Archive for September, 2014

Easy Egg Recipes for British Egg Week

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014
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Believe it or not, today is the start of British Egg Week. That’s right, the humble egg now has its own week, and who could deny it that? It’s an absolute staple no matter what meal you’re looking at; breakfast, lunch, dinner, if you’re stuck for an idea the egg will always come to the rescue. But forget about a simple boiled or fried egg! In celebration of Egg Week, we’ve had a look and found some fantastic eggy recipes for you to try out!

Eggs Benedict

Where else to start but with the classic brunch, Eggs Benedict? You just can’t beat it when it comes to a special occasion! The following recipe should be enough for two people and will take around fifteen minutes, though you can save time by using pre-made hollandaise sauce if you’re pushed for time.

via Flickr

via Flickr

Ingredients:

For the sauce:

  • 3 tbsp of white wine vinegar
  • 75 oz of melted butter
  • 2 large egg yolks

For the dish:

  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 slices of ham
  • 2 breakfast muffins

Method:

  1. Start by making the sauce. Simmer the vinegar over a medium heat until it has reduced by half. Then, place it in a heatproof bowl along with the egg yolks over a pan of simmering water. Whisk these two together until the mixture starts to thicken up, then whilst whisking, gradually add in the melted butter. Once that is done set the sauce aside.
  2. Half and toast your muffins.
  3. Fill up a deep pan with water and bring to the boil. Stir the water briskly so that it is swirling around the pan and add in the eggs, the movement of the water should keep them held together nicely.
  4. Place your ham on top of the muffins along with some of the sauce.
  5. Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon after they’ve been poaching for three minutes and place on the ham. Top with the remaining sauce and serve.

Scotch Eggs

Next is the classic picnic treat, although it will be just at home tucked away in a lunch box for an indulgent snack. The recipe shouldn’t take any more than 45 minutes to make and will leave you with 4 beautiful scotch eggs to work your way through.

via Flickr

via Flickr

Ingredients:

  • 5 eggs
  • 400g of sausage meat
  • 75g of breadcrumbs
  • a handful of flour
  • 2 litres of vegetable oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tbspn of English mustard

Method:

  1. Place four of the eggs into a pan of water, bring to the boil and cook for three and a half minutes. Once they are cooked immediately move them to a bowl of cold water and peel.
  2. Season the sausage meat, add in the mustard and split the mixture into four equal sized balls.
  3. Prepare three separate bowls, one with the breadcrumbs, one with the flour and one with the remaining egg cracked into it and beaten.
  4. Take one of the cooked and peeled eggs and a ball of sausage meat. Dust the egg with a bit of flour, flatten the meat into a pattie and wrap it around the egg. Repeat this for all four of the eggs.
  5. Dust the ball with flour, dip into the beaten egg and roll in the breadcrumbs.
  6. Heat all of the the oil in a deep pan. You can check the temperature by dropping in a breadcrumb and seeing if it starts to fry. Once it is hot enough, place each of the scotch eggs in and then cook for four minutes, giving them a turn every now and then.
  7. Using a slotted spoon remove the eggs and pat them down with some kitchen roll to remove any excess oil.

Bacon and Leek Quiche

Finally we’ve got one of my personal favourites, a good old bacon and leek quiche. You can serve it up either fresh out of the oven, or leave it to cool down for a lunchtime treat. This recipe uses a pre-made pastry case to save time, although if you’d rather make your own you can find a great recipe here, just don’t forget you’ll need to blind bake the case before you add in the mixture.

via Flickr

via Flickr

Ingredients:

  • 150g of bacon lardons
  • 3 large leeks
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 3 large eggs
  • 200ml of double cream
  • 50g of cheddar cheese
  • 1 pre-made pastry case

Method:

  1. Fry the bacon lardons in oil for 5-7 minutes until they have started to brown.
  2. Peel and wash the leeks then finely slice them, also peel the garlic clove and finely chop it. Add the leeks and garlic to the pan with the lardons and turn the heat down. Gently fry the mixture until the leeks being to caramelise, this should take around 10-15 minutes.
  3. Once the leeks are done, spoon the mixture out into the pastry case and spread evenly.
  4. Mix the eggs and cream together with some seasoning, then pour over the bacon and leek mixture. Top with the grated cheese and place in an oven at 160°c for 25 to 30 minutes until.
  5. Cut into slices and serve.

