OCT24

Top 10 Autumn Retreats

 
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald insisted that, ‘life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall,’ and we can’t think of a better excuse to retreat from the fray than a log-fired and woolly-jumpered period of rejuvenation.  To help you escape it all, we’ve picked 10 of our favourite autumnal getaways, perfect for dropping off-grid for a brief burst of hedonistic hibernation.

    The Gunton Arms, near Cromer, Norfolk

    The Gunton Arms

    If you want to see the leafy autumn chorus in all its glory, you’ll have to get rural. This Norfolk pub with rooms is not only suitably secluded, but it also sits beside a glorious 1,000-acre deer park. Inside, the rooms are everything you could want from a cossetting autumn stay: heritage coloured walls with battered leather armchairs, open fires and some impressive art adorning the walls (from Damien Hirst to Gilbert & George). The food is excellent, too – just the thing after a bracing country walk.

    La Vie de Cocagne, Bonnebosq, Normandy, France

    La Vie de Cocagne

    This self-catering gite is a chic and cosy pad for enjoying the slow life. Normandy is a perfect end of year destination for the gastronomically inclined, particularly as the apple harvest – which provides the raw ingredients for Normandy’s famous Calvados – is in full swing. You can also enjoy delicious local scallops, all from the comfort of this romantic barn conversion.

    Mhor 84 Motel, Trossachs National Park, Scotland

    Mhor 84 Motel

    It may be very different from the hideaway luxury of sister hotel Monachyle Mhor, but this roadside incarnation of the Mhor brand still has bags of eclectic charm and a warm welcome. The location couldn’t be better either; being in the heart of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park gives the motel excellent access to hiking, cycling and fishing. However, if all that sounds too demanding, you can always huddle round the woodburners in the bar sampling local whiskies or cask ales with the locals.

    Sint Niklaas B&B, Bruges, Belgium

    Sint Niklaas B&B

    If you don’t feel like heading to the countryside, cities have plenty of festive activities to help you make the most of the year’s turn. Bruges is no exception and if you get bored of boat tours and sampling chocolate, you can also take a trip to the sprawling Christmas markets (from mid-November). That’s if you feel like leaving your spacious room in this cosy 14th-century home-from-home with views of Bruges’ famous bell tower.

    Fattoria Barbialla Nuova, near San Miniato, Tuscany, Italy

    Fattoria Barbialla Nuova

    When it comes to autumn scenes, few top the wildness of boar- and deer-filled woodland in the Tuscan hills. Set over a 500-hectare organic estate, these converted farmhouses offer utter pastoral bliss for couples or families. Autumn is also the time to hunt for prized white truffles against the copper and toffee backdrop of the changing leaves. However, if you’re more inclined to curl up with a book and bottle of Chianti you can always take advantage of the large open fires and comfortable rooms instead.

    The Pig near Bath, Pensford, Somerset

    The Pig near Bath

    Near the beautiful historic city of Bath, this recent addition to The Pig collective is more in line with a silk purse than the aforementioned’s ear. The hotel and its spoiling, locally-sourced restaurant is surrounded by a 30-acre deer park and rolling hills, offering the perfect stomping ground for a crisp autumn walk. It’s the quintessential rural English getaway with wellies by the door and fires crackling in the lounges.

    Quinta do Vallado, near Peso da Régua, Douro Valley, Portugal

    Quinta do Vallado

    Northern Portugal is fantastic at any time of year, but as summer segways into autumn the vineyards and mountains of the Douro Valley really come into their own. The views from this striking hotel are fantastic, conveniently allowing you to soak up the area’s pastoral beauty without straying far from the threshold. However, we’d urge you to get out and borrow some bicycles, or take a tour of the fascinating architect-designed winery, too.

    Dovecote View, Bruton, Somerset

    Dovecote View

    This 17th-century hideaway is exactly what we like in a self-catering rural retreat: considered and cosy interior design, spoiling extras (Bramley toiletries, Prosecco in the fridge), and a delightful historical setting. With pizzeria restaurant At the Chapel just down the road, and the new Hauser & Wirth gallery nearby, this cottage has quickly jumped to the top of our must-revisit list. It’s ideal for 2 couples, so grab a bottle of wine and some friends and hunker down for a fireside game of scrabble.

    Vinohrady Boutique Apartment, Prague, Czech Republic

    Vinohrady Boutique Apartment

    Romantic, steeped in history and full of fantastic markets, Prague is another easy-reach city stay for an end of year jaunt. This boutique apartment is beautifully arranged with traditional furnishings (baroque mirrors, glass chandeliers) that reflect the authentic and utterly charming district it’s located in. We suggest getting lost in the ornate cobbled streets or becoming equally enrapt in a concert of classical music at one of the city’s many ornate churches or halls.

    La Petite Folie, Honfleur, Normandy, France

    La Petite Folie

    This stunning auberge (with B&B and self-catering options) comes into its own as a long weekend autumn retreat. This is owed to it being a manageable hop, skip and jump across the channel, but also thanks to the popular tourist town of Honfleur being considerably quieter during the shoulder seasons. The B&B itself is bright and beautifully designed with spacious, romantic rooms, and it’s within walking distance of various incredible Michelin-starred restaurants.

    Posted in Top 10. Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
OCT22

Spotlight on… the Caribbean

 
  • The Caribbean: that dreamy collection of 7,000 islands and islets located in the dazzling azure sea somewhere between North and South America. With a tremendous array of golden sands, dramatic landscapes, distinctive cultures and water sports to choose from, not to mention fabulously diverse food, you’re sure to discover your perfect island pairing here.

    The Pitons, St. Lucia

    The Pitons, St. Lucia

    Why go?

    Flying overhead, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the specks below were just that. But you’d be wrong. The Caribbean is an assortment of dreamy tropical islands, long considered the ultimate honeymoon destination. But for everything they share, there’s much more that makes them individual. Here we focus on a handful of our favourite islands. The Turks and Caicos are perfect for those after absolute escapism and spoiling luxury, while Jamaica’s strong reggae culture permeates every detail of the island. We also love St. Lucia for its dramatic landscape, birdlife and hiking trails in the Pitons, and St. Kitts and Nevis, which is largely unspoilt by recent tourism and retains its tranquil charm.

    Negril Beach, Jamaica

    Negril Beach, Jamaica

    Highlights

    First up is one of the region’s most famous and popular islands, Jamaica. Located at the centre of the Caribbean Sea, it’s got an impressive selection of beaches (stand outs include Ocho Rios, Negril and Montego), an array of unique and delicious food (salt fish fritters, jerk chicken and rice and peas, to name a few), plus numerous vibrant towns and cities which embrace and celebrate the country’s turbulent history. In fact, we love it so much that we sent our Bookings Consultant Emily to explore for us; look out for her trip insights on the blog soon.

    Dunn Falls, Jamaica

    Dunn Falls, Jamaica

    Here, our places to stay are as diverse as the landscape – choose from a former recording studio, a clifftop bolthole or a mountainside retreat. For a home from home, opt for colourful (and staffed) Culloden Cove, a gorgeous villa hidden away on Jamaica’s southeast coast.

