NEW Italian city breaks

  • Those in search of la dolce vita have plenty of chic new boltholes to choose from thanks to our expanding collection of Italian city breaks. The new additions encompass all tastes, including stylishly kitsch apartments near the Trevi Fountain, a classy design hotel in central Milan, a seafront stay in Naples, and an elegant 16th-century guesthouse in the lesser-known city of Lecce (Puglia). And B&B prices starting from £65 per room per night prove that a cool urban escape needn’t break the bank.


    We’ve added 2 super-stylish boltholes in the heart of the Eternal City:

    PiazzadiSpagna 9 (opened 2014)

    PiazzadiSpagna 9 PiazzadiSpagna 9

    Occupying the third floor of a 15th-century palazzo, just around the corner from the Spanish Steps, this avant-garde hotel has been given a gallery feel by interior-designer owner Stefania Grippo. The polished white walls are a canvas for vibrant modern paintings, and the 6 gorgeous bedrooms have high ceilings plus accessories from high-end Italian fashion houses. There’s a small spa with a Turkish steam tub, and you can get under the city’s skin through tailored tours, including ‘Underground Rome’, ‘Rome by Night’ and a ‘Food Tasting & Cooking Class’.
    From £151 per room per night, based on 2 sharing a Deluxe Room on a B&B basis.

    CasaCau (opened 2013)

    CasaCau CasaCau

    CasaCau’s quirky-cool apartments for 2-4 sit a stone’s throw from the Trevi Fountain, and are filled with retro-chic furniture, contemporary artwork and heaps of original features. Free breakfast goodies are left at your door each morning, and a local chef can prepare and deliver meals. It’s the perfect bohemian home-away-from-home, and the owners will divulge all kinds of insider tips, from under-the-radar restaurants to the hottest new boutiques.
    From £197 per apartment per night, based on 2 sharing a Studio Apartment on a B&B basis.


    Naples has cleaned up its act, with a revamped seafront, metro art installations and a vibrant cultural and culinary scene. It’s no longer just the gateway to the Amalfi Coast but a worthy destination in its own right.

    Attico Partenopeo

    Attico Partenopeo Attico Partenopeo

    Set just off Naples’ main shopping street, this great-value B&B sits high above the city bustle. The 8 rooms make fuss-free bases for exploring, and there’s a sun-soaked roof terrace with views of the hilltop Castel Sant’Elmo. The décor throughout is sleek and simple, with breezy blues and whites offset by eye-catching prints – ideal for anyone seeking affordable style in a super-central location.
    From £65 per room per night, based on 2 sharing a Standard Room on a B&B basis.

    Partenope Relais (opened 2013)

    Partenope Relais Partenope Relais

    This glamorous cinema-themed hotel has an enviable location on the pedestrianised seafront, with spectacular views over the Bay of Naples. The 22 contemporary rooms are each dedicated to a different movie star, and many have water-facing balconies. The restaurant’s tables spill out onto the promenade, with a menu of delicacies such as lobster spaghetti.
    From £88 per room per night, based on 2 sharing a Comfort Room on a B&B basis.


    Baroque Lecce is perfect for those looking for something a little different. Set in Puglia (the heel of the Italian boot), it’s full of mesmerising architecture and sits within easy reach of the coast and the area’s famous trulli settlements. New easyJet flights from Gatwick to nearby Brindisi mean it’s more accessible than ever:

    Mantatelure (opened 2013)

    Mantatelure Mantatelure

    This boutique guesthouse occupies a restored 16th-century mansion and certainly lives up to its noble name (Mantatelure means ‘Kings Mantle’ in local dialect). The 6 enchanting rooms and 2 apartments sit around an idyllic shaded courtyard, and there are luxurious touches throughout (homemade cakes, handmade welcome chocolates, rain showers). It’s a haven of calm yet it’s only 300m from the magnificent Basilica Santa Croce, so you can explore the city before returning for a glass of Prosecco in the outdoor hot tub.
    From £77 per room per night, based on 2 sharing a Deluxe Room on a B&B basis.


    This year Italy’s style capital is playing host to the world-renowned Expo, and the theme for 2015 is food. With cooking demos and tastings taking place across the city, it’s the ideal destination for foodies and fashionistas.

