Best Places for a Winter Break

January 17th, 2015
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What is it that makes a good winter holiday for you? Is it the blustery walks or the frosty mornings? What about getting stuck into your favourite book in front of a roaring fire? Well today we’re looking at some of the best places for all of these things, from the South Coast of Wales all the way up to the Scottish Highlands. So take a look and see if we can tempt you into book yourself a winter holiday in one of these spots; just remember to keep an eye out for properties that offer Winter Short Breaks – you’ll be able to get yourself a three night break at a discounted price, what more could you want?

Northumberland

If you’re the kind of person who would include bracing walks and stunning scenery as prerequisites of their ideal winter break then Northumberland is just the spot for you. Its famous coastal path provides many a beautiful walk and when you add in the idyllic Northumberland National Park, you can see why the county is the perfect place for those who love nothing more than to strap on their walking boots. No matter where you go you’ll be blown away by the views, from the imposing Dunstanburgh Castle through to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. Or if the weather gets a bit too much you can always head into one of Northumberland’s cosy towns and villages. Take Alnwick for example, not only did it set the scene for portions of the Harry Potter films, it’s also home to Barter Books, one of the biggest second hand bookshops in Europe, where the Keep Calm and Carry On phenomenon all started!

The Highlands

Alternatively you might want to take a look at heading north of the border for your winter break. If so then you should definitely pay a visit to the Highlands! There are few places around the United Kingdom that can match the area for its peace and quiet, and then there’s the scenery! Crisp sunrises out and about on the glens reveal the eerie, mist covered mountains and the silvery lochs. Or maybe you fancy a change of pace? Well the highlands can offer an adrenaline filled break too! The Cairngorms are the only place in the UK that can boast natural ski slopes and there are countless companies offering you the chance to get stuck into a wide variety of adventure sports!

Pembrokeshire

I don’t think that anyone would blame you if you were of the opinion that Pembrokeshire in South Wales should only be considered as a summer destination. What with its seemingly endless sandy beaches it does seem like the perfect place to spend a summer, but Pembrokeshire also makes for a fantastic winter break! Sand castles and sunbathing are probably out of the question (unless you’re a particularly hardy soul!) but there are plenty of other things you can do to pass the time. For example, you could pay a visit to the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, home to almost 600 miles of footpaths and bridle ways. Or you could always take a step back in time; Pembrokeshire is home to over fifty fortresses and castles, ranging from the imposing Pembroke Castle right the way through to Castell Henllys, a replica of the recently excavated Iron Age fort from over 2000 years ago!

So there you go, a few of our favourite places for a break over the winter months. But don’t let us cloud your judgement, we’ve got properties all around the United Kingdom and Ireland that would make for a dream winter holiday, from the beaches of Cornwall right the way through to the rolling hills of County Donegal. Or maybe you know of somewhere that you think people should be visiting? If so, do let us know either over Facebook or Twitter and we’ll spread the word!

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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.

Book a 2015 summer break in Norfolk or Suffolk

January 16th, 2015
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Planning a family holiday this summer but not sure where to travel? How about East Anglia, where sun, sea, sand and – not forgetting – wonderful countryside awaits. This corner of England is ideal for those travelling with kids because its proximity to other parts of the country ensures you won’t have to endure an overly long car journey. Plus, the region’s beaches are some of the safest and cleanest in the UK, making it perfect for sun-seekers both young and old.

Norfolk or Suffolk? The choice is yours! But wherever you choose, rest assured that you’ll be within a stone’s throw of great beaches, fabulous food and no-end of family friendly attractions. To make your decision easier, here’s a guide to some of the things to look out for on your cottage break in Norfolk or Suffolk.

Norfolk

Arguably the UK’s best-loved family holiday destination, Norfolk welcomes thousands of visitors each year who’ve heard about the county’s remarkable beaches and charming, time forgotten Broads.

The main appeal of a holiday in Norfolk is its mixture of distinctive holiday destinations: whether you’re after a classic family beach holiday in Greath Yarmouth; a tranquil walking holiday amid the lush Norfolk Broads; or a romantic sojourn to the dramatic north coast, there really is a holiday to suit everyone in this idyllic English county.

Coast

Let’s start at the coast, where mighty stretches of sand and surf are interrupted by charming coastal resorts. Head north, and discover the stunning beaches of Norfolk’s northern seaboard. Sights not to be missed here include the beaches of Hunstanton, Holkham and Snettisham.

