JUN11

Spotlight on… Northern England

 
  • It’s home to the Grand Départ of the 2014 Tour de France, Roman fortresses, internationally renowned poets and authors (past and present), woodland walks, grand lakes, iconic food, red squirrels, and the occasional Northern Lights display; where else could we be talking about than glorious Northern England?

    North York Moors steam train

    North York Moors Railway

    Why go?

    Northern England is often overlooked when considering a getaway, but it shouldn’t be, especially when there’s so much packed into such a small area. Its quaint towns and iconic cities are full of hidden boutiques, inviting bars, delicious restaurants and tonnes of character. While beyond the cobbles and street corners, it’s also easy to make the most of the great outdoors: horse-riding, fly-fishing, clay-pigeon shooting, even foraging courses are available, not to mention the hundreds of miles of walks in the Lake District and the Yorkshire dales.

    The Lake District

    The Lake District

    Highlights

    With so many towns and cities, lakes and moors to visit, it’s hard to know where to begin. But this summer we recommend travelling north past Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield until you reach the starting point of the second stage for the 2014 Tour de France (6 July) – and Roman Britain’s northern stronghold – York.

    York

    York

    York has a rich heritage that has been moulded by a range of different cultures over the centuries: there are Roman-built catacombs, numerous street names ending in ‘gate’ (the Norse word for street), and the rambling medieval city walls are the longest in England. Look out for The Shambles, a tiny street dating back to the 14th century, which served as the inspiration for J.K. Rowling’s Diagon Alley. Combine a day of sightseeing with some serious indulgence at the Feversham Arms Hotel, just 25 miles north of the city. Book a treatment at its specialist Vebena spa and gorge yourself in the 3 AA rosette awarded restaurant. This place has girl’s getaway or romantic weekend written all over it!

    Feversham Arms Hotel

    Feversham Arms Hotel

    While you’re here, take a trip to the legendary medieval coastal town of Whitby, one of England’s most famous harbour-side towns. Quaint cobbled lanes are lined with shops, pubs and restaurants that all lead to the tiny postcard-perfect (and working) port, overlooked by the iconic ruined abbey. Sit back, admire, and enjoy some of the best fish and chips the UK has to offer – although do keep one eye peeled for Dracula, as this atmospheric town featured heavily in Bram Stoker’s novel and many believe the King of Vampires is buried in cliff-top St. Mary’s Church…

    For added fun, take George Stephenson’s impressive North Yorkshire Moors Railway across the sensational countryside to get here, and stop at Goathland railway station, used as Hogsmeade Station in the Harry Potter films.

    Yorebridge House

    Yorebridge House

    Heading east, you reach the Victorian spa town of Harrogate. Filled with quintessentially English architecture and historical grandeur, it’s worth a visit for the Pump Room Museum, which was built in 1842 over what claims to be the strongest sulphur well in Europe. Take a tour before curling up in the super-stylish Royal Parade Apartments, right in the middle of town. You’re well placed to enjoy the area’s excellent cafes and restaurants, as well as some stunning green spaces. The 17-acre Valley Gardens are moments from your door, while the impressive 58-acre RHS Harlow Carr Botanical Gardens are just a short bus ride away.

    Royal Parade Apartments

    Royal Parade Apartments

    As Britain’s largest National Park, the spectacular Yorkshire Dales encompass mountainous peaks and moors, carved up by crumbling stone walls, and spotted with extravagant houses and eerily beautiful remains of once grand abbeys, druid’s temples and castles. To really immerse yourself in the wilderness, book into Bivouac (a cluster of yurts and shacks) or Natural Retreats (chic eco-cabins), both of which provide their own enchanting take on the English camping-style holiday. For something a little more traditional, Yorebridge House is a former headmaster’s home on the edge of Bainbridge, a small village in the heart of this dramatic landscape.

    Ruins of a druid’s temple

    Ruins of a druid’s temple

    You can’t come this far north and not visit the Lake District; its natural beauty easily rivals that of the Italian lakes and the French Alps, and the area is great for outdoor pursuits. There are walks to suit all abilities, plus a huge variety of bike trails, and the chance to go horse riding or paragliding – you can even hire row boats, canoes or kayaks. Visit some of the dozens of charming towns and villages dotted between the mountains and lakes; our favourites include Windermere, Grasmere, Ambleside and Keswick. For complete privacy, paired with views to die for, stay at breath-taking bolthole The Boathouse at Knotts End, a romantic 19th-century boathouse set on the edge of Ullswater Lake – complete with its own row boat, of course. For maximum minibreak points, make like Bridget Jones and take a book of poetry out on the water with you!

    The Boathouse at Knotts End

    The Boathouse at Knotts End

    Before you head home, stop off in Lancaster, another great northern city, and a key port town. The Maritime Museum in Custom House provides an interesting account of the port and of Morecambe’s fishy past, including 4 restored fishing vessels. Stay in handsome Georgian house The Ashton; owned and designed by the set decorator of ITV’s period drama “Lost in Austen”, it offers refined elegance with just a dash of 21st-century flair.

    The Ashton

    The Ashton

    When to go

    Northern England is beautiful at any time of year: it’s green in spring and summer, golden and coated by mist in autumn, and frosty in winter. On the other hand, it can (and will) rain at any time of year, so come prepared. School holidays prove popular, particularly over the summer months when all the local activities are in operation (bike hire, balloon flights, horse riding) and you can even swim in some the rivers, if you’re feeling brave.

    North York Moor

    North Yorkshire Moors

    Our top tip

    Walk with wolves in Cumbria. Or more precisely, walk with timber wolves with some Czechoslovakian wolfdog bred into them – though this is perhaps not so catchy! The Predator Experience gives over 16s the chance to see wolves as they would live in the wild, while walking with an expert handler who will guide you through their behaviour and evolution. You can also try your hand at falconry – not for the faint hearted, but definitely a memorable once-in-a-lifetime experience.

    See our destination guide for more information on Northern England and other places to stay.

    Posted in Spotlight on.... Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,
JUN09

Escape of the Week… The Cottage Charlestown

 
  • These 3 charming self-catering cottages may be small, but they pack a punch. Owner Antonia has carefully styled the Grade II-listed boltholes with gorgeous antique furnishings and luxurious kitchen gadgets to ensure your stay is both spoiling and functional – an enchanting example of the Cornish home-away-from-home.

     The Cottage Charlestown

    Charlestown is a beautiful and quaint port village on Cornwall’s south coast, not far from the Eden Project, the Lost Gardens of Heligan and numerous sandy beaches. With both cosy wood-burning stoves and suntrap outdoor spaces, the cottages offer a spoiling escape all year round.