So there you go, some of our favourite egg recipes to get you through British Egg Week. If you have any suggestions for other recipes be sure to let us know, either by tweeting us or telling us on 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.

Autumn Wildlife Watch

Monday, September 29th, 2014
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Unlike us Homo sapiens – who batten down the hatches at the first sign of the impending winter – wildlife flourishes when the mercury drops and the leaves turn amber. Whether fattening up on seasonal fruits, nuts and berries, or fleeing the imminent chill, there’s loads of critters to spot during the autumn months. Here’s a quick guide on what you’re likely to see should you stray into the country this fall.

Spot seal pups at Farne Islands

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Not only are the Farne Islands home to one of the UK’s largest seabird colonies – there’s 23 species here, including 37,000 pairs of puffins – they’re also home to a large grey seal colony. On average, around 1,000 seal pups are born on the Farne Islands every autumn, so it’s the perfect place to spot these enchanting aquatic beasts. Historically, these North Sea islets were renowned for their ties to Celtic Christianity, though in recent times, high tides mean they’re now only accessible by boat. To see these cuties though, a boat trip seems a small price to pay.

Bottlenose Dolphins, The Lizard, Cornwall

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

You know that bit of land in Cornwall that sticks out into the Atlantic? That’s called the Lizard Peninsula, or ‘The Lizard’ for short. Why it’s called the Lizard Peninsula I have no clue, but one thing’s for sure; there’s aquatic wildlife aplenty off the coast of this un-reptilian shaped headland. Basking sharks, seals and harbour porpoises are among the sea dwellers you’re likely to spot off the Lizard coast, as well as everyone’s favourite, the bottlenose dolphin. Autumn is a great time to see dolphins wherever you are in the UK, but the beauty of the Lizard Peninsula is sure to make a sighting that extra bit special.

Black Grouse, Durham Dales

For bumpkins, the grouse is commonplace on any country lane commute. For city slickers however, the closest you may have come to one of these handsome birds is the animated one that appears on TV at Christmastime advertising Scotch. Head to the very lovely Durham Dales during the months of autumn and chances are you’ll spot one or two Black Grouse, a globally threatened variety of the Grouse. Though twitching may not be on everyone’s holiday agenda, an afternoon searching for Black Grouse won’t feel wasted when you see Durham’s charming landscapes.

Red Deer, Beecrags Country Park, West Lothian

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Although Red Deer are synonymous with the British countryside, how many of us have actually laid eyes on one in the wild? Growing up on the fringes of the Yorkshire Dales, I was lucky enough to see plenty of deer, though none – to my knowledge – were red. For those of you who’d like to see the majestic red deer in the flesh, now’s the perfect time to do so. The Beecrags Country Park in West Lothian is home to a large herd of deer, and it’s around this time that the male bucks go head to head to impress females.

Puffins, South Stack Cliffs, Anglesey

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Just look at ‘em – aren’t they a delight? Needless to say, I’m a big fan of the humble puffin. These comical cliff dwellers are one of the UK’s most beloved seabirds, and for good reason. Though the largest colony of puffins can be found at RSPB Bempton Cliffs in North Yorkshire, there’s plenty of other places around the British Isles where you can find these multi-coloured wonders, including here, at the South Stack Cliffs in Anglesey. This spectacular headland is teeming with puffins at this time of year, and it’s also the perfect place to blow out the cobwebs with a blustery coastal walk.

Watch wildlife on an autumn cottage break

If your other half’s not keen on devoting a day to wildlife watching, then you could always bribe them with a weekend cottage break from Sykes. We’ve got hundreds of cottages with availability this autumn in many of the UK’s favourite wildlife hotspots, so grab the binoculars and book yours 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.

