Let it glow: Britain’s Best Illuminations

October 26th, 2014
Pin It

Since the invention of electric lighting in the 19th century, we’ve pushed bulbs to the brink. LEDs, spotlights, halogens, fluorescents – you name it, we’ve made it. And artificial incandescence doesn’t stop there. Since the early noughties, the city of York has been transformed, once a year, by an assortment of uber-fancy digital lightshows, an event dubbed Illuminating York.

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Visit York between 29th October and the 1st November and it’ll be hard to miss this dazzling spectacle. The illuminations twinkle from Clifford’s Tower to the Minster, and over 50,000 visitors take to the city’s historic streets to marvel at the iridescent brilliance. The theme of this year’s Illuminating York is ‘Leading Lights’, which sets out to capture York’s rich history, as well as its innovative future.

If you can’t make it to York during the event, fear not, as there are plenty of other illuminations to enjoy during the festive season and beyond. Here’s a pick of our favourites.

Shakespeare’s Birthplace Lightshow, Warwickshire

Courtesy of CMT Events

Courtesy of CMT Events

Shakespeare, god love him, is still providing us with entertainment to this day – albeit, not directly. Head to his hometown of Stratford-Upon-Avon from the 27th November, and you’ll find a wonderful lightshow cast on to the timber-frame of the bard’s former home. 2014’s display will feature an all new 3D lightshow depicting some of the bard’s finest works; a must for literary fans and those in need of a little festive cheer.

Winter Light at Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Brought to you by Bruce Munro, an esteemed lighting designer, Winter Light offers an immersive experience in the grounds of the charming Waddesdon Manor. The event features six imaginative illuminations, spaced around the grounds for eager families to find. The works are switched on from 3pm when the light begins to fade, but the house is open from 10am, and is the perfect place to have a warming cup of tea.

Mousehole Christmas Lights, Cornwall

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

For a more traditional yet equally enchanting festive experience, make for the village of Mousehole on the Cornish Coast. For over fifty years, this unassuming village has celebrated Christmas more than most, by adorning its harbour in a mass of festive illuminations; even the boats bobbing on the water are draped in coloured bulbs. Tradition tells that you should eat Stargazey Pie after seeing the lights, but if you don’t fancy that, chow down on a pasty instead.

Book a winter short break with Sykes Cottages

Dark, cold nights getting you down? Get in the festive spirit with a self-catering winter short break from Sykes! We’ve got some real bargains on offer between November and December, so it’s the perfect time to book. From bracing coastal holidays to cosy city breaks, you can get away for less this winter. Visit our website to find out more!

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.

Big Gang? Book a Group of Holiday Cottages!

October 25th, 2014
Pin It

Families feud. So do friends. That’s why a large cottage doesn’t always cut the mustard. Sometimes, you need space, freedom; a chance to cool-off and get out of one another’s hair.group

That’s where our ‘group’ properties come in. Unlike large holiday cottages where the party is stuck under the same roof, our group properties offer two or more cottages close to each other that can be booked simultaneously.

Not only is this great for those that don’t get on with their Great Aunt Muriel, group properties have lots of other advantages. First and foremost, you get more loos – music to the ears for some. Secondly, they offer flexible accommodation for up to eighty-two guests, so you can bring everyman and his dog. Speaking of pups, you can bring more of those too. Unlike a single cottage which accepts two to three dogs, with a group of properties, you’re free to bring as many pooches as each cottage permits – good eh?

With over 400 group properties across the UK and Ireland, we’re convinced whatever your party size, you’ll find a cluster of cottages to suit you. Here’s a pick of our most popular group properties from across the UK.

Dunvegan Castle Cottages, Isle of Skye, Scotland

Cross the Skye Bridge and encounter Scotland’s most dramatic scenery. The Isle of Skye is a mystical, affecting place, where mountains dominate the horizon. Now, thanks to our Dunvegan Castle cottages, you can share an invigorating cottage break on the Isle of Skye with your friends and family. Located in the grounds of the imposing Dunvegan Castle, Gardens Cottage and Rose Valley Cottage can accommodate up to ten guests when booked together. Each cottage features a range of self-catering amenities, and both are set within the picturesque grounds of the castle – the perfect place for an Isle of Skye cottage break.

Find out more about the Dunvegan Castle Cottages, here.

Iken Barns, Snape, Suffolk

Located in the depths of Suffolk’s Heritage Coast, Iken Barns are a series of eight barn conversions which, when booked together, can accommodate up to 32 guests, making them ideal for large families. Each barn has been sympathetically restored and decorated, with rustic furnishings blending with contemporary amenities to offer a timeless base for a Suffolk cottage break. All of the cottages are dog friendly and in total, sixteen dogs could be brought to Iken Barns should the party wish it. With lavish features such as underfloor heating and open fires, these Suffolk cottages offer a luxurious base for a family holiday.

