Tips For Renting a Christmas or New Year Cottage

December 14th, 2014
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Christmas and New Year getaways are extremely popular here at Sykes Cottages with some of our properties booking up over two years in advance! Most people will rent out a cottage so they are close to friends and family whilst others opt for our large properties where everyone can be together under one roof. With so many of us heading off on a festive adventure this winter we thought we’d share with you some of our top tips for renting a cottage over the holidays.

Locking up the family home

Tyddyn Tyfod, Ref: 16229.

Tyddyn Tyfod, Ref: 12162.

Even though you won’t be at home over the holidays it’s still important to protect your house and make sure it’s intact for your return. In order to keep your home safe during your time away simply follow these tips:

  • Keep wrapped presents out of sight; under the tree is the first place a burglar will look.
  • Ask a neighbour to keep an eye on the house for you and, if on the odd chance it snows, to keep the driveway clear.
  • Set the heating to low and make sure it comes on at least once a day; this will keep your pipes from freezing or bursting whilst you’re gone.

Transporting the Christmas presents

Image via Flickr.

Image via Flickr.

Whether you’re travelling alone, with the children or even your other half, keeping them from discovering their presents is a top priority. When we’re travelling over the holidays we like to hide gifts in our cases, this works really well with small to medium sized presents but what about large gifts? If you’re struggling to disguise your gifts this Christmas here are a few suggestions:

  • Have the gift delivered. You can chose the delivery date then have it dropped off at the cottage once you arrive. Alternatively, many companies are happy to drop parcels off at the local post office and you can pick them up from there.
  • A number of stores now offer a click and collect service where you pay online and pick up in store; simply use your cottage’s postcode to find the nearest store. Alternatively give them a call and reserve the item until you can get there.

Stocking up on food and drink

Image via Flickr.

Image via Flickr.

When travelling over the holidays your car is filled with clothes, toiletries and presents, with hardly any room left for the family let alone food and drink. To give you more space in the car this year why not try one of the following options:

  • Have your food delivered to the cottage. Many supermarkets and online stores offer a home delivery service; you simply need to check which store is in the area and order online, they will then drop off your shopping on a day and time that’s convenient for you.
  • If you’re renting a cottage close to friends and family why not ask them to shop for you? As they are doing their own shop it would be easy to pop a few extra items in the basket which you can collect from them once you arrive.

Making your holiday cottage more festive

Image via Flickr.

Rushmore Lodge, Ref: 16229.

Here at Sykes Cottages, many of our owners will decorate their cottages over the Christmas period so there is no need to worry about the property feeling festive, however if the cottage doesn’t have their own decorations there are a few easy steps to make you feel more at home:

  • You could bring decorations with you – pack up the tinsel and baubles and use them to make your holiday cottage a little more cosy.
  • Have some family fun by making decorations at your holiday cottage. Cut out snowflakes to go on top of the table or turn paper cups into Christmas angels, there are plenty of crafty ideas out there which not only look good but keep the children entertained too!

We hope these suggestions have been useful for your holiday travels this year. If you have any handy tips which could be of use to our customers this Christmas and New Year, please feel free to share them with us on Facebook or Twitter.

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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.

Walk of the Month: The Tolkien Trail

December 13th, 2014
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Today sees another instalment of our Walk of the Month series, and for December we’re going to head to the Ribble Valley in Lancashire and follow in the footsteps of one of the country’s literary greats, J.R.R. Tolkien. His son attended Stonyhurst College, one of the main sights to see on the walk, and Tolkien used to visit him often. In fact he wrote sections of the Lord of the Rings whilst staying at the school and drew plenty inspiration for Middle Earth from the surrounding countryside, with places like Hurst Green, Jumbles Farm and Cromwell’s Bridge all coming together in his head to form parts of the Shire.

via. Flickr

via. Flickr

You can expect to see plenty of stunning scenery whilst making your way around the Tolkien Trail, from the lush woodlands to the commanding presence of Pendle Hill in the distance and of course the lazy meanderings of the Rivers Hodder and Ribble that frame the route.

