Archive for July, 2014

Top 10 UK Conservation Sites

Sunday, July 27th, 2014
Pin It

Today is World Nature Conservation Day, a global event dedicated to highlighting the importance of protecting and safeguarding our natural world. Here in Britain, we’re blessed with some truly remarkable pockets of countryside that are protected by the government to safeguard them for future generations- here’s a pick of our favourites from around the UK.

Flamborough Head, East Yorkshire

Flamborough Head- Via Flickr

Flamborough Head- Via Flickr

With its 19th century lighthouse and majestic white chalk cliffs, Flamborough Head is a remarkable area for a stroll both day and night. The government first designated this headland a Site of Special Scientific Interest in 1952 due to the 189 habitats and 788 species which call this picturesque promontory home.

The Lizard, Cornwall

The Lizard- Via Flickr

The Lizard- Via Flickr

Stunning good looks aren’t the only thing that Cornwall’s The Lizard has to shout about. Along with its award-winning beaches and wonderful time-forgotten hamlets, this evocative finger of land is also a Special Area of Conservation thanks to the diversity of its flora.

Solway Firth, Dumfries & Galloway

Solway Firth- Via Flickr

Solway Firth- Via Flickr

Lagoons, mud flats and tidal rivers are just a handful of the natural features which await in Solway Firth, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty famous for its frequent dolphin sightings. Solway is one of Scotland’s most stunning bodies of water, and there has been talk of the region becoming the UK’s second marine national park.

North Norfolk Coast, Norfolk

Hunstanton Beach- Via Flickr

Hunstanton Beach- Via Flickr

Ribbons of soft sand and miles of undulating shingle dunes make the North Norfolk coast one of the best in the UK. Coastal highlights in the region include Holkham Beach and nature reserve, as well as Hunstanton Beach, a sandy stretch of coast renowned for its unusual red and white cliffs.

The New Forest, Wiltshire

The New Forest- Via Flickr

The New Forest- Via Flickr

Take coniferous woodlands and water fringed fens and what do you get? The New Forest of course! A designated Special Area of Conservation, the New Forest is an ever popular base for tourists thanks to its numerous walking, cycling and adventure trails, which criss-cross for miles across the woodland.

Simonside Hills, Northumberland

Simonside Hills- Via Flickr

Simonside Hills- Via Flickr

Located in the nether regions of Northumberland lie the Simonside Hills, a band of uplands protected for their biodiversity and wild, untamed landscapes. From atop these rugged hills, hikers are granted a panoramic view of the neighbouring Cheviots, making the 430m ascent well worth the effort.

Peak District Dales, Peak District

Peak District- Via Flickr

Peak District- Via Flickr

Perhaps the most famous protected land mass in the UK, the Peak District is by far the most popular designated Special Area of Conservation on this shortlist. For decades, people have flocked to the region to indulge in any number of the outdoor pursuits on offer, yet the Peak District’s main appeal comes from the sheer beauty of its natural backdrop.

Quantock Hills, Somerset

Quantock Hills- Via Flickr

Quantock Hills- Via Flickr

As England’s first designated Area of Oustanding Natural Beauty, the Quantocks have a lot to prove. Thankfully, the area’s spellbinding vistas and rare flora more than live up to this prestigious mantel, and to top it off, the area’s been designated a Special Area of Conservation too- what more could you want?

Dartmoor, Devon

Dartmoor- Via Flickr

Dartmoor- Via Flickr

Synonymous with sturdy mares and rich moorlands, Dartmoor is the ideal place to escape the daily grind and venture out into nature. Walkers will love cherry-picking their favourite routes from over 450 miles of public footpaths in Dartmoor, whilst mountain biking, horse riding and geocaching provide fun alternatives for the more adventurous.

