One of the best things about a Saddle Skedaddle cycling break is that you don’t have to be Chris Hoy to enjoy it. All levels of cyclists are catered for, from gentle weekends in the Cotswolds to full-on mountain-bike marathons through the Welsh mountains. Accommodation is all pre-booked, with the accent on cosy B&Bs with splendiferous breakfasts to get you ready for the off.
Portugal’s River Douro winds through one of Europe’s most spectacular landscapes before emptying into the Atlantic at the charming World Heritage city of Porto. Stay in atmospheric quintas and visit centuries-old terraced vineyards to sample the Port that made this region famous, and some delicious local cuisine.
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.
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.
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.
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.
These days a sense of escape is the ultimate luxury, and DDG offers this in spades; six luxury casitas, tucked away in the Andalucian hills, each with their own private terrace and some with alfresco hot tubs. Spend lazy days in the pretty spa, and watch the spectacular sunsets from your own poolside cabana. Heaven for two.
There’s something unique about Cornwall’s Atlantic coast – perhaps it’s the drama, huge waves rolling onto wide sandy beaches. Stay in one of the five-star lodges at Gwel an Mor and you’re just ten minutes from the beautiful beach at Portreath, surrounded by lush countryside. Alongside the lodges there’s a heated pool, restaurant and a full programme of kids’ activities.
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.
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.
History, architecture and long, sandy beaches combine to make Sicily the perfect choice for an Italian short break. Choose from a city weekend among the faded grandeur of Palermo, or a chilled-out foodie few days among the trattorias and locandas of Syracuse. Drive up Mount Etna, eat gelati on the promenade in Cefalu and sip cocktails at sunset in pretty Taormina. Bellissima.
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.
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.
Hitting the sweet spot between old-fashioned style and a contemporary feel can be a tall order, but Pen y Dyffryn, on the Shropshire-Wales border, gets it bang on. Cosy without being chintzy, it is set amidst lush rolling hills and wooded glades. A walk across the hills is the best way to work up an appetite for the spectacular dinners.
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.
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.
It’s official – trains are the new planes, and with high-speed rail links cutting journey times across Europe, there’s never been a better time to take a break by train. Alongside perennial favourites such as Paris and Bruges, quirky cities such as Ghent, Rotterdam and Antwerp are all easy to reach – or if you’re celebrating, book a weekend in Rheims – champagne capital of France.
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.
The crucible of the Renaissance, Florence is packed with art and architectural treasures. You can avoid the inevitable crowds by travelling out of season, but if you are tied to busy times at least lower your stress levels by pre-booking timed entry to the Uffizi. The best time to see David is when the doors of the Galleria dell’Accademia open.
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.
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.
Trying to plan the annual golfing break with the boys, but budget proving a problem? Stay at one of these holiday villages for great golf on your doorstep, with comfortable accommodation that won’t break the bank. Some villages – such as Port Bourgenay in the Vendee and Moliets on the Cote d’Argent – have on-site courses.
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.
Planning a hen weekend but don’t fancy a spa? Got a family party but can’t face charades? This one-stop directory lists activities around the UK – and the companies that provide them – so that you can zing up a get-together with a difference. Weekend thrills, school holidays and party planning just got considerably easier.