    Palazzo Segreti

    Palazzo Segreti Palazzo Segreti

    This hip design hotel is tucked away on a quiet side street in the heart of the city. Its 18 super-sleek rooms have dramatic interiors (concrete walls, designer furniture, wooden floors), plus clever lighting that changes the ambiance from minimalist to cosy. La Scala, the Duomo and fantastic boutiques are close at hand, and there’s a sophisticated bar for evening cocktails once you’ve finished shopping and sightseeing.
    From £131 per room per night, based on 2 sharing a Standard Room on a B&B basis.

    Take a look at the rest of our Italy collection >>

    Posted in City Breaks, Our Favourite.... Tagged , , , ,

Escape of the Week… Stow House

  • Stow HouseSitting down to a deliciously fruity strawberry daiquiri on a hot-pink armchair below a giant papier-mâché hare, we realised this wasn’t just any old B&B… Stow House sits at the end of a stone village in the heart of the beautiful Yorkshire Dales, where rolling green hills stretch as far as the eye can see and waterfalls tumble and bubble over limestone steps.  

    Brilliant hosts Sarah and Phil left their creative careers in London to buy Stow House and have completely transformed it from its previous incarnation as a guest house: they knocked down walls, exposed beams and added a carefully selected mix of antiques, art and modern photography.

    Rooms: Each of the 6 lovely rooms is named after the art that adorns its walls. You can expect huge beds with cloud-like duvets and quirky cushions, antique furniture, huge rainshowers (and maybe a gorgeous freestanding tub), robes and aromatic Neal’s Yard toiletries. We stayed in Love Birds, a first-floor room with a giant bed and a red chaise-longue which we elegantly draped ourselves over! The best tub-with-a-view was in Badger – you gaze out of the window at sheep bleating in the fields. Light-filled loft room Cowboy Balance was our favourite, with its cool blue-grey walls and in-room bathtub.

    Stow House

    Food: Breakfast is served from 9-10am at wooden tables in the bright breakfast room. A table is laid out with juices, cereals, homemade granola, fresh fruit and yoghurt so you can help yourself while you choose which cooked items to have. Phil will rustle up eggs on homemade toast, tomato, mushrooms, black pudding, crispy bacon and seriously tasty sausages or any combo you desire. Tea and coffee are freshly brewed.

    Stow House

    Author’s tip: If you want a giggle, take a look in the right ear of the giant papier-mâché hare in the guest lounge…

    Stow House

    Stow House

    i-escape gift: a bottle of Prosecco during your stay

    Read the full review and book Stow House >>

    Posted in Escape of the Week. Tagged , , ,

Family-friendly stays with summer availability

  • If you’ve not yet joined the smug ranks of those who have their summer sorted, and are starting to panic that the holiday ship may have sailed without you, fear not. Editor Nadine has found a whole range of hotels and rentals from the Kids Collection, which still have decent availability for families in the school holidays. But get a wriggle on and book before they fill up completely! 

    Le Castel, Normandy, France

    Le Castel

    With space in spades both inside and out, and a relaxed house-party attitude, you’ll love holidaying at this Normandy chateau set in 4 acres of idyllic countryside. All rooms are 2-bedroom suites, there are family BBQs on Saturdays, and kids’ meals are served at 5pm daily.

    Le Castel

    Book it: suites available all July

    Med-Inn, Bodrum Peninsula, Turkey


    A tranquil boutique hotel with restaurant, bar and a private beach, just 10 minutes from the airport. And lovely friendly staff. And a kids’ menu in the seafood restaurant. And an abundance of sun loungers for parents… What are you waiting for?


    Book it: rooms available all summer bar the second week in August

    Castello di Tornano, Chianti, Italy

    Castello di Tornano

    This fairytale Tuscan castle is set atop romantic wooded hills, has a long history (a former owner had a pivotal role in developing the Chianti blend), yummy restaurant and lovely gardens in its huge estate, yet is refreshingly unpretentious; you and your family will feel instantly at home.

    Castello di Tornano

    Book it: 2-bedroom family apartments with kitchenettes available through most of July and August

    Merlin Farm Eco-Cottages, Cornwall, UK

    Merlin farm Eco Cottages

    For a tranquil great-value escape in the countryside, just a short stroll from a sandy beach, you’d be hard-pressed to top this trio of cottages (+ barn conversion). The stylish renovation includes double-height windows for superb valley views, well-equipped open-plan kitchens, and luxe details such as underfloor heating and REN toiletries.

