Easy Escapes for December

  • December is the one month a year when it’s genuinely delightful (even desirable!) to wake up to frosty mornings, wrap up in layers, and warm your evenings with a roaring fire. Festive decorations and delicious eggnog just don’t work in the blazing sunshine, so why fight the wintry weather?!

    We’ve scoured the globe for great prices, so 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…

    A British break – £130 per person (2 nights, 14-16 December)

    The Seven Sisters

    The Seven Sisters

    Escape hectic Christmas preparations with a romantic weekend in rural Sussex. Bring your Hunters for walks on the South Downs or stroll the coastal path by the Seven Sisters. The area is rich with traffic-free cycle routes and cosy pubs for restorative lunches.

    Blue Door Barns

    Blue Door Barns

    Stay: at enchanting Blue Door Barns, a great couples’ hideaway with fresh flowers and candles galore. Two nights in the The Sailor’s House comes to £130 per person, plus you’ll get a £60 gift voucher to spend in ‘The Snug’ (their onsite treatment room).

    Travel: the barns are just outside Lewes, a 2-hour drive south of London.

    Total cost: £130 per person B&B, including all taxes.

    More info: Getting there and other accommodation options

    Escape to Iceland – £391.15 per person (3 nights, 6-9 December)



    Viewing the Aurora Borealis is a completely magical winter experience, so gift yourself an early once-in-a-lifetime treat this Christmas, and head north to Iceland.

    Hotel Ranga

    Hotel Ranga

    Stay: at Hotel Ranga, a remote and quirky lodge where staff can even wake you at night if the Northern Lights appear. The food is fabulous and it’s a dizzyingly romantic setting; most rooms have Jacuzzis and volcano views. Their 3-for-2 offer makes a 3-night stay just £187.50 per person, plus you’ll have a surprise gift waiting in your room!

    Fly: from London Heathrow to Reykjavik with Icelandair for £170 per person, departing Saturday 6 December and returning Tuesday 9 December.

    From the airport: car hire through Rhino starts from £67.31 and this will allow you to explore this beautiful country more freely.

    Total cost: £391.15 per person B&B, including all taxes.

    More info: Getting to Iceland and other accommodation options

    ‘Tis the skison – £2,437 per person (7 nights, 20-27 December)

    French Alps

    French Alps

    Want a guaranteed White Christmas? Then head to the French Alps. The blue skies and snowy peaks of the Trois Vallees are awe-inspiring – and the ski season is in full swing. Spend your days on Courchevel’s slopes and your evenings drinking steaming vin chaud around a firepit. Festive heaven!

    Le Portetta

    Le Portetta

    Stay: at ski-in, ski-out Le Portetta. This luxe hotel is pure Alpine chic, with a lavish spa, flexible meal arrangements and rooms to suit families, friends and couples. Plus a fabulous sunny terrace for that all-important apres-ski! Amazingly, it still has availability for the Christmas period, with a 7-night stay in a Valley-View Family Room coming to £2,045 per person.

    Fly: from East Midlands Airport to Geneva with jet2 for £107 per person, departing Saturday 20 December and returning Saturday 27 December.

    From the airport: the hotel offer transfers from Geneva airport for £285 (one way).

    Total cost: £2,437 per person half board, including all taxes.

    More info: Getting to the French Alps and other accommodation options

    *Please note that only the accommodation may be booked through 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 26th November 2014.

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

Escape of the Week… The Grazing Goat

  • Within a 5-minute walk of Marble Arch and near many of London’s most stylish shops, you’ll find a friendly slice of England’s countryside in The Grazing Goat – or at least a slightly more cosmopolitan version, with open fires, oak panelling and a fantastic restaurant to boot.

    The Grazing Goat

    This small boutique pub with rooms is ideal for a wintry visit to the capital for a spot of Christmas shopping or to catch a show, particularly as it’s a wonderfully peaceful bolthole to get back to at the end of the day. With friendly staff, a buzzy bar and a hidden-away location, it feels like a central-London secret – and one we’ll certainly be returning to.

    The Grazing Goat

    Rooms: We love the cosy décor in the rooms: the oak panelling, enormous sleigh beds and blue-grey walls make for cossetting boltholes, particularly in the winter months. Each of the 8 attractive double rooms is decorated in this way and though they’re divided into Superiors and Standards, neither room type is sub-par. All the mod cons are in place (WiFi, TV, iPod dock) and we really loved the little details, from the pots of miniature hydrangeas to the quirky wire lampshades hanging down from the beams.

    Best of all – and rare for London – is the peace and quiet, particularly in the top-floor rooms. Ours overlooked quiet mews to the back and we enjoyed a very peaceful night’s sleep – something aided by the superking beds clad in crisp linens.

    The Grazing Goat

    Food: Like the décor, there’s something of the refined country bumpkin that shows through in the cuisine. There’s a wonderful variety, from standard pub-grub (fish and chips, chicken pie) to more gastronomic triumphs such as rainbow trout with samphire, beetroot and horseradish cream, or saddle of rabbit with mustard fruits. Breakfast (Full English, eggs Benedict, pancakes or similar) is equally wonderful, though not included in the room rate.

