Described by Truman Capote as “like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go”, Venice is a city built for show, its sights global icons of art and architecture. Its canals and bridges make it ideal for wandering – and getting lost. Let the magic rather than a map take over. If you’ve never been, you’re in for one of travel’s most romantic treats.
Work on your fitness against a stunningly scenic European backdrop. You’ll stay in considerable comfort whilst a team of personal trainers will design a programme to suit your aims and fitness level. Choose from running, hiking, mountain biking, boxercise, core training and cardio. Relax in the pool and enjoy superb meals on the sun terrace.
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.
The sub-tropical island of Madeira is a perfect winter sun destination for those that want to do more than fly and flop. Set against a backdrop of dramatic cliffs, mountains and lush valleys, Madeira offers an outstanding choice of hotels, including some beautifully-restored quintas, great local restaurants and 600 miles of marked walking trails.
Escaping to the country always sounds so romantic, but sometimes the reality can be a little, well. . .spartan? These gorgeous lodges, buried deep in Sherwood Forest, offer the chance to get back to nature without scrimping on comfort; sumptuous beds, spacious lounges with all mod cons and nothing outside but tranquil woodland and complete and utter peace.
Jersey was once known for cream teas and coach tours. Now a new generation of visitors is discovering its wild unspoilt beaches which are ideal for thrilling activities such as blokarting and sea kayaking. The island also offers excellent seafront hotels and fine dining – not least the stylish Atlantic, with Michelin-starred cuisine, swimming pools and golf.
Spa holidays – wouldn’t it be good if they were a bit more, well, indulgent? Give your treatments and therapies a delicious Tuscan twist, staying in a gorgeous, five-star hotel that offers a state-of-the-art spa alongside traditional Italian hospitality plus a Gordon Ramsey restaurant. Who says you can’t have your wrap and eat it?
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.
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.
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.
If there’s a city to beat Prague for romance, even in winter, I’ve yet to find it. Cobbled streets lined with medieval mansions converted into firelit cafes and restaurants, soaring churches that host concerts and recitals and gorgeous hotels such as The Augustine, a 13th century monastery, or the luxy Four Seasons, right on the river. Pray for snow, take your woollies and prepare to be loved-up.
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!
Reykjavik is a youthful, compact, friendly city set in dramatic countryside and less than three hours’ flying time from the UK. Wander around art galleries and museums, linger in stylish restaurants and cosy coffee bars then take a healing dip in the geothermal waters of the Blue Lagoon. If you have the energy, party the night away at the city’s legendary bars.
These days a sense of escape is the ultimate luxury, and DDG offers this in spades. There’s a luxury casita for two, tucked away in the Andalucian hills with its own private terrace and alfresco plunge pool, and a stunning villa with a pool. Spend lazy days in the pretty spa, and watch the spectacular sunsets from your own poolside cabana. Heaven.
Feel like somewhere different for a city break? Germany has some of the most fascinating cities in Europe – there are the flamboyant streets of Berlin, the architectural beauty of Dresden and the art collections of Cologne for starters. From grand palaces to medieval streets, each city its own distinctive character, cuisine and appeal.
On the Suffolk Heritage Coast, Aldeburgh is one of Britain’s prettiest seaside towns. The Wentworth Hotel gazes across the shingle beach with an air of solid reassurance. Brightly furnished with antiques, log fires and Russell Flint prints, special touches include binoculars in its sea-facing rooms and a bar menu that occasionally lapses into Swahili.
Yet to be convinced about glamping? Book into Trevella Park, near to the glorious beach at Crantock, and the comfy beds, fluffy duvets and fridges that come with the safari tents should help to convince you. The site itself is pleasingly free of ‘entertainment’ and instead offers nature trails, fishing lakes and a heated outdoor pool.
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.
Take a pre-Christmas trip to Finnish Lapland and see the real Santa on his home turf. Children get a private audience with the bearded one, and there is plenty of time for fun in the snow, with husky sled rides, snowmobile jaunts, tobogganing and ice fishing all included.
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.
It’s easy to overlook the sheer beauty on our own doorstep. Britain’s rich artistic, architectural and musical heritage lends itself perfectly to the style of holiday offered by Martin Randall Travel: small groups of likeminded people led by expert guides. You could tour the seascapes that inspired Turner, visit grand country houses or walk Hadrian’s Wall.
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.
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.
Who doesn’t love Cornwall? Gorgeous sandy beaches, picturesque villages and all the pasties you can eat. Make your trip really memorable by booking one of Stay in Cornwall’s cosy log cabins – complete with barbecue area – in favourite spots such as Polperro, Bude and Fowey. The website also has loads of information on all aspects of holidaying in Cornwall.