Norfolk & Suffolk 2

Cromer Pier by Judith is licensed by CC 2.0

To the north-east, be sure to visit Cromer, a timeless seaside resort which was a favourite among wealthy Victorian’s travelling from London to the seaside. The town is famed for its distinctive tasting crab, which has been caught off the coast for hundreds of years. Other coastal towns well worth visiting include Great Yarmouth, Hunstanton and Gorleston-on-Sea.

Country

Couples and families looking for a rural break in Norfolk will love the Norfolk Broads. Commonly mistaken as a natural feature, The Broads are actually flooded peat fields dug by monasteries in the Middle Ages. Today, the landscape of The Broads is characterised by its reed beds and wet woodlands, not to mention its recognisable black and white windmills.

Image by Paul Appleyard is licensed by

Image by Paul Appleyard is licensed by CC 2.0

A holiday in the Norfolk Broads really does feel like an escape from the present day. Think long walks beside quiet, babbling brooks; fascinating boat trips along one or more of The Broads 120 miles of navigable waterways; pike and Perch fishing on a quiet, wooded stream; not to mention a wonderful array of charming villages teeming with things to see and do.

Suffolk

Image by Peter Mello is licensed under CC 2.0

Image by Peter Mello is licensed under CC 2.0

Suffolk may be less popular than Norfolk, but we have no idea why! Like its neighbour, this is a county rich in rural beauty and enticing, sandy beaches, peppered here and there with delightful towns and villages where a warm welcome is virtually guaranteed.

Whether you choose a family holiday in one of Suffolk’s traditional coastal resorts – Aldeburgh, Dunwich or Southwold to name but a few – or a romantic, rural retreat in the midst of the county’s charming, pastoral countryside, you’ll be swept off your feet by this timeless English holiday destination.

Coast

If you’re looking for the nostalgic fun of a seaside break, a coastal holiday rental in Suffolk is a great choice. The county is awash with soft, sandy beaches where adults and children alike can enjoy some fun in the sun. Suffolk is also famed for its colourful beach huts, which line the seashore in towns like Felixstowe and Southwold.

Norfolk & Suffolk 6

Image by Blue Square Thing is licensed under CC 2.0

For the classic family beach holiday, be sure to check out our cottage rentals in Felixstowe, Aldeburgh and Southwold, where there are plenty of facilities and a wonderful sandy beach on which to lay your towel. For quieter trips to the coast, head for Denes Beach or Corton Sands.

Country

If there’s one thing Suffolk isn’t short of, it’s pretty countryside. The county is home to the Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB; 155 square miles of wildlife wetlands, heather moorlands and windswept beaches, as well as the Thetford Forest Park, a huge, wild woodland traversing the borders of Suffolk and Norfolk.

Image by Nick Ford is licensed under CC 2.0

Image by Nick Ford is licensed under CC 2.0

Birdwatcher? Kite flyer? Mountain Bike Rider? Whatever your pursuit, Suffolk is a great choice for outdoor enthusiasts. If you prefer the quieter side of life, the county proves perfect, with an array of country pubs, interesting villages and heritage towns for you to discover.

Sun, sea & sand: Book a summer break in East Anglia today

So, what’s it to be: Norfolk or Suffolk? If you can’t decide, why not browse our East Anglia holiday homes and see what we can offer you. From contemporary coastal cottages to traditional country holiday homes, our holiday rentals in East Anglia offer a great base for a summer holiday in Norfolk or Suffolk – browse our range and choose your summer holiday destination today!

 

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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.

Ten Activities for Couples in The Highlands

January 15th, 2015
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The festive period of spending time with family and friends is unfortunately over. However, now is a great time to focus on spending time with that special someone. If you and your loved one happen to find yourselves in the Scottish Highlands (we heavily recommend it!) and in need of an idea or two of a romantic activity then read on as we’ve come up with a shortlist of things to do that are perfect for couples in the Scottish Highlands.

1. Go For a Walk

image via Flickr

image via Flickr

No matter where you are in The Highlands you won’t be too far from a scenic walking route and what better way to spend an afternoon than on a wander with your loved one? If you need inspiration for your romantic Highland wander, we’re particularly fond of this route through the Truim Woods in the Cairngorms.

