Easy Escapes for February

  • February heralds a move away from the restraint of January towards the decadent fun of Valentine’s Day. Even if embroidered teddy bears and heart-shaped chocolates aren’t your thing, an impromptu romantic break will have you and your other half happily swapping carrot juice for champagne in no time.

    No need to thank us; all you 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.

    The Grosvenor Arms – £133 per person (2 nights, 20-22 February 2015)

    The Grosvenor Arms

    The Grosvenor Arms

    Keep it low-key on Valentine’s weekend with a celebration at home, then slip away to Dorset for the culmination of medieval Shaftesbury’s Snowdrop Festival a few days later. Thousands of bulbs have been planted around the town ready to ring in the spring – perfect for rural walks followed by warming suppers.

    The Grosvenor Arms

    The Grosvenor Arms

    Stay: in the heart of the town at The Grosvenor Arms, a funky and welcoming coaching inn with peaceful rooms above a cool cocktail bar and buzzy restaurant. A 2-night stay in a Deluxe Room comes to £133 per person, including all taxes, when booking the best non-refundable rate.

    Total cost: £133 per person, including all taxes.

    More info: Getting to Dorset and other accommodation options

    La Maison des Remparts – £277.02 per person (3 nights, 13-16 February 2015)



    What could be more romantic than a French minibreak? Instead of the clichéd Parisian weekend, we suggest taking inspiration from classic film Chocolat and heading to a beautiful historic Provençal town like Beaumes-de-Venise. While the movie’s villagers indulged in decadent chocolates, here the speciality is Muscat sweet wine – oh, go on then!

    La Maison des Remparts

    La Maison des Remparts

    Stay: at spoiling La Maison des Remparts, an impressively restored and exquisitely decorated 5-bedroom B&B hidden within the town’s fortified walls. Owner Ludivine is happy to arrange cellar tours and wine tastings, as well as bike hire, massages and dinner reservations. Under the current 3-nights-for-2-offer, a 3-night stay in the Légende d’Orient room comes to just £119 per person, including all taxes.

    Fly: direct from London Stansted to Marseille with Ryanair for £142 per person, departing Friday 13 February and returning Monday 16 February.

    From the airport: Public transport is limited and it’s a 90-minute drive from the airport to the hotel, so hiring a car is the easiest option. Car hire through Rhino starts from £32.04.

    Total cost: £277.02 per person, including all taxes.

    More info: Getting to Provence and other accommodation options

    SALA Phuket – £1,435 per person (7 nights, 7-14 February 2015)

    Mai Khao Beach

    Mai Khao Beach

    Thailand’s biggest island may not be known for peace and tranquillity, but Phuket’s north is much quieter than its throbbing south. Head for protected Mai Khao beach (golden and almost deserted), then explore the historic roads by bicycle and take leisurely boat tours of nearby Phang Nga bay’s towering limestone karsts.

    SALA Phuket

    SALA Phuket

    Stay: at SALA Phuket, a stylish, secluded beachfront villa resort with a great restaurant and restful spa. A 6-night stay in a Garden Pool Villa (yes, you’ll have a private pool!) comes to £912 per person, including taxes. If you book under the current ‘Free Perks’ offer, you’ll also get free airport transfers, a Thai set dinner for 2, and a half-day island tour or 60-minute massage per person.

    Fly: direct from London Gatwick to Phuket with Thomson Airways for £523 per person, departing Friday 6 February (overnight flight arriving Saturday 7 February) and returning Saturday 14 February.

    From the airport: The hotel provides airport transfers free of charge when booking with the ‘Free Perks’ offer.

    Total cost: £1,435 per person, including all taxes.

    More info: Getting to Thailand 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 28th January 2014.

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

Escape of the Week… The Beckford Arms

  • Very few hotels can please everyone, but The Beckford Arms – an unpretentious and wonderfully English pub with rooms in the Wiltshire countryside – certainly gives it a good go. It’s a favourite hangout for locals, a romantic retreat for weekending couples, a country escape for city dwellers and a popular family bolthole – all at a very reasonable price and with great food.

    The Beckford Arms

    Set on the Fonthill Estate, the ivy-covered Beckford is a charming induction to Wiltshire’s rolling hills and stunning countryside. It has everything you could hope for in a rural pub: wooden beams, pewter mugs, open fires and a good ol’ fashioned warm welcome. But the food is the crowning glory – exquisite British fare served in the relaxed restaurant and bar.