    Culloden Cove

    Culloden Cove

    For utter escapism, head to Turks and Caicos, a collection of 8 large islands (the Turks) and 40 smaller cays (the Caicos) which are mostly uninhabited. There’s not much to do other than laze on the beach, stroll along the unspoilt sands, and, occasionally, celebrity spot – Bruce Willis, Keith Richards and Donna Karen have all been seen enjoying the Caribbean sun here! In fact, the place they’ve been sighted is the exclusive Parrot Cay by COMO island resort – the place to stay in the archipelago.

    Manatees

    Manatees

    Set on its own 1000-acre island paradise, Parrot Cay offers minimalist design, exceptional (and healthy) Caribbean inspired dishes, and outstanding service. Head to the spoiling spa, where the most difficult decision you’ll have to make is which massage to pick – deep-tissue, Thai, Indian, Shiatsu? Or try something more exotic like the ‘Shirodhara’ treatment, where a stream of warm oil is poured onto your forehead.

    Parrot Cay by COMO, Turks and Caicos

    Parrot Cay by COMO, Turks and Caicos

    If you’d rather be more active, take to the water. The beautifully clear sea has placed Turks and Caicos in the world’s top 10 dive spots: divers and snorkelers have reported seeing shoals of colourful fish, turtles, seahorses, dolphins, manatees, rays, whale sharks and even humpback whales. There’s an excellent dive school on Providenciales whose instructors will collect you from the resort, guide dives and teach PADI courses. You can also go windsurfing, snorkelling, sea kayaking or island hopping.

    Scuba diving

    Scuba diving

    As you fly into St. Lucia, the thing that strikes you is the Pitons, iconic twin volcanic peaks that jut from the flat ocean. So it’s no surprise that the island is famous for its dramatic scenery – lush and exotic, with spectacular rolling hills, tropical rainforests, and acres of banana, coconut and spice plantations. Sure, you can find a gorgeous beach to laze on, but next to it will be amazing trekking opportunities. The Gros Piton is the easiest to climb and has its own welcome centre describing the local geography, while scaling the Petit Piton rewards you with better views. Discover multi-coloured birds in the Pigeon Island National Park (joined to the mainland by a bridge), take a dip in the sulphur springs, and go from café to café in the bustling capital, Soufriere, trying fresh fish curries, spicy soups and breadfruit.

    Soufriere, St. Lucia

    Soufriere, St. Lucia

    Stay in Anse Chastanet, one of the first hotels to be built on the island: you get beach, you get one of the best dive sites in the region, and you get perfect views of the Pitons, plus you’re still within walking distance of Soufriere. Alternatively, see our other stunning boutique offerings.

    Anse Chastanet, St. Lucia

    Anse Chastanet, St. Lucia

    Finally, we come to St. Kitts and Nevis: sleepy, laidback and largely unspoilt. The larger of the 2 islands, St. Kitts, has a strikingly varied terrain ranging from volcanic peaks covered with lush tropical forest and rolling sugar cane fields to the arid, southeast peninsula with its sandy coves. Smaller Nevis is mostly dominated by a forest-covered volcano, and its best beach is Pinney’s (on the west coast); a beautiful 4-mile stretch of golden sand lined with groves of coconut palms.

    Nevis

    Nevis

    Unique to the islands are the historic plantation houses, many of which have been elegantly restored to create some of the most atmospheric hotels in the Caribbean. Montpelier Plantation & Beach is set on the slopes of Mt. Nevis, 750ft above sea level in a 60-acre estate; it’s famed for hosting the wedding of Horatio Nelson to Fanny Nisbet in 1787! A little further north, a clutch of pretty ginger-bread cottages form Hermitage Plantation Inn; on offer are exceptional meals (accompanied by rum cocktails, of course) served on the candlelit veranda, plus hammocks for afternoon naps, and tropical gardens to wander in.

    Beach, St. Kitts and Nevis

    Montpelier Plantation & Beach, St. Kitts and Nevis

    When to go

    The best (and thus most expensive) time to visit the Caribbean is from December to April when it’s dry, hot by day and cool by night. April and May tend to be much stickier and can feature sudden torrential downpours, while June-October is the official hurricane season; there’s no cause for panic, however, as satellite forecasts give enough warning that precautions can be taken.

    Anse Cochon Beach, St. Lucia

    Anse Cochon Beach, St. Lucia

    Our top tip

    The Caribbean is such a diverse region that it’s hard to come up with a singular tip. The best we can do is to recommend you try the rum from Nevis, drink the coffee from the Jamaican Blue Mountains, and dine out whenever and wherever you can!

    View over the Blue Mountains, Jamaica

    View over the Blue Mountains, Jamaica

    See our destination guide for more information on the Caribbean.

    Posted in Spotlight on.... Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,
OCT20

Family Escape of the Month… Jaci’s Safari Lodges

 
  • To call Jaci’s Safari Lodges ‘family-friendly’ would be an understatement. Not only do the lodges have free babysitters and child-friendly menus, but they also have a number of activities with kids in mind. This includes their famous ‘bumbles’ game, perfect for little explorers.

    Jaci's Safari Lodges

    It’s amongst the most child-friendly lodges in South Africa and a fantastic place to give kiddies their first experience of safaris. That said, it’s not all about the kids – the outstanding views and abundant wildlife will appeal to all the family.

    Jaci's Safari Lodges

    Rooms: The 18 rooms are split between 2 Lodges: the Tree Lodge, which is made up of stilted treehouses, and the Safari Lodge made up of canvas and thatch rooms. The spoiling accommodation compromises a mixture of Twin Rooms (which can be made up as doubles) and King Rooms. There is also the option of the large and beautifully designed Safari or Nare Suites. These both have private pools as well as kitchenettes and large private outdoor  areas.

    A host of little details reflect owner Jaci’s desire to get everything ‘just right’: a welcoming bottle of bubbly, handmade soaps and other natural beauty products, bathrobes embroidered with the lodges’ snail logo, fabulous kudu-skin rugs, loads of brightly coloured silk cushions and bolsters, quirky lamps, wildlife magazines and birding checklists. We loved the planked floors and beautiful stick-lined walls and screens of the Tree Lodge, but both lodges are generous on space and share the same colourful, funky decoration and sweeping views of the river.

    Jaci's Safari Lodges

    Food: Unlike many other safari lodges, the food is a real highlight of any stay at Jaci’s – they even have a recipe book on offer! Importantly, children aren’t left out of the culinary proceedings: chefs will ask what your kids like and make sure to cater the menu for them. Dinners are also prepared at a kraal-fenced boma (enclosure), in a clearing by the river, or occasionally out in the reserve. These evenings are simply magical, with a central fire and oil lamps sending shadows flickering across the surrounding forest. Several different pooitjes bubble away on the braai and you’ll be treated to a pre-dinner snack of Jaci’s chilli and garlic dip, served with freshly baked phaphata bread.

    In comparison, lunches are kept light, as is the initial breakfast served at 6am before the morning game drive. The second breakfast, laid up for your return, is a little heartier. Jaci’s homemade muesli, served in a high glass with natural yoghurt and topped with honey, is a meal in itself, but you’ll probably be tempted to dip into the extensive cold buffet or choose any variant of a full cooked breakfast.

