Archive for August, 2014

Wild Swimming: Top Spots For An Alfresco Dip

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014
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Swimming pools, who needs ‘em. Chilly, chlorine clogged water. Screaming kids, stealthily ‘bombing’ the deep end. The old chap, who spends his towelling off time in the nud. Not to mention the price, which seems to go up year on year (I’m sure it used to cost 50p?)

Sadly, if you’re into your swimming, there’s no other option but to use the public baths. Or is there?

During my time as a writer in the world of UK holidays, I’ve come to realise that us Brits are pretty wild when it comes to swimming. What with the plucky few who race in the waters of Windermere, to the Irish who spend Boxing Day paddling in the Atlantic, it seems we’re a nation who aren’t afraid to get wet, however cold it may be.

With this in mind, we’ve come up with five places around Britain that are perfect for wild swimming. Naturally, this ‘sport’ isn’t for everyone, and we’d advise those who aren’t fans of getting wet and cold to remain firmly on dry land.

River Trent, Derbyshire

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

A river may not sound the safest place to take an alfresco dip, and rightly so. But choose your spot wisely and there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy a leisurely swim. The River Trent in Derbyshire is famed for its safe ‘lagoons’, which offer a tranquil place to plunge- even for little’uns. Sure, the water will be cold, but it’ll be fresh too. Plus, it’ll be quiet, so quiet in fact that 6th century hermits and saints used to inhabit the nearby rocky grottoes to avoid being seen by unsavoury types, perfect if you forgot your swimwear…

Kailpot Crag, Lake District

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Ullswater may be one of the most popular lakes in the Lake District, but stay clear of the tourist haunts and undiscovered corners remain, including Kailpot Crag. Characterised by its ancient, gnarly foliage, this west-facing outcrop has the makings of a great swimming spot, including a small cliff for fright-free diving. There’s a petite shingle beach too that’s ideal for drying off, and that westerly aspect means you can enjoy the sunset if you wish. The easiest way to access the crag is via a ferry which docks at Howton.

Loch Caoldair, Western Cairngorms

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Bring a wetsuit and thermals if you plan on swimming wild in Scotland because take it from us, it’ll be pretty chilly. Don’t let that put you off though as, thanks to Scotland’s liberal open access laws, you’re allowed to swim in pretty much all of the country’s thousands of lochs. One of our favourites is Loch Caoldair, a tree lined waterway tucked in the western Cairngorms. Home to deep, black water and a lovely wee beach, Caoldair is ideal for an invigorating swim. What’s more, the loch is only a mile from the road, so you won’t have to hike far to enjoy a quick dip.

Lower Ddwli Falls, Brecon Beacons

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Hidden in the south-west hills of the Brecon Beacons lies Waterfall Woods, an enchanting blend of natural pools and ancient woodland; prime territory for open-air swimming enthusiasts. Whilst photographers flock to the Sgws Gwladys- aka Lady Falls- intrepid bathers should make for the Ddwli Falls, where a huge, deep pool and powerful waterfall await. Revitalise in the spray, keeping your eye on the treeline for fleeting rainbows, or head downstream to horseshoe falls to make use of the jump and rope swing.

River Stour, Kent

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Those that have visited Kent’s River Stour may consider this an odd addition, but bear with me. Setting out from the town of Fordwich-reputed to be England’s smallest town- will bring you to an exposed stretch of the Stour, but keep going, and things soon become more secluded. Awash with wildlife and containing a relatively weak current, this river is ideal for a relaxing paddle on a sunny afternoon. The calmest stretch of the river is located beyond the reeds of Stodmarsh nature reserve, easily accessible by canoe.

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.

Walk of the Month: Falls of Truim & Truim Woods, Cairngorms

Monday, August 25th, 2014
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As the UK’s largest national park, the Cairngorms feature an abundance of natural attractions which provide the perfect backdrop for a bracing walk. But with over 4,000 square kilometres of protected parkland to explore, where do you begin?

