JUN29

Escape of the Week… Dar Zaman

 
  • Dar ZamanAt first glance, Marrakech hotel Dar Zaman looks too good to be true. As the sun sets during dinner, the small riad lights up with the glow of candlelight, rose petals are sprinkled over beds, and the space is transformed into an achingly romantic haven. Better still, it does so at some of the best prices in the medina.

    Once you’ve negotiated the medina and been welcomed through the regal wooden door by owners Peter and Hassan, you’ll see that this pitch-perfect combination is no accident. The warm and attentive service will leave you feeling like you’re spending time with kind and knowledgable friends – and it’s just a 10-minute walk from the bustling main square, Djemaa el Fna.

    Dar Zaman

    Rooms: With only 4 rooms, Dar Zaman feels very intimate. All rooms are equally charming, with no duff choices. Three are on the first floor and look onto the courtyard, while the fourth sits on the roof terrace – ideal for sun-worshippers who don’t mind a slight loss of privacy. Each is decorated with stylish simplicity: walls come in neutral creams and whites, with rich splashes of red and burgundy in the bedspreads. The furnishings are just as elegant: carved wooden lamps and bedside tables, soft Berber rugs on stone floors, and ornate shutters which block the light and allow for indulgent lie-ins.

    Dar Zaman

    Food: As with many riad B&Bs, there are a number of picturesque spots to enjoy your breakfast. In the heat of mid-May we opted for the shaded dining room, but if you prefer you can head to the courtyard or soak up some sunshine on the roof terrace as you tuck into a spread of pastries, fresh pancakes, fruit and yoghurt.

    Order ahead and you can also enjoy a leisurely lunch or dinner. We loved the mouth-wateringly fresh tagines from chef Karima so much that we invited her to share a recipe on the blog! They’re made with market-sourced produce and served alongside restorative mint tea and rather good Moroccan wine.

    Dar Zaman

    Author’s tip: We suggest you take up the hotel’s offer of borrowing a Moroccan mobile phone so that you can easily call them if you get lost. It’s free, and comes pre-charged with credit and useful numbers. They can talk you back or come and collect you – one guest said that the ride to the riad on the back of Hassan’s motorbike was the highlight of their stay!

    Dar Zaman

    i-escape gift: 3-course arrival dinner for a minimum stay of 3 nights (applies to Best Flexible Rate only)

    Customer review: “Felt like a home away from home. The staff were so helpful and they really went that extra mile. I would definitely stay here again if I return.”
    Peter, United Kingdom (26.05.15)

    Read the full review  

    Posted in Escape of the Week. Tagged , ,
JUN26

Just Back From… Cumbria and Yorkshire (With the Kid!)

 
  • Augill CastleStir together some breathtaking scenery, lots of sheep, a mixed bag of weather (hail! rain! sunshine!) and a couple of fabulous i-escape hideaways, and you’ve got the recipe for Marketing Assistant Anna’s last-minute family trip to Cumbria and the Yorkshire Dales.

    With the car filled with enough snacks, books and toys to keep a whole pack of one-year-olds occupied, my husband Anthony, son Finn and I embarked on the (surprisingly pain-free) journey from Bristol to Augill Castle, a family-friendly B&B housed in a folly castle in Cumbria’s tranquil Eden Valley.

    We stayed in Appleby, a huge room with rich red walls at the end of a long, photo-lined corridor. The décor is perfectly in keeping with the building (no chintz here!) but the fittings are modern – we loved our drenching rainshower, which poured down over a four-poster tub.

    Waiting for us in the room was a whole host of useful goodies for Finn – a travel cot with sheets and blankets, disposable changing mats, a nappy bin, baby bubble bath and some books, all topped off with a friendly teddy bear and some crunchy homemade biscuits.

    Augill Castle, Appleby bathroomAugill Castle

    Finn loved his early tea of scrambled eggs and soldiers, eaten at the head of the long oak dining table like a mini king. And that tricky pre-bedtime hour was easily filled by exploring the boxes of toys and bulging dressing-up chest in the library. There’s even a handy communal kitchen for storing and heating up bedtime milk.

    Augill Castle

    Come evening, baby monitor in hand, Ant and I had a delicious meal à deux in the grand blue-and-gold-ceilinged dining room, followed by one of owner Wendy’s wonderful concoctions in the Great British Bar (the Lemon Bon Bon made with toffee vodka got the thumbs up from us). We really enjoyed having a romantic ‘night out’ in the knowledge that Finn was safely tucked up in bed upstairs.

