Imagine a stress-free holiday. Imagine having suncream, beach towels and baby essentials waiting for you, and your hosts knowing what your immediate needs are, before you even know yourself. A pillow laid behind you as you dip your toes in the pool, a glass of water with lemon poised behind your mat as you practice yoga, a distracting boardgame laid out by a nanny just minutes before a meltdown, an iced snack brought to your sunbed just as you were starting to consider getting up... All these things happen on a Scott Dunn holiday, where the impeccable host staff cater to every need for time poor family holidaymakers looking for the ultimate in luxurious escapes.
We stayed at the Scott Dunn managed Las Palmeras villa, located near Pollenca on the Balearic island of Mallorca. Just a short two-hour flight from London, it is easy to fly from the UK, even just for a long weekend. Scott Dunn is a tour operator with a massive focus on luxury family-friendly accommodation. Sure, you may have stayed in a villa before, and maybe you feel it's not for you - but if you haven't been on a Scott Dunn holiday, then it's more than likely that you have been doing 'villa life' all wrong.
Why is a Scott Dunn holiday so good?
Once you have booked into one of the managed villas, of which there are over 10 on Mallorca alone, you are also booking the in-villa staff, included in the price. This includes a concierege host, a chef and a nanny, who will look after your every need throughout each day, at no extra cost. The nanny can work a regular 9-5 day shift or a split shift around naptime. She can also accompany you on beach days away from the villa, or, if you wish, can take children (aged 13 and under) on daily excursions without you.
So many thoughtful little touches are organised before you even land, but which help massively in terms of planning your packing. Nappies, nappy cream, cots, monitors and children's toiletries (by the Junior Design Award 2014-winning Childs Farm) will be there waiting for you - a great help if you are familiar with just how much room nappies et al can take up in a suitcase. For the whole family, there is suncream and full-sized Cowshed toiletries provided, as standard. This summer, Scott Dunn has also teamed up with cool kids swimwear brand Sunuva (shortlisted in the Junior Design Awards 2014) to offer all children a UV protective rash vest.
What is Mallorca like?
Mallorca itself has enjoyed being voted as one of the most beautiful places in the world to live in on multiple occasions. Having only vague memories of visiting Spain as a child, and having been lucky enough to travel around the world fairly extensively since, I did wonder if somewhere so close to home could live up to such big claims. In fact, the drive to the villa was our first taste of why Mallorca is so deservingly acclaimed. The brilliantly blue sky, long bushy grasses, craggy towering mountains and pale golden brick houses that decorate the landscape are reminiscent of something out of Africa. But no comparison is needed, Mallorca is a gem all of it's own. Pink bourganvillea and juicy green cactus against that blue sky create picturesque memories.
What is the villa like?
Las Palmeras, a modern villa decorated in traditional Mallorcan finca villa style, with terracotta tiles and whitewash walls, and sleeps up to 8, has been offered by tour operator Scott Dunn for many years. It is testament to the property that places here fill fast - if you want to stay here, book now. And we experienced first-hand hundreds of reasons why you should. Firstly, the location, the scenery and those breathtaking views.
The villa is elegant, luxurious and yet homely, retaining the rustic charm of the area. It offers spectacular views of the Tramuntana mountains. After a 40 minute drive from Palma airport, it sits off the main road with a couple of villas not overlooking, but just in sight. It is situated about a five minute drive from Pollenca old town and around a fifteen mintue drive from Port Pollenca. The only noise you will hear while staying at this villa is the chirping of birds, the swishing of the palm trees and the splashing from the pool.
You can arrange a hire car from the airport, or at a later date via your in villa staff. There is an electric security gate on the driveway, which adds to the exclusive feel. We orgainised a transfer from Palma, and we were greeted on arrival at the villa by our concierge hosts, Sophie and Digby, the nanny, Kim, and our chefs, Yen and Rosie. Fresh lemonade was handed round and we set about exploring our new Spanish home.
I was staying in the master suite, a giant double bedroom with four poster bed, double sided balcony with views over the manicured garden, pool and mountains beyond. The bathroom has a separate shower, and bath which also has pool views. All bedrooms in the villa are ensuite. There are a further two double rooms on the first floor and another double bedroom on the groundfloor, next to the playroom.
Yes, a whole air-conditioned, light, bright playroom, which is miles better than plenty of kids clubs we have seen, with a grand selection of books, toys and both indoor and outdoor games. Many of which the whole family can join in with, such as swing ball, table tennis, and loads of board games perfect for playing after dinner or while keeping out of the midday sun. The playroom also has the only TV in the villa. Instead of watching the screen in the lounge, we played music from the in-villa iPad, made the most of those boardgames, or just chatted and joked around together instead. It certainly made a refreshing change from everyone being glued to varying forms of technology, for once.
What is there to do?
The villa, as mentioned, is around a ten to fifteen minute drive from a beach. But although you can organise a beach day with your host, we didn't miss getting sand in our pants, instead spending most of the time lazing around the pool, practicing handstands, jumping in the water and generally making the most of the gorgeous grounds. There is plenty of room to run around, play football or simply relax on the sunbeds or covered/open terrace areas. Our personal favourite spot was the full-sized hanging bed on the shady terrace. Additionally, the villa staff will keep you topped up with coolers and light bites throughout the day, as well as you being able to help yourself to snacks and drinks. On arrival, there is a hamper of a certain number of bottles of wine and cava (prearranged when booking) and additional spirits or wine can be bought by giving money to the staff who will purchase from the local supermarket for you. It really is tailor made travel.
What will we eat at Las Palmeras?