    The bar is a buzzy and friendly spot to start the evening with a drink, particularly in cold weather when the log fires are burning. If you can get a seat, it’s the perfect spot to enjoy dinner from, though if it’s too noisy – or you want to book ahead – the first-floor dining room is a lovely light-filled space, with clusters of oak tables and sage walls.

    The Grazing Goat

    Top Tip: The food and (albeit slightly expensive) wine menu are excellent. Make sure you book yourself in for one night, or settle down early in the bar for the full hubbub.

    The Grazing Goat

    Customer review: “Small but beautifully appointed rooms and unbeatable location for central London/ Mayfair. We will definitely be back.”
    Kate, Switzerland (06.07.14)

    i-escape gift: small bag of Rococo goodies

    Read the full review and book  >>

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

Top 5 Art Hotels

  • To welcome the stunning Artist Residence London to our collection of quirky boutique stays, we’ve rounded up a selection of hotels with an art-themed aesthetic. From Brazilian sculpture walks to eccentric Cotswold boltholes full of vivid canvases, these  spots are ideal for the artistically inclined.  

    Artist Residence London, Pimlico, London

    Artist Residence London

    Though subtler than sister hotel Artist Residence Cornwall, the latest addition to the Artist Residence collective offers a trendy foray into the world of innovative design. From the original Eine artworks and vintage inspired bathrooms to the beautiful bespoke beds, everything is finished with a creative flair. Even the cocktails in the basement bar (we enjoyed an elixir of Peking duck whiskey, celery bitters and avocado lemonade) employ a dazzling level of artistry. On top of that, Southbank’s buzzing cultural centre is a short tube ride away.

    Fazenda Catucaba, near Sao Luis do Paraitinga, Brazil

    Fazenda Catucaba

    As well as having walls adorned with art (much of it for sale), this 1850s farmhouse comes with its very own sculpture trail. Walkers can pass 10 angular timber works placed in the surrounding hills by New-York-based Belarussian sculptor Pasha Ra. It’s a beautiful and meditative way to explore the countryside with its mountains, lakes and coffee plantations. In fact, the whole hotel maintains an atmosphere of calm thanks to its wonderfully peaceful isolation at the centre of a 450ha estate.

    Art Hotel Luise, Berlin, Germany

    Art Hotel Luise

    While some hotels are content to hang art on their walls, this large Berlin hotel has turned its rooms into the exhibits. All have been designed by artists (a portion of the cost goes to their royalties), but that’s where the similarities between them end. You can choose to sleep in a pseudo aircraft cabin, or an oversized bed designed with a nod towards Alice in Wonderland. Or perhaps you’d prefer a reference to an artistic great with a stay in the Edward Hopper or Van Gogh tribute rooms?

    Oak House No 1, Tetbury, Gloucestershire

    Oak house No 1

    Gary and Nicky, the exuberant owners of Oak House No 1, have stayed true to form in their design of this Cotswold B&B. An eclectic selection of modern art (much of it by famous artists) means this isn’t your typical Gloucestershire stay, but it’s certainly a memorable one. We love it for injecting a cosmopolitan vibe into its stunning rural setting, but you needn’t take our word for it: it’s popular among A-listers, and Esquire magazine has named it ‘Best art hotel in the UK’.

    Hotel Casa de la Real Aduana , Patzcuaro, Mexico

    Hotel Casa de la Real Aduana

    This hacienda-style guesthouse with a wraparound veranda is a  delightful example of the Mexican highlands’ colonial architecture and imaginative heart. After being taken over by artist owners Gemma and Didier in 2004, it has become a creative hub featuring wonderful arts and crafts, as well and hosting music concerts in the music room or on the veranda. Guests have frequently mentioned the fantastic collection of works, which range from funky Mexican dolls to an exquisite carving of the Virgin and Child, but the real triumph is the wonderful renovation of this beautiful listed house.

    Posted in Top 5. Tagged , , , , , , ,

Just back from… the South of France

  • This summer, Editorial Assistant Emily and her boyfriend Kristian embarked on an epic 400km drive across the South of France in order to check out some new hotels and visit some old favourites. They travelled across 3 regions, ate 2 Michelin-starred meals and had one hell of a time – all in the name of bringing you the best boutique boltholes, of course!

    France truly is timeless. I’m always bowled over by the unique personalities of every region, but there’s always something universally French, too; perhaps it’s the bustling markets, enticing bakeries, quaint boutiques and sociable squares. And this was as true as ever on our recent trip, when we travelled from Languedoc, across Provence and along the Côte d’Azur.

    We started by touching down in Nîmes and driving to the tiny hillside village of Saint-Victor-des-Oules to visit converted farmhouse Le Mas des Oules, with its apartments for 2-6.