    Jaci's Safari Lodges

    Kids’ activities: Jaci’s is famous for its array of kids’ activities, including their bush ‘bumbles’ game, invented with kids in mind. The Lodges offer superb game watching for all ages and family game drives are available in the morning and evening (for those aged 5+). There are also 45-minute jungle drives for those aged 4 and under. At the lodges there are pools and wildlife hides.

    Jaci's Safari Lodges

    Baby equipment: Baby cots can be provided and child-minding is available on request during the morning and afternoon game drives and dinner.

    Read the full review and book  >>

    Posted in Family Escape of the Month, Kids. Tagged , , , , ,
OCT17

1,500 hotels: the i-escape team pick their favourites

 
  • First we took a trip down i-escape’s memory lane, then we heard from some i-escape fans as well as our directors. Now, last but not least, in celebration of reaching 1,500 hotels, we reveal the i-escape team’s favourite hideaways. After numerous intrepid trips and countless hotel visits (it’s a tough job) we’ve helped put together the bread and butter of the i-escape collection. These are the places that have stuck with us…

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    SARAH BREAUX, Bookings Consultant

    Hotel De las Letras is bang in the centre of my second home, Madrid. I love it for the colourful, classy rooms, great location, and excellent food. The newly opened El Trapo restaurant is run by Paco Morales, trained under 3-starred Michelin chef Ferran Adrià, who dishes up surprising twists on Spanish cuisine. There is also an open-air rooftop bar that is perfect for relaxing after a long day out. If it’s cold or rainy you can chill out on the plush white sofas in the lounge or basement library. For an especially luxurious getaway, I recommend a Duplex Suite or Deluxe Terrace Room, all of which have private sun terraces and Jacuzzis.”

    MELISSA BURFITT, Acting Assistant Editor

    Douar Samra was the hotel that led me to discover i-escape. I was reading an article on budget travel when the summary of Ian Belcher’s journey to this Moroccan guesthouse caught my attention, “My Marrakech taxi spluttered for over an hour towards the mountains, before I switched to four mule hooves to clomp up the Tamartet valley, and finally two feet to clamber up a dry riverbed.” I followed the link to i-escape’s review and instantly realised I’d found the perfect resource for my travel tastes. A year later I joined the Editorial department, and this summer (3 years later), I finally made it to Douar Samra. Even after all that anticipation, it utterly exceeded my expectations and I can’t wait to return.”

    Melissa at Douar Samra

    BEN FEETHAM, Rates Manager

    “Situated in one of my favourite parts of Cape Town, Tamboerskloof, An African Villa has views of Table Mountain, is surrounded by exceptional restaurants, bars and independent shops, and boasts great rooms and amazing breakfasts. The owners Jimmy and Louis couldn’t be more helpful and are on hand to recommend trips, restaurants and anything else you may need. To top it all off, the owners’ two dachshunds Monty and Taylor add an idiosyncratic quirkiness to the place. I will definitely be staying here again.”

    SARAH DE VERE-DRUMMOND, Marketing Manager

    “It’s got to be Fundu Lagoon, a cluster of Afro-chic beachside bungalows on Pemba Island, off the coast of Zanzibar.  It’s wonderfully remote, and we arrived via speedboat with the wind in our hair and huge grins on our faces that remained there until it was time to leave. There’s nowhere on earth I would rather be than perched on the end of that jetty as the sun sets over the turquoise waters of the Wambaa gulf.”

    Fundu Lagoon

    Fundu Lagoon

    DAISY GELL, Acting Head of Bookings

    Areias do Seixo, in Portugal, is the most beautiful place I’ve ever stayed. The staff are wonderful, the food is fantastic and our room (Três Desejos) looked out across the gardens and the sand dunes that lead to the Atlantic. The icing on the cake has to be the multiple caipirinhas we drank – the best we’ve had anywhere.”

    EMILY MCDONNELL, Editorial Assistant

    “For me it’s probably Le Mas des Oules. It is a real retreat, with gorgeous grounds, an inviting pool, and Provence and Languedoc (two of my favourite French regions) right on the doorstep. A lot of thought had gone into each individual house and apartment and the one off antique pieces really made a difference to the personality of the place. I loved sitting on our terrace with a glass of wine produced 10-minutes away, listening to the relaxing sounds of the countryside.”

    Emily at Le Mas des Oules

    Emily at Le Mas des Oules

    EMILY PREECE, Bookings Consultant

    “I would pick Maison La Minervetta, in Sorrento, Italy. It’s undeniably romantic: the views are breath-taking; the rooms are stylish and spoiling; the breakfast is heavenly and the staff are fantastic.

    I have never been anywhere since that wowed me as much!”

    OLIVIA ALLEN, Assistant Rates Manager

    “I would have to say it’s Villa Guatiza, one of the first i-escape properties I was lucky enough to visit. The villa itself is full of personality and one-off pieces from all over the world, and the heated pool and sun terrace are the perfect place to relax and soak up the sun. The thing that stays with me most is the enthusiastic welcome from the owners, John and Stephy, who have poured their souls in to the place and can’t wait to share it with you.”

    Villa Guatiza

    Villa Guatiza

    LYNDON ASHMORE, Marketing Assistant

    “I can be a bit of a country bumpkin so there’s nothing I like more than retreating to some warm hearth in a quaint village surrounded by the unblemished rural landscape. Luckily, Heasley House – a restored Georgian house set in the delightful hamlet Heasley Mill – ticks all of those boxes and more. There was an almost sublime level of peacefulness cradled in this Exmoor valley, something only enhanced by Miles and Mandy, the welcoming hosts. A formidable bar-setter for spoiling rural retreats.”

    ABI DARE, Acting Editor

    Posada Puerto Bemberg has to be one of the most memorable places I’ve ever stayed. Hidden on a nature reserve on the banks of the Paraná River, which separates Argentina from Paraguay, it’s proof that you can experience remote environments such as rainforests without skimping on comfort, and that hotels can be both luxurious and environmentally responsible. We went on guided nature walks in search of monkeys and toucans, took thrilling rides in the hotel’s speedboat and got soaked on a daytrip to the mind-blowing Iguazú Falls, before returning for a dip in the pool, cocktails on the treetop deck and delicious fusion food in the candlelit restaurant. But best of all was waking from our heavenly bed each morning to find the jungle stirring all around us: parakeets squawking in the branches, hummingbirds hovering in the flowers, the sun burning through the dawn mist, and the scent of rich red earth hanging in the air. Magical.”

    Iguazú Falls near Posada Puerto Bemberg

    Iguazú Falls near Posada Puerto Bemberg

    BEN REED, Bookings Consultant

    I completely fell in love with the old medieval city of Fes – and in particular Dar Seffarine - embedded deep within this chaotic labyrinth of a city. My jaw dropped to the floor as I walked in from the plain dusty streets to reveal tall intricately carved columns and mosaic tiling all around. The real high point for me was the absolutely breath taking view of the medina from the rooftop. Situated at the bottom of a gently curving bowl, the city wraps itself around you. It was utterly mesmerising - all consuming, and pictures will never do it justice. Watching the city change colour as the sun sets with the call to prayer all around was something that will stay with me for a long time. The friendliest of staff, the amazing communal meals of lamb tagine & pomegranate salads…I love this place. Pure escapism of the surreal kind. It really is an exceptional find, and to top it all off – an absolute bargain.

