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 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, Jodhpur, India
LUCY 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, Goa, India
COURTNEY 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, Algarve, Portugal
WILL 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, near Paarl, South Africa
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, near Galle, Sri Lanka
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.”
Beach near Monte da Vilarinha, Algarve, Portugal
JAMES 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, Goa, India
CLARE 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, Scotland
LISA CORCORAN, Director, 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, Algarve, Portugal