    The Beckford Arms

    Rooms: The homely décor encapsulates the character and raison d’etre of the Beckford. Cosy rooms are dressed in pale shades of Farrow & Ball, and lifted with fresh flowers and pretty prints in a distinctly rustic yet contemporary style. As you would expect from the former managers of Babington House, no element of luxury is spared. You’ll find kingsize beds with Egyptian cotton sheets and Siberian goosedown bedding, and beautiful bathrooms stocked with specially produced organic products from Bramley (i-escape guests get to take a product home). Within the pub you can choose from 8 different rooms, ranging from Small Doubles (which are rather compact) to the 2-bedroom Attic (perfect for small families). The 2 Splendens Pavilions are located 10 minutes down the lane and make wonderful hideaways for couples. They’re stunningly designed with open-plan lounges, mezzanine bedrooms and roll-top tubs gazing across the green.

    The Beckford Arms

    Food: It’s a tall claim, but everything we’ve eaten at The Beckford has been fantastic. The seasonal produce ranges from fine fare (pan-fried Pollock with cauliflower puree) to pub grub (steak and marrow),  all beautifully presented and served in the restaurant, the relaxed bar or out on the terrace. It’s popular with locals at both lunch and dinner, ensuring a ribald and friendly environment. But our favourite foodie element is the breakfast: there’s a help-yourself table, and you can order hot food such as a Full English, Eggs Royale or waffles, all washed down with a Bloody Mary.  Those staying in Splendens Pavillions can walk up to the pub for breakfast or make use of their cute little kitchen, which the team can stock with local Foots Farm eggs, smoked back bacon, Berkshire pork sausages and everything you need for tea, coffee and toast.

    The Beckford Arms

    Top Tip: Ask about movie and pizza nights when you arrive – both are often on offer at the weekend, depending on the weather and season. Classic films are shown in the pub via a projector, and there’s a wood-fired pizza oven in the garden.

    The Beckford Arms

    Customer review: “The staff is absolutely lovely and kind. We were there with our two children and they made us feel very much at home and welcome. This is our second visit and we will return again.”

    Laura, United States (09.10.14)

    i-escape gift: a full-size Bramley product of your choice

    Read the full review and book  >>

    Posted in Escape of the Week. Tagged , , ,

Asceno’s favourite escapes & packing essentials

  • Creative Directors of Asceno, Poppy Sexton-Wainwright and Lauren Skerritt, launched the luxury swim‚ lingerie and sleepwear collection Beautiful Bottoms in their early 20s. Since the brand’s initial inception 5 years ago‚ the duo have matured into sophisticated world travellers and the collection has developed alongside them. In keeping with the brand’s evolution‚ Beautiful Bottoms has rebranded as ASCENO – a name they feel is more in keeping with the energy and essence of their collections.

    We asked them to share some of their favorite escapes and packing essentials

    Asceno Rio Jumpsuit

    Asceno Rio Jumpsuit


    “My 2 favourite places to escape to are Ibiza and South Africa. Les Terrasses in Ibiza is the perfect laid-back retreat, and the ambiance is strictly chilled – even the resident dog is too blissed out to bark! The interiors are super-chic in a French Bohemian kind of way, and the food is delicious, too! There are 2 amazing pools for lazy afternoons or some poolside yoga, and the location is perfect, within easy reach of the beaches.  The price tag is affordable, and it’s somewhere I will always go back to!

    My White Isle essentials are the Asceno Rio jumpsuit (perfect for taking me from beach to bar), espadrilles by Penelope Chilvers, and Sisley Lip Repair.”

    Les Terrasses

    Les Terrasses

    Asceno Sydney Bikini

    Asceno Sydney Bikini


    “I’d love to visit Garonga Safari Camp in South Africa. It looks like a real treat and definitely the one place I could totally switch off. Situated on the banks of the Makhutswi River west of the stunning Kruger Park, it’s completely surrounded by wildlife. It really doesn’t get any better than that! It has aromatherapy sessions and a ‘bush bath’ from which you can enjoy the sounds and sights of rural Africa! Heaven!

    “My bush essentials are an Asceno Sydney bikini for poolside lounging, white linens for game drives, and a good book!”

    Garonga Safari Camp

    Garonga Safari Camp


    Rio string bikini

    Rio string bikini

    “This small, eco-friendly boutique Jashita Hotel is nestled beside a secluded bay of clear turquoise water in Tulum, Mexico. The location feels beautifully untouched, but the hotel is totally spoiling with no luxury spared. The grounds are full of vibrantly coloured tropical flowers and bougainvillea, whose scents waft in the air as your wander from your room to the stunning candlelit restaurant, where you dine as the moonlight dances on the sea. The hotel is close to the town of Tulum, so you can also venture there to explore its incredible restaurants and boho boutiques.

    “All I really need to pack is a panama hat to keep the blazing sun off my face, our Rio string bikini set from the SS15 Asceno collection, and my Linda Farrow sunnies. I like to spend much of the time lounging on a paddleboard or a sunbed.”