Ten of the UK’s Cosiest Country Pubs

Sunday, September 28th, 2014
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Does your local have a warming wood burner? What about charming country views? A terrace leading to a sandy bay? Or locally sourced ales crafted down the road? No? Well fear not, because we’re here to let you know about Britain’s best country pubs and where you can find them.

The Kirkstile Inn, Cockermouth

The Kirkstile Inn – Via Google Images – Labelled for reuse

The Kirkstile Inn – Via Google Images – Labelled for reuse

The word ‘enchanting’ doesn’t do The Kirkstile Inn justice. Neither does ‘magical’, or ‘amazing’ for that matter. Don’t fret, I haven’t gone soft. It’s just the location of this Lake District boozer is extraordinary. Seated beneath the fells of the north west Lakes, Kirkstile offers good food and great beer. It’s said to have been frequented since Tudor times – we can definitely see why.

The Berkeley Arms, Melton Mowbray

The Berkeley Arms

The Berkeley Arms – Via Google Images – Labelled for reuse

From the village that brought you the pork pie comes a country pub offering culinary treats and a great choice of liquid refreshment; The Berkeley Arms. This Melton Mowbray public house offers well-appointed dining and a cosy bar from which to enjoy a pint or two. The food here has earned quite a reputation, so be sure to book in advance.

Groes Inn, Conwy

Groes Inn – Via Flickr

Groes Inn – Via Flickr

As one of Wales’ oldest taverns, the proprietors of The Groes Inn have quite the reputation to maintain. Thankfully, they’re doing a damn good job of it. With a roster of local ales and a top notch menu brimming with responsibly sourced fare, this ivy-clad watering hole is arguably one of Wales’ best.

The Gurnard’s Head, Cornwall

The Gurnard's Head – Via Google Images – Labelled for reuse

The Gurnard’s Head – Via Google Images – Labelled for reuse

Sink a pint on the edge of the world – there’s a slogan for you. Joking aside, you can do just that at The Gurnard’s Head, a friendly pub on Cornwall’s magical north coast. A strip of land yay big is all that separates you and your Cornish IPA from the Atlantic, making Gurnard’s Head one of the most invigorating places to enjoy a pint in Blighty.

Battlesteads, Northumberland

Battlesteads – Via Google Images – Labelled for reuse

Battlesteads – Via Google Images – Labelled for reuse

Nestled amid the castle-strewn landscape of Northumberland’s border region – just down the road from Hadrian’s famous wall no less – is Battlesteads, a lovable pub offering a friendly and oh-so-warm-welcome on a bitter winter’s day. If it wasn’t for the inn’s proper grub and distinctive ales, the amber glow radiating through its windows would surely be enough to entice the weary traveller.

The Bull’s Head, Herefordshire

The Bull's Head –  Via Google Images – Labelled for reuse

The Bull’s Head – Via Google Images – Labelled for reuse

Eat, drink and be merry in the shadow of The Black Mountains; that’s what’s on the menu at The Bull’s Head, a former drover’s inn hidden in the Herefordshire countryside. If not for the contemporary – and equally indulgent – menu, you’d think time had forgotten The Bull’s Head; it’s stone walkways, hole-in-the-wall-bar and traditional furnishings do hark to yesteryear.

Lathkil, Bakewell, Derbyshire

Lathkil Hotel – Via Google Images – Labelled for reuse

Lathkil Hotel – Via Google Images – Labelled for reuse

Panoramic views of the Peak District beckon at the Lathkil Hotel, a whitewashed tavern perched atop a peak two miles from the town of Bakewell. Lathkil serves wholesome food and locally sourced ales, but enough about all that; if their bitter had the consistency of dishwater, you’d still enjoy it, happy to spend another moment in the midst of its striking vistas.