2. Go Shopping

Image via Flickr

Image via Flickr

If you’re a shopping lover you will be spoilt for choice in the Highlands, particularly in Inverness where you can find a huge number of well-known brands as well as lovely independent shops. Have a date day by taking a stroll through the shops, buy yourself some goodies before stopping off for lunch and coffee; a perfect way to spend the day!

3. Go on a Distillery Tour

Image via Flickr

Image via Flickr

A couple who sips whisky together, stays together. Or something like that. Either way, a trip to Scotland would not be complete without touring a distillery and indulging in a dram or two at the end. Why not visit Old Pulteney in Caithness for an hour tour or indulge in the Manager’s Masterclass that includes a two hour tour and tasting session with the Distillery Manager.

4. Catch a Show

Image via Flickr

Image via Flickr

Dinner and a show may sound like a cliché date but for a romantic evening there isn’t anything better! Eden Court in Inverness plays host to a variety of shows throughout the week in both the cinema and theatre.

5. Discover Wildlife

Tiger at Highland Wildlife Park

Image via Flickr

On water or on land, Scotland has a huge variety of native wildlife just waiting to be discovered! For something a little more exotic, Highland Wildlife Park makes a great day out. Learn about the animals in the park whilst spending quality time with your partner.

6. Go for a Bike Ride

Image via Flickr

Image via Flickr

If you want a way to enjoy the sights and sounds of the Highlands but at a bit of a faster pace than walking, why not hire a bike and get cycling? Follow a cycle path and treat yourselves to lunch in a cosy country pub to warm up in the middle of your ride.

7. Enjoy a romantic meal

Image via Flickr

Image via Flickr

Let’s be honest, you can have a romantic meal anywhere, but there really is nothing better than taking in the beautiful Highland views on a romantic after dinner stroll!

8. Go for a Ride on the Nevis Range Gondola

Image via Flickr

Image via Flickr

Nothing says romance like a beautiful view and The Mountain Gondola in The Nevis Range provides just that. The journey on the Gondola takes around 12-15 minutes and provides riders with stunning views of Ben Nevis and the surrounding areas.

9. Visit a Castle

Image via Flickr

Image via Flickr

Take a walk around the ruins of one of the Highlands many castles and learn about who used to live there. Urquhart Castle in particular is a great choice for a romantic day out, giving visitors a stunning view over Loch Ness from its ruins.

10. Book a Romantic Cottage

image from Cnoc Grianach reference 20748

image from Cnoc Grianach reference 20748

On the chilly nights that are particularly prominent at this time of year, there is nothing better than snuggling up in front of an open fire in your very own holiday cottage rental. Take a look at our selection of cottages in the Scottish Highlands and whisk your loved one away for a romantic getaway – you won’t be disappointed!

 

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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.

Give a Bird a Home

January 14th, 2015
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Here at Sykes, we read about the struggle that is facing the country’s bird-life. Some of the figures involved made pretty grim reading: for example, the RSPB has noted that the number of House Sparrows in the UK has dropped by an estimated 71% since the late 1970’s, and this is by no means the worst. To be honest we were pretty shocked and thought we’d see if there was anything we could do to help out Britain’s birds. However when we came to it we weren’t too sure where to start, after all we’re more used to finding homes for people than birds!

So we called in for a bit of help from our friends at the North Wales Wildlife Trust. We picked their brains to find out what ordinary people could do to make a difference and lend our feathered friends a hand. And as it turns out, just by making a couple of tiny changes you can transform your garden into a bird’s paradise, providing them with shelter, food and water – the things that make all the difference when the going gets tough! We’ve put all of these hints and tips together and created a handy guide that you can use when doing your bit for Britain’s birds, so take a look below and see what you can do to help out.

Give a Bird a Home

If you want to show your readers how to give a bird a home copy and paste the below code into your website:

Give a Bird a Home

Due to a loss of habitat and shortage of food, birds have struggled in recent years, with several species seeing a decline in numbers. Thankfully, there are a few things we can do to help. Working together, Sykes Cottages and the North Wales Wildlife Trust have gathered information on two common types of nest box you can use to give a bird a home, as well as some hints and tips on transforming your garden into a haven for our feathered friends.

Open Fronted Nest Boxes

Ideal for Robins and Pied Wagtails

Specific Tips

Place low down, no more than 2 metres off the ground.

They need to be hidden under some cover; ivy or other climbing plants are ideal for this.