    Jashita, Tulum, Mexico

    Jashita, Tulum, Mexico

    The ASCENO range encapsulates relaxed elegance, with an emphasis on quality fabrics‚ vibrant digital prints and contemporary silhouettes. The ASCENO woman can easily pivot between urban city breaks and exotic luxury travels, and Poppy and Lauren have a wealth of travel experience

    Posted in Guest Blogs, Style, Travel Tips. Tagged , , , , ,

Family-friendly getaways with half-term availability

  • Not yet booked your half-term haven? Our Kids Collection Editor Nadine has rounded up 10 enticing places with good availability during the forthcoming UK and Ireland school holidays (13-22 February). From cute country B&Bs and cool house rentals to swish city apartments and luxe hotels, there’s something for every shape and size of family. What are you waiting for? 

    Hotel by Beldi, near Marrakech, Morocco

    Hotel by Beldi

    Just 20 minutes south-west of the medina is this family-friendly retreat. Conceived as a traditional village, complete with a bakery, souks and craft workshops, it’s spread over 15 hectares and has 2 swimming pools (one of which is heated – a godsend in February). Everything has been handcrafted on site or nearby, and the rooms are spacious and great-value, with a sitting area and a garden or terrace. All can take a rollaway bed or baby cot, and the 2 dedicated Family Suites have a double bedroom and a twin bedroom apiece. This half term, kids can learn traditional bread-making or create their own piece of pottery in the atelier.

    Ca’s Penelope, Fornalutx, Mallorca, Spain

    Ca's Penelope

    After a stylish country villa with mountain views and loads of space, yet only 4 minutes from shops and restaurants? This one delivers – and it’s really well equipped for kids of all ages to boot. It sleeps up to 10 and has a pool, a Wendy House, loads of baby and toddler paraphernalia, a large games cupboard and a toy chest brimming with delights; there’s even a TV room with a Playstation, a Wii and an Xbox for teens. What’s more, there’s a 10% half-term discount into the bargain.

    Europa House Apartments, Little Venice, London

    Europa House Apartments

    The welcoming folk at this collection of chic family-friendly apartments, which come with designer furniture and swanky kitchens, are offering free ice cream and popcorn for kids to accompany movie watching. They’re available for any 2-night bookings in a 2-bedroom apartment (there are 3-bedroom versions too) – perfect for a night in after exploring the never-ending sights and excursions that London has to offer, all easily accessed from this haven just north-west of Paddington.

    Twin Tors Cottage & Barn, Bodmin Moor, Cornwall, UK

    Twin Tors Cottage & Barns

    There’s 10% off these eco-luxe self-catering properties in northern Cornwall. The Barn sleeps 10 and the Cottage sleeps 12; book separately, or take both together to form a well-equipped pad for a group of families or a multi-generational holiday. The interiors are fab, and you’ll find a play area, a home cinema, gardens, board games and a games room. Best of all: a show-stopping heated indoor pool which will delight the kids. Get in!

    Almyra, Paphos, Cyprus


    For those times when you just need to fly and flop, one-stop shops such as this smart design hotel are ideal. The service here is as superb as the spa, plus there’s a choice of 4 mouth-watering restaurants. The ‘Baby Go Lightly’ service means you can minimise luggage, and there’s a terrific kids’ club catering for all ages. The kids’ pool is heated in winter, and children can swing around the playground or try out oodles of activities (face-painting, arts and crafts, treasure hunts, nature walks, even shimmying on down at the disco!). Enquire about free half board and a 50% discount on room rates for kids. Heaven!

    Weeke Barton, Dartmoor, Devon, UK

    Weeke Barton

    Set on the edge of wild Dartmoor yet just 20 minutes from the motorway, this chic little 5-room B&B is wonderfully laid-back. Think roaring fires, comfy beds, beamed ceilings and yummy seasonal, organic food (a children’s supper is served at 5.30pm, and baby monitors work between the bedrooms and dining room). There are ponies and Bronze Age sites nearby, and the friendly owners can recommend atmospheric walks to suit all stamina levels. There’s a 20% discount throughout February too.

    Casa Capella, Barcelona, Spain

    Casa Capella

    Barcelona is always great fun for a family break, and attractions this half term include Disney on Ice and tours of the famous Camp Nou football stadium (under 6s go free). There are eateries, playgrounds, markets, beaches and museums aplenty, and kids will love the playfully outlandish Gaudí architecture on show at Park Güell, La Pedrera and the Sagrada Familia. Between the latter 2 lies this stylish 3-bedroom apartment, whose British-Catalan owners go out of their way to ensure you have a hassle-free and enjoyable staycation.

    Xaghra Farmhouse, Gozo, Malta

    Xaghra Farmhouse

    Gozo’s annual carnival week is 13-17 February: a wonderful pageant of colour, history and parades. Stay at this unpretentious 3-bedroom townhouse, just a short walk from the main square in the small town of Xaghra, to enjoy the spectacle. You get excellent value for money, a well-equipped kitchen (a pre-arrival shop can be arranged), a spacious living room with a vast fireplace, baby and toddler equipment, toys, and a pool and terrace to the rear. Ideal for a relaxed family holiday in the sun.

