ESTANCIA VIK JOSÉ IGNACIO
A short hop from the boho beaches and boutiques of Punta del Este, this prairie-surrounded wonder ranch combines seclusion with pampering, adding laid-back luxury to living off the land. Yes, it’s a long journey, but a stay at this 3,700-acre home of a half-Uruguayan and half-Norwegian billionaire is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Imaginatively curated contemporary art from abstract sculpture to photography montages makes every room a fantasy gallery. The corrugated iron parillero (barbecue-pit room) ressemble a Kandinsky-meets-Richard Rogers art installation; the games room is a Cubist fantasy; even the vegetable gardens exhibit pleasing symmetry. Your children will be adored by staff, and you will be bowled over by the romance of riding across the pampas alongside ostriches, canoeing on lagoons spotted with pink flamingos, kite-surfing on the coast or just lazing by the black-granite pool.
Balnerario José Ignacio, Punta del Este, Uruguay. Tel: 00 598 94 605 212/605 314.
Prices from £173–£630 per night, including breakfast and taxes. Baby cots are free; extra bed for ages 12 and over, £31–£63.
BORGO SANTO PIETRO,
Once a soul-reviving pit stop for pilgrims en route to Rome, this honeymoon-worthy 13th-century estate near Siena is still providing sanctuary from everyday stresses. Its honeyed-stone walls and scented roses may seem more English country house than Italian villa, but tell-tale Tuscan touches and innate child-friendliness win over: cypress trees, a languid infinity pool and splashing stone fountains complete the amber-hued picture. Let children loose in the secluded playground, freewheel en famille through riverine forest on Borgo’s mountain bikes, or play Hunt The Animal Statue on a meander through Siena’s medieval mini-districts. Nothing is too much trouble here: gourmet meals (including baby food) are prepared with ingredients from Borgo’s organic orchards and kitchen garden, and when you can’t face the restaurant, your room-service dinner is romantically candlelit. During holidays, excellent activities are laid on for free, so petite potters, gardeners, treasure-hunters and master chefs in the making can be delightfully edutained while you do nothing more strenuous than order a poolside glass of Chianti.
Palazzetto, 53012 Chiusdino, Tuscany. Tel: 00 39 0577 75 1222.
Prices from £282–£626; Santo Pietro suite, £1,530. Rates include Continental breakfast. Extra beds (£78) and cots (free) can be supplied to suites.
With its sandy beaches, seaside villages and laid-back atmosphere, sun-blessed Kefalonia is a great family destination. Sidestep the holidaymaking hordes without sacrificing the things that keep children (and adults) happy at this nautically themed boutique resort: Emelisse Hotel has a dedicated children’s pool, tennis courts, bikes to borrow, open-air cinema, Elemis spa and beautiful sea views. The two-bedroom family apartments (conveniently sited a stone’s throw from the playground) have their own shared pool and terraces, as well as kitchenettes. Aqua adventures abound here: you can snorkel at the rocky cove of Fokis, arrange cruises or scuba diving lessons, or walk to the pretty harbour town of Fiskardo, hire a boat and find an unpopulated bay to set up camp on for the day.
Emblissi Bay, 28084 Fiskardo, Kefalonia. Tel: 00 30 26740/41200.
Rates £230–£956, including Continental breakfast and tax. Under-sixes stay free, with extra beds for older kids charged at 20 per cent of the room rate.
LUCKNAM PARK HOTEL & SPA
Not allowed to leave the house without a handful of carrot sticks, dog-eared rosettes or an ankle-battering hobby horse? Those of you with pony-mad children will fall to your knees in gratitude at family-friendly Lucknam Park, where grand country-house estate accoutrements (refined Michelin-star dining, award-winning spa, antique-furnished rooms and activity-packed grounds) are complemented by an excellent equestrian centre – including a cross-country course designed by the team behind Badminton’s. With everything from Shetland rides for toddlers to dressage training and half-day Pony Time sessions with gymkhana games and fun quizzes, budding jockeys of all ages and abilities will be in horse heaven. Non-riders are by no means saddled with second best, though – tennis courts, a football pitch, swimming pools and children’s cookery classes are just for starters.
Colerne, Chippenham, Wiltshire SN14 8AZ. Tel: 01225 742777.
Rates £295–£995, room only. Extra beds, £25, and cots, £15, can be provided in parents’ rooms.
For more information on these hotels, visit www.mrandmrssmith.com