FEB09

Escape of the Week… Kensington Place

 
  • It may be small, but Kensington Place outperforms many larger hotels in its setting alone. Perched on the slopes of Table Mountain in Cape Town, every one of its rooms benefits from views across the city, with some boasting sea and mountain vistas. But the beauty isn’t just on the outside – the interiors are a triumph of luxurious, contemporary design.

    Kensington Place

    Kensington Place is also fantastically located near many of Cape Town’s finest bars and restaurants, and it’s within easy reach of vineyards, nature reserves and beaches for day trips. If you’d prefer to hang around the hotel, the excellent staff will ensure you feel perfectly at home and can arrange spa treatments for tired guests.

    Kensington Place

    Rooms: There are only 8 rooms, which means each can pack a perfect punch of beautiful furnishings and spoiling touches. Expect dark wood furniture, crisp linens, sisal flooring, and lovely African prints and textiles as decoration. To crown it all, all rooms are wonderfully large and have balconies with splendid views across the city. There are also plenty of extras to help you feel at home: satellite TVs, DVD players, iPod docking stations and laptops come as standard.

    Kensington Place

    Food: Breakfast – rather indulgently – is served all day, so fresh yoghurt, muesli, fruit, and scrambled eggs and smoked salmon can be enjoyed on the terrace at whatever time you rise. You’ll have to venture out for full evening meals, but with trendy Kloof Street a short stroll away and a number of eateries nearby, this is no hardship. That said, sometimes the simplest pleasures are the best, and not much can beat a light room-service supper on your balcony while watching the sunset over Table Bay.

    Kensington Place

    When to go: Any time! High summer is from late September through to February, and March is delightful. April to September is referred to as the ‘Green’ season in the Cape (it sounds better than the rainy season!),  but days can be as hot as the British summertime, without the fierce sunshine.

    Kensington Place

    Customer review: “Highly recommend staying here; stylish, comfortable, great location and we were very well looked after. We will be back.”

    Louise, Australia (14.04.12)

    i-escape gift: 2 tickets for the Table Mountain cable car.

    Read the full review and book  >>

    Posted in Escape of the Week. Tagged , , ,
FEB06

Introducing our NEW Menorca collection

 
  • Last autumn, we sent our Senior Editorial Assistant Melissa to assemble i-escape’s first collection of Menorcan hotels and villas. Here she introduces us to this wonderfully rural Balearic Island…

    Waiting for sunset at Cova d’en Xoroi

    Waiting for sunset at Cova d’en Xoroi

     

    When it comes to shorter jaunts, I’ve always had a penchant for suitably bitesize destinations. An intimate city or island provides plenty to see without prompting the type of panicked, geographically challenging itinerary that so often leads to a week of disappointment and disarray.

    Step forth Menorca, i-escape’s undiscovered Balearic frontier. This sleepy slice of rural Spain is the antithesis of nearby Ibiza – despite having its own branch of world-famous nightclub Space, here you’re more likely to enjoy an afternoon of rambling than a night of raving.

    Cala Mitjana

    Cala Mitjana

    If you’re particularly sold on the idea of quiet streets and empty beaches, do as we did and book during the peripheral seasons. We arrived to an eerily quiet Mao airport after catching Bristol’s last summer 2014 flight to the island – there were just 14 passengers on the plane!

    Mao

    Mao

    Our first stop was Mao, just a short drive from the airport – although you can reach any part of the island in little more than an hour, so location is not much of an issue here. Rich with military history and buzzy tapas bars, this harbour town (and island capital) has seen 2 fantastic townhouse hotels spring up in the last year.

    Jardi de ses Bruixes

    Jardi de ses Bruixes

    Jardi de ses Bruixes

    Jardi de ses Bruixes

     

    Jardi de ses Bruixes, a blue-shuttered haven, had me head over heels from the off. Every room has been beautifully decorated and given a huge bathroom with a freestanding tub and walk-in shower (a rarity in hotels such as this). Best of all, the enchanting riad-style courtyard plays host to ad-hoc arts and cultural events, as well as relaxing breakfasts under the orange trees. We were lucky enough to catch a fantastic candlelit comedy play amid a crowd of locals.

    Hotel Petit Mao

    Hotel Petit Mao

    Just around the corner, Hotel Petit Mao is a taller, funkier incarnation. It’s ideal for younger couples seeking style on a budget, and we loved it. Arriving late at night, we promptly took to the poolside deckchairs with a bottle of white from the Smeg honesty fridge. Host Nina is a delight and will happily recommend island hotspots if you fancy borrowing the hotel’s electric bikes (propped against a wall in the cool entrance lounge).