    The Yeatman, Porto, Portugal

    The Yeatman

    For an upscale city break head to this wine-themed hotel, set amongst Porto’s famed port lodges and overlooking the Unesco-listed old town. There’s a heated indoor pool, a well-stocked kids’ playroom and gardens to romp around, plus babysitting, a generous breakfast buffet, river cruises and welcome gifts for children. And, with a luxurious spa and excellent cuisine in the restaurant, it’s the perfect destination for adults, too. Book the Winter Package for a minimum of 2 nights and kids stay for free in their parents’ room.

    Captain’s Club Hotel, Christchurch, Dorset, UK

    The Captain's Club

    Perched right on the River Stour, close to the New Forest, Bournemouth and sandy beaches, is this contemporary hotel with a lovely spa. It’s perfect for a short family break, especially as children stay free up to the age of 14 (and there are rate reductions until the end of March). The restaurant has a kids’ menu, and you can self-cater in the suites (12 of which have 2 or 3 bedrooms). And you’re just a few minutes from the railway station for easy journeys.

    Check out all family-friendly places with half-term availability >>

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

Family Escape of the Month… Sea Garden Cottages

  • There are many reasons why we love island life: it’s serene, secluded and utterly removed from the grind of schedules and daily demands. When you land in the right island spot it’s perfect; when the right spot happens to be a hop, skip and jump from the UK mainland, it’s even better. That’s why we’re big fans of Sea Garden Cottages, a cluster of stylish beachside getaways on Tresco, among the wild outcrops of the stunning Scilly Isles.

    Sea Garden Cottages

    Unspoilt and with more sunshine than the rest of the UK, this car-free island is a safe and idyllic spot to bring the kids. The range of activities – from sailing and cycling to festivals and historic sites – ensures that a stay here is never boring; there’s even an indoor pool to wallow in. And right now the island is even more accessible thanks to this great 4-night offer, which includes flights – perfect for a smaller family.

    Sea Garden Cottages

    Rooms: There are 16 cottages in total (nine 1-bedroom cottages, six 3-bedroom cottages and one 4-bedroom cottage). All face the sea and are a short stroll from the pool, gym and Ruin Beach Café.  The smaller cottages are delightfully compact houses, with wonderful views across the coast and small kitchens (breakfast is included in the price). The larger cottages enjoy the same beautiful vistas and are fully self-catering. All cottages have a sofabed to allow for extra guests.

    Inside, the cottages strike a balance between contemporary and traditional, with soothing shades of blue, coral and cream. Expect Oka furniture, Lloyd Loom wicker chairs, oak floors, New England style wood panelling and fine contemporary paintings. Cosy, comfortable and high-spec, with fluffy white robes, lovely REN toiletries and terraces, they work well for all generations, from babies to grandparents.

    Sea Garden Cottages

    Food: All kitchens are very well equipped. You can expect a cooker, a microwave, a fridge, a dishwasher, and plenty of pots, pans and other kit . And you needn’t worry about flying provisions over with you, as Tresco Stores on the west of the island has an excellent selection of essentials, as well as a deli.

    If you choose to eat out, the Ruin Beach Café, only a few steps from the cottages, is the main focus on this side of the island. It’s friendly and laid-back, with a wonderful selection of options for younger diners. Further afield, you can visit New Inn or Flying Boat Restaurant and Bar on the other side of the island. A couple of evenings a week, you can also take a 10-minute boat ride to Hell Bay on Bryher Island for fine dining.

    Sea Garden Cottages

    Kids’ activities: You’ll find an abundance of activities on your doorstep. More active guests can opt for cycling, tennis, sailing, windsurfing and other watersports; those seeking a more serene stay can explore the island along the numerous walking routes. On rainy days you can enjoy the indoor heated pool, take in a film screening or perhaps join a craft workshop. There’s also the opportunity to hop on a boat and explore other nearby islands.

    Sea Garden Cottages

    Baby equipment: Plenty of kit is available on request – cots, high chairs, bath mats, stair gates, children’s plates, bowls and cutlery. It’s also possible to hire pushchairs from Tresco’s Estates Office to save the extra luggage on the way over.

    Sea Garden Cottages

    Customer reviews: “The Sea Garden Cottages were lovely. Perfect for a family of 4 (2 adults, 1 child and 1 baby). Everything was well thought of, and our stay was very comfortable. We had great service and assistance too while we were there.”

    Asya, Singapore (23.08.13)

    Read the full review and book Sea Garden Cottages  >>

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

#iewithkids blogger event


i-escape’s 2015 wishlist

  • After spending every day drooling over beautiful new regions and tips for 2015, the i-escape team is far from immune to bouts of wanderlust. From the peaks of Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park to the sun-kissed beaches of the stunning Andaman Islands, we share the destinations topping our travel wishlist.