Find out more about the Iken Barns, here.

Glan Morfa Lodges, Newborough, Wales

Nestled in the Welsh countryside near Newborough Forest, the Glan Morfa Lodges are a superb development of six holiday cottages that can accommodate up to 23 guests. Each cottage features a wealth of self-catering amenities, and there are also several communal areas including an indoor games room, library and shared laundry room. Each of the Glan Morfa cottages is partially eco-powered, and the owners, who are members of Green Tourism, are striving to obtain zero carbon emission status. The cottages benefit from direct access to two nature lakes, making them perfect for birdwatchers and those interested in spotting local wildlife.

Find out more about the Glan Morfa Lodges, here.

Graythwaite Estate, Hawkshead, The Lake District and Cumbria

The crème de la crème of group cottages can be found in the magnificent Graythwaite Estate, a 5,000 acre country estate on the banks of Windermere in the Lake District. Dotted throughout the site, all thirteen of our Graythwaite Estate cottages can be booked together to accommodate up to 82 guests in a range of luxury holiday homes. With picturesque surroundings and a communal swimming pool, fitness suite, table tennis room and children’s play area, you and your guests will feel right at home in the heart of this idyllic Cumbrian estate.

Find out more about the Graythwaite Estate cottages, here.

Book a holiday in one of our flexible group cottages today!

If you’re interested in renting our group cottages for a getaway with friends or family, please contact us via phone or e-mail to find out which group properties are available in the area of your choice. Currently, we don’t have a page on our website which displays group properties, but our helpful reservations team, who are on hand until 9.30pm daily, will be able to find the perfect group property for you and your party.


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.

City Breaks: Why You Should Book a Self Catering Holiday Cottage

October 24th, 2014
Pin It

At Sykes, our self-catering properties are great for a variety of purposes, but one thing we seldom talk about is how great they are for city breaks. Now, I know ‘self-catering holiday cottage’ is probably not at the top of your accommodation list for the next time you’re planning on hitting up your favourite city, but I’m here to tell you why it certainly should be!

Eat what you want, when you want

Enjoy home cooking in a fully equipped kitchen like this one in 5 Albion Mews in Chester.

Enjoy home cooking in a fully equipped kitchen like this one in 5 Albion Mews in Chester.

Whether you fancy a quick bite or a sit down meal, cities are full of a vast amount of culinary delights. If you’re not a fan of eating out or have dietary requirements, sometimes it can be much easier to just cook for yourself! This is where a self-catering property comes in; you can get your ingredients from local market places in the city then head back to cook and eat at your own leisure in the surrounds of a lovely holiday property. Perfect!

More space than a hotel

Bath Garden Rooms

Enjoy the peaceful outside space at Bath Garden Rooms

I’m certain you’ll be spending more of your city break enjoying the city than you will be in your accommodation but a bit of extra space never hurt anyone, and our properties have that in abundance! Many of our city break properties also have a terrace or small garden, which is ideal if you fancy a quiet drink outside one evening.

Good for non-drivers… and drivers

Park your car safely outside Flat 50 in York.

Park your car safely outside Flat 50 in York.

One of the positives about city breaks is the easy travel! Cities are a breeze to get to via public transport, so they’re a great alternative if you’re not a driver. On the other hand, many of our city break properties have their own parking available, which makes them a great choice for drivers, too – we all know how expensive city centre parking can be and choosing a self-catering property with its own parking can really help cut costs!

Book yourself a self-catering city break

Edinburgh Castle

Beautiful views like this one await you when you head on a city break with Sykes Cottages.

Tempted? I hope so! If you’d like to add a self-catering touch to your next city break, take a look at our city break page and book your next city break with us at Sykes Cottages.

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.

Picture Perfect – The UK’s City Landmarks

October 23rd, 2014
Pin It

Every year, thousands of visitors flock to British towns on a city break. And with so much on offer, who could blame them? From fine dining to rich historic culture, our towns and cities really do have a lot to offer. Regardless of the food we eat or the people we encounter, there is one holiday experience that every tourist shares; visiting the city landmarks.

That’s right, landmarks – like Edinburgh Castle and Big Ben – pop up in just about everyone’s holiday photographs whether you’re a first time visitor to the area or a proud local. If you’re planning a city break in the UK then keep reading for our choice of the best city landmarks to visit and photograph.

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

Image taken from Princess Street Gardens

Arguably the capital’s most famous attraction, Edinburgh Castle sits high on Castle Rock surveying the city below. Watching over the city of Edinburgh for hundreds of years, this impressive landmark has seen it all; from witch trials and drownings in the Nor Loch to modern events like the Fringe. Edinburgh Castle can receive up to 8,000 visitors a day with many flooding the drawbridge for pictures. For an alternative look at the castle, head to Princess Street Gardens where it’s a little quieter but the view is just as impressive.