    Merlin farm

    Book it: availability from mid-August onwards

    Casas do Coro, Portugal

    Casas do Coro

    You’re well off the beaten track, close to the Spanish border, in these self-catering cottages crafted from an ancient hilltop village. Yet the welcome is warm, the organic home-cooked food in the restaurant is superb, and the shared pool provides a great communal focus for families.

    Casas do Coro

    Book it: space all summer

    Levendis Estate, Ionian Islands, Greece

    Levendis Estate

    Hole up here for a week or 2 and cares will melt away. You’ve a stunning infinity pool to float in, breath-taking views from your verandah and peace of mind as the estate is gated. The cafe’s produce is home-grown, organic and delicious, and oodles of space because there are just 4 cottages.


    Book it: 20% exclusive i-escape discount on 2-week stays in July and August; rates include car hire per cottage, private return transfers, first breakfast and maid service

    Chalet Cannelle, Alps, France

    Chalet Cannelle

    Families don’t think of the Alps as a summer destination, which means they’re missing out! Prices plummet, the views remain stupendous, and there are heaps of outdoorsy activities to try. We love this gorgeous 5-room chalet which operates as a B&B in the summer season: it has great home-cooking, wonderful hosts, a games room, and safe gardens.

    chalet cannelle

    Book it: space all summer, including for whole chalet bookings

    Almyra, Paphos, Cyprus


    For lovers of a one-stop-shop (multiple fine restaurants, a choice of pools, superb Kids Clubs for all age ranges and a wealth of family-friendly facilities, stellar service, comfy luxe accommodation), this design hotel delivers in style. A great holiday for the whole family, guaranteed.


    Book it: space all summer

    Soncna Hisa, Prlekija, Slovenia

    Sonca Hisa

    Set in tranquil countryside 2 hours east of Ljubljana, with parental pampering provided by the gorgeous sauna, Jacuzzi and massage menu – as well as the attentive charming staff who can’t do enough for you and your children – this beautiful contemporary hotel is a real find. Light-filled interiors, modern art, sumptuous and cleverly comfortable rooms; we found it charming.

    Soncna Hisa

    Book it: reduced rates exclusively for i-escape guests all summer

    Culloden Cove, near Whitehouse, Jamaica

    Culloden Cove

    This dreamy staffed villa won our Best Newcomer Kids Collection Award in 2014 for its gorgeous grounds that give onto turquoise seas, its infinity pool, baskets of toys, airy interiors, and a separate cottage in the ground which is ideal for grandparents or teenagers.


    Book it: available until 18 July, and again from 26 August

    Our full collection of family-friendly hotels with summer availability >>

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

Spotlight on… Cyprus

  • With stunning seas and 300 days of glorious sunshine a year, Cyprus is our hot tip for early and late-summer sun.

    CyprusWhy go?

    As the third biggest island in the Med, Cyprus appeals on many levels. There are charmingly sleepy stone villages, picturesque terraced hillsides, the lofty, forested Troodos Mountains (great for keen hikers), and some of the warmest and clearest seas in the Med. Being so close to the Turkish coast, its balmy summers last well into October and availability stays good at many of our boutique gems.


    A former British colony, with Middle-Eastern and Ottoman influences, Cyprus is divided into 2 parts: the Greek-speaking south, which is more accessible and developed (this is the region we cover), and the smaller Turkish-speaking north, which we recommend for day trips.

    For a peaceful getaway, head inland to the undulating, vine-rich foothills of the Troodos Mountains. Apokryfo (meaning ‘hidden’) is our favourite Cyprus guesthouse, sitting halfway between the pine-forested summits of Chionistra and the buzzy coastal town of Limassol, in the pretty village of Lofou. We whiled away our days by the turquoise, herb-lined pool, feasting on the most delicious mezzes of our trip. Wine lovers can head to the nearby Ayia Mavri winery, where great Muscadet can be sourced.

    Up past the mountain town of Platres (where colonial Brits had their summer capital), signed trails and mountain-biking tracks lead to hidden waterfalls, graceful Venetian bridges and imposing Orthodox monasteries, such as Trooditissa.

    Down in the working harbour city of Limassol, you’ll find a palm-lined promenade, covered market, medieval castle and a buzzy nightlife in the Carob Mill area. Londa Beach Hotel is the en vogue meeting place for Limassol’s bronzed and beautiful, and a great boutique option for couples who want a beach and city-chic holiday.

