace of Britain’s most well known playwrights without going to see a play. Stratford-upon-Avon is home to the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), one of the best known theatre companies, who work as an ensemble and put on incredible performances throughout the year. This summer theatre audiences in Stratford-upon-Avon have the choice of a variety of plays and performances including Henry IV, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Roaring Girl and Comedy Hullabaloo. There is sure to be a performance suitable for everyone during your trip to Stratford-upon-Avon!

See Stratford for Yourself

Image via Flickr

At Sykes Cottages we have a number of holiday cottages that are in perfect locations for exploring this lovely town, including a couple of apartments that are just minutes away from the centre. Take a look at our Stratford-upon-Avon cottages page or give us a call on 01244 356695 and one of our friendly reservations team will be happy to help you book your perfect cottage!

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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.

Celebrate Shakespeare’s 450th Birthday

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014
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‘Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears’; today marks a pretty special day in the literary calendar, for today is the 450th birthday of William Shakespeare, the greatest of all England’s dramatists and undisputed “Bard of Avon”. Since his death in 1616, Shakespeare has gone on to become the world’s greatest and most widely regarded writer, and his plays are not only performed more than any other playwright, but have also been translated into every major living language throughout the world- pretty impressive right?

In celebration of the Bard’s birthday, we wanted to do something a little different. So, we perused a selection of Shakespeare’s plays to find out where in the UK this witty wordsmith preferred to base his dramas. Like many writers of his generation, Shakespeare thrived on the romance of Italy, so plenty of his more popular plays are set there. There are however, a few places in the UK where Shakespeare chose to spin a yarn or two- take a look at these below, you might just learn something!

Macbeth, The Scottish Highlands

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

As Shakespeare’s darkest and most powerful tragedy, Macbeth required a brooding and ominous backdrop to help bring this tale of witchcraft and evil to life. Where better then than the Scottish Highlands, a place of thunderous skies, bleak heathlands and mysterious folklore. It’s thought that the actual setting of Macbeth’s Castle was Inverness, though many acts were played out in the surrounding Highlands, including the infamous scene in which Macbeth encounters the three witches. As the play is based on true events, literary fans will appreciate Inverness’ dramatic modern castle, built on the site of its 11th century counterpart which housed the real players of Shakespeare’s famous tragedy.

As You Like It, The Forest of Arden

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Some might argue that Shakespeare’s As You Like It is based in Belgium’s Ardennes Forest, but we like to think it was set in the historical region of Arden, Warwickshire. The Forest of Arden is a historic region of England, stretching from the River Avon to the River Tame, and was once one of the most heavily forested regions of Britain. Now, few of Arden’s trees remain, yet the landscape still retains its pastoral appeal,

making it a popular destination for walking, cycling and golf. Plus, Arden is a stone’s throw from Stratford-Upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s birthplace, so it’s a must-see destination on any literary tour.

Henry VI, Kenilworth Castle

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Kenilworth Castle, described by many as England’s ‘definitive castle’, is used on a number of different occasions in Shakespeare’s history plays, highlighting the castle’s popularity in Elizabethan England.  Kenilworth features in the second part of Shakespeare’s dramatic depiction of the life of Henry VI, and is thought to be the inspiration behind A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Visit the castle and you’ll soon see why Shakespeare- amongst other literary figures- was inspired by Kenilworth. With its imposing keep and monstrously dense walls, this is one mighty stronghold that would have had the enemy quaking in their chainmail.

Now that we’ve exhausted our knowledge of Shakespeare’s favourite UK settings, we’d love to hear which of the Bard’s thirty seven plays you prefer, so let us know on Facebook or Twitter. Or, for your chance to take part in the birthday festivities for yourself, head to Stratford-Upon-Avon, where a special two day event dedicated to the famous playwright is due to take place. You can find out more about what’s going on for the bard’s birthday by clicking here. Alternatively, visit our Stratford Upon Avon cottages page for our complete range of accommodation that’s

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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.

Take a Group Holiday This Spring

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014
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After a hectic festive period of visiting friends and family parties our social calendar tends to freeze up until the summer sun comes round to thaw it out again. But who says we have to wait until summer to enjoy an evening in the company of friends? Well not us- our fantastic selection of large cottages means we are ready to socialize at any time of year! If you don’t believe us then take a look for yourself; we’ve listed our favourite large properties below to help inspire you to take a group holiday this spring.

The Old Farm House, Northumberland

The Old Farmhouse in Northumberland, Ref 3520

The Old Farmhouse in Northumberland, Ref 3520

This stunning property sleeps seven people in four bedrooms, but despite its size, the cottage is warm and cosy throughout. Decorated to a high standard, this country cottage really is a home from home- or it would be if your home was twice the size! Perfect for the spring time, this adorable cottage comes with an attractive garden, outdoor seating area and BBQ, ideal for a lazy afternoon spent enjoying the sunshine.