    Laila, Founder

    Aman Sveti Stefan, near Budva, Montenegro: “This summer I plan to take my teenage kids for some outdoor kicks in Montenegro (think kayaking, wild swimming and canyoning). After a week of this, what better place to relax and indulge than Aman Sveti Stefan, where informal luxury is at its best?”

    Aman Sveti Stefan

    Nadine, Kids Collection Editor

    Cape Weligama, near Galle, Sri Lanka: “I’m longing to discover Sri Lanka and my dream family trip would include a stay at this super new resort on a breathtaking headland close to Galle, which has a kids pool and a kids menu in its lovely restaurant. My son is mad on wildlife so we’d definitely want to go whale- and dolphin-watching!”

    Cape Weligama

    Mike, Editor-in-Chief

    Dune House, near Paternoster, South Africa: “I’d love to escape life for a week here with my family and my brother’s, so our kids can play on the endless empty beach or around the pool while we enjoy a game of tennis or get spa’d up at the estate next door… followed by a few days of more urban(e) pleasures at Ebb Tide on the coast  outside Cape Town.”

    Dune House

    Melissa, Senior Editorial Assistant

    Koh Pha Ngan Pool Villas, Koh Pha Ngan, Thailand: “I’d love to descend on Koh Pha Ngan Pool Villas with a group of friends. It’s great value, the décor is super-cool, the pool looks beautiful, and the unusual layout of mini-villas surrounding a communal main house strikes a great balance between privacy and socialising.”

    Koh Pha Ngan Pool Villas

    Sarah DVD, Marketing Manager 

    Barefoot at Havelock, Andaman Islands, India: “The Andaman Islands are still a wild and unexplored frontier and, as someone who likes to go off grid every now and then, I can’t think of anywhere better than this eco beach resort. Pristine coral reefs, dense forest and swimming elephants(!), all next to deserted beaches. Sounds like heaven.”

    Barefoot at Havelock

    Emily P, Bookings Consultant 

    Jakes, Treasure Beach, Jamaica: “Ever since my first trip to Jamaica last year, I am in love and constantly daydream about going back. I think Jakes looks so full of character and charm. I can just imagine chilling out at the bar listening to reggae and drinking rum!”


    Abi, Assistant Editor

    Quinta do Vallado, Douro Valley, Portugal: “Top of my list is Quinta do Vallado in Portugal’s Douro Valley. I’m heading to Porto in March to review the gorgeous 1872 River House and Rosa Et Al Townhouse for i-escape (a tough job, but someone’s got to do it…), and I’m really looking forward to a few days’ relaxation here afterwards. The food sounds delicious, the rooms look super-stylish, and it’s set on a working vineyard with plenty of tasting opportunities – perfect!”

    Quinta do Vallado

    Ben R, Bookings Consultant 

    The Priest’s Houses, Mandrem, India: “This is the Goa of my dreams…..set among palm trees overlooking an unspoilt stretch of beach… Goan curry sizzling away in the distance and the aromas wafting through… sunsets in the hammock and early-morning beach combing… sigh…”

    The Priest’s Houses

    Liz, Editor

    Areias do Seixo, Costa de Prata, Portugal: “My top ‘wish I was going there this year’ is still Areias do Seixo (which I picked in 2014), so clearly I should just book in! I adore the décor, ethos and location; it all looks sensational. But now that I’m a mum, I’m also yearning to visit our family hotels (the net just got bigger!). Binigaus Vell, part of our new Menorca collection, is my top pick for 2015. A dreamy pool, relaxed breakfasts and close to white-sand beaches… bring it on!”

    Areias do Seixo

    Olivia, Assistant Rates Manager

    The Sarojin, Khao Lak, Thailand: “I’d love to stay here for the chance to experience pure luxury in a beautiful setting – private pools, spa treatments and beautiful food in lush gardens. Plus it’s only a stone’s throw from white-sand beaches and clear seas.”

    The Sarojin

    Sarah B, Bookings Consultant

    Awasi Patagonia, Torres del Paine National Park, Chile: “Why? Gorgeous mountains, abundant outdoor activities, wildlife and jaw-dropping stargazing. Plus, what’s not to love about the cosy, private cabins with fluffy sheepskins, wood-burning stoves and hot tubs?”

    Awasi Patagonia

    Ben F, Rates Manager

    Kensington Place, Higgovale, South Africa: “Set in the attractive Higgovale area of Cape Town, this small and stylish bolthole provides the ideal base for a relaxing break in this amazing city.”

