Archive for June, 2014

Sykes’ UK Festival Guide 2014

Monday, June 30th, 2014
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Summer’s here, and that means one thing: the festival season has begun. From now until September, thousands will head to the countryside to indulge in a weekend of fun and frolics. But with so many festivals and events taking place, how do you pick your favourite from the bunch? Well, that’s where we come in, with our handy guide to the UK’s best festivals (in our humble opinion of course). So grab your glowsticks, dust down your wellies and start planning your summer festival getaway today.

Our Favourite Music Festivals

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Green Man Festival

When: 14-17 August

Where: Glanusk, Wales

Why we love it:

Situated in the shadow of the Black Mountain, arguably the Brecon Beacons prettiest peak, Green Man Festival offers an appealing blend of contemporary artists and stunning surroundings. The festival is renowned for its not-for-profit ethics and intimate feel, plus their website’s pretty swish.

Wilderness Festival

When: 7-11 August

Where: Cornbury Park, Oxfordshire

Why we love it:

Boasting a lake side spa, trapeze show and nightly woodland parties, Wilderness Festival isn’t your ordinary music festival. The event has a remarkably relaxed vibe making it ideal for those swapping their usual summer holiday for a music festival- and the line-up’s rather good too!

Beacons Festival

When: 7-10 August

Where: Skipton, North Yorkshire

Why we love it:

Set amid one of England’s best loved landscapes, the Yorkshire Dales, Beacons Festival offers big acts without the big price tag. The Times named Beacons the best festival in the UK for its atmosphere; couple that with its diverse line-up, and Beacons should certainly be on your festival hitlist.

Our Favourite Food & Drink Festivals

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Pommery Dorset Seafood Festival

When: 12-13 July

Where: Weymouth Harbour, Dorset

The Pommery Dorset Seafood Festival gives visitors the chance to sample some of our nation’s favourite seafood whilst sipping on a flute or two of French fizz. Spread around Weymouth’s picturesque harbour, the event is free to enter and is a great way to spend a summer’s day.

Richmond Food and Ale Festival

When: 23-25 August

Where: Richmond, North Yorkshire

Why we love it:

If you’re into fine food and quality real ale, you’ll be well catered for at the Richmond Food and Ale Festival, which features a line-up of top chefs, exciting street food and over 100 cask ales. There’s also Morris dancing, rides and face painting, making the event a great day out for all the family.

Loch Lomond Food and Drink Festival

When: 6-7 September

Where: Loch Lomond, Dunbartonshire

Why we love it:

Set on the serene shores of Loch Lomond, the Loch Lomond Food and Drink Festival features a wealth of top Scotch nosh and plenty of tasty real ales. There’s live music too, as well as falconry, dancers and a continental farmer’s market, so why not get yourself down there this September.

Alternatives to try

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Port Eliot Festival

When: 24-27 July

Where: St Germans, Cornwall

Why we love it:

Nestled in the grounds of a stunning 12th century house from which it takes its name, the Port Eliot Festival offers a creative experience like no other. From music and dance, to yoga, craft, cookery and comedy, you won’t forget this unique summer festival in a hurry.

Whitby Folk Week

When: 16-22August

Where: Whitby, North Yorkshire

Why we love it:

For sea shanty sing-alongs and cosy, candlelit performances, make Whitby Folk Week your festival of choice this summer. Featuring a huge range of popular and lesser known artists, as well as a host of fascinating venues, the Whitby Folk Festival should be top of your list if you’re a fan of the coast.

Just So Festival

When: 15-17-August

Where: Scholar Green, Cheshire

Why we love it:

Marketed as a family arts festival, you and the kids will love the imaginative Just So Festival, which takes place in the leafy Cheshire village of Scholar Green. From enchanting adaptations of popular children’s stories, to an Alice in Wonderland-esque tea party, this is one festival that the whole family are sure to enjoy.

Rent a self-catering cottage near your favourite festival

If you like the idea of a festival but don’t fancy getting down and dirty with the campers, don’t worry, as our self-catering holiday cottages provide the ideal base for a comfortable and smell-free festival experience. After a day of alfresco fun, what could be better than decamping in a lovely, comfy holiday home or yurt to enjoy a good night’s sleep. To find a holiday cottage near your chosen festival, visit our homepage and use the search facility on the left to find properties that are available, or, give us a call! Our dedicated call centre team will be happy to help find accommodation for you.