    Take a look at what our fans and directors had to say about their favourite i-escape hotels, or take a trip down memory lane to the beginning of the collection.

    Posted in Celebrations, Our Favourite..., Our Trips.... Tagged , , , ,
OCT15

1,500 hotels: i-escape’s directors pick their favourites

 
  • In celebration of us reaching 1,500 hotels, we recently heard from some of our fans about why they love i-escape, but now it’s time to hear from the people who were here at the beginning. We asked our enviably well-travelled i-escape founders and directors all about their favourite trips and travel tips. Here’s what they had to say…

    Laila2LAILA RAM, Founding Director, Strategy and Finance

    Laila grew up living in Holland, Denmark, Switzerland, India, the UK and US, and has been travelling ever since. She teamed up with Nikki Tinto, one of her best friends and travelling companion on many far-flung trips, to create i-escape.com. Based initially on all the great places they had discovered during their travels, i-escape remains a collection of properties that Laila and Nikki love to visit when they get a chance to escape the office!

    The i-escape hotel that holds a special place in my heart is… Jnane Tamsna, Marrakech. One of the first hotels to join i-escape and the first one that I personally visited. Now, 14 years later, the place is still as stylish and relaxed as ever and it feels like the owners Meryanne and Gary are part of the i-escape family.

    My best i-escape experience was… The Mudhouse, Sri Lanka. Being married to a Sri Lankan, I obviously have a soft spot for the place, but spending Xmas at The Mudhouse, in the country’s ancient heartland, staying in simple open-sided mud huts was probably my most memorable hotel experience ever. Our days were spent swimming in the natural tanks and exploring the local countryside and wildlife. At night, with no electricity, the place became even more enchanting with oil lamps illuminating the pathways and the huts.

    The i-escape hotel I can’t keep away from is… Hotel Omm, Barcelona. I love Barcelona and keep going back to the city for more of its buzz. The rooftop lounge with its pool and views over Gaudi’s La Pedrera is probably the best place in town to watch the sun go down – they make a mean cocktail and their Michelin-starred Moo restaurant is not bad either!

    The destination that surprised me the most was… Iceland. An out-of-this-world experience, you literally feel like you are on another planet with the black volcanic landscape and strange rock formations. We loved the fact that within 30 minutes of landing in Reykjavik, we were relaxing in the Blue Lagoon – another surreal experience!

    The Mudhouse, Sri Lanka

    The Mudhouse, Sri Lanka

    NikkiNIKKI TINTO, Founding Director, Research and Content

    With her love of travel and adventure, a degree in Geography from Exeter University, and a natural thirst for discovering the special and unusual, Nikki has spent her time seeking out some of the world’s most unspoilt locations. She has travelled in over 40 countries, including most of South America where she enjoyed two years painting surreal murals in mountain villages, sampling the local cactus juice, and avoiding piranhas in the Amazon.

    Best ever i-escape hotel experience… Cocoa Island by COMO, Maldives. This ultra-chic resort is impossibly beautiful: long wooden piers sweep over an azure ocean and lead to individual stilted boat rooms. There’s a great spa, too. Expensive, but so worth it.

    The i-escape hotel I can’t keep away from is… Kurland, South Africa. We’ve lost count the number of times we’ve returned. It manages the clever mix of being brilliant for children but also fabulously elegant and with loads to do nearby, from unspoilt beaches to wildlife adventures.

    The best hotel breakfast I’ve ever eaten was at… Babylonstoren, South Africa. Its vast organic kitchen garden produced a colour-coded breakfast feast – their dinners are rather special, too. Unforgettable.

    My ‘insider’s gem’ pick from our collection is… Sea Garden Cottages, Isles of Scilly, UK. Once you’ve been to these islands, you’ll keep coming back. Stylish cottages with every comfort, no cars, and white-sand beaches that look like the Caribbean, but amazingly you’re still in the UK!

    Babylonstoren, South Africa

    Babylonstoren, South Africa

    RMICHAEL CULLEN, Editor in Chief

    Michael has always been a keen linguist, writer and photographer, so to carve out the ultimate niche in travel writing – and then see it take off as a business – is like paying a cat to sunbathe. After joining i-escape at its genesis in 2001, he reviewed and sourced many of the places on this site. In 2011, Michael and his wife and son took a 3-month sabbatical to Thailand, Greece and Germany, and he regularly embarks on international hiking expeditions.

    The i-escape hotel that holds a special place in my heart is… Golden Buddha Beach Resort, Thailand. I had the most relaxing holiday of my life here, flip-flopping between the empty sandy beach, our gorgeous stilted house, the yoga pavilion – and the ‘clubhouse’ if we started to feel sociable (or hungry). With no roads, no mains electricity, and no other resorts or hotels on this remote island, days slip by in stress-free, natural rhythms.

    The i-escape hotel I can’t keep away from is… Elies Hotel, Greece. It combines 3 of my favourite things: mountains, sea and delicious food. It’s also very handy for combining friends and family, as the cottages are separate but you can eat together (and on my way through Athens I can collect my parents!). (Actually I could say the same for Azur Hotel in Turkey.)

    The i-escape hotel I tell all my friends about is… Casa Los Geranios, La Palma. It is a perfect winter sun escape – with great hiking, volcanoes and Atlantic views from the door – and ridiculously good value, too. But I make sure I book my February half-term dates first!

    The destination that surprised me the most was… Le Grotte della Civita, Italy. Huge cave rooms furnished with Philippe Starck bathtubs and lit with flickering church candles – a totally unexpected sight hidden in the cliff walls of the Puglian hilltown of Matera.

    Le Grotte della Civita, Italy

    Le Grotte della Civita, Italy

    NadineNADINE MELLOR, Kids Collection and New Hotels Editor

    Nadine believes that one should say yes to every invitation and possibility of adventure. This has taken her far and wide from Australia to Zimbabwe via Thailand, Vietnam, Rajasthan, Mexico, Turkey, Guatemala, Brazil, Argentina, Myanmar, Western Europe, the British Isles and, most recently, 5+ years in wonderful San Francisco. Nadine is at the front for new hotels joining i-escape and also oversees i-escape’s pioneering Kids Collection – she has 2 little ones of her own and isn’t slowing down on the travel front! 

    My best i-escape experience was… Post Ranch Inn, California. An utterly awesome setting, a wonderfully relaxed ambiance, fabulous food and an incredible spa. I’ll never forget bathing in my hot tub on my deck overlooking the Pacific and watching whales passing below.

    The i-escape hotel I can’t keep away from is… Chambers Hotel, New York. It’s perfectly placed for the sights: just half a block from Fifth Avenue, a block from MoMA and 2 blocks from Central Park. It also has stylish, comfortable rooms and laid-back, funny reception staff. The perfect family base for a trip to the Big Apple.