    Kensington Place

    Kate P, Head of Bookings

    Esplendido Hotel, Puerto Soller, Mallorca: “We had a near perfect long weekend here 2 years ago and I’d love to go back. It’s the perfect mix of style by the sea. There’s a small spa and steam room , 2 lovely pools, and amazing sea-facing rooms with huge balconies and terraces. We were so lucky with the weather during our April visit that we got caught unprepared and my husband had to buy flip flops, shorts and sun cream in Soller. Bliss. I wish I was there right now.”

    Esplendido Hotel

    Grace, Rates Assistant

    The Bale, Bali, Indonesia: “I’ve always wanted to travel in Indonesia and The Bale looks incredible. The pool is amazing and the food sounds delicious.”

    The Bale

    Lyndon, Marketing Assistant

    Ion hotel, Thingvellir National Park, Iceland: “I love the look of Iceland’s stunningly wild landscape and iconic Ion Hotel – secluded away in a beautiful national park – is the perfect place to enjoy it from. On top of the great spa, exquisite restaurant and outdoor thermal pool, you get the chance to catch a breath-taking glimpse of the Northern Lights.”

    Ion Hotel

    Check out the rest of the i-escape collection >>

    Posted in Our Favourite..., Travel Tips. Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Escape of the Week… L’Avenida

  • The picturesque little town of Soller in northwest Mallorca might not seem like the obvious location for an ultra-slick boutique hotel, but stunning L’Avenida has established itself as one of the island’s hippest spots. Surrounded by mountains and just a short tram ride from the beach, it’s a perfect holiday base.


    Despite its chic design, this is no case of style over substance. The personal approach of owners Tania and Paul Sliiper has created a glamorous, homely and utterly indulgent hotel. Better still, until 1 March it’s available as an exclusive rental, so you can rally your friends and enjoy the 12 rooms and beautiful pool all to yourselves.


    Rooms: Spread over 2 floors, the 12 rooms (all doubles) have the feel of cosy boudoirs, with large, super-comfy beds and leather daybeds flanked by stylish Kartell ‘bougie’ lamps. The decadence extends to the fixtures and fittings, too: think glamorous black Pachderme chandeliers, Parisian silk curtains and feature walls of opulent Cole & Son paper. Even the bathrooms are beautifully luxurious thanks to Philippe Starck designs and lovely organic products. Particularly spoiling are the wonderfully spacious Luxury Suites, which enjoy four-poster beds and the best views in the hotel.


    Food: Paul previously worked in marketing at Hotel Cipriani in Venice and Hotel Splendido in Portofino, so he certainly knows a thing or two when it comes to food. This translates well into L’Avenida’s bistro, which offers an appetising brand of modern Mediterranean cuisine. For lunch we enjoyed a warm goat’s cheese salad and beef carpaccio with artichoke hearts. Dinners are equally spoiling, but you’ve also got the choice of numerous characterful restaurants and cafés on your doorstep.

    Breakfast is a delicious spread of homemade muesli, jams, mini pastries, and local ham and cheeses. If you’re renting the whole hotel you can choose whether you want to self-cater or be fully catered.


    Top Tip: Catch the vintage tram which rattles down to the beach at Puerto Soller, and enjoy a day on the sand followed by evening cocktails by the sea.


    Customer review: “The managers Matthew & Laura are very helpful and attentive; superb hosts.”

    Andrew, United Kingdom (21.04.14)

    i-escape gift: a bottle of cava on arrival.

    Read the full review and book  >>

    Posted in Escape of the Week. Tagged , , ,

Top 10 retreats for a healthy 2015

  • The decadent festive period may have given way to January diets and exercise plans, but healthy New Year’s resolutions don’t have to be about horsehair shirts and eye-wincing procedures. We prefer a softly, softly approach, with plenty of sun and indulgence. With that in mind, we’ve picked 10 boutique stays that offer just that.

    YogaMagic Eco retreat, Anjuna, Goa

    YogaMagic Eco Retreat

    This yoga retreat, set in a tourist-free part of Goa, does exactly what it says on the tin – and more. As well as having relaxing Ayurvedic massages and lessons in Iyenga-style yoga, you’ll have the opportunity to become a certified Ayurvedic masseuse thanks to their 10-day residential course. And you get to stay in beautiful Rajasthani tented lodges or spacious boutique suites.

    Babington House, Somerset, UK

    Babington House

    You don’t need to escape to tropical climes or secluded mountainsides to enjoy a little R&R; there are some great options tucked away in the tranquil English countryside. This sybaritic Somerset stay also dedicates itself to offering guests a huge variety of self-improving treatments. With 2 heated pools (indoor and outdoor), a well-equipped gym and a superlative spa, there’s not a hint of self-denial in the place.

    Insolito, Buzios, Brazil


    Insolito may be hip and slick, but there’s still plenty of opportunity for a full body MOT. The excellent spa has a range of heavenly treatments carried out with the sound of the waves in the background, as well as frequent yoga classes. You can also explore the impressive 26 beaches lining the peninsula or admire them from one of the 2 infinity pools ( freshwater and saltwater), before returning to the beautifully appointed rooms.