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 Spotlight on Ireland’s Islands

Sunday, June 29th, 2014
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Stunning countryside, amazing coast and a huge variety of things to do make The Emerald Isle a perfect holiday destination however, what about those islands located just off the mainland’s coast? Well, they make fantastic destinations for a day out or even for a longer stay! Read on to find out why we love Ireland’s islands.

Achill Island

Achill Island, County Mayo

Image via Flickr

Located in County Mayo on the west coast, Achill Island is the largest of all the islands off the coast of Ireland and is an incredible tourist destination of its own. Its Atlantic location and five Blue Flag beaches make it perfect for fans of water sports and those who like to relax on the beach. The waters around Achill Island are home to a large variety of sea life and fish, making it perfect for fans of angling who are hoping for a fresh catch!

Valentia Island

Valentia Island, South West County Kerry Ireland

Image via Flickr

On the south west coast of County Kerry is Valentia Island; a popular tourist destination due to its stunning sea views, proximity to the Ring of Kerry and wealth of history. Those with an interest in the history of Valentia Island should take a trip to the Valentia Island Heritage Centre which houses a number of displays about natural history and life on the island. If you’re a little sea-sick but still want to experience the Skellig Islands, why not head to The Skellig Experience, where you can learn all about each of the four islands whilst staying on dry land? Families or animal fantastic will love Valentia Pet Farm, where you can get up close to the animals and perhaps even feed them. With so much to explore on Valentia Island, it is recommended that you stay for a little longer, however if you only have one day then doing a whistle stop tour of the island by car is the best option for a taste of all this island has to offer!

Arranmore Island

Arranmore Island, County Donegal Ireland

Image via Flickr

The largest inhabited island of County Donegal, and the second largest in all of Ireland is Arranmore Island. The island is easily reached by a ferry operating daily and regularly throughout the year; making it the ideal destination for a day trip or longer stay. With a pitch and putt course, fantastic walks and a number of resident birds who make bird watching quite the fruitful activity, visitors to Arranmore Island will be stuck for things to do! Fans of rugged nature will be delighted with the stunning cliffs that line the west and north coast of the island and those with an interest in history will want to take a look at the Beaver Island Memorial that was constructed to commemorate the history between Arranmore and Beaver Island.

Clare Island

Clare Island, West Coast County Mayo Ireland

Image via Flickr

Located on the west coast of County Mayo is Clare Island, the largest island off the coast of Mayo. Getting to Clare Island is easy, as ferries run regularly from the mainland and you can be on the island in just twenty five minutes. Often ferries will be welcomed to the island by a school of dolphins or herd of seals, who tend to chaperone the ferry whilst delighting passengers on board. Once you arrive on the island, walkers and hikers will be in their element with its varied terrain of hills, cliffs and woodland, whilst those who want to explore the island more leisurely can enjoy the stunning views from the comfort of a minibus. Once you’ve taken in the island’s beauty, don’t worry because there are so many other things to do on Clare Island that you can never get bored. From boat trips, events and festivals taking place throughout the year, there is always something to do!

We hope that we have inspired you to hop on a ferry and visit one of these fantastic islands, although they are just a small example of the many islands surrounding Ireland. If you have ever visited one of these islands we’d love to hear about it! Let us know on twitter or facebook.

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.

Walk of the Month: Porthaethwy, Menai Bridge

Saturday, June 28th, 2014
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In this addition of Walk of the Month, we will be taking you on an urban walk through the historic town of Menai Bridge, known by locals as Porthaethwy. From the iconic Menai Suspension Bridge to the endearing promenades and eerily beautiful Church Island, Menai Bridge is the ideal location for walkers on a lazy summer’s afternoon.

Picture via Fickr.

Picture via Fickr.

Growing up in Menai Bridge, this route is very familiar to me and one which I hold close to my heart. Throughout the walk you will be greeted by wonderful views over the Menai Straits, fascinating character properties and an impressive line-up of local wildlife. As you walk this captivating route you will spot a number of fantastic restaurants and charming local pubs; I would definitely suggest a stop off in one of these establishments to meet the locals and try the regional produce – you won’t regret it!

The Walk

This is a very accessible 2 mile walk which should take just over an hour to complete. Not too strenuous, this walk would be great for families with older children. My advice would be to wear comfortable footwear and take bottled water with you (additional water can be purchased from Menai Bridge stores).

The Route

Picture via Flickr.

Picture via Flickr.