    We immediately set about exploring the gorgeous Mediterranean gardens, taking a dip in the pool and playing pétanque, before retreating to our stylish sanctuary. Here, we discovered that Le Mas des Oules is as special on the inside as it is on the outside, with designer furniture, Farrow and Ball painted floors, modern kitchens and gorgeous antique pieces collected from the local markets. We were mightily tempted to cancel the rest of our trip, hole up here and tell the office that all planes out of the country had been indefinitely cancelled.


    Le Mas des Oules’ owners Emma and Michael suggested we head out to explore the Saturday market in nearby Uzés, which is considered the best in Provence – apparently many people travel for over 2 hours to reach it! I could have happily spent all day walking through the maze of cobbled streets, gazing at local crafts and eating delicious produce.


    But Kristian insisted we head off in search of some history, too. Having spent his boyhood holidays camping in the region, he was keen to revisit the 360m-long, 50m-high Roman aqueduct the Pont du Gard to see if it was as impressive as he remembered. I think it’s safe to say that it was!


    After all this excitement, it was time for us to hit the road. We drove through Saint-Quentin-la-Poterie (famous for its pottery), Tavel (famous for its wine, particularly rosé) and UNESCO-listed Avignon, before reaching Hotel du Clos, just inland from Antibes.


    After our journey we were ready for welcoming smiles and an afternoon of relaxation, which is exactly what we received at this Michelin-starred restaurant with rooms.


    After a walk around the village of Le Rouret, a bracing jump into the pool and warming soak in the tub – and inspired by our baking-themed room – we headed to the restaurant for tea. We arrived to find a candlelit table on the terrace, with blankets in case we got cold, a glass of pastis for him, and champagne for me. Head chef Daniel Ettlinger creates truly magic dishes: we feasted on Spanish omelette topped with goat’s cheese, followed by a choice between a delicately battered sea bream fillet or duck breast with potato and asparagus. Our cheese platter and pudding were exquisite, too.


    The following morning, after an incredible breakfast (violet syrup on yoghurt is my new favourite food), we were back on the road, speeding towards the former Swedish royal residence Chateau Eza, located between Nice and Monaco, which offers breath-taking views along the Côte d’Azur (our jaws were open for most of our stay; the vistas really are incredible).


    We fell in love with Eze, a tiny pedestrianized village 400m above the Med, but found it incredibly hard to leave our palatial suite with its sunken Jacuzzi, 2 bathrooms, plum velvet, oil paintings and plush sitting area.


    But it’s not just the rooms and views that make this place special; there’s a Michelin-starred restaurant here, too! Having secured ourselves a table for lunch, we embarked on a 4-course culinary extravaganza, with a private dining terrace, views to die for, and smiling waiters whose recommendations would steer us through the following hours. Asparagus soup and crab topped with tangy Australian lemon caviar were highlights.


    With full stomachs, it was time to descend to Nice for the final stop of our epic journey. The city is synonymous with modern art, so where better to stay than Hotel Windsor, where rooms have been decorated by artists? There’s an ancient Chinese throne in the lobby, a giant musical bamboo mobile, a lift designed by Andy Warhol’s muse Ultra Violet, and original Tintin posters on the walls. We stayed in a bright room designed by François Morellet, but our favourite was Samta Beyahia’s Tunisian blue bedroom.


    As we strolled from Hotel’s Windsor’s secret garden (complete with pool and parrots) through Nice’s centre to the Promenade des Anglais, we couldn’t help but think how special each hotel was, and just how different they had all been. Yet each retained the same quaint French charm, along with an exceptional eye for detail. All in all, we’d had a remarkable time.

    Many of our hotels in southern France get booked up quite far in advance; find out more about this incredible area and book your 2015 French sojourn. 

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

Family Escape of the Month… Culloden Cove, Jamaica

  • _136273_6KB_171014

    We welcome numerous slices of heaven to the i-escape roster every year, but they don’t always boast the child-friendly credentials of beautiful Culloden Cove. In fact, this staffed villa and cottage for 4-12, complete with a private beach and gorgeous gardens, is so well equipped for families that it won the title of ‘Best Newcomer’ in our 2014 Kids Awards.

     Culloden Cove

    It’s easy to see what makes Culloden Cove so special. There are ample provisions for smaller children and babies, while older kids will love the sea-view pool, Eden-like gardens and private beach with its shallow water. The accommodation, split between the villa and adjacent cottage, also offers the opportunity for teenagers or grandparents to stay nearby while enjoying some privacy. On top of all that, rates include a private chef to remove some of the burden from mum and dad!

    Culloden Cove

    Rooms: There are 5 bedrooms (3 doubles and 2 twins), split between the large villa and the single-storey cottage (with reduced rates for those booking 2, 3 or 4 rooms only). All are spacious and simply designed, with mahogany bedside tables and terracotta floor tiles. Small touches include black and white photographs, driftwood arranged on a bookshelf, and bunches of flowers picked fresh from the garden. The twin rooms are ideal for kids, and the 2 bedrooms in the cottage are perfect for grandparents or teenagers who prefer their own space. Altogether the villa and cottage sleep 10, with the option of adding 2 floor mattresses for additional guests (free for under 12s).