    Until mid-March you can bag yourself a ‘Relaxing Week Package’, which includes daily yoga and 3 massages to kick start the new you.

    Kamalaya, Koh Samui, Thailand


    Once a popular spot for revellers seeking a different kind of escapism, stunning Koh Samui is now a destination for world-weary spa-seekers. This  reinvention has been spearheaded by Kamalaya, a secluded ‘wellness sanctuary’ which offers a range of treatments and activities unmatched by other hotels in the region. The food is a particular triumph and manages to be gloriously healthy without being remotely dull.

    Soukya, near Bangalore, India


    As healing retreats go, few come as illustrious, accomplished or restorative as Soukya. Founded by health guru Issac Mathai and visited by the likes of Sting and Prince Charles, it’s one of the best Ayurvedic and holistic centres in Asia. The team of world-class healthcare professionals make it their mission to deliver your personal programme expertly and with wonderful results. It’s not a walk in the park, so expect some work with the pampering –  but trust us: it will be worth it.

    Gaia Retreat & Spa, near Byron Bay, Australia

    Gaia Retreat & Spa

    This supremely relaxing retreat (co-owned by Olivia Newton-John) is just a short drive from popular Byron Bay and prides itself on doing things a little differently. If you’re a bit bored of the usual spa treatments, you can try something a little more exotic like iridology or a craniosacral massage, while spa-shy partners can forego it all in favour of the beach. This is a rejuvenation mecca and your body will thank you for making the trip.

    Cowley Manor, Gloucestershire, UK

    Cowley Manor

    The grandeur of this magnificent hotel and its 55 acres of parkland mean you may not expect the slick facilities and contemporary interiors within, but that’s part of its success. Equipped with an award-winning C.Side Spa and a list of treatments as long as your arm, it’s the perfect weekend bolthole for the world-weary or the relaxation-inclined. This is not only a stately home with charm and character, but also a spot for a hedonistic but oh-so-righteous ‘Cloud 9’ experience – we urge you to try it.

    SwaSwara, Gokarna Beach, Goa


    This boutique yoga hotel, located beside a palm-fringed beach in Goa, has been described as a life-affirming stay – and it seems the visitors who return year on year would agree. You’ll find personalised yoga and meditation sessions, as well as a delicious menu of fresh local produce to be enjoyed at communal meals (it’s perfect for solo travellers). If that all sounds a bit much, you can spend lazy days by the beach or swimming pool, before indulging in an Ayurvedic massage.

    Pilates en France, near Bergerac, south west France

    Pilates en France

    With only 4 rooms, this Pilates retreat in the south of France is one of our more intimate options, but tutor Melanie’s manner will instantly put you at ease. She’ll initiate you into what could become a life-enhancing re-education in posture, breathing and relaxation. You’ll also find beautiful surroundings and tasty, wholesome food, making this an impossible–to-leave home-from-home.

    Talalla Retreat, near Tangalla, Sri Lanka

    Talalla Retreat

    This serene, laid-back getaway has a couple of options for yoga-bods. Either breeze into the daily drop-in classes or book yourself onto one of the occasional yoga, wellness or meditation courses – all just a hop, skip and a jump from the beautiful shoreline. If you feel like more vigorous exercise, the unspoilt beaches nearby are a haven for surfing (courses also available), and the unpolluted waters are popular for diving, too. After all that, you can round off the day in the small on-site spa.

    Take a look at all of our spa & wellbeing retreats >>

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Top 10 new family-friendly Med hotels

  • A brand new year of family travel awaits! We’re excited to start planning our 2015 adventures, and sunny summer holidays always feature high on the wishlist. To help the process, our Kids Collection Editor Nadine has rounded up 10 of our best new family-friendly places around the Med, many of them terrific value.

    Masseria Prosperi, Puglia, Italy

    Masseria Prosperi

    A hybrid between a country villa and a gastro guesthouse, this modern retreat has all you need for a relaxed holiday. You get a choice of pools (heated indoor and large outdoor), chic suites, a garden with swings, farm animals to admire, ponies to ride, and a lavish breakfast fit for kings (included in the rates). Mercedes and Antonio are extremely welcoming and have 2 daughters, so they’re well attuned to hosting families. If you’re a larger party (up to 18), you can book the place in its entirety and self-cater. You’re only a couple of kilometres from the Adriatic coast, and Puglia enchants all who visit.

    The Manor House, Menorca, Spain

    The Manor House

    This under-the-radar Balearic isle has more than a few hidden treasures in store. We found riches aplenty at this palatial sea-view villa, set at the end of a long, bumpy drive: a gorgeous infinity pool, a high-spec kitchen, 6 bedrooms (including a kids’ bunkroom) and 300 acres of grounds. It even has secret caves, plus private access to a lovely white-sand beach. It sleeps up to 14, and we thought it perfect for a special celebration or an extended family party.