    Augill Castle is perfectly positioned for exploring: the Yorkshire Dales are a 10-minute drive south and the Lake District just 30 minutes to the west. We filled up at breakfast before heading out: Brougham Hall smoked salmon with scrambled eggs for me, a Full English for Ant, and cereal and a homemade banana muffin for the little one.

    Derwent Water

    There are many buggy-friendly pathways and walks around the Lakes, so you don’t have to be confined to the towns. We made the most of those jaw-dropping views by going on a few easy strolls and picnicking by the shores.

    6

    Our next stop was Natural Retreats near Richmond. Any worries slipped away as we swept down into the hidden green valley to our glass-fronted lodge, where we could hear nothing but birdsong. We were greeted with a welcome hamper filled with goodies, including bread and jam, milk and eggs, wine, and biscuits from the local grocery store.

    Natural Retreats Yorkshire Dales Natural Retreats Yorkshire Dales

    Finn loved standing at the floor-to-ceiling windows to watch the rabbits playing outside and the ducks swimming in our very own pond. We also found a great toy-filled playroom up the track at The Sanctuary for rainy days and tiring out little legs. We really appreciated having our own space (3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and a big open-plan living area), enjoying long lazy dinners after baby bedtime, and catching a few early summer rays on the deckchairs outside.

    The Yorkshire Dales are right on the doorstep and are rich for exploring. We had a list of activities long enough to fill 3 holidays and tried to squeeze as much as possible into 4 days, starting with Richmond. It’s built up around a Norman fortress, and it’s easy to spend a few hours exploring this pretty little town and pretending you’re the king of the castle as you survey the tower-top views. We also picked up local foodie treats at the market and wandered down to the falls beneath.

    Richmond Castle

    Wherever possible we opted for the scenic routes on our days out and picked our way along winding lanes flanked by sheep-filled fields. We spotted the majestic Ribblehead Viaduct from the road, emerging from a backdrop of moody grey clouds. And we escaped the car for a walk along the (buggy-friendly) pathway from Malham village to the very impressive Malham Cove – a huge limestone cliff topped by a large stretch of limestone pavement.

    Ribblehead Viaduct Malham Cove

    When the sun popped through the clouds we drove the 90 minutes to Whitby on the east coast for a day of sea, sand and fish and chips. We loved exploring the alleys and peeking into boutiques, before shedding our shoes and socks for a toddle on the beach. A quick glimpse of the gothic Abbey standing moodily on the hilltop above the town was enough to help us see why Bram Stoker was inspired to feature it in his novel ‘Dracula’.

    12 Whitby Abbey

    The lovely Retreat Manager Amanda recommended a local farm for a child-pleasing day trip and she got it spot-on – Big Sheep Little Cow Farm in nearby Bedale was great! It has a soft play area centred around a giant slide, ride-on tractors and pedal go-karts and, best of all, a farm tour. We got to hold or stroke loads of small animals (mice, rabbits, a friendly tortoise), brush the biggest, hairiest pig I have ever seen, and bottle-feed hungry lambs. There’s also a café serving good coffee, cake and light lunches, so you could easily spend a few hours there while the kids play.

    14

    Still on the list to visit? Bolton Abbey, Jervaulx Abbey (apparently good for picnics!) and a trip on the North York Moors Steam Railway – but they’ll have to wait until next time.

    Posted in Family Travel, Kids, Our Trips.... Tagged , ,
JUN24

Easy Escapes for July

 
  • Think it’s too late to book a fabulous European summer break? Well, not so fast. We’ve found a clutch of gorgeous rural boltholes that still have availability, as well as some bargain flights to get you there!

    No need to thank us; all you have to do is book*. Secure your accommodation through i-escape, then follow our recommendations for travel, and voila! It’s time to start packing.

    Casa Migdia, Spain – £307.56 per person (4 nights, 4-8 July)

    Casa Migdia - i-escape.comIn need of an extended Spanish siesta? Catalonia is perfect for a long weekend: cycle around medieval villages, stop for picnics in flower-filled fields, spend the odd day at the seaside, or just indulge in books, cards and all-out relaxation.

    Casa Migdia - i-escape.comStay: at hippy deluxe guesthouse Casa Migdia in the quiet village of Sant Jordi Desvalls. A 4-night accommodation-only stay in room 218 comes to just £122 per person.

    Fly: from Bournemouth to Girona with Ryanair for £166 per person, departing Saturday 4 July and returning Wednesday 8 July.

    From the airport: Car hire through Rhino starts from £39.12.

    Total cost: £307.56 per person, including taxes.