    The Cottage Charlestown

    Rooms: While each of the cottages has something different to offer, they all bear Antonia’s distinctive (and impeccable) eye for design; think luxurious beds with crisp linen and goose down duvets, well-equipped (if sometimes small) kitchens, and charming nautical adornments reminiscent of the beautiful seaside location.

    Of the 3 houses, our favourite is perhaps The Cottage, with its luxurious underfloor heating, 2 bedrooms, separate living room, private terrace and luxurious bathroom with cast-iron tub and organic soaps. Olivia’s Cottage is slightly larger (2 comfortable double bedrooms), and though perhaps a bit lower in spec, it benefits from a delightful suntrap garden and still bears clean fresh design, funky vintage finds, and an extremely intelligent use of space. The Cabin is a smaller, slightly less conventional option best suited to couples. It’s actually formed of 2 cabins facing each other across a sail-canopied patio (one contains the living area and the other houses a cosy bedroom and a shower room).Beyond this is a small and very private lawned garden, making it a delightful summer option.

    The Cottage Charlestown

    Food: Each cottage has a great little kitchen equipped with top-quality equipment from Bosch range cookers to AGA pans, and a selection of kit for babies (handheld blenders, sterilisers). The Cottage’s kitchen has a heated slate floor (divine on cooler mornings) as well as a narrow table for 4 in the sitting room and outdoor furniture for al fresco summer dining. There’s a similar set up in Olivia’s Cottage, while The Cabin has a small open-plan kitchen/living area supplemented by the sail-covered patio – a delight in the warmer months. Whichever you choose, you’ll get basic provisions like organic tea, coffee, sugar, milk (half fat and full fat) and eco cleaning products. Plus, exclusively for i-escape guests, a Cornish welcome of scones, clotted cream and local strawberry jam.

    There are also some great options for those lazier culinary evenings. You can stay in and enjoy Antonia’s ‘great grub’ delivered fresh from the kitchen to your door – dishes might include Cornish seafood broth with tomatoes, fennel and all sorts of fish, or perhaps a rich, slow-cooked beef stew with mashed potato and leeks in winter. If you’d prefer to eat out you’re lucky enough to be near some bastions of the south west’s foodie scene. In Padstow, you’ve Rick Stein’s and Paul Ainsworth’s Number 6 or his newer Rojano’s, while across the water in Rock is Nathan Outlaw’s St Enodoc Hotel, and of course Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen is up in Watergate Bay. Closer to home you can stroll over to Charlie’s cafe, or walk the coastline to 2-rosette Austell’s above Carlyon Bay (approx. 20 minutes).

    The Cottage Charlestown

    Author’s tip: In low tide, head rightwards along the rocky coast to a small cove beneath pointy sea-washed rocks (great scrambling); from there a gap in the rocks brings you out on sandy Duporth beach – but remember to return before the tide does!

    The Cottage Charlestown

    Customer review: “What an amazing place! We stayed in The Cottage for 4 nights and loved it. It is cosy but has everything you need, including for children.”

    Elizabeth, United Kingdom (29.09.13)

    i-escape gift: Cream tea with homemade scones and Cornish jam

    Read the full review and book  >>

    Posted in Escape of the Week. Tagged , , , ,
JUN06

Top 10 hotels with summer availability

 
  • Looking for a special stay or a hip hideaway for your summer break? Well it’s not too late to find somewhere exciting and spoiling. We’ve picked our top 10 summery getaways from idyllic cabins in Turkey to fortified farmhouses in Italy, and they’ve all got good availability in June, July and August.

    My Little Place on the Hill, Kefalonia, Greece

    Why we love it: These great-value suites (sleeping 2-4) all have private terraces that enjoy miles of incredible mountain views, and they share a large, inviting pool (complete with kids section). You’re also only a 20-minute stroll from the beautiful Avithos beach, via a track lined with wild herbs, eucalyptus trees, olive groves and vineyards. Heavenly.

    My Little Place on the Hill

    What to do: Hire a boat for the day or catch the ferry to Ithaca, where you’ll be close to Stavros Town’s wonderful seafood restaurants. Afterwards, stroll around the pretty fishing village of Kioni, before returning home in time for sundown. Alternatively, stay local and snooze beneath towering eucalyptus trees in the hammocks beside the alfresco poolside bar.

    Read the full review >>

    Hotel Du Clos, Côte d’Azur, France

    Why we love it: This converted 17th-century farmhouse offers the quintessential French experience, with welcoming French owners, relaxed French styling and even a Michelin-starred French restaurant just down the road. Hidden high in the hills of the Côte d’Azur, it makes a bucolic (and great-value) alternative to the bustling hubbub of nearby Cannes, Nice and Antibes.

    Hotel du Clos

    What to do: You’re near the Côte d’Azur’s numerous fabulous beaches and charming small villages, but we suggest making time to enjoy the hotel and its grounds, too – lounge by the pool and start a tournament on the boules pitch.

    Read the full review >>

    Borgo San Marco, Fasano, Puglia, Italy

    Why we love it: This farmhouse hotel has all the ingredients of a great masseria – a 500-year-old tower, vaulted rooms, olive groves, sea horizons – minus the pretentions (and prices) of its more publicised neighbours. Eighteen comfortably furnished, colourful rooms infuse the hotel with the chilled out joie de vivre of its owners, and many are wonderfully family friendly.

    Borgo San Marco

    What to do: Get over to the museum and archaeological park of Egnazia (8km away). This 2,500-year-old Messapian port has over 2km of walls, plus there are later ruins of a Roman amphitheatre, temples and halls. Failing that, you’re also near Italy’s Adriatic coastline, which has some of the country’s best beaches.

    Read the full review >>

    Hotel del Teatre, Catalonia, Spain

    Why we love it: Just a short drive from the beautiful beaches of Begur and Girona, this romantic 18th-century converted rectory showcases minimalist interiors while celebrating the rough and rugged palette of the surrounding village.  Everything has been designed to make you feel special so expect soft bathrobes, a large DVD library, free mountain bikes and handy beach towels, to name but a few.

    Hotel del Teatre

    What to do: It may be a 20-minute drive away, but we suggest an evening of cocktails in the lounge at Hotel Vintage, where views extend over Aiguaclara beach to the sea beyond. And, don’t forget to tour the Dali Triangle, encompassing the museum in Figueres, the castle in Púbol and Dalí’s house in Port Lligat.

    Read the full review >>

    Pedrera Boutique Apartment, Barcelona, Spain

    Why we love it: Owned by interior designer Alex, this Barcelona pad is rented out on demand to visitors seeking a chic city base. As a result, guests get a delightfully authentic home-from-home and quickly feel part of the city’s vibrant atmosphere. The location is superb too: minutes from Passeig de Gràcia’s designer shops, round the corner from Gaudí’s La Pedrera, and within walking distance of all the sights. With Alex’s insider tips you’ll be able to take full advantage of the area and eat at restaurants that locals love.