The Walk

The Tolkien Trail follows a circular route with plenty of flat terrain and easy pathways so that it should be easy enough for all, although at just under six miles long it will take around 3 hours to complete.

The Route

via. Flickr

via. Flickr

Starting off in the village of Hurst Green, head over towards Stonyhurst College, the domed turrets on the roof of the school will guide you along.

Once you pass the College Observatory you’ll want to head right down the path towards Hall Barn Farm. Then take a left just before the gate of the farm and follow the line of the buildings. Here you’ll find a couple of outstanding views, to the left you’ll be able to see the College in all it’s glory and in the opposite direction there’s the profile of Pendle Hill and also Clitheroe Castle.

Now follow the path all the way until you reach Woodfields, once you’re there cross the road and head down the lane between the rows of houses. Soon after this lane veers to the left you’ll want to take the right hand turning and follow the edge of the field alongside Over Hacking Wood.

Then head down to the River Hodder and follow the pathway all the way along to Cromwell’s Bridge. From here take a right and follow the road for a short while. Once you reach the first junction head over the stile to the left and cross the field.

From here you’ll want to head on to Winckley Hall Farm where you’ll rejoin the Hodder as it converges with the River Ribble. Then continue following the river for quite a distance passing Hacking Hall, Jumbles Farm and the aqueduct.

Not long after the aqueduct youll come to a small wood and at this point you should leave the riverside path. Cross the small wooden bridge and head up the stepped pathway, climb the stile and keep walking with the fence on your left.

When this fence takes a sharp left keep walking straight on, after crossing a couple of bridges and another stile cross the stream on your right. Now all you need to do is follow the field boundary and you’ll find yourself back in the village of Hurst Green.

Download the comprehensive route and map for this walk here.

Rent a Lancashire Cottage with Sykes Cottages

If you’re struggling to think of a location for a winter break then Lancashire is right up there! With it’s rolling hills and lush forests the scenery is spectacular. Add to this the great transport links with the Lake District, and Western Dales, not to mention the bustling cities of Liverpool and Manchester, should you need to get in that last bit of Christmas shopping, and you’ll never find yourself short of something to do. So if you fancy taking a break in the Lancashire countryside why not take a look at our wide array of cottages there, from romantic boltholes to properties big enough for the whole family we’ve got them all!

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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.

Festive Drinks to Enjoy this Christmas

December 12th, 2014
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Christmas: a time for giving, eating and of course, drinking. Whether nestled by the fire with a steaming mug of something delicious or sipping on a yuletide cocktail, festive beverages make Christmas. Here’s a few you can – nay, must – try this festive season.

Alcoholic Festive Drinks

Christmas Snowball

Festive Drinks – Snowball

Via Flickr

Be the bell of the festive ball with this classic Christmas cocktail. The Christmas Snowball has been a firm favourite among yuletide revellers for years, and is wonderfully simple to make, with just a handful of ingredients. Here’s how it’s done.

You will need

25ml golden caster sugar

A handful of sliced ginger

25ml advocaat

25ml ginger syrup

Babycham – to taste

How to

  1. To make ginger syrup; combine 25ml of water with the golden sugar in a pan, add the sliced ginger and bring to the boil. Strain the mixture through a sieve and set aside to cool.
  2. Fill your favourite glass with ice and, using a cocktail shaker, blend the Advocaat with the ginger syrup. Pour into the glass before topping with Babysham – enjoy!

Mulled Wine Cocktail

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Many of us will enjoy a mulled wine or three this Christmas, but only a few will sample the delights of a mulled wine cocktail. This take on the traditional festive tipple is served chilled, and features the same spices you’d find in your run-of-the-mill mulled vino. Perfect for parties!