    More info: getting to Catalonia and other accommodation options

    Lake Loft, France – £805.80 per person (7 nights, 13-20 July)

    Lake Loft - i-escape.comEndless sandy beaches, world-class surf breaks, shady forests – the Landes region of southwest France has everything you need to forget the daily grind. Plus you’re just a short drive from the Belle Epoque beach bling of Biarritz.

    Lake Loft - i-escape.comStay: at Lake Loft, an intimate designer B&B with a decked pool and concierge-level service, tucked between the Atlantic dunes and pine forests. Take advantage of their 7-nights-for-6 offer and get a week-long B&B stay in Room 420 or 430 for £647 per person.

    Fly: from London Stansted to Bordeaux with Ryanair for £71 per person, departing Monday 13 July and returning Monday 20 July.

    From the airport: Car hire through Rhino starts from £175.59.

    Total cost: £805.80

    More info: getting to Gascony and other accommodation options

    Borgo San Marco, Italy – £1002.77 per person (10 nights, 6-16 July)

    Borgo San Marco - i-escape.comPuglia (the heel of Italy) has, until recently, been overlooked by most visitors to the country – but its wealth of history, endless groves of chunky olive trees and distinct trulli buildings make it well worth exploring.

    Borgo San Marco - i-escape.comStay: near the sea at 15th-century Borgo San Marco, an easy-going farmhouse hotel offering a warm welcome amid the olive groves. A 10-night B&B stay in a Standard Room comes to £719 per person.

    Fly: from London Stansted to Bari with Ryanair for £195 per person, departing Monday 6 July and returning Thursday 16 July.

    From the airport: Car hire through Rhino starts from £177.53.

    Total cost: £1002.77 per person.

    More info: getting to Puglia and other accommodation options

    *Please note that only the accommodation may be booked through i-escape.com. The information on travel is provided as a service to you, and must be booked through other websites, as indicated. All prices and availability are correct at the time of publishing. The per person prices are based on 2 people in a double/twin room or an apartment for 2. Published on 24 June 2015.

    Posted in Easy Escapes. Tagged , , , , , , ,
JUN22

Family Escape of the Month… Alegria

 
  • The setting of this pretty Provençal retreat is idyllic: surrounded by olive trees, on the edge of a charming village with a bustling twice-weekly market. Hammocks swing in the shade and the pool terrace is perfectly positioned for watching the sun rise over the hills as the kids splash about. 

    Alegria ProvenceIt’s blissfully isolated from the touristy coastline but you can still get your beach fix at the nearby Lac de Sainte-Croix, plus added mountain views. Better still, you’re close to the truly amazing Gorge du Verdon – make sure you hire kayaks and paddle in.

    Rooms: The 5 self-catering suites sleep 2-5, all with private garden entrances. Inside, each has a different colour theme, comfy beds are dressed in luxury linens, and are walls adorned with owner Cindy’s art. There are no TVs but there’s Wi-Fi (for emergency cartoons!) and iPod docks. The Deluxe Suites are all big and can sleep up to 4 in a double room with a sofabed and space for a baby cot. The Junior Suite is a little more private and has its own patch of garden. It has a double room and a separate sitting room with a sofabed and space for a rollaway bed. If you’re coming sans kids, opt for the romantic Prestige Suite with its fabulous roof terrace.

    Alegria Provence 2

    Food: Each suite has a kitchen island with a fridge, dishwasher, toaster, Nespresso machine and a kettle – perfect for putting together a family breakfast. There are bakeries and grocery stores close by, and basic ingredients are supplied (soap, bin bags, salt, pepper, sugar and Alegria’s homemade olive oil). You’ll have to go out for other meals, but we didn’t find that a chore as there are great dining options in the surrounding villages. There’s an honesty bar in the pool house with Belgian beers, wine, tea, coffee, chocolate and ice creams.

    Alegria Provence

    Kids' kit Alegria Provence

    Alegria Provence

    Customer review: “Dieter and Cindy were very accommodating – especially with providing for our toddler’s needs. The location is fantastic and the property is well maintained with lovely grounds. They have managed to provide accommodation that allows you a suitable degree of privacy but also gives you the comfort of knowing that the other guests are close by. We highly recommend Alegria and hope to visit again one day.”
    Richard, United Arab Emirates (16.08.14)

    Read the full review and book Alegria >>

    Posted in Family Escape of the Month, Family Travel, Kids. Tagged , , , , , ,
JUN19

Just back from Jaipur and Ranthambhore National Park….

 
  • Six days, 5 trains, 4 safaris, 3 i-escape hotels, 2 tiger sightings and one Royal palace…Our Marketing Manager Sarah lets us in on her unforgettable India adventure.

