Introducing: An Elf For Christmas

November 17th, 2016
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This year, Sykes Cottages is delighted to be partnering with An Elf For Christmas, a magical family tradition that can grow through the ages with your children. Inspiring creativity, encouraging kindness and good behaviour, and most of all creating wonderful memories for your children, these adorable Elf toys are suitable for any age.

Sent from the North Pole on December 1st, Elf has been sent on a special mission from Santa to report on good behaviour and let him know if children are on the Naughty or Nice List. However, at night while everyone is asleep, Elf gets up to all kinds of funny mischief which children are sure to delight in.

A lovely tradition, An Elf For Christmas helps keep excited children on track with good behaviour. Elf is sent with a Magical Reward Kit including motivational notes and certificates for good behaviour.

Elf For Christmas

Claim your free Elf Book with Sykes Cottages

This year, we’re offering an exclusive discount for our customers wanting to join in the fun. Choose your Elf from just £17.50 and get a FREE Elf’s First Adventure Book (RRP £5.99) – this is exclusive to Sykes to bring a little festive cheer! Click here to order your very own Elf and don’t forget to quote ELFSTORYSYKES to claim your free book (one free book per order, offer ends on Christmas Eve). You’ll need to add the book to your basket first then apply the code.

To get you started and give you some ideas on mischief your Elf could get up to, we’ve listed some suggestions below. A little planning means you don’t have to be creative each night, simply print out an Elf Antics Planner and fill in with some or all of our ideas below. Don’t forget to schedule the ideas that require a little more effort on weekends or when you know you have more time.

We know it’s not easy being a super parent, so whether you feel a little frazzled with the Elf Antics or you want to celebrate being ever so clever, we’re also offering our customers a saving of over £60 on 12 stunning Christmas wines including an award-winning Prosecco with Virgin Wines. Click here to get your wine supply ready for Christmas- yours for just £4.99 a bottle.

An Elf For Christmas Ideas

1st Dec- Elf Arrives. Elf arrives with a letter to explain who he is, box to fill with unwanted toys and “snow” covered doughnutsAn Elf For Christmas

2nd Dec- Elf on the Shelf. Elf is tucked up on a shelf with a book or knick knack

3rd Dec– Bathroom Mischief. Elf is somewhere in the bathroom, perhaps making a mess with toothpaste

4th Dec– Hot Chocolate Party. Elf brings all the supplies and sets up for a family hot chocolate party

5th Dec– Making a Mess. Elf has made a mess – maybe in the kitchen with sprinkles or flour, or in the living room with toys

6th Dec– Family Time.  Elf has made a list of his favourite Christmas activities (you can download one from An Elf for Christmas here or make your own) and ticked one to do today.

7th Dec– Storytime. Elf gathers round his favourite toys to read them a story

8th Dec– Snow Angel. Elf makes a snow angel out of flour on the kitchen counter

9th Dec– Toasted Marshmallows. Elf has toasted a mini marshmallow on a tea light

10th Dec– Christmas Tree. Elf has pulled out the Christmas Tree and is sat in the baubles and tinsel ready to decorate

11th Dec– Writing to Santa. Elf has started a letter to Santa and brought some special stationary for the kids to write theirs tooAn Elf For Christmas

12th Dec– Ziplining. Elf has made a zip line across the room and (using a candy cane and his velcro hands) he’s ready to enjoy the ride

13th Dec– Building a Snowman. Elf is found building a snowman out of 3 stacked toilet rolls with some card buttons to make their face and a hat

14th Dec– Hanging Lights. Elf is tangled in the Christmas lights

15th Dec– Rudolph Noses. Elf has used red dot stickers to turn himself and everyone in a family picture into Rudolph

16th Dec– Movie Madness. With a bowl of popcorn, Elf is in the living room ready to watch a Christmas film

17th Dec– Stocking Fun. Elf replaces the Christmas stockings with the children’s small socks

18th Dec– North Pole Breakfast. Elf brings all the supplies for a special North Pole Breakfast. We love pancakes!

