Private jet travel is not the sole preserve of the mega rich. Get together with a few friends and a trip to Paris and lunch at a Michelin-starred restaurant can cost less than £1,000 each. It’s not just the onboard luxury you’ll love. You can fly from a hassle-free local airfield and even if you’re late, the aircraft will wait for you.
English wine is alive, well and very much in the ascendancy according to discerning quaffers, both at home and abroad. In Gloucestershire you can not only visit one of the largest vineyards in the country, the 100 acre Three Choirs, but you can also sleep and dine on site – so there’s no need to limit your testing of their fine pinot noirs and other produce.
Deeply etched into the history of English summer holidays, the Isle of Wight still delivers traditional seaside pleasures along with a host of other activities. Enjoy a walk on the rolling chalk downs, take to the Solent in a sailboat, sample the mouthwatering local produce or set up camp at the isle’s famed music festival.
If you’re planning a family gathering to celebrate a special birthday or anniversary, or want to get together with friends for the weekend, consider renting a large house. Some of the grander mansions give you the option of a private chef, so you can ensure everyone is fed and watered without having to fret about shopping, cooking or washing up.
Never quite got over your Sex and the City addiction? Still glued to box sets of Boston Legal? Then book an On Location tour and get the insider skinny on bars, cafes, parks and diners in New York or Boston that have featured in both series, along with movies such as When Harry Met Sally, Spiderman and The Town.
If Dorset is a county you merely drive through to reach Devon or Cornwall, you’re missing a trick. Its Jurassic Coast offers long sweeping beaches, quaint Lyme Regis, arty Bridport, sleepy rural villages and great foodie pubs. Stay in a cosy cottage, converted barn or cool apartment and join a local expert for a fossil hunt on the beaches of Charmouth and Lyme Regis.
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.
If you’re looking for a city break with serious style, Copenhagen is a brilliant choice; picture-perfect cobbled streets mix with contemporary architecture and a bustling waterfront to create a really diverse feel. A wonderfully alfresco city, long seafood-filled lunches can be had by the water or in pavement cafes, before exploring the galleries, boutiques and historic palaces.
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.
There are few trickier customers than sulky teenagers, but hand them a surfboard and a wetsuit and they invariably brighten up. Surfing is just one of the activities offered to families at Penha Longa in Portugal, along with tennis, golf, cycling and horse-riding. Younger children can join others for a host of activities while weary Mums retreat to the luxurious spa.
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.
If you’re single, by choice or circumstance, there’s no need to holiday on your own. Travel in company with a singles specialist such as Solos which has a wide choice of fun-packed breaks at home and abroad, all hosted by a tour leader who will ensure everyone mixes and gets the most from their trip.
East Anglia houses a trilogy of pleasures: seaside, countryside and Broads-side. Its long coastline offers fine sandy beaches and birdwatching. The interior has market towns and flinty rural churches built on the proceeds of the medieval wool trade. And the huge patchwork of the Broads is a boater’s paradise. Explore from a cosy cottage or stately manor house, yours for the weekend.
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.
You don’t have to be a military history buff to be interested in visiting historic battlefield sites. Over 100 years since the start of the First World War, you can join a small-group tour of memorials and cemeteries, as well as battle sites, accompanied by a knowledgeable guide. It’s a truly moving experience for all ages.
With a vibe that sits comfortably between a gastro-pub with rooms and a country town hotel, The Castle at Bishop’s Castle is the perfect bolthole, not least for real ale enthusiasts and dog owners. Explore the pretty town or yomp through the glorious surrounding countryside that straddles South Shropshire’s English and Welsh borders.
Away from the peak months of summer, Athens is perfect for a weekend break, particularly since the opening in 2009 of the New Acropolis Museum, £100m worth of dazzling modern architecture crammed with Classical treasures. When it comes to hotels, Athens excels at the contemporary as well as some more traditional grandes dames.
A short-break across the Atlantic doesn’t have to mean New York – Montréal is closer, oozes style and combines the atmosphere of a chic French city with the traditional laid-back Canadian feel. Pair serious shopping with outdoor activities; try white-water rafting or jet boating and reward yourself with fabulous French food and lazy afternoons enjoying the cafe culture.
Can’t tell a Sancerre from a Sauvignon? Book a wine-themed break with A&C and you’ll be sipping, comparing and learning, while staying in luxurious, authentic hotels and discovering some of the world’s most beautiful wine regions. Foodies are catered for, with fabulous gourmet breaks in France and Italy, and river-cruises and city breaks are also on offer.
With direct Eurostar services from London’s St Pancras, you can zip down to the Provencal sun in less then six hours. As well as intrinsic interest – including its 14th century ramparts, medieval Palais des Papes and Le Pont of all ponts – Avignon is also home to some outstanding hotels and superb cuisine.
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.
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.
Elusive, unpredictable and utterly unique – the Aurora Borealis illuminates the northern skies in winter with impromptu displays of vivid colours rolling across the sky. For the best chance of catching the show, head to Tromso in the north of Norway – surprisingly easy to reach from the UK, and a fascinating place to visit.
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. Our choice of hotel is the stylish but informal family-run Maison Talbooth.