    The villa has a large sitting-cum-dining room with comfy wicker sofas arranged around a coffee table and TV, while the cottage has a kitchenette and its own small terrace looking over the garden’s lush vegetation.

    Culloden Cove

    Food: The villa was previously a restaurant, and not only comes with the original well-equipped kitchen but also the chefs, whose services are included in the rates. You’ll be presented with a choice of menus, and dishes can be adapted to suit you and your children’s preferences. Whatever you pick, you’ll eat like kings. The meals are huge and delicious (we loved the range of local fish and exotic fruits), and there’s no better place to enjoy them than the candlelit alfresco table or the terrace overlooking the sea at the bottom of the garden.

    If you decide you want to eat out, just let the staff know and they’ll direct you to local restaurants. Nearby Whitehouse is the island’s main fishing port – a sure bet for fantastic seafood.

    Culloden Cove

    Kids activities: Much of the magic of Culloden Cove is contained within the hummingbird-filled grounds, and the hosts have made sure you have everything you need to make the most of them. Snorkelling and kayaking equipment is available to use on the beach, and a paddling pool can be set up in the garden. There’s also a small but perfectly positioned infinity pool overlooking the sea, plus wicker baskets full of toys, board games and DVDs.

    The local area is stunning, with bird sanctuaries, waterfalls and boat trips in search of crocodiles. We’d also recommend visiting the numerous long sandy beaches nearby.

    Culloden Cove

    Baby equipment: There are plenty of provisions, including cots, baby bedding, nightlights, potties, highchairs, bottle warmers and even car seats (a rear-facing one for babies and a front-facing one for infants).

    Read the full review and book  >>

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

Top 5 Christmas Markets

  • Christmas may be approaching, but there’s still plenty of time to squeeze in a  getaway before Santa arrives. We’ve selected some European escapes with excellent markets that allow you to stock up on festive spirit (and pressies), while also enjoying a super-seasonal sojourn with a glass of the local grog.


    Germany is oft regarded as the home of the Christmas fayre and there are hundreds across the country once yuletide hits. When it comes to quantity, capital Berlin is the runaway winner, with a multitude of popular markets to choose from. It can be busy, but we love the market at Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche (set under the iconic memorial church), which offers a huge spread of Christmas cheer in traditional and inimitable German style.


    Brandenburg Gate

    Where to stay: Sleek and smart Casa Camper is tucked into Berlin’s vibrant Mitte district – the most central and densely landmarked of Berlin’s boroughs. Its 51 rooms are defined by a cool minimalism, but the spoiling toiletries, fluffy white gowns and ample space prevent them from being anywhere near monastic.

    Casa Camper

    Casa Camper

    Take a look at other Berlin hotels >>


    Christmas markets are as much about the food and drink as the gifts, so it’s worth bearing in mind that the traditional Czech Christmas drink (grog and honey liquor) is perhaps a little more tempting than the traditional Czech Christmas dish (carp displayed in huge barrels of water). However, nothing quite matches Prague’s festive scenery, and the Old Town and Wenceslas Square are utterly idyllic settings for snow-dusted Czech carols.


    Old Town Square

    Where to stay: With such incredible architecture and bustling markets in the centre of the city, it makes sense to get as close as possible. This modern but cosy design hotel is near  the Old Town but nicely tucked away to avoid the noise and bustle. The comfortable rooms are a delightful remedy to the biting Czech cold.

    Hotel UNIC Prague

    Hotel UNIC Prague

    Take a look at other Prague hotels >>


    With the increasing popularity of Christmas markets, it’s refreshing to encounter one that retains its authentic charm. Each December Copenhagen’s Tivoli garden – the second oldest theme park in the world – is transformed into a spectacular space of sprawling stalls, hidden grottos and festive rides. Resplendent in its bright decorations and covered by nisser (Danish Christmas pixies), it’s an enchanting and abundantly festive wonderland.


    Copenhagen waterfront

    Where to stay: This laid-back and colourful hotel is tucked between Copenhagen’s downtown area and beautiful lakes – an illustrious location for any visitor to the city. But it’s not just the setting that makes a hotel – something that the Danes understand very well thanks to their concept of hygge (which loosely translates as the cosy and warm feeling that comes from intimate surroundings, good friends and good food). Ibsens Hotel is the perfect place to discover it.

    Ibsens Hotel

    Ibsens Hotel

    Take a look at other Copenhagen hotels >>


    Many of London’s numerous markets recreate the popular German variety, with quaint wooden huts and European fare. Despite being a borrowed theme, it’s nevertheless done with yuletide charm, and large events like Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland are a popular draw for seasonal revellers. For a slightly more relaxed market experience, we love the pop-up stalls along windswept Southbank.