19th Dec– Letter from Santa. Elf returns with a letter from Santa. Perhaps with a little flour or fake snow on the fireplaceAn Elf For Christmas

20th Dec– Marshmallows. Elf is hiding in a bowl of mini marshmallows or is maybe having a “snowball” fight with their favourite toy

21st Dec– Paper Airplanes. Elf can be found making paper airplanes – tiny for himself and big for the kids

22nd Dec– Toy Parade. Elf and friends are having fun in a parade

23rd Dec- Craft Time. Elf is doing a craft and has supplies for the kids to make a craft too! We love making Christmas scented brown paint (just mix paint with some dried spice like ginger or cinnamon) to make ginger bread men pictures. Or if you’re short on time with Christmas in onlya few days, simply print some colouring pages and activity sheets

24th Dec– Special Delivery. Elf brings all the ingredients for Santa’s favourite cookies to make with the children

Have you thought of a fantastic idea for Elf for Christmas? Let us know by sharing your ideas and pictures on our Facebook, Instagram or Twitter pages. We can’t wait to see the creative activities you come up with!


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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.

Sykes Charity Work: Bliss

November 6th, 2016
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Bliss is a fantastic charity which was founded in 1979 by a group of parents who were growing increasingly concerned that hospitals in the UK don’t have all the equipment they need to safely care for ill newborns. Now, 40 years on, Bliss is the UK’s leading charity dedicated to babies that have been born prematurely or sick and not only supports families, but also health professionals and research into improving the care for premature and sick babies too.


Sykes Cottages is extremely proud to be supporting Bliss. As a family orientated company, this is a cause that’s very close to our hearts and we feel that the fantastic work Bliss does to help support premature and sick babies should be commended. You can find out more about the Bliss charity by visiting their website, or by reading the stories of people they have helped, like Georgia and Scarlett’s or Louise and Blake’s touching stories.


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Nicole Jones-Gerrard

By Nicole Jones-Gerrard

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 husband.

An Illustrated Guide to Weird British Expressions

November 3rd, 2016
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Britain is weird. If it’s not too cold, it’s too hot. If we’re not talking about the weather, we’re talking about the rain. If you asked someone what’s our most peculiar trait, they’d probably tell you it’s our odd choice of expressions. With so many strange, weird and wonderful British expressions to explore we’d thought it would be a great idea to put together a definitive list of the most unusual British expressions.

Here’s 9 of the weirdest phrases Britain has to offer.

1. You’re all bum and parsley

Scotland knows how to say it like it is, and own the “less polite” phrases in the English language. Know someone who’s a little too full of themselves? Bring them back to earth with the wit of the Scots.


What it means: A description of someone who is a loud know-it-all.
How you would use it in conversation: “You don’t know what you’re talking about; you’re all bum and parsley!”
Part of the UK typically used: Scotland

2. Happy as a pig in muck

Pigs and mud go together like a match made in heaven. So don’t take offense when a Yorkshire-person suggests you are a pig and like rolling in dirt, they’re actually being nice!


What it means: Very happy
How you would use it in conversation: “If no one bothers him, he’s happy as a pig in muck.”
Part of the UK typically used: Yorkshire

3. Were ya born in a barn

No, we’re not talking about baby Jesus’ place of birth. Yorkshire residents use this expression if someone was to enter or leave a room and forget to do that crucial thing.


What it means: Close the door
How you would use it in conversation: “I just got it warm in here, were ya born in a barn?”
Part of the UK typically used: Yorkshire

4. Not give a monkey’s

This cheeky phrase captures the mischievous nature of these creatures. There’s debate over the missing word (a monkey’s what?).


What it means: Be completely indifferent
How you would use it in conversation: “I don’t give a monkey’s about what your dream was last night Jessica.”
Part of the UK typically used: UK wide

5. It looks a bit black over Bill’s mother’s

It’s claimed that Bill refers to William Shakespeare with his mother, Mary Arden of Stratford, stuck in the rain. Perhaps she’s sat humming away to Travis, “Why does it always rain on me?”


What it means: The sky is dark with rain
How you would use it in conversation: “Ooh heck, it looks a bit black over Bill’s mother’s that way”
Part of the UK typically used: Midlands

6. That’s the badger

If you were to exclaim this when not in the West Country you should prepare yourself for a few confused explanations -“That’s not a badger Colin…”


What it means: That’s exactly the one I was looking for
How you would use it in conversation: “That’s the badger! That’s the name I couldn’t remember!”
Part of the UK typically used: West Country

7. Bob’s your uncle

A quintessentially British phrase typically used after explaining how to do something. There remains doubt however who’s Uncle Bob this was.


