Quiet Corners of Ireland

September 25th, 2014
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Peace and quiet is hard to come by, so it’s important to soak up every minute of it. Luckily, there’s a place offering buckets of tranquillity at no extra cost; Ireland. Here’s a shortlist of the quietest, most peaceful corners of the Emerald Isle.

Glen of Aherlow, Co. Tipperary

Glen of Aherlow- Via Flickr

Glen of Aherlow- Via Flickr

Sixteen glorious miles of countryside await in the Glen of Aherlow, a peaceful valley near the town of Tipperary. Wayfarers young and old will appreciate the unnerving stillness of Aherlow, which has welcomed wanderers for centuries. With a variety of walking trails and a total lack of civilisation, this Irish gully gets a big tick in the box marked ‘secluded’.

Connemara, Co. Galway

Connemara- Via Flickr

Connemara- Via Flickr

It may sound like somewhere from Middle Earth – and look like it too – but believe me, Connemara is as real as it gets. Tucked away on the Emerald Isle’s brooding Atlantic Seaboard, even the boundaries of this scenic beauty spot are elusive. Escape here for a holiday and it’s likely you won’t see another human for the duration – bliss.

Glendalough, Co. Wicklow

Glendalough- Via Flickr

Glendalough- Via Flickr

Prettiness embodied; that about sums up Glendalough, a glacial valley in County Wicklow. To elaborate, it’s got a magnificent lake, plenty of trees, and an Early Medieval monastery that English troops nearly did away with at the end of the 14th century. Oh, and though it’s not far from Dublin, it’s surprisingly peaceful, so keep your voice down!

Skellig Isles, Co. Kerry

Skellig Isles- Via Flickr

Skellig Isles- Via Flickr

Perhaps peaceful is the wrong word to describe Skellig, after all, it’s renowned for its battalion of highly verbal seabirds. Plus, you’ll need to take a boat to reach these Atlantic islets, which will of course involve a degree of human interaction. Disembark however, and you’ll feel like you’ve been marooned on your own un-tropical island, complete with 6th century pathways and inspiring views of the Irish coast.

Benbulbin, Co. Sligo

Benbulbin- Via Flickr

Benbulbin- Via Flickr

Is it just me, or does Benbulbin have a bit of an Uluru vibe? (Minus the colouration of course) Regardless, this formidable mountain packs a serious aesthetic punch, it being 200m taller than London’s newly erected Shard. Rising sharply out of ‘Yeat’s County’, Benbulbin – or Ben Bulben if you’re feeling pedantic – is a designated County Geological Site, and offers the perfect backdrop for a peaceful stroll.

Achill Island, Co. Mayo

Achill Island- Via Flickr

Achill Island- Via Flickr

It may be Ireland’s largest island, but thanks to its measly population, it’s still weirdly under-inhabited. You know what that means? There’s plenty of secluded corners in which to enjoy a quiet leg-stretch. Achill is also home to some glorious beaches – including no less than five Blue Flag ones – making it the perfect place to take the kids if the family is ready for some R&R.

Killarney National Park, Co. Kerry

Killarney National Park- Via Flickr

Killarney National Park- Via Flickr

It may look like a typo, but McGillycuddy’s Reeks is actually Ireland’s tallest mountain range, and it’s right here, in the Killarney National Park. At over 1,000 metres, Reeks is an impressive sight to behold, not least when viewed as a reflection in the stunning Lakes of Killarney below. Though the national park is on the well-trod Ring of Kerry, it remains one of South West Ireland’s most peaceful spots.

Blackstairs and Barrow Valley, Co. Carlow

Blackstairs Mountain- Via Flickr

Blackstairs Mountain- Via Flickr

When I read about the Barrow Valley, it was described as having ‘wild silence’, which I thought was rather lovely. Here, beneath the might of Blackstairs Mountain, traffic noise and chaos is replaced by the hullabaloo of nature; of gurgling streams, blustery forests, and the hum of bees as they go about their business. Anyone who travels here will leave with a sense of vigour, and the absolute knowledge that they’ll be returning soon.

Derryveagh Mountains, Co. Donegal

Derryveagh- Via Flickr

Derryveagh- Via Flickr

Just when you think Ireland has nothing left to give – when you’ve reached the northwestern corner, and the Atlantic coast beckons – the Derryveagh Mountains appear on the horizon to take the breath from your lungs once more. As the Emerald Isle’s least populated region, this spectacular wilderness is the perfect destination for a secluded getaway. Simply put, in Donegal, nothing matters but you and the wild.

Loop Head Peninsula, Co. Clare

Loop Head Peninsula- Via Flickr

Loop Head Peninsula- Via Flickr

Want to go really off the beaten path? Head to the Loop Head Peninsula, a lean slither of land branching into the Atlantic. Time seems to have forgotten Loop’s villages, though all offer the usual level of Irish hospitality. Venture forth into the wonderful coastal landscapes – which scooped a European Destination of Excellence award in 2010 – and the long drive will soon seem worth it.

