Heading to Europe for a villa holiday is an ideal way to while away a week during the summer months. So where are the best places to go?
Le Sarrail – three luxurious houses near Carcassonne in the south of France – comes with everything from a log-cabin playhouse to inflatable pools. There’s also a meal-delivery service and an aromatherapy massage on request. Maison Citron, the mid-sized villa at Le Sarrail, which sleeps six.
For a truly luxurious family celebration, it’s hard to beat a French château. Château Les Tours in Saussignac near Bordeaux is a 13th-century château set in 30 acres of beautiful landscaped parkland and woods. Groceries can be delivered straight your door and a chef can be arranged to prepare your family’s meals – either throughout the week or for a special one-off occasion. But the highlights are the nearby fishing, boating and horse-riding activities – and the fabulous floodlit swimming pool that’s perfect for night-time dips. The château sleeps 14.
Corsica is another superb location. Bergerie Olivella is a lovely hacienda that sleeps six and is five minutes away from the historic village of Olmeto.
If you’re on a budget, Planos Holidays has a good selection on the Ionian island of Paxos, where there are lovely beaches and tavernas. Villa Lydia, overlooking the bay at Lakka village, sleeps four to five, is close to the beach and five minutes’ walk from the harbour, so you don’t need a car. To explore, rent a boat – there’s a mooring just below the villa.
At the other end of the price scale, the seven villas at the Santa Marina hotel in Mykonos are gorgeous, with minimalist interiors, private pools, fully-equipped kitchens and all the amenities of the hotel on site – including a private beach, a children’s pool, playground, babysitting, tennis and spa, as well as restaurants (for when you don’t want to cook).
Following a similar concept of villas with access to hotel facilities is the swish Aphrodite Hills Resort near Paphos in Cyprus. It has contemporary villas and apartments (the villas have private pools) with fully-equipped kitchens and maid service, and the resort itself is great for families with children of mixed ages, up to teenagers. It’s secluded and safe, with a world-class golf course, a Tennis Academy, a superb spa, children’s clubs, horse riding, a Beach Club (reached by shuttle bus) and great restaurants in the Village Square. This is also a great place for out-of-season holidays, as the climate is warm from April to November.
ITALYTuscany somehow lends itself to big, Italian-style house parties, and Invitation To Tuscany offer some stunning villas to suit larger groups. Podere dell’Amore, an old, fully-restored hilltop house near Siena with a private swimming pool and tennis court, sleeps ten and has amazing views across the Tuscan countryside. A farmhouse kitchen leads onto an outdoor dining area with a shaded patio. In addition, there are furnished terraces on all sides of the house, a fenced outdoor pool, a barbecue and an incredible wood-fired oven that’s large enough to cook a whole lamb. Catering or babysitting can be arranged.
Scott Dunn is particularly family-friendly when it comes to villa holidays, and all bookings are made via a team of family specialists. The four-bedroom villa Quinta da Maranhao in the western Algarve in Portugal is particularly appealing. The villa, which stands on a hilltop overlooking the beautiful Meia Praia beach, sleeps up to eight. It has a pool and a pool house, which also acts as a children’s playroom.
Another destination that lends itself to villa holidays is Mallorca, where Mallorca Farmhouses offer more than 140 gorgeous properties, each with their own private pool and maid service. Many of the pools are fenced – helpful for families with young children – and baby equipment can be provided. Sergi, a farmhouse located near the picturesque town of Pollença, is a rustic treasure. Built using local Mallorquin stone and traditional wooden beams, the covered dining terrace with its barbecue is fantastic for families who love a relaxing al fresco gathering.