    Working at i-escape is pretty cool; we personally visit and revisit all our hotels, so we get to go to some incredible places. Personally, I’ve always been totally bananas about India – there’s just so much to see and do, it’s like a whole world wrapped up in one amazing country. I find it utterly fascinating and always leave wanting to come back and see more. So, when I got the opportunity to check out a hot new palace hotel in Jaipur, as well as some old i-escape favourites in Ranthambhore National Park, I couldn’t wait. Here’s a little peek at where we stayed…

    Rajmahal Palace

    Rajmahal Palace

    Rajmahal Palace

    Our first stop was a 18th-century royal palace in the heart of Jaipur. Having recently been exquisitely restored with a fresh, modern twist, it’s tipped to be the hot new place to stay in Rajasthan. Expect serious wow-factor! Pink-turbaned staff greeted us at the grand main entrance, where a vintage Thunderbird (one of only 2 in the world) sat parked under the porch. Inside we found a dizzying array of rooms to explore, including a polo bar studded with trophies won by Maharajas and the prettiest all-pink dining room we’d ever seen.

    Rajmahal Palace

    We stayed in The Kennedy Suite, a palatial turquoise and hot-pink space accessed via a grand marble staircase and through tall mirrored glass doors. Jackie O stayed in this very room for 3 months during her visit to Rajasthan in 1962. We adored it. Spacious and private, it would spoil any modern-day Maharani let alone us mere mortals. And the grounds are just as stunning: there’s a beautiful Art Deco pool, lawns, terraces and an organic kitchen garden surrounded by tamarind trees filled with parakeets, bulbuls and kingfishers. We spent a wonderful few days walking in the gardens and relaxing by the pool, drooling over the Thunderbird (him) and flouncing around in our room pretending to be Jackie O (me).

    Rajmahal Palace

    Highs

    – An amazing experience, staying in a real-life palace; wonderful staff soon know you by name
    – Relaxing on comfy cushioned loungers around the Art Deco pool
    – Great food, including High Tea on the lawn; the royal recipe cheese toasts are exceptional

    Lows

    – The rich colour schemes won’t be to everyone’s taste
    – The train station is a few minutes’ walk away so occasional noise filters through to outside areas

    Sher Bagh

    Sher Bagh

    Sher BaghThis was our first stop in Ranthambhore – and the only time we were lucky enough to see tigers during a safari drive! Just outside the national park, the vibe is old-school luxury and interiors hark back to the twenties with lavish campaign-style furniture and surprisingly luxurious bathrooms – there’s even a butler bell next to the bed. I got to have a peek inside the 2 new suites, too. More spacious and indulgent than the Luxury Tents, the Pukka Sahib Suite has an outdoor shower and Jacuzzi whilst the Royal Suite has its own private pool.  Both felt very private and secluded, perfect for honeymooners.

    The food was excellent – I loved the honey- and brandy-laced porridge before the early-morning drives (yum!) and a campfire dinner where staff tied big white bibs onto us for a buffet-style thali served on silver trays. At first we felt a little silly but it was actually a great ice-breaker and soon everyone was chatting away – one of the highlights of our trip.

    Sher Bagh

    Sher Bagh

    Sher Bagh

    Highs

    – The camp managers are utterly charming and there’s a wonderful atmosphere at night: a starry sky, the pathways lit by fire torches and everyone sitting around the campfire
    – Spectacular wildlife: the camp borders the national park and even tigers have been spotted nearby (no guarantees though!)
    Lots of excellent food! And spoiling extras like hot water bottles and blankets for early morning drives

    Lows

    – It’s a bit off the beaten track – the journey may be a bit stressful, but the destination is worth it
    – It’s expensive and the extras can really add up – we spent a small fortune on G&Ts
    – Tiger safaris need to be booked at least 6-8 weeks in advance and there’s always the risk you won’t see tigers, but the odds are better than they’ve been in years

    Khem Villas

    Khem villas

    Just next door to Sher Bagh, Khem Villas is a real treat. It offers a more pared-down kind of luxury that concentrates on its eco-credentials, lush gardens and incredible natural surroundings. We stayed in one of the Luxury Cottages (there are also tents) and loved hanging out on our private porch watching birdlife by day and stargazing by night. Wherever you stay, I highly recommend taking a walk with Khem Villa’s knowledgeable resident naturalist, Mittal. She has an extraordinary ability to spot birds and critters that you would otherwise walk straight past. We saw heaps of birds, deer, peacocks and monkeys, and there are even a few resident crocs!