    Pedrera Boutique Apartment

    What to do: Take a night-time tour of La Pedrera (aka Casa Milà), when it’s quieter and more atmospheric. You’ll see an apartment that recreates bourgeois life in the early 20th century and hear stories of residents who lived here 100 years ago.

    Read the full review >>

    Notos Hotel, Peloponnese, Greece

    Why we love it: Notos Hotel and the surrounding village of Kardamyli remain i-escape favourites thanks to the breath-taking local scenery – from the pristine sea up to the snow-capped Mt. Taygetus, with ancient villages and frescoed churches in between. The foothills are unexpectedly verdant here and provide a compelling backdrop for hiking and exploring.

    Notos Hotel

    What to do: Here, at the southernmost point of Europe, the sea is where it’s at. Swim at the pebbly beach below the hotel or the sandy ones at Stoupa, 10km away; there’s also a dramatic, cliff-ringed cove at Fonissa, 5km away. Alternatively, hire a fishing boat and sail down the coast in search of an isolated cove or village, or across to the pretty town of Koroni on the western peninsula.

    Read the full review >>

    Relais Casamassima, Umbria, Italy

    Why we love it: We’re yet to visit this idyllic Umbrian retreat, but we’ve heard great things and can’t wait to see it for ourselves. With a meticulous mix of antique and contemporary décor, the 3 suites offer a welcoming base from which to observe this charming agriturismo. We’re particularly keen to sample the delicious food – fruits, vegetables, eggs, wine and olive oil – all produced within the grounds and often served at dinner. You can even take some home thanks to the little on-site shop – plenty of excuses to try a taste of Italy.

    Relais Casamassima

    What to do: With all that hearty food on offer, it would be a shame not to give yourself at least one day to relax in the garden: breathe the pure air, listen to the bells (they keep sheep), and idle by the pool. Find a romantic wrought-iron table under the gazebo or by the clambering wisteria and pluck a juicy fig from the trees.

    Read the full review >>

    Soncna Hisa, Slovenia

    Why we love it: There’s plenty of new territory to explore in relatively undiscovered eastern Slovenia, but Soncna Hisa’s spoiling little spa will have you tempted to stay put. We loved starting the day with an early morning Jacuzzi and a healthy breakfast served in the sunny dining room, before embarking on a foray into the verdant countryside surrounding Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital. You can also try a thermal spa in the local village’s hot springs – indulgence has never been so good for you.

    Soncna Hisa

    What to do: Whatever you choose to do, we’d suggest spending at least one day taking advantage of the hotel spa. For non-spa days, staff can organise bespoke day trips such as wine-tastings at local vineyards, hot-air balloon rides, and fishing excursions.

    Read the full review >>

    Azur Hotel, Antalya, Turkey

    Why we love it: Set in beautiful gardens fringed by blood-red hibiscus, orange lilies and rampant dogrose, these 20 wooden cabins may be simple, but the smiley, generous welcome of the hosts and staff is both comforting and contagious. Oh, and the pool is a godsend during the scorching summer, particularly for energetic children!

    Azur Hotel

    What to do: The beaches are fantastic, but for a different kind of swim, seek out some of the secret river pools nearby. One of our favourites is a crystal-clear stream shaded by pines, with only the frogs, terrapins and butterflies for company.  Full directions are on our review!

    Read the full review >>

    Bolonia Beach Houses, Tarifa, Spain

    Why we love it: This trio of ocean-facing hideaways sits in the beautiful little hamlet of Bolonia, high above the pristine Atlantic in southern Spain. Foodies will be in heaven; there are good kitchens, barbecues on the private terraces, and you can stock up on fresh seafood at Tarifa’s market. Alternatively, take advantage of Bolonia’s great oceanside restaurants and beach bars. Delicious!

    Bolonia Beach Houses

    What to do: By day, try windsurfing or kitesurfing, take a whale- and dolphin-watching trip out from Tarifa, or even pop across to Tangiers for a day of souk shopping and mint tea drinking. By night, climb the sandstone bluff behind the houses to see the twinkling lights of Tangier beckoning from across the water.

    Read the full review >>

    Take a look at our other hotels with excellent summer availability >>

    Posted in Top 10. Tagged , , , , , , ,
JUN04

Family-friendly, yet super stylish

 
  • Think elegant rooms, spectacular design and fine dining are out of the question if the nippers come too? Well, we don’t! We’re passionate about fab family places to stay that also deliver on style and sophistication. Our Kids Collection Editor Nadine chooses her top 10 from around the world.

    Aman Sveti Stefan, near Budva, Montenegro

    Aman Sveti Stefan

    New to the Kids Collection is this fabulous Adriatic beach resort made up of a Unesco-listed island – connected to the mainland via a causeway – and a former royal residence turned elegant 8-suite villa. Sveti Stefan Island’s 15 th-century fishing village has been carefully restored to create 50 luxe cottages, suites and rooms – each one uniquely decorated in a modern-meets-rustic style. There are 2 child-friendly pools, 3 beaches, kids’ watersports (a lifeguard is present) and kids’ menus in the various on-site eateries.

    Haymarket Hotel, West End, London, UK

    Haymarket Hotel

    Hotel designer Kit Kemp’s English contemporary interiors are justly renowned for their inventive juxtaposition of styles, fabrics, colours and textures. Think hand-painted wallpaper, upholstered tailor’s dummies, and padded headboards. Better still, they’re infused with fun and freshness – families won’t feel intimidated staying here, and nearly all rooms can take a baby cot and a rollaway bed. Best of all, there’s a psychedelic underground swimming pool! You couldn’t get a better location from which to explore this booming capital city – the hotel is found between Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus.

    Tierra Patagonia, Patagonia, Chile

    Tierra Patagonia

    A stay at this architect-designed eco-boutique hotel is sure to impress. Barely visible from above, it’s deliberately conceived to retreat into the landscape. The low wooden building has a living roof and 40 Scandi-chic rooms with hand-crafted furniture, giant sheepskin rugs and majestic 180 degree views over the area’s dramatic indigenous pampas and lofty peaks. Explore the wonders of the Torres del Paine National Park with expert naturalist guides then return to classy comfort. Kids of all ages are welcome (backpacks are available for carrying your baby/toddler on hikes) and there’s an indoor heated pool; we thought older kids/teens would probably get the most out of the excursions available.

