Sykes’ Spotlight on the English Riviera

September 15th, 2014
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Yesterday marked the beginning of Agatha Christie Week and the International Agatha Christie Festival. Agatha Christie, or the Queen of Crime as she’s often known, wrote 80 books during her lifetime and sold over 2 billion copies worldwide, outsold only by the Bible and William Shakespeare. Born in Torquay in 1890, Christie spent some of the most important chapters of her life in the English Riviera, so here at Sykes Cottages, we’re taking a look at this picturesque corner of the country, which influenced and inspired her writing for 85 years.

Agatha Christie’s Torquay

Torquay, English Riviera

Via Flickr

No fan of Agatha Christie can head to the English Riviera without paying a visit to Torquay, the pretty seaside town where Christie grew up. Torquay has long been considered one of the jewels of the south coast with its rows of palm trees, bustling marina and vibrant promenade. However, one of the reasons it’s most well-known is as the setting and inspiration for many of Christie’s novels; over 20 of her novels were set in and around Torquay. Christie also bought a holiday home here, which you can still visit today. Now owned by the National Trust, Greenway is open to visitors, who can experience it as it would have been in 1950s when Christie holidayed there.

Relaxed Coastal Towns & Café Culture

Brixham, English Riviera

Via Flickr

With its clear blue seas, palm trees and mild climate, you might be forgiven for thinking that you were abroad when holidaying in the English Riviera. The quaint harbours, cosmopolitan cafés and stunning beaches give this part of Devon an almost Mediterranean feel. Head to Torquay for fabulous Victorian architecture and waterside restaurants, whilst Brixham is ideal for lovers of all things marine-related; this bustling fishing town has been described as the “home of British fishing”, boasting a traditional harbour and many outstanding sea-food restaurants. If you’re looking for somewhere with a vibrant nightlife, then Paignton is a must-visit, with plenty of bars, restaurants and pubs for you to enjoy.

Days Out for Kids

Dartmouth Steam Railway

Via Flickr

It’s not just adults that will enjoy a holiday in the English Riviera as there are plenty of fantastic activities and events to keep the kids entertained too! Paignton Zoo is one of the south-west’s best days out and children will love discovering all of the animals they have to offer which include crocodiles, gorillas, elephants, lions and tigers. Another idea that’s sure to be popular with the kids is a trip on the Dartmouth Steam Railway, which runs for seven miles from Paignton along the coastline to Kingswear; the journey can also be combined with a boat trip. Adults will enjoy the spectacular views and the old-fashioned steam train is sure to fascinate younger visitors.

Book a holiday cottage in the English Riviera

Holiday cottage in English Riviera

Bay View, Paignton, Ref. 30926

If you’re looking to holiday in this wonderful part of the country, or you’re visiting for the International Agatha Christie Festival, then make sure you take a look at our selection of self-catering cottages in the English Riviera. We have something to suit every budget so please get in touch by sending us an email or giving us a call on 01244 356 695.

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’ Take on the Ironman Triathlon

September 14th, 2014
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Today saw one of the most challenging events in the UK sporting calendar the Ironman Triathlon in South Wales. Consisting of a 2.4 mile swim, a 26.2 mile run and a 112 mile bike ride and with a strict time limit of 17 hours it’s not one for the faint hearted. Now here at Sykes we know that this kind of undertaking isn’t everybody’s cup of tea and so we’ve decided to put together our own, admittedly more sedate, version of the triathlon featuring some of the best places around the UK for swimming, cycling and running. So take a look at it and see if we can tempt you into giving our triathlon a go.

Swimming

swimming llyn gwynant

via Flickr

There are so many places in the UK where you can pop out for a dip, we’re absolutely spoilt for choice. From the Lake District through to the Lochs of Scotland, the options are seemingly endless. However we’ve picked out Llyn Gwynant, a beautiful lake in the shadows of Snowdon. Both ends of the lake are nice and shallow meaning that you’ll never be out of your comfort zone, but unless your heading down in the height of summer make sure that take along a wetsuit as the water can get rather chilly, and a thermos of tea certainly wouldn’t go amiss!

Running

running new forest

via Flickr

For the running section of the Sykes triathlon we’re going to head down to the New Forest National Park in Southern England. With it’s unspoilt natural beauty there’s nowhere better to enjoy a brisk morning jog and if you time it right you can witness some of the most beautiful sunrises around, what more could you want?

Cycling

cycle lake district

via Flickr

For the final leg, the bike ride, we’re heading up to one of the most beautiful parts of the country, the Lake District. This particular route was voted the best in the UK by the Telegraph last year, and that comes as little surprise. With the stunning scenery up in the Lakes you’ll never struggle to find something to look at whilst pedalling away. The route is a 40 mile loop starting and ending a the quaint little village of Broughton in Furness and along the way you’ll find yourself coasting along the shores of Coniston Water.