    Minelska Resort, Pelion, Greece

    Minelska Resort

    The hilly Pelion peninsula is directly north of Athens, spurring into the Aegean Sea from mainland Greece. It’s blessed with long stretches of wild coastline on the rugged east and gentle beaches on the calmer west, and there’s no better base than this rustic-chic boutique B&B. The 5 suites each have a sitting room with sofabeds, and there’s a seafront café – plus it’s great value. You’re just 5 minutes’ walk from a sandy village beach, and you can explore the area on horse or mountain bike. We thought it well suited to families with tweens or teens.

    Stazzo Lu Ciaccaru, Sardinia, Italy

    Stazzo Lu Ciaccaru

    This small rural estate offers all the benefits of being ensconced in tranquil countryside, yet it’s just a few minutes from wonderful beaches and aquamarine seas. It used to be a farm, so take a wander around the extensive grounds to discover suites in former stables and self-catering villas in old stone barns (one with a private pool). There’s a big main pool and delicious fare in the restaurant, which has a terrace with long views over the fields. All rooms and suites have space for a rollaway bed or baby cot.

    Palazzo Radomiri, Dobrota, Montenegro

    Palazzo Radomiri

    Outdoorsy families will love discovering the wild beauty of Kotor Bay, with its crystalline waters and forested hills; explore by bike, kayak or guided excursion. This hotel is an added delight: a Baroque waterfront palazzo with history and elegance, as well as its own jetty for easy swims. Choose between Family, Deluxe or Attic Suites, and take advantage of the babysitting service to dine in the Mediterranean-Balkan alfresco restaurant. If you prefer to eat en famille, there’s a kids’ menu, too.

    Binigaus Vell, Menorca, Spain

    Binigaus Vell

    Families are well-catered for at this bucolic rural hotel, set in a former cheese farm near Menorca’s southern coast and just half an hour from the airport. Junior Suites have double sofabeds, 2 Standard rooms can be booked together, and all rooms can take a baby cot. The landscaped grounds are safe for running around, and there’s a lovely pool to splash in. Older kids can ride horses on the property, and bikes can be arranged. Head forth for beaches, boat trips and captivating caves.

    Dubrovnik Boutique Apartments, Dubrovnik, Croatia

    Dubrovnik Boutique Apartments

    There’s no better way to experience this iconic UNESCO-listed city than by living like a local. We suggest staying within the medieval walls at this meticulously restored 17th-century townhouse, now converted into 3 stylish self-catering apartments. Each apartment has a sofabed for kids, and the local area is pedestrianised so it’s safe for families to stroll around. Shop for food in the daily open-air market or browse the fish market overlooking the harbour; there are also small supermarkets close by.

    Boutique Trulli Villa, Puglia, Italy

    Boutique Trulli Villa

    One of Puglia’s great draws is its unique trulli – little stone cones which dot the rolling landscape. This stylish new restoration has converted a cluster of them (along with a ’70s extension) into 2 beautiful rental properties, which can be booked together or separately. The larger is housed beneath 6 linked trulli and sleeps 6 plus a baby in 3 double bedrooms; the smaller comprises 2 ensuite bedrooms and sleeps 4 plus a baby. Both have kitchens and share a wonderful pool with a long shallow shelf (perfect for non-swimmers). The grounds are planted with fragrant Mediterranean bushes and flowering herbs, with swings, a stunning pergola, and an outdoor kitchen for alfresco family meals. You’re not far from the beach, fascinating historic towns, and the excellent Zoo Safari in Fasano.

    The Architect’s House, Pelion, Greece

    The Architect's house

    Set in a magical corner of the Pelion peninsula, close to rugged hillsides and turquoise seas, is this country retreat. It’s been beautifully designed by its architect owner – you get living spaces that flow into each other, 6 bedrooms (including 2 in an outhouse), a lovely garden, and a full kitchen for easy holiday feasts. It’s excellent value for money for an extended family with older kids or a 2-family gathering, and there’s masses to do in the vicinity, from hiking to riding to canyoning. Best of all, you’re only 4km from the beach.

    Montenegro Stone Cottages, near Herceg Novi, Montenegro

    Montenegro Stone Cottages

    Just 20 minutes’ drive from Dubrovnik Airport you’ll find a restored village and this collection of self-catering cottages of varying sizes. They sleep 2-8 (we suggest the 2-, 3- and 4-bedroom cottages as the best for families), with a large shared pool, lawns, and fabulous views down the valley. Your kids will instantly find new friends in the village, and there are wonderful national parks, fortified towns and magnificent Kotor to discover nearby. Adventure beckons!

    Check out the rest of the Kids Collection >>

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