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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Jet lag, it seems, holds little fear for the new breed of short breakers, especially those willing to splash out on a flat bed in business class. Hong Kong, set on a dramatic neon-lit harbour, is Asia’s most thrilling city, a culture shock of night markets and dim sum, songbirds and sampans, backstreet temples and bargain shopping.
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.
If you feel overworked and unfit, give yourself a full service and MOT at a luxury health and fitness retreat. Head to a stunning location from Andalucia to Morocco with an expert team of yoga teachers, personal trainers, nutritionists and massage therapists to tone your body and cleanse your mind.
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.
Few counties offer such a wide choice of holidays as Devon; traditional beach breaks, walking weekends on Dartmoor, surfing on the north coast or just a peaceful week in a farmhouse, surrounded by gorgeous countryside. Stay in Devon has a wonderful choice of accommodation options, and plenty of suggestions for how to get the most from your visit.
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.
The big decision in magical Marrakech is whether to stay in town in a traditional riad, or outside the city walls. I lean towards the tranquility and incandescent night skies of the latter, but it’s tempting to be within a short walk of the souks, snake charmers, acrobats and fortune-tellers of Djemaa el Fna.
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.
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.
Keen to try somewhere different for a short-break? Jerusalem is a melting pot of cultures, religions and nationalities that combine to create a truly unique city. Wander through the souks, browse in the markets and visit iconic sites such as the Wailing Wall. The city is becoming increasingly renowned for its food too – a wonderful mix of Middle Eastern flavours.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Planning a family break to a theme park, but feel Disney’s been done and Florida’s too far? The good news is that there is another option; Efteling in Holland. The third largest park in Europe, it’s also accessible, affordable and pleasingly quirky – from talking trees to white-knuckle rollercoasters and gentler rides for young ones.
Britain’s coastline is dotted with lighthouses. Whilst technology may have rendered many of them obsolete, you can stay in the former lighthouse keepers’ cottages for a coastal break with a real sense of history plus a guarantee of great sea views and bracing walks. From North Yorkshire to Alderney, there’s a superb choice of locations.
Viewing whales and dolphins in the wild is an unmissable experience. Not all the locations are exotic – some of the world’s best cetacean-watching sites are here in Europe. These short trips are a great way to meet others who share your passion and see some of nature’s most amazing creatures.