    Luxurious Anassa has the most picturesque location on Cyprus, a secluded hillside spilling down to the blue waters of Latsi Bay, where you can snorkel amongst schools of colourful fish. This ultra-luxe 5-star resort has everything you could want from a Med beach holiday: an all-ages kids’ club, an award-winning Thalassotherapy spa, and 4 restaurants.

    Nearby you’ll find hiking trails crossing the rugged, juniper-dotted Akamas peninsula, passing the imposing ruins of a Byzantine monastery. Falcons wheel over sea-washed rocks, lizards scamper through prickly undergrowth, goats stare quizzically down at you from crags, and the millpond sea is broken only by the triangular wake of a passing speedboat.

    Equally tempting is Almyra, an unpretentious design hotel in sunny Paphos. With 4 pools to choose from, lawned grounds to sunbathe in, a small patch of beach to swim or sail from, a superb spa to pummel you into glorious submission, and Asian-Med cuisine served alfresco at low cushioned benches, this is the island’s coolest family hotel. Just look at those Instagram-worthy rooftops!

    When to go

    We’d recommend spring (April-May) or autumn (September-October) – pleasantly warm and not too busy – or March / November if you don’t mind taking a chance with the weather. We stayed in early November and enjoyed 30-degree sunshine for a week.

    Our top tips

    For a great-value family holiday, book a self-catering stay at Modus Vivendi. Set in the sleepy hamlet of Psematismenos, its rustic-chic cottages share a sunny pool framed by tall cypresses, shocking-pink bougainvillea and fragrant rosemary bushes. Families with older children could take both bedrooms at bijou B&B Little Lodge – there’s a small pool, beaches nearby, and friendly English owners to give advice and provide breakfast.

    Fancy grabbing your own slice of Cypriot sun? See our full Cyprus collection.

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

Escape of the Week… 1872 River House

  • This tall, salmon-pink mansion stands majestically on the banks of the River Douro in the historic Ribeira district of Portugal’s second city. Like a phoenix from the flames, it was born from the remnants of a fire-damaged 19th-century building and is now an 8-room B&B with a gorgeous stained-glass walkway, light rooms and a serene atmosphere.

    1872 River House in Porto

    1872 River House is perfectly positioned in the centre of the action, with sun-filled courtyards to discover, Baroque churches to admire and plenty of Port to taste nearby. What’s more, Porto’s famous antique tram stops right outside, so you can trundle along the river to the coast for some sea air and sunset cocktails. The smiling staff love their city and will happily give you tips on getting the most out of your trip.

    1872 River House in Porto

    Rooms: The 8 beautiful rooms look out over the river or the city rooftops. Those facing the water are a little more expensive, and a couple have balconies; the City View Rooms are slightly smaller but no less lovely. All have original features like wooden shutters and exposed stone walls, plus a clever combination of old and new furniture. The comfy double or twin beds are piled with cushions and have fancy TVs that rise out of a box at their feet.

    1872 River House in Porto1872 River House in Porto

    Food: A lie-in-friendly breakfast is served with a river view between 8.30am and 1pm. We loved the spread of pastries, cheese, fruit and cereals, alongside eggs cooked to order and frothy cappuccinos. No other meals are available, but there are plenty of dining choices nearby, including sushi joints and family-run restaurants.

    Author’s tip: Wander up to São Bento, the city’s main station, which is covered in tiled panels depicting Portuguese history. It’s worth a look even if you’re not taking a train.


    Customer review: “We had a lovely stay at River House Hotel. The staff were lovely and always had a smile on their faces! Thank you.”
    Charlotte, United Kingdom (15.02.15)

    i-escape gift: a free bottle of wine during your stay.

    Read the full review and book 1872 River House >>

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

Cheap & chic pampering breaks

  • We all need a bit of “me” time, but sometimes a full spa break just isn’t an option. A stay at one of these cheap yet chic places might do the trick, though: all offer relaxing treats, from yoga and massages to Jacuzzis and hammams, alongside bags of personality and excellent rates.