You will need

100g of muscovado sugar

1 star anise

1 cinnamon stick

4 cloves

150ml water

1 lemon

2 clementines

150ml Cointreau

750ml light red wine

How to

  1. Add the muscovado sugar, star anise, cinnamon stick, cloves and water to a pan and bring to the boil. Stir well until all the sugar has dissolved.
  2. Simmer for 2 minutes, then decant into a jug and set aside to cool. Finely slice the lemon and clementines and add to the jug, along with the Cointreau and red wine.
  3. Chill for two or more hours and serve with a twist of orange zest. For a warm mulled cider, skip the chill and heat the mix gently, without bringing to the boil.

Mince Pie Martini

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Sound delicious? We think so too. That’s right, everyone’s favourite festive pastry can now be enjoyed as a boozy cocktail. Your guests will be delighted by this cheeky cocktail, which contains all the classic, spicy flavours you’d expect from the humble mince pie.

You will need

100g golden caster sugar

50g mincemeat

4 tbsp caster sugar

4 tsp mixed spice

4 tsp mincemeat

100ml gin

100ml sweet red vermouth

20ml dark rum

How to

  1. First, make the mincemeat syrup. Add the mincemeat and sugar to a pan and pour over 100ml water. Bring to the boil. Strain through muslin and a sieve to remove any lumps.
  2. Muddle the mixture in a cocktail shaker. Add the ginger, vermouth, syrup and ice. Shake well and strain into four martini glasses – enjoy!

 

Non-alcoholic Christmas beverages

Cranberry Sparkler

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

For a classy alternative to a coke on the rocks, opt for the Cranberry Sparkler. Designated drivers will love this holiday thirst-quencher, which combines cranberry, blackberry, mint and sparkling water. A great NYE tipple.

You will need

45ml of blackberry puree

60ml of white cranberry juice

75ml of sparkling water

A sprig of mint

How to

  1. Add blackberry puree and cranberry juice to a champagne flute. Top with sparkling water and garnish with mint.

Candy Cane Hot Chocolate

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

On a nippy December eve, reach for the cocoa and make yourself a delicious peppermint hot chocolate. This warming recipe, which infuses indulgent hot choc with the sweet, zing of a peppermint candy cane, is sure to warm your cockles on even the blusteriest night.

You will need

1/3 cup of cocoa

1 cup of milk

A few chocolate chips

3 peppermint candy canes; 2 crushed, 1 whole

Pinch of salt

How to

  1. Add the cocoa to a pan and gradually whisk in the milk. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and crushed candy cane and stir. Simmer for 8 to 10 minutes or until the chocolate and peppermint has dissolved.
  2. Add salt, bring to the boil and remove from the heat. Serve in your favourite mug, and garnish with a full festive candy cane.

Apple-Pie Cider

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

With all the flavours of a spiced apple pie – cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg – and the wintry comfort of a hot mulled wine, this delicious apple-pie cider is sure to put a smile on your face come Christmas. Serve with scrumptious gingerbread for the ultimate festive combination.

You will need

200ml non-alcoholic apple cider

½ tablespoon light-brown sugar

2 whole cinnamon sticks, 1 for garnish 1 for taste

½ teaspoon allspice

A pinch of ground cloves

Grated nutmeg

A pinch of salt

How to

  1. Add the cider, sugar and spices to a saucepan and whisk together. Simmer over a medium heat, stirring continuously. Remove from heat and strain solids. Serve in a mug and garnish with the remaining cinnamon stick.
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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.

Christmas Events: National Trust and English Heritage

December 11th, 2014
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If you’re looking for days out during December that will help you get into the Christmas spirit, then look no further as we’ve rounded up some of the best Christmas events taking place at National Trust and English Heritage properties over the festive season. From illuminated walks to ghost stories, there’s something to suit everyone!