    Fellah Hotel, near Marrakech, Morocco

    Fellah Hotel

    Just 17km outside Marrakech, with spectacular Atlas views, this new hybrid cultural centre and boutique hotel delivers insight and style in equal measure, along with a great restaurant, a huge library and a Thai spa. Modern rooms and villas merge fashionista styling with traditional Berber patterns, and may also feature terraces, contemporary art and spacious bathrooms with rain showers and large tubs – some villas also have private pools and kitchens. Bring the children for the colourful, well-equipped kids’ club (which has creative countryside-focused workshops during the holidays) and the extensive lush grounds complete with treehouse, petting zoo and outdoor heated pool.

    Chateau de Lartigolle, near Auch, Gascony, France

    Chateau de Largitolle

    For the ultimate family reunion or special occasion, head to this stunning, contemporary 12-bedroom 18th-century chateau. Interiors are bold, with designer pieces, hand-printed wallpapers, capacious grand beds, and antiques. Some bathrooms are in turrets, there’s a library full of beautiful books, a groovy lounge and a showcase Grand Salon spanning the building’s entire width. Choose to be completely self-catering, or have breakfast and 3 hours cleaning per day; chefs can also be booked for dinners. Kids have a games room, DVDs, books, and a dorm bedroom, plus the 22 acres of landscaped grounds are replete with pool, tennis court, trampoline, playground, orchard, woodland and vineyard.

    Devi Garh, near Udaipur, Rajasthan, India

    Devi Garh

    This is an immaculate one-off: a quintessential Rajput palace with breathtaking modern minimalist white-marble interiors offset with flashes of rich colour. The rooms are vast, there’s a large heated green-marble pool, a fab spa, walls sparkling with semi-precious stones, and a glassed-in pavilion restaurant with super views over the Aravalli hills. Kids and adults alike will love wandering the warren of stairs, finding terraces, balconies and window-seats. There is a games room, you can take a camel safari, and there’s heaps of equipment for babies. The top suites share a black-marble pool, and all rooms have sofabeds, bathtubs and space for a baby cot.

    Borgo Santo Pietro, near Siena, Tuscany, Italy

    Borgo Santo Pietro

    An opulent, elegantly restored Tuscan villa with decadent living quarters swathed in lush fabric and decked out in chandeliers, portraits and antiques. It may not sound like an obvious choice for a family holiday, but this rural borgo’s cottage-style garden suites have their own  sit outs ideal for families, and there’s a playground discreetly set away from the main house in the large landscaped grounds. There’s also an infinity pool and a trampoline, plus tennis, badminton and basketball courts.

    Soho House New York, Meatpacking District, New York City, USA

    Soho House New York

    New York is great for kids and this glamorous members club’s signature rooftop pool, cinema, and games room will ensure they’re in heaven throughout your visit. Modern classic rooms pull off that rare trick of being cosy yet designer, industrial and decadent, with vintage pieces, wooden floors and sparkling chandeliers. Children can share with parents in all but the smallest rooms, and the largest have freestanding bathtubs. There’s also a kids’ menu in the 6th-floor restaurant.

    Bali Luxury Private Villa, Canggu, Bali, Indonesia

    Bali Luxury Private Villa

    A chic, contemporary tropical staffed villa set in lush gardens, with infinity pool, just 40 minutes from the airport? Which has 4 vast bedrooms with dressing areas and outdoor bathrooms laid out in Balinese open-sided pavilion style? With an exclusive feel, specially designed for families, with rates including a chauffeured car, membership of a nearby kids’ club, media room with indoor games for all ages, and heaps of baby/toddler equipment? Yes please!

    El Encanto de Cabo Pulmo, Cabo Pulmo, Baja California Sur, Mexico

    El Encanto de Cabo Pulmo

    Proof that delicious design needn’t always be expensive, this collection of 3 suites can be booked individually or as a private house rental. Located in a laid-back fishing village just 90 minutes from Los Cabos, the villa is set within a walled garden of native plant species, covered terraces and metal sculptures. Rooms have high palapa ceilings to keep you cool, handcrafted furniture, indigenous folk art, oriental rugs and a fabulously vivid Mexican colour palette. If you take the Fountain Suite you’ll also get a well-equipped kitchen. Families will love the gentle pace of life, and kids will relish the swimming, water sports and boat trips and on offer at nearby Sea of Cortez (4 sets of snorkelling gear are supplied). Back at the house, each suite comes with a field guide to the stars, with extra info on local birds and fish.

    Check out our Pinterest board for new stylish family-friendly inspiration >>

    Posted in Family Travel, Kids, Top 10. Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
JUN02

Escape of the Week… Hotel Glymur

 
  • Only 45 minutes outside of Reykjavik, Hotel Glymur provides the perfect antithesis to the hubbub of the city. With chilled out, welcoming staff, geothermal hot tubs and warming interiors, the hotel is a cosseting home against the rugged, elemental Icelandic landscape.

    Hotel Glymur

    Secluded Hotel Glymur is deservedly one of Iceland’s most popular hotels.Whether you want to go hiking, whale-watching, midnight-golfing, or admire the magnificent Aurora Borealis from the hot tub, it’s all available here. We love it for its unpretentious vibe, excellent food and simply stunning panoramic views of the fjord and mountains.

     Hotel Glymur

    Rooms: The bright split-level rooms provide cosy respite from the elements beyond the large windows. Downstairs you’ll find a living area with deep leather sofas and all the mod cons you’ll need, from Illy coffee machines to plasma TVs, plus there’s a cool white bathroom with a large shower and towelling robes. Upstairs the cool Nordic decor, with flashes of red and terracotta, is continued into the bedroom where you’ll also find warm downy duvets and pillows on supremely comfortable beds. The rooms aren’t massive, but we love the stylish and spoiling extras such as flowers and small bottles of wine (a thank you for booking through i-escape).

    Should you decide you want a little more space, there are 2 large suites (Gudrídarstofa and Hallgrímsstofa) and a handful of self-catering cottages nearby (the largest sleeps 4 adults). They’re perfect for families, honeymooners or groups of friends looking for some serenity and back-to-nature bliss.

    Hotel Glymur

    Food: The wood-clad on-site restaurant is the ideal place to unwind after a long day outdoors. Enjoy award-winning Icelandic food in cosy surroundings with killer views of the fjord and mountains. With deliberately kitsch ceramics and a relaxed system of complimentary tea, coffee and cinnamon biscuits throughout the day (plus a small but well-stocked honesty bar), nothing feels over-wrought or exclusive – just friendly inclusivity at its best.