Tennyson Down, Isle of Wight

Tennyson Down- Via Flickr

Tennyson Down- Via Flickr

Named after Britain’s late poet laureate, Lord Tennyson, the Tennyson Down is a chalk ridge forming part of what has come to be known as the ‘backbone’ of the Isle of Wight. Here, rare seabirds nest in the shingle sea cliffs and cows and rabbits graze on rich, emerald grasslands that extend right to the very edge of the headland.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our shortlist of Britain’s best conservation sites. Of course, this is but a sample of all the protected areas that are publicly accessible here in the UK. To find out more about Britain’s special areas of conservation, please visit the JNCC website. Alternatively, if you’d like to get involved in World Nature Conservation Day, click here.

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.

British Marine Life: Where to Find it?

Saturday, July 26th, 2014
Pin It

From 26th July to 10th August 2014, the Wildlife Trust is celebrating the fascinating sea animals and plants that live in the UK’s marine environment for National Marine Week. This event takes place annually, taking on a different theme every year. The theme for 2014 is centred on five of the most common types of starfish found in the UK: the cushion, the bloody Henry, the common, the spiny and the brittle. Here at Sykes Cottages, we’re huge lovers of all things nature so we’ve decided to write a guide to some of the best places in the UK to see marine wildlife.

Where to find the best rock pools

Wembury Beach in Devon

Via Flickr

If there’s one thing kids love to do on a beach holiday, it’s explore the rock pools; there’s nothing more exciting when you’re a child than spotting a crab or finding a particularly pretty shell. Our pick of the best rock pools in Britain is Wembury on the south coast of Devon. Wembury is renowned for its fantastic rockpooling opportunities. Here, you can find a wide array of wildlife including Cornish Sucker Fish, Velvet Swimming Crabs, Long-Spined Sea Scorpions and both cushion and spiny starfish. There are many safety considerations to bear in mind when you’re rockpooling (both for yourself and the wildlife) so be sure to read the Devon Wildlife’s Trust Seashore Code before you head out.

Where to see seals

Seals at Blakeney Point, Norfolk

Via Flickr

Seals are one of the most popular forms of marine wildlife for tourists to seek out and luckily, they can be found in lots of places along the British coastline. One of our favourite spots to go looking for seals is Blakeney in Norfolk. From the quay, you can catch a boat out to Blakeney Point where you will find around 500 Common and Grey seals basking on the sandbanks. The peak seal-watching period lasts from April until October so make sure you bear this in mind when you book your trip!

Where to discover whales and dolphins

Dolphins

Picture provided by Holly Magoolagan

Scotland is one of the best places in the UK to see whales and dolphins. If you’re looking to catch a glimpse of a Minke Whale then head to the east coast of the Shetland Islands between May and September, or to experience the majestic Sperm Whale, you can catch a boat from the Outer Hebrides to just west of the continental shelf edge. Scotland also offers one of the most iconic colonies of dolphins in the UK, the bottlenose pods in the Moray Firth. The best place in the Moray Firth to see dolphins is at Chanonry Point, Cromarty, which is where the highest number of sightings have been reported.

Where to encounter birds

Puffin At Skomer Island

Via Flickr

Skomer Island is home to one of the largest colonies of sea-birds in the UK and is just 15 minutes off the stunning Pembrokeshire coastline. Skomer boasts the world’s largest population of Manx Shearwaters, a cousin of the wandering albatross, with an estimated 120,000 breeding pairs inhabiting the island. However, these birds only leave and return to the island under cover of darkness so in order to get the chance to fully experience these incredible birds, you will need to book one of the guided night walks organised by the Wildlife Trust. Skomer is also home to a large number of puffins, razorbills, guillemots and short-eared owls, to name just a few!

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.

Wild Lands: Exploring Scotland’s National Parks

Friday, July 25th, 2014
Pin It

Home to a dramatic blend of rustic cities and imposing mountains, Scotland is arguably one of the most beautiful countries in the British Isles. But unlike England and Wales, who have ten and three national parks respectively, Scotland contains only two, with just 7.2% of the country’s land area designated to protected parkland.