    The best hotel breakfast I’ve ever eaten was at…  Masseria Prosperi, Puglia. Every morning that dining table groaned under the weight of the very best regional Italian delicacies you could wish for. Coffee was served to precise individual instruction, and then there were home-made cakes, artisan jams, local honey, freshly squeezed juice, regional cheeses…

     My ‘insider’s gem’ pick from our collection is… Chiminos Island Lodge, Guatemala. We were the only guests staying at this jungle hideaway; reached only by boat, it has an unexcavated Mayan archaeological site right beside it and the forest is so pristine that we saw wonderful birdlife and, incredibly, a 5-metre long snake that pushed right by our cabana.

    Post Ranch Inn, California

    Post Ranch Inn, California

    Join us on a trip down memory lane to the beginning of i-escape >>

    Or hear what our fans have to say about their favourite i-escape hotels >>

    Posted in Celebrations, Our Trips..., Travel Tips. Tagged , , , , ,
OCT13

1,500 hotels: our fans pick their favourite

 
  • We, of course, love all of the 1,500 hotels on i-escape. But it would be rude if we did all the talking, so we asked some lovely writers, bloggers, directors and fashionistas to tell us which i-escape hideaway holds a special place in their hearts and why. Covering destinations as far and wide as Scotland and Sri Lanka, the answers came fast and enthusiastically. Here’s what they had to say…

    Maya BoydMAYA BOYD, Editor and Writer

    Maya writes a weekly travel column for Metro and has contributed to titles including Elle, Condé Nast Traveller and The Guardian. She spends over half of the year in Ibiza, where she is Editor-in-Chief of Pacha, Ibiza’s premier lifestyle magazine. She has sailed across the Atlantic twice and dreams of a home on Formentera.

    “Tumbling out of Jodhpur’s seething square and racing through the indigo-hued backstreets by tuk-tuk, it’s hard to imagine that the cacophonous noise and billowing dust will ever abate. Slipping through a stone archway, however, travellers are consumed by silence, overwhelmed by serenity. The RAAS is the kind of sleek, pampered enclave where manicured women enquire discreetly about the provenance of one another’s swimwear while smart chaps in toweling robes quietly close deals over brunch. None of this detracts, however, from the primal beauty of the place – all rough-hewn sandstone and glimmering water, where the only reminder of the outside world is the clarion call of the Muezzin, ringing out across the glassy sky and echoing back off the mighty fortress of Mehrangarh.”

    Raas

    Raas, Jodhpur, India

    Lucy Williams 1LUCY WILLIAMS, Fashion Blogger, fashionmenow.com

    Lucy Williams lives in West London and has been working in fashion for six years. She started out as a fashion assistant at the likes of Sheerluxe.com and InStyle magazine before becoming Assistant Fashion & Beauty Editor for trends and innovation advisory Stylus, Lucy is now a full-time blogger, freelance writer and brand consultant.

    “Arriving at this blissful corner of Goa in the thick of night, after a long and bumpy journey, was like discovering an oasis. Flickering lanterns and our friendly host guided us to The Priests House, our blue and terracotta bolthole nestled in the dunes. The nearby sound of the waves instantly gave us excited butterflies, and the antique four-poster beds, crisp nautical-striped sheets and soothing hum of cicadas had us at hello. We fell for the place immediately, and daybreak couldn’t come soon enough so we could take in this slice of paradise in the bright sunlight.

    “Our four days at The Priests House revolved around lazing on our stretch of near-deserted beach, taking in the picture-perfect sunsets from a hammock, staring up at the stars in the open-air showers until we turned into prunes, and feasting on rich seafood curries and masala omelettes with our bare feet in the sand at the castaway-style restaurant. When I think of the ultimate getaway, my mind always returns to this place.”

    The Priests House

    The Priests House, Goa, India

    Courtney Adamo_profile photoCOURTNEY ADAMO, Founder, Babyccino Kids

    American expat Courtney Adamo originally came to London with her husband; 10 years and four children later, she’s still there and now calls the leafy area of Highgate home. As one of three co-founders of international shopping portal Babyccino Kids, she carefully handpicks and showcases top boutiques catering for babies, tweens and mums, bringing style and inspiration to families around the world.

    “The first time I ever used i-escape, we were planning an upcoming holiday without a specific destination in mind. We used the advanced search feature, entered our details and desired holiday options… and voila! We discovered Muxima in Portugal. It was exactly what we were hoping for: beautiful, peaceful, family-friendly and rustic a hidden gem that we would never have discovered on our own. We had the most amazing family holiday, enjoying sunshine in October and a local beach all to ourselves!”

    Muxima

    Muxima, Algarve, Portugal

    will HideWILL HIDE, Travel Writer

    Will Hide is a London-based travel writer and journalist, originally from Yorkshire. His work has appeared in numerous illustrious titles, from The Sunday Times and The Guardian to Wanderlust and Bentley Magazine. He has also presented TV features on the BBC’s Fast Track programme and the Travel Channel.

    “It’s always a worry. Going back to a favourite hotel, that is. Will service have slipped? Will things just not be as good as that first magical time? Babylonstoren – that’s Tower of Babel in Afrikaans, by the way – has never disappointed me since my first visit. The spa at this former Cape Dutch farm, a 40-minute drive east of Cape Town, is always a delight, but I think the restaurant, Babel, is the absolute highlight, using just-picked, seasonal produce straight from the gardens.

    “Hire a bike and potter round at sunset to soak up the lovely views, or use Babylonstoren as a base from which to explore the winelands towards Paarl, Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. If you can, aim for a one- or two-bedroom cottage, which are centre-spread, glossy-mag stunning. (Funnily enough, the owner used to be editor of Elle Decoration South Africa). Babylonstoren is an amazing base for a few days at the end of a honeymoon or a round-number birthday-treat trip. You’ll come home with fantastic and lasting memories.”

    Babylonstoren

    Babylonstoren, near Paarl, South Africa

    475241969

    ROMILLY MASON, Fashion Editor

    Romilly has worked in the fashion industry for over 10 years, for the likes of POP Magazine, Grazia Russia, Alexander McQueen, Corinne Day, Tank Magazine, Teen Vogue, Fashion Wire Daily, brownsfashion.com, my-wardrobe.com and Avenue32.com, among others.

    “Having met the i-escape team and declaring how excited I was about my upcoming holiday to Sri Lanka but our lack of luck at finding somewhere to stay, they immediately suggested The Frangipani Tree on the south coast. In all honesty, the trip as a whole was the holiday of a lifetime, but what made it so special was undoubtedly our time there. There are too many special things about this hotel to list they’re endless, from the staff to the living quarters. My very favourite memory would be sitting on the private stretch of beach on my favourite tree and watching the wild turtles who came to feed on a daily basis. I think it probably sits up there with one of my happiest experiences.”

    The Frangipani Tree

    The Frangipani Tree, near Galle, Sri Lanka

    Reb Gaunt

    REBECCA GAUNT, Co-Founder & Editor, This is Your Kingdom

    Rebecca is Co-Founder and Editor of This is Your Kingdom, a trusted guide to lovely things to see and do in the UK, compiled by a team of style-savvy contributors and in-the-know locals. After years working in book publishing in London, Rebecca decamped to leafy Winchester where she now lives with her husband and little boy.