    Tower Bridge

    Where to stay: For a taste of a wintry rural getaway amid Marylebone’s urban beauty, we love The Grazing Goat – a muted and beautifully designed hideaway with log fires and exquisite food. It’s also well positioned for excellent shopping (Bond Street and Oxford Street are nearby), with easy access to the rest of the city.

    The Grazing Goat

    The Grazing Goat

    Take a look at other London hotels >>


    Stockholm’s most famous Christmas market, in the charming and iconic Stortorget Square, is a seasonal spree of national crafts and delicacies. We can’t resist the delicious saffransbullar (saffron buns), and reindeer sausages are also popular (though don’t tell the kids!). If you’re lucky enough to get a dusting of snow, the whole scene adopts an impossibly beautiful Christmas card-like magic.



    Where to stay: After trying some tasty Swedish treats at the market, Hotel Rival is the perfect place to continue the gastronomic fun, with superb breakfasts and Sunday brunches. Transformed from a 1930s cinema (by none other than ABBA’s Benny Andersson), it’s now a cool pad with bold colours and wonderfully comfortable rooms to protect you from the Swedish winter.

    Hotel Rival

    Hotel Rival

    Take a look at other Stockholm hotels >>

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

We are three: 2014 Kids Collection Awards

  • i-escape’s Kids Collection is now 3 years of age, and to celebrate, Editor Nadine has announced the award-winners for our top child-friendly lodgings _136273_6KB_171014for 2014! These uniquely stylish family favourites encompass boutique hotels, awesome apartments and cool villas suitable for all ages and budgets. So, whether you’re after somewhere suitable for babies, an unforgettable exotic escape, a kids club with all manner of activities, or a great-value little hideaway, we’ve got the perfect place for you and your family.

    _136274_1KB_171014Best for… Babies and Toddlers: Country Kids, France

    Country Kids

    A most welcome 2014 addition to i-escape’s Kids Collection, this former farm found in the bucolic Languedoc hills has 7 homely apartments for 4-12. Superlative facilities for younger fry include a petting farm, toddler pool, age-appropriate toys and games, playground, sandpit and ballpit. You also get loads of equipment: from bath toys to changing mats, mini-blenders to baby bicycle seats, as well as complimentary afternoon tea daily and unlimited use of the crèche. Best of all, parents in need of rest and recovery can make use of the free Friday morning PJ parties (children are collected from 7am so you can go back to bed!), and 2 nights of babysitting per week. Sheer heaven!

    Vote for Country Kids >>

    _136274_1KB_171014Best for… City Breaks: into Barcelona, Spain

    into Barcelona

    into Barcelona has a wide range of apartments in the city’s central El Born and Gothic Quarter districts, so you’re bound to find one right for you. All have well-equipped kitchens and you can request one with a bathtub; baby cots, stair gates and high chairs are also available. The owners run excellent walking tours, which can be tailored for kids. And Barcelona is a fantastic city for the nippers – from the Maritime Museum to discovering Gaudi’s fantasy architecture to cable-car rides – you’ll soon be booking a return visit!

    Vote for into Barcelona >>

    _136274_1KB_171014Best for… Adventurous Families: Whitepod, Switzerland


    In summer, this beautiful eco-dome camp is where families can discover dog-karting, mountain biking, hiking and paragliding; in winter, sledding, snow-shoeing and skiing (both cross-country and downhill) are the go. Having made the most of the back-to-nature vibe during the day, in the evenings you can snuggle up around the wood-burning stove or watch a movie in the cinema room. Under 12s stay for free; children sleep on the mezzanine levels in the pods. A magical setting and a unique concept.

    Vote for Whitepod >>

    _136274_1KB_171014Best… Value: Skiathos Holidays, Greece

    Skiathos Holidays

    This is a super group of well-priced self-catering villas, studios and apartments right by the beach on the popular Sporades island of Skiathos. There are accommodations to suit all, and there’s no charge for sofabeds and baby cots for the little ‘uns. Nearby, kid-friendly tavernas and grocery shops make for easy family meals (although note that the studios only have kitchenettes). You get a large communal garden for the kids to romp in, plus there are watersports and boat trips close by. All the ingredients for a laid-back family holiday.

    Vote for Skiathos Holidays >>

    _136274_1KB_171014Best… Island Escape: Golden Buddha Beach Resort, Thailand

    Golden Buddha Beach Resort

    If you’re looking for an undeveloped tropical paradise far removed from the flashy resorts that so many once-fabled destinations now feature, this is it. There are no cars on Koh Phra Thong, an island off Thailand’s west coast, but you do get this lovely low-key resort comprising stilted houses and a communal Clubhouse. Set on a glorious, long and safe beach with pristine jungle inland, the staff are caring, and you can go snorkelling, rainforest trekking, have a massage, or just chill out.