    Hotel da Vila, Ponta do Sol, Madeira

    Sun, sea and sand: this small, informal hotel has them all. It sits just a 20m flip-flop away from the beach in Ponta do Sol, the island’s sunniest spot, and fantastic Madeiran/Mediterranean food is served in the waterfront restaurant. Rooms are on the petite side, but all are airy with sea views and interesting decorative touches like plastic and wheat headboard pillows. If you’re after more facilities, a short walk uphill is sister hotel Estalagem da Ponta do Sol, where you can use the infinity pool, sundecks and spa.

    Hotel da Vila in Madeira

    Treat yourself: As a gift for booking through i-escape, you can enjoy a complimentary hydro-massage spa experience with mineral oil (1 per person) at Estalagem da Ponta do Sol.

    Maison Felisa, near Avignon, France 

    Maison Felisa in ProvenceMaison Felisa in Provence

    This pretty stone B&B sits in a 12th-century village in an unspoilt corner of Provence. Inside, the vibe is easy-going and the rooms, with their colour-mixed concrete floors, mohair blankets and super-comfy beds, are positively Zen-like. Outside is a pretty walled garden with a shimmering pool. Breakfast is a buffet with an array of homemade jams, baguettes and croissants, muesli, fruit and juice, best enjoyed on the sail-shaded terrace.

    Maison Felisa in Provence

    Treat yourself: Downstairs is a Wellness Room for yoga, massage and exercise. There’s a menu of treatments to choose from, including warm stone massages and facials, which can be arranged with local therapists (extra cost).

    Borgo San Marco, Fasano, Puglia, Italy

    Built by the Knights of Malta to guard the Adriatic coast, this Puglian masseria (fortified farmhouse) has a 500-year-old tower, vaulted rooms with pretty décor and brightly quilted beds, vast grounds with shady lawns, and a beach-edge pool surrounded by fragrant bougainvillea. The staff are warm and generous, and the restaurant just fabulous – Chef Peppino rustles up delicious traditional fare such as baked pepperoni with mussels and oven-roasted sea bream with black olives.

    Borgo San Marco in Puglia

    Treat yourself: You can enjoy a Turkish bath for 2 as a gift for booking through i-escape.
    The small wellness centre also has warm and cold Jacuzzis, and a visiting therapist offers massages, Ayurvedic treatments, foot reflexology and Reiki (extra cost).

    Montenegro Stone Cottages, near Herceg Novi, Montenegro

    Montenegro Stone Cottages

    Rescued from ruin in 2006, this village of beautifully restored self-catering cottages near Herceg Novi has stunning views over the valley to the Adriatic. We’ve hand-picked 5 houses for you (each sleeping 2-8). Four are contemporary in style, with smart open-plan living areas and light and bright bedrooms; the other is more traditional, with a terracotta-tiled kitchen-diner and a cosy living room. All have outdoor space, whether it’s a small garden or a terrace for romantic nightcaps, and there’s a large communal infinity pool with loungers.

    Montenegro Stone Cottages

    Treat yourself: The communal reception has a spa area with a Jacuzzi, a sauna, a steam room and treatment rooms.

    Riad Sapphire, Marrakech Medina, Morocco 

    New in 2014, this gem of a riad was created from 2 family houses by skilled local artisans. Owners Beryl and Barbara had a stylish Zen-chic vision, and the result really is a haven amidst the sensory overload of Marrakech’s medina. There’s a plunge pool to cool off in, and a rooftop dining area with views over the city. The 8 suites are named after jewels, the colours of which feature in their décor. They vary in shape and size, but all have four-poster beds and wraparound sofas; you might also get a courtyard or a pretty domed ceiling.

    Riad Sapphire in Marrakech

    Treat yourself: The ground-floor spa has a hammam and treatment rooms for facials and massages (extra cost).

    If you’re in need of some pampering take a look at our top Spa picks >>

    Posted in Spa, Top 5. Tagged , , ,

Just back from…Mexico’ s Pacific Coast

  • Bookings Consultant Sarah and her husband recently escaped the UK drizzle for some sunshine, tacos and margaritas on Mexico’s Pacific coast.

    Ever since my first visit to the Riviera Nayarit in 2009, I have wanted to return with my husband – and there’s no better time to trade the cold and rain for gorgeous weather and perfect temperatures.

    The region is easily accessible from Puerto Vallarta’s international airport but, as is the
    i-escape way, we skipped the built-up strip of all-inclusive resort hotels and headed out of the city for an authentic jungle and beach experience.