    View from El Torro

    View from El Torro

    Hotel Ses Sucreres

    Hotel Ses Sucreres

    Before we embarked on any localised exploring, we ascended El Toro – the closest thing Menorca has to a mountain – to get our bearings. Standing in the centre of the island, the summit is a strange juxtaposition of industrial phone masts and a 17th-century church, but from here you can see Menorca’s expansive rural pastures and forests, as well as much of the coastline. If you want an equally central base, Hotel Ses Sucreres, in authentic Ferreries, offers a warm welcome. During our stay, we enjoyed an informal night of tasty food and ice-cold beer at a neighbouring tapas bar.

    Playa de Cavalleria

    Playa de Cavalleria

    The next day we drove north to Fornells fishing village – home to Menorca’s signature dish, caldereta de langosta (lobster casserole) – for a lazy lunch, then caught a gorgeous sunset from the red sands of a near-deserted Playa de Cavalleria.

    The Manor House

    The Manor House

    Cami de Cavalls

    Cami de Cavalls

    Menorca is popular with walkers and one of its biggest draws is the ancient Cami de Cavalls pathway which encircles the island; The Manor House and Binigaus Vell are particularly well placed for tracing its south-coast section. The former is a sprawling 6-bedroom villa on a 300-acre country estate with direct, private access to Binigaus Beach; from here, the Cami de Cavalls departs west towards the idyllic turquoise waters of Cala Mitjana (estimated walking time 4 hours) or east past Santo Tomás to the endless white sands of Son Bou (approx. 2 hours). Guests staying at Binigaus Vell are also within easy reach of these routes, plus the hotel has its own stables for guided riding expeditions.

    Ciutadella

    Ciutadella

    Hotel Tres Sants

    Hotel Tres Sants

    If your interests are more town than country, head to harbourfront Ciutadella on the west coast. It was the island’s capital until the 1700s, and we immersed ourselves in the historic Old Town with a stay at romantic Hotel Tres Sants. Some of the hotel walls date back 1,000 years and it’s tucked behind the imposing cathedral, with impressive views from its roof terrace. Tall windows with gauzy drapes gaze over narrow pedestrianised streets, and a heavenly pool and steam room await below ground in the vaulted cellar.

    Ca Na Xini

    Ca Na Xini

    Ca Na Xini

    Ca Na Xini

    Being a predominantly rural, arable island, Menorca also offers some fantastic opportunities to indulge in foodie delights amid peaceful surroundings. We spent a relaxing evening sampling the cheese and wine of Ca Na Xini – a working winery and cheese farm with super-sleek, minimalist hotel rooms – before joining a guided tour of the estate the following morning.

    Torralbenc

    Torralbenc

    But our favourite foodie experience was a little more conceptual. Torralbenc is a stunning farm turned boutique hideaway, and its rustic-chic restaurant is a showstopper. Our meal here started with knowledgeable recommendations and resulted in some of the most delicious and creative gastronomy we care to remember. The theatrical dissolving seafood starter and melt-in-the mouth lamb (from the hotel’s own flock) were my personal favourites – I can still taste them now!

    Cova d’en Xoroi

    Cova d’en Xoroi

    Cova d’en Xoroi

    Cova d’en Xoroi

    Finally, no visit to Menorca is complete without sunset cocktails at the stunning Cova d’en Xoroi cliffside bar. It’s just a 10-minute drive from Torralbenc, so book a late-night table at the hotel restaurant and spend dusk soaking up the sea views from this remarkable cave bar.

    Fancy seeing Menorca for yourself? Check out our full collection and destination guide

    Posted in New Hotels, Our Trips..., Travel Postcards. Tagged , , , , , ,
FEB04

Hotel stays for larger families

 
  • At i-escape we pride ourselves on being able to offer something for everyone. Our hand-picked collection of wonderful places to stay spans all sizes of property, multiple locations and a range of prices. The Advanced Search function allows our clients to find exactly what they’re looking for, and the perfect retreat has many forms. So when we received a request for hotels for larger families, our Kids Collection Editor Nadine easily found several that fitted the bill – because we know that not all families have 2.4 children…

    South Sands Boutique Hotel, Devon, UK

    South Sands Boutique Hotel

    This boutique hotel comes with fresh New England décor and a restaurant overlooking a sandy beach (so you can keep an eye on the kids playing while you enjoy lunch). The views stretch across the Salcombe estuary, and there’s heaps for outdoorsy kids to get stuck into, including oceans of watersports (there’s a sailing school next door). The 5 Beach Suite apartments are ideal for families: each sleeps up to 6 plus a baby, with 2 bedrooms (a double and a twin), a fully equipped kitchen for whipping up light meals, and a sofabed in the living room.