    “For us, Monte da Vilarinha in Portugal is holiday perfection  a place hidden away in a valley, where you wake to the sound of cowbells and wind down watching stars appear over the hills; where days are spent exploring quiet beaches and whitewashed villages. Small, intimate and stylish, it offers families the perfect combination of B&B and self-catering. The breakfasts are great, the staff are friendly, and the atmosphere is unfussy and relaxed. It’s the only place where I’ve ever come close to booking next year’s stay before I’ve even left.”

    Monte da Vilarinha

    Beach near Monte da Vilarinha, Algarve, Portugal

    James Wright portraitJAMES WRIGHT, Founder & Creative Director, So It Goes

    James is the Founder and Creative Director of So It Goes magazine, a biannual arts, fashion and culture publication. In past lives, James founded the menswear brand and print publication Fourth & Main, worked in politics (on the Barack Obama 2008 presidential campaign in Virginia and for Iowan Congressman Leonard Boswell in Washington D.C.), and had stints in the NY film industry for producers John Hart, Bob Berney and Hengameh Panahi.

    “Looking back at the various i-escape hotels I’ve stayed in, it’s curious that I ended up singling out Vivenda Dos Palhacos in Goa. Not because it isn’t beautiful – it is. Not because the hosts and staff weren’t warm and accommodating – they were. But because our arrival was preceded by lost bags, and fraught negotiations with airport officials, police, lawyers and everyone in between. To begin with, the majesty of the old, colonial house was totally lost on us, clouded in red mist as we were. Three days later, we still had no bags, but by then it barely mattered anymore. Vivenda Dos Palhacos is a special place that way. It has the service of a luxury hotel and the charm of a family home, and the beautifully appointed rooms, excellent food and friendliness of the owner Charlotte stayed with us long after we’d left. In the maelstrom of deadlines and late-night editing, I still think of Vivenda Dos Palhacos, my happy place.”

    Vivenda dos Palhacos

    Vivenda Dos Palhacos, Goa, India

    Clare HargreavesCLARE HARGREAVES, Travel Writer

    As well as being a regular i-escape reviewer, Clare writes about food. A frequent contributor to BBC Good Food magazine and The Independent, she’s currently writing a book on food history. In Bristol, where she lives, she also runs Feast with a Chef, organising feasts in village halls cooked by top-notch chefs – Clare calls it ‘fine dining without the starch’.

    “My favourite sort of hotel is one that doesn’t feel like a hotel at all, and this chic-but-relaxed farmhouse hidden in Scotland’s Trossachs definitely qualifies. Better still, it’s at the “end” of the road – and quite a hairy one (alongside Loch Voil) at that. Once there, life’s worries fall away, the only difficult decision being how soon to amble over to the snug, well-stocked bar, whose woodburners belt out comforting warmth. Our room, with its rolltop bath, zebra-skin bedcovers and original art, was, like many things the Lewis family does, deliciously quirky and over the top. The other thing that makes Monachyle Mhor a favourite is the food – always a good way to my heart. Co-owner and trained chef Tom Lewis makes ample use of home-reared livestock, local game and pristinely fresh local fish to produce masterful dishes. Fabulous.”

    Monachyle Mhor

    Monachyle Mhor, Scotland

    Lisa Corcoran

    LISA CORCORANDirector, Passage to Luxury

    Passage To Luxury is the new venture from Lisa Corcoran, founder of luxury travel blog Travel Notebook. The raison d’être of Passage To Luxury is to provide a comprehensive online guide for the time-poor, discerning traveller. The site offers a trusted directory of the best luxury travel companies, with an emphasis on quality not quantity. 

    “Words like idyllic, stunning and perfect are often overused, but never have they been more appropriate than when describing Fazenda Nova Country House. Owners Hallie and Tim and the team around them have created a truly relaxing retreat in the heart of Portugal’s Eastern Algarve. Their hospitality is second to none, and their knowledge of the surrounding area is excellent.  I have never been so reluctant to leave a place, but this is really special and I have vowed to return.”

    Fazenda Nova Country House

    Fazenda Nova Country House, Algarve, Portugal

    Posted in Celebrations, Travel Musings, Travel News. Tagged , ,
OCT13

Escape of the Week… Neeleshwar Hermitage

 
  • We don’t have many hotels named after gods, but Neeleshwar Hermitage is just that – a spoiling Keralan retreat which shares its nomenclature with Shiva, the God of Transformation (among other things). It’s not an accident; the warm and welcoming hosts encourage you to forget all troubles and ‘start your life anew’. It’s a bold claim, but if there‘s any idyllic hideaway that can do it, this cluster of 16 cottages (and one houseboat) on the calm and stunning Indian coast, is it.

    Neeleshwar Hermitage

    Just metres back from the beautiful beach (with swimmable sea) is the hotel’s large infinity pool and spacious wooden cottages, set within 12 acres of lush gardens. With its Ayurvedic spa, yoga lessons and sublime seclusion, the emphasis at Neeleshwar is staunchly – and triumphantly – on unadulterated relaxation.

    Neeleshwar Hermitage

    Rooms: The 16 traditional, thatched cottages are spread out in 2 tiers across the lovely gardens. They’re all pretty much identical, although half are detached while the other half are paired for families or friends. The only other difference is the direction they face – you can opt for a garden view, a pool view or a sea view.

    Inside, uniformity doesn’t stand for drab. Bedside tables and Planters-style twin chairs were carved by local craftsmen, and there are small writing desks as well as cavernous wardrobes. Contemporary art, silk bedrunners, a duck-egg blue wall and hand-woven rugs atop teak floors add a bit of pizazz. The beds are huge, with lovely white linens. Despite the ornate inclusions, the overall feeling is one of considered minimalism, which makes the cottages feel large – something that’s aided by the teak verandas leading out to the beautiful scenery. Mod cons haven’t been forgotten: as well as an in-house stereo system and WiFi, you’ll find a Bose dock for your iPod, a safe box, and air-conditioning to supplement the overhead fans.

    You can also opt (and we suggest you do) to explore the river with a night or two on  Neeleshwar’s houseboat, The Lotus. On board you’ll find 2 stunning all-teak bedrooms with large observation windows and a private outdoor area. Discovering the untrammelled backwaters on this gorgeous boat was the highlight of our stay.

    Neeleshwar Hermitage

    Food: You can choose from 2 restaurants. Fully licensed Annapuma sits in an open pagoda-style structure roofed in coconut palms, and is the perfect spot to enjoy a mix of North and South Indian, Middle Eastern and European dishes. They’re mostly vegetarian with specialities such as idli and dosa (spicy savoury rice cakes and pancakes respectively), bathal (similar to bahjis) and, of course, Keralan-style fish and chicken dishes. The second restaurant, Meenakshi, is close to the pool and the beach, allowing guests to dine with their toes in the sand beneath swaying palms. At lunchtime a blackboard menu offers fresh and delicious concoctions from the local markets, with fish and seafood featuring heavily.

