Forget the stress of a hotel, especially if you’ve got a large family or a special gathering. It’s far easier to rent a holiday house, says Daisy Finer
1. FOR WINTER SUN: Royal Westmoreland, Barbados
Low-key and lush with a renowned championship golf course, white sandy beach and a spa, this quiet, manicured Caribbean oasis has everything you could wish for. Bright and breezy modern villas with white wooden ceilings, lovely open-plan living areas, a breakfast bar, local artwork and wicker armchairs and French doors that open onto your own pool have been strategically placed so that you feel utterly private and away from your neighbours. Snorkel or dive at Mullins Beach, then, if you want a party atmosphere head to the beach bar shack playing Bajan pop music for rum punch. Or for something more tranquil, cross the road to the spa and grab one of the handful of sun loungers around the pool. It feels like a secret grotto, full of ferns and flowers, with water tumbling over the rocks, glass wall mosaics and colourful floor tiles. If you do want to venture out, go east, far from the touristy part of the island, to the windswept coast where you’ll feel like you’ve landed in a Daphne du Maurier novel. Book in advance for dinner at Cliff, which is 15-minutes drive away – it’s by far the best restaurant around.
Book it: Royal Villa from £275 per night, based on two sharing.
01524 889341; royalwestmoreland.com
2. FOR CITY CULTURE: Villa Nocetta, Rome
It feels a long way from town in this secret, secluded corner of the Eternal City. Heavy with the scent of jasmine and orange blossom, a thin breeze is the only agitation idling by the pool under the kind shelter of umbrella pines, birdsong the only distraction. At your whim and in under 15 minutes Nicolas, the house driver, can have you fighting for breath, hammering through the tourist hordes in St Peter’s Square. A little calmer and further from the crowds, enjoy a walk to Trastevere through the glorious gardens of the neighbouring Villa Doria Pamphili, Rome’s largest public park. And then come home from the ancient treasures to a modern mast piece: a moderately Radicalist sixties villa that retains the character of its original Industrialist founder. A complete refurbishment leaves smoky browns and greys, stacked beside chrome, glass and lacquer with untreated woods and delicate leathers all brought into focus by the striking lighting against large, contemporary photography. The five double bedrooms are equally lavishly decorated in Italian style and the villa has all of the modern appointments of a five-star hotel. It is sumptuous and louche, almost arrogant. And extremely comfortable – a cook, maid and onsite concierge pretty much take care of everything. So, back to the pool?
Book it: From €3,900 per night (minimum booking of two nights) sleeping 12.
+39 06 663 7119; villanocetta.com
3. FOR BRITISH SEASIDE: Dreamcatchers, St Mawes
One Cornish seaside town after another out-pretties itself, but none quite hit the aesthetic benchmark like St Mawes. Boats bob on mirror glass water, children splash from the dive platform off the stony beach and couples clink espresso cups by day and champagne glasses by night in various chichi little hangouts along the horseshoe bay. And all this with the microclimate that guarantees exotic flora and fauna and relentless sunshine. But, step back from the promenade and look for some shelter from the whirlwind that is Cornish summer society, and you’ll be strapped for a suite. We love Tresanton but for more than a weekend it’s just nice to have a home from home where you can host, hide or be indulged in relative privacy. Enter Dreamcatchers, a contemporary, well-equipped house balanced a few short lunges uphill from the village. Arrive to find a Cornish picnic awaiting you. The concierge can arrange a masseuse to drop by, or a chef to come and cook up a festival of fresh fish. With wall-to-wall glass, uninterrupted views of the water, crisp linen and four double rooms all with gaping en-suites, the house is light, bright and ideal for families. The huge terrace is the spot for a sunset BBQ, watching seagulls circle the masts while kids skit barefoot across limed oak floors in the playroom. Heaven.
Book it: From £1,275 per week sleeping eight in four doubles.
4. FOR A GORGEOUS BRITISH GET-TOGETHER: 38 The Park, Cheltenham
Wow – what a find. How rare to discover a new bolthole that has genuine rave-ability factor? Tucked into a discreetly genteel and leafy part of Cheltenham, this fine Georgian house has been converted into a 13 room B&B (dine at their sister restaurant, the jazzy No 131). You can rent the whole place for the most exceptional house party. Owner Georgina Pearman has impeccable taste with a funky twist. Everything is sexy and textured from over-stuffed velvet padded headboards, to mohair throws to over-sized lamps and vast log baskets. Bathrooms are pure heaven with under floor heating, freestanding zinc baths and some boast double showers. The attention to detail is outstanding. The divine 100 Acre toiletries are Pearman’s own organic range, while the turn-down is the best ever. A hot water bottle is tucked into under your duvet and a mini flask of milk is left with French Press chocolate dipping sticks. Breakfast in the contemporary light-filled dining room is equally original and dreamy; devilled kidneys on toast or smashed avocado, bulgar wheat and poached egg? Berocca tablets even sit in a glass jar amid the breakfast buffet for an instant hangover cure. What sets this place apart is that it defies category – yes you can rent it, but its also a B&B, and you can just book a single room too. Crazy!
Book it: From £125 per person based on 26 people sharing.
01242 822929; no38thepark.com