    Khem villas

    Meals are all vegetarian and, whenever possible, home-grown in the enormous vegetable garden. There’s also home-baked bread and even the cows are fed organic to make their milk extra tasty! After dinner drinks are taken around the camp fire so you can swap safari stories with other guests and have a chat with Khem’s inspirational owners Goverdhan and Usha.

    Khem villas

    Highs

    – A warm welcome: big smiles, chilled face towels and sweet lime juice instantly revive you
    – Little indulgences: a cooling plunge pool, a small spa offering relaxing massages and fun evening drinks around the campfire
    – An ethical lodge: the owners have set up a local hospital and school, introduced animal husbandry, and only employ local staff

    Lows

    – There’s not a lot of light in the bedrooms at night and tents lack air-conditioning
    – A bit off the beaten track – although you can arrive by train and get collected from the station, the journey is a bit stressful

    Khem villas Khem villas

    Take a look at our full Jaipur or Ranthambhore National Park collection 

    Posted in Our Trips.... Tagged , , , , ,
JUN17

NEW Italian city breaks

 
  • Those in search of la dolce vita have plenty of chic new boltholes to choose from thanks to our expanding collection of Italian city breaks. The new additions encompass all tastes, including stylishly kitsch apartments near the Trevi Fountain, a classy design hotel in central Milan, a seafront stay in Naples, and an elegant 16th-century guesthouse in the lesser-known city of Lecce (Puglia). And B&B prices starting from £65 per room per night prove that a cool urban escape needn’t break the bank.

    Rome

    We’ve added 2 super-stylish boltholes in the heart of the Eternal City:

    PiazzadiSpagna 9 (opened 2014)

    PiazzadiSpagna 9 PiazzadiSpagna 9

    Occupying the third floor of a 15th-century palazzo, just around the corner from the Spanish Steps, this avant-garde hotel has been given a gallery feel by interior-designer owner Stefania Grippo. The polished white walls are a canvas for vibrant modern paintings, and the 6 gorgeous bedrooms have high ceilings plus accessories from high-end Italian fashion houses. There’s a small spa with a Turkish steam tub, and you can get under the city’s skin through tailored tours, including ‘Underground Rome’, ‘Rome by Night’ and a ‘Food Tasting & Cooking Class’.
    From £151 per room per night, based on 2 sharing a Deluxe Room on a B&B basis.

    CasaCau (opened 2013)

    CasaCau CasaCau

    CasaCau’s quirky-cool apartments for 2-4 sit a stone’s throw from the Trevi Fountain, and are filled with retro-chic furniture, contemporary artwork and heaps of original features. Free breakfast goodies are left at your door each morning, and a local chef can prepare and deliver meals. It’s the perfect bohemian home-away-from-home, and the owners will divulge all kinds of insider tips, from under-the-radar restaurants to the hottest new boutiques.
    From £197 per apartment per night, based on 2 sharing a Studio Apartment on a B&B basis.

    Naples

    Naples has cleaned up its act, with a revamped seafront, metro art installations and a vibrant cultural and culinary scene. It’s no longer just the gateway to the Amalfi Coast but a worthy destination in its own right.

    Attico Partenopeo

    Attico Partenopeo Attico Partenopeo

    Set just off Naples’ main shopping street, this great-value B&B sits high above the city bustle. The 8 rooms make fuss-free bases for exploring, and there’s a sun-soaked roof terrace with views of the hilltop Castel Sant’Elmo. The décor throughout is sleek and simple, with breezy blues and whites offset by eye-catching prints – ideal for anyone seeking affordable style in a super-central location.
    From £65 per room per night, based on 2 sharing a Standard Room on a B&B basis.

    Partenope Relais (opened 2013)

    Partenope Relais Partenope Relais

    This glamorous cinema-themed hotel has an enviable location on the pedestrianised seafront, with spectacular views over the Bay of Naples. The 22 contemporary rooms are each dedicated to a different movie star, and many have water-facing balconies. The restaurant’s tables spill out onto the promenade, with a menu of delicacies such as lobster spaghetti.
    From £88 per room per night, based on 2 sharing a Comfort Room on a B&B basis.