Falls of Truim- Via Flickr

Falls of Truim- Via Flickr

The Falls of Truim may sound like a fictitious feature of Middle Earth, but actually, it is one of Scotland’s prettiest waterfalls. Enveloped in rich woodlands, the falls and their surroundings offer a sampling of most of the Cairngorms famous attributes- mountainous views, deep forests and black, trout-laden waters- making it ideal for those that have never visited the park.

The Walk

Waymarked paths make this 5.5 mile route straightforward; however, care should be taken on uneven trails and on the slate beside the falls as these can be slippery underfoot.

The Route

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

The proximity of the A9 road makes this route accessible, and there is a car park near the falls. Park here, before backpedalling across the A9, taking the turning on your left marked Crubenbeg. Follow this path until you reach a kissing gate. Pass this, before turning right and following the path through the trees toward the Falls of Truim. For the curious, a short path leads to the edge of the water, but don’t worry if you miss this as better views of the water are available later in the walk.

Continue along the trail which follows the course of the river and eventually you will come to a bridge, which you should cross. On the opposing bank, a path follows the crags above the falls, where a pine coppice provides a good opportunity for photographs. Remain on the path as it bends away from the water, crossing the heather pocked fields until the trail becomes an indistinct grassy path.

Indulge in the views offered atop Crubenbeg Steading before following the track uphill, keeping the fence to your left. After crossing the next field, you’ll come to a metal gate with a green right of way marker. Turn right here and follow the dry stone wall which will bring you to the edge of Glen Truim Woods.

Ignoring a Glen Truim Woods marker, continue along the track until you reach the next signed junction. Here, turn left in the direction of the Truim Woods Viewpoint, where a well-placed bench offers an opportune moment to relax and take in views of the Cairngorms mountains. When you’re done, descend the crag along the same path until you arrive back at the junction.

Turn left and follow the track until you reach a road, where you should make a right. Continue along the road until you reach a signed forestry track, which will eventually bring you back to the falls. Here, ascend the path you’ve previously tread to get back to the car park.

Download the comprehensive route and map for this walk here.

Rent a cottage in the Cairngorms with Sykes Cottages

With the prospect of an Indian summer looking increasingly dubious, we think it’s time to stow away the speedos and get togged up in your autumn clobber to make the most of the UK’s bracing countryside, and where better to do so than Scotland. If you’re on the same wavelength, take a look at our cottages to rent in the Cairngorms, or, if you’re still pinning hope on a late spurt of warm weather, ignore me completely and have a look at our autumn sale, where hundreds of our coast and country cottages are up for grabs at low prices.

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.

Top Ten Reasons To Visit Romantic Scotland

Sunday, August 24th, 2014
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Despite frequently appearing in ‘top romantic places’ polls, we were surprised when our recent survey returned results that only 5% of respondents would head to Scotland for a romantic getaway. Assuming that we weren’t the only ones surprised by these results, we created our Romantic Scotland competition to get some back up from knowledgeable bloggers who were more than happy to share their stories on why the home of Nessie is ideal for love birds. Read on to discover some of their reasons why they think Scotland is a perfect romantic destination, and take a look at their blogs to see their full stories of Scottish romance!

