Archive for May, 2014

Walk of the Month: Melbury Downs

Monday, May 26th, 2014
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Home to more footpaths and bridleways than a-roads, it’s little wonder Dorset is considered one of the UK’s premier walking destinations. For centuries, this largely rural county on England’s South Coast has attracted no-end of contemplative strollers, the most famous of which being Thomas Hardy, who spent much of his time gallivanting around Dorset’s pleasant pastures and squally, Jurassic Coast.

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Follow in the footsteps of this famous Victorian novelist on your next holiday in Dorset with a hazy summer stroll in the charming Melbury Downs. Comprising the UK’s largest collection of butterflies, as well as a lush, evocative panorama that’s bound to put a smile on your face, this handsome chalk downland is the perfect place to spend a sweltering summer’s day in the hiking boots.

The Walk

Tough terrain and steep ascents make this 3 mile walk a fair challenge, so give yourself plenty of time to complete the route. If tackling it during the summer months, be sure to carry plenty of water as shops are few and far between.

The Route

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Park in the Spread Eagle Hill car park, turn left and follow the road North for around 300m. Here you’ll find a gate; walk through this and follow the fence before ascending up the charming Melbury Hill. When you’ve reached the top, breathe hard, relax and enjoy the 360 degree panorama of the Vale of Wardour, Shaftesbury and Blackmore Vale.

Descend the Beacon via a more southerly route and keep your eye out for rare butterflies, including the chalkhill blue and marbled white. The Downs are also famed for their glow worms, which appear when the weather’s good, so be sure to carry your camera in order to capture these peculiar creepy crawlies as they illuminate your path.

Once you’ve reached the Saddle of the hill, turn right and pass through the pedestrian gate, before following the fence on your left which traverses the summit of Compton Down. Eventually, you’ll reach a stile that’s buried in a thick hedge; climb this, keeping an eye on the impenetrable branches for a glimpse of the illusive Adonis butterfly, before heading  west until you rejoin the path which takes you back to the car park.

Download the comprehensive route and map for this walk here.

Rent a cottage in Dorset with Sykes Cottages

With 130 cottages to rent from coast to country throughout Dorset, there’s no better base for a walking holiday in this marvellous English county. To find out more about Dorset, or to choose the perfect cottage for your trip, visit our Dorset cottages page 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.

Forget France: A Guide to Britain’s Vineyards

Sunday, May 25th, 2014
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Britain is famed for many things: Shakespeare, tea, fish and chips, The Beatles, Manchester United and of course, dear old Queenie. But one thing our fair isle is certainly not known for is its wine, with just 1% of the world’s domestic vino bottled on our shores. Now, thanks predominantly to climate change, English and Welsh wines are on the up, and pretty soon, we’re confident you’ll be seeing British wine on the shelves of a supermarket near you.iStock_000009298235Small

But where might you ask, on this damp old island of ours, do they produce this wonderful, fruity beverage- after all, Britain’s hardly Burgundy, Rioja or the Napa Valley. And the answer is, well, everywhere actually. Although English wine production has in the past being associated with the South, vineyards have cropped up all over the British Isles in the past twenty years, spurred into existence by warmer summer temperatures and the development of hardier vines that can adapt to our cool and frequently very wet weather.

As today marks the start of English Wine Week, we wanted to find out exactly where Britain hides all of its award-winning vineyards, because aside from on the tele, I don’t think I’ve ever come across one. So without further ado, raise a glass and prime your nostrils as we venture into the world of Britain’s Best vineyards and where you can find them.

Forget Chianti, try Kent!

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Kent, famously known as the Garden of England, has been at the centre of England’s wine-making industry for centuries and is home to some 47 vineyards, each producing its own distinct batch of British vinos. Thanks to its excellent soils (which are similar to those of the Champagne region of France), Kent’s sparkling wines have a formidable reputation and are now a revered variety on the global wine market. Luckily, because Kent’s vineyards are so well established, many are open to the public and offer tasting days, guided tours and the chance to eat and drink in some truly mouth-watering eateries, so drop by for a guzzle when holidaying in the South East.

