Visit Heritage Open Days this Weekend!

September 10th, 2014
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From 11th- 14th September, Heritage Open Days are offering culture lovers the opportunity to visit interesting sites which are normally not accessible to the public, or that normally charge for admission, for free! This annual event, which is funded by the English Heritage, aims to celebrate the wealth of architecture and culture on offer in England and encourage us to discover what’s on our doorstep.

Young Explorers Heritage Fun Trail, Yorkshire

Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Via Flickr

Taking place at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park near Wakefield, the Young Explorers Heritage Fun Trail is a great way to spend an afternoon with the kids! The whole family will enjoy this self-guided trail around the park, taking in the wildlife, lakes and woodlands and learning more about the history surrounding them. The event is totally free and there’s no need to book, just grab a leaflet from the YSP Centre to take part and there’s also a chance to win a Young Explorer’s Goody Bag. This event is taking place on Saturday 13th and Sunday 14th September, from 10am until 4pm. For more information, see the Heritage Open Days website for more information.

Guided Tour of Three Tuns Brewery, Shropshire

Pints of beer

Via Flickr

This weekend, you can take a tour of England’s oldest licensed brewery for free! Established in 1642, the Three Tuns Brewery in Bishops Castle is offering free guided tours on Saturday 13th September as part of Heritage Open Days 2014. This brewery offers a unique tour experience as it’s housed in a building steeped with history, including a miniature Victorian tower which was built around 1890. Tours take around an hour and a half and afterwards, why not visit the brewery’s own pub for a couple of pints and a bite to eat? Visit the Heritage Open Days website.

Four Castles Guided Walk, Northumberland

Chillingham Castle, Northumberland

Via Flickr

On Friday 12th September, you can take part in a guided walk with David Barker around four of Northumberland’s most impressive structures. This 7.5 mile route will take all day and covers Chillingham Castle, Ros Castle, Hepburn Bastle and Hepburn Fort. This walk is not suitable for children and attendees are advised that it can be hilly and muddy in places. For more information about the event, click here.

Heritage Tours of the Royal Shakespeare Company, Warwickshire

Royal Shakespeare Theatre Company

Via Flickr

This Sunday 14th September, Shakespeare fans can explore over 150 years of theatre heritage in Stratford-upon-Avon for free! Visitors to this event can learn more about the theatre techniques introduced to the RSC over 100 years ago, that are still used today; they can also discover more about the people behind the project and theatre architecture, from the local Georgian theatre to the Victorian Gothic Shakespeare Memorial theatre. Tours must be pre-booked, please see here for more information.

To find out more about all of the events taking place as part of Heritage Open Days, you can visit their website here. If you’re planning to travel to visit one of the Heritage Open Days then why not check out our cottages near English Heritage properties for a cosy, comfortable place to stay while you explore England’s impressive architecture and culture.

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.

How to research the history of your holiday home

September 9th, 2014
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A few weeks ago I noticed a plaque thirty feet up the rear wall of my building with the numbers ‘1836’ inscribed on it. With nerdy hastiness, I did some research into said date-plate and- shock horror- it turns out the building was indeed built way back in 1836.

Amazing, right? Well I certainly think so. Thanks to the power of the internet, it’s now easy to turn Tony Robinson for the day and research the history of your home-amazing!

But Jonathan, pray tell: how do you go about researching the history of your abode? Well loyal reader, I’m glad you asked. Below you’ll find some useful hints and tips on how to get the bits and pieces that make up your home’s history; so let’s get down to business.

First Steps

So, you’ve got your house, but how do you start unearthing its dirty secrets? The first thing you should do is try determine roughly when your property was built.

Look for obvious clues that may ascertain the age of the property. Like mine, your home may have a plaque detailing its erection date. These are often located on the exterior, although in some properties they may appear indoors.

If your holiday home’s really old, there’s a chance it might be a listed building, in which case you should have a look at the National Heritage List for England, an online database listing all of the country’s designated heritage assets. If it’s on there, that’s good news, as there should be plenty of information to boot, including when it was built. If not, don’t get down; there’s another angle of attack.