Image of Ben Lomond Done Gallivanting

Photo credit to Sarah at Done Gallivanting

Ten Reasons Scotland is Perfect For a Romantic Getaway

  1. Sarah from Done Gallivanting agrees that 95% of survey respondents are missing out by not visiting Scotland for a romantic break. Herself and her fiancé have travelled the length and breadth of Scotland and she suggests that you ‘write your own map of memories’ just like herself and her fiancé have.
  2. Alison of Dragons and Fairy Dust agrees that Scotland is the perfect place for a romantic stay or a wedding due to the stunning houses, gorgeous food, fabulous tradition and scenery.
  3. Susan from Mess in The ‘Ness thinks that Scotland is ideal for any and all couples, due to the variety of things to see and do across the country. Whether you fancy tackling the crowds in a city or heading to a remote location where you can feel like you are the only people on earth.
  4. Emily from Under The Scottish Rain tells us about why she thinks Aberdeen is ideal for romance and suggests walks through the sparkling city centre whilst the sun shines or along the golden sands of the beach.
  5. There is a list over on I Heart Travel about what makes Scotland an ideal romantic destination in each season. Head for a city break in spring, have lazy days on the beach in summer, head to country parks on crisp autumn days and snuggle in front of a log fire in the winter.
  6. Hooey from Cornish Life shares why she is happy to travel for ten hours to visit Scotland from her home in Cornwall and says that it is the ideal location for getting away from it all and spending quality time together.
  7. Hannah from Hannah’s Helping Hand says what she loves about Scotland is how she feels she is being drawn into her very own novel and the perfect setting for her own mini-break version of Pride and Prejudice.
  8. Bel from Journeys Are My Diary says that the beautiful scenery of lochs, forests and glens made her fall in love with Scotland itself.
  9. Angeline from Daft Mamma tells us about her most romantic getaway in Achiltibuie, in which she loved her cosy cottage accommodation and closeness to the beautiful beach.
  10. Rachel from Tea & Tales shares her top five reasons why she thinks that Scotland is perfect for romance: the beautiful city of Edinburgh that is steeped in history, the private beaches, the stunning scenery, the wildlife and the chance to stay cosy.

Here are just some of the reasons why these bloggers think that Scotland is romantic, but why not book a romantic holiday cottage and find out for yourself? Whether you want a late summer getaway or a cosy winter retreat, there is still time to discover all that Scotland has to offer in 2014 and beyond!

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.

Some of the UK’s Top Road Trips

Saturday, August 23rd, 2014
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Here at Sykes we love a good road trip.  Once you’ve gone through all the hassle of packing the car up, making sure that nothing has been left behind and of course sorting out some snacks for the journey there’s nothing better than finally hitting the open road. In fact you might have noticed that recently we did a round-up of some of the most scenic drives in the United Kingdom. Well whilst we were having a good old think about some of our favourite spots we stumbled across an infographic put together by ATS Euromaster on some of the UK’s best roadtrips. We thought that some of the drives looked fantastic, with stunning scenery and some brilliant stop off points along the way and so we decided to pick out a few of our favourites to share with you!

Caernarfon – Port Meirion

caernarfon - portmeirion

Caernarfon to Portmeirion – 46.3 miles

The first of the drives takes in some of the best views that North Wales has to offer. Starting outside the walls of Caernarfon Castle, the route takes you to Snowdon, the highest peak of the Snowdonia National Park. You’ll then find yourself cruising along to Portmeirion, where you’d be forgiven for thinking that you were on a road trip through the Italian Riviera rather than the Llyn Peninsula. Then, after a refuel in one of Portmeirion’s cafes, you head along to the rather ominously named Hell’s Mouth, otherwise known as Porth Neigwl, a haven for all of the surfers out there.

Glencoe – Inverness

glencoe - inverness

Glencoe to Inverness – 106 miles

For the second drive, we’ll be heading north of the border. Starting at the dramatic Glencoe, which you may recognise from either the Harry Potter films or the most recent instalment of the Bond franchise, Skyfall, where it featured as the childhood home of everybody’s favourite superspy. From there you’ll pop up to the highest mountain in the UK, Ben Nevis, before heading on to Fort William. The final leg will take you to the home of one of Scotland’s more famous, albeit lesser spotted attractions, Nessie!

Kings Lynn – Cromer

kings lynn - cromer

Kings Lynn to Cromer – 54.3 miles

The last of our favourites leads you along the beautiful North Norfolk coastline, one of the most picturesque sections of coast in the country. Starting down at Kings Lynn you’ll find yourself heading over towards the pristine sands of Brancaster before moving on to Wells-next-the-Sea which is well known for its countless colourful beach huts. You’ll finally find yourself down at the Holkham National Nature, an eleven mile long stretch of protected coastline that serves as a home for many of the UK’s endangered species.

Hopefully you enjoyed having a read of that, and found it as interesting as we did, but if you want to see a little more you can find the full infographic here with some more brilliant road trips. And if you fancy having a stop off at the end of your road trip make sure that you check out our selection of holiday cottages, they’re perfect for kicking back and relaxing after a long day behind the wheel.