So there we have it, Sykes’ very own triathlon. It might not be anything on the Ironman in terms of the difficulty however I’m almost positive that you’d have more fun taking part in ours! And if you manage to complete it you could always reward yourself with a week of R & R in one of our holiday 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.

Walk of the Month: Sizergh Estate, Cumbria

September 13th, 2014
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Ancient history and charming countryside provide a wonderful backdrop for a walk in the grounds of Sizergh Castle. Since the 17th century, this imposing house has kept an eye over the Lake District’s neighbouring fens, and its adjoining country estate is the ideal stomping ground for an invigorating hike.

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

During September, the hues of autumn transform Sizergh and its grounds into a peaceful wonderland of amber, orange and gold, so be sure to pack the SLR before heading out on the trail. Because it’s a National Trust property, there’s a fee to enter the castle and its grounds, but it’s a small price to pay to experience an autumnal walk in this quiet corner of the Lake District.

The Walk

With a mix of tarmacked roads, footpaths and compressed tracks, this 2.5 walk should be accessible to all, however, care should be taken in wet conditions as surfaces can be slippery.

The Route

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Start your walk in the castle’s car park and follow the path into the adjacent fields. Keeping the wall on your left, continue straight across the paddock, taking care if the terrain is wet. At the end of the field, go through the gate and immediately through another.

Once on Sizergh Fell, wander up the hill, marvelling at the wildflowers that bloom during the summer months. Keep your eye out for woodpeckers too, which can often be seen hovering above the colourful plumes, preying on ants and other insects.

Continue climbing uphill towards the wood. During the autumn and winter months, a few nesting bird species are attracted to these trees by seasonal berries, including fieldfare and redwings. Once you’ve neared the top, stop and admire the views of Morecambe Bay ahead of you, and the distant Pennines behind.

Walk past the trees, keeping them on your right hand side, before beginning your descent towards the beautiful Lake District fells. Eventually, you’ll come to a gate. Go through this and enter the wood ahead of you, before making an immediate right turn and following the wall on your right hand side. Continue downhill until you come to a gate which leads to a tarmac road.

Turn right and follow the road for around half a kilometre. After passing Lane End Farm, you’ll come to a large wooden gate. Pass this, and continue along Ashbank Lane. You will pass three gates along the lane, as well as an ancient deer park, which still contains several of these elusive mammals. Soon, you will arrive back at Sizergh Castle, where a warm brew in the castle’s café awaits.

Download the comprehensive route and map for this walk here.

Rent a cottage in Cumbria with Sykes Cottages

If a peaceful stroll in the grounds of Sizergh Castle sounds dreamy, why not rent one of our wonderful Cumbrian cottages and enjoy an invigorating holiday in the Lake District this autumn? This is the perfect season to visit the region, thanks to lower tourist numbers and the presence of autumn’s charming colours, so browse our Lake District holiday rentals today.

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.

Top 10 Historic Sites Outside of London

September 12th, 2014
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The UK is home to many historic sites which showcase Britain’s rich and diverse history, a history that attracts thousands of visitors to our island each year! Living in the UK, it is easy to forget that historical sites can be found almost everywhere you look and that they aren’t just limited to the country’s capital, London. Here at Sykes Cottages we have scoured the UK in search of its best historic sites and below you will find our choice of the ten must see sites outside of London.

Whitby Abbey – North Yorkshire

Image provided by Charlotte Stamper.

Image provided by Charlotte Stamper.

Overlooking the popular coastal town of Whitby, the abbey dominates the horizon with its gothic demeanour. As one of the most atmospheric visitor attractions in Yorkshire, Whitby Abbey is a must at any time of year.

Caernarfon Castle – Gwynedd

Image via Flickr.

Image via Flickr.

Built by Edward I, the intimidating keep of Caernarfon Castle makes it one of Wales’ most impressive structures.  With its unusual polygonal towers and colour coded stones, this castle is sure to capture the imagination of children and adults alike.

Iron Bridge and Tollhouse – Shropshire

Image via Flickr.

Image via Flickr.

The Iron bridge and Tollhouse in Telford, Shropshire is seen as one of the iconic symbols of the industrial revolution. Become part of the story as you walk over and marvel at the world’s first cast-iron bridge, an activity tourists have been partaking in since 1779!

Stonehenge – Wiltshire

Image via Flickr.

Image via Flickr.

As one of the wonders of the world, you would be crazy not to plan a trip to Stonehenge in Wiltshire. Archaeologists believe that the structure was erected around 3,100 BC and took some 300 years to build.

Bayham Old Abbey – East Sussex

Image via Flickr.

Image via Flickr.