If you’re struggling to determine when your property was built, it might be a good idea to speak to neighbours or other members of the community to see if they can shed light on when your home was originally constructed. You never know, some nebby-neighbour might be able to point you in the right direction, or at least provide some gossip on its previous occupants.

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Unlocking your home’s history

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Now that you’ve got a general idea of when your house was raised from its foundations, it’s time to start going through the history books to delve deeper into its past. Who lived there? What were their livelihoods? Was it stricken by tragedy, or at the centre of a community-wide dispute? Thanks to the internet, there are hundreds of free-resources you can use to unlock the secrets of your home’s past.

If you’d like to find out who lived in your house, the best place to start is at your local records office. Here, thousands of public archives are available to view, including electoral registers, census catalogues and Ordnance Survey Maps, all of which can be used to unearth the history of your home.

For instance, electoral registers will list every resident who was registered at your address, since records began. Just think of all the interesting folk who may have passed through the front door of your property!

Put that research to use

When you’ve completed your research and exhausted your home’s history, it’s time to share what you’ve learnt with the world. As a holiday home owner, your guests are likely to be just as interested in the history of your home as you are, so create an information pack for your property that details the ins and outs of its history.

People are always interested to hear about the history and heritage of where they’re choosing to stay, so an illustrated guide to your home, as well as the local area, would go down a treat.

To find out more about researching the history of your home, visit the English Heritage website.

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.

Sykes’ Horrible Histories: The Romans

September 8th, 2014
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So the kids are back in school and the learning will have begun. Back in the day my favourite lesson was always history but far too often the classes seemed to be made up of reading boring passages from old textbooks, and there’s no reason why learning about history should be anything like this! Here in the UK we’re lucky enough to have easy access to some brilliant and interesting attractions and museums. And so we’re going to be having a look at some of the most exciting periods in British History and where you can go to get a taste of it, starting with the Romans!

Veni, Vidi, Vici


via Flickr

To start with we’re going to have to go all the way back to 55 BC when the most famous Roman of all, Julius Caesar decided he fancied adding Britain to his long list of conquests. However things didn’t quite go to plan and two invasions later he headed back to Rome. However around a hundred years later, in 43 AD to be precise, the Romans finally managed to seize the islands. They were in charge for the next 350 years, until in 410 AD they officially left the Britons to fend for themselves in a period known as the Dark Ages.

What Have the Romans Ever Done for us?

hadrians wall

Hadrian’s Wall, via Flickr

Quite a lot as it turns out! It might have been over 1500 years since the Romans left Britain but you can still see many of the things that they left behind them. You might not know it but every city with ‘chester’ in its name was founded by the Romans, from Manchester through to Colchester and even the home of Sykes Cottages – Chester! They also built the first roads in the country, many of which form the base for the ones that we use today. And then there’s the small manner of a wall built all the way from one side of the country to the other, all to keep the pesky Picts up and out of the way!

Where Can You Go?

chester amphitheatre

Chester Amphitheatre’s Mural, via Flickr

There are still plenty of spots in the UK where you can get a glimpse of some Roman handiwork. Hadrian’s wall is the obvious one, many sections of the wall are still standing so you can walk in the footsteps of soldiers from almost 2000 years ago. Whilst you’re there make sure that you pop into Vindolanda, one of the old forts along the wall that is now home to a fantastic museum filled to the rafters with fascinating exhibits. Or you could always swing by Chester where you’ll find the biggest amphitheatre in the country and will have the chance to be given a tour of the city by a Roman soldier!

Hopefully you’ll have enjoyed our whistle stop tour of the Romans in Britain, if so make sure that you keep your eyes peeled for the next instalment and if you have any ideas for something that would make a good blog then please let us know, either over Facebook or Twitter and we’ll do our best!

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.