    Castello di Gargonza, Tuscany, Italy

    Castello di Gargonza

    This 13th-century fortified village has been reimagined as a cluster of boutique dwellings that work for all sizes and shapes of family. Five self-catering apartments sleep 5-8, and there’s also a 4-bedroom farmhouse that can hold up to 10. In addition, there are B&B rooms which would work for grandparents, and the restaurant is open to all guests for lunch and dinner. Kids can channel fairy-tale fantasies in the maze of medieval streets, there are mountain bikes to hire, and an 18-metre outdoor pool with stunning views sits just outside the walls.

    Fawakay Villas, outside Marrakech, Morocco

    Fawakay Villas

    A near-perfect set-up for families looking for an exotic adventure (the souks of the Medina are a mere 15 minutes away), this gorgeous retreat has a trio of large 2-storey villas within its 3.5 acres of flowering grounds. Each has a private garden and spacious, richly decorated interiors that sleep 6-8 apiece. The grounds also house a swimming pool with a shallow end, a small playground, a menagerie of animals to admire (from a donkey to peacocks), and a tennis court and ping-pong to amuse. And the owners define convivial and welcoming.

    Le Portetta, Alps, France

    Le Portetta

    Ski holidays are a must-have annual fixture for some families. We heartily recommend this chic ski-in, ski-out hotel in the Trois Vallées for its superb setting beside slopes that are ideal for beginners and children, for its excellent restaurant with a kids’ menu, and for its handy range of accommodation options. The 8 family rooms (each with a double bedroom and a bunkroom) hold up to 5, while the 6 apartment-like lofts sleep up to 8 in 2-3 bedrooms; the latter also have full kitchens for those wishing to self-cater. Bigger family parties can book one of the lodges a little further up the piste, which accommodate 10-16 and come with luxurious additions such as hot tubs and saunas.

    Puri Ganesha Villas, NW Bali, Indonesia

    Puri Ganesha Villas

    These enchanting beachside villas are perfect for adventurous kids, for frazzled parents, and for anyone seeking oodles of space, laid-back luxury and unpretentious shabby-chic décor. The largest two are split-level spaces that sleep up to 6 in 2-3 bedrooms, and all have private pools. Children will enjoy the outdoor bathrooms and the gardens, and there’s a great kids’ menu in the restaurant. Draws nearby include an exciting black-sand beach, a volcano and a rainforest to explore, and plenty of watersports and boat trips.

    Achlada Mourtzanakis Residence, Crete, Greece

    Achlada Mourtzanakis Residence

    Head to this welcoming retreat in the hills for relaxation, unspoilt countryside and great-value accommodation. There are 4 split-level villas with a double bedroom on a mezzanine, a living room with sofabeds, a kitchen and a private deck; all can sleep up to 6. The property also has a pool, and breakfast and dinner are on offer if self-catering sounds like a chore. What’s more, you’re only 10 minutes from the beach.

    The Nam Hai, near Hoi An, Vietnam

    The Nam Hai

    If taking the family to Vietnam for the trip of a lifetime, be sure to stay at this super-cool design hotel – not just for its reflecting infinity pool overlooking the ocean, but also for the effortlessly elegant Pool Villas with their outdoor showers, eggshell baths, private pools and tented beds.  Many can hold 6-9, and a couple can accommodate even larger parties. The hotel is perfectly placed for exploring UNESCO-listed Hoi An, and treats on site include an extensive breakfast buffet, an overwater spa and a private beach with a restaurant. There are terrific facilities for kids, too (the hotel is considered the best in Vietnam for families), including a games room, a sports complex, kids’ and teens’ clubs, and locally inspired activities such as kite-making and painting conical hats. Sheer bliss!

    Casas do Coro, Marialva, Portugal

    Casas do Coro

    Close to the Spanish border in northeast Portugal is a National Heritage-listed hilltop village that has been transformed into a collection of self-catering eco-cabins and granite houses. All can take an extra bed or cot, and 4 of the houses sleep 5-9. You can self-cater if you want, but most guests prefer to dine at the contemporary-styled restaurant for its terrific locally sourced cuisine and excellent wine list. Kids will love the pool and biological gardens, and you can strike out for boat trips and castles nearby.