    Menus change depending on the seasons: winter is, expectedly, a little sparser and the set menu only has 3 options per course. However, the dishes are all exquisite and we didn’t find it lacking. Summer has an a la carte menu. We tried Iceland’s famous lamb Carpaccio with mango and chilli salsa, accompanied by home-baked breads. Mains included freshly smoked trout or reindeer, rounded off with a deliciously rich chocolate pudding and fresh berries.

    Breakfast (also in the restaurant) is an impressively vast European-cum-Icelandic cold buffet of meats, cheeses, boiled eggs, pastries and even smoked fish and locally cured meats. The perfect springboard into active Icelandic days.

    The self-catering apartments have well-stocked, large kitchens (plus barbecues and the opportunity to hire a private chef), though guests are of course welcome to eat in the restaurant, too.

    Hotel Glymur

    When to go: Iceland has 2 very different sides. In summer (May to September) you can experience the (rather eerie) 24-hour daylight and temperatures of up to 30 degrees – though always be prepared for rain. This is the perfect time of year for whale-watching, hiking, playing golf and enjoying the great outdoors. A visit in winter (October to April) brings cheaper prices and practically no tourists – if you can handle the long hours of darkness, you’ll be rewarded with an enhanced chance of seeing the Northern Lights.

    Hotel Glymur

    Customer review: “We stayed for 3 nights and loved it…The villa was very comfortable with a fully stocked kitchen, great hot tub on deck, living room and dining area as well…I will never forget this experience, it was absolutely amazing.”

    Mystica, United States (12.02.14)

    i-escape gift: 2 small (187ml) bottles of red wine in the room

    Read the full review and book  >>

    Posted in Escape of the Week. Tagged , , ,
MAY30

Top 10 Off the Beaten Track Honeymoons

 
  • Newlyweds bored of the usual ‘fly and flop’ options, read on! From safari beach breaks in Tanzania and close volcanic encounters in Iceland, to zip-lining in a Costa Rican National Park and deserted beach escapes in the Cyclades – we’ve got plenty to tempt honeymooners seeking a unique post-nuptial escape. Your honeymoon is the trip of a lifetime, so shoot for the stars and return having fallen head over heels for your chosen destination (as well as your partner!).

    Sand and safari – Saadani Safari Lodge, Saadani National Park, Tanzania

    Saadani Safari Lodge

    The Saadani Safari Lodge offers a unique combination of safari and beach, where honeymooners can spend the morning bathing in the Indian Ocean before jumping into a 4×4 to spot lions and hippos in the afternoon. Tented cottages sit just steps away from the lapping shore, and the Siri Suite is designed specifically for honeymooners, complete with private plunge pool, an outside kitchen area with a chef, a bar and even a personal butler. Perfect for those seeking a great safari holiday, with a touch of added lavishness.

    Volcanic vacationing – Ion Hotel, Thingvellir National Park, Iceland

    Ion Hotel 01

    Adventurous honeymooners will love this Scandi-chic hotel which opened last year in the rugged Thingvellir National Park. Surrounded by moss-covered lava fields, geysers and steaming rivers, honeymooners can spend their days exploring a true wilderness. Try your hand at glacier hiking, snorkel in the icy-clear waters of the Silfra rift, swim in the famous Blue Lagoon or even venture down into the chamber of a volcano. In the evening, you can watch for the Northern Lights, cocktail in hand, through the hotel bar’s panoramic floor-to-ceiling windows.

    Rainforest and rafting – Monte Azul, Chirripo National Park, Costa Rica

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    An upmarket eco-retreat (with just 4 very private casitas) hidden amongst the forest in the remote southern highlands of Chirripo National Park. Much of the food grown on the 100-acre plot feeds the guests, there are no TVs or radios, all staff are from the local community and a tree is planted for every visitor. Newlyweds can spend their time hiking to hidden waterfalls, white-water rafting, zip-lining through the forest or taking the plunge with some wild swimming – a seriously slick escape for tranquillity-hunters and adrenaline junkies alike.

    Remote and romantic – Croft 103, near Durness, Sutherland, North Scotland

    Croft 103 01

    Honeymoons don’t get much more remote than this – Croft 103’s two self-catering boltholes reside in a romantic corner of northern-most Scotland. Around 2-3 hours’ drive from Inverness, you can be sure there won’t be anyone, or anything, here to disturb the peace. Each cottage is super-sleek with a modern kitchen and walls of glass looking out onto unspoiled views of water, mountain and sky. Bike or hike around the wild countryside, stroll along empty beaches, and spend peaceful nights watching the weather draw in across the loch – there are even outdoor bathtubs, where you may catch a glimpse of the illusive aurora borealis as you soak.

    Tranquillity and tanning – Onar, Andros, Cyclades Islands, Greece

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    Think Robinson Crusoe meets European beach break – the 9 stone cottages that make up Onar, on the east coast of Andros, couple calming interiors with a secret setting well away from the tourist trail. Set on a sleepy Cyclades island, they’re a leafy stroll from a stunning, secluded beach and offer newlyweds a true detox from modern life: technology is limited, food is local and it’s so quiet you’ll feel like you’re on a private island resort.

    Outdoor opulence – Awasi Patagonia, Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia, Chile

    Awasi Patagonia 02

    Hidden in a national park commonly dubbed the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’, Awasi Patagonia is the spiritual home of adventurers. Each of the 12 villas is allocated an expert guide, and you can book a new activitiy daily, tailor-making the itinerary to your interests and fitness. Back in 1878, explorer Florence Dixie pitched here tent beneath the park’s iconic peaks, and today Awasi Patagonia occupies the very same spot – although, that’s where the similarities end. Instead of canvas, honeymooners will find luxurious, clean-limbed villas with cosy wood-burners and sheepskin-topped sofas, plus private hot tubs in which to sip champagne as they stargaze across the uninterrupted landscape.

    Discovery and dreams – L’Iglesia, El Jadida, Morocco

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    L’Iglesia is an artfully restored Portuguese church with a cool retro vibe; perfect for culture vultures wanting to explore this quiet corner of Morocco. In the early 1500s, Portuguese explorers founded Mazagan, one of the Atlantic Coast’s first outposts and an important stop on the trade route to India. When they were ousted in 1769, it became El Jadida (‘The New’). Today, its Unesco-listed centre, lively arts community and established infrastructure are perfect for couple’s who want to get lost in a sleepy, atmospheric and timelessly beautiful town.

    Eco escapism – Areias do Seixo, Costa de Prata, Portugal

    Areias do Seixo 01

    Northern Portugal might not be your first choice for seclusion and romance, but once you stumble upon upmarket eco-resort Areias do Seixo, you’ll never want to leave. Its sensational décor, unspoilt location and fabulous spa are only a few of the reasons to stick around. Nature pervades everything, from the impressive environmental credentials to the driftwood bedframes and home-grown organic produce in the restaurant. You’re within easy reach of Obidos and Lisbon, but it’ll be hard to resist simply strolling along the beach, swimming in the sea and quietly planning your future together.