    Lecce

    Baroque Lecce is perfect for those looking for something a little different. Set in Puglia (the heel of the Italian boot), it’s full of mesmerising architecture and sits within easy reach of the coast and the area’s famous trulli settlements. New easyJet flights from Gatwick to nearby Brindisi mean it’s more accessible than ever:

    Mantatelure (opened 2013)

    Mantatelure Mantatelure

    This boutique guesthouse occupies a restored 16th-century mansion and certainly lives up to its noble name (Mantatelure means ‘Kings Mantle’ in local dialect). The 6 enchanting rooms and 2 apartments sit around an idyllic shaded courtyard, and there are luxurious touches throughout (homemade cakes, handmade welcome chocolates, rain showers). It’s a haven of calm yet it’s only 300m from the magnificent Basilica Santa Croce, so you can explore the city before returning for a glass of Prosecco in the outdoor hot tub.
    From £77 per room per night, based on 2 sharing a Deluxe Room on a B&B basis.

    Milan

    This year Italy’s style capital is playing host to the world-renowned Expo, and the theme for 2015 is food. With cooking demos and tastings taking place across the city, it’s the ideal destination for foodies and fashionistas.

    Palazzo Segreti

    Palazzo Segreti Palazzo Segreti

    This hip design hotel is tucked away on a quiet side street in the heart of the city. Its 18 super-sleek rooms have dramatic interiors (concrete walls, designer furniture, wooden floors), plus clever lighting that changes the ambiance from minimalist to cosy. La Scala, the Duomo and fantastic boutiques are close at hand, and there’s a sophisticated bar for evening cocktails once you’ve finished shopping and sightseeing.
    From £131 per room per night, based on 2 sharing a Standard Room on a B&B basis.

    Take a look at the rest of our Italy collection >>

    Posted in City Breaks, Our Favourite.... Tagged , , , ,
JUN15

Escape of the Week… Stow House

 
  • Stow HouseSitting down to a deliciously fruity strawberry daiquiri on a hot-pink armchair below a giant papier-mâché hare, we realised this wasn’t just any old B&B… Stow House sits at the end of a stone village in the heart of the beautiful Yorkshire Dales, where rolling green hills stretch as far as the eye can see and waterfalls tumble and bubble over limestone steps.  

    Brilliant hosts Sarah and Phil left their creative careers in London to buy Stow House and have completely transformed it from its previous incarnation as a guest house: they knocked down walls, exposed beams and added a carefully selected mix of antiques, art and modern photography.

    Rooms: Each of the 6 lovely rooms is named after the art that adorns its walls. You can expect huge beds with cloud-like duvets and quirky cushions, antique furniture, huge rainshowers (and maybe a gorgeous freestanding tub), robes and aromatic Neal’s Yard toiletries. We stayed in Love Birds, a first-floor room with a giant bed and a red chaise-longue which we elegantly draped ourselves over! The best tub-with-a-view was in Badger – you gaze out of the window at sheep bleating in the fields. Light-filled loft room Cowboy Balance was our favourite, with its cool blue-grey walls and in-room bathtub.

    Stow House

    Food: Breakfast is served from 9-10am at wooden tables in the bright breakfast room. A table is laid out with juices, cereals, homemade granola, fresh fruit and yoghurt so you can help yourself while you choose which cooked items to have. Phil will rustle up eggs on homemade toast, tomato, mushrooms, black pudding, crispy bacon and seriously tasty sausages or any combo you desire. Tea and coffee are freshly brewed.

    Stow House

    Author’s tip: If you want a giggle, take a look in the right ear of the giant papier-mâché hare in the guest lounge…

    Stow House

    Stow House

    i-escape gift: a bottle of Prosecco during your stay

    Read the full review and book Stow House >>

    Posted in Escape of the Week. Tagged , , ,
JUN12

Family-friendly stays with summer availability

 
  • If you’ve not yet joined the smug ranks of those who have their summer sorted, and are starting to panic that the holiday ship may have sailed without you, fear not. Editor Nadine has found a whole range of hotels and rentals from the Kids Collection, which still have decent availability for families in the school holidays. But get a wriggle on and book before they fill up completely! 

    Le Castel, Normandy, France

    Le Castel

    With space in spades both inside and out, and a relaxed house-party attitude, you’ll love holidaying at this Normandy chateau set in 4 acres of idyllic countryside. All rooms are 2-bedroom suites, there are family BBQs on Saturdays, and kids’ meals are served at 5pm daily.

    Le Castel

    Book it: suites available all July

    Med-Inn, Bodrum Peninsula, Turkey

    Med-Inn

    A tranquil boutique hotel with restaurant, bar and a private beach, just 10 minutes from the airport. And lovely friendly staff. And a kids’ menu in the seafood restaurant. And an abundance of sun loungers for parents… What are you waiting for?