Sykes’ Spotlight on Farm Cottages

September 7th, 2014
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Well it seems as though the summer holidays have flown past in a flash and the kids are already back in school. It might seem as though from now on evenings will consist of washing uniforms, helping out with homework and the like but as it happens there’s no better time for booking a holiday, and here at Sykes we have just the thing to keep the kids happy; our holiday cottages on farms. With all the space to play in and animals to see, never mind the fact that a lot of our owners will be more than happy to take people with them on the rounds, farm cottages are perfect for keeping the kids occupied when on holiday. Because of this, we’ve decided to have a closer look at a few of our favourites to see what they offer.

The Milking Parlour

The Milking Parlour

The Milking Parlour, ref. 12658

The Milking Parlour is tucked away on the owner’s 250 acre working farm together with the four other cottages that make up the Westhope Country Retreats. There’s plenty to do around the Milking Parlour with the Severn Valley Railway, Stokesay Castle and the Roman City of Wroxeter all within reach, not to mention the Acton Scott Working Farm which you might recognize from the BBC’s Victorian Farm. Or if you would rather just hang around the cottage itself then there are plenty of options with a private hot tub, a shared games room and even a gym!

Emma’s Dairy

Emma's Dairy

Emma’s Dairy, ref. 14922

Then there’s Emma’s Dairy, part of the Alkington Grange Barns group just a few miles from Whitchurch. All of these properties share access to an indoor heated swimming pool,a multi-use games area for football, tennis or badminton, a toddler’s play area and even a fishing pond, what more could you ask for? Or if you fancy a day out then there’s the Cheshire Ice Cream Farm, RAF Cosford, Ironbridge, Chester Zoo, all just a short drive from the property, not to mention the pub just 1 mile away!

Turnip House

Turnip House

Turnip House, ref. 1020

Or there’s Turnip House, one of the Grade II listed barn conversions that make up the Plaish Park Farm Cottages which sleep 31 people! The cottage shares access to a full sized tennis court, children’s play area and even go-karts! If that’s not enough, the owners will happily take you along to feed the chickens or even have a ride on the donkeys! Then there’s also stabling for any horse riders with hacks and cross country jumps; Turnip House really has it all!

So that’s that, our spotlight on some of our favourite farm cottages. But remember we do have others and you can browse the full selection on our Farm Cottages page where you’re sure to find one that is just right for you!

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.

Days Out With Toddlers

September 6th, 2014
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Now that the older children have gone back to school and the chaos of the summer holidays is at an end, it’s time to start planning days out with the younger children. The weather may be slightly chillier but there is still plenty of fun to be had for parents and toddlers this season but if you’re struggling to find suitable activities for your energetic preschoolers then keep reading as we suggest some of our favourite places to visit when on a day out with a toddler.


Beautiful stained glass windows at Anglesey Sea Zoo

Beautiful stained glass windows at Anglesey Sea Zoo

There are a number of aquariums located throughout the UK and Ireland each offering a unique view of life under the sea. Your little ones will love strolling around the exhibits, discovering new creatures and even learning a thing or two about the wonders of the deep blue.

Indoor Play Centres

Monster Mania in Falkirck

Monster Mania in Falkirck

With the chilly weather setting in and the regular showers determined to dampen our days out, why not head inside to a warm and dry indoor play centre? Children love running around these imaginative centres and it’s a great way to keep your toddlers active and well exercised!

Public Library

For a day out with a difference we would suggest a visit to your local library. The relaxing atmosphere at the public library is ideal for a little down time where your little one can have hours of fun flicking through the picture books and you could even get a little reading done too.

Petting Zoo

One of the best things about petting zoos is that children can get really stuck in! Spend the afternoon petting the sheep and rabbits as well as learning all about the different animals on the farm and of course the noises they make- oink oink!

Gardens and Parks

Children love to be outside and come rain or shine an afternoon spent exploring the outside world is one of their favourite pass times.  We love a relaxing walk to the local park and if we’re feeling a little more adventurous then a visit to the local botanic garden is a real treat.

I hope this blog post has offered some inspiration to you and your little one. We would love to know what days out you are planning with your toddler this year so please don’t hesitate to get in-touch and let us know via our Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus account.


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.