Park at the ‘Pay and display’ adjacent to the Jade Village Cantonese Restaurant, follow the road back towards the Menai Bridge baring right at the Anglesey arms onto Beach Road. Follow the road down. When you reach the bottom you will see a sign post with two walking paths; take the one to the right and walk down along the promenade until you reach Church Island. Cross over to the island and explore this historic sight; make sure to visit the war memorial at the top of the island where you can capture a great picture of the Menai Bridge and St Tysilio’s Church which sits on the left hand side of the island.

Once you have explored Church Island cross back over to the main land and head right, back in the direction you came. This time, when you come to the cross road with the two walking signs, continue left towards the Menai Bridge. Just before you pass under the Menai Bridge, there is a small opening on the right where you will find a historic stone circle and another tempting photo opportunity. Continue under the bridge and along Beach Road through a collection of beautiful houses until you reach Chapel Street.

Turn Left onto Chapel Street and continue up the hill until you reach the main road (A545). Turn left again back towards the Menai Bridge. When you reach the Menai Bridge, cross over to the other side (if it’s a windy day be sure to take your time). The views from the bridge are incredible so make sure you have your camera at the ready. Once you reach the other end of the bridge, cross over and come back on the opposite side. From this side of the bridge you will be able to see the captivating Britannia bridge. From here follow the road back to the car park.

Rent a cottage on Anglesey with Sykes Cottages

View of the Menai Bridge from Telford House Ref 14628.

View of the Menai Bridge from Telford House Ref 14628.

Menai Bridge is the gateway to Anglesey and although this charming town has a lot to offer it is only a small section of this magnificent island. With over 160 properties dotted about the Island we have something to suit everyone. For more information on Anglesey or to browse our selection of holiday cottages, simply visit our Anglesey Cottages page.

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.

London Vs Everywhere Else

Friday, June 27th, 2014
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Recently, the chief executive of Visit England announced that London is overshadowing the rest of the country in terms of its popularity. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m as partial to a city break in the capital as the next man, but I couldn’t help but make a mental list of all the things that people are missing by not exploring other parts of England. So without further ado, here’s five reasons why you’d be mad to hang around in London when there’s a whole country to uncover!

What about the beaches?

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

From Dorset to Northumberland, the English coastline is a magnificent spectacle. For centuries, people have flocked to our shores in search of inspiration, adventure and above all, fun. Though London is situated on a pretty impressive river, it lacks the timeless quality of the coast. Overseas travellers will find a handful of glorious beaches within a couple of hours of the Big Smoke, including Brighton, Aldeburgh and Southend-on-Sea, but there are many more if you plan on travelling further afield.

Urban sprawl or serene countryside?

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Is there anything more charming than the English countryside? A place where cows graze in grassy paddocks, country lanes connect time forgotten villages and timber clad taverns provide a welcome pit stop for the weary traveller. Here in England, we’re blessed with some of the world’s most beautiful pockets of countryside, including the Lake District, the Cotswolds and the Peak District- and these are just the heavy hitters. Go off the beaten track in areas like the Yorkshire Dales, the Norfolk Broads, Northumberland and Dorset, and you can find a piece of a countryside that’ll leave you longing to quit the city for good.

Regional Food

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Although London has one of the most varied gastronomic palates in the world, it can be difficult to find regional English cuisine in the capital, especially if you’re not looking to pay through the nose to sample some. England is home to an endless supply of top nosh, the majority of which being exclusive to one region or another. In the south west, there’s the Cornish pasty, the Cream Tea and extra creamy ice cream; whilst in East Anglia, seafood reigns supreme. In the north east, Parmo, Pikelets, Stottie Cake and Yorkshire pudding provide plenty of sustenance; whilst in the north west, the Cumberland Sausage, Eccles Cake and Lancashire Hotpot are sure to fill you up.

Expense

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

It’s no secret, London is expensive. Hotels, food, drink, entertainment; it’s all considerably pricier in the capital- between 20%-50% dearer, to be exact. The cost of accommodation is particularly eye-watering, with the average price for a two night break in the city coming in at well over £200; compare that to a two night break in any other English city, and you might find yourself asking if it’s really worth it.

Peace and Quiet

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

One thing you certainly won’t find in London is peace and quiet. As one of the world’s biggest and busiest cities, it can be difficult to find a quiet corner amid the hub-bub, though they do exist. If you value your quiet time, opt for a daytrip or two to the capital instead of staying there. Kent, Essex and Cambridgeshire are on the city’s doorstep, and all have plenty of countryside for when you need to relax. Alternatively, if you’re looking for complete seclusion, try Northumberland, a large county in North East England whose population of 315,000 is but a pin drop compared to London’s 8.3 million.