    Jakes, Treasure Beach, Jamaica

    Jakes

    Folk wash up at this welcoming bohemian retreat on the island’s undeveloped southern coast for its unique eclectic style, its laid-back atmosphere and its freeform saltwater swimming pool (with a shallow end). As well as a variety of rooms, there are 10 colourful cottages (on and off site) that can host families of up to 12, some with their own pools. Kids will adore the carefree ambiance, the outdoor playground, the playroom and the games room, and there are special mealtimes, kids’ menus and half-portions in the restaurant. Stunning beaches lie nearby, along with river safaris and fishing trips; there’s even a cascade of waterfalls with swimming pools to discover within a 45-minute drive. Heaven.

    The Rosevine, Cornwall, UK

    The Rosevine

    Conceived especially for families, this friendly seaside-chic apart-hotel has an indoor pool and a safe, sandy beach at hand – perfect no matter what the weather throws at you. There’s also a lovely restaurant (with a kids’ menu), plus gardens to frolic in, a playground and playroom, even a trampoline. You can borrow masses of gear for babies and toddlers, and kayaking, table tennis and fishing will appeal to tweens. Most of the apartments have cool children’s bedrooms and kitchenettes for preparing snacks, and can host families of 5.

    Check out the rest of our Kids Collection >>

    Posted in Family Travel, Kids, Top 10. Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
FEB02

Escape of the Week… L’Albiousse

 
  • This grand old house turned adults-only B&B is tucked away in the heart of Uzès, a magical medieval town with the best market in Provence. L’Albiousse stands on one of the oldest streets in town, but don’t be fooled by the unassuming exterior; inside is a remarkable display of vaulted ceilings and gilded bedrooms that show off the best of Uzès’ historical architecture.

    L'Albiousse

    Standard Room

    It’s not just Uzès that’s bursting with charm and character, though – the whole of Provence is awash with it. There are lavender-lined fields and beautiful vineyards to explore, as well as the magnificent Pont du Gard – a towering Roman aqueduct which is now a dedicated World Heritage site and sits only a short distance from the B&B.

    L'Albiousse

    Terrace Suite

    Rooms: L’Albiousse only has 5 rooms in total, but all are utterly divine. The Terrace Suites are a particular triumph: a little larger than the other rooms, they have bigger beds, coffee machines, Apple Macs for movies and music, and small private terraces.  That said, the smaller options are also wonderful and in lots of hotels they’d be the best spaces in the house, so you can book them knowing you’ll still get something special. While all rooms are equipped with 21st-century comforts, the interior design is specifically intended to sweep you back a few hundred years to the days when the house was built. Period colours mix with old stone walls, and you’ll even find the odd mural dotted about.

    L'Albiousse

    Studio Room

    Food: Owners Gwilym and Alexis used to own a restaurant in Paris and a couple of times a week Gwilym dons his whites to cook at the B&B (by prior arrangement). His food is delicious – expect carrot and chestnut soup, fillet of salmon in a lemongrass sauce, or a fantastic Thai curry. Uzès also has some excellent restaurants for all palates and budgets (from friendly bistro Le Bec à Vin to Michelin contender L’Artemise), all within easy walking distance of L’Albiousse. And breakfast is a delight, particularly when it’s served in the courtyard during the warmer months; the lavender-scented fromage blanc was a stand-out Provencal treat.

    L'Albiousse

    Breakfast in the courtyard

    Top Tip: To get here, take the Eurostar out of London, change at Lille, then whiz down to Avignon – a 6-hour trip in total. It’s a much calmer way to travel and you get to see where you’re going. You can hire cars at Avignon TGV station from all the usual suspects.

    L'Albiousse

    Pont du Gard

    Customer review: “Excellent, with lovely balcony overlooking interior courtyard. Breakfast was one of the best we’ve had in France.”

    Pam, United States (06.10.14)

    i-escape gift: a half-bottle of wine at time of stay

    Read the full review and book  >>

    Posted in Escape of the Week. Tagged , , ,
JAN30

Top UK Valentine’s retreats with availability

 
  • The annual day of romance is just around the corner, but there’s no need to panic yet – we’ve picked out 10 spoiling stays that still have availability on 14 February (and beat any corner-shop bouquet hands down!). And remember, like romance, these top retreats aren’t just for Valentine’s Day – they’d make excellent escapes à deux at any time of the year.

    The Swan Wedmore, Wedmore, Somerset

    The Swan Wedmore

    Love has been poured into this charming pub with rooms. Tucked into the rural heart of the Somerset Levels, it’s a step above the standard country inn – think in-room claw-foot bathtubs, lovely Bramley toiletries, and an incredible display of West Country produce on the superlative menu. It’s a great-value excuse to disappear into the countryside for a secluded V-Day.