What it means: There you have it
How you would use it in conversation: “Just pull that handle, press the button, Bob’s your Uncle!”
Part of the UK typically used: UK wide

8. Making a right pig’s ear of something

Pigs do seem to get it hard when it comes to expressions. Despite it becoming a new fashionable food trend, if you’ve ever messed something up you’ll be sure to have heard this phrase before.


What it means: Handle something badly
How you would use it in conversation: “She made a right pig’s ear of that presentation!”
Part of the UK typically used: UK Wide

9. You’re peckin’ me ‘ead

Ever get that feeling that a bird is tapping at your head? It’s likely someone is really testing your patience. Or a bird thinks you’re a tree. Either way, get out of there fast!


What it means: You are annoying me
How you would use it in conversation: “Would you give it a rest, you’re peckin’ me ‘ead!”
Part of the UK typically used: North West England

Our Top 9 weirdly funny British sayings infographic

Illustrated Guide To Weird British Expression

Fair use

If you’re a journalist interested in covering this project, we encourage you to use any of the graphics included above. When doing so, please attribute the authors by providing a link back to this page so your readers can learn more about this project and the related research.

There you have it, 9 of Britain’s weirdest phrases. We tried not to make too much of a pig’s ear of it, but if you don’t give a monkey’s, well, you’re all bum and parsley!

If you would like to add to our collection of weird British phrases then get in touch with us on Facebook and Twitter using the #SykesBritishSayings


McAlpine, F. (2014). 25 Scottish Saying That Will Get You Through Life.
BBC. (2014). Voices.
BBC. (2014). Voices.
Rubery, J. (2016). 10 British animal idioms and expressions.
Bentley, D. (2016). The 50 top words and phrases that say you’re from Birmingham or the Black Country.
Cork, T. (2016). The BEST 23 West Country words – but how many do you use?
Martin, G. (Date unknown). The meaning and origin of the expression: Bob’s your uncle.
Rubery, J. (2016). 10 British animal idioms and expressions.
Flannagan, E. (2016). Mancunian dictionary: The 50 top words and phrases that say you’re a Manc.

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Walk of the Month: Pluckley Village

October 30th, 2016
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As October draws to a close, it’s time for another instalment of Walk of the Month. For October’s walk we’re heading to the picturesque village of Pluckley in Kent. This sleepy village is full of wonderful autumn colours and cosy English pubs but there is another reason visitors flock to the village during October – ghosts! Pluckley is commonly known as the most haunted village in England and has sparked our attention for a Halloween themed Walk of the Month.

Walk of the Month: Pluckley Church

Image of Pluckley Church by Julian P GuffoggCC 2.0

Home to a minimum of 15 ghosts, Pluckley is perfect for a spooky walk at this time of year. Explore the area and folklore during the day with the family or head back during the evening for a frightful walk through the village’s more notorious spots. As well as the outlined route below, make sure to spend some time exploring St Nicolas’ Church which is home to the White Lady and Red Lady ghosts, and Fright corner where you could find The Highwayman re-enacting his death.

The Walk:

October’s route is three miles long and should take around two and a half hours to complete. This is an easy track that follows orchard tracks, footpaths and field margins with 17 stiles in-between. Children will enjoy this walk during the day and this is also a great walk for dogs, as long as they are kept on the lead.

The Route:

Start the walk from St Nicholas Church, from here turn right and head up the main road walking uphill. Turn right at the Black Horse car park sign towards a gate. Go through the gate and cut across the playing fields towards a gap in the hedge that leads into the orchard.

Walk straight through the orchard keeping the windbreak to your right-hand side. When you reach the metalled track by Sheerland Farm, maintain your direction and then continue through the orchard to the road.

Walk of the Month: Oast house at Elvey Farm near Pluckley

Image of Oast house at Elvey Farm near Pluckley by MarathonCC 2.0

At the road bear left before joining a footpath by a brick wall. Follow the footpath until you reach the stile, climb over the stile and follow the fence line on your left before crossing two more stiles at the bottom.

Continue your route by going through a gap in the wall up towards another orchard and over another stile. After the stile turn left and follow the track keeping the windbreaker to your left-hand side. Bear right and head over another stile before walking towards a brick wall.

At the wall turn right and walk through the orchard towards the church. Turn left, walking past the picture postcard village green of Little Char Forstal. You’ll see a stile on your right, go over this and walk down the right-hand side of the field climbing over two more stiles to reach the road by the riding centre.

Turn right at the road and take the first road on the left past the farm and follow it to Rooting Manor. When the road bends left, cross the stile by some gates before turning left and walking along the top of the field.