    Our trip began with an exhilarating, spine-jolting boat ride from Boca de Tomatlán to hillside retreat Verana. After an energetic uphill climb to the property, we were welcomed with a refreshing drink and a relaxing neck massage before being led to our palm-thatched casita, Palapa. We loved sleeping in a breezy, open-air room, and the view from our private terrace of the bay below was stunning. Like all the other accommodation – a mix of traditional houses and open casitas – it was very private and ideal for a romantic getaway.

    Boca de Tomatlán Verana

    A bit of jet-lag meant we woke up early each morning, but we didn’t mind: it meant we could watch the sunrise from bed and listen as the jungle cacophony took over from the quiet of the night. After lazily transitioning to the sofa to enjoy coffee (discreetly delivered to the birdcage outside our casita), we warmed up for the day ahead at the morning yoga class.


    Having worked up an appetite, we feasted on a late breakfast of huevos rancheros and tacos accompanied by fresh fruit and juice. Once our tummies were full there was only one thing to do – relax by the pool with a margarita!

    Breakfast at VeranaVerana Verana

    In the afternoons we occupied ourselves with cooking classes (where we learned to make horchata, tortillas, salsas and mole), snorkelling off the jetty amid brightly coloured fish, and walking down to Yelapa beach to watch the pelicans and catch the last rays of the day.

    Dinners were a real treat, our favourite night being Taco Tuesday (beef, pork and fish tacos to indulge in, with 15 gourmet salsas to top them off). I also recommend trying some of the fine tequilas from the bar – no shots with lemon and salt here, but serious sipping tequilas with unique flavours to savour.

    Cooking lessons and tequila

    To end our trip, we headed north of Puerto Vallarta to another lush jungle hideaway, Playa Escondida (‘Hidden Beach’) – a new addition to the i-escape collection. It’s conveniently located 45 minutes from the airport, yet it feels worlds away.

    Playa Escondida

    For us, this place has it all:  a private, west-facing beach with gorgeous sunsets; a heated pool and Jacuzzi; plenty of hammocks and loungers; a good restaurant and bar with reasonable prices; lots of activity options; friendly staff, and a relaxed atmosphere. The grounds have a wild look with funky indigenous statues, and twinkling candles line the paths at night.

    Playa Escondida

    There’s a range of accommodation styles – go for a villa right on the beach, or stay in one of the stilted bungalows for optimal bird-watching from your deck. Whatever you choose, the proximity of the sea means you’ll be lulled to sleep at night by the sound of waves – glorious! We stayed in the Studio casita, which had colourful sculpted windows, a kitchen, and a terrace with an open shower and ocean views.

    Playa Escondida

    The restaurant has an extensive menu of excellent food, ranging from traditional Mexican dishes to international classics. You must try the ceviche, referred to by staff as ‘Mexican sushi’. We ate it every day!

    Playa Escondida

    We could have happily hung around at the property all day, but we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to explore nearby Sayulita, only 10 minutes away by taxi. The town is very laid-back, with shops, restaurants and a hippy vibe – don’t miss the Friday farmers’ market (Mercado del Pueblo) for fresh, organic food and artisan handicrafts, including colourful rugs and ceramics. But the main attraction is the surfing – the conditions are perfect for novices and children because the water is calm and shallow.


    All in all, we thought Playa Escondida offered the perfect mix of secluded relaxation and activity. Staff can organise boat trips, hiking, horse riding, biking and ziplining, and there’s a beachfront spa and a free morning yoga class. It’s the kind of place where you can do as much or as little as you please, and you’re guaranteed to have a fantastic time. We certainly did!

    Check out the rest of our Mexico collection >>

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

Escape of the Week… Artist residence Cornwall

  • You may be familiar with the London and Brighton incarnations of Artist Residence, but did you know you can also head west for a dose of its colourful treatment? Located in Penzance, near the toe of England, Artist Residence Cornwall is a funky boutique guesthouse in the same inimitable style as its South East sisters. 

    UK127_Artist_Residence_Cornwall_144533_230KB_070415 (1)

    Just moments from  cafés, pubs and galleries, you can sleep in your very own work of art, as each of the hotel’s imaginative rooms was designed by a different artist. On our last visit we also loved the new clutch of apartments, all equipped with comforts such as top-notch bedding, ensuite shower rooms and eco-chic toiletries.