    Vote for Golden Buddha Beach Resort >>

    _136274_1KB_171014Best for… Kids Facilities: Villas Martinhal, Portugal

    Villas Martinhal

    Martinhal impresses us year after year with its superb facilities for families. There are 4 swimming pools, a playground, and both tennis and football academies. There’s a video games room for over 8s should the weather not behave, and when it does there’s a fab beach for learning to surf and regular picnics and treasure hunts. The crèche and Kids Clubs cater for all ages up to 16 (those for older ones are open only in the holidays), with a huge range of age-appropriate activities from face-painting to cooking classes, table tennis to junior lifeguard courses.

    Vote for Villas Martinhal >>

    _136274_1KB_171014Best… Newcomer: Culloden Cove, Jamaica

    Culloden Cove

    New to the Kids Collection this year, this dreamy boutique villa stands out not just for its simply stylish and spacious interiors, wonderful staff, and oodles of kids paraphernalia (including  DVDs, books, snorkelling gear, toys, games, high chairs and night lights), but also for its superb secluded setting. You get your own small sandy beach with shallow water, plus lush gardens with a gazebo and infinity pool. There are 3 bedrooms in the main house and another 2 in the adjacent cottage, which would be perfect for the grandparents or older kids. Heavenly!

    Vote for Culloden Cove >>

    _136274_1KB_171014Best for… Older Kids: Fellah Hotel, Morocco

    Fellah Hotel

    Another newcomer to i-escape, Fellah Hotel works brilliantly for families of all ages but its unique cultural raison d’etre provides an extra dimension for older kids. The specialist workshops during the holidays are designed to showcase Moroccan heritage, so tweens could be taught Moroccan cookery, learn to DJ or make a movie, herd goats or create works with the artists in residence. There’s also a volleyball court, a treehouse, a film and book library, 27 acres of landscaped gardens to explore, an actual working farm, and a riding school nearby.

    Vote for Fellah Hotel >>

    _136274_1KB_171014Best for… Families Large and Small: St Mawes Hideaways, UK

    St Mawes Hideaways

    This collection of 4 cottages has a great setting overlooking the sea in the village of St Mawes, Cornwall. Each has been lavishly restored and benefits from the owner’s excellent concierge services. The smallest has 2 bedrooms, so is perfect for a single family, a couple have 4 bedrooms and can sleep 8-10 (ideal for a pair  of families or a multi-generational holiday), and the largest sleeps up to 12 in 5 bedrooms, great for a big house party. All have sea-facing terraces and gardens, big picture windows to soak in the sea views, and plenty of games, toys, books and a dressing up box. The largest houses have games rooms with mini-pool tables, and trampolines in the garden.

    Vote for St Mawes Hideaways >>

    _136274_1KB_171014Best for… Wildlife Spotting: Samara, South Africa


    For a family-friendly safari experience, head to this huge privately owned reserve, easily accessed just 3 hours from Port Elizabeth. Activities for kids include learning African tales, creating your own bushman paintings, crafting with African beads, tracking and orienteering. They also get a trampoline, sandpit, playroom and table tennis. The guides are superb, and kids under 8 have their own game drives; you could see rhino, cheetah, mountain zebra, giraffe and antelope. Pleasingly, there’s no malaria in these parts.

    Vote for Samara >>

    Go to our Instagram page to vote for your favourite hotel >>

    Posted in Celebrations, Family Travel, i-escape Awards, Kids, Our Favourite.... Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Escape of the Week… 15 Glasgow

  • Set in a hidden garden square amongst Glasgow’s magnificent Victorian terraces, this opulent boutique B&B is within striking distance of the city’s West End and other famous sites. Despite its grandeur, guests receive a warm and informal welcome perfect for a relaxing winter break.

    Spacious rooms with contemporary furniture and luxurious details make for a very cosy stay, but what we particularly like are the heritage features. Glittering chandeliers, antique mirrors, original wooden shutters and Victorian cornicing reflect the beautiful history of the building and its neighbourhood.

    Rooms: The largest of the 5 generous rooms is the vast first-floor Drawing Room which, as well as being the size of your average apartment, has an original fireplace, ornate cornicing and 3 lofty sash windows overlooking the leafy gardens below. We also love The Towers: another large room with dove-grey carpet, a royal-blue velvet sofabed and a freestanding roll-top tub and monsoon shower in the glitzy bathroom.

    All of the rooms have spoiling details too: plasma TVs with DVD players, luxurious beds with duck-down pillows and duvets, and bathrooms with remote-controlled underfloor heating – perfect for warming up after a winter’s day in the city.

    Food: Breakfast at 15 Glasgow is a triumph of luxury. Brought to your room for you to enjoy in bed (or at your table), you get a lovely range of options from standard cereals, fruit and yoghurt to a full Scottish breakfast with free range eggs and black pudding from Stornoway. Owner Laura will even give you her mobile number so you can call or text if you need more toast or milk.

    Evening meals aren’t available at the B&B, but you’re within strolling distance of a number of excellent restaurants and Laura is more than happy to make a booking for you. You’re spoilt for choice too, so it’s definitely worth asking her advice. We love the wood-fired pizzas at Firebird and have vowed to book into Ubiquitous Chip on our next trip.

