The i-escape blog / The idea behind iescape+ / Michael Cullen headshot

By Michael Cullen, Co-founder

OK, so 2021 has been another tricky year, but we’re delighted to have helped lots of you escape; and to hear that our handpicked hotels and rentals are still delivering truly memorable stays.

This year’s guests have been extra appreciative, despite (or perhaps because of) the extra hassles. We’ve had glowing praise for hosts’ sterling efforts to make everyone feel welcome, to facilitate on-site tests or covid-friendly cleaning measures, and to ensure that each and every holiday – whether it was a long-deferred trip-of-a-lifetime or a spontaneous rest-and-recharge – has been extra special.

So here are the 10 places which got the very best feedback from verified i-escape guests in 2021. I gratefully doff my holiday hat to you all, valiant travellers and hosts alike!



Demeter Cave House, Santorini, Greece

This bijou bolthole for two is a “wonderfully unique property in a quaint little town bursting with fabulous restaurants”, to quote our most recent guest.  The cave house has “a modern and luxurious feel, with great attention to detail”, says another; plus a “roof terrace and plunge pool which really top it off”.  As for the owner Andrew, “he is an incredible host – kind, helpful and generous; he ensured we had the most amazing time”. Amen to that.


2  Chateau d’Olmet, Languedoc, France

Chateau d'Olmet, Languedoc, France

This adults-only B&B in the tiny Languedoc hamlet of Olmet (population 14) is “a true hideaway” where “the quality of silence is superb”. Guests rave about the “beautiful rooms with wonderful views and the most comfortable bed”, the “delicious home cooked dinner in the illuminated garden”, the “gorgeous swimming pool”. And, above all, the “very attentive, friendly and helpful service” from hosts Eric and Stephen”.  One guest went so far as to say that “Olmet is the new name for perfection!”


3  Convento, Olhao, Portugal

Convento, Olhao, Portugal

This small but perfect riad-style hotel is set “amidst the charming lanes of Olhao”, where “finding the entrance is part of the charm, and once you do, you never want to leave”. It is, our guests tell us, “a beautiful building, blissfully quiet, with lovely rooms and a gorgeous roof terrace on which to sunbathe”. Service is “friendly and helpful in all the best ways”, with “delicious breakfasts”. And it’s “excellent value”, with rooms from just £85. All in all, “you feel like you have been let into the best secret in town”. Shhhh.


4  Stow House, Yorkshire, UK

Stow House, Yorkshire ,UK

This friendly British B&B combines bold design, kooky art and sweeping views over the beautiful Yorkshire Dales. We hear that “the level of service is just right: friendly enough to be relaxed but leaving you to your own devices”; and that “the room and the view were gorgeous”, as was “wallowing in the roll-top bath in the decadent bathroom”. Highlights include “the walk to Aysgarth Falls”, and the “amazing food in the the Wensleydale Heifer”. This year, of all years, “it felt like such a treat.”


5  Kaywana Hall, Devon, UK

Kaywana Hall, Devon, UK

Another super-popular British hideaway this year has been this architecturally unique B&B, set in tranquil woodland near Dartmouth and the south Devon coast. It combines “fabulous design, wonderful rooms, attentive hosts, gorgeous pool”, plus “the best breakfast we have had in a B&B” and lots of “good restaurants for dinner”.  What more could you ask for? We can’t think of anything, but in any event hosts Tony and Gordon “have thought of everything – and even if they hadn’t it wouldn’t be a problem!” 


6  Riad L’Orangeraie, Marrakech, Morocco

Riad L'Orangeraie, Marrakech, Morocco

Morocco has been on and off the travel list this year, but while it was open, several guests told us how much they loved their stay at this oasis in Marrakech’s medina. “We couldn’t fault anything about our stay, or the staff and their attentiveness”, says one, while another “loved the roof terrace and our room which, although small, was very cleverly decorated”. Add in the inviting pool and delectable food, and you’ve got a winning winter-sun escape, within 4 hours’ flight from the UK.


7  Albero Capovolto, Sardinia, Italy

Albero Capovolto, Sardinia, Italy

This idyllic hilltop B&B in Sardinia manages to be both “far from the crowds but near the stunning beaches of the Costa Smeralda”. It is “stunningly decorated and perfect for relaxing”, with “delicious breakfasts” and unforgettable dinners prepared by Loredana. “Once you’ve been surprised by one of her feasts, you won’t go out again!” But, as so often, “what makes Albero Capovolto so special is the way you are received by Alessandro: he is friendly, smart, funny and makes every guest feel at home”. It’s “the perfect place to discover Sardinia”.


8  Six Keys, Pelion, Greece

Six Keys, Pelion, Greece

This chic Greek guesthouse is set “in an idyllic location, with an almost private beach literally outside your door!”  The suites are spacious, and everyone raves about “memorable dinners on the beach” with “outstanding Greek food”. One couple, who deferred their trip from 2019, ended up travelling with an extra guest: their newborn. “Olga and Angeliki were fantastic”, they write; “they turned turned our sitting room into a bedroom for the baby, arranged the cleaning around his naps, and booked an airport taxi with a car seat”. It’s always those extra touches which seal a great stay.


9  Cocorico Guesthouse, Porto, Portugal

Cocorico Guesthouse, Porto, Portugal

“We absolutely loved this hotel in the heart of Porto”, one of Europe’s “artiest and most exciting small cities”. Rooms are “smartly designed in a contemporary style that made the best of the historic building, with a bathroom pod at the rear”. It’s also “great value for the quality of the room and restaurant”. And once again, “staff were impeccable – they organised taxi transfers, printed return to UK forms for us, organised local COVID tests, and provided guidance on restaurants”. Budding hoteliers, take note: these things matter.


10  Nadder Valley Barn, Wiltshire, UK

Nadder Valley Barn, Wiltshire, UK

This stylishly converted barn for 2-4 “is both beautiful and comfortable beyond measure.” Even in bad weather, guests love it: one “spent 5 glorious, stormy days here” while another “had a lovely time, despite the rain”. What sets it apart, clearly, is its homeliness: “It really felt like our home for the duration: the beautiful kitchen is amazingly well equipped, the living space is huge and the decor is wonderful”. And the owner has found just the right level of service: “Clare is the most wonderful host, always on hand should you need her but never intrusive”.


How we chose our winners: scores are based on ratings from verified i-escape guests submitted during 2021. These may differ slightly from the scores shown on our hotel reviews’ feedback section, which draw from the previous two years, and are constantly updating. We include all guest scores, but we do not publish all guest comments.