Despite this, and in honour of Love Parks Week, we wanted to delve deeper into Scotland’s national parks. Afterall, the Cairngorms is the UK’s largest protected land mass, the Loch Lomond & Trossachs being the fourth largest- pretty impressive, considering there’s just two of them. The beauty of Scotland’s national parks is that they hold much of the country’s most valued pockets of wilderness, and regardless of proportions, are sure to give any English or Welsh national park a run for its money.

Cairngorms National Park

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Covering a land area of 4,528 sq kilometres, the Cairngorms is by far the largest national park in the UK, dwarfing the Lake District by over two thousand square kilometres. It’s also home to Ben Macdui, Britain’s second highest mountain. A bit of a record breaker then; but what else does the Cairngorms have to shout about? Well, the park also features some of Britain’s biggest and oldest forests, including a large swathe of Caledonian Forest which once covered much of the UK. There’s water aplenty here too, making the park a mecca for watersport enthusiasts, with kayaking and white-water rafting being the two most popular waterborne pursuits.

Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

With 21 Munros (Scottish mountains with a height over 3,000 ft), 19 Corbetts (Scottish mountains with a height between 2,500-3,000 feet), 57 designated special conservation sites and two forest parks, it’s no surprise that the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park is very popular with walkers and other outdoor enthusiasts. One hiking trail not to miss is the West Highland Way, a 96 mile route which runs from Fort William in the Highlands to Mingavie on the outskirts of Glasgow. The trail traverses much of the park’s most serene landscapes, making it a great way for ramblers to see the beauty of this stunning corner of Scotland.

The future of Scotland’s national parks

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

In 2005, the Scottish government announced that they plan to designate Scotland’s first marine national park, a move which would showcase and protect the beauty of the Scottish coast for generations to come. When formed, the marine national park will be the second of its kind in the UK, the other being the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park in South Wales. In total, there are five potential locations which the Scottish Government are considering, including Solway Firth, Argyll Islands, the Skye Coast and North Uist. Personally, we can’t wait to visit when the park is finally unveiled!

Rent a holiday home in Scotland with Sykes Cottages

Here at Sykes Cottages, we’re mighty fond of our neighbours north of the border, and offer a great selection of self-catering accommodation to choose from in this rugged and inspiring country. Whether you’re looking for a Scottish log cabin in the Cairngorms or a contemporary apartment in Edinburgh, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for on our Scottish accommodation page.

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.

Spectacular Holiday Cottages in Scotland

Thursday, July 24th, 2014
Pin It

With the start of the 2014 Commonwealth Games yesterday, all eyes are on Scotland for what is sure to be a fantastic fortnight of  sport. To celebrate the buzz surrounding Scotland at the moment, we’ve put together a shortlist of some of our most spectacular Scottish holiday cottages for you to enjoy.

Beach Cottage, Sandend

Holiday cottage in Sandend, Scotland

Beach Cottage, Sandend, Ref. 12172

This beautiful holiday cottage is located in the small village of Sandend, on the north-east coast of Scotland. Standing in an elevated position overlooking the beach, this cottage boasts unrivalled views across the sand and sea; offering light, airy and spacious accommodation for a family or group of friends. There are plenty of coastal walks around Beach Cottage and if you’re a history buff, then you’ll love the nearby ruins of Findlater Castle which overlook the Moray Firth.

Brook Cottage, Falkland

Holiday cottage in Falkland, Scotland

Brook Cottage, Falkland, Ref. 16253

If you’re looking for peace and quiet amidst stunning countryside then you need look no further than Brook Cottage. This charming terraced cottage is just under a mile from the historic town of Falkland and offers guests incredible views of the Lomond Hills and Fife countryside. The outdoor decked area is the perfect place to relax on a sunny day and the living room, with its cosy woodburner, would be the ideal place to curl up on a winter’s evening.

Aurae, Cawdor

Holiday cottage in Cawdor, Scotland

Aurae, Cawdor, Ref. 904499

Situated in the heart of the Scottish Highlands, this bespoke log cabin has all you’ll ever need for a luxury holiday in Scotland. Sleeping 8, Aurae boasts facilities including a barrel sauna, large hot tub and floor-to-ceiling windows to make the most of the panoramic countryside views. Nearby, you’ll find Cawdor Castle which is most famous for its literary connection to Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and Inverness, which is just 9 miles away.