    Authentic and atmospheric – Bambu Indah, Ubud, Bali

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    Immerse yourself in Ubud’s remarkable Balinese culture: phenomenal food, fascinating temples and authentic Legong and puppet performances. Bambu Indah, a collection of beautifully restored antique Javanese houses set amongst organic gardens and rice fields, is the cherry on the cake. Many rooms overlook the Sayan Valley, and the gorgeous Udang House has a grand canopied bed atop a glass floor, allowing you to see into the colourful shrimp pond below – a truly unique honeymoon suite.

    Secret seclusion – Cas’almare, Favignana Island, off Sicily, Italy

    Cas'almare 01

    We should probably be keeping the tiny island of Favignana under our hats – up until now it has remained a secret summer haunt for in-the-know-Italians, but as it’s your honeymoon we thought it would be a little mean not to mention it! Just off the coast of Sicily, crystal clear waters surround gouged cliff faces that lead to atmospheric coves and magical caves. The converted fishermen’s cottages of Cas’almare also perch along the seafront, along with a chic ocean-facing terrace and private beach crying out for mid-afternoon cocktails and romantic sunset dinners.

    See our full list of off the beaten track honeymoons for more inspiration.

    Posted in Top 10. Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
MAY28

Easy Escapes for June

 
  • We’re teetering on the edge of summer and all we can think about is having fun in the sun! If you haven’t already got a summer holiday planned – or think you can squeeze another one in (and we think you should) – have a look at our hot offers and book yourself a break. Happy holidays to you!

    We’ve already scoured the globe for great offers so now 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…

    Unwind in Wales – £210 per person (3 nights, 20-23 June 2014)

    Northern Wales

    Northern Wales

    Northern Wales is a paradise for outdoorsy types. National parks – prime for biking, hiking, gorge scrambling and horse riding – surround Mount Snowdon (Wales’ highest mountain), while the rugged coastline, with its crumbling hill-top castles, was made for cliff-top walks, and the ocean is a real draw for surfers seeking that wave.

    Ffynnon

    Ffynnon

    Stay: at gorgeous stone townhouse Ffynnon, located in the quaint market town of Dolgellau, in southern Snowdonia. Its 6 stylish rooms, each named after the owners’ grandmothers, effortlessly mix original features like stained glass windows with soft wool carpets, indulgent roll-top bathtubs and chic Egyptian cotton bedding. Our exclusive 20% discount throughout June makes 3 nights in the Myfanwy room just £210 per person, and includes a free session in the hotel’s outdoor hot tub.

    Travel: Dolgellau is a 2-hour drive from Cardiff, Manchester and Birmingham, 3 hours from Bristol, and a slightly longer 4.5-hour trip from London. There’s parking on site.

    Total Cost: £210 per person, including all taxes.

    More info: Getting there and other accommodation options

    Chill out in Croatia – £334.70 per person (7 nights, 5-12 June 2014)

    Pakleni Islands

    Pakleni Islands

    The 13th-century walled-town of Hvar, an hour from Split by ferry, is breathtaking. Greeks, Illyrians, Venetians and Napoleonic soldiers have all walked the cobbled streets, leaving their mark on this buzzy harbour town. In contrast, the nearby Pakleni Islands, surrounded by the shimmering Adriatic, are mostly uninhabited. A haven for flora and fauna, many of the islands are car-free and some even call this archipelago the most beautiful in the world.

    Palmizana

    Palmizana

    Stay: at the island retreat of Palmizana, a stone’s throw from Hvar Town on the Pakleni isle of Sveti Klement. Colourful bungalows and villas are dotted throughout its lush garden, and it’s a great place to while away the days lazing on pebbled beaches, eating grilled seafood, exploring bays by kayak and diving nearby shipwrecks. Thanks to i-escape’s exclusive 25% discount in early June, a 7-night stay in a Double Room in Villa Giorgia comes to only £218.60 per person, including all taxes.

    Fly: from Bristol to Split with easyJet for £90 per person, departing on Thursday 5 June and returning on Thursday 12 June (direct flights).

    From the airport: Take the airport bus to the city centre (£3.25 per person), then catch a ferry boat to Hvar Town (£1.70 per person); from here the resort will collect you and take you to Palmizana, on Sveti Klement island (£8.10 per person).

    Total Cost: £334.70 per person, including all taxes.

    More info: Getting to Hvar and the Pakleni Islands and other accommodation options

    Venture to Vietnam – £943.80 (7 nights, 10-17 June 2014)

    Phu Quoc

    Phu Quoc

    When you close your eyes and imagine an island paradise, the chances are you’re imagining Phu Quoc. This tear-shaped island just off the west coast of Vietnam is covered in thick jungle and is edged with beautiful white-sand beaches, turquoise waters, and small fishing villages. R’n’R is the name of the game here; the most you’ll want to do is peruse the island by bike, boat or through a snorkelling mask. After any such exertion, rest up on the beach before feasting on a fresh fish dinner. Bliss.

    La Veranda

    La Veranda

    Stay: at La Veranda, a French colonial-style villa set back from one of Phu Quoc’s (many) enticing beaches. They’re currently offering 3 nights for the price of 2, making 7 nights in a Deluxe Room (Garden View) just £316.80 per person, including all taxes.

    Fly: from London Gatwick to Ho Chi Min with Vietnam Airlines for £577 per person, departing on Monday 9 June and returning on Tuesday 17 June – note that both are overnight flights arriving 10 June and 18 June respectively. From here, fly onto Phu Quoc with Jetstar for £50 per person, departing on Tuesday 10 June and returning on the morning of Tuesday 17 June (with plenty of time to make your evening flight back to London).

    From the airport: the hotel offers a complimentary transfer service from Phu Quoc airport.

    Total Cost: £943.80 per person, including all taxes.

    More info: Getting to Vietnam 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 May 2014.

    Posted in Easy Escapes. Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,
MAY26

Family Escape of the Month… St Mawes Hideaways

 
  • In one of south Cornwall’s prettiest villages and right on the sea front, this quartet of spoiling cottages (each sleeping 4-12) contain palatial living spaces, a stream of indulgent extras and ample activities for children, making them perfect for any size family, or even a pair of families holidaying together.

    St Mawes Hideaways

    Owners Amanda and Peter came to St Mawes Hideaways after a successful stint in corporate hospitality and their experience shows: these houses are designed to provide the utmost comfort and convenience, from the generous welcome hampers topped up with local goodies, to the stacks of games, sleek mod cons and indulgent furnishings. Best of all, Amanda offers a comprehensive concierge service with reliable babysitters, art lessons, private chefs, boat trips and paddle-board instructors all at her finger-tips.