    Top Tip: Leave the car at home and take the train or plane. From 15 Glasgow it’s an easy walk to most of the city’s main attractions, plus taxis are cheap and plentiful, and there’s good public transport available (including the Glasgow Subway metro system and suburban railway networks).

    Customer review: “Location was great as we wanted to explore the Kelingrove Museum and Park in our limited time. Laura gave us suggestions on restaurants and shopping in the area as well. Such a relaxing vibe that we would love to return and stay longer to explore Glasgow and all it has to offer. A definite thumbs up!”
    Anne, United States (03.10.14)

    i-escape gift: a free bottle of wine

    Read the full review and book  >>

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

Top 10 winter sun getaways

  • The clocks have changed and dark nights are looming, but cheer is at hand with our latest winter sun roundup. We’ve selected our top warming getaways for the impending winter season because, as much as we love a wintry getaway, the call of a sun-kissed beach is hard to ignore. From glamping in California to a bevy of boutique beauties in Morocco and Sri Lanka, we’ve got a great selection of hot hideaways for the sun-worshipper in you.

    Big Sur Getaway, Big Sur, California

    Big Sur Getaway

    Chill out amongst the oaks and redwoods in a vintage Airstream Trailer (sleeping 2-4), complete with retro-modern décor. This place offers the best of both worlds: a wilderness experience with the home comforts of hot water and a comfy bed, plus a restaurant, grocery store and pub just a short walk away. The property borders Andrew Molera State Park so hiking, biking, birding and beaches are on your doorstep – but it’ll be hard to tear yourself away from the tranquillity of trailer life.

    Buri Rasa PhanganKoh Phangan, Thailand

    Buri Rasa Phangan

    Its design and lovely staff raise this resort above the rest. Set on one of Thailand’s prettiest beaches, it has 65 cleverly located rooms that offer both sweeping sea vistas and a sense of protection from the outside world. This place is a classic tropical haven, complete with fine white sand, coconut palms and sprawling umbrella trees.

    Rock Villa, Bentota, Sri Lanka

    Rock Villa

    This beautiful bijou boutique hotel is a brand new addition to the i-escape collection. Previously the home of talented interior designer and boutique hotelier Nayantaru Fonseka (a.k.a. Taru), the original 170-year-old manor house has been reworked to combine contemporary and colonial design, and they’ve also added a restaurant-bar. The palm-spiked gardens are spotted with hammocks-for-2, and Bentota’s southern shore is a mere 60 metres away. Rock Villa ticks all the boxes of why we love Sri Lanka as a winter sun destination.

    Fellah Hotel, near Marrakech, Morocco

    Fellah Hotel

    Fellah Hotel, near Marrakech, is a cultural complex of rooms, villas, a restaurant and a working ‘mini-farm’ with spectacular Atlas Mountain views. Set in 27 acres of lush landscaping and vegetable gardens, it has a biblioteque containing 10,000 books, a Thai spa, a heated pool, and an outdoor gym. It also has a great kids’ club with unusual activities themed around the arts, countryside, cooking and culture. Morocco is also a wonderfully easy to get to winter sun option, ideal for shorter getaways.

    An Lam Saigon River, near Saigon, Vietnam

    An Lam Saigon River

    Just a 15-minute speed-boat ride from bustling Ho Chi Minh City, this riverside sanctuary is a spoiling destination in sunny Vietnam. Its teal-green pool is overlooked by frangipani trees, and rooms have luxurious touches including outdoor bathtubs, private plunge pools and either balconies or terraces. The Vietnamese-French fusion food is a real highlight.

    Golden Buddha Beach Resort, Koh Pra Thong, western Thailand

    Golden Buddha Beach Resort

    This place offers great value for money, and if you’re looking for utter peace and seclusion in an unspoiled natural environment, then book in now. Expect a stunning back-to-nature island hideaway with spacious stilted wooden houses, rainforest, snorkeling and endless beaches. On top of all that, this is genuine low-impact tourism; there are not cars on the island and the hotels is at pains to ensure as much as possible – from staff to food – is sourced locally.

    Tulum Beach Houses, Tulum, Mexico

    Tulum Beach Houses

    On the edge of Tulum Beach – one of the most beautiful and pristine beaches in the world – is this herd of stunning eco houses. Each of the individual houses is secluded and private, but they’re also within easy walking distance of the vacation essentials of beachside restaurants and a local spa. We love the big-decked balconies and roof terraces overlooking the breath-taking sands and glistening Caribbean Sea.

    Cape View Clifton, Cape Town, South Africa

    Cape View Clifton

    South Africa is fantastic all year round, but the beaches of Clifton in Cape Town come into their own between November and March. We can’t think of a much better place to enjoy them than from this ultra-chic hotel with large, luxurious suites, friendly staff and a swimming pool with views to die for. There’s also a great selection of accommodation: delightful romantic suites for 2 and 2-3 bedroom self-catering suites for families or friends.