    A continental breakfast is available in either restaurant until 10am, and a complimentary afternoon tea with locally made biscuits is served daily in Meenakshi. If you take a cruise onThe Lotus, you’ll find a bar and a modern kitchen, plus indoor and alfresco dining areas. A personal chef is part of the crew.

    Neeleshwar Hermitage

    Top Tip: Join in the Indian cooking lessons to hone your culinary skills – a different dish is taught on site every day and you can buy all the spices locally to take home with you. Also, from September to March endangered sea turtles hatch their eggs on the beach – a privilege to witness.

    Neeleshwar Hermitage

    Customer review: “Very friendly staff. Nice free upgrade of the room. Great place to unwind – still a very untouristy and authentic part of Kerala.”

    Marc, Belgium (28.03.12)

    i-escape gift: a free bottle of sula wine at the time of stay

    Read the full review and book  >>

    Posted in Escape of the Week. Tagged , , ,
OCT10

We’ve made it! i-escape hits 1,500 hotels

 
  • From 0 to 1500 in 13 years: Editor-in-Chief and founder member Michael Cullen looks back at the step-by-step progression of i-escape.com from birth to adulthood…

    header2

    When we first launched i-escape back in 2001, it was with a portfolio of 100 hotels painstakingly researched and written up from trips to South Africa, Morocco, India, Sri Lanka, Spain and the Caribbean. It had taken us nearly a year to put together, and we were very proud of it. There were exotic riads in Marrakech, rainforest eco-lodges on Dominica, chic fincas in Andalucia, even a private island off the Sri Lankan coast.

    Our 2001 homepage

    Remember this? Our homepage as it looked back in 2001

    Our team of 4 had visited every one of them, taken photos, met the owners, tested the pools and the mattresses and the cocktails – and published the results on this new thing called the internet. As the first bookings trickled in, our collective heads were spinning. We could scarcely imagine that, 13 years later, our collection would have grown to 1,500 properties, hand-picked from over 50 countries, with more queuing up to join every week.

    Read the full review of Riad Enija

    My first ever hotel review back in December 2000: Riad Enija in Marrakech

    But that figure of 1,500 has been at the back of my mind for several years now, as the optimum portfolio size: big enough to offer something for everyone, yet small enough for us to keep an eagle eye on standards. Alongside our core offering of boutique hotels, the noughties saw us add house rentals, city apartments and stylish B&Bs; we roamed the world from Argentina to Zanzibar, and from Malaysia to Montenegro. Three years ago we rolled out our family-friendly site, this year we launched our inaugural ski collection.

    Read our full review of Jawai Leopard Camp

    The 1500th property to join i-escape: Jawai Leopard Camp in Rajasthan

    So when my friends come to me for holiday advice – or indeed my cousins, neighbours, teenage godchildren, parents in the school playground, all with their own particular set of requirements – I’m confident that we’ll have something to suit them, and hopefully to delight them. Wanting to tack a short break onto her Lisbon conference, one friend asked for “a spoiling beachside escape in Portugal, with a great spa and organic food, and eco principles please”; another needed a “winter-sun house rental for a family of 5 with separate space for the in-laws, all on a budget of €1000”. Bingo: Areias do Seixo and Casa Los Geranios. (Sometimes, I admit, I cheat and use our own detailed search filters : I can no longer remember every place on our books).

    Read our full review of Areias do Seixo

    Handpicked for our friends: this is Areias do Seixo

    Of course there are some geographical gaps. If you’re set on going to Oman or Japan or Turkmenistan, we can’t help you (not yet, anyway). If you’re trying to find a bed within a few miles of your friend’s rural wedding venue, there may not be any red pins in the bull’s eye on our map (but then again, there may be – and if so you can be sure it’s a corker).

    Why, then, don’t we grow further? After all, we have 50-100 places applying to join i-escape every week, of which we choose just 1-2 for possible inclusion. And that, in a sense, is the answer. We want to remain extremely selective. We insist on keeping our listings pages reassuringly short – just the very best in each category and location; no-one wants to spend hours wading through endless similar hotels and so-so house rentals. We are determined to revisit and update each property every year or two, ensuring that our reviews remain as detailed and personal and trustworthy as ever; and to weed out any places that have gone off the boil. We like to maintain a close personal relationship with all of our owners. And you can’t do any of those if you have 10,000 or 100,000 places on your books.

    i-escape now covers over 50 countries worldwide

    Yes, there are still some countries we haven’t covered – but we’re getting there!

    So from now on, it’s basically one-in, one-out. We’re about to wave bye-bye to a clutch of places which got less than stellar feedback from our guests this year – nothing spectacularly shocking, I’m afraid, just underwhelming – in order to make room for new places in Astypalaia and Menorca, Comporta and Paternoster, Sintra and Salento (give yourself 10 points if you know which countries all those are in), as well as other secret hotspots to be revealed soon.

    For that to happen, we’re indebted to all of you who wrote in with suggestions for must-have properties and requests for new destinations, as well as feedback on hotels you’ve stayed in. I know you’re inundated with pop-ups and surveys, so your time is hugely appreciated. If you have booked through us this year but not yet submitted your feedback, please do – we’ll shortly be re-reading it all and counting your scores, in the annual shakedown that is our Guest Awards.

    Meantime I must return to the endless cycle of browsing through gorgeous boutique hotels; the enviable task of sending someone to review the standouts, and the unenviable task of choosing those which should make way. It’s enough to make me need a holiday. Now, where to choose…

    Take a look at what our the team and directors had to say about their favourite i-escape hotels, or hear from i-escape’s fans.

    Posted in Our Favourite..., Our Trips..., Travel News. Tagged , , , ,
OCT08

Family-friendly getaways for autumn half-term

 
  • The stretch between the summer holidays and Christmas can be daunting, with ever-darkening days and the year racing to a close. For those who still have some vacation days up their sleeves – and who haven’t yet decided what to do for half-term – our Kids Collection Editor Nadine has rounded up 10 family-friendly places to stay, all with character, style, and availability.

    Sea Garden Cottages, Tresco, Isles of Scilly, Cornwall, UK

    Sea Garden Cottages

    The Isles of Scilly feel like they’re in a bygone era: no cars, doors left on the latch, and the sun always seems to shine. And even when it doesn’t, there’s such great natural bounty on the doorstep that you’d barely notice. These well-equipped cottages all have superb sea views and good kitchens, plus there’s a Beach Cafe next door.  They come in 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom configurations; book the latter during October and you’ll get an exclusive 25% discount. Oh, and did we mention the sandy beach, bicycles for hire, hidden treehouses and indoor heated pool?

    Fellah Hotel, near Marrakech, Morocco

    Fellah Hotel

    Marrakech is a super place to bring children: colourful, creative and intriguing. Make the unique Fellah Hotel your half-term home and take advantage of its 20% discount for families, which includes free access to the kids’ club (plus a very tasty 25% off spa treatments for parents). This October, there’s a special design programme where kids learn traditional Moroccan crafts such as tiling, pottery and carpet-weaving, and create their own original object from recycled materials.