    St Mawes Hideaways

    Rooms:  Choose from a 2-bedroom house for 4, a 4-bedroom house for 8 (where we stayed), a 4-bedroom house for up to 10, and a 5-bedroom house for up to 12. All have sea views and are perfect for families with kids, particularly the larger ones which have games rooms with table tennis, a mini-pool table and a 50″ HD TV with Wii – particularly useful on rainy days.

    Each of the houses is fully equipped with top-of-the-line features: Hypnos mattresses and goose-down duvets in the bedrooms (doubles, twins and a couple of family-sized options), drench showers and/or sleek tubs in the Villeroy & Boch bathrooms. Comfort and ease are the primary motives (we hope you like cushions), so you can visit at any time of year and still have plenty to enjoy, whether dining on the terrace or snuggling up in front of the fire with a board game, the Cornish coast stretching out from the floor-to-ceiling windows.

    St Mawes Hideaways

    Food: The large kitchens are staggeringly well equipped. Ours contained 2 fridge-freezers, a temperature-controlled wine-cooler, an ultra-sharp Sabatier knife set, a food processor, silver napkin rings, and no fewer than 3 coffee outlets. Every necessary culinary tool is here (even some that you won’t need) and with Amanda’s impressive book of local contacts, you can even source a chef to use them all for you. We did just that, and the seared scallops washed down with chilled champagne (a gift when you book through i-escape), followed by herb-crusted rack of lamb on sweet potato purée, were utterly divine. (There was an excellent and well received kids’ menu, too.)

    Amanda’s outstanding concierge service also provides another dining option: local babysitters (including Ingrid, the charming CRB-checked caretaker who has 3 children of her own can be arranged allowing you to explore the numerous local restaurants. The Driftwood (9km) serves up fabulous Michelin-starred cuisine while the quirky Melinsey Mill (12km) offers home-fired pizzas, light lunches and cream teas.

    St Mawes Hideaways

    Kids’ activities: All houses are stocked with games, puzzles, toys and kids’ DVDs, as well as an imaginative dressing-up box. In addition to the games rooms in the 2 largest houses, there are also lawned gardens with trampolines which are fantastic in the sunshine. An ample supply of activities to keep the little ones entertained. Although the smaller houses lack the same sprawling outdoor space, they do have one or 2 terraces with impressive sea views.

    There’s a whole host of activities available in the area, too: a playground in the village, a castle to explore, and 3 tidal beaches – perfect for crabbing and sandcastle building. Older children might enjoy trying out some water sports with local teacher, Bob (also arranged by the well-connected Amanda). Slightly further afield you’ll find the world-famous Eden Project and magical Lost Gardens of Heligan – both a captivating day out, whatever your age.

    St Mawes Hideaways

    Baby equipment: Everything you might need is here: baby cots, bottle warming equipment, potties, night lights, stair gates, high chairs, and even a pushchair to borrow.

    Top Tip: Check the booklets outlining tide tables and ferry times (provided in each house) so you can plan your days in advance, then take the ferry to Falmouth and visit the entertaining Maritime Museum.

    Read the full review and book St Mawes Hideaways  >>

    Posted in Family Escape of the Month, Family Travel, Kids. Tagged , , , , , ,
MAY23

Snapshots from… San Sebastian

 
  • Junior Editorial Assistant Emily recently treated her boyfriend to a birthday weekend in the Basque Country (any excuse to get away…); here she shares some of her photos from San Sebastian, a Spanish city with a unique personality that’s hard not to love.

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    I have a print of the iconic La Concha beach sat on my mantelpiece. Friends always ask me where it is and, so far, guesses have included Brazil, Australia, Sri Lanka and South Africa. They always seem stunned when I tell them that it is in fact a little spot along the rugged coastline of northern-Spain. But it’s not only stunning in pictures, the truth is that during the majority of our weekend break, we were rarely able to take ourselves more than 10 minutes away from its pristine sand and azure waters.

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    San Sebastian has long been considered a foodie mecca, so we couldn’t resist gorging ourselves on the local speciality pintxos, a tapas-style dish served in bars, designed to be enjoyed over a glass of something (I enjoyed a Sangria slush puppy one afternoon) and accompanied by good friends and juicy gossip. We ate some of best food we’ve ever tasted in some of the tiny establishments tucked away in Parte Vieja (old town).

    Fresh produce 01

    Award-winning Bar Zeruko was a real treat, and their inventive pintxos morsels are exceedingly popular. We feasted on canutillos de queso (cheese filled filo pastry cones), salt fish croquettes, slow-cooked beef topped with quail’s egg, black pudding garnished with padron peppers, mini-crepes filled with cream cheese and roasted veg, the list goes on! We only meant to go in for a snack but left with loosened belts and seriously sated appetites. We also loved La Mejillonera, a simple, no nonsense kind of place with no tables or chairs, and a menu featuring only fresh mussels (there’s a special gutter around the foot of the bar to throw your empty shells in), calamari and the best patatas bravas we have ever had the joy of eating.

    (NB: We’d have taken more food pictures but we were far too busy stuffing our faces…)

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    We stayed at the gorgeously quirky Astoria7, just a 10-minute walk from the beach and the old town. Each room pays homage to a different film personality; we had the Canadian-actor Glenn Ford. The library in the lobby – full of film books, memorabilia and countless films to borrow – was absolutely fascinating.

    Astoria 7

    We spent our days (between eating and wandering along the beach) exploring the 3 main districts of the city: Parte Vieja (the old town), a maze of narrow streets full of bars, boutiques and hidden churches; the more modern shopping district of Centro Romántico; and picturesque Gros, located just across the river that runs through city, to the east of La Concha.

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    We caught the funicular train up to the summit of Monte Igueldo where, bizarrely, there is a fun fair. The mini-rollercoaster has views of the sheer drop that runs alongside it – talk about an adrenaline rush! We also caught the ferry from San Sebastian harbour to Santa Clara, the island in the middle of the bay – although some people choose to swim over instead!

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    One of our personal highlights was exploring Monte Urgull (the hill at the eastern end of La Concha beach). We walked through the trees, glimpsing the surfing beach of Zurriola, before emerging in an old fort with a huge statue of Jesus atop it. On our descent, we came across a shack of a bar serving cold beer from the barrel. So, perched on a wall, cold beer in hand, we watched as the sun dipped below the horizon and the city’s lights came on, illuminating the hillside in front of us. Breathtaking.

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    See our destination guide for more information and places to stay in San Sebastian.