Garth Morthin The Barn, North Wales

Garth Marthin The Barn in North Wales, Ref 27046

Garth Marthin The Barn in North Wales, Ref 27046s

This modern barn conversion is set amongst the stunning welsh countryside, offering its guests spectacular views over the valleys. Perfect for a pet friendly holiday, this cottage comes with a large enclosed garden, walks straight from the doorstep and a gorgeous sandy beach just 20 minutes’ walk away! The whole group are sure to have a fantastic time at this property, enjoying your dinner alfresco as the dogs relax on the lawn.

Blue Sky Lodge No 2, Northern Highlands

Blue Sky Lodge No. 2 in the Nothern Highlands, Ref 904501

Blue Sky Lodge No. 2 in the Nothern Highlands, Ref 904501

New to Sykes Cottages this delightful lodge is already proving popular with our customers, and with its gorgeous views, steamy sauna and stylish hot tub it’s not hard to see why! Sleeping up to eight guests this lodge would make a wonderful getaway for a group of friends looking to catch up after the New Year. Even with the somewhat predictable April showers this lodge still offers great entertainment from its Nintendo Wii, WiFi and iPod dock.

Reardon’s House, County Kerry

Reardon's House in County Kerry, Ref 903994

Reardon’s House in County Kerry, Ref 903994

Located along the Irish coast this five star holiday cottage sleeps a large group of eight in four spacious bedrooms. Perfect for a family get together, this property would be ideal for children; with its large garden, swing set and slide the children are sure to have hours of fun! During the evenings when the children are asleep, tired out from their day in the garden, sit back and relax with a glass of wine whilst you catch up with your friends in front of the open fire.

I hope this list of stunning properties has persuaded you to get away with your friends or family this spring! If you’re in need of further inspiration then please visit our large cottages page where you will find our full range of properties which are perfect for a larger party.

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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.

Alternate Sports To Start This Spring

Monday, April 21st, 2014
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With the bulbs budding and the bees buzzing, it seems spring has officially sprung on the shores of the UK. As temperatures climb to heady heights not seen since autumn shed its leaves at the close of 2013, now is the perfect time to shake off the winter cobwebs and venture out into spring to indulge in a spot of sport and recreation.

Here at Sykes, we’re revelling in the air of renewed optimism that spring always seems to bring; hence this blog, which will hopefully rouse our readership into a similar state of mind. From jogging around the local park to riding your bike to work, there’s a whole host of active things you can get up to now the temperatures are milder and the sun sticks around for a few hours longer. But if you’re tired of the same run-of-the-mill activities, take a look at our shortlist of some of the best alternative sports to try your hand at this spring.

Climb a tree or two…or three…

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

It seems us Brits are never content to stay on dry land; now, we’ve taken to the trees to get our cheap thrills and with adventure companies like Go Ape! offering the chance to scale tree-top obstacle courses, it’s easy to see why climbing trees has become so popular.  Sites like Go Ape! are available in wooded areas across the country, so if you want to make like a monkey on your next getaway, consider visiting your nearest forest adventure centre this spring- it’s good, clean fun for all the family!

Get muddy up a mountain!

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

During the winter months, ice winds and cloying mud usually confine mountain biking to true downhill diehards. Now that spring is here however, this exhilarating outdoor pursuit is much more amateur friendly. Mountain biking has been one of the UK’s favourite open-air activities for decades, and there are a huge variety of different forms of the sport to choose from. Plus, you won’t actually need a mountain to go mountain biking. The sport is accessible almost anywhere you can find a country trail, so grab your bike and get off the beaten track this spring.

Go coasteering at the coast

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Coasteering: the new coastal craze that sees plucky adventurers swimming, climbing and diving their way along some of Britain’s most beautiful stretches of coastline. Not for the faint hearted, coasteering is a physically demanding sport (we use the term loosely) that is both exhilarating and rewarding for those brave enough to give it a try. Cornwall, Northumberland and the Scottish Coast are the current coasteering hot spots, though the sport looks set to spread to other regions soon- give it a go on your next getaway, we promise it’ll be a day out you’ll never forget!

Take part in the world’s biggest treasure hunt!

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Spice up your springtime stroll with a spot of geocaching, the world’s biggest and best grown-up friendly treasure hunt. Introduced by the Americans in the early 2000’s, Geocaching is the 21st century’s answer to letterboxing; a 150-year-old game whereby clues and references to a particular spot were inserted into stories. The modern version relies on a GPS-enabled device to help pinpoint the position of a geocache- a container filled with trinkets or other personal effects- and it’s the job of the geocacher to locate these hidden gems in the landscape. Currently, there are over 2 million active geocaches waiting to be found across the globe, and many of them are hidden right here in the UK- cool eh?

So there you have it, our shortlist of the best alternative sports to try this spring. Found a specific set of trees you’d like to climb or a geocache you fancy having a pop at finding? Then rent a cottage this springtime with Sykes Cottages. There’s some great offers to be had this time of year thanks to our sensational spring sale, so put a spring in your step this season with a wonderful self-catering holiday from Sykes Cottages!

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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.