    Rooms: All of the rooms are utterly unique, and you can even learn about the artist who conceived yours during your stay. The proportions can feel a little small, though the lofts have an added sense of space thanks to their high ceilings. We loved the Picture Loft, which is the only room with a tub (a roll-top one at that). The Gallery Loft (complete with a mezzanine) is the largest, and the Attic Loft has a handy kitchenette and a novel floating bed. If you want to get away with the family, the 1- and 2-bedroom apartments are ideal.  All have spacious living areas and full kitchens, but we’d opt for one of those with a sea view or courtyard garden as they’re particularly charming.

    EOTW - rooms

    Food: At the heart of the hotel is The Cornish Barn, an informal, industrial-style restaurant that’s big on sharing and socialising. The delicious menu is simply divided into meat, fish and veg, and focuses on Cornish fare with a Deep South twist. We loved the tender buttermilk chicken, sweet pulled pork, fresh whitebait and peppery crab, all rounded off with a perfect mac ‘n’ cheese. The fruits of Cornwall are evident in the fantastic breakfasts, too – we started with cute jars of yoghurt and compote (everyone’s favourite), followed by a tasty full English and some (slightly tart) blueberry pancakes. If you want to self-cater, the apartments have everything you need to cook up a treat.

    EOTW - food copy

    Author’s tip: A lovely – and unusual – way to explore this area is to combine your stay with a foraging course. The Fat Hen Cookery School, run by ecologist Caroline Davey, offers wild food weekends near St Buryan.

    EOTW - end

    i-escape gift: free daily breakfast

    Read the full review  

    Posted in Escape of the Week. Tagged , ,

Meet our bloggers: Lottie of Oyster & Pearl

  • lottie

    We’re extending a warm welcome to Lottie of Oyster & Pearl, who’s the latest addition to our fabulous line-up of family and lifestyle bloggers. She’s in great company amongst Fritha from TigerlillyQuinn, Lucy of Dear Beautiful and Lori of Wild and Grizzly, and over the next year they’ll be getting the insider scoop on the boutique gems in our Kids Collection.

    How would you describe your blog in one sentence?

    Oyster & Pearl is like a flower press for memories, carefully collecting and preserving our days with a heavy dose of nostalgia.


    How did you get into blogging?

    I started a (terrible) LiveJournal blog back in 2005, just as a place to exercise my writing muscle. I’d dabbled with journalism in my early twenties before being sidetracked into the world of film PR. I picked it up again in 2011 when my youngest son was a baby, as I needed an outlet for my creativity. Since then, Oyster & Pearl has grown into a family and lifestyle blog that contributes so much to our lives and has taken us on many an adventure.

    What are the three top things you look for in a destination?

    1. Weather. That’s not to say I’m a sun-worshipper, but the local climate is such an evocative aspect of any travel. If we’re going somewhere cold, I want snow, ice and shivers. If it’s a hot holiday, make it scorching, please.

    2. Beauty. Travel brings out the nosey in me and I become magpie-ish, peeping through doorways, clocking new colours, shapes and smells, and capturing it all with my trusty camera.

    3. Food. Last year, I wrote the recipes for a diet book based on the food eaten by the clean-living monks of Mount Athos in Greece. But I couldn’t stick to Mediterranean ingredients alone and introduced culinary influences from all over the world. I see travel as research, and I bring as many ideas home with me as I do memories.


    Where is on your wishlist for 2015?

    Amalfi is somewhere I’ve never visited but have always dreamt I would. Italian food is the pinnacle of flavour and quality and history, and the idea of eating my way around that beautiful coastline is pretty special!


    I’ve never been to Scandinavia, either, and I would love to visit Copenhagen. Danish design is just perfection.


    Further afield, I think Sri Lanka would be a good way to gently introduce the kids to a very different culture. Plus, the coastline looks incredibly beautiful, and I’m more than a little obsessed with curry.

    Which i-escape hotel would be your dream stay?

    Gili Lankanfushi in the Maldives looks like heaven!

    Gili Lankanfushi

    If you could only visit one country for the rest of your life, which would you choose?

    I am a true Francophile so it would have to be France. It holds such a special place in my heart (despite a couple of rather torturous French exchange visits as a teenager!), in particular the south coast – the Fondation Maeght art gallery is my favourite in the world. And I adore Paris. It brings out my inner flaneur.