    Hostal Empuries, L’Escala, Catalonia, Spain

    Hostal Empuries

    There’s something for all the family at this eco-friendly seaside hotel, with a sleek spa, a choice of restaurants, a weekend kids’ club and family rooms. The special half-term family package includes dedicated spa water circuit and swimming pool times, bicycles, snacks and half-board meals. The beach in front is safe and sandy, and boat trips along the coast can be easily arranged. And pleasingly, Empuries is just 40 minutes from Girona airport.

    Anassa, near Polis, Cyprus

    Anassa

    There’s an advantage to heading to this swanky resort over half-term: there are oodles of facilities to enjoy (including the award-winning Thalassotherapy spa for maximum relaxation), and the nippers get their own pool, age-appropriate kids’ clubs offering a daily changing schedule of activities, and a veritable emporium of games and toys. You also get a proper family restaurant, a playground, and watersports of every stripe to choose from. If you book a pair of Studio Suites for half-term then the second is half-price, and free half-board for children applies if you book full- or half-board.

    Casas do Coro, Marialva, Beiras, Portugal

    Casa do Coro

    Most won’t be familiar with this historic frontier plateau, where Romans, Goths and warring Spaniards have plied their trade for centuries. Now the province is better known as a wine region, stuffed full of castles and (now peaceful) ancient hilltop villages. Within one such village you’ll find this charming collection of self-catering granite houses for 2-11. There’s a shared pool, garden and restaurant at its heart, and exciting expeditions including boat trips and mountain biking await. And until the end of October there’s a 10% discount for stays of 3+ nights, plus a free visit to the organic vegetable garden.

    Onar, Andros, Cyclades, Greece

    Onar

    The Cyclades are some of Greece’s most accessible islands, just a couple of hours from Athens, and many claim unspoiled Andros to be the pick of the bunch. Set on the edge of a natural park, a short walk along a river from the sea, these simply stylish cottages for 2-7 exude homespun charm. The swimming pool is a natural pond, the owner is charismatic and helpful, and kids and teens will love tearing around the place without a care. And if you book for October, you’ll enjoy a 15% discount on the rates, plus free local wine or beer with every meal!

    Chateau Les Merles, near Mouleydier, Dordogne, France

    Chateau Les Merles

    Winery hotels can be stuffy and bore even those old enough to imbibe alcohol. Not this one. From its gastronomic restaurant to its large and gracious grounds, this honey-coloured chateau delivers relaxed fun for both parent (golf, cooking courses, massages) and child (swimming pool, playground, tennis court) alike. There’s a range of family-friendly accommodation, including an apartment for up to 6, suites for 3 adults plus kids,and self-catering villas for as many as 9. You can rent bikes, and there’s heaps to explore in this part of the Dordogne; you’re just 10 minutes from Bergerac airport, too. In October you can save 20% if you book 3+ nights – and if booking 5+ nights, 30% is discounted.

    Borgo Egnazia, Puglia, Italy

    Borgo Egnazia

    Your children, whether kids or tweens, will thank you for bringing them to this immaculately designed rustic-chic resort, whose superlative amenities include a sumptuous spa, a gourmet restaurant, a golf course, a groovy cocktail bar and 4 swimming pools. For them, there’s a free kids’ club, a playground with a trampoline, a well-stocked games room, and a huge kids’ pool. And if they refuse to countenance seeing another piazza, Baroque church or fortified town, there’s the excellent Zoo Safari nearby. The half-board half-term package is applicable to the La Corte Splendida rooms.

    Villas Martinhal, Sagres, Portugal

    Villas Martinhal

    Autumn is a great time to visit this corner of the Algarve, as the weather is balmy and Martinhal has an 8% discount off all its 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom houses(as well as 4-  and 7-night half-board packages). This place is unrivalled for families: it has a sandy beach, a great kids’ club, a playground, a video games room and tennis academies. All villas have kitchenettes, and the resort’s restaurant offers kids’ portions. All ages can learn to surf or windsurf, and older kids can do a Junior Lifeguard Course.

    Llys Meddyg, Newport, Pembrokeshire, Wales, UK

    Llys Meddyg

    A gourmet restaurant with cosy rooms may not immediately appeal for a family half-term holiday, but this relaxed hotel is right by the sea and close to Pembrokeshire National Park. Children are warmly welcomed, and over half the rooms can take sofabeds or extra beds; babysitting is also available. It’s got a special half-board half-term package, too.

    Check out our full list of family-friendly hotels with autumn availability >>

    Posted in Family Travel, Kids, Top 10. Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
OCT06

Escape of the Week… Insolito

 
  • When booking a blissful boutique stay it can be reassuring to know that you have a stunning beach nearby. Well, Insolito in Brazil has got that covered – 26 times. As well as having a glut of beautiful beaches, buzzy and hip Búzios also has an abundance of restaurants and great night life, all within easy reach of the hotel.

    Insolito

    Insolito is just as spectacular as its surroundings. Clean-cut, serene and chic, the Mediterranean gardens, 2 swimming pools and sweeping views make for a decadent getaway, particularly with the addition of the superlative spa.

    Insolito

    Rooms: Throughout the 5 different room types (Superior, Luxo, Junior Suite, Master Suite and Insolito Suite) there is one unifying theme: luxury. Kingsize beds are made up with top-quality white sheets and duvets, and everything is top of the range: mattresses are by Sealy, robes by Trussardie, towels are Karsten Zero Twist Towels. You also get a plasma TV, a DVD player and free WiFi. All of them are supremely calm; predominantly white interiors are punctuated with flashes of bright colour or attractive patterns in the Brazilian rugs and plush furnishings.

    We love the Luxo rooms, which have a private slice of garden, but our rooms of choice would be the Insolito Suites (if your budget will stretch to it). These have outdoor Jacuzzis on their wraparound decks so you get panoramic sea views as you soak – impossible not to love.

    Insolito

    Food: The food in A Galeria – the hotel’s restaurant – is a beautiful example of fusion cooking offering European food with a Brazilian twist.  Think salmon and caviar with fennel carpaccio and Sicilian lemon or perhaps foie gras to start, then perhaps lobster and quinoa risotto, rump of young bull with truffles and mashed olives, or catch of the day with cashew nuts. This is all enjoyed on the beautiful rooftop terrace with stunning views by day and gentle candlelight by night. Breakfast is a simple buffet of meats, cheeses, homemade bread, croissants and cakes, followed by eggs or pancakes cooked to order.

    If you want to venture away from the hotel, Insolito also runs Eden Beach Lounge, a laid back restaurant below the hotel (open from 11am to late) with a simpler menu and live DJ music. Alternatively, there’s a wealth of excellent eateries in town, or head to the lesser known ‘Centro Gastronimico’ in Porta da Barra for a number of restaurants in which to enjoy a more relaxed evening of delicious food.

    Insolito

    Top Tip: We’d recommend taking a boat trip along the Buziana coast, stopping off en route to swim. Boats leave from Praia da Armação and Ossos and take about 3 hours, finally delivering guests at Buziana restaurant for a seafood lunch.

    Insolito

    i-escape gift: a complimentary bottle of champagne, and a room upgrade, subject to availability on arrival

    Read the full review and book >>

    Posted in Escape of the Week. Tagged , , ,