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.
The best holiday houses have a story to tell, and few come with more history than the properties offered by the Vivat Trust. Historic buildings that have fallen into disrepair are rescued by the Trust and painstakingly restored, offering all types of accommodation from picturesque boltholes for two, to spectacular rural halls that are perfect for an unforgettable houseparty.
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.
Boating on the Norfolk Broads has to be one of the most relaxing ways to spend a long weekend, or more. Pottering along at just 5mph is the perfect speed to wind down, relax and take in the National Park scenery, with long stretches of reed marsh and woodland, the banks dotted with picturesque thatched cottages plus the occasional pub for vital victuals.
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.
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.
Planning a short-break to Italy? Pick your date with care, as there are dozens of unique events and festivals taking place throughout the year that can make a break truly memorable. Join the party at the iconic Venice Carnival in February, watch the spectacular Il Palio horse race in Siena in June or July, or listen to world-class music at the Verona Opera Festival or the Ravello Music Festival.
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.
Lundy, or ‘Puffin Island’, sits in the middle of the Bristol Channel. It’s an escape from the rest of the world with just one pub, a farm, two lighthouses and a year-round population of around 20. You can stay in a cottage, campsite or castle, exclusively available through the Landmark Trust, whose work in restoring and sustaining historic buildings is fantastic.
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.
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.
It may be just a hop across the Channel but in pockets of the Pas de Calais you’ll feel as immersed in the “real” France as if you’d driven half way across the country. Authentic, simple and great value, auberges such as de l’Abbeye and Auberge d’Inxent tick every box, not least for their excellent cooking and low-key charm.
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.
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.
Spend a day walking the coastal paths of Cornwall and you might wonder why Brits ever bother to travel abroad. The undulating hills, secret sandy coves and soaring cliffs are as fine as you’ll see anywhere. With great local restaurants and superb self-catering cottages, this is paradise on your doorstep.
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.
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 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.
If New York is the Big Apple, Washington DC is the Big Cheese; a city that oozes power. Dotted with uber-luxurious hotels that welcome the world’s great and good, Washington mixes world-class museums and galleries with a hip drinking scene and restaurants to rival NYC. Easy to explore on foot, it’s a presidentially-perfect city break.
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.
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.