    Med-Inn

    Book it: rooms available all summer bar the second week in August

    Castello di Tornano, Chianti, Italy

    Castello di Tornano

    This fairytale Tuscan castle is set atop romantic wooded hills, has a long history (a former owner had a pivotal role in developing the Chianti blend), yummy restaurant and lovely gardens in its huge estate, yet is refreshingly unpretentious; you and your family will feel instantly at home.

    Castello di Tornano

    Book it: 2-bedroom family apartments with kitchenettes available through most of July and August

    Merlin Farm Eco-Cottages, Cornwall, UK

    Merlin farm Eco Cottages

    For a tranquil great-value escape in the countryside, just a short stroll from a sandy beach, you’d be hard-pressed to top this trio of cottages (+ barn conversion). The stylish renovation includes double-height windows for superb valley views, well-equipped open-plan kitchens, and luxe details such as underfloor heating and REN toiletries.

    Merlin farm

    Book it: availability from mid-August onwards

    Casas do Coro, Portugal

    Casas do Coro

    You’re well off the beaten track, close to the Spanish border, in these self-catering cottages crafted from an ancient hilltop village. Yet the welcome is warm, the organic home-cooked food in the restaurant is superb, and the shared pool provides a great communal focus for families.

    Casas do Coro

    Book it: space all summer

    Levendis Estate, Ionian Islands, Greece

    Levendis Estate

    Hole up here for a week or 2 and cares will melt away. You’ve a stunning infinity pool to float in, breath-taking views from your verandah and peace of mind as the estate is gated. The cafe’s produce is home-grown, organic and delicious, and oodles of space because there are just 4 cottages.

    Levendis

    Book it: 20% exclusive i-escape discount on 2-week stays in July and August; rates include car hire per cottage, private return transfers, first breakfast and maid service

    Chalet Cannelle, Alps, France

    Chalet Cannelle

    Families don’t think of the Alps as a summer destination, which means they’re missing out! Prices plummet, the views remain stupendous, and there are heaps of outdoorsy activities to try. We love this gorgeous 5-room chalet which operates as a B&B in the summer season: it has great home-cooking, wonderful hosts, a games room, and safe gardens.

    chalet cannelle

    Book it: space all summer, including for whole chalet bookings

    Almyra, Paphos, Cyprus

    Almyra

    For lovers of a one-stop-shop (multiple fine restaurants, a choice of pools, superb Kids Clubs for all age ranges and a wealth of family-friendly facilities, stellar service, comfy luxe accommodation), this design hotel delivers in style. A great holiday for the whole family, guaranteed.

    Almyra

    Book it: space all summer

    Soncna Hisa, Prlekija, Slovenia

    Sonca Hisa

    Set in tranquil countryside 2 hours east of Ljubljana, with parental pampering provided by the gorgeous sauna, Jacuzzi and massage menu – as well as the attentive charming staff who can’t do enough for you and your children – this beautiful contemporary hotel is a real find. Light-filled interiors, modern art, sumptuous and cleverly comfortable rooms; we found it charming.

    Soncna Hisa

    Book it: reduced rates exclusively for i-escape guests all summer

    Culloden Cove, near Whitehouse, Jamaica

    Culloden Cove

    This dreamy staffed villa won our Best Newcomer Kids Collection Award in 2014 for its gorgeous grounds that give onto turquoise seas, its infinity pool, baskets of toys, airy interiors, and a separate cottage in the ground which is ideal for grandparents or teenagers.

    Culloden

    Book it: available until 18 July, and again from 26 August

    Our full collection of family-friendly hotels with summer availability >>

    Posted in Kids, Top 10. Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
JUN10

Spotlight on… Cyprus

 
  • With stunning seas and 300 days of glorious sunshine a year, Cyprus is our hot tip for early and late-summer sun.

    CyprusWhy go?

    As the third biggest island in the Med, Cyprus appeals on many levels. There are charmingly sleepy stone villages, picturesque terraced hillsides, the lofty, forested Troodos Mountains (great for keen hikers), and some of the warmest and clearest seas in the Med. Being so close to the Turkish coast, its balmy summers last well into October and availability stays good at many of our boutique gems.

    Highlights

    A former British colony, with Middle-Eastern and Ottoman influences, Cyprus is divided into 2 parts: the Greek-speaking south, which is more accessible and developed (this is the region we cover), and the smaller Turkish-speaking north, which we recommend for day trips.

    For a peaceful getaway, head inland to the undulating, vine-rich foothills of the Troodos Mountains. Apokryfo (meaning ‘hidden’) is our favourite Cyprus guesthouse, sitting halfway between the pine-forested summits of Chionistra and the buzzy coastal town of Limassol, in the pretty village of Lofou. We whiled away our days by the turquoise, herb-lined pool, feasting on the most delicious mezzes of our trip. Wine lovers can head to the nearby Ayia Mavri winery, where great Muscadet can be sourced.