Located on the Kent/ Sussex border, Bayham Old Abbey is a fascinating collection of ruins which include most of the 13th to 15th century church. The ideal location for a picnic, this historic site is a favourite amongst visitors to the area.

Birdoswald Roman Fort – Cumbria

Image via Flickr.

Image via Flickr.

Birdoswald Roman Fort is located alongside the longest remaining continuous stretch of Hadrian’s Wall. Not just famed for its historic remnants but also for the abundance of wildlife, this area is the ideal stop off for visitors making their way along Hadrian’s Wall.

Chatsworth House – Derbyshire

Image via Flickr.

Image via Flickr.

With its regal appearance and impressive surroundings Chatsworth House in Derbyshire is a favourite among tourists. Steeped in history, this regal building also plays a part in popular culture as the setting of Mr Darcy’s Home in the 2005 adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

Roman Baths – Somerset

Image via Flickr.

Image via Flickr.

As one of the largest tourist attractions in the South West, the Roman baths in Bath make for a captivating day out. Below modern street level, the baths have four exciting features to explore; the Roman Temple, the Roman Bath House, the Sacred Spring and finds from Roman Bath.

Edinburgh Castle – Edinburgh

Image via Flickr.

Image via Flickr.

Dominating the skyline of Scotland’s capital city, Edinburgh castle sits proudly on top of its great rock. Used for centuries as an ancient stronghold, home to royalty and then as army headquarters, Edinburgh castle provides something for everyone on a family day out.

Chester City – Cheshire

Image via Flickr.

Image via Flickr.

The historic city of Chester is a fantastic destination for a weekend away, with so much history to discover you’ll want to squeeze in as much as possible! We would highly suggest trips to the Roman Amphitheatre, Chester Cathedral and of course a spot of light exercise walking the city walls.

We hope this selection of ten historic sites to visit outside of London has left you feeling inspired. If we’ve missed out your favourite historic attraction then let us know! We would love to hear from you and can be reached on Facebook, Twitter or over Google Plus.

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.

Ten Reasons to Love Vintage Festivals

September 11th, 2014
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From cars, clothing, music and the lifestyle, we’re a nation of vintage lovers. More and more vintage shops are appearing on our high street, more vintage cars can be seen touring country roads on a weekend, and vintage festivals are quickly becoming as popular as our summer music festivals. With this in mind, and our love of a good bit of bunting here at Sykes HQ, we thought we’d take a look at some of the reasons why vintage festivals are becoming so popular in the UK.

1. The Music

Image via Flickr

Image via Flickr

Take your ears back in time and listen to the songs, styles and genres that helped shape the music that we listen to today.

2. Everyone Dresses Up…

Image via Flickr

Image via Flickr

Festivals celebrating all things vintage are always the perfect excuse to get dolled up in your finery. Whether you fancy channelling the fifties with a feather headdress and pearls or epitomise the style of the swinging sixties with a bold mini dress, anything goes!

3. .. Including The Guys!

Image via Flickr

Image via Flickr

This dressing up malarkey isn’t just for the ladies. In bygone decades, men would always put their best fashion-focused foot forward and made sure they were looking dapper and dandy at all times.

4. Food and Drink

Pimms

Image via Flickr

Say goodbye to dodgy burger vans, hot dog stands and overpriced drinks. Vintage festivals are full of freshly baked goods, picnics and Pimms. Yum!

5. Meet Like-Minded People

Image via Flickr

Image via Flickr

Unfortunately, not everyone likes vintage. Some people just like things to be modern and it can be difficult to find other fanatics to discuss all things vintage. At vintage festivals you can strike up a sixties conversation with absolutely anyone!

6. Classic Cars

Vintage Car

Image via Flickr

It’s not just dancing, music and food at vintage festivals. At many you will see a selection of classic cars that, even if you’re not a motoring fan, you’re sure to appreciate!

7. Dancing

Image via Flickr

Image via Flickr

With such incredible music it would be difficult not to get a bit of a swing in your step and getting involved in the care-free atmosphere is where the most fun is!

8. Vintage Markets

Image via Flickr

Image via Flickr

For collectable items, one of a kind pieces or even just an excuse to pick up a little treat, vintage markets and boot sales are a regular occurrence at vintage fairs!

9. Poodle Parades

Image via Flickr

Image via Flickr

Dog lovers unite at Atomic Festival’s Poodle Parade, where you can see a number of these beautiful dogs permed to fifties perfection.

 10. The Chap Olympiad

Image via Flickr

Image via Flickr

Umbrella jousting, iron-board surfing and a pipeathlon all whilst wearing your dandiest clothing; The Chap Olympiad sounds pretty perfect to me!

There we are, ten reasons to love vintage themed festivals. Are you a seasoned vintage festival go-er? If so, we’d love to know what your favourite thing about these wonderful events are. Drop us a line on Twitter or Facebook and let us 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.