    Posted in Our Trips.... Tagged , , , , , , , , ,
MAY21

Top 10… Historical Hotels

 
  • Sometimes a hotel can be a destination in itself – whether treading the same steps as French Emperors at La Residenza Napoleone, sleeping in centuries old caves in argos in Cappadoccia, or enjoying the view from the walls of an 11th-century fort at Garh Jaisal Haveli hotel, all of these hotels have their own exciting story to tell.

    Spirit of the Knights, Rhodes, Greece

    Spirit of the Knights

    Part of a UNESCO-listed medieval town and renovated over 4 years in close consultation with the Greek archaeology department, Spirit of the Knights is not your usual secluded family-run hotel. Built in the 14th century as a knights’ lodging, echoes of the building’s history still resonate throughout: a medieval fountain looks out onto a spacious green courtyard, a 500-year-old domed hammam is still in use as a private steam room; even the radiators are made of marble. Its regeneration was overseen by British artist Felicity Marshall, whose careful eye for design and luxury has resulted in a triumph of Grecian tranquillity.

    Villa Cimbrone, Amalfi coast, Italy

    Villa Cimbrone

    With claim to ”the most beautiful panorama in the world”, it’s little surprise that this medieval palazzo seated above the Amalfi coast has long been a popular haunt for aesthetes – from Greta Garbo and D. H. Lawrence to the moneyed historical explorers of The Grand Tour. Dating back to the 11th century, the villa’s history has been varied, but unwaveringly illustrious. Now, each of the 19 regal rooms is decorated differently, but all contain grand fireplaces, frescoed vaults and antique furniture. The real triumphs, though, are the gardens: long avenues of umbrella pines, fragrant rose gardens, trellises dripping with wisteria, a belvedere fringed with marble busts, and even a pseudo-Roman temple. Utterly enchanting.

    Poseidonion Grand Hotel, Saronic Islands, Greece

    Poseidonion Grand Hotel

    Modelled on the belle-époque charm of the 20th-century French Riviera, this grand hotel was built to accommodate rich Athenian hunters travelling to the island of Spetses for turtledoves and quail. From here it became a harbour-front landmark before a 5-year restoration finishing in 2009 introduced 21st-century luxuries while celebrating its original splendour. Perhaps the most impressive event in this hotel’s (modern) history was the marriage of Prince Nikolaos of Greece to Tatiana Blatnik, which used the grand hotel as its epicentre.

    Garh Jaisal Haveli Hotel, Jaisalmer Fort, Rajasthan

    Garh Jaisal Haveli Hotel

    Like something from an Indiana Jones film, the fortress city of Jaisalmer rises majestically out of the Thar Desert. Nicknamed the ‘Golden City’, it has retained its medieval twisting alleys,11th-century sandstone fortifications, and 99 defensive turrets for hundreds of years. Hidden within the defensive walls is Garh Jaisal Haveli Hotel, a friendly, family-run guesthouse stunningly designed over the course of 7 years. Decorated with bright fabrics and dark wooden furniture, the 7 ensuite rooms are evocative of Jaisalmer’s opulent past as an important part of the camel caravan trading route. A stay here is worth it for the views of the Thar Desert and Jaisalmer alone.

    argos in Cappadocia, Cappadocia, Turkey

    argos in Cappadocia

    Over the past 2,000 years this picturesque jumble of ancient stone houses, tunnels and caves has been through a number of incarnations: a monastery, a linseed factory, a housing lodge for Silk Road caravans. However, it was perhaps its most recent restoration into a hip hotel that was the most revealing: 3.5 miles of tunnels were uncovered, as well as 2 enormous underground rooms (with superb acoustics that now host classical, jazz and Sufi music recitals). The redevelopment has been a stunning success – even the most subterranean of the 53 rooms are large and beautifully decorated with Turkish opulence.

    La Residenza Napoleone, Rome, Italy

    La Residenza Napoleone

    Now home to the welcoming and unpretentious Princess Letizia Ruspoli, these 2 splendid, classical apartments are a wonderfully spoiling option by the famous Spanish Steps,  in central Rome. Previously, the house had been home to Emperor Napoleon III and his mother, the former Queen of Holland. Now decorated with large imposing oil paintings, a marble staircase and carved imperial busts, the apartments wear their history on their sleeve while also delivering all the mod cons befitting of their setting in the heart of Rome’s fashion quarter.

    Albabenshal, Siwa Oasis, Egypt

    Albabenshal

    In 1926 a 3-day bout of rain dissolved much of Siwa’s mighty shali – an 800-year-old mud-brick citadel that dominates this Egyptian desert oasis. However, the eerie structure still stands and cool eco-hotel Albabenshal is built into its ancient walls, standing magnificent, though a little worn, above the newer settlements. The surrounding buildings are also built from mud brick and, with evidence of settlements as early as the 10th Millennium BC, the Siwa Oasis still bears features of its ancient past, including the remains of the Temple of the Oracle and Cleopatra’s Bath, an ancient natural spring.

    Posada de las Minas, Mineral de Pozos, Guanajuato

    Posada de las Minas

    Part of the trans-American volcanic belt, the Mexican town of Mineral de Pozos (usually just called Pozos) became a near ghost town after the gold and silver mining, once the source of its wealth, ceased in the early 20th-century. This, thankfully, all changed when visionary and adventurous individuals moved into the town – drawn by its history and beauty – and regenerated it. Now beautiful inns like Posada de las Minas have risen from the ashes to turn the town into a vibrant and compelling community. With stunning views and lovely hosts, this former dress shop is the perfect spot from which to witness the writing of the town’s next chapter.

    Hazlitt’s, Soho, London

    Hazlitt's

    This grand Georgian townhouse was a London hotspot for the 18th-century literati. Writers Jonathan Swift and Mary Barker (among others) regularly visited renowned essayist and critic William Hazlitt, who lived here from 1718. The rooms are all named after their distinguished visitors and are authentically decorated with 18th-century furnishings. Of course certain choice mod cons have been added (Hazlitt’s original abode was particularly lacking in power showers) and the scene outside has changed, but the hotel is still full of all the charms of high-end literary London life.

    Couvent d’Herepian, near Béziers, south west France

    Couvent d'Herepian

    This rural French retreat began life as a 17th-century convent and has now, thankfully, shed the horsehair shirt in favour of cosy bathrobes. Despite being converted into a spoiling spa hotel with beautiful, minimal interiors, the building still retains evidence of its cloistered world-within-world history. The 13 Zen-meets-Med rooms are wonderfully pampering and the spa, though small, continues the feeling of secluded contemplation and inner nourishment – the perfect place to cure all manner of sins.

    Take a look at our travel hotlists for more travel inspiration >>

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