Book an Irish break with Sykes Cottages

Purveyors of peaceful breaks since the 1990s, Sykes will set you up with a secluded getaway in a jiff. Simply browse our range of Irish holiday cottages and pick one as near or far to civilisation as you like.

Are you sitting on a secret Irish beauty spot? Share it with us on Facebook or Twitter – it can’t stay a hidden forever!

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’ Spotlight on New Luxury Cottages

September 24th, 2014
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Here at Sykes HQ, one of our favourite pastimes is having a  nosey at some of the properties that have recently joined. That’s why, we’ve got a whole section of our blog dedicated to doing just that, and today’s post is its latest entry!  We’re going to have a look at some of the more luxurious properties that have signed up in the past few weeks, from a first class barn conversion in Yorkshire to a beautiful manor house in Norfolk.

The Granary, Harrogate

The Granary, ref. 915427

The Granary, ref. 915427

Just four miles down the road from the delightful spa town of Harrogate is The Granary, a stunning first floor barn conversion on the owner’s working farm. The cottage retains many original features such as exposed beams and external stone steps. If you go, you’ll also have your own private, formal garden where you can enjoy an afternoon in the sun, and maybe even a cheeky tipple! And with the endless walks in the country – not to mention the original Betty’s Tearoom just down the road – you won’t find yourself wondering what to do!

Priory Cottage, Saundersfoot

Priory Cottage, ref. 915079

Priory Cottage, ref. 915079

Next up is Priory Cottage in the small village of Saundersfoot, South Wales. Exquisitely furnished throughout, Priory Cottage features two bedrooms, one with a super king-size double bed and the other a twin, although that one can be made into another super king-size too. There’s also the feature glass sided stairway, surround sound system and underfloor heating. Perfect for those sunny summer afternoons is the beautiful garden where you can lie back and enjoy a spot of sunshine, and the raised terrace that’s perfect for an alfresco meal. What’s more, if there’s a crowd of you going, you can also book out the Priory, which is next door, as they sleep sixteen people between them.

The Manor House, Gorleston-on-Sea

The Manor House, ref. 913919

The Manor House, ref. 913919

Finally, we’ve the perfect cottage for a large family get together, as it sleeps up to ten people. The grade II listed Manor House has been furnished to a high standard throughout with features such as an AGA in the kitchen-diner, and two comfortable reception rooms, one of which is complete with a cosy wood burner. If that wasn’t enough, there’s also a six seater hot tub in the back garden! The kids will be happy too, between the Playstation 3, the expansive gardens and the nearby beaches, you’ll never struggle to keep them occupied!

So that’s that, some of our newest luxury cottages. But don’t forget to take a look at the other new properties; they’re coming in thick and fast so you’re bound to find something for you. Or, if you’re the owner of a holiday cottage, have a read about why you should let your property with Sykes and you may well end up on our next round up of new cottages!

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.

UK Michelin Starred Restaurants – Where to Indulge this Autumn

September 23rd, 2014
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Of the four seasons, autumn is my favourite. Warm woollen jumpers, colourful forest walks and early nights all add to this season’s charm, but possibly its best feature is the abundance of seasonal produce on offer. For me autumn is all about food and for a real treat during these chilly months I like nothing better than indulging in a luxury meal cooked by some of the UK’s finest chefs.

To help whet your appetite for autumn we’ve put together a selection of four Michelin starred restaurants offering a delectable selection of seasonal produce.

Mr Underhill’s Restaurant, Ludlow

Image taken from Mr Underhill's website.

Image taken from Mr Underhill’s website.

Mr Underhill’s has been serving award-winning food for over 32 years and with courses like ‘White fish veloute, marmalade ice cream and shellfish wafer’ it’s no wonder people keep coming back to this delightful venue. Set at the foot of Ludlow castle, overlooking a beautiful courtyard garden with views of the River Teme beyond, this really is a magical spot.

Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, Dublin

Image via Flickr.

Image via Flickr.

The Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud is the only two star Michelin restaurant in Ireland and has been at the centre of Dublin’s fine dining scene for 33 years. Reading through this venue’s menu is sure to make your mouth water with courses like ‘Mellow Spiced Wicklow Lamb with Avacado Mousseline, Piquillos Pepper, Olive Crumble and Pearle Jus’.

The Bath Priory, Bath

Image taken from The Bath Priory website.

Image taken from The Bath Priory website.

From Michelin starred dining to award winning gardens, The Bath Priory offers an outstanding dining experience. Their executive chef, Sam Moody, has created a fantastic reputation for flavour and their current menu doesn’t disappoint with an indulgent selection of autumnal flavours available in their mid-week lunch menu.

Castle Terrace, Edinburgh

Image provided by Castle Terrace.

Image provided by Castle Terrace.

The Castle Terrace Restaurant in Edinburgh specialises in using the finest produce Scotland has to offer and delivering it in a neat and tasty package to their customers. Their ‘Celebration of The Season’ menu is a must and for me it’s all about the fish! Freshly caught from the North Sea there is a choice of Squid, Skate and a selection of shellfish.