York Minster

Image of York Minster via Flickr.

Image of York Minster via Flickr.

No matter where you are in York, gaze up and you’ll be greeted with the familiar sight of York Minster.  The cathedral opened its doors in 637AD and has dominated the city skyline ever since. Welcoming over 490,000 visitors a year, it’s no wonder York Minster graces the front of almost every postcard in town. There’s a variety of locations in York where you can capture an impressive picture of the cathedral but our favourite is from the city streets where you can really highlight its contrast in size from York’s other buildings.

Big Ben

Image of Big Ben via Flickr.

Image of Big Ben via Flickr.

As one of the most photographed landmarks in the world, Big Ben is not only London’s star attraction but one of the key images you picture when thinking of the English capital. From the bustling streets of Westminster, thousands of visitors ogle this iconic structure everyday, but only a few take the time to tour The Elizabeth Tower. That’s right, you can also tour this impressive building, although you’ll have to contact your local MP to arrange it (more information here). To make the most of your Big Ben holiday snaps, stand back and incorporate the Houses of Parliament too.

 The Roman Baths

Image of The Roman Baths via Flickr.

Image of The Roman Baths via Flickr.

It’s impossible to visit the City of Bath without taking a picture of the fascinating Roman Baths. People have visited these baths for thousands of years and the attraction draws in over one million visitors a year. You can capture some amazing images of the Baths from outside the attraction but for a really impressive image, head inside. Although visitors aren’t allowed to take a dip in the Great Bath, you’re welcome to capture its beauty through your camera lens, and who knows, you may be able to feature one of the costumed characters in your picture too.

Caernarfon Castle

Image of Carenarfon Castle via Flickr.

Image of Caernarfon Castle via Flickr.

As one of Wales’ top tourist attractions, Caernarfon Castle attracts more than 200,000 visitors a year. The castle’s creator, Kind Edward the 1st, wanted to show Wales that he meant business and Caernarfon castle was definitely the right way to do it with its impressive octagonal towers and unusual hourglass shaped design.  Boasting fantastic views over Caernarfon, this formidable fortress is sure to add drama to your holiday album. Make the most of the historic features and grab a picture with one of the giant cannons, or from atop of the castle walls.

This is just a small selection of the fantastic landmarks UK cities have to offer. If you’re dreaming of a city getaway, be sure to check out our City Breaks page. With fashionable city properties located throughout the UK, your holiday scrap book will be filled in no time!


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.

Win a Romantic Retreat with VisitEngland

October 22nd, 2014
Pin It

Have you entered our competition in conjunction with VisitEngland yet? With the competition end date in sight, we want to make sure that you don’t miss out on the chance to win this fantastic prize and enjoy a cosy cottage holiday in one of our stunning romantic retreats! We’re offering one lucky winner £400 worth of Sykes Cottages vouchers and a luxury hamper full of goodies; but hurry, the competition closes on October 31st. You can enter by heading to the VisitEngland website.

Here at Sykes, we think a cottage getaway is the most romantic way to take a break with your partner (not that we’re biased!) and in honour of our competition with VisitEngland, we want to share just a few of our tips on making the most of your romantic getaway!

Turn your phones off

Romantic holiday cottage in the Peak District

House on the Hill, Peak District, Ref. 916619

There is nothing that kills the mood more than looking at your phone every few minutes to flick through Twitter, check your Facebook notifications and upload pictures to Instagram. Just stop. Avoid temptation by turning your phone off and instead, focus on spending time with your loved one.

Make the most of the cottage’s facilities

Romantic holiday cottage in Shropshire

The Old Chapel, Shropshire, Ref. 30035

If you do your research before you go and read about the facilities that your cottage has to offer, you’ll ensure that you get the most out of your getaway. If your cottage has a hot tub, make sure that you pack your swim suits; if there’s an iPod dock, create a romantic playlist for your time together; if your cottage has a bath then splash out on some luxurious bath products for you both to enjoy! It’s all in the details.

Treat yourselves

Romantic holiday cottage in Yorkshire Dales

Journeyman Loft, Yorkshire Dales, Ref. 12252

As all of our cottages are self-catering, why not stop off at a local food shop or supermarket on the journey to stock up on all of your favourite snacks, drinks and ingredients for delicious home-made meals. Eating in is much more intimate than heading out to a restaurant, where you are frequently interrupted by waiters and distracted by other diners; if you’re looking for the perfect romantic meal then we recommend you cook up a storm in your holiday cottage and enjoy the privacy!

If you’ve entered the competition already and are waiting with bated breath to find out the winner, why not spend your time planning your potential romantic getaway by having a browse of our fantastic romantic cottages collection. If you haven’t entered yet and want to do so, head to the VisitEngland website now!

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.