Glenashdale, Dunoon

Holiday cottage in Dunoon, Scotland

Glenashdale, Dunoon, Ref. 12582

The Cowal Peninsula in Argyll is one of the most spectacularly beautiful regions in the whole of Scotland. With plenty of glens, lochs and highland hills to explore, you’ll never be short of things to do at your Cowal holiday home. Glenashdale offers forest walks straight from its doorstep and the beach is just a few minutes’ walk away. The cottage boasts spectacular views across the Firth of Clyde from many of the rooms and is the perfect base for families who want to discover this part of the country.

Seaspray, Portknockie

Holiday cottage in Portknockie, Scotland

Seaspray, Portknockie, Ref. 22242

Seaspray is a former fisherman’s cottage in the picturesque fishing village of Portknockie, which occupies a stunning elevated position on a cliff overlooking the Moray Firth. The cottage itself has been furnished to a high standard with stylish décor and sea views from the first floor. Local facilities are just a minute’s walk away and the Moray Firth coastline provides guests with fantastic walking and cycling opportunities, as well as the chance to see dolphins, seals and sea-birds in their natural habitat.

If you’d like to look at more of our fantastic cottages in Scotland then you can do so by visiting the Scotland holiday cottages page on our website.

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.

Scottish Sport This Summer

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014
Pin It

I think it’s safe to say that the eyes of the sporting world will have well and truly descended on Scotland as the Commonwealth Games finally get up and running. Over the next ten days, thousands of athletes will be competing across seventeen different sporting events from cycling right the way through to squash. However, it’s well worth remembering that it’s not just about the Commonwealth Games up in Scotland, in fact there are plenty of other sporting activities that you could try your hand at, so read on and see if there’s anything that you fancy.

Extreme Sports

via. Flickr

via. Flickr

If you’re a bit of an adrenaline junkie then Scotland is most definitely where you want to be, after all there are so many options open to you! For example you could have a go at the ultimate thrill, a Bungee Jump! Bungee Jump Scotland offer you two options, the Highland Fling up in the beautiful Pass of Killiecrankie or the Urban Bungee which will have you leaping off the cantilever of the Titan Crane in Glasgow. Or, alternatively, you could always take in some of the beautiful countryside with a spot of mountain biking. If you’re a fan of cycling then Scotland is the place for you! No matter where you are you’ll be able to find a cycling paradise, from the borders right up to the Highlands, there’s always somewhere for you!

Water Sports

via. Flickr

via. Flickr

Then there’s the water sports! With over 10,000 miles of coastline it comes as little surprise that Scotland is a haven for all types of water sports enthusiasts, from surfers to sailors, paddleboarders to canoeists, the list goes on. The rougher seas of the North coast have put places like Thurso well and truly on the surfing map, however if you’re a beginner you might be better suited to the slightly calmer waters further down the coastline. Or if you’re inland you can take a advantage of some of the fantastic white water rapids dotted around the country and have a go at one of the latest crazes, river bugging!

The Highland Games

via. Flickr

via. Flickr

Or if you don’t fancy either of them then, why don’t you pop down to one of the Highland Games! Truly showcasing Scottish heritage at its finest from traditional sports such as the caber toss and the hammer throw, to bagpipe playing and highland dancing, the games make for a spectacle like no other! With events ranging from smaller, local affairs right the way through to the massive Cowal Gathering which brings together three and a half thousand competitors from all over the world, as well as countless spectators you’ll surely be able to find one for you!

So there we have it, some of the fantastic sports and events taking place around Scotland! If any of them have piqued your interest why not take a look at our Scottish cottages so that you have somewhere to put your feet up after a long day, or if you have any suggestions of activities that people should try out north of the border then let us know either over Twitter of Facebook!

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.