You won't be cooked the same canapes or meals twice throughout your stay - unless you request something specific. We would recommend the triple chocolate brownies, the aubergine with pine nuts and pomegranate, the curry chicken kebabs and the belly pork. You can inform, via telephone call with the chef before your holiday, about any dietary and alcohol requirements or allergies,and prearrange if you would like a particular meal. For example, you could say during your stay you'd like at least one curry, a paella and a few chorizo based dishes. During a typical one week stay, the staff have 1.5 days off. The villa concierge can book you into a local restaurant for those times, or, our personal choice would be to organise with the chef to prepare BBQ meats and dishes and cook outside for yourselves.
One thing you won't find on a Scott Dunn menu is substandard kids food. They pride themselves on serving up locally sourced food which is bought at food markets daily. We guarantee you will leave this holiday with the most amazing food memories. Breakfast is served continental style, so fresh pastries, including ensaimadas, homemade plum jam, cereals and pinchos. Lunch is generally an assortment of salads and kebab style meats, and dinner can be either a main and salad or a five course tasting menu - it's completely up to you. Anything, from popcorn and ice cream to pinchos and tapas can be requested throughout the day.
A collaboration with a Masterchef champion
New for summer 2015 is a collaboration with Masterchef 2014 winner, the delightful Ping Coombes. Ping has created a Malaysian menu which guests staying at the Scott Dunn Mediterranean villas can choose to eat, as cooked by their chef. Ping has trained the villa chefs to cook adult dishes including chicken with turmeric rice, Gado-gado salad and Malaysian mess. Also, a range of canapés which can be made into larger dishes depending on your preference. Don't miss trying the curry popcorn - a delicious combination of sweet and savoury, which is the base of many of Ping's dishes.
For the kids, Ping has created two mains, a pudding and a snack. Asian lamb with linguine, soy honey and ginger chicken with butter rice and salsa and banana brioche bread and butter pudding are all on the menu, as well as a ham and cheese toasted roly poly with sweet chilli dip. For a healthy snack, an apple and sultana crab! All recipes have been tried and tested on Ping's own daughter, Alexa, who is aged two - so they must have passed with flying colours! Ping's kids menu will also be available at Scott Dunn's exclusive kids clubs at Sun Gardens in Dubrovnik, Daios Cove in Crete, Verdura Resort in Sicily and Pine Cliffs in the Algarve.
What is the there to do outside the villa?
If you want to venture outside of the villa, it is very well located for sightseeing in the old town of Pollenca as well as lots of sweet local beaches, and the harbour town of Port Pollenca. We took a boat trip out around the bay with Tudor Dawn boat. Kids will love climbing into the small dinghy boat that pootles gently over to the waiting yacht - all aboard! The general route of the sail is to 'go wherever the wind blows' - a lovely way to see the delights of the bay. We dropped anchor at a spot ideal for snorkelling, where everyone donned masks and jumped on in. The water here was as crystal clear as anywhere in the Caribbean and we spotted lots of fish, and even a starfish. Rosie, our villa's chef had prepared a luxury picnic hamper for us, including homemade guacamole and salsa, naan breads, lamb meatballs, frittatas, and those tasty triple chocolate brownies.
Another afternoon, we organised a visit to the old town of Pollenca, where the windy cobbled streets, with mountain backdrop, gives a real feel of traditional Mallorca. Artisan delicatessens, child-friendly open air wine and tapas bars and picturesque plazas are in huge supply. The continent does love a good plaza, doesn't it? If you are feeling energetic, there is a set of old stone steps leading up to an old church and a brilliant viewpoint. It is wonderful to look back down over the town and out to the mountains. And there are also a few excellent shops tucked into the small townhouses on the way up. We stocked up on local honey, balsamic vinegar, manchego cheese and piccante sobresada (spicy spreadable sausage) to take home.
While staying at Las Palmeras, we also took a short trip to a nearby valley to view one of Scott Dunn's newest properties - La Samantina. Another beautiful villa, this place has a stunning (and I don't use that word lightly) backdrop of a mountain range. This villa is larger and has a separate dedicated BBQ area. There is a different, more modern artsy feel to the decor, but all the trademark elegant features are recogniseable. The playroom here has a double garage door, which can be opened to a gravelled area so the kids can play outside in a secure location.
Staying at any of the properties would be a fantastic chance to really take time out and recharge your families batteries. Even better, you could holiday with another family or your extended family, and one person wouldn't be lumbered with the childcare or cooking thanks to the amazing on hand villa staff. You can organise all kinds of activities via the host. We tried a sunrise yoga class which we booked for 8am in the morning. The husband and wife duo from Yoga Pollensa came to our villa and she taught yoga while he played relaxing music on the sitar. It certainly cleared our heads for the day ahead and was a lovely way to appreciate the beautiful morning scenery. You can request the level of yoga you would like to be taught - we went for beginners!
A Scott Dunn holiday is built around what you and your family want to enjoy. As well as villas in the med, they also offer staffed chalets in the Alps, kids club resorts, honeymoon holidays and once in a lifetime trip. The common thread between them all being the unrivalled customer service and high quality of everything from the food and amenities, to the locations and the finishing touches. If only there was someone at home waiting to prop me up with a pillow, or bring me a cooler - along with world class childcare as standard, that is certainly something you could get used to: don't you think?
Scott Dunn offers 7 nights at Las Palmeras in Pollenca, Mallorca from £1,525 per person based on full occupancy of 8 guests and including a private chef, host and nanny. This also includes full board on 5 and a half days, unlimited soft drinks and beer, a wine hamper, private transfers or car hire and flights with British Airways from the UK. Tel: 020 8682 5040.