We hope this tantalising selection of restaurants hasn’t left you feeling too hungry but that it has inspired you to get out there and taste all the delights autumn has to offer. If you come across some scrumptious autumn food then be sure to let us know either by Facebook or on Twitter.

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.

2014 Chester Duck Race

September 22nd, 2014
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Laughter filled the streets of Chester this Saturday as the 2014 Chester Duck Race kicked off on the River Dee. Hundreds of people turned up in support of the Babygrow Appeal ready to watch the 5,000 rubber ducks and 70 corporate ducks take to the water!

The Sykes team turned out in force to cheer on our star racer, Nigel the Duck. Although Nigel didn’t win he was really pleased with his performance saying that all his hard work and training had definitely paid off. The winner of this year’s corporate duck race was Frank the Boiler Repair Man, a fantastic duck who had the lead on his competition right from the off.

Along with the corporate duck race there was also 5,000 mini ducks released to race down the river, a number of baked goods, knitted crafts on sale and some wonderful choir performances by  the children of St Werburgh and St Columba’s who really sang their hearts out.

The day was a big success and a lot of fun. The team here at Sykes Cottages would like to say a huge thank you and congratulations to Lesley, Janet, Angie and all the volunteers involved in making the event happen; they have worked really hard and raised almost £20,000 for the Babygrow Appeal.

We’ve attached some of our favourite pictures from Saturday below for you to browse through and remember, you can make a donation to the Babygrow Appeal at any time by simply visiting their just giving page.

The corporate ducks on display before the big race.

The corporate ducks on display before the big race.

Some of the fantastic volunteers who gave up their Saturday for a great cause.

Some of the fantastic volunteers who gave up their Saturday to help out with the event

The corporate ducks getting ready to make a splash

The corporate ducks getting ready to make a splash

Corporate ducks making their way down the river. Can you spot Nigel?

Corporate ducks making their way down the river. Can you spot Nigel?

There he is, giving us a wave as he heads towards the finish line

There he is, giving us a wave as he heads towards the finish line

This little guy needed a little extra help

This little guy needed a little extra help

Mini ducks getting ready to dive in!

Mini ducks getting ready to dive in!

Sink or swim time for the mini ducks.

Sink or swim time for the mini ducks.

There they go, 5,000 mini ducks take the plunge

There they go, 5,000 mini ducks take the plunge

Riding the wave; mini ducks make their way towards the finish line.

Riding the wave; mini ducks make their way towards the finish line.

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.

The UK’s Best Service Stations

September 21st, 2014
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When I initially suggested the idea of a blog post about service stations, it took quite a bit of convincing the rest of the team! ‘Who would want to read that?’ they asked. Eventually, with the promise that I would give my findings a bit of the Sykes Cottages treatment (think heritage, stunning views and picnics), my colleagues agreed to a post about service stations being written and I was more than happy to take the reins. Service stations aren’t known for their charm, and making a visit to one is often a necessity rather than a choice, but there are a few gems around; read on to see where you can find them.

Motorway Service Station with the Best Views

Tebay Service Station View

The view from Tebay Service Station Image via Flickr

Tebay services in the Lake District is the ideal rest stop for stunning views that are a change from the continuous tarmac and brake lights of the motorway. The building of the station backs on to a lake, which gives an amazing view that even the weariest of travellers will appreciate!

Motorway Service Station with the Best Loos

Cleanest Loo

Image via Flickr

Perhaps not the most glamorous of topics discussed on the Sykes Cottages blog, but nevertheless a clean loo can make or break a service station – or anywhere really. To discover the best service station loo in the UK I headed straight to the source, so to speak, the Loo of the Year awards website. The current holder of the best motorway loo accolade is Cambridge Extra Services on the M11 who show a high quality of cleanliness. Well done!

Motorway Service Station with the Best Food Choices

Bread

Image via Flickr

When you think of motorway service station food you instantly think of food that is greasy, fast and quite overpriced. That is often still the case, but there are a few service stations that are looking to change this and provide hungry travellers with local, wholesome food! Gloucester Services on the M5 is one of these service stations, which tantalises travellers taste buds with artisan breads, seasonal fruit juices and homemade pies amongst others.

Motorway Service Station with the most Unique Aspect

Happendon Services

Image via Flickr

Not only is Happendon service station in Cairn Lodge one of the cheapest motorway stop-offs around, it was also once the location of Douglas Castle. If you head around the back of the service station you will find the fantastic remains of the castle which used to house the powerful medieval family, the Douglases. More recently, the remains of the castle stand proudly at the service station, giving a nice backdrop for tired drivers to replenish their batteries.

Motorway Service Station with the Best Place to Stop for a Picnic

Picnic

Image via Flickr

Mostly due to its incredible views, Killington Lake service station on the M6 southbound is arguably the best UK service station to stop off for a picnic. With picnic tables placed alongside the lake you can take in the views whilst you have a break from driving. Perfect!

So there we have it, five of the best service stations that our motorways have to offer! Do you have a particular service station that you always stop off at? Have you ever visited one of the above? Let us know via twitter or facebook, we’d love to know!

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.