As you pass through the windbreak, turn right and walk up the track. Follow this track as it leads you left and go through the orchard, eventually bearing right and up to Surrenden.

Follow the track to your right and cross a stile on the left. Walk up the right-hand side of the field to join the track and nip over the stile to continue to the road.

Cross the road and walk through the orchard before crossing the playing fields. Turn left and return to the church where you started.

To view the full route map, please click here.

Book a holiday cottage in Kent.

Shepherd's Farm House (Ref. 7364), in Kent.

Shepherd’s Farm House (Ref. 7364), in Kent.

With a ghost lurking around every corner, you’re going to need more than one night to explore all of Pluckley’s most haunted spots. By booking a stay in one of our Kent cottages you’ll be able to spend your evenings ghost hunting in Pluckley and your days exploring The Garden of England. From Dover Castle to Canterbury Cathedral, Kent is full of must-see attractions and things to do for the whole family.

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Nicole Jones-Gerrard

By Nicole Jones-Gerrard

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 husband.

The UK’s Smallest Cities

October 23rd, 2016
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When it comes to city breaks we immediately think of locations like London or Manchester, but what about the UK’s smaller cities – the unusual cities, cities crisscrossed with cobbled streets and dominated by historic cathedrals? These unique cities are ideal for weekend or midweek breaks and can be found throughout the UK. So if you’re looking to book a city break with a difference, keep reading as we list our favourite small UK cities.

St Davids, Pembrokeshire

Well known for its spectacular cathedral, the city of St Davids’ calm atmosphere and easy pace of life would fool anyone into thinking it was a quaint Welsh town. Even though St Davids is officially the smallest city in the UK, there is still plenty to see and do here including tours of the cathedral, hikes along the Welsh Coastal Path and adventurous boat tours.

If you’d like to visit this pint-sized city on your next getaway then Sykes Cottages has a fantastic range of St Davids holiday cottages all within a few miles of the city itself.

Truro, Cornwall

Don’t let Truro’s small size fool you, as the only city in Cornwall Truro is more than equipped to cope with large numbers of locals and tourists. Known as the shopping capital of Cornwall, visitors from all over flock to the area to explore the independent shops, art galleries, pubs and restaurants. If you’re lucky enough to visit Truro during April, then you can attend the Truro Festival for Music, an impressive festival ideal for music, art and comedy lovers.

When planning your visit to Truro, be sure to check out our selection of Truro holiday cottages. These charming Cornish cottages are not only ideal for exploring the city but can also be used as a base for visiting the rest of Cornwall too.

Perth, Perthshire

With its picturesque riverside location and charming selection of independent shops and businesses, the unexpected city of Perth is the ideal location for a couple’s getaway. Here guests can take a romantic stroll along the River Tay, explore the Black Watch Castle and Museum or place a bet at the Perth Racecourse before discovering the miniature city’s many bars and restaurants during the evening.

If you’re interested in a romantic break in Perth then our selection of Perth holiday cottages are perfect for couples; with cosy fires, welcoming kitchens and plenty great places to eat and drink nearby.

Ely, Cambridgeshire

The historic city of Ely can be found just 80 miles from London, perfect for escaping the Big Smoke for the weekend. There are plenty of fantastic shopping opportunities in Ely from the independent boutiques, gift shops and craft stores to the Ely Cathedral complete with its unusual octagon tower. For an extra special day out, we suggest booking a boat trip down the Great Ouse which is sure to create wonderful memories for you and your party.

Perfect for exploring the city, our Ely holiday cottages come with stylish décor, comfortable furnishings and fantastic amenities close by.

Bangor, Gwynedd

As one of the smallest cities in the UK, Bangor can often be overlooked when it comes to booking a holiday, but with Snowdonia National Park and the North Wales coast on your doorstep, Bangor is a fantastic location for an active escape. Whether you’re taking a stroll along Bangor pier, exploring the grounds at Penrhyn Castle, or bouncing around in the underground caverns at Bounce Below there are plenty of attractions to discover in the Bangor area.

Our selection of Bangor holiday cottages are ideal for families looking to explore North Wales on their next self-catering break. These cottages come with plenty of space both indoors and out, and you can even bring the dog along as many of our Bangor cottages are pet-friendly.

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Nicole Jones-Gerrard

By Nicole Jones-Gerrard

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 husband.