Palma is the perfect weekend break destination. The main boulevards offer great shopping potential, while quarters like La Lonja seethe with atmospheric tapas bars and bodegas. There’s history at the spectacular Gothic cathedral and 10th-century Arab Baths, world-class art at the Palau March or the Fundacion Joan Miro, and an impressive collection of chic boutique hotels.
The city of Seville is a work of art. Even the most well-travelled would be hard pushed to name a more finely-crafted inner city than the Barrio Santa Cruz, a romantic quarter of flower-decked houses and squares cooled by dancing fountains. It’s a scene crying out for the burst of flamenco guitars and castanets.
Sorrento has been putting out the welcome mat for British travellers since the 18th century. As well as the stunning clifftop location, it’s ideal for hopping across the Bay of Naples to Capri by boat, taking a spectacular drive along the hairpins of the Amalfi coast, jumping on the train to Pompeii or strolling to the crater summit of Vesuvius.
Explore the natural beauty of Provence along a range of trails, soaking up the fresh air and discovering sleepy hamlets, ancient priories and lively local markets. There’s nothing too strenuous but it’s a joy to indulge in guilt-free lunches and dinners having burned off the calories.
Whatley Manor is a place in which to escape daily life in country house style. With traditional architecture and gorgeous gardens, with lots of secluded corners, you’ll want to own it, not just stay in it. But if a short break is your only option, there are 23 rooms, a Michelin two star restaurant, an amazing spa, a spread of lounges and even a cinema.
Even the approach to this grand Palladian mansion, along a mile-long drive arching through 500 acres of parkland, is outstanding. Just six miles from Bath, Lucknam Park offers an array of activities including walking trails, horse riding, swimming and tennis, plus fine dining and a superb new spa.
Walking is bound to be the prime focus for anyone wanting to enjoy the Lake District, the region that put the great in England’s Great Outdoors. But guests at Gilpin Hotel & Lake House can also indulge in other activities including fishing with a ghillie or golfing with a pro at Windermere Golf Club. Back at base, a spa and superb three AA Rosettes food await.
Drama, beauty and nature on a frankly gobsmacking scale; a trip across Norway delivers all three, along with picturesque villages, easy to navigate cities and some of the best seafood in the world. A highlight – literally – is a trip on the Bergensbanen railway, which climbs 4,000 feet to the Hardangervidda plateau – the highest train route in Europe.
Take the slow route through some of Europe’s prettiest regions on two wheels for a truly relaxing break. These four-night cycling breaks are all geared to be enjoyed at your own pace, each day finished off in style with a well-earned dinner in a characterful small hotel. Guilt-free indulgence!
A real Christmas market – the air thick with the scents of mulled wine, spiced gingerbread and hot sausages – is a classic festive experience. Forget the sad clutch of tinsel-clad huts that we have in the UK, and head to atmospheric cities such as Cologne, Prague and Munich – proof that Christmas shopping really can be about pleasure rather than pain.
Who doesn’t love a road trip? Spend a few days driving along the spectacular coastal roads and mountain highways that link Scotland’s seaside resorts and inland villages, stopping for slap-up seafood lunches, whisky-tastings and bracing walks on gorgeous beaches. Or take a trip by rail on the West Highland Line to the beautiful Isle of Skye.
The Stour and Dedham Valleys in Essex-Suffolk border country are where you’ll find the landscapes immortalised by John Constable. Inspect scenes little changed since they were first canvassed, including Flatford Mill and the parish church at Dedham. My choice of hotel is the stylish but informal family-run Maison Talbot – a cracking choice for foodies especially.
Guaranteed sunshine, sandy beaches and some of Europe’s best spas – there are few places better than Cyprus for a restorative break. Luxury hotels dot the coastline. Be pampered at the Columbia Beach or bliss out on the beach at the Anassa, and combine lazy days by the sea with time exploring the beautiful landscapes and unspoilt villages of the Troodos mountains.
If you’re looking for the ultimate short break, it’s got to be New York. Sip cocktails in the shadow of the Empire State Building, take a stroll through Central Park, soak up the art at MoMA and shop till your credit card drops on the streets of Soho. Trailfinders has a great choice of the best hotels, so all you have to do is pack those cocktail frocks and prepare to party.
Brimming with tradition and oozing with culture, Vienna is the place to hear Strauss, see countless works of art and be overwhelmed by pompous, imperial architecture. Even a break for coffee and cake involves stepping back in time. Ride the famous ferris wheel in the Prater and you’ll be in the heart of the Hapsburgs’ hunting ground.
To discover the real Spain, head to the beautiful northern regions where the beaches are unspoilt, cities such as Bilbao and Santander have the best tapas in the country and there are dozens of wineries to visit. On a short-break driving trip, you can discover all northern Spain has to offer, while staying in charming, small hotels.
Looking for something more meaningful from your next break? The National Trust runs hundreds of working holidays where you can chip in with tasks such as herding goats and repairing drystone walls. Starting at just £60, these breaks allow you to meet like-minded people while helping to conserve the countryside.
The ideal way to get to know the richly diverse landscapes of Europe and the UK is on two feet. Travelling from the mountains to the sea, you’ll pass through medieval hill towns, vineyards, forests and fishing villages. Each evening your luggage will be waiting at your hotel, so you can unwind over a delicious meal featuring regional food and wine.
Head for the golden beaches of northern France where Pierre & Vacances has a selection of holiday villages in Normandy, Picardy and Brittany. They offer comfortable self-catering accommodation in villas, cottages and apartments, while the on-site restaurant, shop and swimming pools make life easy for everyone.
There’s something wonderfully tranquil about Norfolk – vast skies, unspoilt coastline – just the place for a romantic couple of days a deux. Sumptuous Congham Hall makes the perfect base – pick a treatment or two at the Secret Garden Spa, stroll in the peaceful grounds and treat yourselves to indulgent suppers in the award-winning restaurant.
One of the classic ‘see before you die’ destinations, the rose red city of Petra, carved straight out of the sandstone escarpment, ranks alongside the Pyramids as a triumph of ancient architecture. With its scores of temples, palaces, theatre, tombs and a museum, it’s a rewarding destination, even if only for a short stay.
Think winter breaks are just for skiers? Inntravel has a fabulous array of weekend ideas, from snowshoeing through breathtaking Alpine scenery, to discovering Norway’s sparkling landscapes on a reindeer safari. Discover the beauty of the Northern Lights or book a gastro-break in one of Italy’s lesser known-cities to bring in the new year – all wonderful ways to break up those winter days.
St Petersburg is one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. Its art collections, palaces and grand architectural set pieces are matched only by its magnificent hotels. Whether you go in winter when the snow is thick under foot, or in summer when the “white nights” offer dazzling evening skies, you’ll be beguiled.
Downton Abbey may be over for another season, but that’s no reason to let standards slip! Book a break with Oliver’s Travels to stay at some of Britain’s most elegant properties – from Georgian townhouses that sleep six, to grand country estates that sleep sixty. All can be rented for exclusive use, with properties in Scotland, England and Wales.