    The Cottages Charlestown, Charlestown, Cornwall

    The Cottages Charlestown

    If you’re looking for complete privacy and a peaceful seaside setting, these petite house rentals in the pretty Cornish village of Charlestown could be just the thing. Olivia’s Cottage and The Cabin are hidden in the gardens of Marine Villa and would make particularly blissful nests for weekending couples. They’re all equipped with kitchens, and owner Antonia can deliver homemade dishes if you’re feeling lazy.

    Number Sixteen, South Kensington, London

     Number Sixteen

    If you’d prefer to escape to the city (or hide away in another part of it), book into this dreamy and elegant hotel in one of London’s smartest quarters. Simple and unpretentious but exquisitely stylish, it provides a hint of ornate France in central London. With charming touches such as sleep mist for pillows and handmade chocolates at turndown, you’ll wake up feeling extremely reluctant to leave.

    Cartshed Cottages, Sharrington, Norfolk

    Cartshed Cottages

    Norfolk is peppered with boutique gems that offer a base for exploring this beautiful county. One of our favourites is this quartet of self-catering cottages for 2-4, set near the glorious coastline in the tiny hamlet of Sharrington. Guests are spoilt with stylish interiors, wood-burning stoves and pampering touches (scented candles, Ren toiletries, and wine waiting on arrival for those who book through i-escape). And with the Norfolk Broads and sweeping beaches nearby, there are plenty of opportunities for romantic walks.

    Langford Fivehead, near Taunton, Somerset

    Langford Fivehead

    It’s not just the peaceful setting and spoiling rooms that guarantee a good night’s sleep at this Somerset hideaway; the no-kids policy also ensures a stay that’s conducive to romance and relaxation. This 15th-century manor house wears its imposing history proudly on its sleeve, with flagstoned halls, roaring fires and cracked beams. But that’s not to say that more modern comforts are absent – expect crisp linen on four-poster beds, underfloor heating, and fantastic local food cooked by owner Olly.

    Ffynnon, Gwynedd, Wales

    Ffynnon

    This boutique B&B in the charming Welsh market town of Dolgellau provides a quiet and stylish springboard into the stunning Snowdonia National Park. It’s perfect for those with a love of the outdoors – as well as those who would rather huddle up inside, breaking away only to sink into the alfresco hot tub. Whatever your inclination, you can be sure of a warm welcome and a cosy stay.

    Coillabus, Isle of Islay, Scotland

    Coillabus

    Where better to spend a romantic few days than these sleek self-catering eco-lodges, set amid the wilds of the Inner Hebrides? They overlook the stunning Oa peninsula on Islay and have private hot tubs and saunas for a back-to-nature experience with none of the hardship. Perfect for some uninterrupted time alone – you’ll never want to leave.

    Haymarket Hotel, West End, London

    Haymarket Hotel

    Glamorous and with a hint of ostentatiousness, this West End hotel lives up to the glitz of its Theatreland setting. Its impressive Regency façade is matched by the opulence inside: oak floors, Louis XVI chairs and a ribald, vivid colour scheme. Venture down to the subterranean swimming pool and you’ll be rewarded with a stunning pewter bar, gold Chesterfields and a pink light show. It’s a playful but indulgent pad for those wanting to explore the bright city lights.

    The Idle Rocks, St. Mawes, Cornwall

    The Idle Rocks

    A wave-lapped terrace, tranquil harbour views and faultless service: all the ingredients for a romantic seaside weekend are present in force at The Idle Rocks. The hotel is a nautical-themed triumph (without being remotely kitsch) and benefits from a fantastic location in pretty St Mawes – a stylish fishing village with plenty of Cornish charm. If you can, grab room #15 up on the 2nd floor – you’ll feel as if you’re in your own tower, with grand sea views and an open tub.

    Red Lion & Troutbeck Guest House, East Chisenbury, Wiltshire

    Red Lion & Troutbeck Guest House

    Red Lion & Troutbeck is a resounding triumph of country charm and gastronomic prowess. Expect a warm welcome and Michelin-starred food in the pretty thatched pub, and spacious, super-comfy rooms in the nearby guesthouse (2 minutes’ walk away). Both buildings are full of character and unique features (hangover cures by your bed, homemade biscuits and cordial in your room, complimentary Buck’s Fizz at breakfast!), and the serene setting beside the beautiful River Avon is perfect for rural romance.

    Check out all of our Valentine’s stays with availability >>

    Posted in Top 10. Tagged , , , , , , , , ,
JAN28

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)

    Beaumes-de-Venise

    Beaumes-de-Venise

    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 , , , , , , , ,
JAN26

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 , , ,
JAN23

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

    LAUREN

    “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

    POPPY

    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 , , , , ,
JAN21

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

    Almyra

    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 , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
JAN19

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 , , ,