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.

Summertime Wanderlust? Book a last minute holiday!

Friday, August 22nd, 2014
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Whilst sullen kids are left wondering where their six week summer holidays have gone, back to school banners are being affixed to supermarket shelves from here to Hull. That’s right, summer is almost at an end, and the autumn term is upon us. But before you roll out the new uniforms, pencil cases and lunch boxes, why not treat the kids to one last summer spoil and take them on a last minute holiday right here in the UK?

Whether you book a full 7 nights or a long weekend, our affordable last minute holidays offer a great excuse to take the kids away for one last getaway before the academic year commences. But if you’re going to book, be smart, because others will have had the same idea. If you’re not one for queuing, or have a new found appreciation for the quieter side of life after a hectic summer, head to one of these five places on your impromptu pre-autumn holiday to beat the queues and enjoy a stress-free holiday with your little’uns.

Northumberland

Bamburgh Castle- Via Flickr

Bamburgh Castle- Via Flickr

Not only is Northumberland breathtakingly beautiful, it’s also one of the country’s least inhabited counties, giving you the peace of mind that it will be at least, overtly peaceful. Home to an invigorating North Sea coastline and more castles than any other region in the UK, you and the kids will have plenty to do in this historic and stunning English county. Must see attractions in the area include the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, a tidal island famed for its ties to Celtic Christianity, as well as Dunstanburgh, Bamburgh and Alnwick castles, the latter of which was brought to the fore by the Harry Potter film franchise.

Somerset

Exmoor- Via Flickr

Exmoor- Via Flickr

Enjoy the warm climate of South West England without the crowds of Devon and Cornwall with a trip to Somerset. Boasting a plethora of natural beauty spots- Exmoor, Mendips, Quantocks, Cheddar Gorge to name but a few- as well as several great coastal resorts and beaches like Minehead and Weston-super-mare, Somerset has all you could ever need to enjoy a fun filled family getaway. There are visitor attractions aplenty in the county too, with one of our favourites being Wookey Hole, a large show cave on the edge of the Mendip Hills.

Ireland

Ireland-Via Flickr

Ireland-Via Flickr

Escape to the Emerald Isle this summer with a 7 night break in Ireland. Littered with great beaches and home to some of Europe’s most beloved landscapes, Ireland is the perfect place to take the kids for an unforgettable trip before term starts. The beauty of a trip to Ireland is that it feels like you’re travelling somewhere much more far flung, yet in reality, our flights, ferries and car hire deals make it extremely easy to travel to the Emerald Isle.

Kent

Canterbury- Via Flickr

Canterbury- Via Flickr

With swathes of charming English countryside and one of the UK’s most iconic coastlines, Kent is an undisputed hidden gem. During the summer months, this balmy region enjoys some of the UK’s warmest temperatures, making it the perfect place to catch some summer sun before the onset of autumn. The county’s undulating landscape means that outdoorsy types will never be short of places to cycle and ramble, whilst those with a penchant for history will love to explore the imposing keep of Dover Castle or step back in time at the charming medieval city of Canterbury.

Suffolk

Southwold Beach- Via Flickr

Southwold Beach- Via Flickr

Looking for the classic seaside experience? Then head to Suffolk, a county that’s home to some of Britian’s best loved coastal resorts. Families with young children will adore the traditional seaside towns of Southwold, Aldeburgh, Felixstowe and Dunwich Heath, which offer everything from soft sand and colourful beach huts to ice cream parlours and seafront arcades. Meanwhile, adventurous types will enjoy exploring Suffolk’s two areas of outstanding natural beauty, which comprise wildlife-rich heathlands and a multitude of charming historic towns and villages.

Book a last minute summer holiday today!

Wanderlust won’t waver, so before you send your kids off in their shiny new shoes, ask yourself: have you had a summer to remember? If the answer’s no, then make it so, by booking a last minute summer holiday today. We’ve got plenty of availability for the remaining summer in some truly wonderful destinations around the UK, so check out our last minute properties page today for more inspiration on where to getaway 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.