Taste a different side of Yorkshire

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Home to over a third of the UK’s breweries, Yorkshire is the last place you’d expect to find a growing number of successful vineyards. Normally, this Northern county would be far too cold for vines to ripen, but thanks to global warming and the creation of hardy grape varieties that can adapt to cold, wet environments, Yorkshire is flourishing as the up and coming place for English wine production. Many of Yorkshire’s vineyards offer tours and wine tastings, making them an excellent place to spend the afternoon on a balmy summer’s day- just make sure you’ve packed your wellies as these vineyards can get muddy even in the summer months.

Enjoy a snifter in the South West

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Technically, South West England ought to be the only place in the UK where wine can be produced, but we’ve sort of cheated nature. That said, this region of England has all the right attributes for wine production: above average temperatures, great soil and an undulating landscape that helps shelter those precious grapevines. Wines have been produced here since Roman times, and now, the region is home to over 140 vineyards producing a huge variety of different wines. Sample smooth reds and refreshing whites on a wine tasting odyssey in South West England when you rent a cottage with us; we’ve got loads of holiday homes to rent in Cornwall, Devon and Dorset that would be ideal for a boozy trip to this fruitful corner of England.

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.

Reasons to Visit the Republic Of Ireland This Half Term

Saturday, May 24th, 2014
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Known as the Emerald Isle, Ireland is a land soaked in culture, rich with history and loved by people worldwide. As an international treasure it’s not hard to see why people fall in love with this enchanting island; from its towering mountains and charming coastline to the memorable cities and picturesque villages there is something for everyone to enjoy! With the children now ready to begin their May half term holiday, why not take the time to explore all that Ireland has to offer? To help convince you that a trip across the water is the right thing to do, here are our top reasons to visit the Republic of Ireland this year!

Impressive travel time

Via Flickr.

Via Flickr.

Whether you make the journey by air or by sea, reaching the Emerald Isle couldn’t be easier. Far enough away to feel like a foreign adventure but close enough for everyone to enjoy a peaceful stress-free journey, transportation to Ireland is both quick and easy. On the Sykes website you’ll find a number of handy tools to help plan your travel to Ireland. We can assist you with all aspects of the journey including ferries, flights and car hire; we even have special package holidays available where you can book both cottage and ferry together making a great saving on your ferry crossing! For more information simply call us on 01244 356695.

Golden sandy beaches

Lahinch Beach

Lahinch Beach

As an island, Ireland has a number of amazing beaches which are ideal for a family break. For active families we would suggest a trip to Lahinch in County Clare where you can try your hand at surfing; with a number of longboard competitions taking place annually, this is one of Ireland’s top surf locations. If you’re looking for a more relaxing location where mum can rest with a good book whilst the kids build sandcastles and run through the surf then make sure to visit Ballymastocker Bay in County Donegal. This is a stunning blue flag beach with beautiful sandy beaches and breath taking views towards the Inishowen Peninsula.

Family Friendly Attractions

Via Flickr.

Via Flickr.

If you manage to pull yourself away from the gorgeous beaches on offer then you’ll want to treat the children, and yourself, with a visit to one of Ireland’s many family friendly attractions. Ireland is packed with an array of attractions suitable for the whole family from go-kart racing to petting zoos- the island even boasts a travelling circus! For a memorable day out, make sure to visit Galway Aquarium where you’ll get the chance to get up close and personal with some of the ocean’s most mysterious creatures! The aquarium has a staggering collection of fish including rays, sharks, crabs, eels and even cute little starfish.

Stylish Holiday Homes

The Humble Daisy in Woodford, County Galway, Ref 30577.

The Humble Daisy in Woodford, County Galway, Ref 30577.

There are a number of fantastic holiday homes located throughout Ireland, from cosy cottages on the sea front to spectacular town houses in the heart of big cities. What better way to immerse yourself in a culture then to stay right in the thick of it, where you can make the most of your Irish experience by eating locally sourced produce, hitting the town’s favourite pub and taking part in traditional Irish games! For a full list of our Irish cottages please click here.

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.

A Guide to the Best Literature Festivals in the UK

Friday, May 23rd, 2014
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This summer, forget music festivals; here at Sykes Cottages we’re looking forward to the incredible literature festivals taking place. There are currently around 350 literature festivals happening every year across the UK and Ireland and there’s a fantastic line-up of lectures, debates and workshops just waiting for you to enjoy! If like me, you’re big lovers of all things book-related, then you’ll enjoy our mini-guide to some of the best literature festivals taking place in the UK this year.