Shieldaig Bar & Coastal Kitchen, Shieldaig

Loch Shieldaig – Via Google Images – Labelled for reuse

Loch Shieldaig – Via Google Images – Labelled for reuse

Fresh seafood? Check. Great views? Check. Friendly staff? Check. The best pizza in the Highlands? Supposedly. Yes, this is the Shieldaig Bar & Coastal Kitchen, a delightful seafood joint overlooking Loch Shieldaig. Though not your classic country pub, this contemporary coastal bar and restaurant is well worth a visit if you’re touring the Scottish Highlands.

The Royal Oak, Chipping Norton

The Royal Oak – Via Google Images – Labelled for reuse

The Royal Oak – Via Google Images – Labelled for reuse

From contemporary coast to charming country, The Royal Oak in Chipping Norton is dripping with traditional pub panache. Though it shares its name with over 400 other pubs around Britain, this stone-built tavern has welcomed travellers for centuries, and happens to be one of the prettiest places to plant your bum and enjoy a pint in the Cotswolds.

Take a trip to the country on a cottage break

Country pubs and autumn go hand in hand, so if you’re in the market for a seasonal excursion, why not rent a cottage near one of these rural taverns? We’ve got plenty of cottages to rent near pubs in the UK that offer a great base for a holiday; why not take a look at our selection today.

Know of a picturesque pub in the country? We want to hear about it! Get in touch on Facebook or Twitter.

Looking for more interesting taverns to visit? Check out our definitive guide to the UK’s best pubs.

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.

Booking a Surprise Holiday: The Ultimate Guide

Saturday, September 27th, 2014
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Whether it’s for a birthday, anniversary or just because, nothing says you care like booking a surprise holiday for your loved one. Whether you want a relaxing break or something to let out your adventurous side, we have a huge choice of properties that will suit your every need and are happy to help keep your booking a surprise. Take a look below at our latest infographic for hints and tips on booking – and keeping – that holiday a surprise!

The Ultimate Guide to Booking a Surprise Holiday

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Booking a Surprise Holiday… The Ultimate Guide!

There is nothing  like a luxury, romantic break for two and they’re even sweeter when it’s a surprise. Booking a getaway whilst keeping your partner in the dark can seem like a logistical nightmare but read on to learn a few tips on how to make your surprise a success!

Making a Surprise Booking

When making your booking, ensure that all correspondence goes to an address that your loved one doesn’t have access to. Book using your work email and ask whether they will be sending you anything in the post – if so, use your work address for that, too!

If you have a shared bank account, make sure that you don’t use it to pay for your surprise holiday. Use your personal bank account to avoid raising suspicions!

If you make your booking using a shared computer, or a computer that your loved one has access to, be sure to delete your browsing history and cookies afterwards.

Is there a series that your partner never misses or a TV show they’ve been longing to watch? Then be sure to record them if they’re scheduled for whilst you are away.

Things to Keep in Mind

Make sure that both you and the recipient of the surprise have booked holidays from work on the dates that you would like to go away.

If you’re leaving it until last minute to unveil your surprise, you can take some of the strain from your loved one by doing some of their packing for them.

If you aren’t staying in the UK think about any identification that you both might need and check that any identification is up to date before embarking on your journey.

Don’t forget that if you or your partner have a four legged friend, make sure to book pet friendly accommodation or arrange for a friend or family member to look after them.

Let their friends and family know about the surprise, to ensure that they do not make plans with your loved one over the time you will be going away.

Extra Touches

While You’re Away

Think about whether you want to have a relaxing or an action packed getaway. Does your loved one need to unwind or would an energising holiday full of activities suit them better?

If romance and relaxation is on the cards, then why not book a meal at a local restaurant whilst you’re away? Or even better, order a food shop from an organic delivery service and cook up a romantic meal for two.

If you’re looking for something a little more action packed then take a look at what activities are available in the local area and plan your days accordingly. If you’re near the coast then why not surprise your lucky holiday companion with surfing lessons, or if they’d rather stay on dry land, book a segway tour through a local forest.