London Vs Everywhere Else

Via Flickr

So there you have it, five reasons why you’d be barking mad to spend all of your time in London on a visit to the UK. Of course, London is a spectacular city, and certainly shouldn’t be missed, but if you’re planning a visit to England, be sure to spread your wings and embark on a road, train or bus trip to the nether regions of this fine country.

Alternatively, if you think I’m spouting nonsense and would prefer to stay firmly in the capital, check out our guide to things to see and do in London.

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’ Summer Strawberry Recipes

Thursday, June 26th, 2014
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I think it’s fair to say that summer is well and truly here. There’s been a bit of sunshine, it seems like everybody’s had a couple of BBQs and Wimbledon has not long started. Now for me one of the best things about a good British summer is the strawberries; you just can’t beat them, and whilst many people choose to stick to the classic combination of strawberries and cream, it doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to get a bit more creative. That’s why, we’ve come up with some of our favourite summer strawberry recipes, so take a look and see if there’s anything that you fancy having a crack at.

Strawberry Jam

There’s nothing quite like a good batch of strawberry jam, whether it’s to go on top of a couple of slices of toast, finish off a home-made Victoria Sponge or crown off a scone as part of the perfect cream tea.  This easy recipe should take you less than an hour to make and you’ll end up with enough jam to fill up 4 or 5 400ml jars.

strawberry jam

via. Flickr

Ingredients

  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 1 kg of strawberries
  • 500g of jam sugar (high in pectin)

Method

  1. First of all sterilize your jam jars. To do this you can either immerse them in boiling water or put them in the oven for ten minutes at 100°c.
  2. Cut your vanilla pod in half lengthways and then scrape out the seeds.
  3. Add the vanilla seeds, sugar and strawberries to a large pan and crush them together using a potato masher.
  4. Put the pan on to a medium-high heat and bring the mixture to the boil.
  5. Simmer it for 5 minutes before turning the heat off.
  6. Skim any foam off the top of the jam and then leave it to cool before decanting into the jam jars.
  7. Seal them and put them in the fridge.

Strawberry Cheesecake

If you’re after a hassle free, yet decadent dessert then this strawberry cheesecake is just the thing for you; after all, it only takes just over an hour to make! The strawberries contrast delightfully with the creamy topping of the cake, and if you want you can always add a touch of the home-made jam from the above recipe as a coulis topping!

strawberry cheesecake

via. Flickr

Ingredients

  • 250g of digestive biscuits
  • 100g of melted butter
  • 600g of cream cheese
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 100g of icing sugar
  • 1 medium sized pot of double cream (around 300 ml)
  • Punnet of fresh strawberries

Method

  1. Crush the digestive biscuits until they are crumbs and then add the melted butter. Mix them together and then use the mixture to line the bottom of your tin. Put in the fridge for an hour to set.
  2. Cut your vanilla pod in half lengthways and then scrape out the seeds.
  3. Beat the vanilla seeds, cream cheese and icing sugar together until smooth. Then mix in the double cream.
  4. Spoon the cream mixture onto the biscuit base and smooth out.
  5. Leave in the fridge overnight and top with the fresh strawberries before serving.

Eton Mess

If you’re after a proper British dessert to make the most of the strawberry season then you really can’t beat Eton Mess! After all, it’s traditionally served during an annual match of cricket between Eton and Harrow; you can’t get more quintessentially British than that! What’s even better, the recipe shouldn’t take you more than twenty minutes!

via. Flickr

via. Flickr

Ingredients

  • 400 ml of double cream
  • 500g of fresh strawberries
  • 3 ready made meringue nests
  • A few sprigs of mint

Method

  1. Take half of the strawberries and blend them until they form a smooth purée.
  2. Set aside a couple of strawberries and roughly chop the remaining ones.
  3. Crush the meringue nests into rough chunks.
  4. Whip the double cream until peaks start to form, then stir in the strawberry purée and pieces of meringue.
  5. Serve the mixture up in bowls and garnish with a sprig of mint and the remaining strawberries.

So there we have it, some great summer recipes to make the most of beautiful British strawberries, and remember to make the most of them as before you know it the season will be over. Also, be sure to let us know if any of you have a crack at one of the recipes, either via Twitter or Facebook- we’d love to know how you get on!

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.