 Hay Festival

Hay-on-Wye

Via Flickr

Held every year in Hay-on-Wye, near the natural beauty of the Brecon Beacons, the Hay Festival is one of the most popular literature festivals in the UK. This year, it’s taking place between the 22nd May and 1st June. With over 30 second-hand bookshops, Hay-on-Wye is globally known as the ‘Town of Books’ so where better to hold a festival celebrating great writing? Once described by former US president, Bill Clinton, as the “Woodstock of the mind”, Hay Festival attracts novelists, poets, comedians, politicians and scientists, amongst others, who flock to this picturesque Welsh town to meet like-minded people and enjoy the events on offer. This year, there are a staggering number of talented people taking part including Stephen Fry, Judi Dench, Mary Berry, Brian May, Richard Dawkins and Toni Morrison, to name just a few.

Edinburgh International Book Festival

Edinburgh

Via Flickr

Taking place from 9th- 25th August, the Edinburgh International Book Festival is one of the largest of its kind, welcoming over 800 authors from around the world each year. Part of the world-famous Edinburgh Festival, the International Book Festival hosts over 700 events during its three week stretch and attracts everyone from novelists to sportsmen, philosophers to graphic artists and historians to musicians. There’s also a dedicated children’s programme that runs alongside the festival which incorporates workshops, storytelling and book signings. This year’s line-up has not been announced yet and is due to be released on 11th June; tickets for this festival will be available to buy from 24th June. Previous festivals have featured Sebastian Faulks, J.K. Rowling, Jacqueline Wilson and Germaine Greer.

Cheltenham Literature Festival

Cheltenham

Via Flickr

Started in 1949, the Cheltenham Literature Festival is the world’s oldest literature festival and is taking place this year between 3rd and 12th October. A massive event in the literary world, over 100,000 tickets are sold for this ten day event every year and an estimated 600 writers, poets and politicians are attending to join in the celebrations, debates and discussions. Events and activities on offer at the festival include lectures, interviews, storytelling, workshops, book groups and poetry readings. The 2014 line-up is yet to be released but previous guests of the festival include Ian McEwan, Jeremy Paxman, John Bishop and Stephen Hawking. The 2014 festival is certain to be a fantastic event for lovers of literature and culture so make sure you don’t miss out!

If you’re planning on travelling to any of the above events, or any other literature festival in the UK, then why not take a look at Sykes Cottages’ fantastic range of holiday cottages. Holiday cottages provide the perfect place to stay for longer events such as festivals, with the comfort and convenience of your own living area and self-catering facilities to retreat to at the end of the day.

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.

Five Facts About Dorset

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014
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From the extraordinary coastline to the quaint villages and masses of family attractions, it is no surprise that Dorset is such a popular county to visit! Whether you prefer lounging on a blue flag beach, walking rural paths or scouting out history you won’t be stuck for things to do in this beautiful part of Britain. As an ode to Dorset, we’re sharing a few facts that you may or may not have known about the area.

1. The Jurassic Coast was the first natural site in England to make it onto the World Heritage List as selected by UNESCO. The Jurassic Coast received this status due to the variety of geological periods that it depicts; Jurassic, Cretaceous and Triassic.

Image from Flickr

2. England’s oldest post box in Bishops Caundle is still used and dates from 1853.

Image courtesy of Chris Downer and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License.

3. There are over 6,000 listed buildings of historical or architectural interest in Dorset and around 71% of West Dorset has been defined as an area of outstanding natural beauty.

Image from Flickr

4. Dorset’s coast is so stunning that 34% of people taking our Britain or Abroad quiz thought that Durdle Door was abroad!

Image from Flickr

5. The Dorset Naga, grown in Dorset, is the hottest chilli in the world. It has an average score of 923,000 Scoville Heat Units, which is almost twice the heat of the current Guinness world record holder.

Image from Flickr

Visit Dorset

If you’d like to walk the Jurassic Coast, pop a letter in England’s oldest post box or dare to try the Dorset Naga why not take a look at our self catering cottages in this stunningly rural county to see all that Dorset has to offer!

Old Higher Lighthouse Stopes Cottage: Reference 124949

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.