Back at Home

If you’re keeping the getaway a complete surprise and not telling your loved one until last minute, there are a few thoughtful things you can sort out back at home so that they don’t have to!

Postpone any deliveries that they may have. Do they have milk or the newspaper delivered? Perhaps they receive a health snack food box through the post. If so, then put these deliveries on hold until you return from your getaway.

 

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.

Five Ways to Make Your Holiday Cottage Stand Out

Friday, September 26th, 2014
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Here at Sykes, we know a thing or two about holiday cottages and we know that one of the most important things to consider when you own a cottage is how to make yours stand out from the thousands of others that are out there. Below, you’ll find five tried-and-tested ways to make the most of your property and ensure that you attract as many bookings as possible!

1. Have great pictures

Holiday cottage in Shropshire

Barleycorn Cottage, Shropshire, Ref. 27007

Pictures play an important role when guests are choosing a holiday cottage, and so you want to make your cottage look as appealing as possible. If you’re signing up with Sykes Cottages, a specialist member of our team will come out to take the pictures for you, and will be on hand to advise you on how best to show off your property. However, there are a few things that you can do to prepare your cottage before our team member arrives. Complete a thorough clean of your property and make sure that the garden is looking neat. Make the most of any stand-out features that you have; ensure that your log fire is lit and burning brightly, your hot tub is bubbling away and your swimming pool is uncovered and clean. Finally, buy a bunch of flowers to brighten up rooms instantly!

2. Provide a welcome pack

Holiday cottage on Anglesey

Carreg Rhys, Anglesey, Ref. 24459

Something that we see time after time in our customers’ feedback is that guests REALLY appreciate welcome packs. Leaving tea, coffee, milk, sugar and biscuits are a fantastic idea – your guests may have travelled quite a distance to reach your cottage and this sort of thoughtfulness will go a long way. Other ideas include home-made cakes, a sample of a local delicacy, or a bottle of wine, all of which are sure to make your guests’ day and will help ensure that your property’s reviews stand out!

3. Know your market

Dog friendly

Via Flickr

One of the best ways to make your holiday rental stand out is to be aware of who stays in your property and cater to this. If your property is dog friendly, make sure you include information on where’s good to go for a walk and what pubs in the area are dog friendly. If you describe your cottage as child-friendly then why not provide cots, stairgates and high-chairs to give frazzled parents a helping hand; you could also include leaflets on days out for children in the area. If your cottage is more of a romantic retreat, consider making a list of nearby restaurants or leave a supply of cosy blankets in your property.

4. Invest in features that appear on customers’ wish-lists

Holiday cottage with a swimming pool

Rushmore Lodge, Kent, Ref. 16229

It’s easier said than done but one of the easiest ways to make your holiday cottage stand out is to invest in features that are high on customers’ wish-lists. It can be something as simple as WiFi or a dishwasher, which are always appreciated, and are facilities that are frequently requested by customers. More expensive features such as hot tubs and swimming pools are harder to install but will certainly guarantee that your property has an edge; cottages with hot tubs and swimming pools are certainly our most popular and they book up very quickly.

5. Don’t forget about the little things

Holiday cottage in Worcestershire

Lavender Cottage, Worcestershire, Ref. 21367

Sometimes, it’s the little things that can make the most difference but they can often be the easiest to forget! We’ve listed a few suggestions on how you can avoid this below:

  • Get the basics right. Make sure that you provide a generous amount of toilet roll, cleaning equipment and have plenty of crockery.
  • It’s always helpful to provide information on how to work the appliances in the property and how to start up any other features such hot tubs or open fires.
  • Providing a guest book is a great way to hear what your guests thought about their holiday cottage; what they loved and any feedback that they have. They can also leave recommendations on places to visit for future guests, something which is always very much appreciated.

If you want to know more about how you can make your holiday cottage stand out, or if you want to know more about letting your holiday rental with Sykes Cottages, then please visit our website or give our owner care team a call on 01244 356 666.

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.