Festive Guided Tours at Osborne House

Osborne House, Isle of Wight

Via Flickr

Osborne House, on the Isle of Wight, was once home to Queen Victoria and her family and it’s said that she thought it was “impossible to imagine a prettier spot”. This Christmas, you can take guided tours around Osborne House and see how Queen Victoria would have celebrated the festive season. Visit the principal royal ground floor rooms of Osborne House as they would have been decorated for Christmas, and you can also see Queen Victoria’s own private rooms too. Visitors to Osborne House can also enjoy the festive fare on offer in the café and indulge in a little Christmas shopping in the gift shop. These tours are taking place every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday from now until 31st December, minus a few exceptions that you can see on the English Heritage website.

Illuminated Christmas Walk at Kingston Lacy

Kingston Lacy

Via Flickr

Every day from now until 21st December, Kingston Lacy in Dorset, is hosting an Illuminated Christmas Walk. This stunning country house was built to resemble an Italian palace in 1665 and is now owned by the National Trust. Its Illuminated Christmas Walk takes place from 4pm to 6pm and follows a trail based on the twelve days of Christmas. In Kingston Lacy’s rose garden, children will also have the opportunity to help decorate Christmas trees and afterwards, everyone can enjoy a warming treat from the property’s restaurant. For more information on the Illuminated Christmas Walk, please visit the National Trust website.

Ghost Stories for Christmas at Brodsworth Hall

Brodsworth Hall

Via Flickr

For something a little bit different this Christmas, why not head to Brodsworth Hall in South Yorkshire for a unique storytelling event. Brodsworth Hall itself is a spectacular sight, where time seems to have stood still since the Victorian era; almost everything inside this country house has been left as it was 130 years ago when it was a family home. The Ghost Stories event takes place here on 19th December at both 7pm and 9.30pm and guests will be treated to a series of spooky Victorian ghost stories by the Lady and Gentleman of the house. This event will take place by candlelight and is unsuitable for children under the age of 14. For more information, please see the English Heritage website.

If you’re heading to any of the National Trust or English Heritage events taking place over the festive period then we’d love to know how they were! You can tweet or message us with your thoughts on the events via our Facebook and Twitter profiles.

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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.

Give the Gift of a Sykes Voucher this Christmas

December 10th, 2014
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Well it’s that time of year again! Believe it or not, Christmas is well and truly bearing down on us, and that means that for many people the perennial panic about Christmas presents will be starting to come into effect. I learnt my lesson last year after it ended up as a mad dash around the shops on Christmas Eve – not an enjoyable experience – and I’m sure that a few of you reading this ended up in a similar situation! Whilst I made myself promise that I wouldn’t let it happen again this year I’m still struggling to think of ideas of what to get everyone, but luckily here at Sykes we may well have something that might help out in these situations – the Sykes Cottages Holiday Gift Voucher!

Why pick a Sykes Gift Voucher?

Sykes’ Gift Vouchers are perfect for everybody, whether it’s that lucky person who already seems to have everything or a certain someone who you think deserves a special treat. And what’s even better is that you can’t make a wrong choice! There’s no need to worry about picking up the wrong size or choosing a colour that they don’t like as it’s up to the lucky recipient to make all of the decisions! Maybe there’s somewhere in the UK that they’ve always wanted to visit, or they might have talked about going back to where they used to spend their childhood holidays. Well with over 5000 cottages across the UK and Ireland I’m sure that we’d be able to help make that wish come true!

How to buy a Sykes Gift Voucher

It really couldn’t be easier! All you have to do is give us a quick ring and a member of the Sykes Cottages team will happily guide you through the process. The vouchers are available in denominations of £25 which gives you all the flexibility that you could want in terms of how much you’re looking to pay and they can be used as part or full payment against any Sykes Cottage holiday booked within two years of the voucher being purchased. So you can help treat your nearest and dearest to one of our cottages, from summery beachhouses in Cornwall to cosy boltholes up in the Scottish Highlands!

So if you think that a Sykes Cottages Christmas voucher could be the answer to your Christmas shopping woes then do give us a call on 01244 356695. Or maybe you’d just like a little bit more information about it all? If so then do have a look at our website where you’ll be able to find out all you need to know!

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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.