Small Holed Nest Box

Ideal for Blue Tits and the House Sparrow

Hole Sizes

Different birds use different sized holes

Blue Tit – 25mm

Great Tit – 28mm

House Sparrow – 32mm

Starling – 45mm

Specific Tips

Place 2 metres or more off the ground.

Attach to a wall, tree or fence. Make sure it’s out of reach of cats.

Make a Bird-Friendly Garden

Feeder

Place feeders in the garden so birds have plenty to eat. Remember to put them in sight of your windows so you can keep an eye on the visitors.

Birdbath

Birds use birdbaths to drink and clean themselves, just be sure to keep it topped up with fresh water.

Planting

Create a safe and sustainable habitat for birdlife in your garden by growing a wide variety of plants, including fruit trees, evergreens, climbers and spiny shrubs.

For More Information

Your local Wildlife Trust can offer further information on how to help birds in your garden.  Alternatively, visit the RSPB website.

nesting_R3 - thumbnail for blog

Are you on Twitter? If so click below to share this infographic and show your followers what they can do to make a difference!

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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.

Why Cornwall is the Destination of Choice for 2015

January 13th, 2015
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Ever since I was a child Cornwall has been my holiday destination of choice; its golden sands, extensive countryside and warm summer breeze call to me year after year and it would seem I’m not alone. In December, Google revealed the ‘Most Searched Holiday Destinations’ of 2014 and Cornwall came fifth, ranking above Turkey, Italy and Dubai.

Cornwall is a perfect destination for families, couples, friends… come to think of it, Cornwall is perfect for just about everyone! So if you’ve yet to experience the joys of the south west coast then keep reading as we list the best reasons to visit Cornwall in 2015.

Coast

Naturally, Cornwall’s coastline has made it to the top of our list. The warm sandy beaches and turquoise waters will transport you to a tropical paradise, whilst the sharp cliffs and spectacular scenery are taken straight form a pirate novel, with hidden coves and deep caves. It’s no secret that my favourite beach is a Cornish one; in fact, everyone here at Sykes’ HQ could tell you about my fondness for Kynance cove. This unbeatable beach mixes breath-taking views over the Cornish countryside and open ocean with golden sands, crystal clear waters and hidden caves – perfect for budding explorers and keen photographers, I would highly suggest a visit!

Country

If you thought Cornwall was all about the coast then you couldn’t be more wrong! Venture inland and you will be so captivated by the county’s countryside, you’ll never want to leave. Spend the day exploring the Bodmin Moor and you’ll be greeted with heather covered hills stretching as far as the eye can see; ancient Bronze Age hut circles that will see children enchanted with Cornish history; and beautiful moorland ponies grazing peacefully on the hillside. Alternatively, you could plan a stopover in the Tamar Valley and delve into Cornwall’s extensive mining history before relaxing with a glass of delicious wine at the Camel Valley Vineyard.

Attractions

Image of the Eden Project taken by Holly.

The Eden Project | By Holly

We’ve touched on just a few of Cornwall’s natural gems, but along with these points of interest Cornwall also offers an array of manmade attractions. In Bodelva, visitors will discover the Eden Project’s Biomes dotted about the hillside. Housed within these unusual bubbles are tropical plants and gardens as well as the world’s largest captive rainforest. Over in Helston, you’ll find Flambards, Cornwall’s very own amusement park. With white knuckle rides, hands on science, and plenty of indoor fun at Flambards spectacular award winning exhibitions, you’re sure to make a few lasting memories.

Food and Drink

Cornwall is known for its steamy golden pasties, creamy smooth ice cream and bubbly sweet ciders and although these traditional delights are still widely available there is now a range of new and exciting tastes invading Cornwall. Some of the world’s top chefs have set up shop in Cornwall, drawn to the county by the fantastic selection of produce on offer. For an unforgettable foodie affair, visit Cornwall during the last weekend in September and attend The Great Cornish Food Festival. The range of 60 food and drink exhibitors, 40 chefs and food experts along with an unbeatable atmosphere make this the food festival of choice for 2015!

I’m sure by now you’re itching for a Cornish adventure and who could blame you? For more information on this intriguing destination head on over to our Discover Cornwall Guide where you’ll find a fantastic selection of posts, videos and images highlighting the best of Cornwall, alternatively to view our range of Cornwall Cottages simply click here.

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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.