    Up past the mountain town of Platres (where colonial Brits had their summer capital), signed trails and mountain-biking tracks lead to hidden waterfalls, graceful Venetian bridges and imposing Orthodox monasteries, such as Trooditissa.

    Down in the working harbour city of Limassol, you’ll find a palm-lined promenade, covered market, medieval castle and a buzzy nightlife in the Carob Mill area. Londa Beach Hotel is the en vogue meeting place for Limassol’s bronzed and beautiful, and a great boutique option for couples who want a beach and city-chic holiday.

    Luxurious Anassa has the most picturesque location on Cyprus, a secluded hillside spilling down to the blue waters of Latsi Bay, where you can snorkel amongst schools of colourful fish. This ultra-luxe 5-star resort has everything you could want from a Med beach holiday: an all-ages kids’ club, an award-winning Thalassotherapy spa, and 4 restaurants.

    Nearby you’ll find hiking trails crossing the rugged, juniper-dotted Akamas peninsula, passing the imposing ruins of a Byzantine monastery. Falcons wheel over sea-washed rocks, lizards scamper through prickly undergrowth, goats stare quizzically down at you from crags, and the millpond sea is broken only by the triangular wake of a passing speedboat.

    Equally tempting is Almyra, an unpretentious design hotel in sunny Paphos. With 4 pools to choose from, lawned grounds to sunbathe in, a small patch of beach to swim or sail from, a superb spa to pummel you into glorious submission, and Asian-Med cuisine served alfresco at low cushioned benches, this is the island’s coolest family hotel. Just look at those Instagram-worthy rooftops!

    When to go

    We’d recommend spring (April-May) or autumn (September-October) – pleasantly warm and not too busy – or March / November if you don’t mind taking a chance with the weather. We stayed in early November and enjoyed 30-degree sunshine for a week.

    Our top tips

    For a great-value family holiday, book a self-catering stay at Modus Vivendi. Set in the sleepy hamlet of Psematismenos, its rustic-chic cottages share a sunny pool framed by tall cypresses, shocking-pink bougainvillea and fragrant rosemary bushes. Families with older children could take both bedrooms at bijou B&B Little Lodge – there’s a small pool, beaches nearby, and friendly English owners to give advice and provide breakfast.

    Fancy grabbing your own slice of Cypriot sun? See our full Cyprus collection.

    Posted in Spotlight on.... Tagged , , , ,
JUN08

Escape of the Week… 1872 River House

 
  • This tall, salmon-pink mansion stands majestically on the banks of the River Douro in the historic Ribeira district of Portugal’s second city. Like a phoenix from the flames, it was born from the remnants of a fire-damaged 19th-century building and is now an 8-room B&B with a gorgeous stained-glass walkway, light rooms and a serene atmosphere.

    1872 River House in Porto

    1872 River House is perfectly positioned in the centre of the action, with sun-filled courtyards to discover, Baroque churches to admire and plenty of Port to taste nearby. What’s more, Porto’s famous antique tram stops right outside, so you can trundle along the river to the coast for some sea air and sunset cocktails. The smiling staff love their city and will happily give you tips on getting the most out of your trip.

    1872 River House in Porto

    Rooms: The 8 beautiful rooms look out over the river or the city rooftops. Those facing the water are a little more expensive, and a couple have balconies; the City View Rooms are slightly smaller but no less lovely. All have original features like wooden shutters and exposed stone walls, plus a clever combination of old and new furniture. The comfy double or twin beds are piled with cushions and have fancy TVs that rise out of a box at their feet.

    1872 River House in Porto1872 River House in Porto

    Food: A lie-in-friendly breakfast is served with a river view between 8.30am and 1pm. We loved the spread of pastries, cheese, fruit and cereals, alongside eggs cooked to order and frothy cappuccinos. No other meals are available, but there are plenty of dining choices nearby, including sushi joints and family-run restaurants.

    Author’s tip: Wander up to São Bento, the city’s main station, which is covered in tiled panels depicting Portuguese history. It’s worth a look even if you’re not taking a train.

    5

    Customer review: “We had a lovely stay at River House Hotel. The staff were lovely and always had a smile on their faces! Thank you.”
    Charlotte, United Kingdom (15.02.15)

    i-escape gift: a free bottle of wine during your stay.

    Read the full review and book 1872 River House >>

    Posted in City Breaks, Escape of the Week. Tagged , , , ,