    The Priests Houses, Goa, India

    The Priests Houses

    These charming restored beach villas make up one of Fashion Blogger Lucy Williams’ favourite i-escape boltholes and for very good reason. Set beneath palm trees beside an idyllic Goan beach, these houses offer an oasis of unrushed calm that is absolutely paradise like. Built in the 19th century and restored in 2006, the houses have taken on a stylish flair with cobalt-blue bathrooms, muslin-draped four-posters and open rafters. Absolute heaven.

    SALA Phuket, Phuket, Thailand

    SALA Phuket

    A stylish villa and spa resort set on a quiet stretch of the Andaman coast, worlds away from Phuket’s party crowds. It offers modern luxe without the pretence, and there’s an overall emphasis on healthy relaxation. Simple yet chic villas boast alfresco bathrooms, there’s a choice of pools, and the great food and peaceful atmosphere are particular highlights.

    Check out our inspire me page for more winter sun ideas.

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

Spotlight on… Madhya Pradesh

  • Having recently expanded our collection to include central India’s Madhya Pradesh region, we think it’s time to travel off the beaten track in search of ancient cities, jaw-dropping temples and that ever-elusive striped feline.

    Satpura National Park

    Satpura National Park

    Why go?

    As the unassuming neighbour of high-profile Rajasthan, what Madhya Pradesh lacks in fame it makes up for in authenticity. Adventurous travellers will be richly rewarded for traversing to this remote region, home to some of India’s finest wildlife parks and most romantic historical sites.

    Life on the ghats

    Life on the ghats


    With its reserves providing some of the best opportunities for tiger spotting in the county, wildlife viewing is a major draw for visitors to Madhya Pradesh. Here you could conceivably hit 4 national parks in a row (Bandhavgarh, Satpura, Kanha and Pench), although we’d recommend focusing your energy on 1 or 2 and leaving some time to unwind, too.

    Samode Safari Lodge

    Samode Safari Lodge

    Setting the bar for luxury wilderness tourism in India is Samode Safari Lodge in Bandhavgarh National Park. While animal sightings can never be guaranteed, the lodge’s charismatic naturalists do their very best to help you discover the park, leading fascinating twice-daily safaris in specially designed jeeps. With a bit of luck you could spot tigers, sloth bears, leopards, panthers, wolves, hyenas and gaurs, as well as colourful birds, lizards and butterflies. Back at the lodge, romantics will revel in the outdoor bathtubs, private lantern-lit meals and ample star-gazing opportunities.

    Samode Safari Lodge

    Samode Safari Lodge

    Further west is Satpura National Park, and within it Forsyth Lodge – a paradise for eco enthusiasts and nature lovers. There are so few tourists here that you might have the whole park to yourselves – well, besides the deer, sambars, gaurs, nilgais, boars, crocodiles, monkeys, leopards, sloth bears and tigers, that is. Guests can choose the method of transport for their daily safaris: perch atop an elephant for a trample through the jungle, paddle in a canoe along the Denwa river, or even walk through the tiger reserve on foot – a rare experience in India.

    Forsyth Lodge

    Forsyth Lodge

    Kids are well-catered for, too: Forsyth’s 3-day ‘Junior Rangers Programme’ teaches animal tracking, use of binoculars and telescopes, species identification and a little nature photography. The course completed, they receive a Junior Rangers certificate.

    Forsyth Lodge

    Forsyth Lodge

    Beyond the nature reserves, you can combine sightseeing and relaxation at Ahilya Fort, an enchanting 18th-century palace hotel perched above the sacred Narmada river. This bewitching property is on the edge of the friendly little town of Maheshwar and is owned by the welcoming, well-travelled and rather eccentric Prince Richard Holkar, whose ancestor Queen Ahilya built the fort more than 250 years ago.

    Ahilya Fort

    Ahilya Fort

    It’s set above the riverside ghats (steps), where streams of pilgrims come to worship, and guests can watch local life unfold on the banks and enjoy floating sunset dinners on traditional hand-paddled wooden boats. Head across the river to the pretty village of Naoda Todi and its Shaliwan Temple, or take a daytrip to the abandoned city of Mandu, which encompasses palaces, pavilions, mosques and tombs. You can wander around at your leisure, imagining what it must have been like back in the 15th century, when it housed the sultan’s harem of 15,000 women.



    When to go

    The best time to visit is from November to February, when days are sunny and nights chilly, though visitors also enjoy October, March and even April. Most of central India gets uncomfortably hot during the summer months.

    Samode Safari Lodge

    Samode Safari Lodge

    Our top tip

    If you’re combining a trip to Madhya Pradesh with a visit to Agra and the Taj Mahal, don’t miss the massive, magnificent Gwalior Fort en route between the two. Filled with temples and palaces and embellished with colourful tile work, this may be India’s finest example of Rajput architecture.

    Gwalior Fort

    Gwalior Fort

    See our destination guide for more information on Madhya Pradesh.

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