    What’s your favourite or earliest travel memory?

    In 2000, three friends and I spent three months travelling across the United States, flying into Seattle and out of New York. We had no idea how we’d get from one side of the country to the other, but we did and we had the best time doing so. All the big cities and sights were explored, but the off-the-beaten-track places proved to be just as interesting. And we went up into Canada and down into Mexico. We covered a lot of ground, and brought home snow globes from every destination.

    What do you never leave for holiday without?

    My camera. It’d be so incredibly frustrating not to be able to snap our adventures. Having said that, I take so many pictures on my phone that maybe I could cope without a DSLR.


    Any top tips for travelling with kids?

    My kids have visited France a couple of times, and the Canary Islands last year. So they’re okay on planes, although we’ve had to ply them with devices to keep them occupied on longer journeys. My seven-year-old has his own camera and likes to record his own snapshots of our travels, so batteries and memory cards (and, when home, scrapbooks and glue) tend to keep him busy.

    Read Lottie’s blog or take a look at our Q&As with Fritha from TigerlillyQuinn, Lucy of Dear Beautiful and Lori of Wild and Grizzly >>

    Posted in Family Travel, Kids. Tagged , ,

Easy Escapes for June

  • Ready, steady, summer! Dust off your flip-flops and grab the SPF15: we’ve found some super-easy, sun-drenched getaways to slot into your June schedule.

    No need to thank us; 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.

    Monte da Fornalha, Portugal – £305.30 per person (7 nights, 17-24 June)

    Despite being one of the biggest and loveliest regions in Portugal, the Alentejo remains blissfully undiscovered to all but the Portuguese and is miraculously untouched. If you want to know what Tuscany or Provence looked like before the tourists invaded, come here.

    Stay: at Monte da Fornalha, a 200-year-old farmhouse surrounded by vines and olive groves, with gorgeous gardens and an elegant pool. We’re offering 25% off stays of 3+ nights, making a 7-night break in a Double / Twin room just £186 per person.

    Fly: from London Stansted to Lisbon with Ryanair for £93 per person, departing Wednesday 17 June and returning Wednesday 24 June.

    From the Airport: We recommend hiring a car to get to the hotel and explore the area. Car hire through Rhino starts from £52.61.

    Total cost: £305.30 per person, including taxes.

    More info: getting to Portugal and other accommodation options

    Ca Na Xini, Menorca – £589.50 per person (7 nights, 2-9 June)

    Criss-crossed with walking trails and dotted with quiet little villages serving up tasty tapas, Menorca’s rural landscape is known for offering pure relaxation. Best of all, its coastline is littered with stunning beaches, from tiny sheltered coves to sprawling surfer-friendly sands.

    Stay: at award-winning, modernist agroturismo Ca Na Xini, where outstanding wines and cutting-edge design go hand in hand. We’re offering an exclusive 10% discount for stays of 5+ nights, making 7 nights in a Standard Room just £469.50 per person.

    Fly: from London Luton to Mahon with easyJet for £104 per person, departing Tuesday 2 June and returning Tuesday 9 June.

    From the Airport: You’ll need a car to make the most of the area, particularly as you’ll have to drive out for dinner most evenings. Car hire through Rhino starts from £32.

    Total cost: £589.50 per person, including taxes.

    More info: getting to Menorca and other accommodation options.

    Gajah Mina Beach Resort, Bali – £1,356.50 per person (10 nights, 4-14 June)

    In Bali you will find a splash of colour and a piece of heaven. The south of the island centres around Denpasar, the party heart of Bali; expect top eats and hip nightlife, hill-top temples, and a sprawl of white-sand beaches with world-class surfing.

    Stay: at secluded Gajah Mina Beach Resort on Bali’s dramatic southwest coast. Take advantage of their 5-nights-for-4 offer and get a 10-night B&B stay in a Honeymoon Suite for £804.50 per person.

    Fly: from London Heathrow to Bali Denpasar (via Amsterdam) with KLM for £527 per person, departing Wednesday 3 June (overnight flight arriving Thursday 4 June) and returning Sunday 14 June (overnight flight arriving Monday 15 June).

    From the Airport: the hotel offers airport transfers for approximately £25 one-way.

    Total cost: £1,356.50 per person, including taxes.

    More info: getting to Bali 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 27 May 2015.

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